Small Prayers, Not Often Granted

Alan P. Scott - Fictions

nothing anyone really wanted

At 4 a.m. she found herself under the Broadway Bridge. Angels passed by overhead. At 4:10 a.m., her special angel passed over, all unaware. A fallen angel, this one, her prayers to him unanswered more often than obligation should permit. She heard the clack-rattle of his car on the deck, saw the splash of headlights, just one more angel's passing.

She cast a small prayer upward and started looking for a place to climb, bypassing the security measures and scattered pigeon fallout. The predawn dimness gave her shelter as she started pulling herself up. Angels passed by overhead. The lights of hell respected her wishes and stayed far, far away, across the forgetful river. The climb was long but she was strong, and drew more strength from hope for an end.

Up among the girders now, she found her secret place. A cozy hollow, not so many pigeons, hidden from gray ground below and from gray-streaked heavens above. A dry, dusty blanket proved she was not the first explorer to this in-between land, but there was no newer evidence of human habitation. The sudden loud bark of a diesel overhead made it hard for her to think of the cars as angels anymore, but the dim dawnlit towers she glimpsed through various openings served to redeem the city somewhat from hell. Things balance out.

She pulled a sandwich, not too old, from her worn canvas bag. Food, a view, and out of the drizzle for a quiet nap... oh, please, don't let anything interrupt this, was her small prayer, and though even small prayers are not often granted, this one was.


Fed and rested, she descended, marking the route for her return, and found a place to seek relief, never an easy task but she persevered. She thanked the bushes - lower case - for their concealment, and regirded her loins. She crossed the river. No need for coins - the ferryman was long gone anyway - but she felt the same foreboding Orpheus must have felt as she passed over the dark and poisonous waters.

With no Eurydice to hope for, she looked back often, marking the faces of the damned souls and fallen angels making the crossing with her, each in his separate shell. She saw her own fallen angel this time, as he rode his chariot in to labor. Again, though, he did not see her. Folks on foot are invisible, unless they're in the way.

The car he drove was new to her, and she understood: there'd be no check in the borrowed box this month.


She spent her day wandering among the denizens of hell, demanding payment for not touching them, having long since passed from being able to demand payment for her touch. An unaccustomed sun came out to strike steam and odor from her garments, rendering her more untouchable.

As darkness reclaimed the darkness, towers stretching claws from their bases towards the river, she joined the flow back across. She was weary, though she had not worked by any official definition. The gray lines of that definition, rewritten, settled themselves in her skin regardless.

She completed her journey back out of hell as Orpheus had, without companion. She found a sandwich, not too old, and shooed the brambles from a spot where she could watch the lights of hell flash on and on.


At 4 a.m. she found herself under the Broadway Bridge. She cast a small prayer to the angels passing overhead, and found a place to climb.

©2002 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.

Last updated April 4, 2002.

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