PENITENT • by David A. Gray

“I’m telling you, there was nothing in my cornfield last night except corn, and this morning there was the angel, sitting up on top of her pedestal like an oversized canary on a marble perch, looking all mopey.”

“So, Mister Jacobsen, are you telling me and all the viewers at home, that the 30-foot plinth we see sprouting from the middle of your field, was not built by you as a prank? And that the ‘angel’ on top is real?”

“A prank? The joke would be on me, all these damn fools showing up and trampling my crop, not to mention you TV people and your trucks churning up my yard!”

“Did you go and speak to the ‘angel’, when you saw it?”

“I went over there and shouted up at her, ‘What the hell are you doing in my field?’ is what I did. Then I apologized for saying ‘hell’ and asked again, more politely, in case she really was an angel…”

“And what did she say? Because she’s refused to answer any questions since, has she not?”

“She looked around with those sad eyes, fluttered her wings a little, then she said three words.”

“What were those three words, Mister Jacobsen?”

“‘Penance. Tell people’. And so I did, and that’s how all these folks started arriving.”


“Ma’am, Liz Bowles, from CBN here. Can you tell the viewers at home your name, where you’re from, and why you’re kneeling in the mud in front of a marble tower in a field in upstate New York, yelling?”

“I surely can. I’m Claudette Larson, and I drove here from Pennyslvania. The angel came to listen to our sins being confessed. That’s why she looks so sad. She’s forgiving us.”

“You’ve been going into a lot of personal detail, Claudette, very loudly.”

“Well, I have to shout over a lot of folks, don’t I? There must be a hundred people all doing the same. I’m just glad I got here early, so she can hear about all my bad deeds.”

“Thanks so much, Claudette. As viewers can see over my shoulder, local roads are now clogged with new arrivals, and helicopters have started to land. We’re going to walk to that one, there, if the camera can show you … the military one.”


“Mister Jacobsen, you’ve not done too badly in the last month, from what is now known all over the world as ‘The Calicoon Angel’. What do you think of all of the fuss?”

“Well, Liz, after those fools in their helicopters wrecked my cornfield, I got some lawyers. Once the feds realized nobody can go closer than five feet, and the angel wasn’t about to come down or talk to them, they kind of lost interest. So I put those fences put up and started to sell tickets.”

“And don’t you think that’s contrary to the message the ‘angel’ might be here to teach people?”

“She landed in American: if she’d wanted to land somewhere socialist she should have picked France. Anyway, look at all the good I’m allowing her to do.”

“The ‘good’, Mr Jacobsen?”

“See how happy all the penitents in the exit line are, Liz. It’s like they’re walking on air. The angel soaked up all their confessions.”


“Mr Jacobsen, you saw what happened last night. Can you describe to the viewers what happened? And why there are tens of thousands of hysterical people here, demanding to know where the angel has gone?”

“Well, Liz, I was closing up for the night, as usual, so my people can clear away the mess and the offerings and the candles and suchlike, when I heard her.”

“The angel?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I know she hasn’t said a word since the day she arrived, no matter how much people begged, threatened or coaxed. Well, I looked up and she was standing, looking at the sky, with her hands out.”

“And she was speaking?”

“She was shouting, more than speaking. Saying, ‘I have listened to a million of them, now. I have heard their tawdry confessions and self-serving whining! Please let it be enough” Then she cocked her head to one side, like she was listening.”

“Then what, Mister Jacobsen?”

“Then she nodded, and said ‘Thank you,’ and spread those big wings and was up and away. She shouted joyfully as she vanished, ‘My penance is done.’”

David A. Gray is exiled from his native Scotland, and lives in NYC, where he works on magazines. His short fiction has been accepted by Abyss and Apex, James Gunn’s Ad Astra, Starship Sofa, Every Day Fiction and others. His debut novel, Moonflowers, came out in 2019 to some acclaim and hardly any sales.

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