Mount Barker, South Australia
Gabe’s situation worsens …
The city wilted under a quilt of heat. Sun chased late-afternoon shadows into alleyways as a bedraggled figure struggled to its feet, ran a few unsteady steps and leapt into the air. It managed three wing-beats before tumbling back to the pavement to sit, head in hands, astonished by its sudden fall.
‘Ow,’ Gabe groaned. ‘My head; my arse.’
That last drink had been a big mistake. Desperate to find something to blot out time until he could travel again, he had been drinking: not Ambrosia—his usual pick-me-up—but brandy.
Slumped on a stool at the quietest end of a dim, narrow counter, vision blurred, ears humming, he relished the burn of the amber fire slipping down his throat. As he sipped, he squinted at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar, fascinated by the way it changed. His nose, for instance, kept morphing from perfect to pocked; and, at times, it overhung a bristling moustache. Puzzled, the angel ran his fingers across his smooth top lip.
‘Oh God. Hic!’
His space had been invaded. Morosely, he stared into his empty glass, irritated at being flanked by two humans.
‘Not from round ’ere, are you mate?’
Gabe glared at the speaker. The man traded glare for stony stare—a bristling moustache the only thing mobile on his ugly face.
‘Hic!’ Frowning, Gabe rapped his chest. ‘Acshually,’ he drawled, ‘I’m from far away. Hic!’ He lifted his glass and waved it vaguely about. ‘Over there. I want to go back. Hic!’
Moustache leant forward and winked at his pock-nosed companion who was ogling Gabe’s back from the other side. A hump under Gabe’s coat had begun to twitch.
‘Hey bro …’ Pock-nose reached to touch. ‘What you got under there?’
Gabe flinched. ‘Doan tush!’ His voice edged upwards. ‘Not your bishness. Hic! SHTOP IT! HIC!’
Bottles rattled on their shelves and a chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling. Pock-nose backed off. ‘Bro! Settle down! I’m not touching; but, whatever’s on your back … it’s alive!’
Moustache pushed a tenner at the hovering barman. ‘Give the bloke something, will you mate—before the roof falls in?’ He slapped Gabe heartily and flinched. It had been like whacking a pillow. ‘Here, toss this down!’
Gabe gulped the small drink and shuddered. ‘Ah, boodiful,’ he slurred. He flung his arms around his companions’ shoulders and wrapped them to him. The hics had stopped. His wings were still. ‘You know, ish hard to be an angel.’ He peered first at one man and then the other. Both were struggling in his grip.
‘Hey bud!’ The bartender leant over and grabbed his wrists. ‘Let go! You’re hurting them.’
‘Oh!’ Gabe swayed on his stool. ‘Am I hurting you?’ He studied Pock-nose flailing in his left arm. ‘Why are you purple?’ He turned to Moustache. The man’s eyes were popping and moisture oozed across his forehead.
‘Leggo mate, c’me on!’ The barman cursed. ‘Someone call the police!’
But Gabe was suddenly seized from behind by a pair of large, tattooed arms and hauled off his stool. ‘Had enough of you, bud,’ a voice growled in his ear.
Moustache and Pock-nose slid away as the angel was dragged to the door and heaved into the street. The word “Police” reverberated alarmingly in his head and the sound of a siren insinuated its way into his mind. He needed to be somewhere else. Staying close to the solid support of the building, he jostled through the crowd and turned into a narrow lane. He felt sick and hot. The alley swayed. The sun on the opposite wall was dazzling. He tugged his suffocating coat off, dropped it and leapt for the sky.
Once over the astonishment at his failure to fly, he thought to try a second time, but could only stand and scratch his head in drunken wonder at the sight of his wings fallen onto the pavement.
‘Phew; you’ve certainly tied one on mister!’ A policewoman bent to retrieve wings and coat while her partner seized Gabe.
The angel frowned in frustration. How was he to deal with the police if he couldn’t understand their language? But he understood well enough when his arms were restrained and he was led to their car. Too far gone to resist, he meekly climbed in and passed out…until the wee small hours, when he regained his senses.
‘Excuse me?’ he called, aching from his time lying on an impossibly hard bunk. ‘Is anyone there? I am ready to leave …’