I'm delighted to say that my story in the MLR Quick Reads collection, Music in the Midst of Desolation, is now available from MLR.
Old soldiers never die -- they get whisked straight back to earth to take part in angelic "manoeuvres". Patrick Evans has no idea why he and Billy Byrne, who fought their wars a century apart, have been chosen for this particular "op", nor why it seems to involve fixing up the man Billy left behind with someone Billy's always hated. When Patrick realizes his old lover also has a connection to the case, will the temptation to refuse orders become too great?
"You won't be bored, you know." The person assigned to settle Patrick in on his return to Earth, a tweed-clad lady of indeterminate age, had met him at Waterloo Station. She looked more Agatha Christie-Patrick had seen the author's picture on the cover of a book in WH Smith's store while he waited to be scooped up-than Archangel Gabriel. She'd extended a brown, wrinkled hand to be shaken. "Should have introduced myself properly. Call me Marjorie. It's not my name now, although it was my name once, and it'll do. Let's get you to your lodgings." She'd set off at a great pace, Patrick barely able to keep up with her.
"I've forgotten what boredom's like." Funny how tedium hadn't featured back there, but now a vague memory of what it felt like returned, along with recollections of other feelings he'd left behind. Hurt. Jealousy. Cold. Patrick pulled his jacket tighter around him and wished he'd worn a thicker sweater.
"There's work to be done and they've decided you're suitable to be entrusted with it." The woman stopped in her march, turning to face him and rolling her eyes, as if to insinuate that Raphael or one of his lesser lights was lacking in judgement this time around. "I suppose they know what they're doing."
"What exactly is it that you want me to do?"
When he'd first been given his notice to prepare for "embarkation," Patrick had wondered whether he'd be assigned to being Christopher's guardian angel. Any previous occupant of the post would have needed to take an extended sabbatical due to extreme mental fatigue. But now he was back on Earth, it was obvious the timescale wouldn't work out. According to the newspaper he'd seen at the newsagent's, this was 2011, so Christopher-if alive-would be one hundred and twenty-one and incapable of getting into any mischief that a guardian angel would need to get him out of.
"Do? Be patient in the short term." Marjorie snorted, turning a corner and leading him out of the concourse.
It was odd walking real streets again, even if they barely resembled the ones Patrick remembered. The snow-there'd clearly been a fresh fall during the night-was white or slushy grey, for one thing. Not brown with horse droppings, like it used to be anywhere that cabs and drays plied their trade. It had been speckled brown out in France. Brown and red.