From the BlogMeet Ron

The Second Angel

AA Grapevine
December 1953
The Second Angel
DID you ever hear the story of the second angel?

A man dreamed that he died. He found himself walking up a wide, richly carpeted stairway, so wide that the extent of its width was lost in fleecy clouds on either side. In spite of the carpeting, and what was certainly sponge rubber matting underneath, he was treading the golden stairs to Heaven.

He was pondering the oddity and earthiness of sponge rubber matting when he became aware of a shadow failing across the steps ahead of him. He looked up to see a great angel with an enormous book in his hands. The angel’s face was stern, his eyes searching. A cold chill ran over the man. Sweat popped out on his forehead. He started to reach for his handkerchief and mop his brow, and then thought better of it. Such an action did not seem quite proper in the presence of an angel.

In low, businesslike terms, the angel asked the mortal to identify himself. He did so, in a voice that was more of a squeak than his usual rich, full baritone. The angel flipped the pages of the book and looked long and quizzically at the man.

“Why, your page is practically a blank!” the angel said.

The man was terrified. “That’s–that’s bad?”

“Bad!” exclaimed the angel. “It’s exceptionally good. It means you have kept the moral law as few have, that all your life you have done nothing really wrong.”

With a wave of the hand the angel motioned the man forward up the golden stairs. The man stood for a moment and rejoiced. Then, with the lightest heart he had ever known and the jauntiest step, he once more began moving upward.

Was that music he heard faintly and far away? Soon he would hear it clearly. Soon the Gates would swing open, soon. . . .

But, lo, here stood another angel holding another great book. The man noted at once that this angel had a much kinder face. So the man was not afraid. When he was again asked to identify himself, he did so in his natural voice.

The angel turned at once to the right page. On consulting it, he gave the man a strange look. Again he studied the page, and looked at the man a second time. His puzzled gaze seemed to say, “Can I believe my own angelic eyes?” The man’s confidence was rising. He knew that his friends had often marveled at the strict way in which he lived. But he had never really hoped to astonish even the angels in Heaven!

“Why, this page is as near an absolute blank as I’ve ever seen,” said the angel.

The man was happy. “That’s good?”

“Indeed not!” said the second angel. “Your record is exceptionally bad. You’ve done little that’s wrong–but you’ve dune nothing good either. If you had, we’d have recorded it. I’m the angel in charge of the Department of Omissions.”

Instead of waving the man higher, this angel thrust an arm across his book and pointed downward. The golden stairs disappeared and the man felt himself falling, falling, falling. . . . Hot flames did not reach up and envelop him, as he half-expected, and he did not land on a bed of white-hot coals. Instead he awoke trembling in his own bed, with the phrase “Department of Omissions” echoing in his mind.

“Department of Omissions!”

He thought about it in the shower, as he shaved, as he dressed.

“Department of Omissions!”

He was still thinking about it when his wife called him to breakfast. He did a thing he hadn’t done for years. Before he sat down he kissed her lightly on the cheek. If it hadn’t been so early in the morning, she would have thought he was tipsy. She did steal a glance at him to see if he might be running a fever.

The man left his morning paper folded by his plate. Instead of reading as he drank his coffee, he discussed last night’s basketball game with his son. He discussed the coming junior prom with his daughter. Both children felt uneasy, but their mother signaled them with her eyes to carry on. Their father, her eyes said, would undoubtedly be normal by evening.

When he left for his office the man kissed his wife goodbye. He waved at his neighbor, who was cutting his hedge. The latter was flabbergasted and he paused incredulously with his hedge scissors agape, halted in midair. The man waved at the traffic cop (with whom he had carried on a cold war for years) and left that officer muttering, “Now, what’s come over the old sourpuss anyway?”

As the man entered his office, he chatted amiably with his receptionist, and so completely flabbergasted her with inquiries about her family’s health and her dog’s health and her parakeet’s health that she forgot to chew her gum.

When he reached his desk, the first thing he did was to call up his pastor and say he had finally decided to serve on the church’s committee for overseas relief. He then called the president of his service club and said he’d be glad to take on that underprivileged children job, after all.

The man spent a busy day building up his accounts in the Department of Omissions. Nor did he stop at one day. The dream stayed with him. Especially vivid was the expression of unbelief on the second angel’s face-when he looked at the man’s record in the book whose blank pages reveal the good which had not been done.

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