Michael Cocchiarale

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The Angel of Death Victorious

“He must be a hoarder,” Chaela said, finger falling from the wing of the green-tinged angel.


She blinked. “God. You know, the Father?”

Gabby smiled. The church had gotten one thing right: only a man could have caused so much pain.

“How’s he have room up there—for all the souls? And all the events, the memories everybody ever had.”

Gabby imagined her sister’s soul, dangling from a jammed drawer in a room bursting with all the heartaches and joys of the dead. And the Creator, bloated on a love seat, thumbing food stains on his muscleman tee.

“God must be super sad.”

She pictured another shipment of souls spewing across the floor. “I think the whole thing just got away from him.”

The angel had been crying black tears long before Gabby’s mother took her and her sister to this cemetery years ago. Once, they climbed the Garfield Memorial to look at the lake. “You can’t see the end of it,” her mother had said. ‘And this one’s just the smallest of the five. Imagine your life after death with God.” She smiled, stroked their heads. This was the best Mom could offer for comfort.

“You think she maybe misses us?”

Gabby let that go. Nodding at the angel, she said, “Look at this sword.”

“Actually, it’s a torch upside down.”

The deliberate snuffing of the flame. Chaela knew what Gabby wouldn’t say aloud.

“Ready?” she asked.

Chaela sniffed, nodded.

At the car, Gabby felt the first damp plinks of real fear. Her sister was dead. Mom, too, and Dad more or less. Already, her daughter was eight. Soon to be nine. Then ten. Past and future pained around them. She could almost see thick drops strike and glisten, before sneaking like stones into the soft, insatiable soil.


Dad could not get enough of Rosie, the easy-going nutritionist who, following a splashy afternoon at the lake, squeezed our shoulders and said, “Mom wants to cook for you two.”

After a recent scare, Dad had transformed himself into a health food nut. He cooked with measuring cups. “Ten portions of fruits and vegetables a day!” he’d say when I turned my nose up at the raw pepper slices grinning on my plate. He knew what he was in for with Rosie’s Mom; still, he said, “Sure!”


Dad said, “A serving size of pasta is one ounce.”

Rosie’s mother tonged a steaming pile of noodles onto his plate. “Questa è un’oncia!”

We laughed. Dad, nodded, took a breath, and started twirling. When he pushed the empty plate away, Rosie, clasping her hands, said, “My hero!” He leaned into her arms.

Rosie’s mother smiled, waving a fork back and forth. “You two, I like.”

‘Like’ left me wanting. I was head-over-heels in love.


Rosie’s mom thumbed the Bible, finding what she wanted. Psalms: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Dad said, “Food for the soul!”

Rosie rolling eyes was a present all for me.


We were stabbing salads by the river when Dad broke the news.

Through tears, I tried to make things light. “It was all that pasta, right?”

His smile was distracted, obligatory. “Sometimes, well, we just figure out what’s not good for us.”

“But you’re crazy about her!” I remembered Rosie’s smile, her hand on mine, the way she soothed adolescent pains with tender eyes. Emptiness consumed me—worse than when I’d watched my mother go.

Dad opened his mouth. I waited, but he just sat still, dead-eyed, making a steady diet of the breeze.

Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two story collections—Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, Fiction Kitchen Berlin, The Disappointed Housewife, The Wild Word, and Heart of Flesh.

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Photo Credit: “Angel” by uncoolbob, Flickr.com.

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