A body washes up on a deserted tropical beach. It lies in the shallows, head resting partly in the surf on the wet brown sand. A boy, maybe eighteen years old, most of the body still intact. It stares sightlessly at the blue sky. The hint of a tan under the chalky pallor.
Its slack mouth hangs open, the foam and the water flows in and out of it.
An angel is standing there next to it. The angel’s wings are small, withered. The feathers whitish. They droop from its shoulder blades. The angel is partially transparent, barely visible. Its eyes linger on the curves of the boy’s muscles, the clefted jaw. Parts of the boy’s lower leg are missing, splintered bones exposed. In the water, torn bits of flesh wave like little flags of surrender. His hair is white-blonde, the strands like slender fingers resting on his scalp.
The angel stoops down. Touches the shoulder. It cups each side of the slack jaw in its boneless hands. Takes the halo from above its head, sets it in the sand. It places its mouth on the boy’s, sealing the opening with its own. It has seen this performed often while hovering near the ceiling in emergency rooms. Code red. The boy is dead. Of course it won’t brink him back. But, oh. The angel’s small white clock-heart ticks. Oh, to slip inside. The words wind like a ribbon throughout its own spacious form. A corpse, a gift! An offering! It looks around. The beach is empty except for a lady in a chair under an umbrella, a preoccupied speck on the horizon. The Lord is in Heaven, grumbling, rocking in his squeaky chair; more ogre than king now. Rasping orders in His corroded bark. Goading His angels like donkeys, run here, do this, that. Yaah! No food! No water! No sleep! The angel had finally escaped, slipped through a crack in the veil. To feel the sand beneath it, to get lost among the heathens, the ones who eat, sleep, touch. It won’t be missed, demotion, lose its wings, so? crawl like an insect. The Lord is senile.
It breathes into the mouth, pinching the nose. One, two, three, four…plankton, diatoms, algae, bacteria spin back and forth between the boy’s mouth and the angel’s; some disappear down the angel’s throat, a tin pipe. The angel’s white silky hair spreads out over it the boy’s face, covering it. He and the boy are one, sheltered in a tent of hair.
Its thin tongue slips into the boy’s mouth. Sweeps from side to side against the inner cheeks. Yes. The tongue lengthens like a pale snake. Down the boy’s throat. It tastes the salty decay, the gristle of the larynx; flutters along the neck tendons. It’s like a scanning device, picking up signals from the life the boy lived before. The jokes and misunderstandings, the boredom, the sexual thrills, his mother’s angst; his father’s demands. Then, leisurely, the tongue moves to the redness, to the heart; it’s beginning to soften and decay. This is what the boy obeyed; he was a servant of his heart. Lucky boy. The angel scrapes slivers from it with its forked, rasping tongue. Swallows. Moves further down. The boy’s last meal, a blackened mass still in the stomach. The angel’s tongue does not register subtle flavors. Yet, yet. It lingers here: “Blueberry smoothie.” “Avocado.” Chocolate cake. It touches the mass with the tongue, takes some for itself. Pants, pants. The angel thinks, “never has the Lord had chocolate cake, nor berries, nor wine. He is the one to pity.”
The angel sits up. It traces a boneless finger down the boy’s cheek. It notes the opaqueness of human skin. Humans are closed cabinets. Do not open. Who said this? It wasn’t Satan. The angel throws a shell at the clear sky. Bastard. Its arms ache. A cry rises from its throat: Wwuuurrrroooooh! Like that of a flute! A laugh like sandpaper against metal.
He spreads out the boy’s arms, arranges them on the sand. This is how he would’ve looked when he was alive, when he was surfing, skimming the crest of a wave. The angel shuts its own small shallow eyes. It lightly smooths the chest and sternum with its ghostly palms. This. Its mouth waters. Nipples. The firm abdomen, not yet bloating. Its hands travelling across the boy, everywhere, giddy; good and wholesome, like feeling the silkiness of bread dough. With both hands, it pushes up and down on the sternum, rhythmically, the blank molded air of its hands, carefully, softly against bone. It smartly slaps the body’s face, twice.
The cries and shrieks of flamboyant birds slice small cuts in the air.
The angel’s hair is clumped with wet brown sand, with the boy’s fluids of decay. Washed up strands of seaweed swirl upon them both, like an alphabet of indecipherable letters. The angel lies next to the boy, its arm lies across the boy’s chest. Its stained robe has fallen away. Its hips are exposed; its boneless knee curves over the boy’s thigh. Next to the boy, he falls into a kind of nameless slumber, a blank land, a desert, a drought. He awakens to harsh sunlight high in the sky, the sound of childrens’ feet thundering down the beach towards them.