The Angel Who Fed the Cat
Jun 5, 1999
The man woke suddenly, surprised that it was still dark. He rubbed his head as he glanced at his wife sleeping next to him, wondering if it was his headache that had awakened him. He could see their four children sprawled across the other bed and the floor of the motel room, limbs askew in impossible positions.
His feelings sharpened, and he realized that it wasn't his headache that had disturbed his sleep. He'd had a gnawing worry since that morning that his house lay unprotected and vulnerable. They had driven away, locking the doors, turning on lights and taking all the usual precautions. He had switched on the television, with the clever idea that burglars would assume that they were home. It wasn't that their house had very many valuables. Most of the furniture was obtained on the fly at K-Mart. It was a small house, a rather ugly one in fact. Not a great target for a discriminating robber.
He sighed, and peered at the motel room clock. Two a.m. He snuggled under the covers again, comforted by the warmth of his wife. The clock hummed in the silence. He grimaced as he watched the numbers flip slowly by, just beyond his range of sight.
Two thirty came and went, and the man sat up again with a scowl. Visions of twelve years of computer work scuttling out the door on a hard disk that wasn't backed up flooded his mind. He sat cross legged in bed, angry that he hadn't taken the time to do that final backup. Dark imaginings crept across his mind, gripping him with the knowledge that he could never replace a decade's worth of programming data. If he had been prone to ulcers like his father, his stomach would have been in full rebellion. He looked at his wife. She slept, unworried.
The man rose, decisive. He had to do something, anything, to relieve his mounting anxiety. He quietly picked up the phone, and crossed the room to the bathroom door, gingerly stepping over one of his boys. The light from the bathroom formed a dim pool on the carpet as he strained to see the numbers on the phone. He thought he sounded a bit too dramatic as he whispered into the phone, asking the long distance operator for the number of the police station near his home.
The woman's voice was loud, and utilitarian. "Dispatch. May I help you?"
The conversation was brief, and frustrating. It was Friday night, and the town didn't have the budget to pay for patrolmen to drive by the houses of worried citizens who were away on visits. He tried to express his hope that some helpful officer might take the time to drive by and see if his house lay open to the night wind; especially since he was a taxpayer, after all – but the dispatcher was firm. Sympathetic, but by the book.
He placed the handset back on the hook, faintly disgusted at the reality of bureaucratic procedure, and creakily walked back to bed. He felt helpless, and frustrated that there was really nothing that he could do to protect his all important computer data from imminent invasion. What really bothered him was the realization that the data would have no value at all to a burglar. The burglar would never know the impact of his callous deed.
The man sat in the narrow bed, with his leg pressed against his wife's hip, and gazed into the dark. There was nothing for it but to pray. He didn't like asking God for such mundane things as the protection of his house and hard drive, although he and his wife made a practice of praying for the safety of their house and their driving when they went on trips. They had done so as they drove away, with their children squeaking out a chorus of tiny amens. He knew God was busy, with far more important things to worry about.
He closed his eyes, with more than a bit of apology in his thoughts, and prayed. He wanted to make it a delicate, but comprehensive prayer – so he prayed that some of God's helpers might have a small amount of time to protect their family's house. He mentioned angels, and the spirits of good people who had died, and any ancestors that might be about, and even their guardian angels. He closed with the prayer that even if their home was burgled, life would go on, and yes, they would even endure the loss of twelve years of data. He was aware as he murmured amen that it all seemed very small – and he apologized for worrying so much.
He looked at his wife and children one more time, and felt glad that he was with them, and that he loved them. With a sigh, he lay down and brought the blanket up to his neck. He yawned as he closed his eyes. It was all in God's hands.
The clock droned as he drifted into a dream like state, just before a deeper sleep. He thought about their house, their ugly, little blue house, empty under the night sky, with the neighbors unconscious in their slumber. He suddenly thought he saw a man standing at the corner of the house. He looked closer and saw what very much looked like a Scotsman with a kilt. He had a ferocious appearance, and was balancing a large ax over one shoulder.
The man shifted slightly as he dozed, wondering if he was imagining what he saw. The Scotsman seemed to be very serious, indeed. The man's view changed, and he suddenly was inside his living room. The children had left it very messy, with potato chip fragments littering the carpet – a source of unending stress for his wife. The television was blaring with late night cartoons. He and his wife had joked about their choice of the cartoon channel. They had commented that it wouldn't help the atmosphere if shoot 'em up movies were playing while they were gone.
He was surprised in a detached, dreamlike sort of way, to see a tall man dressed in a fashionable t-shirt and cotton trousers sitting on the edge of the couch, intently watching the cartoon characters racing across the television screen. The man was quite handsome; clean shaven and around forty. He leaned forward as he watched the cartoons, with a lively, mobile expression on his face.
After a short time, the stranger rose from the couch, still gazing with great interest at the cartoons, and picked up the end of a vacuum cleaner. Switching it on, the man pushed the vacuum back and forth across the narrow living room as he continued to stare at the television. The stranger vacuumed the entire room, paying particular attention to the corners.
Gently placing the vacuum down at the edge of the room, the tall man walked over to the pot-bellied stove where the family's large white cat lay watching him with fascination. He bent down, smiling, stroking the cat's chin, making comforting sounds. "Hungry, perhaps?"
The scene blurred for a moment, as the man in the motel room heard a car rudely honk in the parking lot outside the window. As the living room came back into focus, he saw the tall man stoop and noisily pour cat food into a bowl at the edge of the hearth. The cat looked very pleased.
The living room started to fade, and the man was suddenly outside, once more gazing at the Scotsman standing at attention at the corner of the house. The sky was dark, with a faint swatch of stars struggling against the lights of the nearby shopping center. It was cold, and the street looked lonely, with the street lights casting a mournful glimmer. Against the lighted mini-blinds of the house, the man could see the faint shadow of a tall man, walking back and forth across the living room.
The man fell asleep then, pressing himself against the warmth of his wife, no longer worried. As the image of their house began to fade, he smiled, and murmured a sleepy prayer of thanks to the angel who fed the cat.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”
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