The Christmas Angel



The parlour was tinkly quiet.
Gold glowed amid the lizard-skinned ashes of the hearth, with the sound of the last integral piece of coal slipping further into the embers. The slow-burning wormcasts of flame faded as did the consequent reflections in the Christmas Tree’s baubles and tinsel.
The roomfarers had long since retired for the night, the various children excited, their eyes still full of the fire at which they had been staring just before being scooted off to bed.
“If you’re not up the wooden hills to Bedfordshire, Santa Claus will give this house a miss,” had lied the father, upon putting the finishing touches to the Tree.
A poor family, true, but they had scrimped enough for at least the decorative veneer of Christmas to be observed. Yet, the mother’s face was furrowed, as if an inescapable yearning gnawed at the softer parts of the mind…
“Go on children, lumber up those hills!” she had urged.
And the children had dashed up the uncarpeted stairs to their truckle-beds, via the dark landing, with whoops of delight.
“I wonder if Santa will bring me a bike.”
“He can’t get that in a stocking!”
One toddler, who could not yet speak properly, had simply chanted his name for the Angel he thought would be accompanying Santa on his Night of the Long Presents.
Mother and Father had gazed at each other wordlessly and, eventually, arm in arm, quit the flickering parlour, too.

The Christmas Angel they had positioned at the top of the Tree came to life and sighed.
At last, it could relax, cease to be a mockery of a lifeless doll. Unfurling its sugar-glass wings, like silver spiderwebs, it peered down with pearl-bead eyes at the piles of presents at the foot of the Tree. They had been placed there by the two grown-ups just before retiring upstairs. What the various boxes contained was the best the parents could do, the Angel knew.
Oh dear! Some of the fancy labels seemed to have been dislodged from the presents. The Angel could not bear to consider the resultant confusion and squabbles that might now spoil the Best Day of the Year. It sensed a heart of gold within its breast moving about like a wounded fish.
So, its duty as the Christmas Angel was to do something about the situation. It began to climb down the precarious branches, by-passing with some difficulty the slippery baubles. Suddenly, however, one of its wings became snagged in some bristly tinsel and it tumbled the rest of the way on to the heap of presents.
The wing, ripped from the shoulder, was on a branch higher up and dripped a thick Angel blood. And just as the fire surrendered its last glimmery ghost of gold, the broken-backed body of the Christmas Angel could be barely seen lolling across the presents.
From its mouth came the plaintive cry for Santa’s help – but Santa never came.

Time for morning, crisp and bright.
The children clattered down the stairs, voices brimful with glee. But they screamed in horror at the sight of the lumpen Angel corpse. The speechless toddler came into the parlour and simply stared on and on as if hypnotised by the sticky dragonfly wing that still dangled like frozen woven spew from a branch of the Christmas Tree.
Mother quickly arrived on the scene, bleary-eyed and gagging on yawnfuls of rancid spittle … only for relief to fleet across her face.
She smiled at the unshaven Father as he arrived behind her to see what was amiss. She wrapped the dead Angel in baco-foil and took it to the otherwise empty kitchen, whilst the children undid their presents in relative silence.

First published in ‘Grotesque’ 1995

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