Even though my current novel is a picaresque, and *relatively* care-free. it goes to other places, as all life must. So, with Alison Alexandra about to go a round with Old Nick, I resurrect this following segment from There Has Been A Sighting, my first Satan novel.
Mr. S. unexpectedly takes her arm, and begins to lead her along a winding, flagstone path. She has never seen such large pieces of the stone, and they glisten as if polished.
The path skirts a small stand of black spruce before it continues to the river. He stops her at the mouth of a gravel walkway leading through the trees.
“Let’s pop in here.”
“Your little acre of the Black Forest?”
“Hardly an acre.”
“Precision.” Breeze laughs. “Whatever would my father think of you?”
“Does any father think well of any man when his daughter is concerned?”
“No,” agrees Mr. S. “So not to worry.”
“He would think even less of someone leading his daughter down the garden path,” observes Breeze.
“That would be before he saw what I am about to show you.”
Mr. S. holds her arm tightly, and guides her onto the gravel walk. It leads directly to the base of a tree, then makes an abrupt curve between the largest of the spruce.
One of the boughs is so low Breeze ducks her head. She has the sensation of being in the midst of a forest, for the heavy branches obscure the surroundings.
“If I may be permitted a moment of drama.”
Mr. S. covers her eyes and speaks softly.
“Will you turn to your right, and take a few steps?”
Even though he had asked, Breeze is startled as he gently eases her forward, and she feels a slight urge to resist him. Her steps are more cautious than the gravel walkway demands, and the press of his body is noticeable. She counts her footsteps under her breath. She is surprised when they stop at half a dozen, and he quickly removes his hand.
“She’s beautiful.” Breeze stares, open-mouthed.
“Yes.” Mr. S. is pleased. “I think so, too.”
“An angel in the woods.”
“The angel of peace.” Mr. S. walks her around the statue. “Not at all bad for a knockoff.” He pauses behind the wings.
“A reproduction.” He puts his foot on the pedestal, and leans forward. “I don’t really know how old it is. Certainly last century – possibly before.” He points to the blue folds. “I’ve had the paint cleaned and touched up. Is it too garish?”
“It … it stands out.” Breeze hunts for a word. “Let’s call it vibrant.”
“They said it was probably close to the original colour.” Mr. S. walks around the statue and again halts beside Breeze. “Since she stands in so much shade, it’s for the best she stands with lots of colour.”
“Do you believe in angels?”
“I’ve just had a night-long fight with Satan. I have to believe in angels.”
“Does she have a name?” Breeze leans forward to inspect the angel’s outstretched hand.
“I’ve never given her one.”
“That’s one of your suspicious half answers.” Breeze grins.
“When Mother Ursula spoke to her, she called her `Pet’.”
“`How are we today, Pet?’ `You got a soaking last night,
Pet’.” Mr. S. glances at the statue’s face. “That sort of thing.”
“Oh.” Breeze also decides to look at the angel’s face. “It’s not what you’d call a Christian name.”
“Ursula would get a laugh out of that.” Mr. S. smiles slightly. “And so would the angel.” He turns toward Breeze. “And so do I.” He takes her hand. “Which is probably your intent, so I won’t again slip into the past tense when talking about Ursula.”
“She’s not dead yet.”
“Her living will gives the machines seventy-two hours.” Mr. S. looks at the angel. “I suspect it’s a wry Christian reference.”
“So if she rises on the third day, we won’t be surprised.”
“You have more optimism than even the Sisters.” He glances at her. “And they tend the machines.”
“Machines have their place.”
“Yes.” Mr. S. releases her hand. “But so does death.”