It was a beautiful day in Houston, Texas, one of those rare sunny days when the humidity and the heat gave the city a pass and the cool Gulf air swept the pollution away. It was a day to call in sick, take the family off to Galveston, and spend the day outdoors in spite of the ozone levels.
If any present had bothered to look, they wouldn't have seen any unusual event: just a guy strolling, seemingly sightseeing, along the Galleria Water Wall. If they had had the eyes to see him as he truly was, and dared to speak and inquire as to what earthshaking mission he was on - surely no less than delivering a message of worldly import or escorting the soul of a dying believer to God's presence ...they would have been somewhat disappointed. In fact, on this particular day, he was simply enjoying a little downtime.
Technically, it might even be said he was playing hooky-he had duties and responsibilities waiting that could not be put off for long - but sometimes, now and again, he just wanted to get away from it all. At the moment, he was indulging himself in a little passive people-watching. The strolling families enjoying the roar and spray of the falls moved past him, intent on their own lives and concerns, paying him no attention. Since he didn't really want to have to experience that clammy feeling that came from more corporal beings blithely walking through his body, to those around him he was completely solid and totally unremarkable- just another young guy in black leather taking a stroll on a windy fall afternoon.
He wished it were that simple.
His life was just so strange now. His life...he supposed he could still refer to it as a 'life', though he was actually quite dead, as far as the world was concerned. Dead and buried, prayers said and done (assuming anyone had cared enough to say any), his mortal body left to rot in some unknown graveyard.
He wondered if anyone, anyone at all, ever visited that lonely grave. Maybe to leave flowers, or talk to the air in the hope that he could hear their words. Maybe just to sit and think of him.
He hoped so.
He'd just left Delia Harmony to her new, improved life, walking away through the Christmas snow as she rejoiced in the presence of her family on that most holy of nights. He'd wished them the traditional 'Merry Christmas' even though they couldn't hear or see him any longer, and turned and walked away, into the night, into another time. Another reality.
He'd wanted to stay.
It was hard, sometimes, to watch others get the miraculous change they had prayed and struggled for, and have to continue on with no hint of how long before his own journey would end.
But whenever he felt himself sinking into self pity, he tried to step back and think how blessed he was. It was amazing...everything that had happened to him was just so mind boggling that he sometimes felt like pinching himself to see if he would wake up.
He hadn't been doing this 'helper' gig for long, and already it seemed commonplace to him. Right, somehow. And Judge Othniel seemed to think he was doing OK. He had the 'meet and greet' routine down pat, he was getting more skilled at sliding into the various new personas and he genuinely enjoyed helping others change their lives for the better. He was making a difference, he was doing God's work, and he could feel His love surrounding him at times like this, when the pressures and distractions of the world let up enough for him to pay attention.
He hadn't stopped thinking about his own forgotten past, in fact it was never far from his mind...but it didn't worry him, really. Nothing much did anymore. After all, he'd done the Big Thing- he'd died. And in dying, found that death was just the beginning. God was real, He loved him, and what could compare to that? So, anything that came next could only be considered a pleasant bonus. Right?
It was just that, sometimes... he wondered.
DID anyone miss him? Had he a family, a mother, a father, maybe a little sister or brother somewhere, thinking of him at this very moment?
Had he been loved?
He wished now that he had quizzed Ray Patterson more about the fire that had claimed his life. The man had been there fighting it, after all, and maybe he had known more of his-Smith's-background than he had said. He knew so little...that he'd died in that church fire set by Ray's own son. Why had he been in a church that night? Was he there alone? Had he been a member? Or just visiting, stopping by to drop off a donation or say a prayer? Was he there to pinch candles? What? It was the not knowing that was sometimes just too much.
Maybe if he'd just asked more questions, prodded a little harder...or maybe not. Maybe he was just fooling himself. He knew he was on a spiritual journey of sorts, with this 'apprenticeship' with Judge Othniel. His deepest hope was that if he played by the rules, did his best for the Judge and for God, that he too would be granted a second chance. Another life. Assuming that his situation when alive was as screwed up as that of the people he had contacted so far.
Had he been a good person? Or had he muddled along through life, neither acknowledging God's presence and love nor truly rejecting Him, either? So many of the people he observed now lived their whole life in that fashion, trying to straddle a fence that was never designed to be sat upon. One that didn't exist, really. You either believed and accepted God's gift of forgiveness, or you denied Him and His Son. Your name was written in the Book of Life, or not.
He guessed that his must have been, to get him chosen for this gig as 'celestial guide'. Of course, he'd been saddled with the Judge, so maybe he'd only rated a footnote. And really, he felt very, very good about it all now. The alternative, having now experienced God's love and forgiveness firsthand, was unthinkable.
He knew some of God's peace - yet in his odd, halfway position (what had Delia called him? - Clarence, an angel working for his wings) he was still full of worries and doubts and fears. He was still bound to the mortal world, more so than the Judge for sure. That man might look like your atypical doting uncle, but he was as stern as any Supreme Justice when it came down to the wire, with the ultimate power of God backing him.
Sometimes, he wondered if he was measuring up. Was he doing a good enough job? There were times, like when he had been taking pictures of Jake while posing as a Tumbleweeds photographer and left his cap on by mistake, that he wondered. Just a little slipup, but it could have alerted the guy to the fact that Smith wasn't a real photographer. That he in fact barely knew one end of a camera from another. But then, he supposed God had all of His bases covered... and everything had turned out well. He was probably just in need of a little more faith.
A low cry startled him out of this rather depressing conclusion. He had been standing for quite some time near one of the graceful columns, staring mesmerized into the sheets of falling water. Looking about, he spotted a small black lump crouched near the edge of the cascade. It was a kitten, looking half drenched and frightened as it tried to figure out how to escape from this cold, loud hell it had wandered into.
The kitten was hungry, and wet, and the roaring waters muffled the sounds and vibrations of the passing humans, so it missed the approach of the man until his soft voice was right above, and the large feet stopped right before it's cold damp nose. It tipped a tiny, fierce face upwards, daring the dangerous human to touch it, before it's brain processed the human's smell. He smelled...Good. Different than the other beings stomping past. And for the first time since it had wandered away from his mother's side two days earlier, the kitten felt safe. Warmth and love poured off this human with the odd white glow with a force subtly more powerful than the water thrumming nearby. THIS human would protect him, and take care of him, where others had shouted and kicked. The kitten crouched down, then dashed forward towards this new haven.
The kitten meowed pitifully, flinching from the wet spray of drops cast off by the cascading falls, and tried to hide behind his feet.
"Come here, little guy." he murmured, leaning over to pluck the shivering body from the damp brown-pebbled cement. The kitten repaid this kindness by promptly trying to climb his arm, sinking sharp claws into it's saviors wrist.
"Ow! You..." Smith quickly slid his free hand under the kittens body and plucked it free, cuddling the damp form close. It felt right to do it, and for a second he wondered if he'd had a pet, BHD. Before He'd Died. Maybe a dog, or a bird? Carefully, he unzipped his jacket just enough to slip the kitten inside, with just it's head and front paws sticking out. The animal wriggled contentedly, sure now that things were improving and that food would soon be offered.. At the very least, it was a lot drier here.
Smith smiled down at the small, purring kitten, which was kneading it's claws steadily into the leather of his jacket. Delia's words came back to him. Heh. Wings. He wondered what Judge Othneil would say, if he asked him for some. Probably give him that Look and a kindly smile, then pop him one with his gavel. And speaking of the Judge, he had a hungry kitten to feed before he saw him, so he'd better hurry up and get started on that before he was late for his next assignment.
Still smiling, he slowly walked off the tree lined street with the kitten purring securely against his chest, leaving the Water Wall and his doubts behind, if only for the moment.
Maybe he truly was doing OK. Because little things mattered too, didn't they? Even the rescue of a small, insignificant baby cat. Just a drop in the ocean of humanities troubles, to be sure...but drops had a way of adding up.
And if you had enough of them you could fill an ocean.
Or change a life forever.
If you could change your world
Rearrange your world
Take one, divide by two
If it was only up to you to
To a world of Wonder
from a world of Pain
I will listen for your number
And as they call it out again