The Story of Carlson the Christmas Angel

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Carlson was not a particularly happy Angel. You see, he wasn’t allowed to live in Heaven. He was a Guardian Angel, which meant that he had to hang around on Earth, taking care of his Client, Bob.

Now, Guardian Angel duty was about the most difficult job an Angel could have, even under the best of circumstances. Angels couldn’t change what their Clients said or did; they could only try to protect them from accidents. Or, more commonly, from the consequences of their actions.

Some Clients were really good people, always risking their lives to help others, and this sort of thing could keep a Guardian Angel pretty busy. Other Clients were hopelessly slow-witted or accident prone, and they needed a Guardian Angel around constantly just to keep them from getting their scarves caught in the wood chipper.

Carlson was not sure why he had been assigned to Bob, who wasn’t particularly accident prone, and who certainly wasn’t what anybody would ever call a good person. Bob liked to steal books from the public library. He liked to harass waitresses without mercy, then leave a one-cent tip. And if you ever gave Bob a Christmas gift, you were likely to get it back the next year, slightly used and usually re-wrapped in the same paper.

One night, just before Christmas, Carlson was pounding down a few nectars with his co-workers at the Angel’s Holiday Office Party. He shook his head at the angels standing around him and asked, “Why do you suppose the Boss wants me to take care of an idiot like Bob?”

“Maybe Bob has some hidden good qualities,” said Boadicia. “Perhaps he is destined to do something wonderful.”

“It’s easy for you to see the good in people, Bo,” said Trilium. “Your Client is going to be a saint someday. And mine is going to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”

“Bob swipes change from blind beggars,” said Carlson.

Fozitt shrugged sympathetically and said, “I’m sure he really needs you. Maybe he… excuse me.” Fozitt looked at her pager and said, “I have to go. My Client just decided to strike a match and check for gas leaks by the furnace.” She smiled, shrugged again, and vanished.

At that moment Carlson’s pager went off. “Oh no,” said Carlson, “Bob got in a fistfight with a Salvation Army Santa, and now a mob is about to tear him apart. I’ll be back - save me a piece of manna.” He vanished too.

When Carlson got there, Bob was surrounded by shouting men and women, holding them at bay by swinging the donation kettle at them. The Salvation Army Santa sat on the curb, his beard dangling from a white elastic cord, holding a handkerchief up to his bleeding nose.

Carlson spread his wings and glanced around, trying to decide what sort of distraction he could create to give Bob a chance to escape. Then he looked at Bob, at the bleeding Santa, and back at Bob. “I can’t take it any more,” he shouted in the general direction of Heaven. “Give me a break here, Boss!”

At that moment Carlson caught sight of an elderly woman standing quietly just outside the ring of angry people. Tears were running down her cheeks, and, being an angel and all, Carlson knew that she was Bob’s mother.

In the twenty-five years that Carlson had been on this assignment, he had never known Bob to visit his mother, to call her, or even to mention her. In fact it had never occurred to him that someone like Bob would even have a mother. Assuming human form, Carlson walked over to the woman. “Are you all right?” he asked gently.

The woman looked up at him and straightened her shoulders. “Yes,” she sniffed, “Thank you.” She nodded her head toward Bob. “Ever since he ran away from home twenty-five years ago, I’ve prayed that a Guardian Angel would watch over him and keep him safe. Now, here he is, and it looks like he just may not be worth it.” She blinked as fresh tears welled up in her eyes. “But I can’t help it. He’s my son.”

Carlson nodded slowly, then closed his eyes and waved his right hand. The crowd, the bleeding Santa, and the donation bucket all disappeared, leaving just Bob, his mother, and Carlson standing on the deserted street corner. “Go ahead,” Carlson whispered, fading from her sight and from her memory. “Talk to him.”

She stared, puzzled, at the air where she could almost hear the flutter of wings. Then, heading toward her bewildered son, she called out, “Bobby?”

Carlson hovered near the street lamp and watched them. When he saw Bob take his mother in his arms, both of them shaking with sobs, he smiled and looked up at Heaven.

“I get it now, Boss,” he said. “You should have told me that I belong to her.”

Copyright © 2007, Michael Ball
Originally Published December 24, 2007


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