I know this because he appeared before me yesterday in human form. “Hi, I’m Chuck,” he said. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.
“Yeah, you’re Chuck, you just said so,” I replied.
He looked maybe 30, was wearing a red striped long sleeve tee shirt and corduroys and Keds sneakers. He was a little on the tubby side, medium height with bushy red hair.
“Yes, I know you know my name is Chuck but do you know who I am?”
I was standing in my backyard looking up at this big tree we have --it seemed kind of spooky with no leaves and the sky being all cloudy --when Chuck, I’m gonna say, appeared. I mean suddenly he was there. But I wasn’t freaked out, there was something calming about him.
“Well no, Chuck, I don’t know who you are so why don’t you dispense with the mystery and tell me.”
“I’m your guardian angel.”
I chuckled at that one. Not really a full throated guffaw, just a light chuckle. See the thing was that I half believed him. Why? It was just the damn feeling I got from him like he wasn’t real, not in the sense of regular human beings.
“No disrespect there Chuck but you don’t look like an angel.”
“Well of course your basing your conception on what angels look like from classic art, probably mostly from the Renaissance. Actually the film It’s A Wonderful Life gives a more accurate picture of us angels.”
I knew the movie well as most people do so naturally I asked him, “are you trying to earn your wings like Clarence?”
“Heavens no. There are no wings for angels. That’s just storybook stuff.”
“Excuse me but it seems like the whole deal with guardian angels is storybook stuff.”
“I can see where you might think so, but that’s part of human mythology that is in a general sense quite true.”
“Thing is there Chuck I find it hard to believe you. I admit I get a funny feeling from you but come on, what proof is there?”
“Fair enough.” And with that he disappeared then reappeared standing right next to me, shoulder to shoulder. I damn near fainted.
“Plenty,” I said and went over and sat in a lawn chair.
I offered Chuck a sit. “We don’t sit,” he said.
That’s gotta be rough. Do you at least get to lay down?”
No things are very much different for us, in fact we don’t usually take human form."
Looking back I'm amazed at how quickly and easily I accepted the reality of angels existing and one visiting me. I credit Chuck himself for that, it was just the vibe of normalcy that he gave off, like everything was cool. If he’d produced a talking bunny rabbit I don’t think I’d have flinched. More than anything I just found myself to be curious.
“Why this particular body, Chuck? I mean how is it you come to look like you do?”
“Well we have choices as angels for what we look like when, out of necessity, we have to take human form. I chose the body and clothes from the time of my death.”
“So you were human too?”
“Of course its a prerequisite to being an angel.”
“How’d it happen?”
“How’d you die, you must have been no more than 30.”
“Twenty seven to be exact. I was drunk — first time in my life, as a matter of fact — was driving on icy roads, lost control of the car and went down a deep embankment, flipped once and landed on a boulder. You should have seen me, what a mess.”
“How can you —-”
“Right, how do I know what I looked like in death. Well I’ve watched replays of it several times. In fact we’re required to watch replies of most major events and incidents in our life and a lot of ones that seem minor but had great significance.”
“I can see where that would be pretty rough. There’s a lot of times in my life I hate to think about let alone would want to watch a replay of.”
“You get used to it pretty quickly. In fact you learn to study and learn from it. I should think it would be especially difficult but ultimately quite constructive for someone such as yourself.”
This took me aback. “Whattaya mean for ‘someone such as myself’?”
“Come now. You work with organized crime, cheated on your wife, or should I say wives. Why you’ve committed all manner of crimes both in the legal and moral senses. You’re practically bereft of ethics.”
“Now you’re just being hard on me. I ain’t so bad, not compared to some guys I know.”
“You will learn in this life or the next that comparing yourself to others is of no value. You must be judged and you must judge yourself on your own actions.”
“Say what’s this all about, anyway? Why the visit and why the sudden dressing down?”
“I’m afraid I bring some rather bad news. I meant to ease into a bit but you’ve asked so…”
“Bad news from my guardian angel? That’s got to be the worst kind of news.” I was actually very scared, more so than I had ever been and I’m a guy who’s been in some pretty tough jams. “Okay, well lay it on me, I suppose I can take it.”
“I’m being re-assigned.”
“What? You’re not going to be my guardian angel? So I get some rookie instead?” I was relieved. This didn’t sound so bad.
“I was a rookie when I started with you.”
“By the way when did you start with me?”
“When you were born. I’ve been with you along for all of your 52 years.”
This sent a chill down my spine. Chuck had been watching me my whole life. But something didn’t make sense. “When’d you die, Chuck, I mean what year?”
“Well hell that was just over 30 years ago, no way you been watching me my whole life. You showed up when I was 22.”
“Here’s something you’d have difficulty understanding. Time is different, very much so, in the afterlife. Someone who died today could be the life long guardian angel of a man who’s turning 100.”
I trusted that what Chuck said was true even though it didn’t make the slightest sense to me.
“Okay so bottom line I’m getting a new guy.”
“I’m afraid not. You see the things is that when death approaches your guardian angel can no longer do anything for you. I’m to take on a new human. Tomorrow.”
“Death approaches? You mean mine?”
Chuck just nodded, slowly and sadly. I felt my heart drop into my bowels. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and yet I felt chills.
There was quiet for a bit before I could muster the courage to ask: “When? How?”
“Honestly I have no idea. Soon though, I’m sure.”
“Why did you come to tell me this? Won’t you get in some trouble? This has to be a major rules violation for you.”
“It is considered bad form but you are my first so I’ll get a slap on the wrist but I’ve earned a lot of points for my protection of you. You were a difficult first client.”
“Yeah, I’ve had a lot of tough scrapes. Some I don’t know how I got out of. That was you I suppose.”
Chuck nodded then he looked real sad like and stared at me with sympathy.
“I’ve got to go,” he said.
“But wait!” I stood up and reached out like I was gonna grab him. “What’s going to happen to me? I mean, after, when I’m…?”
“I honestly have no idea. Goodbye.” And he vanished.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening thinking over everything Chuck and I had talked about. I felt resigned to the idea that I was gonna die soon. My great fear was not that but what would happen after. Maybe like Chuck I’d be an angel or maybe — cause of the life I’d led — I’d be in some place like hell. The whole idea made me damn nervous so I took out a bottle of whiskey and went at it. My wife was out of town visiting her mother so I was all alone. I sat in the kitchen with the whiskey and some Sinatra records playing in the background.
At 9:00 I got a call from Vinnie. He wanted to see me the next morning over at the warehouse. I’d have thought nothing of it if it hadn’t been for Chuck, now I figured it’d be where they bumped me off. We had meetings there, sure, but a few guys had been whacked there too. It was a good place for it. They must have known I’d been skimming a little each month. I never thought it was enough for them to get wise, but I was never very good with numbers.
I drank enough that I slept like a baby despite my date with a bullet. Least I hoped it was that and not strangulation. I’d seen guys strangled before and its awful. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t torture me. I was part of the outfit after all and besides I’d confess everything before they had to.
I put on a nicer suit than I normally would, had a big breakfast and spiked my coffee with brandy. I know what you’re thinking, -- I should have taken a powder -- but they’d a tracked me down soon enough. You can't escape these guys. So here I am, about to get into my El Dorado for the last time. I know I should be scared as hell but for some reason I'm feeling calm, ready for what happens, besides I’ve had a good run. Gee it was swell of Chuck to give me the tip.