Audrey Adams and The Angel of Death

     Recently I was invited to  attended a meeting of a book group who had read my book. In giving my writing background, I mentioned that a story I had written won first place in the 1999 Donna J. Stone Literary Awards, which is sponsored by American Mothers Inc. The women in the group said they would like to read that story. So here it is for the women in the Serendipity Book Group, and anyone else who would like to read it as well.




Audrey Adams and The Angel of Death
By Dayle King Searle

                The Angel of Death visited Audrey Adams. It was shortly after midnight when he appeared in her room and awakened her.
                At first Audrey thought it was all just a crazy dream. After all, he didn’t look at all how she thought the Angel of Death should look. He didn’t have a skull for a head, and he wasn’t wearing a black robe or carrying a scythe. Instead, he had a pleasant face and wore a white business suit. He was balding on top and had gold wire rim glasses, which kept slipping down to the end of his nose.
                The angel introduced himself. Then he looked down at the clipboard he was carrying and said, “You are Audrey Adams of 145 N. Elm, Deerport, Oregon?”
                Audrey rolled over and poked her husband. “Jim,” she hissed. “Wake-up! There’s a man in our room.”
                Jim snorted in his sleep and rolled onto his side, but he didn’t wake up.
                “You are Audrey Adams aren’t you?” the angel queried again.
                Audrey nodded uncertainly, still shaking her husband.
                “Oh good!” The angel sighed. “For a minute you had me worried. You have no idea what a mess it creates when I go to the wrong person. I have to erase the memory from them. That’s not an easy thing to do, you know. Meeting the Angel of Death is not something most people do every day, and it leaves quite an impression on them. Sometimes the best I can do is make them think it was just a dream.”
                “What are you doing here?” Audrey demanded. “How did you get in?”
                Audrey’s words brought the angel back to the business at hand. He snapped to attention, took a deep breath, and solemnly announced, “Audrey Adams, I have come to take you home.”
                Audrey sat for a moment staring incredulously at the angel. Certainly this funny little man—who happened to show up in her bedroom in the middle of the night—must be part of some elaborate joke. Someone had to have put him up to it. Never mind that his suit seemed to have an unearthly glow, and never mind that she thought she could almost see a halo around his head. Jim was probably behind it. Audrey grabbed Jim and rolled him over.
                “All right,” she exclaimed, “you got me. It was a good joke, but I’m on to you.”
                Jim snored.
                The angel sighed and hugged his clipboard to his chest. “I see you’re not convinced,” he said. “If you want, I’ll call down lightening or something, but it’s so messy to have to do it that way.”
                Audrey frantically grabbed the telephone from the nightstand. “I’m calling 911,” she said, “so you better hurry up and get out of here. In a few minutes this place is going to be crawling with cops.”
                The angel shook his head in dismay and sat down on the end of Audrey’s bed. He waved his hand at her as if to say, “Go ahead. I guess I’ll just have to wait this one out.”
                “This is Audrey Adams of 145 N. Elm,” Audrey shouted into the phone when an operator answered. “There’s a crazy man in my bedroom. I don’t know what he’s done to my husband, but I can’t get him to wake up. Help me!”
                Audrey heard the operator speak to someone off the line. “I’ve got a call here with no one on the line, and the equipment doesn’t seem to be able to trace it.”
                “They can’t hear you, Audrey,” the angel said. “Neither can Jim. You and I are in a dimension that’s somewhere between here and there. I for one would like to get on with things so we can go home.”
                Audrey slowly replaced the receiver on the telephone. This could not possibly be true, and yet, how else could she explain it.
                “Why do you keep saying you’re going to take me home?” Audrey asked, surprised to find that she was beginning to take this seriously. “I am home.”
                “Audrey,” the angel said leaning forward and enunciating very slowly as if explaining something to a child. “I’ve come to take you home to Heaven.”
                “Heaven? You mean I’m dying?”
                “Exactly,” the angel said triumphantly. Then he added more calmly, “People generally do die when the Angel of Death visits them. Why else would they call me the Angel of Death?”
                “But I am too young to die,” Audrey protested.
                The angel shook his head. “No, my dear, I’m afraid you aren’t. I’ve taken people much younger than you—children, even babies. It’s always hard to take the little ones, not because they won’t like it—Heaven is a wonderful place, and the children are very happy there—but I always feel badly for the parents. I wish there was some way I could speak to them for a moment and let them know I’m not such a bad fellow. It’s just that Heaven is a very busy place, and some souls are needed more desperately there than they are here.”
                Audrey listened to the angel incredulously. “You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?”
                “Yes, I’m afraid I am,” the angel smiled. “Actually, I’m surprised you’re taking this so badly. I didn’t think you’d mind.”
                “You didn’t think I’d mind dying?” Audrey echoed. “Why on earth did you think I’d want to die?”
                The angel stood up and flipped through the sheets of paper on his clipboard. “Hmmmm,” he said, looking down his nose through his spectacles which were propped there. “Ah, here we are. Last week on Thursday at 2:30 PM you said, and I quote, ‘I never do anything worthwhile. I don’t know why I even exist.’”
                “I said that?”
                “Yes, you were folding laundry at the time. To be exact, you were folding a lime green T-shirt with ‘Let’s Surf Dudes’ printed on the back.”
                Audrey remembered. “It’s just that I wash the same clothes over and over,” she explained. “It seems so pointless. Sometimes it just gets to me.”
                “Then on Saturday you said, ‘I’m just a drudge. Nothing I do matters.’ You were loading the dishwasher that time…Oh, and here, just yesterday you said, ‘If I vanished from the face of the earth, the only thing anyone would notice is that dinner wouldn’t be on the table on time.’” The angel looked at Audrey over the top of his glasses. “We actually hadn’t planned on taking your for another forty years, but since you’re not doing anything important here, we certainly can use you in Heaven.”
                Audrey sat dumbfounded on the edge of her bed. “You can’t be serious,” she said.
                “But I am,” the angel insisted. “You don’t seem to think you’re needed here, and believe me, we need you there. The world has become quite a precarious place, and we’re running short on guardian angels. Some people are going through two or three of them.”
                “But I don’t want to die! I want to stay here. Please don’t take me!”
                The angel thought for a moment, and then replied. “This is all highly unusual. However, since you originally were not appointed to die for another forty years, if you can show me why you are needed more here than in Heaven, perhaps I can arrange things for you.”
                Audrey’s mind raced wildly trying to figure out what she should say. There was her work as a real estate agent, but she doubted she could convince the angel that selling houses was more important than being a guardian angel. Besides, she had quit her job almost a year ago. That had been a momentous point in Audrey’s life. She had been expecting her third child, and her first child had been about to start school. It had suddenly occurred to Audrey that her children were growing up while she was at the office. So she had quite selling houses to become a full-time mom. She’d had visions of spending hours with her children reading books, going to museums, making cookies, lying on the grass looking at the clouds. She had her whole life to spend selling real estate, but only a few short years to spend with her children.
                Unfortunately, Audrey had not realized how much upkeep a home demands when it is being lived in twenty-four hours every day—especially when there are small children living there. Audrey spent her hours cleaning one mess after another, getting drinks of water, and wiping dirty noses. Her mantra had become, “We’ll do it when the housework is done.” But the housework never did get done. Then the baby had come, and all of Audrey’s dreams had crumbled behind a mountain of laundry, the endless parade of dirty dishes, the constant clutter of toys, and the ceaseless demands of a newborn. Audrey became disillusioned. She felt more like a maid than a mother. But had she really become so negative that the Angel of Death would assume she would rather die than go on?
                “I can’t die!” Audrey stated emphatically. “What would happen to my family?” Certainly even the Angel of Death must realize how vital she was to her family.
                “You said yourself they wouldn’t miss you except when dinner wasn’t on the table on time,” the angel replied. “Don’t worry, they can always send out for a pizza. There’s a pizza place just three blocks away--I checked. As for the cleaning and the laundry, they can hire that done.” He paused. “No, Audrey Adams, if you want to convince me that you’re needed here, you’re going to have to come up with something that only you can do.”
                There is nothing that can make a person quite as frantic as arguing with the Angel of Death for one’s life, and Audrey was frantic. She looked around, desperately trying to find some evidence of her worth. Audrey’s eyes came to her husband lying in bed.
                “Jim needs me,” she said desperately. “He’d be lost without me. He’s so unorganized. If I was gone, he’d never be able to find anything. And sometimes he gets a kink in his back, and I’m the only person who knows how to fix it. Sure we argue sometimes, and maybe we take each other for granted sometimes, but we do love each other. If I died, he’d be devastated.”
                The angel did not look overly impressed. Audrey seized him by the arm and dragged him out of the bedroom. She took him down the hall to another bedroom. There her six-year-old son lay sleeping peacefully.
                “This is Riley,” she said in a whisper. It was her natural reaction to whisper when her children were sleeping, even now when they couldn’t hear her anyway. “He’s not doing very well in school. The teacher says he just isn’t trying, but I know he is. I know how hard it is for him. He came home last week in tears because the other kids laughed when he couldn’t read his assignment. I held him until he was done crying, and then I helped him practice reading. If I wasn’t here, who would do that for him?”
                The angel still did not seem impressed, so Audrey again grabbed him arm. She dragged him across the hall to her daughter’s room.
                “This is Whitney,” she said softly, looking down at the sleeping girl. Audrey reached out her hand and brushed a lock of hair out of the child’s face. “She’s only four years old, but she is already full of questions. The older she gets, the harder the questions are going to be. She needs someone to help her find the answers.”
                The angels face remained expressionless. Again Audrey pulled him into the hallway. This time they went to the nursery.
                “This is the baby,” Audrey said as she stroked the cheek of the sleeping infant. “I almost died having her.”
                “I know,” the angel said. “I was waiting close by.”
                “It was worth it though,” Audrey said. “It was worth anything I had to go through to get her here. She’s so wonderful. She has the biggest smile and the bluest eyes. Oh, don’t you see?” Audrey was near tears. “How will it be for her to grow up never knowing her mother?”
                Audrey’s hands dropped to her sides in dismay. There seemed to be no way of convincing this personage. She turned and walked quietly into the hallway. She did not know what else to try. She turned to the angel in one final attempt to convince him.
                “I know I have complained a lot lately, but it’s because I wasn’t seeing clearly. I’ve been looking at the chores and have forgotten why I am doing them. Maybe what I do isn’t going to change the world, but there are four lives I touch every day.” For the first time, Audrey’s own true worth dawned on her. She held her hands out to the angel pleadingly, “Don’t you see? They can hire someone else to do the cooking and cleaning, but who else can love them like I do?”
                The Angel of Death stood silent for several seconds. Finally he said, “I do see, Audrey Adams. I see that you can be more of a guardian angel as a mother than you could be from Heaven.” Then the angel smiled and was gone.
               
                Audrey woke early the next morning. A feeling of gloom had settled over her for the past several weeks, but now it was gone. She felt more optimistic than she had in months. Whitney bounded into the bedroom and up onto her parent’s bed.
                “Hi mommy,” she said.
                “Good morning, sweetie,” Audrey replied giving the child a hug.
                “What are we going to do today?”
                “How about we go for a picnic in the park and go to the zoo?”
                Whitney cheered and ran down the hall to inform her brother of the fun he was going to miss by going to school.
                Jim rolled over groggily, and Audrey bent down to kiss him.
                “Mmm,” he murmured. “You seem happy this morning.”
                “I feel great. For some reason life suddenly seems wonderful.”
                Jim pulled Audrey down beside him, and for a moment the two lay in an embrace.
                Then Audrey rolled over. “Better get going or you will be late for work,” she said.
                Jim groaned. “I wish I didn’t have to go.”
                “Me too,” Audrey laughed, kissing him again, “but someone has to pay the mortgage, and you have been elected.”
                Jim pulled himself out of bed. Audrey lay back and sighed contentedly. For several minutes she lay reflecting. Then she propped herself up on one elbow and called into the bathroom where Jim was brushing his teeth. He stuck his head out through the bathroom door.
                “What do you need?” he asked.
                “It’s not much,” Audrey answered. “It’s just that I had the strangest dream last night…”
               

Comments

  1. Sometimes, when I have to do something I don't want to do, I pretend I'm a character from a book. It's easier to know what they would do ~ Jewels Garden

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