Chapter 14

“Pizza Pantry stopped delivering 22 minutes ago…it’s 1:22 a.n.” said Fred.

I looked over at the black shape…okay…Fred…and it hit me…well, maybe not dead.  That was good and great…but maybe…nuts?  Maybe I’ve slipped a cog.

“You are perfectly sane, Tobey.  Don’t concern yourself with that nonsense.  If YOU had just not rolled over again…none of this would be happening.”

“So…what you are saying is…that this is ALL MY FAULT?” I said indignantly and I sat up straighter and fluffed my hair in the mirror on the wall at the end of my bed.

(I feel it’s important to see just what you look like first thing in the morning.  I know.  I know.)

“Yes.  Of course it’s your fault.” Fred said, “it certainly isn’t MY fault.  I’ve been at this job for thousands of years…I don’t make mistakes.”

“I am, as the young folks say…a GOAT.”  Fred said proudly.  (Yes.  he actually said “young folks.”)

“Fine.  Whatever.  I am  just a mere mortal.  You are the great angel from on high.” I said sarcastically and rolled my eyes.

“Did you actually think that I could not see that?” said Fred.  “And, I don’t appreciate your sarcasm…honestly.”

Suddenly, Emma sat up and held up her one white paw and pointed it at Fred first and then at me.

“Hold it…”  she said, again using that strange Jennifer Lawrence voice.

“Stop bickering.  It is what it is.  Deal.  I need my sleep.”

As she spoke, I brushed my hand against my lips, just to make sure…nope…no movement.  Emma was talking again.

 

Chapter 15

I looked from Emma to Fred and blinked several times and let out a huge sigh.

This was crazy…maybe not really crazy, crazy, according to Fred but…you know…crazy.

It appears I have a talking cat…who is talking to my guardian angel named Fred who also talks…and…

I glanced over at the clock on my night table.  Crap!  It was almost 2:00 a.m. and I have to be up at 7:00 to get ready for work.  I had the early shift at  The Book Shop tomorrow.

“No you don’t,” said the all-knowing Fred.

“Margo closed the shop because of the snow storm.”

“Oh, right, right,” I answered quickly, remembering and then thought, does he know everything?

“Yes.  I do.” said Fred…and it sounded like he was smiling…if guardian angels can smile…that is.

“Well look,” I said very slowly, trying to remain calm, trying to wrap my mind around this completely nutso night.

“I don’t want to dismiss the importance of you,” I said as I pointed to Fred.

“Or you, Emma,” I said as I scratched my little cat under her chin.

“But I do need to get some real sleep after this strange dream…so…good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams…it’s been fun.”

And I carefully laid back down on my pillow…somewhat sure of my sanity.

“Not a dream,” Fred whispered very softly.  “Not a dream.”

I took a deep breath and then another and then closed my eyes.  After a few minutes, I ever so slowly opened them and peeked over at the corner of my bedroom.

Fred was gone!!!!  It was a dream!  I knew it!  Thank God!!!

“Shall I pass that on to Him in person?” asked Fred as he floated in from the hallway.

Fuck.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16

 

“WHY AREN’T YOU GONE?” I screamed as I sat bolt upright in bed and leaned towards him, hands waving in the air as if to make him go away.

“I never leave,” Fred said calmly.   “You are my job until you die.  That’s the rule.  I don’t make the rules.  I just do what I am told.  I am an excellent rule obeyer.”

I sighed, totally exasperated.

“But…but…I can’t have you watching me,” I persisted.  “All…the…time.”

“You’re bothering me…”  I tried to go the sympathy road…a little wheedling can go a long way, I thought.   I can wheedle with the best of them.

“Stop wheedling.  It won’t work.  I have to watch you.  Watch OVER you is the correct term..to be precise.”

“You are going to drive me to drink!!”  I shouted at him and then thought…what a great idea.

I slipped out of bed, turned the overhead light on and walked down the hall to the kitchen.

I knew there was an almost full bottle of Jim Beam in the cupboard that I occasionally used for just this purpose…to sleep…perchance to dream.  Hah!  What a joke that was.

I reached up and took the bottle down and turned to open another cabinet to get a glass.

“JESUS CHRIST!!!!” I yelled and almost dropped the bottle of whiskey.

Fred was hovering behind the breakfast bar!

“I’m sure He heard that…by the way.” Fred said with a hint of reproach in his voice.

 

Chapter 17

“WHAT are you doing out HERE?” I cried.

“And what part of guardian ‘watch over you’ angel do you not get exactly,” said Fred almost snippily.

“I ‘watch over you’ ALL the time.”

I pulled out the breakfast bar stool and started to sit down and paused to give Fred a not so friendly, meaningful look.  He wisely drifted away toward the patio door.

I opened the bottle of Jim Beam and pored a couple of inches into my glass.  I took a sip…TERRIBLE!

I got up and walked over and opened the freezer.  I scrounged around and found some ice cubes in a bowl and tossed them into my glass.  I returned to perch on the stool.

“Livin’ the dream…” I said and I raised my glass in a toast to Fred.  He swayed a little.  I nodded.

“If I go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow…will I remember any of this?  Will you still be here?” I asked.

Fred didn’t say anything for a minute or two.  But then he said, “I don’t know, maybe.  And yes.”

I took a bigger sip.  Not too bad now with the ice.  I swirled it around a little more.

“I’m not sure I can handle this,” I said hesitantly.

“Oh…you’ll be fine.  You’re tough.  Remember I’ve seen you in action…good times and some very bad times…”

“…I held you when you cried…helped you create new swear word combinations when you were furiously angry…tried to steer you away from people who were not good to you or for you…even let little words of encouragement and love from your mom and dad seep into your subconscious when you were sleeping.

“I even helped you get this job and this apartment.  I could go on but I don’t want to brag.”  Fred swayed from side to side…obviously proud of his accomplishments.

“Wow!  That is impressive!  And you didn’t need any permission for all that, right?”

“Oh, no,” Fred said confidently That falls totally under my job description.  I can do a LOT of stuff.”

My glass paused on its way to my mouth, brain engaged in full speculation mode…

Chapter 18

“You can ‘do’ things?” I asked quickly.  I was no longer so sleepy.

“What kind of things?  Like miracles?  Magic?  Can you change things?”  I rattled off  questions rapid fire.

“Don’t get too excited.  GA’s, if I may abbreviate, work in the background.  Think of us as agents…like the CIA…we have powers but we have limits.”

“So,” I said.  “No miracles.  No magic.  No changing the world…right? ”

“Right.” answered Fred.

I thought for a few moments and then hesitantly asked, “Can you make it possible for me to visit Heaven to see Iris and Rain?  Just a short visit…or can they come down here?”  Unwanted tears were forming in my eyes.  I missed them so much.

“No, Tobey, I can’t do that.”  Fred said softly and I sensed a comforting warmth on my arms that made me feel less sad.  It was like a tender hug.

“Is that what you do?  I asked.

“That is what we do mostly.  But sometimes we add extraordinary amounts of a laxative to a very mean boy’s punch when he is treating one of our  ‘people’ badly.”

“OMG!!!…like Albert Simmons, my creep date to the 11th grade Snow Dance?”

“Precisely.” said Fred.

“He never lived down the embarrassment of that night.  He had to go to a different school for his senior year…someplace where he wasn’t called  ‘Poopy.'”  I smiled broadly and then yawned.

I finished off the Jim Beam, looked at my kitchen clock and saw that it was almost 3:30 a.m.

“I’m going to bed, Fred.  I need to sleep.”

Imagine this, I thought…talking to my guardian angel at 3:30 in the morning just like I would talk to my cat Emma…or even a real, live person.

“Sure, I understand.” said Fred as he floated across the living room and down the hall.

I followed behind, turning off the lights as we went…so abnormally normal.

Chapter 19

Here is a snap of my brain at work.  I am following my guardian angel down my apartment hallway to my bedroom where I will get into my bed with my now ‘not so normal’ cat, Emma, and I will fall asleep and said guardian angel, now named Fred, will watch over me until I wake up tomorrow morning…OMG!!!!

AND…he will continue to watch over me for the rest of my entire life.

AND…I will see him in action and no one else will.

AND…if I tell anyone, they will either lock me up…or send me somewhere with…you know…padded walls and people who always smile at you.

AND…FRED WILL BE THERE WITH ME!!!  WATCHING.  OVER.  ME…….FOR FUCKING EVER!!!!

And yet…and yet…I feel strangely peaceful and calm as I begin my normal sleep ritual.

First lying on my right side and then turning over to my left side where I fall asleep instantly…as I have done for 24 years.

“Tobey!!!  Wake up!!!  The fire alarm is going to go off in a couple of minutes.  You have to leave now.”

Chapter 20

My eyes flew open and I could hear Fred talking to me.  What did he mean?  The room wasn’t even smoky and there was no alarm…

      BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Oh…there it was.  Gosh that’s loud.  I’m always shocked how loud the alarm is.

Now there was enough smoke so I could smell it.  I shrugged on my slippers as I walked after Fred down my hallway and out the door into the apartment hall.  No one else was out there.

“This way,” said Fred.  He was leading me toward a foggy light at the end of the hall.  WTF…had I really died?  Was this the “light” that everyone keeps talking about when they die?

No, no of course not, I told myself.  It’s just the apartment emergency light.  WAKE UP TOBEY!!! I shouted to myself and shook my head and blinked my eyes.  There was a lot more smoke now.

Then I pulled back…

“Wait.  Where is Emma?  Do you have her?”  I hollered ahead to Fred.  Now I couldn’t see him very well.  The alarm was so much louder in the hallway, I could hardly hear my own voice.

“She’ll be fine, Tobey.  You have to leave now.”  His touch was more insistent but he wasn’t grabbing me.

“No!  I can’t leave Emma.  I’m going back Fred!”

I turned away and felt his touch on my arm disappear and I slowly made my way back down the now smoke-filled hallway until the red  from the EXIT sign showed I was at my door.  It hadn’t locked when I had closed it.

“Thanks God!!” I said out loud.

I pushed the door open and quickly closed it, making sure that Emma had not run out into the hall.

I knew where that little squirt would be…under my bed…where she always went when that dratted alarm went off.

The smoke was getting thicker.  I ran into my room coughing.  I shut the door in case Emma tried to slip out.

I clapped for my light to go on.  It did.  But then all the lights went out!