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I'm JM Fisher, Writer & Host Of The Weekly Cynic Podcast.

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Angels By The Sea

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“Yes, yes, I do…” He’s adamant, his eyes a frenzy of blinking, his fluffy, caterpillar eyebrows leaping. “To this day, I remember that morning…It was me who called the police!”

His seaside cottage had a small, cobblestone path that led to the beach.

“For someone my age, that morning walk can be quite perilous, so, I kept my gaze down, concentrated on those ancient, lovely stones—my mind always thinking, I wonder if Joyce took this very path—and, when they began to taper to sand, that is when I looked up…”

He said it was a scene of Hollywood yore, an award-winning spectacle of cinematography, a 70mm panorama of the Irish sea on an autumn morning…

“It was like God had gripped each side of the world and…stretched…as if it was all an elastic band! I never experienced such a thing! Oh, and the color!”

Everything, he said, was imbued with that cinematic teal, bluish hue…

“Do you know that color? Very stylized, yet a dullness to it. The color one would see in those gritty, English crime story dramas that take place in some seaside community. Blackpool, for example.” He stopped. “I’m a retired literature professor… And, occasionally, I enjoyed taking my students to the cinema if there was film adaptations of novels we were currently studying.” He frowns. “To this day, I will never forget seeing that silver car out on the horizon, parked right on the beach, on the edge of where the ocean touches sand. It seemed so small within that wide, stretched ocean landscape. All alone, yet, beautiful against that backdrop…like a painting.” He nodded. “Excuse me, I’m rambling…”

***

The ocean sloshed around the tires of the car.

The car’s engine juddered, its seaweed tangled exhaust pipe emitting dirty, dying gasps.

Scattered about the car’s silver exterior, were pockmarks and pustules of rust.

The windshield wipers, with blades of worn and rotted rubber, drubbed across the glass, smearing the occasional droplet of rain.

A police officer hunched, peering into the driver’s side window…

***

From that morning, there is a community of conjecture, a variety of tales from those who supposedly witnessed the entire event.

If you listen, everyone saw the car drive onto the beach.

If you listen, everyone saw the occupants of the car.

But, according to the police officer’s report, there are only three confirmed witnesses to the event: The Retired English Professor, an American tourist and a now deceased pub owner. 

“It’s all rumor mongering. Everyone has a story to tell ya. Ya really think that angels drove that car? Angels? Angels drive cars? And—and it just so happened, they—“

A man at the bar interjects, “What about the tire tracks? Even the officer’s report stated there were no tire tracks.”

The bartender rolls his eyes, head gesturing toward the patron who had interrupted his story, “See, what I mean? He was never there. Not a clue… I bought this pub off Paddy right before he died and he told me a few times, there were two lads that got out of the car. Both of ‘em naked. And they started arguing. Screaming, fighting, really going at it—“

“Ripped off each other’s wings!” The drinker intervenes again, his finger pointing. “Edna found one of the wings! She has ‘em framed!”

The bartender is exasperated, “Nigel…How ‘bout another pint just to shut ya up?”

***

“My girlfriend thinks I’m insane…” The mans smiles, fingers tapping on the cafe table. “Since it happened, I come back here for all my vacations. I stay at the same place, rent the same room, hell, I’m friends with the innkeeper!” He laughs. “I’m the crazy American who saw angels, that’s how everyone knows me. But, I don’t care what anyone says at this point.”

His return visits are unremarkable. There are no sightings, no revelations. 

“A few years ago, I interviewed the cop who investigated the car. He’s retired now. Get’s a little annoyed, but if I buy him a Guinness or three he’s happy.” The tourist smiles. “He says there was blood in the car, some long white feathers pasted to the seats by blood. But, never saw the angels like I did. Gordon, the professor, the one who called the cop, only ever saw the car. Yeah, you talked to him? He always talks about how everything seemed strange that morning: the colors, the landscape… But, it was only me and Paddy who saw the angels. He died a few years ago.”

That morning, he was restless, his dreams disturbing and claustrophobic, his body fidgeting about the mattress until his girlfriend’s groggy hand slapped him in the face.

“She was getting pissed, so I said the hell with it.” He closes his eyes. “I remember going to the windows and peeking around the curtains to look outside and just thinking, ‘Wow it looks so beautiful.’ Dreary and cold, but beautiful. So I decided to just go down to the beach.”

Against that expansive, turquoise backdrop of the sea and sky, the car appeared to be cast in pewter, like it was some odd piece of formal dinnerware; detritus from Buckingham Palace.

“The car doors opened and these two guys got out, both naked, and just screaming at each other, fighting, throwin’ punches… You know, I’m from L.A. so, I thought it was just two druggies going off, but…” He halts, shaking his head. “I’m telling you, they Sprouted. Wings.” His hand reaches over his shoulder, patting his back. “Right there. At the shoulder blades. Then, they started floating, wings flapping, fighting in mid-air, and I’m looking around, but there was no one, not even seagulls to see what I was seeing. So, I reached into my back pocket for my iPhone and, shit…I didn’t bring it with me. I could see it sitting on the beside table, right next to the lamp.” He shakes his head. “Then, one of them floats back into the car, stuffing his wings in the drivers seat and starts to drive, the other one flying after the car…” He sighs, closing his eyes. “The one flying after the car, flew right up to the drivers side door, ripped it opened and pulled the other angel out…” He opens his eyes. “Then, in the fighting, one of them ripped a wing right off and tossed it into the ocean. The angel with the torn wing crawled back to the car and tried to drive it, but he got attacked, again. Then… I mean, they just started laughing and ran into the ocean. Like, little kids do, you know what I mean? Like, they were just playing. Having fun.” He chuckles. “It was strange, unbelievable.”

***

The small room had been transformed into a shrine: white candles, reduced to mounds of molten wax, flickered with tiny flames whose smoke mingled with the pungent, velvety aura of incense. On the walls, the meager candlelight revealed the shadowy outlines of crucifixes.

“What do you think?” Edna asks. “It’s real. A Romanian mystic was here last week…” 

Suspended from the ceiling by two chains, is the supposed angel’s wing.

“You may touch it, but very gently…It’s becoming fragile.” Edna points, “There at the top? You can see the joint where it was attached. You can even see where the bone splintered. And the blood…” She stares, mesmerized by the wing. “I didn’t see anything that day, but God sent that wing to me.” She begins to cry. “Years ago I moved here from California because He told me too. Then, He brought me this. This wing. This is what I was meant to do. To be the keeper… That’s my real purpose. How many people can say that? Can say they’ve found their true purpose in this life?”

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