Mr. Angel sat next to me on the park bench. He is my best friend. I pointed to an old man that sat across from me.
“What’s he doing, Mr. Angel?”
An unlit cigarette sat in the corner of the man’s mouth. His eyes were withered with age as he stared blankly at nothing. Mr. Angel leaned close to me as he whispered into my ear.
“He’s looking for a woman he lost a long time ago.”
He cooed. His words felt warm against my cheek as I smiled up at him. I liked his secrets; Mr. Angel knew everything.
“That’s really sad, Mr. Angel,” I said. “Why don’t you help him?”
I couldn’t see it, since he didn’t have a mouth, but he was smiling. He got up and walked silently over to the old man and set a single bony finger in the center of his chest before he turned away and took his seat next to me. I tugged on the black shroud that he always wore.
“What’d you do, Mr. Angel?” I asked.
I could hear Mr. Angel sigh tiredly as he leaned against the scythe that he carried.
“I sent him back to his woman,” his voice rasped. “I took her a long time ago and she was getting very lonely.”
I looked at the old man. He was hunched over his legs as he clutched painfully at his heart. His face looked like it was clamped shut, and I could hear him wheeze as he fought for breath.
“Mr. Angel! What’d you do!” I cried, “That’s not helping him!”
But Mr. Angel sat silently as he watched the man suffer. I made tiny fists and tried to pound pathetically on his shoulders, but all I found was empty, cold air. A tear began to crawl down my cheek.
“Mr. Angel!” I screamed. “Mr. Angel! Come back!”
The tears dripped below my eye as I buried my head into my lap and wept. I turned and looked at the old man’s body. It had gone stiff by now, but his face didn’t look like it was seized tight and shut. He wasn’t desperately clutching at his chest; he was lying on his back with his hands set neatly against his heart. His face looked relieved, calm. Content.
I slid off the park bench and got on my hands and knees. Any moment now that old cadaver would spring up and laugh in my face. I wanted to think it was some kind of horrible joke. I wish someone was laughing, but all I heard was the peace that follows after something has moved on. I loomed over the body as a tear drop landed on its skin. I didn’t know what to do.
“Please…” I pleaded, “Get up!”
“Please! Get up!” I shook its shoulder. Nothing.
“Get up!”I rested my palm alongside the man’s hands. Nothing. No heartbeat. “The old man is where he should be now,”I heard an old voice coo beside me. “He’s happy.”His words whistled against my skin.
I looked behind me. Mr. Angel was watching from the park bench.
“You killed him!” I screamed.
My breathing was haggard. The feeling in my legs was disappearing. Mr. Angel got up from the parking bench and walked over me. He knelt down and I could feel his shroud move over me in a warm embrace. I looked up and Mr. Angel’s blank face stared pleasantly down at me. He gripped his scythe with one hand and with the other hand he set it against my shoulder. I couldn’t see it, but I could tell he was smiling.
“Death,” I said to him.
My voice was still hoarse as I choked down a few tears.
“Did you really help him?”
Death looked at me and leaned close.
“My dear little one,” he whispered softly,
“Death can be many things. Death can be hard. Death can be painful. Death will someday be at your heels. But never forget, The best thing to do when Death greets you is embrace him as a friend.”
He pulled me closer to him. I could feel his shroud slowly wrap around me. It felt warm and cozy. It was good to be close to Death.
“Now don’t call me Death. I’m an angel, remember?” I laughed at him and wiped a tear away.
“Because you bring people to heaven, right?”
He could only nod.
“Mr. Angel,” I said to him, “You’re my best friend, right?”
My breathing stopped. His smile was gone and the shroud felt cold as it caressed my skin.
“Yes,” Death rasped, “I’m your best friend.”