Wyatt wanted a family. Like his best friend Hank.
Or at least a babezee. The catalog said that the doctors used bits of your hair to make the babezee. Your eyes, your hair color, and everything. Almost like a real baby, only better, because your babezee never grew up.
His to love, for always. Perfect.
GMO food is only the beginning.
“Have you seen my babezee catalog?” Wyatt shoved the brightly colored catalog at Hank.
Hank scowled. It was his most common expression and one that he was good at. He used his broom handle to shove the offending catalog aside. “Don’t start with that shit, Wyatt. Fake babies? Who needs that? I have enough trouble with the real thing.”
Wyatt’s finger traced the plump curve of a happy cheek. The paper felt slick and cold beneath his finger. Not at all how the babezee would feel. A babezee would be warm and soft. He could cuddle it and carry it around. “Ain’t fake.”
Hank shook the broom handle. “Just push the damn cart, Wyatt. You can look at the catalog when we take a break. We have to get this place clean after all.”
Sometimes Wyatt wished that Hank would listen more. He always seemed angry. Wyatt didn’t understand that. Hank had a perfect life. He had a good job cleaning. It was nice and quiet at night too. No people to give them trouble. When Hank went home Wanda would be there, Hank’s wife. She was pretty. Plump like the babezees. Wyatt liked her laugh. He remembered from the time he went to Hank’s barbecue party last summer. Hank had a house and a car and kids of his own. Wyatt didn’t know what he thought about the kids. They were so quick and loud. At the barbecue he couldn’t understand how Hank and Wanda kept track of them. It seemed like everywhere he had looked the kids were there running and laughing. Screaming sometimes too. He didn’t like the screams. And Wanda had a baby. A real baby that she grew in her own tummy. Hank called the baby his angel but her name was actually Martha. Wyatt thought Hank should be happy because he had so much but Hank usually complained about something.
Wyatt pushed the cart while Hank pushed the broom. Sometimes Hank let him push the broom but when he did Hank usually complained that Wyatt missed something so mostly Wyatt pushed the cart. He liked pushing the cart. He kept it neat. Everything in the right place, ready so he could hand Hank whatever he needed. Sometimes Hank called him his nurse. That made Hank laugh but Wyatt didn’t understand why.
“You still with me Wyatt? Or are you off dreaming about those damn babezees?”
Wyatt rolled up the catalog and stuffed it in his back pocket. “I’m here, Hank. Need something?”
“The fucking dust pan, thank you very much.”
Wyatt handed Hank the dust pan. “You’re welcome.”
After work Wyatt went out to the bus stop and sat on the cold metal bench. He took out the babezee catalog and looked at the pictures some more. There were all sorts of babezees in the pictures. Wyatt had asked Hank to help him understand why. Hank said no but Jilly back at the office had told him. The babezee doctors took some of your hair when you wanted a babezee. They used the hair to make the babezee match you, so it would have your eyes and hair. Jilly said it made the babezees seem real because they looked like you. Wyatt looked at all of the different babezees smiling in the pictures. Did he want a babezee to look like him? The thought made his palms sweaty and his heart race. A babezee of his very own that would look like him, that’s what he wanted.
He hugged the catalog to his chest and wished he could smell “that perfect babezee” smell. He wanted to come home and find the babezee waiting for him, happy to be fed. It seemed like a babezee would be much better than a dog which might bark or bite. Or a cat that could scratch. You couldn’t cuddle a bird.
A babezee would be the best, Wyatt thought. He had to get one. Jilly might help him. He’d ask her tomorrow.
“Jilly! I have a question.”
Jilly tapped a stack of papers on her desk. She smelled like strawberries. Jilly always smelled like strawberries but Wyatt never saw her eat any. “What is it?”
Wyatt held out the babezee catalog and Jilly groaned.
“Are you still going on about those things?”
“I want one.”
Jilly took the catalog and tossed it down on her desk. She pointed a strawberry-red fingernail at the babezees smiling on the cover. “You want one of these twisted monkey mutants? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“It isn’t a monkey,” Wyatt complained. “It’s a babezee.”
“I told you before, Wyatt. Those are chimpanzees that they’ve mucked around with. They changed stuff inside them to get rid of the hair, changed around their hands and faces. Turned them into fucking useless imitation babies only without the screaming all night. Perfect angels, they call them but I’m telling you that’s some twisted shit. They sell these things to rich broads too busy and too pure to have children themselves. Real save-the-planet types while they show off their perfectly cute mutant monkeys. Filling the maternal instinct crap. And you don’t have any maternal instincts, Wyatt. You aren’t a woman.”
“I want one,” Wyatt said stubbornly. “I need your help to order one. I don’t know what to do.”
Jilly rubbed her eyes. “Look, Wyatt. These things cost a shit-load of money.”
“I have money.”
“Come on, how much money do you have?”
Wyatt thought maybe Jilly was going to change her mind and help him. He had brought his checkbook with him. He held it out. “I write down everything I save.”
For a second she just stared at Wyatt then she snatched the checkbook out of his hand. She flipped through the pages and her eyes grew wide. She covered her mouth for a second and then let the checkbook drop onto the babezee catalog. “How the hell do you have that kind of money?”
Wyatt shrugged. “I save my money. Isn’t that good?”
Jilly laughed. “Sure, it’s fucking great. Don’t you buy stuff?”
“Only what I need,” Wyatt said.
“But you want to buy one of these babezees? It’ll clean out your savings, Wyatt. Hell, you could buy a house with what you have and as much as those things cost.”
“Really?” Wyatt hadn’t ever thought he could buy a house. He could have his own house just like Hank. Except he didn’t need a house, did he? All by himself? He shook his head. “I just want a babezee.”
“I don’t know about this, Wyatt. Why do you want one of these things?”
“I just do,” he said. It was hard to explain. He didn’t think he could make Jilly understand.
She tapped the catalog again. Outside he heard the truck breaks squeal. Hank would be coming in. “You’ll have to do better than that. They don’t sell babezees to just anyone. They do screenings.”
“They test you, Wyatt. To make sure you are the right type of person to have a babezee. They don’t want to sell to fucking pedophiles, you know?”
He wasn’t sure what she meant. “Will you help me?”
Jilly picked up the catalog and his checkbook. She shoved them at him. “No, Wyatt. It’s a bad idea. I’d be wrong not to tell you that. Save your fucking money. Forget about the babezees.”
Hank knocked on the door. “Hey man, you ready to roll?”
“Come on, Wyatt. What’s the problem, man?”
Hank had already asked that question more than once. Wyatt shook his head and pulled the next trash bag out of the wastebasket. He dropped it into the big trash bin on the cart. When he reached to get another trash bag Hank snatched the roll away.
“Tell me what the fuck is wrong, man! I can’t be going through the whole shift looking at your hang-dog face.”
The trouble was whenever Wyatt thought about what Jilly had said he felt like crying. He wasn’t supposed to cry. He knew that. Men didn’t cry. He didn’t want to start blubbering in front of Hank. Then Hank would know the truth, that he wasn’t really a man. He wasn’t going to have a wife like Wanda and a house. A babezee would be enough but Jilly had been mean. She wouldn’t help him.
“Come on Wyatt. You’re pissing me off. I don’t want to spend the whole shift with you looking like you’ve lost a winning lottery ticket.”
Wyatt pulled the catalog out of his back pocket. He held it out to Hank. Hank took the catalog, unrolled it and groaned. “Babezees? You’re still going on about these things? You know they never grow up, right?” Hank’s finger poked at the belly of a laughing babezee. “They stay like that right up until they die. Pathetic little fuckers.”
Wyatt reached for the catalog. He could feel his face burning. Hank and Jilly were the same. They didn’t understand. Hank didn’t give him the catalog back. He held it out of Wyatt’s reach and moved around the cart.
“Hank, can I please have it back?”
“You know how much these things cost? Heck, if I had that kind of money I could send one of my kids to college, not that there would be much point. You couldn’t afford to buy one of them anyway. How about we just throw this away?”
Hank dangled the catalog over the trash bin. Wyatt lunged across the cart, upsetting the toilet paper rolls but Hank kept the catalog out of reach and danced back with a laugh. Wyatt clenched his fists.
“Hank, that’s mine!”
“Bullshit. You found it in one of the office trash cans.”
“Yeah, but I found it so finders keepers. They didn’t want it.”
Hank waved the catalog. “But you can’t get one of these!”
Wyatt dug in his other pocket and pulled out the check book. “I have money.”
“Really? Let me see.”
“Give me the catalog first,” Wyatt said.
“Sure, sure.” Hank handed over the catalog and took the checkbook.
Wyatt looked at the pictures of the babezees on the front. They looked so happy. Hank and Jilly didn’t like them but that was okay. He liked them. Other people did too or there wouldn’t be this catalog. Hank whistled.
“Jeezus! You do have some dough, don’t you?”
“I told Jilly I had money,” Wyatt said. “She wouldn’t help me buy a babezee.”
“You save everything, don’t you man?”
“It’s good to save money.”
Hank nodded. “Sure it’s good, but you have to spend something now and then. Why else do this work?”
“I like my job,” Wyatt said. “I like things clean.”
“Sure, sure. You really want to blow your wad on one of these babezees, don’t you?” Hank laughed and waved the checkbook. “You won’t have all that money saved anymore.”
“I want one,” Wyatt said. He struggled to find the words. It was hard sometimes. “I want to take care of it.”
“I get it, man. You know that they don’t live long, right? Five years or so, that’s it.”
Five years! It sounded like a long time to Wyatt. He didn’t really care about the money. He saved it because that’s what he was supposed to do. Everyone said that it was good to save money. He hadn’t ever really understood why until now. Without knowing it he had been saving for a babezee.
“Wyatt? You still there?”
Hank thwacked Wyatt in the chest with the checkbook. Wyatt took the checkbook back. “I’ll help you, man. It’s some crazy shit but I’ll help you out. Saturday we’ll go over to that clinic they have.”
“It’s like a store, man. You have to answer questions and shit before they decide whether or not you are the right type of person to have one of these babezees.” Hank’s voice sounded serious. He put a hand on Wyatt’s shoulder and that made Wyatt feel better. Hank was his friend even if he did get angry a lot. “I’ll help you out there, okay?”
Impulsively Wyatt pulled Hank into a hug because he was so happy. It only lasted a second before Hank pushed him away but Wyatt thought he saw Hank smile as he turned away and picked up a broom.
“Come on man, we have cleaning to do.”
When Saturday came Wyatt was so excited that he couldn’t sit still and wait so he cleaned his apartment and dressed in his best clothes. Hank came and took him downtown. The whole way Wyatt sang along with the country western songs on Hank’s radio even when he didn’t know the words. He stared at the babezee catalog while he sang as if he was singing to all of those smiling faces, their eyes big with happiness and laughter.
At last Hank pulled to a stop in front of a building. Wyatt was first out of the truck but then he stopped, unsure of where to go. The building in front of them looked worn and dingy. It wasn’t clean. Graffiti made the walls look dirty and trash littered the parking lot. In front of them was a rusted rolling metal door like some of the work-sites had at the loading docks. It didn’t look like the sort of place where Wyatt expected to find the babezees. Hank had gotten out of the truck and came around the front jingling his keys.
“This is the clinic?” Wyatt asked.
“This is better,” Hank said. “You brought the cash like I said?”
Wyatt dug his hand into his coverall pocket and pulled out the banded stack of bills. Hank shoved his hand back to his pocket.
“Not out here! Come on. We have to get inside. Leave the dough in your pocket until I say so, okay?”
Hank walked over to the rolling door and Wyatt followed. Hank banged on the metal. After a couple seconds the metal door rolled up rattling and squealing. Two men stood inside. Scary men, Wyatt thought. They looked at Hank and then him with eyes hidden by sunglasses even though it didn’t look bright inside.
“That the buyer?” One of the men asked in a scratchy voice.
“Yeah,” Hank answered. “Stan sent us.”
The man that had spoken gestured for them to follow and headed into the building. Hank went after him and Wyatt hurried to keep up with Hank. He didn’t like these men but Hank was his friend. The other man stayed behind and lowered the door with a crashing bang behind them. It made Wyatt jump. The place was a big warehouse, Wyatt realized. He had worked in warehouses before, mostly sweeping. Usually warehouses had lots of boxes. This place had boxes but the center of the warehouse had some sort of building set up with walls made of plastic and bright lights inside. It made the whole thing glow with pretty blue light. Through the plastic Wyatt saw blurry people walking around doing things with machinery. One of the people reached into something and pulled out a small shape that kicked and wiggled. Even from here Wyatt could see that it had to be a babezee. He hadn’t pictured the clinic would look like this but it didn’t matter. There were babezees!
They stopped at a doorway in the plastic wall. The man that had met them at the door told them to wait and disappeared inside.
“I’m going to get a babezee now?” Wyatt asked.
“Sure, sure you are.” Hank put an arm around Wyatt’s shoulders. “Only the thing is, these are made by a different company than the one in your catalog so they don’t call them babezees. Companies get picky about those things, you know. Trademarks and all that shit. A friend of mine, Stan, put me onto this place. They’re doing some amazing shit here. Better than those babezees in the catalog.”
Wyatt struggled to understand all of that. “They aren’t babezees?”
“It’s the same thing,” Hank insisted. “Better even. These little fuckers are cool. Stan showed me a video. Trust me, you’ll be impressed.”
He didn’t have time to figure out what Hank meant before the man came back.
Hank nudged him to go first so Wyatt followed the man into the plastic building. It was like a maze inside. Wyatt followed the man through the narrow corridors. They walked past rooms with plastic walls but he couldn’t ever see clearly what was inside. Towards the center of the plastic building the hallway just ended in a big room. The man stopped and gestured at a man and woman in long white coats. Wyatt walked into the room with wide eyes. He ignored the people. The room was filled with small plastic beds and in each bed a babezee squirmed beneath blue and pink blankets. There had to be dozens of them. He could hear soft noises they made like giggles done in a whisper. He wanted to grab them all and give each and every one of them a big hug.
The woman stepped in front of him, blocking his view, which made him look at her instead. He’d rather look at the babezees. She had blond hair piled up on her head and bright scarlet lips. He thought she looked hungry.
“I’m Doctor Penniwell.” She stuck out her hand.
Reluctantly Wyatt took her hand and gave it a quick squeeze before letting go. She smelled like old apples, he thought. “My name is Wyatt.”
The other doctor offered his hand. “Doctor Burton. You’ve made a good choice coming here, Wyatt.”
Wyatt liked Doctor Burton a little better than Doctor Penniwell. He looked like he laughed a lot. Wyatt tried to see past the doctors. He wanted to see the babezees. “Can I see them?”
Doctor Burton put his hand on Wyatt’s elbow and guided him past Doctor Penniwell. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? These are the cutting edge. No one has pseudo-infants like these. Because we’re just starting out you have a chance to get in on the ground floor. We want to build word of mouth. Affordable pseudo-infants for the masses. We call them babimals.”
“That’s right, Wyatt. Take a look.”
Wyatt hurried over to the nearest plastic bed. He looked in and yellow eyes with a dark slit-pupil looked up at him with wonder. A tiny red mouth parted in a smile. The babimal gurgled happily and a forked tongue flicked out, tasting the air with several fast licks. Wyatt recoiled and bumped into Doctor Burton.
“That’s not a babezee!”
“No, Wyatt.” Doctor Burton walked around him and lifted the squirming thing from the bed. Tiny legs and arms kicked happily and it laughed. Doctor Burton cradled it in his arms. “I told you. This is a babimal, from our reptile line. Why don’t you try holding it?”
The babimal was cute, Wyatt thought reluctantly. He was afraid he might drop it as Doctor Burton handed him the squirming bundle. As soon as he took the babimal it snuggled up affectionately. It didn’t have any hair. There were fine scales on its head that sparkled green in the bright lights. Wyatt held the babimal in one arm and ran his hand across the babimal’s head. It felt soft and dry to the touch. The forked tongue flicked out again and tickled his neck.
Hank had come over and he peeked at the babimal’s face. “Cool, man. He has snake eyes and everything. Does it bite?”
Wyatt almost dropped the babimal. Doctor Burton quickly took it when he held it out. Doctor Burton didn’t look happy with Hank.
“No. It doesn’t bite. All of our babimals are perfectly safe. Unlike our competitor we don’t hide the origins of the babimals. They’ve taken a species with 98% the same DNA as humans and have altered it to make them even closer to humans while preventing growth and development. By all rights they should be brought up on ethical charges when you consider that their product is essentially human. With our babimals we’ve added the characteristics that we find so appealing in infants but our pseudo-infants are still clearly not human.”
Wyatt didn’t understand everything the doctor was saying but he didn’t like that babimal. He felt bad for it but the scales and tongue made him feel all icky inside. He tugged on Hank’s sleeve. “I don’t want that.”
Hank pulled away. “Sure, why don’t you look around? They have other types.”
Doctor Penniwell gestured at the beds. “Maybe one of the canine varieties would be more to your liking?”
Wyatt felt tears pricking at his eyes. He didn’t like this. He thought about the babezees. That’s what he had wanted. The babimal Doctor Burton held flicked its tongue again and Wyatt backed away. He wanted to go home. Go home and wrap his afghan around his shoulders and eat ice cream.
“Let’s look,” Hank said. “I went to all this fucking effort to do something for you and bring you down here, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” Wyatt said miserably. He could tell Hank wasn’t happy.
“Great, then let’s look.”
Wyatt didn’t know what else to do so he followed Hank away from the doctors. On each side there were babimals in the plastic beds. At first they looked a lot like that first one but then they changed. The next group had fine hair covering their plump faces and long floppy ears. Hank reached down to pick one up and it jumped right up into his arms. Wyatt took a nervous step back. It had jumped! It snuggled up to Hank and then turned its head to look at him. The babimal had pink eyes, floppy ears and the little button nose twitched and wiggled. Wyatt laughed. It looked like a bunny, he realized.
“You like that?” Hank asked.
The bunny babimal kicked its legs and Hank had to struggle to hold onto it. He laughed and put it gently back down into the plastic bed. “Wow, it has strong legs. How about that one?”
The idea of it jumping made Wyatt nervous. “I don’t know.”
Hank rubbed his eyes. “Fine, Mr. Picky. Let’s look some more.”
All the babimals were cute, Wyatt thought. They did remind him of the babezees but they also made him nervous. There was a doggie babimal with big eyes and dark hair on its head but it had a tongue that hung out of its mouth when it panted and a tail that wagged very fast. The kitty babimal was covered in fine fur and purred when Hank made him pet it but it didn’t laugh or giggle. Plus it had sharp fingernails. He could already see how it had torn up the blankets in the bed. At least the doctors didn’t follow them around. The more Wyatt saw the more he kept thinking about babezees. Hank started to get angry.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? All you have to do is pick one out, we pay and you get to go home with it. No screenings, no tests, no waiting. These are cool. Didn’t you see that one that looked like a living teddy bear? Jeezus, my girls would kill for something like that.”
Wyatt hung his head and tried hard not to cry. He didn’t want Hank to be mad but he didn’t like the babimals. They all looked weird even if they were cute.
“Come on,” Hank snapped. “We haven’t seen these over here.”
Wyatt followed because he didn’t know what else to do. He couldn’t run away because that would make Hank more mad and he didn’t know if he could find a way out of the plastic building. The doctors hadn’t followed them but they were standing across the room watching.
“Holy shit,” Hank shouted. “Wyatt, you’ve got to see this.”
Wyatt looked up. Hank was holding a baby angel.
It took his breath away. Pink arms waved above the blanket but behind the arms white wings beat rapidly. A spray of soft white feathers covered her head and framed the smiling face. Her eyes were cloudy gray. She was beautiful. Wyatt reached out to take her from Hank. The angel came to him with a little giggle that made Wyatt laugh, she sounded so happy. As soon as he took her the wings settled down brushed gently against his hands. He held her close and the tiny arms went around his neck. Wyatt inhaled and she smelled of summer breezes. She cooed softly. He thought for a second of the babezees and found that they couldn’t compare in his mind. He remembered Hank’s baby, the one he called his angel, all red-faced and screaming. His angel was perfect.
Hank laughed. “Yeah, I guess that’s the one?”
He felt Hank take his arm and followed blindly, trusting Hank to lead him out but he only had eyes for his angel.
“You’ve made an excellent choice, Wyatt,” Doctor Burton said. “The Cherub is our most advanced babimal yet. Very complicated to make. Unfortunately that also means it is also the most expensive.”
“I have money.” Wyatt carefully held his angel with one arm while he pulled out the bundles of cash and handed them to Hank. He stroked his angel’s wings and smiled.
Hank split one of the bundles and put half in his pocket. He gave the rest to Doctor Burton who handed it to Doctor Penniwell. “Thanks, doc.”
Wyatt looked at the three of them smiling and then at the pocket where Hank had put the cash. Hank noticed him looking and scowled.
“My finder’s fee,” he snapped. “Let’s get out of here.”
Doctor Penniwell held out a thin magazine with pictures of more angels on the cover. “This has all of the information you need to care for the cherub.”
Hank grabbed the magazine but the doctor didn’t let go. Her expression hardened. “You realize, of course, that we do not offer refunds. Your friend’s purchase is final. And any estimate of the lifespan of the babimal is simply that, an estimate. Until we see several more generations we can’t be sure how long they will live. And, just in case you have any ideas, all babimals sold are born sterile and can’t be bred. Any reverse engineering or cloning is strictly prohibited.”
Hank snatched the magazine away. “Yeah, right. Thanks doc. Come on Wyatt.”
It was all confusing but he wanted to see the magazine and he had his angel so he followed Hank. Somehow Hank seemed to know how to get out of the plastic building because he made his way through the corridors without having to ask for directions. Hank was good at that sort of thing. They left the plastic building and entered the warehouse. It was colder so Wyatt made sure his angel was covered with the blanket. They went to the rolling metal door and one of the men there lifted it up. His angel clung to him tighter as it rattled and clanked. Wyatt stroked her head and followed Hank out to the car.
Wyatt was surprised when Hank said they were home. He managed to look away from Angel’s beautiful gray eyes and saw his apartment building outside. Wyatt tickled Angel’s belly with one finger. Her face scrunched up and she giggled happily while her little wings fluttered.
“We’re home,” Wyatt whispered.
Hank shoved the magazine at Wyatt. “Get the fuck out already before you make me sick.”
Wyatt didn’t know why Hank was angry but he was too happy to worry about it. “Thank you Hank.”
“Come on, man. Wanda’s gonna be pissed I’ve taken this long already. Get out.”
Wyatt picked up Angel, the magazine and got out of the truck. Hank took off as soon as the door closed. Wyatt turned and pointed up the stairs. “That’s home, up there. Come on.”
He’d just started up the stairs when he heard a shout behind him. Wyatt stopped and looked back. Uh oh, Mr. Travis the landlord was coming across the parking lot waving his hand. Mr. Travis wore a black suit which hung loose on his tall frame. Wyatt waited with Angel.
“Wyatt, what’ve you got there? Is that a baby?”
“No, Mr. Travis.”
Mr. Travis tugged on his suit jacket. “Looks like a baby to me.”
Just then Angel slipped her wings out from under the blanket and flapped them a couple times. Mr. Travis took a step back.
“What is it?”
Wyatt beamed and turned Angel around so Mr. Travis could see her. She cooed and flapped her wings. “This is Angel.”
“That’s a cherub!”
He remembered the doctor using that word back at the warehouse. “That’s right. The doctor said she was.”
Mr. Travis crossed himself and took another step back. He pointed at Angel. “That is a blasphemy! I won’t tolerate this. Bad enough I’ve had to put up with you but this is it. You’re going to have to move out.”
Wyatt held Angel close and marveled at how light she was in her arms. He didn’t understand Mr. Travis. He stroked the soft feathers covering her head. Move out? He couldn’t move out. He lived here. If he moved out where would he go? He kissed the top of Angel’s head, hot against his lips even through feathers smelling of sunshine and dandelion puffs. Her tiny arms reached around his neck and then her wings stretched out and fanned gently in the breeze. When at last he looked up Mr. Travis was halfway across the parking lot, chasing his shadow.
Maybe Mr. Travis hadn’t meant it, Wyatt decided. He took Angel upstairs to his home.
The next day at work he showed the magazine to Jilly. “I need help, Jilly.”
“Ooh, now I like these. What cuties! Much better than those fucking monkeys.” Jilly flipped through the magazine then tossed it back towards him onto the counter. “But you’d better forget it. Save your money for something that you actually need.”
Wyatt picked up the magazine and held it out to her again. “Please Jilly. I need to know how to feed my Angel. She isn’t eating anything.”
“Wait a minute. What the fuck are you talking about? Your angel?”
“Hank helped me find her,” Wyatt said. “We were going to go to the clinic but then we went to the warehouse and that’s where I found my angel. But she isn’t eating. Please help me.”
Jilly took the magazine. “Hank helped you, did he?”
“Yes, Hank’s my friend.”
“That piece of shit isn’t your friend,” Jilly said. “I’ll look at the magazine. Go do your job. After work I’ll take you home and we’ll see about this Angel of yours.”
“Thank you!” Wyatt wanted to hug Jilly but she was behind the counter.
“Get out my sight,” Jilly said.
Hank took off with his tires squealing. Jilly waved the magazine at him. “Yeah, get out of here, you piece of shit!”
Wyatt tried hard not to cry. Hank had been angry all day at work. Whenever Wyatt tried to ask Hank about Angel Hank had told Wyatt to shut the fuck up and push the cart. Jilly touched his arm. “Don’t worry about him, Wyatt. Come on. I’ve got my rust-bucket over here.”
Wyatt held the magazine on the way. Jilly’s car smelled like strawberries too. She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. “See, you need to get baby food. That’s the thing. It says there that she can’t eat solid food so you have to get baby food.”
“And plenty of water. She has to eat every few hours, Wyatt. You just left her at home?”
Wyatt moaned and clenched the magazine. “I didn’t know!”
“Hey! Cut that out. Look, we’ll get the food and go to your place. It’s only been a day, right? Don’t worry.”
At the grocery store Wyatt gave his checkbook to Jilly. She looked at it and her eyes got wide. “What happened to all your money?”
“Hank said to get cash. For my Angel.”
Wyatt stepped back. The grocery store clerk was staring at them both. Jilly shook her head and handed him back the checkbook. “I wasn’t talking about you Wyatt. Hank is the asshole. He cleaned you out, you understand? I’ll buy the food. It’ll get you through until pay day.”
Jilly used a card in the machine to pay for the food. That looked easy, Wyatt thought. Easier than writing a check. Jilly didn’t want to show him the card. They left the store and she drove fast on the way home. Faster even than Hank drove. It was scary but Wyatt didn’t mind. He wanted to get home to Angel.
At the apartment Mr. Travis was putting a piece of paper on his door. Jilly grabbed his arm and tore the paper off the door. “What the hell is this? An eviction notice? You can’t do that!”
Mr. Travis pulled away and ran a hand down his sleeve. “I can too. No pets and no children. It says so right in the lease. I don’t know which that abomination is but it’s one or the other, or maybe both. Either way he is out of here in twenty days.”
Mr. Travis hurried off down the stairs. Jilly handed Wyatt the paper. “What a shit hole. I’ll bet you’ve never been late on the rent once, right?”
“I pay my rent,” Wyatt said.
Jilly gestured at the door. “Come on. Let’s get inside.”
Wyatt unlocked the door while Jilly held the groceries and they went inside. Jilly rubbed her arms. “It’s freezing in here, Wyatt. Don’t you have heat?”
“I turn it off when I leave.” Wyatt turned on the light in the living room. “Angel? I’m home.”
He didn’t hear any answering laugh from her cardboard box. Jilly set down the groceries. She was looking at the box. “Did you leave her in there?”
“I built a nest for her,” Wyatt said.
“Ah, shit, Wyatt. You’re supposed to keep the place warm.”
“I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
Jilly rubbed her mouth. “Fuck it.”
She crossed the room to the box and looked inside. It was a big box. He’d taken the top off and piled pillows inside with her blanket and his teddy bear. Wyatt followed her and looked inside. Angel lay at the bottom on her side, wrapped around the bear with the blanket across her legs. Her wing was stretched out along her body.
“Oh Wyatt,” Jilly said. “She’s beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so wonderful.”
Wyatt reached down and slid his hands beneath her small body. She felt cool to the touch and when he lifted her she felt as limp as his teddy bear. He felt scared all of a sudden and it was hard to breath.
“Ah fuck, Wyatt,” Jilly said.
Wyatt hugged Angel to his chest and felt tears stinging his eyes. Angel stirred and her soft face pressed against his neck. Her wings fluttered.
Jilly laughed. “She isn’t dead! Come on, Wyatt! Let’s get this place warmed up and get some food in her.”
Wyatt held Angel while Jilly turned on the heaters and got the baby food out. They tried the banana food first and Angel liked it. Her dainty mouth took tiny little bits of the banana. As the apartment warmed she moved more and chirped happily with each bit of the food. In no time at all she’d eaten all of the banana in the little jar. She lay in his arms and cooed at him. He tickled her tummy and she laughed. Wyatt looked up from Angel and saw Jilly watching. He almost didn’t recognize her with a smile on her face. He lifted Angel towards her.
“Do you want to hold her, Jilly?”
Jilly laughed. “Okay. Sure, Wyatt.”
She took Angel and rocked her gently. She laughed when Angel fanned her wings. Jilly looked up at Wyatt and then he saw her look at the paper Mr. Travis had left on the door.
“You’re going to need a place to live,” Jilly said. “So maybe it’d be okay if you stayed with me.”
Jilly stroked Angel’s feathers. “Well, it makes sense. I can help with the little one. Heck, I could keep her with me while you’re out cleaning. She has to be fed every few hours. It’ll be easier with two people looking after her. What do you say?”
Wyatt got up and came over to Jilly. He hugged her. “Yes! Thank you Jilly!”
She shrugged. “Heck, it’ll be nice to have someone else around I guess. We’ll figure things out, for all of us. Whatever else those bastards are doing they’ve created a miracle here with this little one.”
Angel looked at both of them and giggled happily. Wyatt ran a finger over her feathers. His angel and his friend Jilly. He couldn’t remember being happier.
This story is the 66th weekly short story release, written way back in July 2007. Eventually I’ll do a new standalone e-book and print release when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the stories. In the meantime I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new e-book and print versions and at that point I’ll take the story down.
If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Check back next Monday for another story. Next up is my story Space Lot.