October 7th, 2008

Andrew knew that a phone call after 10:00 PM was seldom a good thing in Dyeland.  It was not uncommon for angels to forgo sleeping.  Nonetheless, the Dyelanders generally limited late night calls to him on the chance he would be doing exactly that.  So a call at 10:43 was cause for some alarm.  The angel of death relaxed a little, however, when the caller ID revealed JenniAnn's number.  She-of-the-late-night-caffeine-binges did, on occasion, call him late at night merely to discuss the latest goings on in Dyeland and ask after his well-being. 

"Hello!" the angel of death greeted, untroubled.  The uneasiness quickly returned to him as a sob met his ears.  "Laja, what's wrong?"

Another sob.  An attempt at a word.

Andrew bolted up from his armchair and ran out the door.  "Laja, I'm coming over right now.  Just stay on the phone.  Are you in your room?"

"Ye..."  She was choked off by another sob.

Andrew had made it to the entry to Willowveil.  As he unlocked the door, he prayed for JenniAnn and for the strength to face whatever awaited him.  He bolted the lock behind him and took the stairs two at a time.  Not bothering to knock, the angel threw open the bedroom door.  He found the woman sitting on her floor, hair obscuring her face.  Her dog, Fawn, was curled up beside her, looking forlorn.

Andrew surveyed the rest of the room, his eyes eventually landing on a terrarium with its lid tossed to the side.  Inside all was very still.  He knew then what had happened.

"I'm sorry, Laja," the angel murmured as he knelt beside her. 

"H-he hadn't been eating as much as usual but I thought maybe he was just preparing to hibernate.  But when I got home from Josef's..."  She began to sob again. 

Andrew put an arm around her shoulders as tears formed in his own eyes.  He remembered when JenniAnn had first brought Flick to Dyeland.  He'd been a gift from a cousin in Nebraska who had found the tiny amphibian stuck to a plant at the grocery store where he worked.  Despite her affection for the plush variety, JenniAnn had scoffed at the idea of raising a real frog.  Andrew recalled her turning up her nose as she'd first poured live crickets into the makeshift home Vincent had made from an old aquarium.  But she'd quickly adjusted to life with a tree frog. 

That Flick was silent save the occasional ribbit seemed unimportant to JenniAnn.  Andrew thought back on the day, nearly two years previously, he had passed by JenniAnn's room on his way to Willowveil's library.  With a pang he recalled hearing JenniAnn rant to Flick about Andrew's reticence and the way he had closed himself off to his friends and the pain he was causing everyone in Dyeland.  The frog had croaked in consolation.  Andrew was still convinced those heart-to-hearts were the reason Flick always stared at him, accusatory, when he entered JenniAnn's room.  

Andrew remembered Nigel seeing to it that Flick had his own little place at William's when they'd stayed there.  And there had been the lace and silk decorated terrarium for when JenniAnn had moved Below briefly to help prepare for Catherine's and Vincent's wedding.  The various greeting cards JenniAnn had sent Andrew were signed "Laja, Fawn, and Flick."  She'd always drawn a little paw print beside Fawn's name and a tiny hand print beside Flick's.  For a frog, Flick had led a pretty amazing life.

"He was very lucky that he lived here and with you," Andrew consoled.

"I was lucky.  Fl-flick made me feel not so alone here.  Before Fawn he was all I had and he was enough.  I know it seems odd cause he was just..."  Her words broke off again.

"He wasn't 'just' anything.  You loved him."

"I-I wish now I'd held him more.  But the books said not to cause my skin could hurt him.  So I didn't b-but when I had to, to lift him out when I cleaned his cage, he'd always try to climb up my arm.  And I wouldn't let him stay there cause I was so afraid b-but now I wish...  Maybe he didn't know I loved him.  Maybe he didn't even think I liked him!" JenniAnn cried.  She leapt up and began to pace.

Andrew stood, too, and reached for her arm as she passed him a second time.  "Flick knew.  I can't promise you that frogs understand their owners acting in their own best interests based on a book.  But I can promise you that when you care about someone, they know.  I knew.  And I'd be tempted to say Flick was a little brighter than me."

JenniAnn cocked her head and really looked at Andrew for the first time since he'd entered the room. 

Andrew had no idea what to say at that point.  The calm and comforting words that often came effortlessly when he was on assignment were merely grasped at in Dyeland.  There was a confidence that came with speaking to people in the midst of a heavenly glow, knowing that soon they would only know peace and God's love.  It was another to find the right words to tell a friend he would see for, he hoped, years to come.  One misstep and it could haunt both angel and human for a lifetime.  Andrew had begun to suspect Adam would have fared better in this situation.  He was about to beg forgiveness for being so silly at so serious a moment when something unexpected happened.

JenniAnn laughed.  And she kept laughing.  "I'm not sure about that," she finally squeaked out.

Andrew beamed as he shrugged.  "If we were judging based on a species-sensitive curve then you never know." 

With a smile, JenniAnn hugged him.  "Thank you."

"I'm not sure why you're thanking me but you're welcome."  Andrew hugged her back.

"For being you and for being here," she answered.  She inhaled raggedly then and pulled away.  The tears reformed in her eyes as she stared at the terrarium.

"Can I help?" 

JenniAnn nodded and handed him a small box lined with Kleenex.  Then she went to her desk.

Andrew went to the terrarium and gently lifted the tiny body into the box.  He waited for JenniAnn to finish writing and then took her hand and led her down the stairs and into the yard as Fawn looked on, content to stay curled on the carpet. 

Once outside, JenniAnn guided the angel to a lilac bush he'd planted the same summer she'd brought Flick home.  JenniAnn went to fetch a trowel and Andrew took it once she returned.  She knelt beside him, weeping softly, as he dug the hole and set the box inside it.

Andrew watched as JenniAnn brought the note she'd written to her lips and set it above the box.  He fought tears as she did this.  In spite of her blatantly unfamilial feelings for him, Andrew had long seen JenniAnn and all the ladies of Dyeland as younger sisters.  No older brother worth the title ever wanted to see his sister in such a state, knowing he couldn't take away the pain. 

But there was more to Andrew's plight than these concerns.  He found voice for his emotions in JenniAnn's next words.

"I've been trying to remember every cute thing Flick ever did.  It makes me sad to think that his entire life was such a brief moment in what will likely be my lifespan.  And I hate thinking that when I'm 70 I won't be able to call him to mind," she murmured.

Andrew allowed the tears to slide down his cheeks.  So many events during the last few months, beginning with Galen's death and Sarah's rapidly declining health and now Flick's passing, had crystallized the melancholia Andrew sometimes felt in Dyeland.  Despite his knowledge that Heaven was real, that no one ever truly died, and that separation were never permanent; Andrew rebelled against the idea that one day so many of his friends would be gone from the home they had built together.  Yet he maintained one comforting belief: no matter how many centuries passed, he would not forget them.

"You'll remember him, Laja.  Maybe not every day after a while," Andrew began, "but you'll never entirely forget.  It's not the span of time you have with someone that matters.  It's how much love you felt for them and how many memories you made.  Maybe one day it will be a certain shade of green that calls Flick to mind.  Or a ribbit in the distance one night as you walk in the forest.   Whatever and whenever it is, you'll remember him then.  No matter how long you live."

JenniAnn knew Andrew was no longer speaking about Flick entirely.  The way his voice cracked during his final sentence told as much.  "I know you won't forget, Andrew."  She looked up at him with a sad but relaxed smile.

Andrew nodded.  The two prayed silently for some time until he began to stir.  "Laja, I need to leave for an assignment.  I'm sorry.  Let me call someone before I go?"

"What time is it?"

"A quarter after midnight."

JenniAnn shook her head.  "I don't want anyone woken up."

"But I don't want to leave you alone.  What about your cousins?  Let me call Catherine?"

The woman nodded.  They walked back inside where JenniAnn watched as Andrew made his phone call.  Minutes later her cousins swooped in.  Catherine handed JenniAnn her godson, knowing few things were as comforting as holding a baby, and then drew them both into a hug.  Vincent conferred with Andrew as the latter prepared to leave.  JenniAnn looked up from Jacob's angelic face and mouthed 'thank you' to Andrew.  The angel smiled back at her and took one last look at the room.  Vincent kissed his goddaughter's hair and then reverently began to pack up Flick's home and supplies for her to go through later.  Fawn sniffed at Jacob and then curled up beside JenniAnn as the two women shared their memories.

As Andrew left the room, he knew his friend was in good hands.  He was just to the bottom of the stairs when he heard someone coming up behind him.  He turned around to see JenniAnn a few steps above him.

"Laja, what is it?" he questioned.

"Andrew, there's just one thing I need to know.  But if you can't answer... it's okay."  She blushed and looked at the floor. 

"Go on."

JenniAnn took a deep breath.  "Do frogs go to Heaven?"

Andrew smiled gently at the woman and climbed the stairs back up to her.  He squeezed her hand and nodded.  "I promise you I've seen frogs in Heaven." 

JenniAnn smiled through her tears as she hugged Andrew and watched him leave.


The following week Andrew found himself the subject of an intervention staged by Yva, Rose, Countess Jennifer, Lady Beth, and JenniAnn.  For over two months the angel of death had gone from one assignment to the next and then back to an increasingly emotional Dyeland without complaint.  Andrew could not bring himself to be away from his friends as they faced frustrations and losses.  It was not lost on any of them that Andrew's encouraging presence among them meant he was foregoing his time in Heaven.  It was for that reason the intervention was staged.  Andrew protested at first.  With JenniAnn still mourning her pet, the entire community watching Josef's Sarah deteriorate, and countless other struggles; Andrew could not imagine leaving them.  However, the angel also knew that causing further concern when the ladies of Dyeland were already emotionally burdened would not be wise.  And he did miss Home...

After a series of hugs and promises to see them soon, Andrew agreed.  The five women watched, sad but relieved, as Andrew faded away.


Andrew leaned against the trunk of a willow tree.  It reminded him of the one in Dyeland.  Yet this one was even more beautiful and its shade even more inviting.  This tree grew in one of his favorite spots in Heaven.  Beside it was a stream and the grass was interspersed with wildflowers of every imaginable color and some humans had never imagined.  The breeze smelled like lilies and lavender and roses all at once.  Andrew drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes.

The angel found himself replaying some of his recent memories from Dyeland.  He felt so blessed and so happy there.  For well over one hundred years Andrew had prayed that more humans would understand that he meant no harm as an angel of death.  He loved them and it hurt him when they looked upon him with fear or anger.  With Dyeland that had changed.  No matter what happened he knew he had a group of people who loved him and tried their best to understand him.  It meant more than Andrew could ever say no matter how long he stayed there or how many emails or letters he wrote. 

Yet, Andrew also realized his connection to the people of Dyeland meant increased responsibilities and greater risk.  The closer they all became, the more devastating disagreements were and the greater weight his words carried. 

"What if I hurt them?" Andrew asked, knowing that the Father could hear even his whisper.

No immediate answer came and the angel sighed.  He opened his eyes and looked at the gently waving willow branches.  A much quicker movement caught his attention and he looked to his right.  Nothing.  Andrew closed his eyes again.  They snapped right back open when he felt a light pressure on his knee. 

"Hey there," Andrew greeted the small green blob on his jeans.  A frog.  And not just any frog...

The frog lifted its head from Andrew's knee and stared at him.  Accusatory.

"Flick," Andrew greeted.  He'd recognize that amphibian distrust anywhere.  "Listen, I want you to know that I never wanted to hurt JenniAnn or any of them.  I've tried not to ever since... hey, what are you doing?"

Andrew watched as the frog gripped one of his fingers and began swinging from one to the other.  He looked like a tiny green monkey.  The angel couldn't help but chuckle.  Eventually Flick pulled himself up by Andrew's ring finger.  He settled himself in the center of Andrew's palm.  Andrew arched an eye brow.  He was staring at the frog's backside.  Andrew was beginning to think the frog was trying to send him a less than complimentary message when he hopped up into the air.  He landed right back at the center of Andrew's palm, this time staring into the angel's face.  Andrew watched as the accusatory look faded from Flick's face.  His eyes unsquinted and he folded his front hands beneath his chin and laid down, all the while still staring at Andrew.  Andrew blinked.  It was almost as if the frog was extending some sort of benediction to him.  Maybe he was...

The two were still for a few moments.  Then Flick's throat expanded and he let out a series of ribbits. 

"Yeah, I know you always try, big guy.  And I know you always will.  That's what matters: to me, to them, to Him.  Got it?"

Andrew nodded as the deep voice entered his mind.

"Will you do something for me?"

Again Andrew nodded, amazed at the turn this visit Home had taken.

"I'm not going to be able to warn JenniAnn about storms any more.  So if you're in Dyeland and know one's coming, will you tell her?  Maybe sit with her in the basement for a while if it gets really loud?  She likes to pretend she outgrew her fear of storms but she hasn't."

"Yeah, sure, I'll do that."


Andrew chuckled.  "Groovy?"

"You have no idea how much hippie stuff I saw and heard in that room.  Andrew, one last thing."


"I wasn't always accusing you of anything.  Sometimes I was just really frustrated.  Those crickets could be hard to find.  And in case you can't tell, my facial muscles don't allow for a lot of variance in expressions."

Andrew laughed so hard tears came to his eyes. 

"I'm just a frog and I even know you care about all your friends.  So don't be so hard on yourself."

"Okay, Flick.  I'll try not to be.  Thanks."

"Right on.  Now, I'm off for a swim.  See you around."

Andrew watched, still somewhat dumbfounded, as the frog leapt off his palm and into the stream.  The angel stepped out from beneath the tree and soaked in the sun's rays and the Father's love.   He smiled as a light, aromatic breeze blew through his hair, taking the last of the worried edge off him.  A flock of doves flew above him and Andrew's smile grew wider.  He knew that whatever happened, whatever Dyeland faced soon or far in the future... he would be there and he would do his best to help everyone.  More importantly, the Father would take care of them all.  From the smallest flower and tiniest animal to the most ancient of angels, God loved them all.  He had brought them together and He would never let them be torn apart.

"Thank you, Father," Andrew called out.  "Now I'm ready to go back."

Andrew found himself beneath a willow tree once again.  Beyond its branches he could hear the laughter of children and adults talking.  He stepped out to see the Tunnel children running around the yard.  JenniAnn had brought them there to enjoy one of the only remaining mild days before the winter chill set it.  She was sitting on a blanket with Jacob in her lap.  The baby giggled as Yva played air plane with a chocolate teething biscuit from Willy.  Rose was preparing to toss a football to some of the children.  Seeing Andrew she instead launched it at him. 

Andrew caught the ball and ran to an imagined goalpost in front of City Hall.  The kids screamed and ran after him.  In a few moments he was on the ground and surrounded by ecstatic children. 

"No goal!  Our ball now!" Jessie cried. 

"You're all just too fast for me," Andrew admitted with a grin, sitting up and handing the girl the football.  The kids ran off and Andrew approached the women and the infant.

"I'm so glad you're back!" Rose cried, hugging him.

"How do you feel?" Yva asked.

Andrew sighed contentedly.  "I feel great.  And I'm glad to be back myself."  A chilly breeze blew through then.  Andrew watched as JenniAnn drew a blanket more tightly around Jacob, her face clouded with concern.  The angel looked up at the sky and saw the clouds rapidly moving.  He remembered what Flick had said.  "Hey, I was thinking it's been a while since that pool table in my basement got any use.  Would any of you care to come over this evening and play a few rounds?"  Andrew watched, relieved, as JenniAnn relaxed.

"You always win," she noted, "but I'd like that."  The other two women nodded.

Andrew smiled.  "Great.  There's another reason I'd like you to come over.  Something happened while I was Home and I want to tell you about it.  Especially you, Laja.  I had a chat with someone.  A certain tree-loving little friend."

JenniAnn looked up at Andrew, hopeful.  "Flick?"

Andrew crouched beside her.  "The very same."

"How was he?"

Andrew thought and only one word seemed to best express Flick's current state.  "Groovy."

Rose and Yva stifled giggles at the unexpected answer.  But when JenniAnn herself began to laugh they let it out. 

"Groo-eeee," Jacob babbled, causing the adults to laugh even more.

Andrew surveyed the amused faces of his friends, focusing last on JenniAnn.  The frustration he'd felt at being unable to take away her grief the week before was dissipating.  He would never be able to protect them completely, not even from himself, but he could be there to help them through whatever came.  God had not given him the gift of instantaneously healing.  No, the Father had given him a much greater gift: time.  Time to be with his friends, time to support them, time to let them help him, and time to make peace with them if trouble arose.  Andrew would gratefully accept the gift.  Andrew knew, too, that if he ever wavered in his belief that he was loved and needed in Dyeland, the Father would send someone to remind him.   Maybe an angel or a human or even a frog.

The End

In Memoriam
Flick Stanley Frogger

Back to the Author's Cut