Exhaustion hit me last night like a wall cloud. When I lived in the Upper Midwest, a wall cloud signaled an immediate shift in weather. From such ominous vapors hail, straight-line winds and tornadoes emerge. Time to take cover.
My exhaustion was such that I couldn’t remain cohesive at my writing task nor even keep my eyes open to finish reading a paragraph. So I took cover in bed beneath my warm blankets to sleep and let it pass.
Normally, I’m last to bed in my household. I’m the one who damps down the fire and switches off the lights. Going to bed first was odd, but I was too tired to notice. Then a strange, grating sound woke me up. Never mind, I thought and rolled over to slumber once more.
Again, that noise. Vaguely I was aware that a dog was staring at me in the dark. With one eye open, I could see the outline of her snout pointed at my face and back-lit by waning moonlight . “Go to bed, Bobo,” I murmured and nodded back off to sleep.
The third time the noise woke me I worried something was outside. Was there a moose tangled in the fence? A grizzly snuffling for a place to hibernate? Then I heard the release of hydraulic brakes and realized that it must have been a train. They still stop in Elmira to let other trains pass.
Nope. Not a train. Awake, now I was determined to find the source of this disturbing sound. My husband was the one now coming to bed and upon realizing I was awake, he said, “Someone’s in the schoolhouse.”
That got me out of bed immediately and I stood at his elbow at the bedroom window watching with wonder at the lights illuminating the Elmira Schoolhouse. Nightly it sits in darkness. At the same moment we caught movement. “Look–somebody is in there.”
Who, we both wondered. I asked, “What time is it?” My husband said it was midnight which surprised me. I had come to bed at 9 so that noise had been happening for several hours. One more time we saw the silhouette of a person pass by a window. Who would be in the school at this hour and why?
Then the lights shifted. It was the full three lamps of a southbound train engine. It explained the illumination, as the train must have stopped farther back on the tracks and flooded the schoolhouse with its beams, although it was an unusual place for one to stop. There were no lights on in the schoolhouse.
But it didn’t explain the person we saw. Or did we? Maybe it was a trick of the lights, casting moving shadows. We didn’t let it keep us up, as I was still bone-weary.
Snugged back into bed, I mentioned the strange sound that kept waking me. The bed shook with my husband’s rumbling laughter. “Hon,” he said, “I came up to check on you and you were snoring loud enough to wake angels in heaven.”
Thus my mind drifts to angels. It’s a likely season for them. Angels make me think of good tidings and miracles, although if angels were biblically correct, they’d look fearsome. Not to mention that Lucifer took a third of them out of heaven when he fell, so not all angels are nice.
Mostly, I think of Clarence, the unlikeliest angel of all. He was sent to help George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) in It’s a Wonderful Life. It hints at the idea that we can be angels to one another, that we are ultimately cared for in what can feel like an uncaring world. It’s a light that gives us hope, something more meaningful than just a passing train.
December 10, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features an angel. Be as imaginative and cross-cultural as you’d like. Reach out to history, folklore or different traditions. Think of Christmas-angels, earth-angels, animal-angels or wherever the prompt leads you. The prompt is a spark; the story comes from you.
Respond by December 16 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.
Gift Exchange by Charli Mills
That first Christmas after Papa died, Mama took a town job, waiting tables. While she was working, Clive and Maggie decorated the spruce next to Papa’s grave near their ranch. They hung shining red balls, silver bells and Papa’s favorite collection of glittering musical instruments. The next morning, they took Mama to the tree. A crow flew past with a harp hanging from his beak. Mama began to cry.
Maggie glared at her brother. “Clive, that crow took Papa’s favorite ornaments!”
“Children, it’s okay. Look what he left.” She pointed to the pile of gold coins on Papa’s headstone.
Hoping one of this murder is an angel. More photos, crow trivia and murder puns at Elmira Pond: