William Fitzgerald and the Angel

He has left the city. He does it very seldom, for in the rolling hills of the wineries and the manicured lawns of suburbia his spleen threatens to swamp him. The sunlight that fills the bus as the buildings dwindle scratches delicately along his skin. He is dozing lightly in the uncomfortable aquamarine seat, eyes half-shut, shoulders slumped forward, mouth hanging slack. It is an ugly pose, he knows, and one he has assiduously practiced. He can see the entire length of the bus from the noisy seat over the engine, and his hideous inertness deters the eye and potential seatmates.

At the edge of the city, the bus stops, pressurised gas hisses pneumatically, and an angel gets on. William Fitzgerald cannot bear to look at the angel; he can hold no picture beyond the basic shape in his mind. He sees obliquely the four wings, the blank face with human eyes, the lion face, the ox face, and the eagle face. The setting sun reflects from the bronze skin and blinds him. The angel’s wings are moving slightly, now covering more and now less of that body, and to look beneath those wings is annihilation, the giving over of self to the LORD by destruction.

The bus left town and William Fitzgerald sat up, now wide awake. The angel sat behind the driver, now as a man wearing a battered leather hat. William Fitzgerald looked out of the window into the sunset, over the ocean, and watched the gulls diving over that winedark sea, that endless river, and where the clouds are blowing together to the west he saw the dark shape of the underworld.