"Angels of Mercy"
Nights get cold one the streets, as Marcus Sheppard-known to the streets only as "Shep"-had learned in his ten years living there. Especially in Romanstown. The town itself was a wonder, full of beautiful homes and bustling economy. It was a community on the rise. The homeless population had also risen, seemingly in direct proportion to the rise of the economy. However, while Romanstown took great care of its regular citizens, pristine homes and budding businesses, it had regulated its homeless to one back alley on the far end of town.
The alley was known by all as "Wash-out Lane," and it was there that Shep now sat with his back against the wall, shivering. Although it was late summer, Shep was cold, the night air nipping at his skin and chilling it past the point of freezing. With no blankets and only a threadbare flannel shirt for warmth, Shep wondered if this might be his last night on earth.
Nearby, a young mother hugged her small daughter to her chest. The woman had lost her home when the factory she worked for had closed its doors a year earlier. The new economy in Romanstown had swallowed the factory up, making its services obsolete. Her daughter clung to her, teeth chattering in the cold. "Mama, I'm hungry," the girl whined. Her mother shooshed her, but knew there was no way she could feed her.
A few feet away, two drunks were passed out, having drunk themselves into a stupor. At least the alcohol dulled the pain and chased away the night's chill if only temporarily.
Sleep was just beginning to blur Shep's vision when he first noticed the image of white hovering on the edge of the huddled population of Wash-out Lane. He wasn't sure, but he could swear the image was dressed in a white gown. As Shep's eyelids drooped, shutting the night from his eyes, the image in white stole into the midst of the poor and needy. It stopped in front of the young mother who had fallen asleep cuddling her daughter to her bosom. Leaning over, it covered both mother and child in thick, warm blanket and turned away.
The next morning, when the sun woke the homeless of Wash-out Lane, each of them was covered in a warm, new blanket, and each had a thermos of hot soup at their side.
Declan Dunn paused in mid-sentence when he saw the familiar form of the hospital psychiatrist appear in the doorway of his classroom. She had arrived earlier than he'd expected, and the anthropologist knew that his friend didn't exactly give much credit to the topic of today's lecture.
"Angels," he repeated, covering his tracks. "Heavenly beings from another plane of existence. For thousands of years, man has spoken of them, looked for them, and some say," he glanced over at Peggy. "Made them up."
A young woman in one of the middle rows raised her hand tentatively. Declan nodded to her, acknowledging her desire to speak.
"The Bible is very clear on the existence of angels," she stated.
"What if you don't believe in the Bible?" someone else countered. "Or God?"
"What indeed?" Declan jumped back into the conversation, picking up where the skeptical young man had left off. "Some social scientist and anthropologists believe that angels were just a way for our God-fearing ancestors to explain the lights in the sky which we know associate as being UFO's. Which leads us to our topic for today"
"Angels, huh?" Peggy asked once the class was over. Dec shrugged.
"That's what the media are calling it." He grabbed his briefcase off the desk and headed for his office, Peggy at his side. Once there he snatched up the morning newspaper before it could disappear into the general clutter that was his office. "The Angels of Wash-out Lane."
"Declan" Peggy began to admonish him.
"I know, I know. 'There is no afterlife, no higher spiritual realm.' Blah, blah, blah. Just read the article, okay?"
"Sources reveal that one of the indigents, a man known only as Shep, claims to have seen a 'glistening white shape' hovering over him as he fell asleep," she read. "Declan, you do realize that this man's account can't really be trusted. He's a homeless old man! He was probably drunk or is just making it up."
"I didn't say you had to believe it, Peggy. Heck!" he grinned at her suddenly "I didn't even say I believed it. I just want to check it out, is all."
"That's all?" Peggy asked, a smile forming on her face as a direct result of his infectious grin.
"Sure. You're coming, right?"
"Declan, I" he was giving her that look again-half-pleading, all hopeful, and very adorable. "Oh, alright."