The spinning stops and I know something's not right. I've got this feeling from a distant memory like I don't fit. "Not again. How many freaking worlds are there?" I try to say with water splashing into my mouth. Its briny ickiness makes me cough and gag as I struggle to keep my head afloat. Every time I make it to the surface, another wave sends me under.
Amidst the turbulence, I see moonlight bathing the shore some couple hundred yards out. Bad would've been no land in sight. Bad would've been the middle of the day on a crowded beach. On the other hand, good would've been someone to pull me out of this bloody forsaken water. No psycho-random parasites or monsters greet me as I walk out of the surf – easing my mind. The night is balmy and the air tastes of change and instability. The sounds of festivities waft my way, along with the scents of Dominique Ropion. Hopefully, it's not a virgin sacrifice or something because that'd make me really uncomfortable. Then again, considering it's Ropion, I'd probably be in the clear even if it were.
Cracks among the crowd lining the street reveal what appears to be a parade … of skeletons. A flashback of my last Season with Momma bursts forth.
A strong gust had the falling leaves billowing about like confetti in all their colorific glory. As I watched, they’d shriveled and faded, coating the ground with morbid dew. Claw-like hands left ruts in the dirt as the animated detritus scratched and pulled free of the underworld. Glowing black eyes projected oscillations of decay as a green smoke seeped from perpetual grins. They moved with a silence that belied their forms. Unheard was the grinding of bone scraping against bone. Unheard was the crunch of tinder beneath their feet as their steady gait brought them our way.
"Pay your respects to your ancestors," Momma had said, and I did.
Sunshine alley led to Peg Leg's through a break in the old wood fence Nuni had rigged to her trailer. It was my sneaky entrance. Nuni couldn't tell if I was coming or going these days and she hadn't noticed I am with boyfriend now. Sweet Lucky Brown. What a cat. Jazz flowed from his fingers and he was only 38, not too old. He was good licks for me. Good Licks.
Grease wafted around every crevice in the bar. Sailors’ perfume. The mussels were steeped in a buttery garlic soup, the grouper was thick and white, raw oysters were eaten no matter the month and we didn't care if we got sick. Oysters were worth it. Made your tail stand on end. For most of the night.
Some of the patrons could no longer leap from the barstools like they used to. And they were shedding something fierce. Fleas were fat. Old cats hanging out just looking for a place to retire and be left alone.
Sweet Lucky tuned up. I lit a smoke with my last match and blew right at him. He smiled, his tongue curled up and licked his mustache. I made a gesture for him to roll it back in. He laughed that deep, large brown laugh. Sweet Lucky began to play. Time decided to take a nap.
The breeze came in to dance and carry the notes up and away, around and down, in and out. Fur started getting attention. Prickling first, one pore at a time, then the stroking. Tomcats sauntered in, some real well fed, some without a home. Didn't matter in the full moonlight, in the deep dark night.
Soft angel kitties strolled in with their white shirts and shorts, their perfect manicured coats of brown and blond. Young and old the males took a whiff. Sideways eyes longed, large wide pupils devoured, small tired ol’ girls went into the back to lick their wounds and their baggy old skin.
“Shots!” they hissed.
Beer buzz settled down the crowd so Lucky could work some good ol Brown on ‘em. I loved to watch the way it would settle and stir all at the same time, like hot steamed milk in a Cuban coffee. Jorge sauntered up to me, like he always does. I warned him not to put a paw on me. I was done with his inexperienced little baby ass and on to someone with style. I nodded to my new fence jumper. The cigarette in the corner of his mouth stuck to his bottom lip as he gave me a wink.
December 26th, 2:00 a.m. My face slipped off my hand and nearly slammed into the white marble table. Day after bleeding Christmas and my ass was hauled to the holy realm for another naughty angel meeting. And I wasn’t even bad…not in the past twenty-four hours, anyway.
Trying to adjust my eyes to the disgusting brightness of Cloud Six, Conference Room for the Sketchy-Winged, I waited, as usual, for the snooty white-winged angel committee. They’ve always loved making me wait; my status as a gray-wing certainly didn’t help. To the squeaky-clean white-wings, my job as an earth angel, coupled with my residence in the ‘not-quite-heaven’ realm, automatically labeled me as something to ridicule and admonish. 'Course, I don’t do myself any favors; my behavior was always less than proper. Eh, screw 'em. Effing with the stuck-up bastards makes the afterlife worth wandering.
Jesus, I hated this room—too bright, too white, and too damn boring. I prefer my life with a little color…and a mother lode of line-crossing.
Finally, the elegant golden double doors opened. The judgmental white-wings filed into the room in a single, pompous line.
The lead angel took his seat and eagerly looked down his pointy nose at me. “Good morning, Earth Angel J.” Carlston McPhee held the position of Primary Halo Bearer. He had the largest set of wings, the longest feathers, and a face that looked like he was constantly constipated. Yep, my punishments begin and end with an ass-faced bloke named Carlston. The killer part? If this arrogant bastard had crossed my path during my pre-angel years, he wouldn’t have stood a chance…and he knows it.
“It’s barely the morning after Christmas. I was tucked under my covers, still happy and full from Mrs. Valentine’s home-cooked holiday dinner and pastries. Then, out of a deeply satisfying dream, I’m jolted awake to find my bloody wings yanked up to this blinding piss of a place, meeting with your face. Trust me, mate, there’s nothing good about this morning,” I grumbled. “Now, why the hell am I here?”