October 1, 2011 Fiction

Angel At The Gate


Selma Sergent


Frieda had an angel. It appeared sometimes, watching her, solemn and still. Her office overlooked QueensPark. There was a memorial garden in it dedicated to Edna Featherstone, a local philanthropist who had liked pansies and angels. The garden was full of rows of purple, pink and yellow pansies and an angel formed serenely from pale grey stone, her face raised to heaven.

Frieda’s angel stood across the road from her office by the park gate. Frieda wondered if she was a guardian angel even though all she seemed to do was watch, but she supposed that in being a guardian angel there was a certain amount of watching involved, so maybe the angel was guarding her after all. From what, she didn’t know. Maybe it was the bleakness that dogged her days or maybe it was the minutes, falling like endless words.

One day Frieda got it into her head that the angel in Edna Featherstone’s garden and her angel were one and the same. There were days and days when her angel didn’t appear and Frieda began to imagine that maybe her angel was trapped in stone in Edna Featherstone’s garden, struggling to get out. It was raining so hard that no one was leaving the office for lunch but Frieda, restless all morning, ran out into the rain with her brand new cotton blouse on, through the park gate and all the way to the garden. The stone angel was there, face still raised to the skies. Some of the pansies were flattened by the water, little stalks trembling and bent; Frieda tried to straighten them up but the rain was too heavy. She hoped Edna Featherstone hadn’t noticed. The rain was running down Frieda’s neck. Her white cotton blouse was sticking to her – she was sure it was see-through by now; no doubt it would provide the guys in the office with enough jokes at her expense all afternoon. Frieda looked back at the gate where her angel usually stood. There was nothing there. She felt dismay gathering at her feet, mixing with the mud and puddles she was standing in. The rain grew heavier, full of wind and cold, white light.

Frieda was downcast at the non-appearance of her angel. She stroked the sculpted hair of the stone angel. ‘How did you get trapped in there?’ she asked. ‘Who did this to you?’

There was a crack, dragged out, the way a stick sounds when it is being broken in two. Frieda wondered if a tree was falling in the park. Suddenly the rain stopped. It was quiet. The air was warmer than before. The stone angel was muted, soft, as if lit from below. Frieda was dry, but the puddles under the trees were still being split by rain and the branches bent. She looked behind her, swallowing a cry, awestruck and afraid. Her angel at the gate was standing there, unfolding her wings.

Frieda hadn’t spoken of the angel to anyone. She wanted to, it was all she could think of, but she didn’t dare mention it. Not to her family. Her father was Gerard Hudson, the famous molecular scientist, currently on the Nobel Prize shortlist for his studies on in vitro mutagenesis for selection against black rot in drought-stressed cabbages. Her father was a biotechnologist seeking to solve the world’s food shortage problems in his greenhouse. He grew a lot of cabbages in perfectly symmetrical rows, subject to all manner of gross experimentation.

“Science has an answer for everything,”he was fond of saying. “There is no problem that can’t be solved through science, no mystery that can’t be explained.”

Frieda wondered if her father’s science would be able to find an answer to the appearance of the angel. She’d thought about telling her mother, Norah, who was more open to the metaphysical than anyone else in the family; after all she read the tarot to her friends at dinner parties for fun, pretending she had gypsy blood somewhere far back in her ancestry. But, the bottom line was that she was a social scientist specialising in psychological measurement and analysis. She worked for the biggest investment bank in the southern hemisphere measuring the general self-efficacy of future workers using item response theory. “Fit the round peg in the round hole and you’ve got the job,” Frieda often said to her mother when she was annoyed about her constant discussion of coefficients and nominal scales, whereupon her mother would always say: “There is more to it than that and you know it. Data is King. At the end of the day it’s all we have.” Frieda wondered how her mother would even begin to gather data on the appearance of an angel.

Frieda’s brother would be no help at all either. Gareth Hudson was a celebrity quantum physicist. He had appeared on the Celebrity Apprentice and had won, using the Schrodinger Equation to outsmart his opponents. Donald Trump loved him, wishing his daughter Ivanka wasn’t already married because he had always wanted someone with the brain of Stephen Hawking and the looks of Brad Pitt in the family. After the Celebrity Apprentice Gareth’s book: String Theory, Supersymmetry, Quarks, and Squarks. How To Keep Black Holes Out Of Your Relationship hit the best seller lists around the world. His T-shirts saying Top Quark and Stop Squark were worn by celebrities including Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham and it was rumoured Jake Gyllenhaal was going to play him in an upcoming biopic. Oprah considered coming out of retirement just to interview him. Celebrity physicists had no time for angels, especially physicists who were also atheists. Frieda’s brother didn’t believe in God. Neither did her father nor her mother.

Frieda had sat through thousands of family dinners listening to her mother and father espouse the beliefs of Richard Dawkins, Isaac Asimov, Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens and even Woody Allen – famous atheists all. Arguments against God’s existence, arguments on free will, the omnipotence paradox, the problem of evil, the problem of Hell, how it was possible to marry atheism and spirituality; and how it wasn’t. Frieda had heard it all. Her conclusion was that atheism seemed to be a reaction against something rather than a movement towards it, but she didn’t know how to put it into words.

Barry Manilow was also an atheist. Frieda saw him say it during an interview on TV. She wasn’t a huge fan of Barry’s but it upset her to hear him say it. All that singing about Mandy and the Copacabana; all that schmaltz and all those ruffles and joy, and he believed in nothing ever after. If Barry Manilow saw Frieda’s angel he would write a song about her that would become an instant hit. It would make the whole world sing. And he would get down on his knees and weep.

Frieda thought what she thought but officially stayed on the fence. When her father said that people who believed in God were afraid of the dark, Frieda wanted to say people who didn’t believe in God were afraid of the light. She wanted to say it but she didn’t. Her father was disappointed enough with her opinions and with her. Frieda was the only one in the family who wasn’t a scientist. There were over 40 people in the extended Hudson family and all of them followed some kind of career in science. Frieda was PA to Josephine Hammersmith, graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School in Paris and proprietor of the most successful cooking website in the world ‘Le Manger,’  which Frieda always referred to as Eat It. Le Manger had a Google Page Rank of 9 out of 10 and over 100 million subscribers. Hammersmith had sponsors from Mercedes to Pepsi to Gillette. She was so sought after Frieda spent most of her day fielding calls or posting special offers on Twitter. She enjoyed her job but sometimes she felt a blackness settle in her stomach that was a kind of loneliness; the type of loneliness that occurs on a dark night just before the moon emerges and the world seems colourless, void of hope. The loneliness went away when she saw the angel. She was magnificent. She was the dawn. She was the sunset. She was summertime music. She was wintertime firelight. She was tears. She was laughter.  She was all that love wanted to be but never was. She was sacred. It was impossible she even existed.

Frieda thought she might be imagining the angel, hoping for her,  until she found the feather. It settled at her feet as she left the office one evening as purple twilight daubed the streets. Ivory, downy, full of power and might, shimmering, perfect. She picked it up, overwhelmed, hot tears on her face. “I’m not supposed to believe in you, but I do,’” she whispered.

Josephine Hammersmith had invited Frieda to dinner at her penthouse, which was two minutes from the office and also overlooked Queens Park. It was so high off the ground it was as if a house had been built right among the clouds, wispy, glittering as crystals.

Frieda was helping Josephine sauté chanterelle mushrooms when Josephine handed her a drink. ‘I think you might need this,’ she said. ‘I have something to tell you. The first thing is that your brother and I have been seeing each other in secret for over a year. We are in love. It came as a surprise to both of us.’ Frieda nearly choked on her sauvignon blanc but then the pieces that hadn’t seemed to fit with Josephine began to merge together. All the books she had seen on Relativistic Quantum Mechanics and Field Theory on Josephine’s reading pile; Josephine being picked up after work in a limousine and catching a glimpse of a man through the window with the same line to his shoulders as her brother; and the clincher, Josephine, a renowned anti-tweeter following Frieda’s brother on Twitter @QuarkMan. Frieda saw happiness sprinkling its light on Josephine’s face and in her mind she knew she and her brother fit, were meant to be.

“There’s one more thing,” Josephine continued. “I’m going away for a year or two with Gareth and your father all over the world. We’re going to feed the poor, teach them about food production and preparation in changing climatic conditions. We’ve bought up tracts of land inSouth America,Asia,IndiaandAfrica. Your father is setting up his own agricultural business. It will be totally non-profit. We have had a good run in our lives so far. We want to give something back.”

“But why?” Frieda asked. “Why are you doing this?”

“I have realised there is more to life than this, this quest for money and all that goes with it,’”Josephine said. “Edna Featherstone told me so.”

“Edna Featherstone?”

“I know you know who she is,”Josephine went on. “I know you’ve seen her. I saw the feather on your desk.”

“You can see the angel?”

“Yes. The angel at the gate. She is Edna Featherstone.”

Frieda rushed to the window. It was raining again. The streets were sleek and empty. There was a clutch of dry ground at the park gate, as if someone had been standing there, watching, looking up. She contemplated the raindrops chasing each other down the glass, like pieces of clouds, like euphoria. There is more to life than this, she thought.

Frieda had been running Le Manger for six months. Forty percent of the profits were now donated to Gareth, Josephine, and her father’s foundations helping feed the poor all over the world. Josephine’s webcam cooking sessions were proving to be hugely popular. She was currently demonstrating ways to spice up pearl millet in Nigeria.

Frieda’s mother had left her seventy hour a week job. She was studying reiki and meditating every morning. Frieda had met a man, Brian, a human rights lawyer who helped refugees. Frieda was happy. It was as if there were flowers in the house every day, throwing out their colours into her heart.

The angel at the gate ,Edna, still appeared but less frequently. When Frieda missed her she sat in the memorial garden looking up at the sun the way the pansies did, smelling the sweet tang of the grass, remnants of night mist and the songs of birds who didn’t fear the dark clinging to her hair.

The stone angel was warm to the touch, steadfast, cupping breezes in her hands, twisting leaves like tops. Here in the garden with all that was, Frieda was at peace. She kept Edna’s feather with her at all times ; a talisman, alerting her to the beauty in the world.

Before, Frieda had longed for tomorrow and now she dreamt of today. She didn’t know about God or heaven or even about angels. She didn’t know about data or drought-stressed cabbages or even quarks. But she knew about the good in people’s hearts, it was there all along. Under her feet the ground was dressed in gold, melted honey in a glass. The sky was adrift with wind-streaked clouds. Frieda could rejoice in this garden full of angels and hope.  She could feel the wind, smoothing her sideways. She could let clarity ensue. She could live.






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  1. adeeyoyo October 11, at 19:47

    What lovely stories from such talented writers. I enjoyed them tremendously!

  2. Magsx2 October 04, at 19:00

    Hi, Really enjoyed both these stories, very well written. I came to this site via Selma's blog, and so glad I did, was having my usual morning coffee when I stated reading the stories. (Well timed on my part) :)

    • Administrator October 05, at 20:32

      Thank you Magsx2 for enjoying the stories and hopefully you will return to continue reading with your morning coffee. :)

  3. KLaus Kommoss October 04, at 16:50

    "atheism seemed to be a reaction against something rather than a movement towards it" This was just one snippet that caught my eye. Magical story. It's so much fun to follow you, Selma.

  4. Selma October 03, at 23:32

    Marita's story is excellent. Fantastic imagery - the image of figuring out what music is has just got me right in the heart. Beautifully written. Thank you.

  5. Stephanie October 03, at 11:07

    Wow. Selma never disappoints. Beautiful and magical.

    • Administrator October 03, at 19:29

      Indeed this is both beautiful and magical. Selma's stories always take you places that make you smarter in some way.

  6. JCT October 03, at 01:33

    Stumbled on this site. I liked the first story very much.

    • Administrator October 03, at 09:52

      You stumbling is Tuck's good fortune and we hope you come back to read some more!

    • Administrator October 02, at 16:55

      Thank you Evelyn for contributing your incredible words to Tuck!


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