AN ANGEL IN A PLANE TREE • by Sarah Hilary

Here’s the thing and you needn’t believe a word I say, seeing as atheism’s all the rage with you people, but when they told me Ascend to a higher plane, how was I to know they didn’t mean a tree? We’re all for literal-speaking where I come from, don’t go for the softly-softly approach that’s so popular with your so-called men of the cloth. Allegory’s for wimps. You want it in black and white (especially white), you come to me.

So here I’m sat, twiddling my celestial thumbs (radiant, if you must know, nails out to here) and this bugger in a Barbour rolls up and asks what the bloody hell I think I’m playing at, sitting in his flaming tree in the middle of Winter without a stitch on.

“Well, first of all,” I point out, as you might expect, “the tree is not flaming.” I had a hand in the whole burning bush scenario and believe me, this tree isn’t remotely in that league, and secondly — here’s the rub, I reckon — who says the tree’s his, exactly?

“I paid for the bloody thing,” says he, waving a fist like a turnip (or possibly it is a turnip, hard to tell from where I’m sitting and, since you ask, yes the bark is chafing, something chronic), “this is my land, far as the eye can see.”

Quick as a flash, I’m in there with, “Depends on the eye, matey,” and that’s when things turn nasty.

“Been in my family for generations, this land!”

“Bully for you.”

“I’ve had it up to here with you ruddy Pagans!” he yells.

“Pardon me,” I say, all righteous indignation, “I am not a Pagan.”

“Well you look like a bloody Pagan, sat up there, starkers!”

When I try to tell him I am as our Lord intended, he gets even snippier. “I’ll have the council onto you! They cleared the gypos off here last month and they can bloody clear you.”

“I should like,” I demur, “to see them try.”

Patience in spades, that’s yours truly. Won’t catch me foaming at the mouth over a silly thing like the Magna Carta and who owns what around where.

“What gives you the right to sit there?” he demands and I’m glad he does because it gives me the perfect opportunity to say, serene as you please, “It’s my God-given right to plant my arse on any branch in his Creation and I’ll thank you to remember as much.”

“Thank me, will you? Come down here and say that!”

Now it may be that in Heaven an angel is no-one in particular, as that bearded old blasphemer Bernard Shaw would have us think, but down here we reckon to be treated with a little more respect than your average punter. Holier than thou and all that sort of thing, so I look this piece of work in the eye and I say, lofty as you like, “Sod off, you’re spoiling the view.”

He only goes to fetch a chainsaw, doesn’t he?

Time, I reckon, for a nifty ascension. So I say my peace to the nesting blackbirds and hibernating squirrels and what-have-you, and cut loose in a shower of gold and glitter. Shame the old bastard missed it, but I left him something to think about: his plane tree in full bloom, frothy blossom, emerald leaves–the works.

A little bit of Spring in the middle of Winter, that’s me. And anyone who says different can sling his blighted chainsaw and get stuffed.

Sarah Hilary won the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with her story, “Fall River, August 1892″³. Her story, “The Eyam Stones”, was runner-up in the Historical Contest. Both stories will be published in the Fish Anthology 2008. Sarah’s stories have been published in The Beat, Neon, Every Day Fiction, Idlewheel and the Boston Literary Magazine. Her short story, “On the line”, was published in the Daunt 2006 anthology. The Subatomic 2007 anthology features her story, “LoveFM”. She won the Litopia Contest in 2007 with “The Chaperon”. Sarah lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and young daughter.

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 average 1 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Made me laugh, this did!

  • M.Sherlock

    I love the constant personality of the character here, and i think it’s written fantastically. I also found the pagan remark especially amusing becuase everyone i live with, is pagan, so that made me laugh out loud.

    Great work as always sarah

    • Thanks, M, that’s terrific feedback. You live amongst pagans? Wow!

  • rumjhum

    Oh this story’s terrific. Just loved it!

  • Terrific writing Sarah. Loved this confrontation between the everyday and the eternal.

  • Judy Caldwell

    A delightful story to start my day. I knew angels were pluckier creatures than we’ve been led to believe. A great character, Sarah. Well done.

    • Thanks, Judy, yes I don’t buy the “sweet little angel” gig for a minute. As you guessed from this story!

  • Greta

    Loved it, Sarah! You nailed the voice. Your narrator was fresh and funny. Great job.

    • Thanks, Greta, I’m delighted you liked it so much.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Threaten you with a chain saw? The nerve! 🙂

  • Ah, you had me from the get-go, Sarah. Anytime the Sacred dukes it out with the Profane, I’m ringside. This time, I’m glad to put my money on the Angels–but who knew they had a sense of humor?

    • Thanks, Walt. I think Angelic Stand-Up is the way to go.

  • If this is the kind of angel I’d meet in heaven, I just might try and get there. Great job, as always. Strong voice, compelling concept, terrifically funny.

    • Thanks, Gay, you made my day. Good luck with the whole getting into heaven thing! Hope it’s not too much of a drag.

  • Resha Caner

    Angels are typically cast black & white. They’re either one of the good guys, or one of the bad. I’ve often wondered if they also come in shades of gray (or should I use the English spelling – grey).

    Then you go and write a story that does just that. Excellent!

    • Thank you, Resha, that’s great feedback. Grey is my favourite colour, the more shades the better.

  • FAN-tastic voice. There’s a great technique lesson here. I’d easily more read of author’s work.

    • Click on the author’s link in her bio, and you should go straight to Sarah’s website.

      Alternatively, click on the “authors” tab at the top of this page, and find “Sarah Hilary” on the list. She’s had six or seven stories published with us, and they should be listed there.

      Finally, Sarah is the author of our third Most Read story, “Lolita’s Lynch Mob”, which you can find in the Top Stories list on the right of this page.

      • Thanks, Jordan, for your tireless support and enthusiasm. I really do appreciate it.

    • Thanks, Dani, I really appreciate that vote of confidence.

  • Mark Dalligan

    Great fun! The irate and the celestial.



  • Chaz Siu

    Deliciously British humor. Loved it, Sarah.


    • Enlighten me, Chaz. What is British humor? Wry? Tongue-in-cheek? Is there, similarly, an American humor–perhaps broad slapstick?

      • Hi, Walt, I suspect the Britishness is more colloquial here than wry. We do slapstick, too, but here I was writing in a voice which I feared might be too “regional” – it’s Northern English, if you like. Manchester tart. *g*

    • Thanks, Chaz! I’ll admit I was a bit worried the humour was TOO english, and wouldn’t translate. But it looks like people are getting it just fine.

  • Bright, witty, and good fun!

  • jennifer walmsley

    A great story, Sarah. I could see one of the Money Python gang up that tree.

  • Critchell Bullock

    Very smart. Another good one from Sarah Hilary

  • Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

    I’ve liked bolshy angels since Clarence, and this one doesn’t disappoint. “A silly thing like the Magna Carta” indeed! We’ll have camels and eyes of needles next, and won’t that, too, look interesting in the Shires in winter?

    And love the literal use of “God-given”. Lovely!

    • Many thanks, Anne-Elizabeth. Yes, Clarence was a treat. Maybe my angel ought to have engineered a line of camels up the plane tree…!

  • Elizabeth Wein

    “I should like,” I demur, “to see them try.”

    The exact perfect degree of danger and brilliance and subtlety all packed into one brief sentence. It calls to mind a whole other scenario that doesn’t even exist in this brief scene, and I think that takes a lot of skill in a story of this length. You are wickedly good at envisioning these quick, bright incidents and breathing jarring life into them.

  • Thanks, Elizabeth, that has to rank as some of the best feedback I’ve ever received. I’m indebted to your thoughtfulness and beautiful choice of words with which to describe what you liked about my story.

  • Carl


  • Carl

    Funny! Won’t let me vote – wanted to give you 5 stars

    • Aw, thanks, Carl! It’s the thought that counts.

  • Critchell Bullock

    Very witty as I try to imagine the author starkers up a burning bush – flaming tree rather!