Sunday, April 13, 2008

“The Angel’s Touch” by Dennis Danvers

How I Came to Write “The Angel’s Touch”

Sarah and I were traveling. We turn into TV sluts when we have a hotel room and a remote control, cruising up and down all those channels. At home we wrestle with rabbit ears for everything we watch, a struggle with cosmic forces, not unlike Jacob’s tussle with an angel but with much less spectacular results.

I came out of the shower, and found Sarah watching some sappy tale of divine intervention nearing its predictable conclusion. You could tell by the music, the beatifically smiling faces. It made me nauseous. “It’s one of those angel shows,” Sarah said. “The one on the left’s an angel. She saved them from suffering.”

“What suffering?”

“I missed that part.”

I groaned. “Anything else. Please.”

I knew I was running a great risk. Sarah has been known to land on a televangelist and stay put just to lure a bit of sacrilege out of me. It’s one of my more attractive traits, she claims.

The angel was still on the screen, being angelic. I grumbled, “If they wouldn’t always make angels so insipid, so goody-goody. I mean, the angels in the Bible aren’t exactly Care Bears with wings.”

Sarah finds it interesting that a non-believer like myself has read the Bible more than once. It’s a strange world. When I taught Bible in World Lit. classes at a Texas university, a student who claimed to believe every word of the Bible to be literally true, couldn’t remember what it was exactly Abraham had done. “Was he the guy with the ark?” he asked me. “No, he was the one who almost offed his kid because God told him to.”

“I think you should write an angel story,” Sarah said as the credits started to roll, and she resumed surfing.

“Right,” I said.

“I’m serious.”

What a ridiculous idea, I thought, and immediately started thinking about it. If God employs a tribe of assistants in the world, they would have to have a wide range of duties and personalities to match. Some of them might be a bit unnerving, even scary as shit. They are, after all, alien beings, and their duties might very well include the full range of divine prerogatives, which would include, well, everything. Even all the unpleasant bits. Like death and sin and suffering and disease and... You get the idea.

Maybe it was because there was an elevator in the hotel, but almost immediately I saw my scary angel packed rather uncomfortably into an elevator, riding in close quarters with my hapless protagonist. However unpleasant he might be, I did want him to be a real angel, that is, an agent carrying out the will of God, so that the result of his intervention in my protagonist’s life should plausibly represent the will of God, which, if you believe in an omnipotent God, would be, well, everything, so I didn’t see that as much of a plot impediment. I decided to make it a love story, since, speaking from experience, love offers so many opportunities for mortals to screw up.

In an early draft of the story, I blew everybody up, just to get it out of my system, I suppose—to flex my God muscles. I call that the Sodom and Gomorrah draft. Once I didn’t blow the lovers up, the story wrote itself. Since God is reportedly keen on the forgiveness of sins, I daresay he would approve of the results.

My neighborhood association each year asks me to read at the neighborhood Christmas gathering. Year before last I wrote a story, “R3,” especially for the occasion, which ended up appearing in Strange Horizons last December. This last year I read “The Angel’s Touch,” and got a terrific response. That is, they laughed in all the right places.

Actually, the story was dictated to me by an angel after every publication in heaven turned it down as insufficiently angelic. He’s letting me keep the money. Seems they don’t have money in heaven.

(artwork for this story (in the current issue of IGMS) by Liz Clarke:

(Dennis's blog:

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