There is a special place in heaven for we who have died way before our time, during moments that should have been the best and the brightest of our lives. The angels, who have felt no pain and tasted no death, attempt to drown out their whispering under the beating of their massive wings. They forget that their voices are the rumbling of thunder, the howling of hurricanes. These are a few of the urban legends they gossip about:
The Almost Engaged
Once there was a couple, unmarried but happily living together. The man would always bring the woman breakfast in bed the morning of her birthday. Blueberry muffins, baby tomatoes, toasted crabstick sandwiches cut into triangles. Their two kids would squeeze lemons or oranges for juice. One year the woman noticed her boyfriend acting jittery the week leading to her birthday. She feared he’d grown sick of her and now wanted to break it off. But the morning of her 35th birthday, he brought her a tray as usual. He sat beside her in bed and told knock-knock jokes to make her laugh. She reached for his hand. It was trembling. She asked why he was acting so odd. He said, “The key to it all is hidden at the bottom of your coffee cup.” So she drank up, the sooner to solve the mystery. She choked on the diamond ring he’d hidden there. He didn’t know the Heimlich maneuver.
The Troll Hunter
Once there was a little boy who read Tolkien and decided to go out to hunt for trolls. He could not find any caves, but he’d heard trolls occasionally lived under bridges. Holding a tinfoil sword, he waded into a creek under a bridge. That day there was a storm, and then a flash flood. That was the last anyone saw of him, at least while he was still alive. His family wept, fearing the raging creek had carried him off to sea. But a few days after he had gone missing, the creek’s water level significantly lowered, and the boy was found wedged into the mouth of a canal, his face white and puffy as cumulus clouds, the tinfoil sword still clutched tightly in his hand.
Once there was an altar boy. He smoked too much pot and always came too late to his assigned mass. His tunic flapping over his calves, he would rush into church during the reading of the Gospel. The priest would yell at him after mass and rap him on the forehead with the golden cup used for wine. One day the altar boy came early. He was assigned to dangle and sway the jar of frankincense. He came with a surgical mask and told the other altar boys he was coming down with the flu but couldn’t bear to miss the beloved sacrament. The scent of frankincense was more potent than usual that day. The priest’s head drooped first and knocked the Bible to the floor. Before long, the whole church was filled with crumpling bodies. The mask still secured, the altar boy methodically walked down each row and slit every throat. He left the altar for last. The priest was already stirring when he felt the blade carve into the delicate skin just above his white collar.
The Shooting Star
Once there was a girl who wished on dandelions and fallen eyelashes. She wished she could once again meet the various people she’d loved and lost over the course of her short life. Mommy who’d died in a tragic accident long ago. Her little brother who’d drowned during a typhoon. Even a year after her brother’s death, she was still suffering migraines and could not make it to Sunday mass. Daddy stayed home to take care of her. They’d heard later that a delinquent altar boy had drugged the entire congregation and had gone on a wild killing spree. Horrified, Daddy moved them to a new house up the hill. The house was much smaller but closer to the sky. The girl would stand in the backyard and wish on shooting stars. Once she wished on a lovely one that was huge and yellow. Bring Mommy and Timmy back. Bring back Father Ron and the Church. Please, God. Please. The shooting star swelled so large it looked like divine intervention. She thought she heard Jesus whispering soothingly, thought she heard the angels giggling. Then the meteor loomed so huge it twisted her neck all the way round.
Yes, up here, the angels are not so nice. Jesus is too busy herding his sheep, while the saints tick off the sheep’s many sins on their little notepads. But at least up here I have Mommy and Timmy. We look down and watch Daddy. He is alone now, loading a gun in the kitchen. We don’t know whether we should smile or cry.