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Mark Budman

A Patriotic Angel

She stands in the supermarket aisle reserved for the holiday decorations. She is not tall; maybe five inches maximum. She wears a regulation angel's gown and a red, white and blue scarf about her shoulders in the manner of a priest or a reform Rabbi. She holds a tiny harp, but she doesn't play it yet.

"What will you play for me?" Len asks, bending down to her. "The Star Spangled Banner? Silent Night? A Hanukkah song?" His left hip hurts, but he wants to make sure she hears him well.

"Are you working here?" he continues. "Or did they lay you off, too?.. Stupid question. Of course you are working here. As an angel."

He touches the strings of her harp with his finger. They sighed.

"I've never seen your kind before. Only everyday, down-to-earth angels... What makes you what you are? Do you fly with our pilots to protect them in a battle? Or maybe you advise our government officials and American company CEOs?"

Her plastic fingers move. She plays a few notes from "America the Beautiful." His hip can't stand it any longer. He sits on the floor. Now, their faces are on the same level.

"I've always been a patriot. Voted. Paid taxes. Even served a stint in Vietnam. We are alike, you and I. We could be friends."

A woman pushes a cart by him. She meets Len's eyes and purses her lips. He turns to the angel again. "If I take you home, I would have to leave the steak, grapes, beer and the cereal here. You might be bored at my place; my kids are already in college, and my wife is always at work."

Her eyes say, "Why do I care?" Or, perhaps, "Sure, Daddy."

Outside, the first snowflakes of the night land on his baseball cap. He will listen to five patriotic songs tonight, playing in the sequence of his choice, in the company of an angel while drinking milk and eating bread. What more can a man possibly want?

Mark was born and raised in the former Soviet Union but now lives in Vestal, New York. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Blip Magazine Archive, Virginia Quarterly, Exquisite Corpse, Conversely, Happy, Web Del Sol's In Posse and La Petite Zine, Parting Gifts, and elsewhere.

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