Grace and Peace to you.
Gabriel sticks his trumpet under his arm, pushes up his bifocals. He calls, “Next flight!” We gather around. A little nervous excitement, like kids waiting for grades. A few rookies ask things like, “Who do you want to be this time?” But most of us know better than to ask. He pulls the cards out like a Bible, holds them out at arms’ length, then brings them back to reading range. “OK, here we go. Listen up. Female. Middle class parents. High intelligence, large family. Bad lungs—watch out for asthma. Gifts: discernment, faith, humor, music, humility. Possibly a musical career. Handles fame well, but, uh, looks like a good deal of loneliness. Life line, not great. Maybe sixty.” He looks up.
“I’ll be that one,” an angel says, who takes the card, and goes to the back of the crowd to peruse it, and while the next scene is unfolding, disappears in a pink blush of light.
Meanwhile Gabriel is on the to the next card. “Male, lower class farm family. Nice setting. Not too sure of yourself, but kindhearted, good eye-hand coordination. Deep father wound. Allergies. A life of labor, but not grudging. Gifts: teaching, kindness, an even keel. Extreme trauma in your 40’s. Inner coping resources look pretty thin. You’re going to have to work at this one. But you’ll make it. Seventy to eighty years.”
“I’ll do that,” one says, comes forward for the card, reads it. A blush of pink light, the smell of alfalfa.
Gabriel looks at the next card, clears his throat, pauses. It’s a dead giveaway when he does that. “Male. Working class parents—well, single mom. But she’s great. She’s great. Gifts: sensitivity, perseverance, uh, good storyteller, physical prowess.” (It’s another giveaway when he starts with the gifts.) Someone murmurs, “Orange jumpsuit.” We wait for the rest. “Um, fetal alcohol, bipolar, early abuse, a mean uncle—” He stops himself, reads the card silently for a moment. “Really mean.” He tries to run quickly through the rest of it but it slows him down: “Addictions, anger problems, low IQ, life of drugs and crime. Heinous torture murders. Multiple…. No remorse—it was beaten out of you at three. Nobody’s going to like you. Ever. Execution by hanging. Thirty-four years.” He’s silent, keeps his eyes on the cards.
This is the part I hate. It always goes this way. We look at our shoes, pretend to find something very wrong with our fingernails, preen our feathers. God, I hate this. The little guy in the back with something wrong with his hands and no wings — why doesn’t he have wings? — he says gently, as if greeting a friend, “That one’s mine. I’ll do him.” He calmly walks though the midst of us and holds out his hand like he’s beckoning some lovely little daughter, receives the card and holds it to his chest. He closes his eyes and smiles. “Truly, I tell you, today—“ — ffftt — but he is gone, in a pink blush of light, the smell of urine and alcohol, the sound of shouting.
I don’t know how he does it, but he never misses a single one of those.
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