Angel of the Lord
The trains were coupling in the trainyard. Metal on metal and loud clanging banging that would wake anyone who hadn’t heard it before. It was almost six A.M. I was walking home from work.
I’d gone in early last night, at nine. The new guy had called in sick and I made the mistake of answering the phone when it rang. I wasn’t looking forward to slopping a mop all night on my night off, but I needed the money. and the overtime was good.
Now the sunlight washed over the empty tracks ahead of me. Behind me, the huge metal cars loaded with lumber and military machines crashed into one another as the day began. I liked this time of day before the rest of the world was awake. The birds sang their good mornings to one another and the air was sweet with rain and cottonwoods.
Walking across the trainyard, though, my nose took in freshly cut trees, oil and grease, and the smell of old. Only two more blocks until I hit the front step. And I knew Mary Ann would have coffee on, and I could imagine the sound of the bacon sizzling in the cast iron skillet.
As I picked my way carefully along the railroad ties, I spied a man sitting in the shadows of the buildings along the tracks. As I approached him, he stirred, and, hearing my boots crunch over the gravel, he spoke.
“Spare any change?” he asked.
“No thanks,” I replied, shoving my hands into my pockets.
“You ingrateful little fuck,” he rasped. “You ain’t got no respect.”
I had walked just slightly past him by this time, and I slowed my pace.
“You’re a punk!” he yelled.
I turned and walked towards him.
Only last year, I too had found myself evicted and jobless. I was lucky to have Mary Ann to go home to. To now have a roof over my head, and to have a job that pays the bills, even if I was slinging a dirty mop over dirtier floors night after night. My stomach tightened at the memory of having to find my dinner in a Dumpster, having to hope that the police were feeling tolerant that day.
I stopped in front of him.
“Do you have something to say to me?” I asked.
He spat on the ground. His clothes were dirty and ragged, but looked fairly new. His shoes had no holiest in them. “You got no respect. You’re a punk. You’re ungrateful and you fuckin’….”
I cut him off. “Where do you get off,” I asked him, “begging for money, and then insulting someone who doesn’t give it to you?” My hands clasped at the change in my pocket, then let it loose. I knelt near him, to be on the same level as him. “Where do you get off?”
“Fuck me? Fuck me. Really.” I was tired, but I wasn’t going to listen to a common panhandler mouth off to me. Not after I just worked eight hours. I wanted to punch him. No one would know. And no one would care.
The yard man stepped out from the shadows about fifteen yards away to have a look at us. I raised my cap to him and smiled. He waved and disappeared again, into the darkness.
My hand tightened around the change in my pocket, clenched in a fist.
“No respect, you mongrel,” he said. “I’m an angel of the Lord.”
“An angel of the Lord?” I repeated.
“I do God’s work,” he said.
“I can tell you, God does not love you,” I said. “God loves those who love Him, and who love themselves, and you, my friend, do not love yourself.”
“Angel of the Lord,” I said, and spat.
“I’ll kill you,” he said. He didn’t stir. He smelled of stale beer.
“Come on, then,” I said. “Kill me.”
“I’m an angel of the Lord,” he said again. “I do God’s work,” he roared, and stood.
I started, and stood abruptly, thinking he might come for me.
He unzipped his panty. His penis was small and pink. He stood there holding it.
“I’m ‘o piss right here,” he said.
“Angel of the Lord has performance anxiety,” I said.
He laughed, then caught himself. “Takes me a while sometimes,” he said.
Yeah,” I said, then turned to go.
I never did hear his piss hitting the concrete.