If you don’t believe in angels or death, then this story isn’t for you. Thus, I’ve issued a trigger warning.
I was raised a believer in angels, thanks to my mother, Mary. They were part of a magical childhood. Mother would parade them in front of the whole damned neighborhood. At least it seemed so, on special occasions. They’d appear up there, in the refracted light she’d cast against her bedroom wall. Amongst the floral wallpaper, they mimicked fly, colorful birds. She’d morph their delicate bodies smaller, then larger, depending upon where she stood with her double D-cell flashlight and the remaining battery life.
Up there, on the wall, they’d alter their characteristics from dark to light, not unlike the kinetic clouds at the beginning of the night. Over the years, we’d seen them damned near everywhere, including in churches and cemeteries. Stepfather Franck had said, he’d even seen one in the county jail when he was sleeping off a hangover.
My name is Sam. Some call me S.E., say it’s because I look like Sam Elliot, the actor. We both have a western vibe about us. Shit-kicker boots and a classically full mustache make the package. But, as far as I know, Sam doesn’t hunt angels.
I’ll get right to the point. What the hell good are they anyway, angels? They’re useless S.O.B’s. Better off dead than alive. The bastards are everywhere. I lost my loving mother, too young, to breast cancer.
I hunt them. We all hunt them. Some of us don’t admit it. I’m intent on their extinction. Consider that a purpose, not a reason. I hunt them because they’ve never answered one single prayer. Sour grapes, you retort? Not really, I’m agnostic. The truth is, I enjoy the meat. I hunt angels to fill the large coffin freezer that I keep in the garage. It is choke-full of homemade ravioli, Chinook salmon, and skinned angels. On the occasion of hopelessness and despair, I especially enjoy cooking some up.
It’s always open season on angels. No law prevents it. There’s anecdotal evidence that their numbers are decreasing with all the hunting pressure, especially in North America. A yellow school bus ran over a grade-school friend in front of my house.
I’ve been told the infestation has grown exponentially since religion arrived in the holds of ships arriving from Europe. Once in North America, the horny angels reproduced in numbers like rabbits.
Our angel contagion is a modern-day rabbit plague, just like the one that possessed Australia. In Australia, domesticated European rabbits arrived with the first inhabitants. They were introduced as food and sport. Fur and leather were bi-products.
Here, as the result of natural selection, most angels have lost their girth and stature. Some have lost wings. Evolution is causing them to trend smaller in mass. They often appear as wild pheasants. They are cunning. Culling the disease-resistant curse is the only way to impact a further population reduction. It’s a constant battle.
The Kincaid’s managed the local bowling alley. The hard-working couple couldn’t afford daycare. Anna was almost three the day her mother had forgotten to close the bronze cash register drawer. Anna had attempted to pay her mommy back for the wrack candy she’d taken. Anna was crushed to death by the vintage bronze register and all the dirty money.
Joy, as a child, was passing my hunter safety course and totting a sixteen gauge shotgun. In Northern California, we hunt. It’s something you do to fill the freezer.
In flight, their intent, the angels, is to confuse you with their beautiful wings and feathers of fennel, rosemary, and nutmeg. Sometimes, with all the iridescence, you miss. It’s like shooting rainbows.
Side-eyed Jack is a purebred American Spaniel. He’s loyal to a fault. Jack is at his best sniffing them out in any unknown, thatched location. He’s gifted at holding them tight until I’m able to walk up on him. When I finger whistle, Jack turns into a leopard and moves in. Then he points. Angels panic and flush. I’m not good at much, but I’m damned good with a Browning. Number six buckshot is plenty good at bringing them down.
I had a few Coors with Billy after his return from Viet Nam in the late ’60s. A week later, he stuffed a .40 cal Beretta barrel in his mouth. I was told clean up was the worse, all the dark thoughts up there on the ceiling.
As part of our ritual, Jack fetches the dead and wounded that have fallen from the sky. If still alive, he dispatches them with an indifferent stiff bite to the neck. He’s quick to lay them at my feet in search of praise. I’m good at applying it on thick, “Good-boy,” I tell him and cuff the top of his head.
Once we return home, I feed Jack and down a few shots of rye whiskey. I get the outdoor fire going real good and boil some fresh water in a hunting cauldron. One at a time, I clasp each angel by their yellow scaled talons, dunking each tiny basilisk into the furious water. The process makes it easier to pluck the feathers. After, I cut off their beautiful wings, gut and skin them. I make sure to keep a few exotic feathers for fly tying: Cutthroat, Brook, and Rainbow.
I lost a close friend in a drunken-driving accident. He was a passenger. He’d recently celebrated his seventeenth birthday. Death isn’t picky in terms of who’s behind the wheel. He was a great kid. I often hunt the golden wheat fields next to the memorial pine of a shrine and notorious crook in the road.
What do they taste like? Of course, just like chicken. As for me, when in doubt, I save a prayer or two during cross country flights.
Dan’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction: BlazeVOX, Bull, Cleaver, Coffin Bell, Entropy, Gravel, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Poetry Northwest, Spelk, and Your Impossible Voice. Dan’s nominations: Best Micro Fiction, Tiny Molecules, 2020 and Best Poetry, Coffin Bell, 2020.