How to Forget by Owen Smith

Paul and I were out looking for conkers when we found the angel. We didn’t know it was an angel at first; we just saw a load of feathers on the ground and assumed that a bird had been eaten, but we followed them to the big crater which was full of the angel.

‘I must have fallen,’ he said, when we helped him out of his hole. ‘Can you help me get back up, please?’

I’m ten and Paul’s eleven, so I let him do it. When he’d helped the angel to his feet Paul stood back, and the angel looked at him expectantly.

‘Up?’ he said, pointing to the sky. ‘I need to get home before I forget.’

‘Forget what?’ said Paul.

‘God,’ said the angel.

‘How do we do that?’ I said. Paul shot me a dark look, because he wanted to do the talking.

‘Pray.’

Well, neither of us had ever been to Sunday school or anything, but we did say prayers in the morning at school so we said a few of them, and I sang a bit of a hymn (though I forgot most of the words and had to fill in with a bit of Rihanna). The angel spread his wings and floated serenely up to about treetop height, but by then we’d run out of prayers so he came crashing back down again with a crunch.

‘Sorry,’ I said, and Paul gave me another look. Paul likes to feel important, so I stood back and let him talk.

‘We could take you to church?’ he suggested.

We had to take him home first to get him some clothes, because the white sheet that was wound round his body didn’t look like it would go down too well in church. My mum got one of my dad’s old suits out, and as she knows the vicar she arranged for the angel to do a speech in church the next morning, which was Sunday. Mum said he could stay at our house for the night and Paul looked a bit angry at that, but Paul lives in a block of flats which we all agreed wouldn’t be suitable for an angel who wanted to get back to heaven.

‘I can feel myself forgetting,’ said the angel, looking sadly at his pudding, which had treacle on top and everything.

‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘There’s loads of people at church and they’re much better at prayers than us.’

***

The church was three-quarters full when we arrived the next day, and I sat fidgeting in my pew while we waited for the angel to make his speech. Paul arrived late and had to squeeze past about fifty people to get to me, and some of them gave him the sort of looks he normally gave me.

‘Friends,’ said the angel, after the vicar had vaguely introduced him. ‘I need you to believe.’
I think most people thought it was some sort of a play because I heard someone in the row in front of me say the wings were well made, but they all listened politely and then went into prayer when they were told to. I kept my eyes open and so got to see the angel as he went outside, already walking a little above the ground, and for a while I guessed it was working because I could see the sunlight beaming through the windows and hear a distant choir singing, but then there was a loud crunch.

‘We’d better go and get him,’ I said to Paul.

Paul gave me another of his looks and hit me on the arm, then we scrambled over the churchgoers and went and found the angel, sitting in the middle of a circle of feathers.

‘Your wings are looking a bit manky,’ said Paul.

The angel looked at his wings and nodded sadly.

‘There’s not enough belief left here,’ he said. ‘You’ve all forgotten too.’

‘Maybe you should remind people, then,’ I said, and Paul hit me really hard on the arm.

‘Maybe,’ said the angel, and sat picking at his remaining feathers while Paul and I gave each other dead arms and legs. Paul won, but I got him a good one on the knee and he looked like he was going to cry for a while after.

Getting into television is really hard, my dad says, unless you know the right people. My dad knows loads of people and I guess some of them were the right ones, because soon we were getting the angel ready for his first appearance on a special channel, all about God.

‘This has to work,’ I said. ‘If you get everyone who watches telly to pray, you’re bound to get back home.’

‘Your wings are all gone now,’ said Paul, sulkily. It’s not my fault his dad doesn’t work in television. I don’t think he works at all, but mum says I shouldn’t talk about that because it’s rude.

The angel looked at his wings and screwed up his brow as though trying to recall something, but then dad came in and said he looked great and did he remember what we was going to say and the car’s outside quick quick quick. Dad gets a bit excited when it’s to do with television. Mum says it’s because he’s dramatic, but she gets excited too. It’s nice that so many people care about the angel, and soon lots more will, hopefully.

He’s had his own slot on the God Channel for over a month now and he still hasn’t gotten back home yet. I asked him why not and he looked a bit confused, then he said it’s because he’s got too much on with organising next week’s prayer schedule to try another flight just yet. Maybe next month. Maybe.

So I suppose that’s my good deed over and done with. Mr Angel, as he calls himself now, is doing lots of good spreading the word of the Lord, and lots of people are praying and not forgetting whatever it was they weren’t meant to forget. It’s a shame that he didn’t get back up to Heaven but maybe he’s better off down here, looking after the rest of us. Dad seems to think so, anyway. Paul doesn’t, but I’m not friends with him anymore. I forget why not.


Owen Smith is 39 years old enough to know better, and divides his time between Wales, England, India and the strange worlds that he invents for himself (depending on where it’s raining least at the time).