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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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AN ANGEL IN A PLANE TREE • by Sarah Hilary, 4.0 out of 5 based on 116 ratings
Posted on April 11, 2008 in Stories, Surreal
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46 Responses to “AN ANGEL IN A PLANE TREE • by Sarah Hilary”


  1. Bonnie Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 3:01 am

    Made me laugh, this did!

  2. M.Sherlock Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 3:11 am

    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

  3. rumjhum Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 3:43 am

    Oh this story’s terrific. Just loved it!

  4. Bill West Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 3:59 am

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

  5. Judy Caldwell Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 5:17 am

    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.

  6. Greta Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 5:19 am

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

  7. Oonah V Joslin Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 5:35 am

    Threaten you with a chain saw? The nerve! :)

  8. Walt Giersbach Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 6:29 am

    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?

  9. Gay Degani Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 7:04 am

    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.

  10. Resha Caner Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 7:15 am

    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!

  11. dani Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 8:52 am

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

  12. Jordan Lapp Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 9:08 am

    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.

  13. Mark Dalligan Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Great fun! The irate and the celestial.

    Cheers

    Mark

  14. Chaz Siu Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Deliciously British humor. Loved it, Sarah.

    Chaz

  15. Walt Giersbach Says:
    April 12th, 2008 at 8:34 am

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

  16. DJ Barber Says:
    April 12th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Bright, witty, and good fun!

  17. jennifer walmsley Says:
    April 12th, 2008 at 10:53 pm

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

  18. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Thanks, Bonnie, I’m glad.

  19. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:32 am

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

  20. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:32 am

    Thanks, Rumjhum!

  21. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Thanks, Bill, you’re my hero!

  22. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:34 am

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

  23. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:34 am

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

  24. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:35 am

    Ta, Oonah! Nerve is right. Blighter!

  25. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:35 am

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

  26. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:36 am

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

  27. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:36 am

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

  28. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:37 am

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

  29. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Thanks, Mark!

  30. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:38 am

    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.

  31. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:40 am

    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*

  32. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Cheers, DJ!

  33. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 14th, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Thanks, Jennifer!

  34. Critchell Bullock Says:
    April 15th, 2008 at 3:32 am

    Very smart. Another good one from Sarah Hilary

  35. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 15th, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Thank you, Critchell!

  36. Anne-Elisabeth Moutet Says:
    April 15th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    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!

  37. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 16th, 2008 at 12:14 am

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

  38. Elizabeth Wein Says:
    April 16th, 2008 at 5:56 am

    “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.

  39. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 16th, 2008 at 6:51 am

    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.

  40. Sarah Hilary Says:
    April 16th, 2008 at 6:52 am

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

  41. Carl Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Funny!

  42. Carl Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 5:16 am

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

  43. Critchell Bullock Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 8:14 am

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

  44. Sarah Hilary Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 9:04 pm

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

  45. Sarah Hilary Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    That’s the one, CB. Thanks for reading!

  46. Sarah Hilary Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks!

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