Elaniel strolled out of the portal in the plane-port to a smattering of enthusiastic applause. Grinning, he gave a wave to a few of the cherubs that always fluttered about, now diving down to clap at him with their pudgy little hands.
“Thank you!” he called out to them. “It’s been a fun tour, lasted longer than I expected!”
Still smiling, accepting the occasional handshake and backslap from some of the other angels, Elaniel headed up the stairs from the plane-port, up to the offices of the debriefing seraphim. As soon as Fidel had finally given up his last breath, he’d received the normal scroll, instructing him on where to head for his debriefing.
Elaniel didn’t feel nervous in the slightest. He’d done a great job, he told himself. All things considering, he ought to earn his next rank just for this one tour, on its own.
So when he reached the office of his debriefing seraph, he kicked the door open and strolled in to drop down into the chair in front of the desk. “How are things, Remeriel?” he asked, smiling at the seraph sitting behind the desk.
Remeriel, however, didn’t smile. Instead, he glared sternly at Elaniel over a pair of half-moon glasses. Elaniel wondered why the other angel bothered with the glasses; it wasn’t as if they could be anything less than perfect, in regards to vision as well as their activities.
“You’re early, Elaniel,” he stated.
“What?” Elaniel blinked. He hadn’t expected that answer. “The guy made it to ninety! And of all people to protect, you give me Fidel Castro? For my first tour of duty? The guy should have gone to a veteran!”
“He was one of the last remaining bulwarks of communism,” Remeriel began, but Elaniel cut him off.
“And look how well that worked out,” he snapped back. “Whole thing was a disaster. Only good thing that came out of it were these cigars.”
Remeriel’s eyes almost bulged out enough to knock those silly glasses off his head as Elaniel pulled one of the cigars in question out of an inner pocket on his robe. “You brought one of those up here?”
“Would be a sin not to, I feel.” Elaniel sniffed the long, slender tube, but then started. “Oh, where are my manners? Would you care for one?”
“Definitely not,” the seraph scowled as he glared at the tube that Elaniel offered to him as if it was a live insect.
Elaniel shrugged. “No worries, I’ve got plenty.”
For a moment, it looked like Remeriel wanted to address that concern, but he swallowed the words. “Now, it seems that he died at age ninety,” he read off from the document in front of him. “And there’s already some sort of criticism being distributed about it by the humans, something about the entire Friday being blackened from his loss?”
“Er, no,” Elaniel corrected. “They’re making jokes about it happening on Black Friday.”
“This is already a day of grieving for another reason, then?”
“No, it’s not a grieving day…” Elaniel paused, reaching up to rub the bridge of his nose. “Black Friday is a shopping day.”
“Shopping,” Remeriel repeated blankly.
“Right. See, the day before is Thanksgiving, on that Thursday. On the day after, the humans go out to buy items on sale. It’s kind of a holiday in its own right, called Black Friday. It’s the day when stores start making profit. They get into the black, see?”
Elaniel could see that his words weren’t having much of an effect. “It’s a human thing,” he finally said, shrugging. “Not linked to Castro.”
“But they’re sharing it in conjunction on their electronic networks,” Remeriel repeated.
“Sure, as a joke. See, Fidel was against capitalism, and Black Friday is a big day for selling stuff.” Elaniel searched in vain for some sort of Heavenly comparison. “It’s like Satan dying on the anniversary of Jesus’s birthday. Something like that. Irony.”
“Ahh. Irony.” Remeriel clearly didn’t understand, but he knew that this idea of human ‘irony’ wasn’t something that most angels got, but could usually safely ignore. “Well, still, Castro was intended to make it another two months, so that we could establish the calendar year 2017 for-”
“He wasn’t going to make it another months,” Elaniel growled, finally feeling his patience start to slip away. “He wasn’t going to make it another two days! Even at the end, I had to pour some life force into him. People were starting to talk of witchcraft.”
Remeriel still didn’t appear convinced, but Elaniel had lost his good humor. “Look, I did my job, quite excellently,” he finished. “Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? Embargo? I got us through that, as instructed in the Book. I performed outstandingly, met every requirement of me, and I deserve credit for that excellent performance.”
“Yes, I suppose you did meet the requirements,” Remeriel finally allowed. It would be better, Elaniel thought, if his superior didn’t sound like he was having his teeth pulled, but he’d take it. “In any case, we do have another assignment for you.”
“What, already?” Elaniel started. “I was expecting to get some time to enjoy the Silver City-”
“This one is a short term job, though. We just need you through the rest of the year. There’s a lot of chatter about her going down, so we’re putting you on secondary detail.”
Elaniel considered this for a moment. Secondary detail wouldn’t be too bad; he could split the protection duties with another angel. And he wouldn’t mind a short tour, just add those last few points onto his record so he’d definitely secure a promotion at his next review. “Who is it?”
Remeriel glanced down at his notes. “Someone named Betty White. Apparently, her loss during 2016 would be catastrophically evil. We can’t have it happening.” He glanced back up. “Know her?”
Elaniel tried desperately to hide his excitement. “Maybe heard her name once or twice,” he allowed, as casually as he could manage. “I’m on it, boss.”
Remeriel watched the younger angel stroll out of his office, walking quickly. He had promise, if he could control his quick mouth, the seraph considered. But really, cigars? What sort of angel smoked cigars?