Here is a short list of things that will, occasionally, appear in your basement:
-small rodents (in which case you call pest control)
-water (if you are in your basement directly following a tropical storm, and aside from creating more problems for yourself, why would you be?)
-your friends and loved ones (if there is a tornado and none of them have basements)
-Wizard of Oz re-enactments (obviously, the first and last scenes only)
-old beer bottles, cans of soup, saw horses, discarded Britney Spears albums, the naked Ken dolls you violated as a child, crayons, pipes.
Note that nowhere in this list did I mention “fallen angels.” And yet, somehow, what did I find as I shuffled downstairs last Wednesday to locate a long-expired package of Tastee Delights molten lava cake? Well, my friends, I found Fred.
Fred was sitting in my basement clothed in nothing but his heavenly undergarments, allegedly doing a jig saw puzzle.
Naturally, I screamed.
"Oh. Hey. Sorry." he said.
"WHO ARE YOU? For heaven’s sake, put your clothes on!"
"Shit, I’m sorry….. But I can’t do anything for heaven’s sake. Heaven is kinda the reason I’m here in the first place."
I thought perhaps that he might be a drug-addled serial killer, or one of those door-to-door evangelicals.
It troubled me that I couldn’t decipher one from the other.
I wondered whether to call the police, take him down from his center of gravity like we learned in Bridge Club jiu jitsu, or offer him a cup of tea.
In spite of the fact that he was nakedly in my basement, he seemed like a very nice boy.
I compromised by clearing my throat.
"Who are you and why are you in my house?"
He stood up and bowed. He bowed.
"I’m Fred." he said. "I’m in your house ‘cuz apparently your basement is like the end to this… cosmic laundry chute. Been falling for a couple weeks."
"Falling? Are you…. are you some sort of an extreme athlete?"
"Nah," he said, "Although I snow boarded for a while! It was awesome! Uh, but this time I fell from heaven."
He gestured up knowingly. All I could see were ceiling panels, even when I squinted.
"Well that’s not very modest of you." I said.
"No, I’m serious! I was one of God’s main guys and then I kinda got the axe, so… I’m here now."
I studied him for a while but he didn’t appear to be lying. He looked me square in the eye and he had a very firm handshake. I trusted him.
"So, you fell from heaven and landed in my basement?"
"How did that feel?"
"Worst part was the landing. My ass kinda hurts." he admitted.
I said, “Why don’t you sit down.”
I got him situated and offered him ambrosia or nectar, but all he wanted was a coke. I imagine most angels would be snotty about beverages but Fred was politely content with his, even though I couldn’t find the festive umbrellas I usually stick inside my guests’ drinks.
"So, Fred, if you don’t mind me asking, why did our Holy Lord in his infinite wisdom, er, fire you?"
"I didn’t sit with him at lunch." he said.
"The Lord invited you to sit at his lunch table and you refused him?!”
"I was having a great conversation with Marilyn Monroe. We were really getting somewhere, you know? And then God has to be like, “eat lunch with me!” and i’m like, dude, okay, just one second, Marilyn and I are talking here. So then God gets all pissed, and he’s like, “you never sit with me, Fred!” and I go, “God, I sat with you yesterday, man!” and he’s like, “I swear to me, Fred,” and the next thing I know I’m falling at a million miles per hour through the sky.”
"That’s…. that’s fascinating."
"Man, it really sucks. Now I’ll never get the chance to hang out with Marilyn Monroe. And Picasso promised he’d teach me how to macrame soon. I was just getting my afterlife together and it just completely combusted!"
"Fred," I said, "It seems to me that you’re feeling sorry for yourself."
"Well, that’s not productive. You need to pick your head up!"
"You need to lift yourself up by the boot straps! God asked you very nicely if you’d sit with him at lunch and now you are suffering the consequences of your misstep. But Fred, I get the sense that you have a good head on your shoulders. I really think you can overcome this minor roadblock."
"You think so?" he asked hopefully.
I said, “I know so. Just one question first?”
"What is it?"
"Out of mere curiosity, what does God usually take for lunch?"
"Bean salads, usually. He’s a vegan. Thinks it’s weird to eat his own creations."
"But… he created beans too."
"Yeah, but he said that beans don’t have feelings and we all kinda took his Word for it."
Fred and I got on astoundingly well. We even had a morning pattern worked out. I got up at my normal time (5 AM) to go running, make a hearty breakfast and dress for work. I woke Fred at eight just before I left so he could get a head start on his day. He’d been applying for jobs like the dickens, the poor guy, so he was all tuckered out by the time he got home. He staggered to bed, his breath smelling like pungent frustration (he told me that frustration smells a lot like tequila, if you’re interested) and was usually pretty rowdy by the time he stumbled home. Sometimes he screamed racial slurs or urinated in bushes. His diligent work had him loopy with exhaustion, bless his soul.
Fred even helped me solve a tiny caper of my own. Of course, it was absurd that thirty dollars would just vanish from my sock drawer. I don’t know what I was thinking, panicking that way, but luckily I had the good sense to call him in for assistance. If Fred hadn’t pointed out that there probably hadn’t been money there in the first place, well I imagine I might have done something rash like call the police!
He once said, “Mrs. Mallard, I got a feeling I was sent to take care of you. Just leave all your credit card information to me, okay? Leave your social security information on the table and then maybe we can order a pizza.”
I nodded, too emotional to speak. God had truly banished the wrong angel. Surely Fred belonged in heaven.
What shocked me the most was how closed minded the Bridge Club ladies were toward the whole situation.
"Dolores, you cannot be serious," said Geraldine, my banker friend.
"I’m very serious!" I replied. "Fred is a nice young man and he’s been a load of help to me!"
"Dolores Mallard," Francine set her cards face up on the table. "I cannot believe you! You gullible goose. You’re just letting him cheat you!"
"He’s taking advantage of the fact that you’re a sweet older woman who lives alone!"
"You must call the police. My nephew had an intruder once and let me tell you, he took their entire sound system. Cable cords and everything!”
I looked to Daphne, my usual ally in any disagreement, but she was busy studying all of Francine’s cards.
"You cheater!" Francine screeched.
"Really Dolores," said Geraldine, "I think I’d better walk you home tonight and meet this troublemaker for myself."
As we traipsed home in the dusklight, Geraldine gave me her two cents. Geraldine’s two cents were worrisome. My faith in my own judgment began to… well, waver.
"You’re saying you leave him alone while you’re at work all day, and then thirty dollars miraculously goes missing from your drawer?"
"Yes, well, but."
"And he doesn’t come home ‘til after midnight, you said?"
"Most nights. But he’s trying to-"
"Find a job? What jobs interview IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FREAKING NIGHT?"
"I will swear like a sailor if I want to! He comes home DRUNK, not EXHAUSTED. COMPLETELY INEBRIATED. Face the reality, Dolores!"
Geraldine convinced me that it would be okay to dial the police right then and there. Even I had begun to feel dubious toward Fred and his whole down-on-his-luck-angel-in-my-basement schpeel.
When we arrived at my house, there was no sign of Fred.
But there was no sign of anything missing, either. The two of us scoured every hidden money spot in the house and it was all in its rightful place. In fact, I can’t be sure but I had a slight suspicion that most of the money had doubled.
There was a note on the fridge that said, “I apologized and God took me back! Thanks for letting me crash here, I’ll be watching out for you, man.”
And when we walked outside, a bush was on fire.