When Lucifrinia fell to Earth, the journey was uncomfortable but not as painful as God’s minions wrote about in the Heavenly tabloids. But they were prone to lavish hyperbole, and they had an agenda. They didn’t want any more residents fleeing the Golden City, which was terribly dull. Neflix and chill indeed.
Lucifrinia was her ascension name, not the name she was born with, no that was Clara, but there are numerous Claras in Heaven, so she named herself. A reinvention. This was not taken too well by her fellow angels, but she had her free will, didn’t she? Sort of?
Lucifrinia’s sin was fucking Michael—the Tribunal blamed her, of course, called her a seductress, or perhaps it was the fact that she still had desires. None of the other residents had appetites for anything.
Lucifrinia yearned for Earth, and it wasn’t the big things she craved, it was the smell of the cold air in January, music that wasn’t sung by a Heavenly choir, toffee that stuck to her teeth, eating, burping, farting, taking a good long dump, the feel of another person’s breath against her own. So she slept with Michael, in the Garden, a not-so-Heavenly Eve, tempting him with something other than apples while the Serpent slithered about.
They clipped her wings, held her over the briny edge of the vestiges of the Sea of Galilea and let her go. While she tumbled in the ice blue waves of the Sea, forever downward, she reminisced about her previous life on Earth.
Clara had been a God-fearing woman who’d attended church regularly, sinned on occasion but went to Confession, her fingers counting Hail Marys on her rosary beads.
Married to the same man all her life from high school until his death ten years before her own, she took care of him and her children. She was law-abiding. Always crossed at the lights, picked up litter.
Once during her marriage, she met a man, one of her husband’s associates, who made her feel a passion that she’d never felt before. For a time, they met in an apartment in town. She had never felt so free. They had cake for breakfast, drank whiskey. Gabbed all night long in between lengthy kissing sessions. They talked of running away together. She packed a suitcase. It was small. There weren’t many things she wanted from her old life. But the day she was going to leave, her daughter came down with the flu. She couldn’t leave her, and she realized she couldn’t leave any of her family, not even her husband, who bored her with his propriety and his endless monologues. This was her place. Her role in life was to take care of this family and that was it. So she let him go. It felt like she was the one let go, as if she was falling from someplace beautiful into a bland and tender trap. From then on she counted the hours, put in the time.
She died at one hundred years old, sticking around to see all of her children through college, ten years after her husband. All the choices she’d made, all the regrets of her life flashed before her eyes. Yes, her children were strong individuals with minds of their own, the usual problems making a living, etc. That was her sole comfort at the end of her life.
As Lucifrinia tumbled in the dark fathoms of the sea between Heaven and Earth, she remembered her death and shuddered. The Grim Reaper had come for her as she was lying helplessly in that hospital bed, unable to speak, unable to move. She’d had no choice but to take its hand.
In Heaven she was young again with a gorgeous body. Her silver hair turned a ferocious red. She’d thought of dyeing her hair red when she was having the affair, but she never did. Too suspicious. This was Moses-seeing-the-burning-bush-red. In other words, Lucifrinia was a stone-hot fox. Reborn in Heaven but made for Hell, as Michael said to her repeatedly during coitus just before he keened with orgasm inside her.
Lucifrina sank to the bottom of the Heavenly Sea and fell right through, landing on Earth in a torrent of rain. A rebirth. She already knew what Heaven was like and she knew what her old life was like, what it would be like if she comported herself with decorum, if she lived for others other than herself. In this new life, she wanted to see if she could reach Hell.
Upon arrival, Lucifrina wasted no time. She sweet-talked some rube into financial security. He gave her a furnished loft in a condominium he owned in an up and coming part of the Big City. All she had to do was take him regularly up the ass while he screamed Mommy, and he was content to support her. Knocking on Heaven’s door, you might say.
She consumed everything she never had in Heaven. For in Heaven, there was no appetite for food or drink, no zest for life, just contentment. She ate Big City bagels slathered in cream cheese with lox; she devoured crumbly scones with clotted cream and strawberries. She gulped down champagne and single malt Scotch. Drank tiny cup after tiny cup of espresso to stay awake. Took Benzos and snorted gram after gram of coke. She didn’t want to go to sleep ever. She wanted to experience everything.
She wandered around the Big City to find fuck-ups she could get into trouble with. God was watching, she knew. She hoped he was enjoying the show. She boned guys in alleyways, did ecstasy with teens, dancing round the bonfire, rolling and grooving to the music of who-gives-a-shit.
Thanks to the ass fucker and several other lovers who used her body, she had limitless funds. They took her to Paris. She humped Jim Morrison’s and Oscar Wilde’s graves in the Père Lachaise Cemetery. She spent hours in the Louvre. She took up painting, creating abstractions of sex acts in various redacious hues.
She didn’t take anything from anyone who didn’t want her to have it. People were generous. There was something in her eyes, they told her. They were filled with a wild light that brought them joy.
One day Lucifrinia was walking through the streets of the Big City, handing out loose pocket change and truffles to street people, giving away her extraneous designer clothing and offering cupfulls of chocolate mousse to the hungry, when she decided to take a rest on a park bench to admire the birds that flew among the bare early Spring branches of trees, searching for new growth.
Lucifrinia knew nothing of birds, but felt kindred to them. In Heaven she had soared on wings. That was the only thing that made Heaven palatable. That and Michael’s agile tongue on her clit. But ultimately she’d felt trapped there, anaesthetized. The one thing Lucifrinia wanted most was never to feel that way again. It was like living in the suburbs.
She checked her phone as the alarm went off, reminding her that an orgy was beginning in an hour. She stood up to return to her apartment to prepare. It would be her first orgy. How much fun it was this time around to experience everything. At the rate she was going, she thought she’d be in Hell sooner rather than later.
One morning, she’d woken up in her apartment bathroom in a pool of vomit. The combination of amphetamines and Cristal was not the wisest cocktail. But this was her extra pinball, she wanted to wring the juice out of every fucking minute. No promise of salvation in Heaven could stop her. She’d been there, swallowed the Koolaid; it was cloying and put its drinkers to sleep.
Lucifrinia glanced again at the sky just in time to see a bird plummet, then land hard at her feet. It was a small brown sparrow. She picked it up, cradled it in her hand, caressed it, felt it tremble with the onset of Death in her hands.
She remembered her last day on Earth in the Intensive Care Unit, the machine breathing for her, all the lines attached to her body, the great pain, the morphine that gave her nightmarish delusions. All she’d wanted then was oblivion.
She hadn’t prayed for anything since her ascent to Heaven. There had never been a need. But at that moment, she got down on her knees and prayed to God to spare the sparrow from pain. She left the bird under the tree and walked away on shaky legs, then she ran. There was no time to waste. She needed to live.
The Ballad of Tango Unclare
Living in Heaven is dull, deadly dull. Everyone is fucked up on bliss. Nothing happens. Ever. We read the Bible, we sing songs, we pray and we do macramé. Every moment is programmed. It’s like a summer camp for the dead and I’m fucking sick of it. Lucifrina and I are going to try and find a way to bust out. When she realized she was back up here, she was pissed off. I don’t blame her. God has an interesting sense of humour. This place is as insufferable as Humdrum City, actually it’s worse. My wings are the only salvation. At least I can fly through the tedium, but I miss Amelia and the desert.
I bought Amelia off a fellow traveller who broke down at Lolo’s, a bodega where I hung out. She wasn’t cheap, but when I saw her, I knew she was my ride. I had a rickety jeep that was more wrecked than me. I’d been cooling my jets, waiting for a new starter to appear from an online store that was starting to feel imaginary. Turns out, Renata, the mama who ran Lolo’s made cactus juice that set the stars on fire.
Amelia’s owner sold the sweet ride to me for a song and hitched back to civilization. She wasn’t in bad shape, just needed a gentle hand and some TLC. Doesn’t everyone? I cleaned her up and we wandered the unknown together. She didn’t disappoint. She was with me until my death. She’s a gutsy half litre black bullet with tiger eyes. Never complained about my restlessness. She could take it. I wonder who’s riding her now.
Desert means abandoned land in Latin. Maybe that’s why I stopped there. Everyone I’ve ever loved has abandoned me. I feel things too much, that’s what they always said. I’m too fucking intense for the world. So when it all became too much, I let go, found an empty landscape, empty enough to fill with all my longing. The desert I could almost bring myself to call home, not that I can call any place home, is the site of marvels that would make you shit your pants or just stand there with your mouth gaping like a fool. Blood red sunrises or wild roses that somehow manage to thrive, despite the lack of water for three out of four seasons. They’re stubborn bastards, like me. I’m not going to mention angels…just yet.
Tango Unclare isn’t my real name, but who cares. Everyone in Buttfuck Nowhere reinvents themselves. I guess Tango isn’t so much a reinvention as an aspiration.
Life is an uncertain dance. God gives us the steps, but doesn’t tell us what dance we’re doing. We have to figure that out for ourselves. Did I mention that sense of humour yet? Unlike death, which is a huge disappointment, life is a fucking mystery. That’s what’s good and bad about it. I was just doing a kind of clumsy version of the tango with the world, trying to figure it all out as I went along.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I had to hightail it out of Humdrum City. Temptation everywhere. Not that there aren’t temptations everywhere I went. I already mentioned the cactus juice, right? And the hot mama who makes it. I always thought I wasn’t good in one place, that I had to keep moving. Amelia made that possible. I named her after Amelia Earhart, that badass mama who crossed the Atlantic Ocean when nobody thought she could do it. My Amelia is fearless too. She had to be to let this raggedy ass ride her. I kept a Bible in a saddlebag, along with a flashlight, as many rubbers as I could lay my hands on, my medication and battered copies of The Little Prince and The Stranger, books I read again and again to keep me company on nights when it was just me and coyotes high on moonlight. Oh and my gun, of course.
I kept it minimal. Amelia thumped along over the shifting sands. On occasion I came across a pink-tiled stucco dive that served beer and refried whatnot on request. In other words some retired guy’s life’s dream was to be a bad ass cook in a ne’er do well part of the world so there he was, feeding the desperate and listening to our sob stories of past lives gone awry.
In the back of this particular dive was a junk heap of parts I combed through for Amelia. Just in case. Reading this, you must think I sound like a calm individual with his shit together. Trust me, I’m not. Or rather, don’t trust me. I lied before when I said it was temptation that caused me to leave the city. It wasn’t. It was all this insistence on maintaining control, on having to mind my fucking p’s and q’s.
The desert made me less jumpy than the city did. I could be alone for vast amounts of time in a vast space, watch the stars, marvel at the wonder. Sometimes all that emptiness made me jittery, but then I would find something to do, I’d repair some broken thing. I couldn’t repair myself, but I took my meds. Sometimes it was tough to stay on them. They made me so tired, especially in the morning. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed. Days like that I just wished I had the energy to kill myself. I knew that meant I would go to Hell, but I was kind of into the idea of Hell. I could battle the fuck out of some real demons for a change.
In Humdrum City I managed to eke out a living off and on, swinging between complete poverty when I lost my shit, to making a ton of money when I had nothing but energy. But it was such a soulless place to be. Unless you play the walking zombie act, your behaviour is questioned, monitored, written up.
I worked, whenever I managed to get out of bed, as a handyman for a condominium development. They were pretty cool with my comings and goings due to my restless nature as long as I got the work done and didn’t open my mouth while I was on the job. All the high falutin motherfuckers who lived in their chichi glass towers couldn’t even stand the smell of their own shit, so they didn’t take kindly to some lower class individual’s candid pronouncements and off-colour sense of humour.
I’d been called in to the office a few times with warnings and admonished to “shut up and work.” I tried, but it was all starting to close in on me.
Sometimes on a bad day, I’d go up to the roof with my Beretta, a .22 caliber pocket-sized pistol called Bobcat. She’s easy to handle. My Pop gave her to me when I turned twenty one. Said it wasn’t much but might save my smart mouth one of these days. I’ve never fired it, but the job made me fantasize about using it, especially on my cretin boss, who was always riding me. I stood on the roof and aimed down at the people on the sidewalk. They were just like ants from this angle. Except not as smart. He would be so easy to take out. When I got tempted like that, I stayed away from the place for a while. Of course, that got me in trouble too. The asshole didn’t realize that he was better off with me gone when I was in a red mood.
I came in to the condo development one night during a manic episode. I drove all over the place that night in my jeep. Picked up some hookers, took them downtown. I even fucking danced with them in some club, did coke on their ass cracks.
They finally crashed but I was still going. I gave them the key to my place in the basement of one of the condos where I worked and left them there. I grabbed a bucket of red paint and took it to the penthouse, top floor, single luxury unit with extra security to keep out the riff raff like me. Except I had security codes to every apartment in the condo development. The rich dude who ran the corporation trusted me. Fucking mistake.
But I’d been mostly well-behaved. More importantly I saved the sorry asses of the residents many times over when they left the water running in their fancy claw foot tubs and flooded their apartments and others. Even called 911 one time when a depressed old mama took a bunch of pills. Hell, I liked the old gal. She’s probably still kicking. On meds like I was for the longest time. We had great chats about the best way to die. She filled my head with thoughts of Heaven. She said we wouldn’t feel pain there and that would be a relief. The conundrum was how to get there, since killing yourself was a mortal sin. On the worst days, I agreed with her. I just wanted the pain to end.
So where was I? Oh right, the gallon of red paint. Cinnabar actually. Used to contain mercury sulphide, a poison. Too bad it doesn’t today. Makes sense that I would pick it for this particular purpose. Everything that has the potential to harm has been made harmless. You can’t even let your kids play with lawn darts anymore.
I entered the swanky apartment with my tin of poison paint. Didn’t bother to take off my work boots as commanded by the yuppie condo owners. I opened the lid with my screwdriver. I always had a tool belt around the waist of my uniform. So fucking keen was I to please these bastards. To kowtow. Another incorrect word.
I let the can swing. Big swaths of paint landed on the white Persian rug and the off-white leather sofa. Then I turned my attention to the floor to ceiling windows. No book shelves in here of course. Why would there be? These people don’t read. They organize books by colour.
I painted one word in giant letters in blood red on the window: chaos. That’s what these people are most afraid of. I realized at that moment that chaos was exactly what I needed. As Dylan said, “Chaos is a friend of mine.” Not without irony, I suppose, but at that moment, I couldn’t tell irony from my asshole. I dropped the paint brush on the hardwood floor, upturned the paint, didn’t even look where the fuck it leaked to, and got my ass out of there.
In my apartment I changed my clothes from the stupid uniform the condo board made me wear into my old jeans and a Waves of Fear t-shirt. I fucking love that song. My heart’s nearly bursting. I got the hell out of there. Jumped into my jeep. Leaving the hookers, the condo wankers, the whole fucking polite society in my dust.
They probably called the cops. I figured all I could do was keep going. To ride with the angels. I started to see them everywhere. I’m not talking about a motorcycle gang. By now, you’ve decided I’m a nutter. Hey, people make their own choices. I’ll keep telling this story anyway because why the fuck not and besides, maybe it’ll reach somebody from way up here. The old chick in the cardigan who drinks tea and wants to live vicariously. The office worker who gets stoned every day or can’t get out of bed to do his purposeless fucking job. The unemployed depressed guy curled up in a ball and just trying to get through the day. Maybe I’m not the only fucking weirdo in the universe. Even though that’s what it feels like. Felt like.
I didn’t have a destination. I ended up in the desert until I was escorted up to Heaven, more like frog-marched. I’m surprised St. Peter didn’t take one look at my list of sins and send me to Hell, but here I am, bored out of my fucking gourd but somehow still lucid enough to try to make sense of it all, to keep going. Not sure for how long.
In the desert, I made my daily bread by tinkering with whatever needed tinkering with. It wasn’t much but I helped people who actually needed what I could provide, not just covering their walls with yet another designer paint or hammering in fancy antique nails to make an old barn look authentic. I met my first angel this way.
It wasn’t long after my great escape from Humdrum City. I had to stop for gas in the middle of this dry gulch backwater, finally found a station, its Texaco letters fallen off so that it read X C. I kind of liked that. The desert is an ex-sea. Made sense to me at the time.
Buster, the old guy behind the counter put down his Penthouse magazine long enough to stop jerking off and took my money with his left hand. I guess his right was too crusty with jism. I gave him all the folded and ripped bills in my jeans’ pocket. He took one look at me and asked me if I needed some work. Wanted to know if I could repair toilets. Apparently the plumber was due to arrive any day now but any day had stretched out over months. Hell, I can repair anything. I’m good with my hands when I’m not shooting off my mouth and getting into trouble. I had tools in my jeep, brought them out and dealt with the ghastly mess. I’m not afraid of crap.
He let me stay in a dump on the property behind the station, just a one-room shack with a hotplate, but it suited me for the time being. I guess word got around that some jerk of all trades was hanging around like a bad stink, and I started to get jobs from one part of the desert to another.
Nights I’d stretch myself out on the sand beside a fire and watch the stars. I felt completely alone. I had no one but myself. I knew that. Most times it didn’t bother me, but this one night, I couldn’t help it. I felt so fucking alone. I cried until I had no more tears left. My body sore from shaking.
That’s when I felt her. A presence. Something good. An angel. I knew it right away. Her hand on my shoulder. I was no longer alone. I didn’t see anyone there, just felt that hand on my rickety bones, first touch I’d had since the hookers’ mouths on my cock, but that was more like business. This was personal, loving and understanding. My aches went away. My fears, which had weighed me down so low, I was almost ready to off myself, just so I could stop the pain, disappeared. For the first time in memory, I felt light. Light in body and light all around me. Everything took on a glow. I went back into my shack and slept better than I’ve ever slept.
I named her, it’s probably blasphemy to name angels yourself, but that’s what I did. Called her Lucy, which means light in Latin. After the saint, after Paris, the city of light, but also because her touch lifted me up, took away my burdens.
I pulled out my Bible. “The light shines in the darkness…” I had been in the dark, wallowing in it, letting it take me over, now all I wanted to do was embrace the light. Out there in the desert the light is beyond anything you’ve ever seen, otherworldly, think of a burst of electric guitar breaking the silence. Slicing through the nothingness. Noisy, obnoxious. A blood orange in the dirt. So thirsty, you’ll drink it up anyway. Wash off the filth maybe.
Next morning all I could think about was that angel and her light. It seemed to be everywhere. Even the old wanker who ran X C was aglow. I guess I was humming. Buster came back into the garage with some old Lou Reed cassettes and an old Walkman. Said if I was going to try to sing Perfect Day, I should at least get the tune right.
I watched over him. Nothing else to do. He wasn’t bad to look at. Called me Lucy when I accidentally forgot to stay invisible. Lucy, Lucifrinia, close enough. I watched him get messed up again and again. His moods sometimes shifted when he forgot to take the pills. But he was never violent. Even when he was waving that fucking gun around. Before I was kicked out of Heaven, I hung out with a lot of gunshot victims, sang the babies to sleep, took long walks with adolescents killed before their time. If there was one thing I would change about Earth, other than poverty, hunger, disease, racism, political assholes and the occasional tainted magic mushroom, it would be the fucking guns. I’d make sure they never had any. I’m not God though, am I? So when I saw Tango leaving Humdrum City, I tagged along. I was still on Earth, despite my best efforts to get into Hell.
When Tango fled Humdrum City in his jeep, I wanted to go too. I was sick of the city, sick of myself really, but I was still hanging around, thanks to my tenacious body and a mind that wouldn’t quit drumming up mischief for me. I didn’t even know if I could kill myself. I’d tried already a few times, lots of overdoses, jumping from the bridge, condom-free sex, some kinky games you don’t want to hear about. But nothing worked. I decided I might as well be around people who interested me. And Tango interested me. A fellow restless traveller. Someone who felt things as deeply as I do. He had meds to keep him in line though. They didn’t work on me and anyway, I didn’t want to feel balanced. I needed to find ways to fly and never touch the ground.
Heaven was dull. Everybody followed all the rules. I don’t think I should have ended up there and I didn’t stay long before I was booted back to Earth. Too bad God’s foot didn’t send me all the way down to Hell. I was trying to get there.
I watched Tango enter Lolo’s to chat up my fellow fallen angel, Renata—hell, yes, we’re all over Earth. She’d taken on a role of guardian for Tango. Maybe she interfered a bit when she saw him arrive in his jeep, tampered with the starter, also the bike of the stranger riding by because she thought Tango would be better off on a motorcycle. Thought it would suit his restless soul. I know what you’re thinking, but we don’t have some kind of don’t-interfere-with-the-prime-directive rule. Heaven isn’t fucking Star Trek and God isn’t Jean-Luc Picard. Oh I guess he could be. God, as they say, moves in mysterious ways.
Renata ran a fine bodega, coffee made by an angel is heavenly, of course. And her moonshine was divine. Everybody hung out there when they got the chance. Including Buster, the crotchety old guy who ran the garage.
One night when Renata was just about to close, he came in, grumpy as ever. Who knew what it was this time: customers ripping him off, no word from his little girl, the daughter his wife had sole custody of, some conspiracy theory about the state of the world.
Tango was off his meds. I knew that when I saw the colour he’d painted the garage, a vivid red, suicide red, he sometimes called it. We’d had a few convos over campfires when he told me about his response to colour, especially red. Sometimes he’d look at a particular shade and it would make him feel alive, would remind him of the blood pumping into his veins through his body. It was glorious. He would sing to everybody in the bodega and ride Amelia endlessly through the desert, his energy was boundless.
Other times he looked at red and saw blood spilled on the ground. The senselessness of life. Despair so great all he wanted to do was die. He talked to me then about various ways to off himself. The gun appeared in several of his rants. I wanted him to get rid of the gun. Hell, I tried a few times to let the thing fall out of his bag or disappear, but I couldn’t do it. As I say, God moves in mysterious ways.
Tango was in an ugly mood when he closed up the garage for Buster. The guy’d been riding him for days now. Tango was sick of it. If he wanted that kind of abuse, he would have stayed in Humdrum City and gotten paid more.
Buster was pissed that Tango had painted his garage the devil’s colour. He was a God-fearing man, after all. What would people think?
Renata had gone to the back room to fetch the moonshine. I entered. Buster’s eyes widened. Shit fuck piss, I forgot to be invisible again. I’m the worst angel, really. So yeah, he saw me in full regalia, fluffy white wings, a resplendent pure white gown, and that halo, glowing gold. Hallelujah, he said and got down on his knees.
Tango just looked up at me and nodded. He had his hand on the pocket of his jeans. I knew the gun was there. I felt a cold shiver run through me as Tango took it out. I flew toward him. Tried to grab the gun out of his hand. It went off.
Amanda Earl is a Canadian writer, editor, publisher and visual poet. Her goals are whimsy, connection and exploration and oh yeah...love. She's the managing editor of Bywords.ca and the fallen angel of AngelHousePress. Further info is available at AmandaEarl.com and connect with Amanda on Twitter @KikiFolle.