I was praying in the dark empty church when the man walked up to me and told me he’s an angel.
“Yea?” I asked.
“What do you want?”
“I want to give you a chance to turn your shit around.”
"I figure this is the only way to get you out of here," he said.
The angel looked rough, with faded scars and scrapes all over his face. He wore no shoes, and his jeans and shirt were torn beyond logic. Do angels wear those? Well, I didn't care, I had my own problems. There's this iBanker who drove an Audi trying to ask my girlfriend out, and I was helpless. I worked as a postman, drove nothing, owned nothing, and it seemed to me that my girlfriend was getting tired of me. But I couldn't let her go; my parents were getting old and worried, and she's my only chance for marriage. That's why I started coming to church a few weeks ago and prayed till my voice cracked. My luck didn't turn, the guy was still going strong, my girlfriend still picking on my job my income my everything. Sure, I did feel somewhat better after all these prayers, knowing that at least there's someone to blame when things fell through. But still, I was willing to gamble.
"So what do I do?" I asked the angel.
He gave me the instruction and left. I went home and told my parents about it. My dad was a cook, my mum a housewife. They had little enough education to revere the Western theologies and thus were thrilled about the deal and the angel. They went out and bought a chicken to celebrate. I called my girlfriend and told her what happened.
"You sure it worked?" She asked. In her voice there's an excitement that I hadn't heard in a long time.
"Yes. I'm sure. Babe, I love you. We're gonna work out."
"Sure. Hey, I gotta go. I have to take care of a few things," she said, and hung up. That whole night she didn't message me or call me and I couldn't sleep.
Next day I went to the giant trash can down the street, looking for a cockroach. I was afraid of cockroahes but the angel said that only by overcoming my fear could I find the path towards eternal happiness. So when I saw one I grabbed it as quickly as I could, then broke half its legs, ate them and let out a fart, one that would rise till it joins the cloud and becomes part of it, according to the plan.
I was looking at the trail of my fart curling up toward sky when the angel walked up to me.
“I got it! I got it!” I screamed at the angel.
“For fuck's sake, just chill. It’s just a start.”
The angel had me go down to the grocery store and ask for the longest ladder in the world. I told Billy the shop owner about my plan, and the reason that gave birth to such a plan. Billy dropped his head in contemplation.
“You sure?” he asked.
“Yes, I'm sure.”
A fan whirled above us but gave no wind. Bill was 60 and I was 25 and I didn’t expect him to understand me, or the generation that bred me. Petty middle-class moaning of our generations paled in comparison with the life-and-death concerns of theirs. But still.
Soon he went in to the store room. There's sound of many things dropping on the ground. Then he came back out with the ladder. I paid and left with the ladder. I let the changes sit on the counter, getting the no-wind.
I started climbing toward sky. People were gathering along the street now, talking, cheering for me. Dad and mom were there, being the cheer leaders. I didn't see my girlfriend though. Maybe she'd only come at the end. Didn't matter. Once I came back down things would change.
The ladder was good quality work, it didn’t jerk once during the first million steps. But the trip itself was bad: there’s no chance for rest or chicken-out. I didn’t even get to take selfies, for my hands got so sweaty that I had to cling to the ladder with both hands. The birds and eagles and UFO were circling around me and sometimes charging at me, and from certain height on up the air pressure started squeezing my heart like a poor bug caught by a bad kid. My biceps ached and trembled. I couldn't hear the people anymore. I could only think of my girlfriend and the way she would look when I gave her the gift.
But after another million steps and the ladder started to shake. I didn’t know why. I cursed and climbed on. Twice my right hand slipped and I almost fell. Man, I nearly spitted my heart out. A plane passed and I saw a baby inside with no hair laughing at me. I pushed myself up and continued to curse.
It’s the angel who's shaking the ladder, as it turned out. I was about one thousand steps from where he was, sitting at the top of the ladders with a beer in hand, drinking, shaking the ladder.
“Why are you doing this!" I screamed.
“I am bored."
Then I was there, winded, my body compressed like a butterfly specimen, but I was stunned by the vastness and beauty of the cloud. It was dense, smoky, misty, and I was right in the middle of it. The sun came through but was filtered down into some sort of a holy light. It's better than the kind of heaven I used to dream about.
The angel came forward and grabbed my arm and tossed me out of the ladder. I thought I was dying, but when I fell upon the cloud I didn't fall through. The cloud was soft, but didn't break. I rolled around and around, screaming, and crying. I was here, finally. I thought about my girl, my marriage.
“You want a beer?” the angel asked.
“No. I gotta run back down now. My girlfriend’s probably here by this time.”
The angel shrugged and brought me to the part of the cloud that belonged to me. It’s very discernible because it’s a statue of me and my girlfriend. We’re in our wedding gown standing side by side, looking at each other, her arm around mine, tight.
“It’s beautiful,” I said.
The angel sat on the cloud and took a long pull from his bottle and didn’t answer. I plucked the cloud-statue out and told the angel that I was ready. He took his time taking a last pull before standing up. He threw the can away and spitted on the cloud. The spit hissed on the cloud and disappeared, no trace left.
"Can I move in here with my girlfriend?" I asked the angel.
"It's beautiful here."
"Depends on what?"
"Your girlfriend," the angel said. Then he gave out a long whistle that almost deafened me and a giant cockroach was summoned up.
“Ready?” the cockroach said to the angle.
“You’re ready?” the angel said to me.
“I don’t know what to say,” I said. We got on the cockroach and slowly it circled its way down. Its wings flapped frantically but soundlessly. I touched its skin. It's smooth, like it’d been varnished. I bent down for a closer look. Man, was it clean, was it stainless. I felt sorry for all the fellow cockroaches that had their lives taken by my plump hands.
We touched ground and the streets were flooded with people. They're singing the national anthem, applauding, the cats and dogs making fierce love, the tigers and elephants and dragons running wild and around. My parents were on their knees, crying.
Then I saw her. As I walked toward her people backed off to make space for me.
The iBanker was standing next to her. He's in suit and tie, an iPad in one hand.
I ignored the guy and knelt down before her.
"Here it is,” I held out the statue to her.
She took it and without looking at it she passed the thing to the iBanker. He looked at it, put it on the floor and scanned the thing with his iPad. I was on my knees, waiting. The world was waiting.
“Any buyer?” she asked the guy after a while.
And we waited. After a few hours people started leaving. There’re no more songs, no more cheering, the cats and dogs started to separate and chase and yell and hate at each other. The cockroach and angel were nowhere to be seen. My parents were still there though, on their knees, but no longer crying, they're watching us, their mouths gaping. I looked back at my girlfriend, who’s looking at the iPad while the cloud-statue stood beside her. I wondered if there’s anything else I could do for her.
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