When Mrs Rigby died a spinster at the age of (they said) 72, the townsfolk passed the hat around and built a statue of an angel at her grave. Mrs Rigby’s probably the closest to an angel anyone could’ve known. At her rickety old age, she would still bring her home made barley drink to the school for kids to drink – good for their blood she said, good for their growing brains. Well, almost the entire town’s brains must’ve grown on her barley water as she’d been doing it since her mother, the school’s first teacher, died whom according to Mrs Rigby, had been called up for an appointment in Heaven to be an angel. She also said that her mom told her to make the barley drinks for the school kids, because most of them did not have breakfast. Or lunch. Told her so on the third night after her funeral.
Three days after Charlie, the graveyard caretaker, noticed a dark blotch on the angel’s left eye, crazy Finlay shot his twin brother over a hand of cards, and them himself. Mrs Rigby loved the boys like her own. She used to say, they were perfect copies of each other and would’ve a great future ahead, seeing that they had a gift for numbers and could tally real fast. They were regulars at the line for Mrs Rigby’s barley drink. What overcame them, everyone knows. Good at tallying became good at gambling, but one day Finlay lost his streak. He lost and kept losing. When his brother could take it no more, and blamed it on him, he pulled out a gun and folded the hand for both. They had been saving up to save their father’s farm from being taken by the town’s banker.
As the town grew older and none the wiser, the angel would shed a dark tear to warn that people would die for reasons they needn’t, or shouldn’t – Stanley’s poor daughter died being driven down by a regular drunk, old Howard died because the doctor turned him out for not bringing enough change once too often, Johana died after years of working on poisonous runoffs at old Goldie’s mines to feed her brood of 12 – and all these who died had their brains grown on Mrs Rigby’s homemade barley drink, loved by her unconditionally.
One misty morning, old Charlie limped across the dew-drenched cemetery and noticed that, unlike the occasional blotches, heavy streaks of dark tears had streamed down the angel’s sad face overnight…