The Angel, on his journey to prevent Abraham's sacrifice of his son, speaks

by Cathy Caplan

That is why I was chosen. I know it. He thinks I can do it. I must obey fully. Never let my mind wander. What is that sound? Mud against the tires. How much further? Have I passed them? Should I be rushing forward? Maybe I should be slowing down. He said a mountain. A mountain? I don't see any mountains. Flatness. Everywhere. I've gone too far. I haven't gone far enough. He could have given me a sign post, a marker along the way. "You are on the right track". I would follow anything he says. There's something. Two women. Dancing across an empty field. Capes blowing in the breeze. The curve of her belly visible underneath her dress. Triangle of hair. If she turns slightly into the sun, I will see the outline of her thighs. Turn.

(Pause in shock)

Eyes open. Stuck open. Veins hanging down. Matted. Tangled. What is this? A reminder? His severed head on top of her head. Has he put them there to remind me? Is that what he is doing? Sending me a reminder of my failed task. "Do not fail me again." I will not fail you again.

(shouting at Judith, first softly, then loudly):

"Jewess from Hell! Jewess from Hell! Jewess from Hell! I told you to stop. You were wrong to listen to your dreams." No. Don't tell her. Don't stop. Can't confuse missions. I failed that one. Can't fail this one. Because of a woman. No. Forward. To the mountain. One foot in front of the other. Handle bars straight. He said: A mountain. A bundle of wood. A father. A son. To stop them. My job is to stop him. Watching the steel blade come close to the soft inviting flesh of his son's neck. Stop. The father's fear. Hearts beating. Together. Loudly. Stop. Stop it. Stop. I stopped her. I did. I did it. Sword raised high in the sky. I caught her before she lowered the blade. I shook my head. No. I said. She stood there suspended in midair. I shook my head. She stood still. She stared at me. "Are you a devil or an angel?" "Both" She looked at Holofernes lying on the bed, stone drunk, head flung back, Adam's apple pointing straight up to the ceiling. "Don't do it", I whispered. Judith put the sword down. Abra shrieked. "Don't hesitate now, you little idiot. You have won him. He is yours." Abra plunged forward. Grabbed the sword out of Judith's hands and cut off Holofernes head. Like cutting the head off a chicken.


To know what he will say before he utters the words. To come to him before he calls me. To listen before he speaks. "Do not fail me again". I will not fail you again. But this road, wet, muddy, with ditches. Wheels stuck in mud. Time clicking away. There's another girl. Eating her lunch. Pieces of blood and meat falling out of the side of her mouth. Lips moving up and down, up and down. Rhythmically. Teeth cutting through. The tongue twirls itself around the meat.

The smell of sex in the air. Sword, pressed by weak wrists against his strong neck. His heart beating in time with her heart. His eyes, looking into her eyes. He doesn't raise his hand. He looks into her eyes. "Will you do it?" Her eyes answer "Yes." "Then when?" "Now." "Then do it." Their hearts beating together. "Then when?" "Now." I whisper: "Don't do it." She stared at me. "Are you an angel or a devil?" "I'm an angel. Only an angel could be sent on a mission like this." Judith laid down the sword. Abra sighed. Holofernes laughed. "Go home, women. Go home to your little village." Holofernes laughed. "Women are so weak, so full of intention, but no courage to act. Here. Give me my sword. I'll show you courage." Judith gave him the sword. Holofernes sliced off his own head. "That is strength," his head said lying on the floor. "That is courage."

"Do not fail me again." I won't. I won't.

Why me? Why did you choose me, when thousands are waiting to be called. To give me a chance at redemption. He is generous. I won't fail. No. Not this time. Is that a knife glinting in the sun? Steel blade in the hot sun. Am I late already? He won't understand. Not this time. No. What explanation could I give. An unbuttoned blouse. A too thin dress. Trying to catch hold of a girl's ankle like a fish. Because I stared. Eyes open. Mouth wide. At Judith lifting her silver sword. The veins and muscles as they creased in her neck. The thin strap of her shirt bearing into the pale peach flesh. Leaning forward. Arms raised. Is she looking at me? Crash. Sword into neck. Blade stuck in neck bone. "Leave it there, Leave it there. We have to go. I was sent to stop you." "Stop me?!" She shrieked. Morning came. Soldiers surrounded the tent. "Stop me! A little late for that now, isn't it?"


Jewess from hell. Jewess from hell. Jewess from hell.

The same task. Again. Aren't you afraid I will fail? Again. That look. He gave me that look. Audience over. No more words were said. The command has been given. "You won't fail me this time." How does he know? Eyes straight ahead. Watching her wash her legs carefully in the river. Dress pulled up around her hips. Don't deviate from the path. Water circling her knees. Ringlets of water around her knees. Little pools of water. Pools of blood. Pools of vomit. Move on.

The others laughed when they heard I had been chosen. When I heard their laughter, up there, I didn't hear it. But down here, their laughter is like fuel for me. Forward. To the Mountain. Faster.