Coming out of my apartment, I hurried quickly down the street towards my coffee shop of choice, hoping that I had escaped notice. But I heard the flutter of wings behind me, sounding like a dozen pigeons were descending on my location, and I knew that I had been sighted.
“Hello, my little charge!” Otriel, my guardian angel, greeted me as he alighted on the sidewalk. “And how are we doing today? Happier now that I’m here?”
I made sure to turn towards the angel so that he could see me rolling my eyes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even sure that he knew what that gesture meant. “You know, sometimes I like my own time,” I commented, talking under my breath so that the other pedestrians on the sidewalk wouldn’t see me apparently talking to myself. “Do you really have to drop in every single morning?”
Otriel blinked a couple times. “I’m your guardian angel!” he replied. “If I wasn’t here, who would protect you?”
“Protect me from what?” I shot back. “No one’s attacked me, no big heavy things have fallen on me, and you certainly don’t stop me from making stupid choices! Not much of a guardian angel!”
Now Otriel was starting to look a little hurt. Good. “But nothing bad has happened to you!” he insisted. “That wouldn’t be true if I wasn’t here! I think.”
I had to fight the urge to throw my hands up in the air. How had I managed to be stuck with the guardian angel who didn’t have a clue on how to do his job? “Plenty bad has happened to me!” I exclaimed. “Aren’t you supposed to be, like, making my world perfect or something?”
“Actually,” the angel remarked, “we tried that once.”
“Tried a perfect world. And I have to tell you, it ended up taking a lot of time, causing a ton of headaches upstairs with my bosses, and really just didn’t come together that well.”
Dammit. The angel had managed to pique my interest. “Okay,” I let on cautiously, turning into the coffee shop and joining the back of the long line that had already formed. The angel stood next to me. I never understood how people didn’t run into his big, white feathered wings, but they somehow instinctively walked around them without realizing. “What do you mean?”
Otriel smirked at me. He knew that I was curious and couldn’t stop myself from asking. “Point out something that could be fixed,” he said.
I looked around. “Okay, well, how about this? This coffee line always takes forever.”
Otriel leaned in towards me to point over my shoulder up towards the barista, a young girl currently looking flustered. “That’s Ellen. She works two jobs to put herself through college. If she was fired for a faster helper, she would experience a lot more tragedy than you’re going through waiting for your coffee.”
I shrugged off this setback. “Fine. How about that kid that was killed in the hit-and-run? It was on the news the other night. That doesn’t seem like something that should happen in a perfect world.”
The angel standing beside me twirled his fingers, and a thick manila folder appeared out of the air and fell into his hands. “Let’s see,” he commented, licking his forefinger and flipping the folder open. “Ah. Bobby Simmons. Well, first off, the man that hit him, Ernest Fitzhugh, was falling apart. If he hadn’t gotten into this accident, he would have gone on to inflict more harm throughout his life in countless other ways. And Bobby, if he had lived, would have grown bitter and resentful and ended up drunk and abusive.”
I shook my head as Otriel snapped the folder shut and it vanished from his hands, back to wherever it had originated. “You can say things like that about any tragedy, claiming that it could have been worse,” I insisted. “That doesn’t prove that you can’t have a perfect world.”
“Look, I can’t prove it without some seven-dimensional math,” Otriel said, his voice maddeningly calm. “But the higher-ups decided that, instead of making everything perfect, they’d focus on the little things.”
I quirked my eyebrows at him. “Here, I’ll show you,” the angel went on.
By this point, we had reached the front of the line. I gave my order to the girl behind the counter. “Thanks, Ellen,” I said when she handed it to me, and turned away before she could ask how I knew her name.
As I headed over to the station with cream and sugar, Otriel pointed at the cup. “No, wait a second,” he said. “Try it now. Just take a sip.”
Looking unsure, I lifted the cup up to my lips and sucked a few drops up through the plastic lid. To my amazement, it was perfectly balanced. “Hey, it’s perfect!” I exclaimed in surprise.
“There you go,” the angel replied. “Perfect world? Not feasible. But we can make sure you get a perfect cup of coffee every now and then. And is that really such a bad thing to settle for?”