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The Scrivener: There Are Angels

…'Dad, are there angels?' That was a new one. It came up last week. UFOs I can cope with, but angels? I was never very religious, and this one was way outside my domain…

In Brian Barratt’s glowing short story young Dean asks a question which leaves his father lost for a good answer.

For more of Brian’s brilliant words please click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page. And for further mental exercise visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas

'Are UFO's real, Dad?'

Dean's large enquiring brown eyes met mine. He's a beaut kid, tall for his eleven years. But, hell, the questions! He started asking them as soon as he could talk and has never stopped.

'I reckon they're probably figments of the imagination. Look them up in your astronomy book. Anyway, time for you to get to bed.'

He ignored my hint, and continued fiddling around on his computer keyboard. 'Where does imagination come from, Dad?'

I told him he could close his imagination down for the night and get some sleep. It took a while, and I started raising my voice. He could see I was edgy, so he eventually loped off to his room. It's like this every night. I'm trying to work on a set of figures, and out come the damn questions.

'How's that lad of yours?' they asked me at the office. 'Still in the footy team?' Dean is one of the star players. He's got quite a fan club among the girls. It's those eyes of his, and his long blonde hair. He takes after his mother.

'Yeah, he's doing pretty well. Been trying to get him to go to more training sessions. He spends too much time on his computer, playing those stupid games.'

Dean is into fantasy games. My whole evening is shattered with his beeps and howls and explosions. I wish he'd get out more, or turn the volume down, or something. I've tried to explain that I have work to do, but he doesn't seem to understand.

'Aw, come on, Jack. All kids are into computer games. It's a phase. He'll grow out of it.' Yes, I thought to myself, and I'll be glad when he does.

'Dad, are there angels?' That was a new one. It came up last week. UFOs I can cope with, but angels? I was never very religious, and this one was way outside my domain.

'What has your teacher been telling you this time?' You have no idea of the sort of nonsense he picks up at school. Wish I had time to go to the parent-teacher sessions but that's how it is. Being a single parent isn't easy. I've coped since his mum died of cancer several years ago. Maybe when he gets to high school he'll start learning useful stuff for a change.

'It wasn't my teacher. I thought I saw an angel last night.'

That was the limit. The fantasy games were taking over. 'And next, you'll be seeing dinosaurs in the back garden. For goodness sake, your imagination's working overtime. Give it a rest. Switch that thing off and get into the shower.'

'But, Dad . . .' He gave me a look of combined frustration, disappointment and pleading. I think I tolerated the frustration, understood the disappointment, and ignored the pleading.

'. . . she had this long white robe, and big eyes. She knew who I was and what I was doing. It was weird.' My mind was on other things. I didn't have time to get involved with his new fantasy.

A big match was coming up the next weekend, so he reported for practice most evenings. From all accounts, he did pretty well. I didn't go myself, but his friend Scott's parents praised his efforts when they brought him home. In fact, they made me feel quite proud. That boy of mine was going to be a top footy player after all.

I had more time to concentrate on my work while he was out, free of the electronic noise and barrage of questions. We had a big project on at the office, and I was playing a key role in it. As head of the team, I had to make sure that I was in full control of every aspect of the planning, on top of all the figure-work. The job was taking it out of me, I can tell you!

By the time he was dropped off, my desk was clear, files closed, and I was ready for a chat before he went off to bed. He was dog-tired. The only thing I had to remind him about was getting a shower. Still, that's life. Hard work did nobody any harm.

By Thursday evening, I had nearly completed my planning proposal. Dean had to ride his bike to practice, because Scott wasn't going that night. I stood at the gate for a minute and watched his footballer's legs pedalling off into the evening. That's my boy, I thought, and came inside to put the finishing touches to my project.

I think I must have dozed off. At about half past nine, when the phone roused me, I realised that Dean hadn't come home. Scott's parents usually dropped him off by now, but the bike ride might take a bit longer.

It was Jack on the phone, Dean's football coach. 'Sorry mate, I'm afraid Dean's had a bit of an accident. Nothing to worry about. His bike's a real mess, though.'

I daren't ask for details. He must have been run down by a car. I had to get there before the ambulance. That kid, my beaut kid. I should have been there. I shouldn't have let him go on his bike. What if his legs have been . . .?

There was no ambulance at the club-house. I dashed inside. Dean was OK, sitting in a corner, looking a bit shaken but otherwise intact. A car had been involved, probably a drunk driver, but Dean had swerved and it missed him.

Back home, I settled him down in bed. I asked him how he had managed to swerve in time. His questioning eyes met mine.

'Dad, you know that angel? Well, I didn't see the car coming, but I saw her again. She called me over, off the road. That's how I landed in the bushes. It was weird.'

He pointed to the photo on his bedside table. 'I think it was Mum.'

'Yes, Dean,' I replied slowly as I hugged him close. 'There are angels.'

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2007


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