Sitting on the bridge overlooking the bay I wait. I know death is coming for me. Again. A lifetime ago, literally one lifetime ago as of two minutes ago, I was a street magician. Or a huckster. It depended on your disposition or my needs. I worked and lived on the street for as long as I could remember. Since I started out as a kid, gainful employment wasn’t an option, and after a trip to juvie and some unpleasant experiences there, I realized a life of crime wasn’t for me either. So I decided on a middle path. Some wouldn’t call magic a trade, but it really is. You study it, you learn it, and if you’re any good you pass along your knowledge. Much like pickpocketing. Which was also my trade. The two really went hand in pocket. For children I performed fantastical tricks. When I was feeling pleasant, I’d even demean myself to do balloon animals. For adults and survival, I’d do card hustles or sleights of hand to part them from their wallets or watches or really anything that I could sell. It wasn’t glamorous but it kept me fed. It also allowed me to pay back my fellow street rats on the occasion of having more than I needed. The problem with with living on the streets, you tend to die by the streets. I pickpocketed the wrong person and found myself on the wrong end of a gun. When you die it’s like waiting on a plane, but you lost your ticket. You don’t know where to go and there’s no one to ask directions from. At least until Death shows up. Apparently I was a conundrum. I’d been kind to kids and entertained families. Then there was that whole stealing thing. Instead of sending me up or down, I was left in the mortal plane. I was designated a guardian angel and bound to Katie when she was born. No wings, but I was to be a guardian angel. And I was a good one I think. I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her. Up until four minutes ago now, I watched over her. I swooped her up when she was about to fall, whispered in her ear when she thought about making bad decisions, basically tried to nudge her on the right path and keep her safe. She lived the life I never did. Loving parents, excellent in school, mostly good friends (even a angel can appreciate a little trouble now and again). Then life, as it does, happens. She got the results just after her seventeenth birthday. The cough was mistaken for a cold. When they finally got a chest x-ray it had metastasized. Stage four they said. Doctors and parents never give up on you. They submitted her to radiation, and chemo, and cocktails of drugs. I stood by. I waited. There was no change for me to effect. I watched as she withered. I watched as she threw up until she couldn’t lift herself off the floor. I watched her as her hair fell out. I listened to her prayers. Even as a guardian angel, I didn’t know if anyone else heard them. I heard them. And I heard her final resolve. Though she couldn’t see me, I believe she could feel me as she pulled on her favorite dress and paired it with a pair of red converse sneakers. I walked with her as she took to the street. Heading up town in the hours before the town was wake. I sat with her as she watched the sky in that moment where the moon still lingered and the sun hadn’t broken the horizon and all of it was reflected in the richest of colors on the water. I heard her say “On my own terms.” I recognized my last chance to intervene. To push, pull, whisper, prod. And I didn’t. And she jumped. I prayed to a god that I’m not sure exists that she would fly away. She didn’t. I sat on the edge of the bridge waiting like I did seventeen years and six minutes ago. I greeted death again, ready for my fate. As the grim figure came closer, I realized the figure wasn’t alone. Katie was there too. “I have to take her up to get her wings. You may come with us, you’ve earned them,” the figure said holding out the other hand to me.
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