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SEARCHING – a Serial Novelle CHAPTER 4: Down

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel could have turned west toward the shelter; could have, probably should have. But he was too intoxicated by the smell of bread, by the sure knowledge that he now knew her name. Luz Maria: the light, and the mother of Christ. It was enough for him to just stand there in the wind and breathe in the world. If you asked him later—if he could remember anything—he would have told you that at that moment his life was complete. He had heard the owl and heard the voice. He had smelled the bread. But now, he had seen her, talked to her, he could almost feel her breath on his skin.

He stood there for a few minutes, his eyes toward the gray sky, his skin almost singing. He tasted the first piece of bread right in front of the store on Lake Street. Bread, even day-old, tastes better when given by the hand that is love. Coffee sweetened by a word, the hint of a smile, christens the heart. Angel would remember the taste of that food for a long time—not in his mind, but in his body.

But maybe it was his body that pointed him in the wrong direction. Maybe it was something in his feet that turned him toward the alley, the shortcut to his friend’s apartment. Bobby would let him crash that night. Bobby knew what it was like to be without a home, wondering where shelter would be found. So Angel’s feet moved him, his bread and coffee and his joy, up the alley, into the darkness.

The first blow was from a fist, the second from a hammer or club; then boots, sticks, a bat. Angel felt pain after pain after horrible pain, and then a kind of peacefulness came over him as he began to lose blood and consciousness. It was like the feeling people who drown get when they stop fighting. It was death wrapped in quietness.

The men were hooded, of course. They hid their faces and names but not their deeds. Their deed was left in the alley, unconscious and half-dead, under words that long ago had been painted on the wall: “Honor the World”. Angel lay there, and the world passed by. A police car rolled by and did not stop. Customers stopped in the beginning of the alley to light a smoke, looked up the dark passageway, and saw what they thought was another drunk. They did nothing.

Around 10:00 pm, the sky began to shed that kind of winter skin that has no set name. It was not snow, it was not rain, it wasn’t even sleet. It was a mix of all these, a mix that Minnesotans know as the beginning of sadness. Sadness and wisdom that says, “Turn inward”. It had no effect on Angel—it did not stir nor sting him—but it brought Ahmed out for his first evening walk in Minnesota weather. And it compelled Uncle Jaime as he left the back of the bakery to turn into the alley. It was as if a small but steady hand was pushing him forward.

Together they met, Jaime and Ahmed, in Spanish and Somali, in darkness and the wet skin of the winter sky. Together they bent over Angel, lifted him, and began to carry him to safety.

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