Gabriel didn’t even spare a glance over his shoulder. “Maybe, but as an archangel, I outrank him.”
This didn’t quite sit right with me, but who was I to question Heavenly politics? A tiny voice in the back of my head whispered that I would have to draw up some rules for the shop. I caught the scent of burned fabric as I made the archangel’s drink. Rule number one: any arsonist must pay for all damages caused by his flaming sword.
Unlike Gabriel, the rest of the angels ordered their usual drink, a large regular coffee with seven creams and sugars. A small part of my soul felt soiled by making these drinks – the sweet liquid in the cups I passed across the counter appeared nearly white. Each angel politely accepted his steaming drink from my hand, dropping another gold coin on the counter. Gabriel leaned casually against the counter and sipped his espresso as I worked, kindly keeping his wings angled away from my workspace.
I made it through the angelic rush without trouble, although I was already beginning to run low on cream. As the last angel strolled out through the locked door, I sank backwards onto my stool behind the counter, staring at the pile of gold coins on my countertop.
Gabriel set down his cup with a clink. “One angelic quirk – while they understand the concept of money, they really haven’t managed to master inflation, or commodities exchange,” he said, a small smile playing about his lips. “It took them a couple thousand years to figure out that gold could be traded for things. I haven’t even tried explaining fiat currency to them.”
I raised my head to stare at him. “Angels are real,” I said, trying to convince myself that these words were true. “They wear halos, carry harps and flaming swords, they can walk through locked doors, and they drink really sweet coffee.” I wondered if the shop’s wallpaper contained some sort of hallucinogenic adhesive.
Gabriel shrugged one shoulder as he brushed a bit of lint from his lapels. “Try not to dwell on it too much,” he replied. “Just keep plenty of cream and sugar on hand for the morning and lunch rushes, and you’ll do fine.”
The archangel strolled towards the door. He paused briefly at a large scorch mark on my carpet, caused by an errant flaming sword. With a wave of his hand, the carpet miraculously restored itself. “One other thing,” he added with his hand on the doorknob. “In order to keep our existence secret, perhaps this door should simply remain locked. It might be better, all around.” With that advice, he slipped out of my shop.
After that first day, I spent a long time sitting in my unopened coffee shop, pondering what had happened. The angels kept on returning, two large rushes per day, six days a week. It turns out that angels take the whole Day of Rest thing very seriously, and refuse even their weak coffee on Saturdays. Sunday through Friday, however, I woke up before the sunrise, standing in the locked room of my coffee shop, certain that this would be the day the angels didn’t come, that the glamour would finally fade. I’d end each day with another pile of gold coins, feeling even more lost than when I believed it was nothing but a dream.
At first, the gold was a big help. I sat down one day with a pair of scales and worked out that the angels paid me roughly $700 for each cup of coffee. All in all, I earned about fifteen thousand dollars a day. I very quickly paid off my loans and bought out the shop, and hired an assistant.
Finding an assistant who wouldn’t be bothered by having his entire worldview turned upside down was a significant challenge, I had to admit. After sifting through an endless pile of theology and psychology majors, I ended up picking a college student majoring in computer science. I don’t think his gaze ever rose to meet my eyes, much less high enough to spot a halo.
Despite the ease of the job and the huge amount of money made each day, I always left the shop feeling dissatisfied. Eventually, I ended up heading down to local homeless shelters and other donation centers at the close of each week, giving away the bulk of the week’s income.
However, I did take some of the funds and use them for a new sign. Call me pretentious, call me self-centered, but even though no customer ever saw the outside of my permanently shuttered shop, I felt a new sign was necessary. I had to hire a custom designer to build it for me, but the name is perfect. “Heavenly Grounds” just has the right sound to it, don’t you think?