It wasn’t that Bethany was intolerant, well maybe she was a little, but rather that she had had quite enough - thank you - of her friend’s swearing. Adia was a connoisseur of profanity; she savoured it with steak and wine, shared it with friends and enemies alike, and collected obscure combinations from around the globe. Bethany prayed nightly for a very specific form of laryngitis to be visited upon Adia. Her prayers were never answered.
“Fucker!” shouted Adia, at another offending motorist.
“Every time you swear, an angel loses its wings,” said Bethany.
As it turned out someone, or something, with a sense of humour happened to be eavesdropping on that particular conversation, at that precise moment. Something, or someone, with a very disturbed sense of humour. Reality flickered for just long enough.
“Holy Shit!” said Adia, slamming on the breaks.
“What happened?” asked Bethany.
“I think we hit something,” replied Adia. As they stared in shock at the bloody streak down their windshield, a second something landed on their roof with a thud. “Or something hit us.”
They cautiously got out of the car. Bethany searched the ground for whatever poor creature had bounced off their hood and Adia searched the sky to make sure no more would. As a consequence, Adia found the first creature.
“Oh no, fuck no, I’m so fucking screwed.”
A man in white robes was spread eagle on the car’s roof. Blood leaked out from under his back and dripped down the passenger side window.
“Oh! It’s a man… Adia, we hit a priest… or a hippy, I’m not sure. Poor thing.” Bethany gently put her fingers to his neck looking for a pulse but a breeze caught his robes and he drifted under the car. “Uh. Adia? I think you need to see this.”
“In a minute…”
Adia was busy. Two more of the robed men had appeared in the air above the car and, like their predecessors, dropped to the ground with the grace of cantaloupe. Adia jumped to the obvious conclusion, she and Bethany were being car-jacked by bathrobe ninjas. Luckily she was prepared. Trained on steady diet of Jackie Chan reruns and an expert in the fine art of shout-at-the-fuckers, she was ready. Striking a pose she let loose her most intimidating expletives. Bethany covered her ears.
“Stop it. Stop it! STOP IT RIGHT NOW, ADIA NADINE CAINE!” she shouted.
All around the pair, beautiful young men dropped from the sky.
“…what the fuck?” said Adia, finally coming to a stop. “What is going on? What are they?”
The white robed men had helped each other up off the ground and were now staring at Adia.
“Look at their backs…” said Bethany.
Each and every one had two bloody stumps sticking out from between their shoulder blades.
“Oh no, Adia, your swearing…”
“This is not my fault. There is no fucking way this is my fault.”
Another angel fell from the sky.
“Okay, maybe… MAYBE… this might possibly have some small tiny bit of my fault, but I’m not admitting to it.” Adia paused, then continued, “Maybe we should test it, scientific-like…”
“Don’t you dare.”
“What’s your better idea?”
Several angels had gotten caught in a slight breeze and were hanging onto the radio antenna to keep from being blown out onto the highway.
“How much do angels sell for on eBay?” asked Adia.
“We’ll get them their wings back. If your swearing caused them to lose their wings, and fall from the sky, then ringing a bell will bring them back,” said Bethany. “Trust me.”
“Where do you learn this stuff?”
“Right. Can we use the car horn?”
“No. It must be a proper bell.”
“We can break into the clock tower at school,” said Adia. Noticing Bethany’s face she quickly continued, “How long do you think these guys can last before they become roadkill?”
“I suppose. For the greater good.”
“Great! How many angels can we stuff into the trunk of a car?”
On a good day, when other drivers were merely idiots, Adia could drive to the university with only single finger salutes to the other drivers. Driving a clown-car full of quietly disapproving supernatural beings while listening to Bethany cooing over them made this not-a-good-day. It was only a matter of time.
“Stay on your own fucking side of the road!”
An angel fell out of the sky and was promptly taken out by a speeding 18-wheeler.
Adia shut up. Or tried to. Tried very hard. Her teeth ground together, her nostrils flared, and under her breath she muttered out a mantra. “Fu… sugarcutelittlefu..kittenscandyshi..sugarsugarsugar…”
It was a miracle that they made it to the campus. Instead of risking their luck by leading a conga line of angels through the central court and up the stairs, Adia bypassed it all by simply driving her car up to the front door of the bell tower. Shocks be dam—darned. Security had the same idea.
An angel fell across the hood of the police car following them.
“You did that on purpose,” accused Bethany.
Adia slammed on the breaks.
“Okay, everybody out!”
Obedience is a virtue. Angels are virtuous. Therefore, angels are also very obedient. It’s a flaw, but a useful one. A dozen angels flowed out of the car, followed by a dozen more, and a dozen more, until the stairs overflowed with white robed men. This was not what security had been expecting but their handy campus security handbook knew what to do. Under “cultist invasion” in the “what to do if” section it said, “arrest them”. It is curious to note that under “alien invasion” the instructions were also “arrest them”, as it was in the entry on “small children”. Security set to work, secure in the knowledge that they were doing the right thing.
Bethany and Adia were half way up the clock tower before the first angel was arrested on charges of dressing funny and bleeding on the concrete. The bell was at the very top of the tower and Adia was too out of breath even to swear by the time they reached it. Once upon a time, a long time ago, the bell had rung every hour but for the past decade that job had been contracted out to an electronic clock and loud speaker. As a result, the bell was rusted in place and it took both of them tugging to set it in motion.
The rust gave way. Clang. Bong. Far below one of the angels sprouted wings and took flight. Bong. Another followed. Bong. Bong. Bong. The sky was filled with white winged angels and the police car they were handcuffed to. Bong. Bong. Bong. They rang until they could no longer hear, until they couldn’t feel their arms or shoulders. Then they were arrested by campus security.
At this point it would be nice to say that their lives went back to normal, and it would be true to a point, they did manage to reduce their expulsion down to merely a suspension for trespassing by pointing out that “inciting a riot of angels” was not an illegal activity. It would also be nice to say that Adia learned a valuable lesson about the proper use of profanity, and that would also be true to a point…
“I’m going to have another beer. Do you want anything?” asked Adia.
“Pretzels would be nice,” said Bethany.
“Sure thing,” said Adia. “Fuck.”
An angel fell from the ceiling onto the air mattress Adia had set up in the corner.
“Get us pretzels and beer from the fridge,” she ordered.
The angel arranged his halo into a semblance of dignity and stalked off into the kitchen.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” said Bethany.
“They grow back,” she said, indicating the bell on the coffee table. “Besides, I’m swearing less. I thought that was what you wanted.”
Bethany sighed and accepted her pretzels. At least the angels were cute.