Normally the collective noun for angels is choir, a choir of angels. But these ones had put aside their harps and were looking rather less than choral as they hung their heads in shame. What would a more applicable collective noun be - an embarrassment of angels? A disgrace of angels? I glared at them. They avoided my eyes and tried to shuffle behind each other.
“Honestly,” I said, “what were you thinking?”
More shuffling, and a sublingual murmuring of “Yes, miss” and “sorry, miss.”
“I mean, I’m a human. I come complete with Original Sin, and even I know it was wrong.”
When a human blushes, they feel hot, and they go pink. When an angel blushes the heat radiates everywhere, and they shine so brightly that either closed eyes or sunnies are called for. And that’s just one. Imagine what it’s like when there’s a whole bunch of them blushing in front of you. I went on relentlessly.
“Michael! Step forward!”
An ashamed little angel, shoulders stooped and wings dragging, didn’t so much come forward, as found himself forward when the rest fell back behind him.
“Have you got anything to say for yourself?”
“No, miss. Sorry, miss.”
“I mean, look at you! Your robe is dirty, you still have bloody sump oil on your right wing! What the what!”
“It was all about the children, miss,” whispered Michael, the very epitome of angelic misery. For a brief instant his head flickered into the crocodile head of Sobek, then he regained control of himself and looked like a Renaissance angel again. “I had to protect the children.”
“Yes, I understand that is your traditional role.” My voice was iron. “What I would like to know is, what made you think any child would benefit from your draining the oil out of that man’s car?”
Michael looked even more miserable. His halo had faded almost out of existence by now. “He might have been a child abductor, miss. I couldn’t take the chance.”
“And he might have been pursuing a child abductor who had a child chained up in the boot of his own car. You just don’t know, do you. Do you?”
“So you drained his sump, so that when he next started the engine, it would seize up. Is that an angelic thing to do?”
“Get outta here. I don’t want to see you again until you have cleaned yourself up, body and soul.”
I looked at the remaining huddle of quaking angels. “And you lot! You encouraged him, didn’t you! You cheered him on! I mean, just because he’s the only one who’s bothered to learn anything about technology from after the sixteenth century doesn’t make him a hero!”
“No, miss. Sorry, miss.”
“Did not one single one of you have a moment’s thought that this behaviour might be less than ideal? Then slightest flicker of a thought?”
They all, as one, looked down at their feet. Their traditionally golden sandals had turned into rough, brown leather sandals, to match their behaviour. “Sorry, miss. We’ll try better next time.”
“And you. Phosphorus.” He obediently stepped forward. “I don’t suppose you can explain exactly why you burnt down that building? Arson? Really? Are angels arsonists, now?”
He tried. He tried gamely. “I’m Phosphorus. I’m meant to burn.” For a moment his angel form disappeared and he presented as a sheet of flame, a couple of metres high and a centimetre thick. I blinked, and he was an angel again. An embarrassed angel.
I did my best withering voice. “No, you’re Phosphorus. A mineral named after you is meant to burn, not you. You are meant to be an angel, and do angelic things. What happened?”
“So many people thought about it burning down …”
“So you thought you’d help them? Think about it. They’re disaffected teenagers who’d rather be hanging out at the shops or surfing or gaming than sitting in a classroom. Of course they want their school to burn down. That doesn’t mean you should do it. Think like an angel, not a hormone-affected teenager!”
“Yes, miss. Sorry, miss.”
“Give me your tinderbox. Now get over there and help with the clean-up effort. And try to look like a random human volunteer!”
“Yes, miss.” A nondescript forty-something man wearing jeans, trainers and a faded yellow tee-shirt walked away.
“Uriel? I don’t suppose as the angel of knowledge, you have any complicity in this? For forks’ sakes, schools are all about knowledge! It’s your job to protect them.”
“And while I’m at it - Gabriel. You’ve been fast-tracked on the angelic leadership path. You are close with the Boss. Is your idea of leadership to stand around and do nothing while a couple of your staff trash a car and a school? What the hell, mate. I understand you gave them all a night off, last night. Did you not think to remind them that they are angels and role models? Instead of being role models, they went off and behaved like a bunch of … a bunch of … a bunch of bloody NRL players! I hold you responsible. What have you got to say?”
“Sorry? I’m sick of hearing it. Sorry doesn’t hack it. How would you like it if I went over your head and spoke to the Boss?”
Gabriel turned pale. “Oh, please don’t do that!”
I lowered my voice dangerously. “I will if it happens again. And may I assure you, I’m not bluffing. Just remember what happened to Lucifer. And you’d better hope I never die, because he has a restraining order on me so I can’t go to hell. If I die and go to heaven, I’ll be watching you every moment of every day for all eternity. Do you want that?”
So pull your finger out of your arse, and start behaving like a leader, not a ringleader! And the rest of you,” - they flinched visibly - “stop behaving like out of control brats and start behaving like angels. I’ve had about enough of the lot of you.”
I threw one last glare at them, then turned around and stalked off, radiating disapproval and dignified outrage.
Nisaba Merrieweather was born in 1960 and is not yet dead. She started writing in 1969 at age eight, and hasn't worked out how to stop. Thankfully, all her output before this century has been lost. She is a storyteller and poet, and has won or placed in over 70 online poetry competitions in the last fifteen years. She has one novel currently being considered for publication, two others waiting for another final edit, a fourth in progress, and a fifth idea eagerly waiting its turn. Some of the prevailing themes explored in her work are the alienation in our society of marginalised people especially aging women, dark humour, LGBTQI life-experience, spirituality, and philosophy. Since the covid plague forced an early retirement on her, she has become more serious about her writing, and has found a second home in the Outback Writers' Centre.