B John Thomas Tuft

He climbed the stairs and, with a heavy sigh, took a seat in the balcony. Maybe no one would disturb him up here. Up here, he could look out on the great hall at the heads of the perishables gathered below, alternately staring at the proceedings in front or bowing in mutual consternation or concentration. You never know for sure. He was just visiting, as this was not his assigned area of HBA (Human Bean Assistance). Quite frankly, he was growing weary of these tiresome creatures. They had a world, a sun, a moon, food, water, brains, and ever searching minds. And bless their hearts, they had souls. Which, when in good working order, issued forth love. An interesting endeavor in and of itself, he allowed. Yet no amount of argument, debate, pleading, or profiling could persuade the Big One to not go ahead with the plan to turn them loose on their own.

“And so, here we are,” he muttered to himself. “Eh, Sonny, what’s that?” He spun around. An elderly woman in a threadbare red sweater, baggy nylons, and a faded green pillbox hat waved coyly. How’d he miss her? Sonny? He’d been painting sunsets and steering winds for going on ten millennium. He was up for Arch status pretty soon; soon being a relative term of course. She leaned forward. “This is my favorite. The lessons and carols for The Story. Don’t you love the way it makes you breathe?” She stopped, looking puzzled. “Have you seen my Henry? You are Taragel, aren’t you?” His jaw dropped. “How do you know my name?” She laughed, a sound that promised melodies yet unwritten, but older than time.

“You look sad. I thought your kind weren’t supposed to get sad.” She giggled and carefully unwrapped a cherry Lifesaver. “Taragel the Lone Angel. I’ve known you since I was a little girl.” Popped the candy into her mouth, smacked her lips. “My kind?” he blustered. “I don’t know you. How could you…” She held one finger to her lips. “Shh. They’re reading The Story again.” The Story unfolded a little bit further. “Were you there?” she asked in childlike wonder. He harrumphed, “That’s not how it works…” “Abigail,” said the woman. “Abigail Bliss. Mrs. Have you seen Henry?” Before he could answer the combined chancel choir, youth choir, organ, piano, string quartet, two flutes, handbells and chimes. Oh, and an oboe, filled up the space around them.

The music finished. “How would I know where Henry is?” Taragel the Lone Angel asked. Abigail took out an antique compact and carefully powdered her nose. “That’s what your kind does, isn’t it? Hand out tickets on the last train to Clarksville? All aboard the long, black train?” He gave her a blank stare. “Earthling humor, Sonny. Learn how to laugh.” He shook his head. “No. You’re born, you live, you die. We don’t interfere.” She shook a finger at him as she forcefully corrected, “No. It’s, where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Or haven’t you been paying attention,” she paused, then added, “all those millennium?” Taragel’s jaw dropped once more as she continued, “Don’t your kind know stories? It’s all about stories. Aren’t you here for The Story?”

He played for time, a feat in and of itself when you’re any kind of extra-celestial. “Can I have one of those?” He pointed at the roll of cherry candy. “Sure…Sonny. How long does it take?” She asked as she handed over the roll. The children’s choir started into One Small Child, accompanied by the strings. Abigail got a faraway look in her eyes. When they finished, he was still savoring the taste of pleasure. “How wong does wha’ take?” She tsk-tsked. “Don’t talk with your mouth full, Taragel the Lone Angel.”

He crunched it and swallowed. “Does what take?” She looked at him, her eyes growing sad. “Oh, I forgot about tears. I truly do miss tears!”

He looked at her for a long while. Until he understood. Ever so slowly he reached out one finger toward her face. “Henry is still here?” She nodded. His finger touched her skin. As the words of the story of the shepherds finding a baby drifted over the two of them, her eyes filled, then brimmed. Slowly, tears began to run down her cheeks. And as the joyous sounds of Vivaldi’s “Gloria” filled the sanctuary, those gathered there heard a great rush as though a wind was blowing through.

Everyone there that day remembers the camera recording the service from the balcony perch crashing to the floor as that glorious song ended. Ushers rushed up the stairs to see what had caused the ruckus. But all they found was an old green pillbox hat. And the wrapper for a roll of cherry Lifesavers.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.