Your grandmother bequeaths a statue of an angel to you in her will. You find it creepy, but not having the heart to sell it, you store it in the basement. The next morning, to your horror, the basement door is wide open, and there is a note lying where you left the statue. Picking it up, you barely make out the scrawled words. “Find me before I find you.”
These things are old, it says on the note, written in a scrawled hand, these obligations persist long after death. And then: She wanted you to have this.
The statue was under a foot tall, ceramic, rosy-cheeked and blue-eyed and surprisingly heavy, the epitome of kitsch. Little pink posies sprouting between its toesies, a base of mossy grass, as if Heaven is a place out of a Kinkade painting. It had its palms pressed together in prayer and stared at you out of its chubby-cheeked face with an expression of winsome contemplation.
You had hated it.
And now it’s gone, probably somewhere in the vents by now, lurking in a cupboard, behind a shower curtain, clinging to the ceiling above your bed with its pudgy hands and vacant grin. All because you didn’t have the good sense to cart it off to a thrift store or make a listing for it on eBay.
Thanks a lot, Grandma.
You keep finding notes everywhere the next few days: squeezed between the sofa cushions, tucked inside your bagged lunch, pinned to the refrigerator with a smiling apple magnet that you’ve never seen before in your life. Find me, they say. I don’t think you’re looking. Why don’t you try a little harder? Don’t be afraid. I could eat you right up but I don’t bite. Don’t you want us to be together?
You call up your mom and ask her if maybe she knows where Grandma might’ve gotten a cursed angel statue from.
“Oh, she had dozens of those,” your mom says.
You hear her sigh wistfully on the other end of the line.
“She had a collection from since I was a kid. I always thought they were pretty cute. You don’t like them?”
“They used to watch me,” you say.
Your mom laughs. “You never did like going to her house.” You remember the sideboards and end tables and countertops populated
with ceramic figurines, staggered in descending height like rows of
candles, a house full of religious icons staring at you with their cold
“Anyway,” you say, “I’m not talking about her figurines in general. I’m talking about the specific angel statue she left to me in her will.”
“Oh, I don’t know anything about that. She kept collecting them after all us kids moved out.” She hesitates for a moment. “Listen, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep it, okay? I know you’re not religious.” She gives a familiar little laugh, and it’s as if you can still see her, her lips quirking up in regret. “It’s not like she’ll mind if you just throw it down in your basement.”
“Yeah,” you say. “It’s too late for that.” Then, as an afterthought: “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” your mother says. “There are a lot of things we all could’ve done different.”
The notes escalate, marked up with bible verses and XOXOs along the bottom. You overturn your house looking for that damn angel and you find white porcelain dust scattered in the cracks, dainty footprints in the dust beneath your bed. New sweaters start appearing in your closet, ugly bulky sweaters with rows of hearts and teddy bears knitted across the front, too cumbersome to wear. You start to think that maybe this is your life now, Grandma’s passive-aggressive gift fluttering somewhere high above above you on vestigial cherub wings, haunting you until your death.
You never visit, the notes say. Find me. Find me. You’re breaking her heart.
Fine. There’s one thing you can think of left to do.
You drive up to the cemetery. You haven’t been here since the funeral, and sure enough, there it is, sitting on your Grandma’s grave. The flowers have wilted, and the elements seem to have done a number on the statue as well. The glaze over its skin is flaking, cracked, yellowed, patterned in the jaundiced complexion of scales, shriveled and reptilian. Part of the glass of its pupils have fallen out, been lost, so there are just black holes at the centers of its eyes, a core of sunken rot staring out from them.
It stands silent, praying.
“That’s enough,” you say, walking up empty-handed. “I gave it a shot. I tried to keep you. Maybe that was my mistake. Maybe there was someone else out there who would’ve appreciated you more than I did.”
It watches you with hollow eyes.
“You’re all she left me in her will,” you say. “I think that’s proof enough, right? That in the end, we didn’t have anything in common.”
The angel doesn’t say anything.
You raise up both your hands. “I relinquish all claim to you,” you say. “I no longer own you, and you no longer have any obligation to me.” You take a step closer. “You hear that? You gave it your best shot, and it didn’t work, and so you can stop trying.” You turn your palms up to the sky. “You’re free. You hear that? You’re free.”
The angel stands silent and you take another step closer, and at your footfall it begins to crumble. Its skin flakes apart and catches the wind as it disintegrates into a rising eddy of amber sparks that catch the sunlight and disappear into the sky. It’s hollow inside, minute particles of corkwood and motes of dust and strands of pure white silk that unfurl into the air and disperse, and you raise your head and a moment passes and then it’s as if the statue was never there.
You look down at an unadorned grave, nothing there but earth and grass and stone, and you wipe your eyes. The air is dusty and the sun overhead is bright. You turn and head back home.