Serve and Protect

There were no walls, of course, and just a wispy suggestion of a floor. Drifting graffiti clouds wafted through the squad room. Naturally nothing dirty or egotistical. The milling angels had a regulation hairstyle and identical cream white uniforms, making them hard to differentiate.

Reverentus watched Benedictus add a holographic pine tree needle into his pine needle statue of St. Jerome. They were bored, in a God-fearing way.

Cohabiting with a human was also boring, but there were compensations. Sex was interesting, although as beings without sex organs, they missed much of the nuance. Raising children was intermittently enjoyable. Bodily functions were always pleasant. Reverentus secretly enjoyed defecation, but felt he couldn’t mention this to other guardian angels.

“Serve and protect, Benedictus. What’s your bet on when we go back out on patrol?”

“Protect and serve. Merciful God, soon I hope. I’ve done nothing but validate confessions since we ran surveillance on those two brothers. And that’s a couple eras ago.”

Reverentus nodded, understanding. He was congenitally incapable of hating paperwork, but was able to be unenthusiastic about it. His performance reviews chastised him for lack of attention to detail.

“Salve, Benedictus. I heard they disciplined you when the brother you policed died of an overdose.”

“Yeah. Not for the death, of course. Internal Affairs investigated me because he wasn’t spiritually fit and didn’t make the cut. How about you?”

“It’s gone well. I rode herd on my brother into his eighties, when he fatally self-medicated. Then a couple infant deaths, always uncomplicated, because they don’t really think, and there’s no sin to target.”

While talking, Reverentus had continued modeling a full-sized Notre Dame cathedral made from imaginary donuts, trying not to take excessive pride in its progress.

“Be hopeful, Benedictus. What else can we do?”

The shift archangel appeared and called the angelic host to order. “Serve and protect.”

“Protect and serve,” they chanted back.

“Listen up. Management failed to hit their quota this celestial orbit, despite the overtime you guys have been getting. Commissioner I Am Who Am is displeased, and has ordered mandatory adoration sessions.”

Angels never grumble, but there was a collective sigh at this announcement.

“Okay, assignments. Pietus.”


“Girl. Zimbabwe.”


The archangel droned on through several thousand names before:



“Boy, Illinois, USA.”

“God is merciful. I’m back on patrol again, Reverentus.”

“Protect and serve.” Reverentus watched as both the evergreen St. Jerome and his fellow officer vanished. He resumed building Notre Dame. It required one hundred eighty-seven million, four hundred thirty-five thousand, seven hundred and thirty-five fictive donuts, laid one at a time. After several orbits spent walling up the catacombs, his name was also called.

A baby girl, mostly white, no apparent deformities. Praise be to I Am Who Am. A nice, middle-class, dies-of-old-age-in-bed assignment.

Helena was pleasantly simple until she moved toward two orbits. As she discovered herself, Reverentus began developing ectoplasmic ulcers. It wasn’t chewing electrical cords or stealing from her brother—that was to be expected. Reverentus cajoled and nagged, but as she aged, Helena began committing moral felonies.

She lost her virginity at fourteen, despite Reverentus’ chiding, and over the next ten orbits, she had two serious relationships that ended very badly. Reverentus feared both for her soul and for his bad performance review.

When Helena took up with Roger, Reverentus saw a faint gleam of hope. Please I Am, let it only be carnality.

Helena and Roger decided to cohabitate, and Reverentus was able to quit writing summonses for carnality and just issue warnings about sex outside of wedlock.

One night, with Roger’s arm draped across Helena’s breasts, Reverentus noticed a faint ectoplasmic stirring above Roger’s head. Christmas tree needles were spiraling into a robed image with a halo.

Guardian angels were discouraged from fraternizing while on patrol, but Reverentus took this to be a needed special dispensation. “Benedictus, is that you?”

“What? Oh, Reverentus, how’s it shepherding?”

“Not well. She’s not what you think.” About the Christmas tree needle creation, he remarked, “Interesting image.”

“Like it? It’s St. Eulalia. Virgin, martyred at thirteen. She reportedly suffered thirteen tortures, including being rolled down a street in a barrel with spikes pounded into it, cutting off her breasts, X-shaped crucifixion, and decapitation.”

“Maybe it was the original X games, Benedictus. Contrition, think I’m just worried and frustrated…”

“Progress not perfection, Reverentus. Anyway, some naysayers assert Eulalia never existed. Can’t prove it by me, I’ve never met the soul. Is the image too chesty for a thirteen-year-old?”

“No, quite slender. Benedictus, is your human’s soul in good spiritual condition?”

“He’s often oblivious to my suggestions, but good-hearted. Why do you ask?”

“Helena has a really bad habit.”


“Black widow syndrome.”


“She not only loves them, Benedictus, she offs them.”

“Well, gosh. Can’t you convince her to cease and desist? She’ll be sentenced to eternal life without parole in hell.” The image started to shed pine needles as Benedictus worried.

“I’ve tried, but she’s mentally disturbed, and you know how ineffective our factory-installed consciences are with crazy.”

“How much time does Roger have?”

“Not much, maybe a couple days. She’s been making preparations.”

“Well, shucks. Not enough time to power wash his soul. But I think he’ll make it in. What about your loser woman? Contrition—overidentification with Roger.”

“She’s got too many priors for a plea bargain, but I’ll have her plead insanity so she gets in after some purgatorial hard time. Sorry your patrol gets cut short again.”

“So am I. Looks like your turn in the desk duty barrel, Reverentus. Hopefully next cycle you’ll draw a saint. Serve and protect.”

“Benedictus, did you ever think that we’re playing spiritual roulette with our humans?”


“Never mind. Protect and serve.”