“Alleluiah!”, cried the Angel, “Home at last.” It had been two weeks that Gabriel had been out on the road, and as much as he enjoyed the work, he always liked to be back home.
Gabriel unlocked the door, pushed it open, and walked into the small top floor flat. There was something comforting about living on the top floor, a little bit further away from hell, and a little closer to God.
He flicked the hall light on and allowed the aroma from his Hollands pudding, chips, mushy peas, and gravy to fill the small entrance hall as he stood and admired his humble abode. The wets down south would love to label it as an apartment, and surely if it had been located in Central London, it would have the price tag to back this up, however it was a small one bedroom flat, situated on the twentieth floor of an old council owned high rise, located smack on the border of Oldham and Chadderton.
The Archangel Gabriel scratched his nads, closed his eyes with pleasure, and considered the itch festering within the sweat of his crotch. If he wanted relief he needed to get this damned suit off as quickly as possible.
As he removed the long black leather trench coat he glanced digital clock on the mantle piece. 6:58pm, just in time for Emmerdale and Corrie. He hung the coat and allowed his Dulux Pure Brilliant White wings to stretch and breath as he turned to face the long wall mirror. This part he always enjoyed; his final admiration before he returned to home mode.
He stood gloriously, a fine figure of a man with perfect posture, rippling muscles, a six pack to die for, and Ivory white teeth. This was always a moment to savour as he reached behind himself and detached the wings. They fell, lifeless and almost plastically, to the floor. In that moment his appearance changed, his fine attire was gone and a girdle was now evident as his hands fumbled with the fastenings. This too fell to the floor leaving a heaving belly of fat, with the prospect of sudden release, wobbling over the top of his boxers. Gabriel looked at himself once more in the mirror, the metamorphosis was now complete, he really had come home.
It would not to be for much longer, another eighteen months and he retired. Ill health was forcing him to cut his tenure. He considered all the people who had held the prestigious rank before him, many had gone on for a few centuries, but they didn’t have to deal with the extreme stress and workload that the current climate demanded. It was important that you were able to act the part convincingly, that was something his predecessor had drummed into him. “If you can’t convince yourself that you are the Archangel Gabriel,” he would say, “then why should the mortals believe in you.”
It had been a shock when he had been offered an apprenticeship with the Archangel Gabriel, back when he was plain old Stan; fresh from the academy having just earned his wings and his first century as a regular Angel. It had been a larger shock a century later when his master broke the news.
“Stan,” his master said, “I have decided to retire.”
“You can’t” rebuked Stan. “You’re the backbone of the operation. It wouldn’t be right with out the Archangel Gabriel.”
“No, as always you are right Stan. You’re talented bloke, and I closely watched your training, before I chose you to be my successor. You have trained with me for the last century, been my right hand all that time, and you know all there is to know about my job. There is nothing more I can teach you so I have decided to pass my wings on to you.”
“Well, I’m honoured,” said Stan, “but I can’t be an Archangel. For one thing the name Stan doesn’t really inspire people in the same way as Gabriel, Michael, or Raphael.”
“That’s very true, but I did say that I was handing you my wings. The truth is Stan, these wings are the important thing about my job, they make you the Archangel Gabriel. You see, I am not the real Gabriel, my actual name is Arthur. I was handed the wings almost four centuries ago from my former master, and he wasn’t the real Gabriel either. In fact the real Archangel Gabriel has been retired and living in the Caribbean for almost two thousand years.” With that Arthur removed his wings letting them fall to the floor. Where once a tall, handsome, tanned, fine stature of a man had stood, there was now a small, tired, but rather cuddly old man.
“You see” He continued, “it’s the post that’s important, not the person. That was discovered by a bit of good fortune over two thousand years ago when the original Gabriel broke both his legs in a skiing accident. Gabriel had a very important job on so they had to send someone in his place.”
“Oh”, was the only word Stan could extract from his vocabulary.
“Back then of course, it was only a slight disguise and the bewilderment of being visited by an Angel, that convinced the mortals that the stand in, was the real Gabriel. With time and a little hockery pockery, the wings now transform the wearer into the resemblance of their original owner.”
“Does this happen a lot then?” Stan enquired.
“Oh yes, all the archangel posts are now re-recruited for regularly.”
So Stan, like many a rookie Angel before him, took on the role of Archangel Gabriel, and never looked back.
Smiling at the memory, he entered his living room and searched out the comfort of his favourite painting, an original of Lowry’s Whitweak Procession. For some reason the painting was always reassuring to return to; maybe it reminded him of the few weeks he had been assigned to the great man.
Picking up the TV remote and a packet of Benson & Hedges, Gabriel slumped himself into his armchair. He casually lit a fag and flicked through the channels until he found Granada. Like a man who hadn’t eaten good food in a few weeks, he attacked his chippy supper while watching Emmerdale.
The phone woke him and while he tried to focus on the ringing, the noise drearily pounding through the haze in his mind. He located the phone and picked it up.
“Yes.” he said.
“Gabe mate, it’s Mike. Where are ya?”
“Uh?” replied Gabriel.
“It’s nearly ten, we agreed to meet for bingo. Me, you, Raphael and …”
“…ah, fell sleep. I’ll be right over.”
“You wanna pint waiting?”
“Yeh, Boddies, but I can only stay for a couple, I’m on call.”