The angel of the LORD cometh upon you in the shower at the worst
possible moment: one hand placed upon thy right buttock and the
other bearing soap, radio blaring, humming a heathen song of
Fear not! he proclaimeth from the vicinity of the shampoo caddy,
and the soap falleth from thy hand.
Motherfu—thou sayest, and then thou seest the light, the
wings, the blazing eyes like sunlight and starlight both at
once, and since thy mother raised thee right thou coverest thy
mouth with one hand and makest the sign of the cross with the
other. It is the soap-hand which covereth thy mouth: thou
gett'st soap in thy mouth, and spittest—away
from the angel of the LORD—and
do not curse again though it is terrible hard.
The angel of the LORD he does laugh.
His laughter peals like church-bells, and it shorteth out the
batteries of thy rock-and-roll radio. The great and terrible
laughter of the angel of the one true God makes thy knees
tremble, but thou refusest to fall down upon them. For one
thing, the shower in which thou showerest is slippery, and the
LORD knows it is simple enough to break an ankle or a hip or an
arm in the shower without the intervention of an angel of the
LORD. Missus Van Metre down the hall suffered this very
affliction five months past, and thou hadst to fetch and carry
for her from the apartment to the hospital, bear pajamas and the
daily mail, as thou art the most young and hale person upon the
sixteenth floor and the cry would have been great against you if
thou hadst not.
For another thing, thou hast thy dignity.
So though thy knees they tremble and you yearn to fall down
before the awesome and terrible power of the LORD, thou leanest
against the tiles of thy shower wall and ask: what are you doing
The angel of the LORD straighteneth in its perfect light—much
brighter than the light of mortal sixty-watt bulbs—and
saith unto thee: I have a task for thee to perform if thou
lovest the LORD thy God.
Thou sayest unto the angel: I am in the shower.
The angel saith: I care not.
Thou sayest: I am naked.
The angel saith: Nakedness is nothing before a servant of the
Well it is something to man, thou repliest, and place thy loofah
before thy shame. This is not Eden, it is Compton, and thou
hast not been innocent for several years now.
Do you remonstrate with an angel of the LORD? the angel
inquireth, and you like not the look in his eye. Or perhaps her
eye. Its. It is difficult to see the generative parts of an
angel of the LORD. It is difficult to see any of the body of
the angel, all astir with white light as it is, reflecting off
thy shower tiles in a manner which starteth a mighty migraine.
The light of the angel of the LORD seemeth not a thing to be
No sir, thou sayest unto it, and lower thine eyes as the water
of the shower goes cold and drips gelid down thy back. Thou
canst not tell looking down upon thy bathmat, but thou thinkest
this pleaseth the angel of the LORD.
The angel of the LORD is rather like a cop.
So what do you want? Sir, thou inquirest of the angel of the
LORD in the voice best used with the police when they pull thee
over for driving whilst black.
am sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Son, the angel
saith; with signs and wonders and wise men born of angel and
daughters of men.
do not follow, thou sayest to the angel of the LORD.
The angel looketh down upon thee, and thou canst make out, in
the mist of the cold shower, one lime-green eye that gleameth.
And it saith: Thou art chosen. I am sent to get thee with
* * *
Missus Van Metre lieth in repose in her apartment down the
hall. It pleaseth her to keep her hip straightened, one leg
recumbent upon a cushion all of polyester, blazoned with a small
child weeping in a doorway with its thumb within its mouth. All
of her cushions are thus, puppies and kittens tangled in their
yarn and small children set down in watercolours; she collecteth
them like orphans sore treated in the junk-shops where they
lie. She is reading in her Bible when thou knockest, wrapped in
but thy shorts and tee-shirt and thy hair still dripping water
unto her sage green carpet.
What is it, dear? she inquireth of thee, putting aside her
reading as thou lett'st thyself inside.
There is an angel in my shower, thou repliest, and sittest
heavily upon her stuffed recliner chair. It wants to knock me
dear, ejaculateth Missus Van Metre, and puts aside her
spectacles as well.
* * *
Thou takest thy showers at Missus Van Metre’s apartment for six
days, and on the seventh day, when thou art tired of lugging thy
shampoo and soap and loofah that thou bought new from the
drugstore, for thou art afeared to enter thy bathroom with the
angel there inside, thou pullest back the shower curtain to
remonstrate with the angel of the LORD.
Welcome, daughter of man, the angel saith. It sitteth
cross-legged in the narrow length of thy tub, and without the
water falling thou canst see its wings. They are transparent, a
picture through glass. They distorteth the image of the tiles
upon thy shower wall behind them.
Thou art not sure it has moved in six days, evening and morning.
I’m not fucking you, thou sayest to the angel of the LORD.
Thou art not struck down for cursing.
must get thee with child if thou art to bear a wise man who will
prepare the world against His coming, the angel sayeth.
Well, you’re not, thou replieth, and the angel of the LORD
looketh up at you in a way that is purely maddening. I will
keep showering down the hall, thou sayest. And this adds twenty
minutes to my morning, and I will be late for work. And Heaven
shouldn’t make you late for work.
The angel saith: It matters not. God is everywhere; I shall
visit thee in the shower of thy neighbour.
Thou cussest out the angel of the LORD once again, for this is
true, and thou dost not wish the LORD to be everywhere,
especially when thou art upon the toilet or speaking privately
into the telephone or, exempli gratia, in the shower. If
this be objectionable when done by the powers of men, Homeland
Security or the NKVD, it is yea, moreso when done by the powers
Who do I speak to above you? thou demandest of the angel of the
LORD. Who’s your boss?
The angel blinketh. What? it quoth.
want to talk to your boss, thou sayest, and pullest the curtain
down upon it.
* * *
Missus Van Metre hath frankincense and myrrh in the drawers of
her Goodwill bureau. She directs thee to it with a wave of her
aged hand; though she is hale enough, now, to do her own
fetching, she likes having a youth about to do the fetching for
her. And thou art in her debt, as she hath lent you her shower
yea these six days without complaint or comment.
Do you know which angel you’re summoning? she asketh, and thou
wonderest if this has got all the way around the building at
Yes, thou repliest, and diggest in the drawer. There are many
things in Missus Van Metre’s bureau drawer, pens long dried out
or knick-knacks wrapped in cracked brown paper, and it is
passing difficult to find either frankincense or myrrh,
especially as thou know'st not what either substance resembleth.
Thou picketh out more pens from the wooden drawers and searcheth
for something that smells.
There are many websites upon the internet which speak of
summoning angels, but thou findest them sketchy at best. Missus
Van Metre, however, knoweth her Bible, and when thou didst
implore her to educate you in the hierarchies and ways of
angels, she insisted upon lending thee her prayers. She hath
drawn a circle in chalk on the parquet of her apartment floor,
the carpets now rolled and tossed aside, and thou thinkest this
is not precisely a Christian ritual but thou sure as hell art
not inquiring with a priest. Not with an angel in thy shower.
The frankincense is lumpy and smells of yet more junk shops, and
mayhap hippies as well. The myrrh smelleth like bad medicine.
Thou surrenderest both to Missus Van Metre, who prepares them in
a brazier whose dollar-ninety-nine price sticker still adhereth
to the bottom and sets them alight.
Let us pray, sayeth Missus Van Metre, and kneeleth down e’en
with her bad hip to pray to the LORD.
Thou prayest for the removal of the angel in thy shower before
thou gett'st down to business.
It does not take long to summon a new angel of the LORD. Thou
prayest for perhaps eight minutes before there is a flurry of
eyes and light and wings, and Fear not! sayeth a new angel, its
wings brushing the false crystals upon Missus Van Metre's
The new angel hath wings of brightest crimson; its eyes blaze a
summer forest fire into thy arms and bended knees. Thou hast
called upon the LORD and He answers, it sayeth. From what do
you seek succor?
There is an angel of the LORD in my shower, thou sayest. I need
him out of there.
The crimson-winged angel frowneth deeply, and his frown striketh
terror into the marrow of your bones. I cannot do that, he
saith. The will of the LORD is catholic and unitary.
Thou art not Catholic, and thou dislikest the implication that
thou shouldst be, but Missus Van Metre raiseth her head.
We would like to speak to your boss, she saith, and with a great
startlement and a confusion, the angel vanishes.
It's gone, thou saith, and all thy irritation turns gelid like
cold shower water, to tired and pissed-off despair.
Hold on—replyeth Missus Van Metre, but before she can speak that
which she wished spoken, there is a flurry of wings.
It is an angel yet more regal; it is an angel that standeth
seven feet tall with skin of alabaster and wings of burnished
wood, and in its hand a sword.
YOU WOULD SPEAK WITH ME? it saith.
There is an angel of the LORD in my shower, thou imploreth, and
he keeps saying he’s supposed to knock me up, and I’m only
twenty-three, I can’t raise a kid right now—
THOU CANST USE DAYCARE, the angel boometh.
I thought you were against single-parent families, thou
DO YOU NOT TRUST IN THE POWER OF THE LORD TO BRING YOU A
That’s not the point, thou repliest, shrinking down unto Missus
Van Metre’s carpet. It is not thy job to tell an angel of the
LORD that thou likest not the boys.
DOST THOU PRESUME TO DICTATE THE POINT TO AN ANGEL OF THE LORD?
Thy chin sinketh against thy chest, and thou art prepared to say
No in the voice thou usest with cops, except this is injustice
when it is done by the cops, and Heaven is supposed to be doubly
about justice. And a great and righteous anger ariseth within
thee, within the furnaces of thy very bones.
Yes, thou saith, and maketh a noble try to meet the angel's
eye. The point is my privacy.
THERE IS NO PRIVACY IN THE FACE OF—
You can't just walk into people's showers when they're
Okay, I want to speak to your boss, thou sayest, knowing
this is how it’s gonna be.
The angel of the LORD glowereth, and there is a hint of that
lime-green irritation that thou didst see in the angel in thy
shower. HOLD PLEASE the angel saith, and vanisheth into the
Thou sparest a glance at Missus Van Metre. Thy hands are
trembling. She offereth thee a smile, and unfoldeth one hand
from prayer to pat at thine own. Worry not, dear, she says.
Thou likest that better than fear not.
The third angel cometh in a gust of wind, and it hath a flaming
sword, and Missus Van Metre frowns at it almost immediately;
thou canst see her think it will be careless, and set blazing
her carpets or her chandelier or the knick-knacks she keepeth
all about. It bringeth a fourth, and a fifth, until all the
powers of Heaven are arrayed before thee in the apartment, even
though it be but a one-bedroom and could not possibly contain as
many angels as may dance upon the head of a pin.
WE HAVE COME, saith the angel who bears the sword, SO THOU WILT
CEASE TO ESCALATE THIS MATTER AND BOW TO THE WILL OF THE LORD.
Thou thinkest you spy the angel of your shower somewhere in the
back ranks, green-eyed and patient in the manner that is most
Good, thou sayest, thinking speak truth to power
over and over to thyself. We have a bone to pick with you.
YOU ARE DEFYING THE WILL OF THE LORD, the angel pointeth out,
and thou thinkest he is a Seraph from the fuzzy pictures thou
wert shown in the dim past of thine Sunday School days.
No we're not, Missus Van Metre saith, and thou jumpest with
surprise at her calm. It isn't God to make people do things
against themselves, and it isn't God to not let a body choose.
Thou watcheth her half with surprise and half gratitude, for she
is standing up to the entire host of Heaven though she hath a
recently broken hip.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, saith the angel.
You have to choose to serve God, Missus Van Metre saith
imperturbably. And you aren't giving her no choice.
THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY—the angel trieth, but Missus Van Metre
fixeth him in her eye and saith: No, it's Good, and if it's not
Good it's not God.
There is no arguing with that.
think I know how we fix this, Missus Van Metre saith quietly.
THANK GOD, saith the angel of the LORD.
I'll have your kid, Missus Van Metre saith, and thou uttereth a
mighty What? before thou canst help thyself. But thou art not
embarrassed before thy down-the-hall neighbour, for the host of
angels uttereth a mighty WHAT? that rings through thine ears and
destroys every radio from here unto the San Fernando Valley.
Do you have something against older women? Missus Van Metre
The angels of the LORD, the powers and principalities and
Seraphim and Cherubim, all doth squirm. Thou raisest up a hand
to hide thy face, for if the angels of the LORD are truly like
unto cops, they like not to be questioned and will beat thee or
devise some punishment for the pointing out of their hypocrisy.
THOU HAST NOT A FERTILE WOMB, the Seraph saith, as if that
closeth the question entire.
You're an angel, thou burstest in, seeing thy way out even if
thou dost not understand why Missus Van Metre would desire a
child at the age of sixty-two. Thou tell'st them, powers and
principalities and Cherubim and Seraphim: Make a fucking
Missus Van Metre glanceth at thee now, and thou dost not cross
thyself, but thy hand goes unto thy mouth to keep the foul
You're an angel, she saith after thee, primly. If you can't get
me knocked up, your baby ain't worth having.
Even the cops quail and fall silent before indignant old ladies,
and for the first time in a full seven days, evening and
morning, thou utterest a tiny laugh. Fear not, thou mutterest
to thyself, and though Missus Van Metre hears thee, she does not
crack not smile nor laugh.