On a Wing and a Prayer

(anthology coming end of July!)

An anthology of gargoyle tales.Craig listened to the argument raging inside the house with an increasing sense of dismay. He was worried about Beatrix. Nothing had been thrown yet—well, nothing would be, at least Bea wouldn’t throw anything because Bea wasn’t that kind of girl. She deserved a much better boyfriend than that lowlife Jerry, who was a thrower and a breaker, not just a yeller. So far, though, he hadn’t thrown or broken Bea.

Not that Craig could do anything about it if Jerry did decide to hurt Bea or even break something. If he could move—if he could fly—he could warn her, or go for help, or distract Jerry. He could protect her. Gargoyles didn’t have much use—other than decorative—unless they could protect. Gargoyles on cathedrals protected churchgoers from bad spirits. He was just a garden gargoyle sitting on the deck, but he could protect Bea’s garden—and Bea—a lot better if he could fly.

But he couldn’t.

“I want you to move out, Jerry,” Bea said now. “And I want you to leave right now. Take your stuff and go.” Her voice was controlled, but Craig could hear the tension in it. He didn’t really want to hear anything, but they were in the kitchen, in the back of the house, and Craig, from the backyard, really didn’t have much choice.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Jerry’s baritone voice throbbed with intensity. Craig thought he might split in two just from the vibrations.

“First, it was that other woman—”

“I told you about that! I explained it! You always take everything so seriously! She meant nothing to me! She—”

“And now I find out you’re dealing pot.”

Craig inhaled sharply. Silence reigned in the kitchen momentarily, too.

“Who told you that?”

“No one had to tell me.” Bea’s voice had changed. She must be walking—pacing around the kitchen. When she spoke again, her voice was clear. Challenging.

“I’m not stupid, Jerry. Maybe you even got into it by accident. You’re a lawyer. You work with people who have drug connections. I don’t know. But I was cleaning—”

“Snooping!”

“—Cleaning out our closet, and I found, well, not that much pot, but the scale and the records and the baggies—and Jerry, you’re a lawyer. This could ruin your career. And I don’t want to be mixed up in it. It’s dangerous and illegal, and I’ve had enough. No more. We’re through. I want you to go.”

“When did you get so sanctimonious?”

Craig heard a door slam, but not the front door. Jerry must be banging around the house. If he would just leave and not hurt Bea or break any of Bea’s things, that would be good. Jerry was an awful person; Bea didn’t even know how bad. He didn’t just deal pot, either. And he was about to get fired from his job.

Craig didn’t want to know those things. But he couldn’t help knowing, with as much time as he spent on the back deck, right under the windows. And he didn’t know how to tell Bea just how awful Jerry was.

A minute later, Bea came out the back door and sat down next to him on the deck steps that led to the yard. She was crying. Her shoulders sagged. She looked so sad, it made Craig furious. Jerry was an idiot. A brute and an idiot.

“Don’t cry, Bea,” he said, knowing even as he said it that she couldn’t hear him. “He’s not worth your time.”

Upstairs, Jerry was stomping around, maybe packing a bag. Craig hoped so. Then he heard a tremendous crash. Bea looked up, startled, and then her expression turned to one of anguish. Craig knew what that meant. Jerry had already destroyed some of Bea’s favorite possessions. Nobody wanted to be tied to things, but Jerry broke Bea’s stuff—the stuff she’d inherited from her grandmother—just to be mean. Now he was doing it again.

“He’s dangerous,” Craig said. “You should call the cops.”

“I just want him to go,” Bea said, reaching out and stroking Craig’s back, between his wings, right where he liked it. “I won’t mind so much if he just goes.”

“Change the locks right away,” Craig said.

“First thing, I’m going to change the locks.” Sniffing, Bea got up and walked around the yard, looking things over. Bea was a great gardener. She put out a little water fountain for the birds and butterflies, and she was so gentle with the plants. The lavender was doing particularly well, she had to be pleased with that. And that bright pink stuff, whatever it was. The hummingbirds came every day and hovered there. They were so much fun to watch.

Craig heard footsteps stomping down the steps, and Jerry came out onto the deck.

“You’ll be sorry, bitch,” he said. “And I busted your grandmother’s clock. Oops.”

Bea looked as if she’d been slapped.

“She never liked you,” she said finally when she got her voice. “I should have listened to her.”

Jerry snorted. Then he reached down and picked up Craig.

“No, no, no!” Craig shouted. He wasn’t that big, maybe a foot tall and a little longer than that, and like most garden gargoyles, he could afford to lose a few pounds. Their weight made them seem sturdy, but in fact they broke fairly easily. Many also looked mean, and Craig had those short wings and long teeth, but he wasn’t that tough. He couldn’t bite and he couldn’t fly. If Jerry broke him, he’d never be the same again, even if Bea used Super Glue and patched him most carefully. He’d fall apart in the next rain.

“Stop throwing stuff!” Bea yelled at the same time that Craig shrieked “Don’t throw me!”

But of course Jerry did throw him, this time against the garden fence. The force was tremendous. Craig smacked against the wooden slats and then fell into the soft bed of nasturtiums.

Was he hurt? He thought hard, concentrating on his parts. Feet, check. Legs, okay. Tail, intact. Back, fine. Neck, good. Ears, all right. Maybe a chipped wing. Not serious.

No worries, then. He couldn’t fly anyway, so if he lost a bit of wing, no big. If he’d lost a leg, though—Craig didn’t want to think about it. He couldn’t stand without a leg, and Bea would probably donate him to the thrift shop. Craig had heard stories about what happened to garden gargoyles that got donated to thrift stores.

He breathed a sigh of relief.

But Jerry’s maliciousness had pushed Bea to her limit.

“Get out, get out, get out!” She pushed Jerry down the garden path on the side of the yard, toward the six-foot gate that led to the front of the house. She shoved and jabbed and finally Jerry was through the gate. Bea slammed it behind him and locked it.

“Get away from here and stay away!” she yelled.

“Bitch!” Jerry roared back, but then Craig heard him stomping toward the street and felt a little better. Maybe that would be the end of Jerry.

Bea scrubbed her sleeve over her face for a second. And then she turned back to the yard.

“Craig, where are you?” she said and then waded into the nasturtiums to find him.

“Over here!” No way could a human person hear a stone garden gargoyle, no matter how much effort he put into it. But she’d find him nonetheless.

“There you are,” she said, picking him up. She rubbed his back, feeling his wings. He loved that part.

Bea sighed and carried him back to the deck, putting him back on the step where he always kept guard.

“Just a little chip in your wing,” she said. “Not too bad. I guess I’ll go see what he did to my clock.”

And with that she left him and went back into the house.

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