Cross Training by Wm. Brett Hill

Pacing back and forth, the Angel known as Dexter looked to the Heavens and sighed.

“He’s always late, Lord. Always!” he complained to The Man Upstairs. His complaints went unanswered, as they always did, but it still made him feel good to lodge them. “It shows a complete lack of respect for the process.”

Almost mindlessly he waved his hand.

Carl sees the old man walking cautiously across the sidewalk toward the door, his arms weighed down by boxes.

“Here, let me,” he says, opening the door to the building and holding it open until the man passes through.

 “It’s not that I miss him, Lord, oh no!” continued the Angel Dexter, “it’s just that I don’t know how I can be expected to do my job properly without having a side to oppose.” He looked around before raising his hands in supplication. “And about my job. I understand that Management has a lot on their plate and they may not be familiar with everyone’s real talents, but can they really be right deciding that I should stay here. I mean, surely I’ve proven-”

“Who in the hell are you talking to?” asked a surly voice from behind him. He turned to glare at the slouching form of the Devil Sinister as it languorously took its proper place on the left shoulder.

“I am talking to my Lord, Sinister, about your complete inability to be on time,” snapped the Angel. “I was saying that I don’t know how I’m supposed…”

“I heard you babbling, Dex, I just wondered who you were babbling to. Do you think they really gave a shit about what goes on down here?” interrupted the Devil. He leaned sleepily on his pitchfork, almost impaling himself on its sharp tines.

“Of course they care, otherwise what would be the point,” snapped the Angel. “Now, I would appreciate it if you were on time in the future. A job worth doing is worth doing correctly.” At this he drew himself up to his full height and straightened his halo.

The Devil Sinister farted and wafted it toward his cohort. He kicked the neck lazily and pointed.

The girl is walking in front of Carl, her short skirt barely covering her perfect ass as she strolls, and Carl can’t take his eyes off of her as he follows her down the street.

The Angel raced forward and whispered in the ear.  Satisfied, he shot a glare at the Devil and waited.

His attention is drawn from the girl’s bottom to an old lady crossing the street. Her shopping bag has split and she is frantically trying to pick up her groceries and move out of the road. Carl races out and helps her collect her things, guiding her back to the curb.

The Devil snorted. “You just think you have it all figured out, don’t you Dex? You think if you just goody-two-shoes everything then eventually you’ll be promoted.” As he spoke he picked at his teeth. He finally dislodged something, looked at it, and wiped it on the neck.

The Angel Dexter stood as tall as he could manage in his small form and looked down on the Devil. “I’ll have you know that I received my performance review just the other day. They are very proud of the work I am doing and want me to excel in my field.”

“So no promotion, then?  No Pearly Gates, no Golden Throne, none of all that crap. You’re just stuck down here on this dumb shit with me.” He kicked the neck again and waved a hand.

 The Angel noticed the gesture and scanned around madly looking for something to thwart but found nothing.

After a minute of watching the Angel, Sinister laughed. “Ha, caught you with a bluff, you dumb stuffed shirt!” he cackled. “Ooooh, but what’s this?”

Both of them looked down.

Carl spots the wallet lying on the sidewalk and looks around. No one seems to be anywhere near it, nor is anyone actively looking for it. He picks it up.

Both the Angel and the Devil set to work whispering feverishly into their alloted ears.  The Angel Dexter worked the right ear, while the Devil Sinister worked the left.  Both paused at regular intervals to watch the progress before returning to their duties.

Carl searches through the wallet and finds it full of twenties. A quick count brings the total to three hundred dollars. He again scans the area and sees no one looking at him.

A check through the identification reveals that the wallet belongs to a Reynold Walter Kindle, III.

“That’s a quick three-hundred smackers, Carl, my boy!” laughed the Devil. “Easy money. And some prick with a roman numeral after his name can spare the cash, believe you, me.” He could hear the Angel begin to sputter a response from the other side.

“Th-Think of the joy you’ll feel at giving someone back something they’ve lost. Wouldn’t you want someone to bring back your wallet if you lost it?”

Sinister leaned around and watched his adversary’s face.

“Fine. Return the wallet,” he said. “But nothing says you have to give it back with the money in it. Hell, anyone could have taken the money. You just found the empty wallet, didn’t you? There might even be a reward if you-”

“Do not listen to that rubbish,” shouted the Angel. “There is nothing to be gained by such blatant deception!”

“Except three-hundred bills!” countered the Devil with a wide grin.

Carl pulls the bills out of the wallet, slides them into his pocket, and tosses the wallet to the ground by a dumpster.

“Yesssssss!” shouted the Devil Sinister. “Score one for my side!” He shook his ass in the direction of the Angel, swinging his tail back and forth.

“Don’t be so childish,” snapped the Angel. “I’ll only make him feel guilty and donate the money.”

Sinister blew a raspberry and laughed. “I’ll have him distracted with booze and blow before you can get him into a church. Hell, I might even look out for a hooker to get him with.”

The Angel Dexter looked down on the dancing form of his companion and sighed.

“What’s the matter, Dex, lack of career prospects getting you down?” mocked the Devil.

“Do you ever wonder what it’s all for, Sinister?” asked the Angel seriously.

“Oh, shit, here we go,” moaned the Devil. He took a flask out of his pocket and tossed back a belt of something that smoked.  “An angel with an existential crisis.”

“But seriously, Sinister, why do we do it all?” asked the Angel.

“Because it’s fun, you dumb fuck,” laughed the Devil.

“But it isn’t,” whined the Angel.

“That’s cos you’re on the wrong side of the neck, Dex. Your problem is you can’t let your hair down or your precious halo will get soiled.”

Unconsciously the Angel adjusted the halo so it sat perfectly in the middle.

“But how can you get joy by bringing pain?” asked the Angel.

Sinister moaned, then laughed, then moaned again. He paced back and forth for a few minutes twirling his tail while he thought of how to reply. The Angel watched him expectantly.

“I bring pain to bring joy. This fella has a fun weekend drinking himself stupid, then has a killer hangover for the next few days. And do you know what he does when I suggest he does it all again?”

“What’s that?” asked the Angel.

“He asks me where the closest liquor store is, that’s what he does. He knows that the pleasure will bring him pain, and he’s willing to pay the price. If you had your way, he’d sit in a church all day helping old ladies crochet doilies. Bleaaah!”

The Angel Dexter pondered this for a minute. “But what I ask him to do rewards him spiritually, and that has to be worth something,” he said.

The Devil got a gleam in his eye and approached the neck, leaning his pitchfork against it.

Carl’s headache is getting worse. He decides to head for the drug store.

“I have an idea, Dex, why don’t we trade for a day,” suggested the Devil furtively.

The Angel shot an odd look at the Devil and sputtered.

“Th-that’s not possible.  It’s not allowed. It’s not possible,” he said.

“Sure it is, it’s done all the time,” suggested the Devil slyly, “as a training exercise, you see. You get a chance to see what it’s like on my side, and I get a chance to see everything from yours. I’m sure your bit’s easy.”

“It most certainly is not!” shouted the Angel angrily. “It’s hard work keeping this man in line with the Scriptures, especially since you are so keenly adept at leading him astray.”

The Devil faked embarrassment. “Stop, you’re going to make me blush,” he teased. “You just don’t think you can handle it.”

“I don’t need to handle it. I have no interest in taking on your duties for even a fraction of a second!” shouted the Angel.

“Yeah, see I’d believe that if you were still on your side of the neck,” chuckled the Devil.

The Angel Dexter looked around and realized that what the Devil said was true. He was now standing on the left side, next to the Devil. He yelped and made to run back to his side. The Devil grabbed his arm.

“Take it easy there, Dex, no one’s going to write you up,” he cooed. “Now that you’re over here, have a look around. I’m going to go check out your digs.”

He left a nervous Angel standing in his place on the left shoulder and sauntered over to the right. The perspective was different, and the neck was much cleaner, but it was otherwise unremarkable.

The Angel walked around and bounced, as if testing the flooring. He flapped his wings to air out the area and looked forward. He saw the large front window of the drug store just ahead.

“Go on, give it a try,” said the Devil. “Give him a bad idea.”

The Angel thought hard for a moment before seeming to come to a decision. He leaned over and whispered into the left ear, noticing when he did the large number of things that had been wiped there by the Devil.

Carl spots a brick sticking out loose from the corner of a shop wall and pulls it free. He looks around to confirm he is unobserved then hurls it across the street through a jewelry shop window.

“Ooh hoo hoo!” laughed the Devil. “Not very subtle! Not very subtle at all!”

“Well, it’s not my forte,” answered the Angel. “Besides, you were supposed to try and stop it, and you did nothing.”

“Ah, right, I’ll do better next time,” said the Devil.

The Angel paced and stroked his bare chin while he thought, all under the amused, watchful eyes of the Devil.

“You just don’t have it in you, Dex, admit it and get back over here where you belong. Come back over to where you will spend the rest of eternity slaving away.”

The Angel stopped pacing and glared at the Devil. A change came over his features, and Sinister recognized the look in Dexter’s eyes as the same one he saw in the mirror every morning, malice infused with mischief. “You’re right, Sinister. You’re absolutely right.” Dexter leaned over and started whispering furiously into the ear.

Carl picks up another brick and smashes the side view mirror off a parked car, then begins pounding the windshield, each blow bringing a small starburst of cracked glass to the smooth, clear surface.

“Pound it! Destroy it! Smash it to pieces and then smash those pieces to pieces!” screamed the Angel Dexter into the ear.

Sinister stared in shock at the change that had come over his companion. The screaming angel tore at his own clothes and thrashed about. His halo flew off of his head and clattered to the ground.

Sinister realized that he had to do something. He tried to give instructions in the other ear, but suddenly realized he didn’t have a good thing to say.

“Smash it! Break it! Destroy it all!” shouted the Angel furiously. He flapped his wings as he screamed, and feathers flew off in every direction.

Sinister tried to drag the Angel back to the proper side of the neck but was unable to combat the fury which flew from Dexter. He wasn’t sure what to do next, so he picked up the halo and struck Dexter on the back of the head.

The Angel Dexter fell to the ground, limp.

Carl stares in shock at the devastation in front of him. Both side windows are gone, and the windshield looks as though it has been riddled with bullet holes. He feels hands grab his arms, and he doesn’t resist when he is thrown onto the hood and roughly handcuffed.

Sinister dragged the still form of Dexter back to the right side and left him lying in a heap. He gently placed the halo on top of the Angel’s head, but instead of floating in place above his brow is simply sat on top of his head.

“Shit, I did not see that coming,” he laughed. He took another draw from his flask and slunk back over to his side.

He felt bad, and couldn’t figure out why. It was his job to cause chaos and havoc, and surely bringing down an angel would fit into that job description quite easily. But when he looked over at the crumpled form of his adversary, all he felt was pity.

A blinding white light erupted around Dexter, and the Devil could see his form being lifted up and out of sight. He held his flask up in salute and took another draw.

When he turned his back another flash of bright light blazed behind him. He turned to see a new Angel standing there.

“Who the hell are you?” he muttered.

“I, you foolish creature, am the Angel Dexter, newly appointed. I look forward to thwarting you at every turn,” answered the Angel snottily.

Sinister snorted, smoke curling around his horns in a wispy smile.

“You ever wonder what it’s like on this side, Dex?”

About The Author

Wm. Brett Hill grew up outside Athens, Georgia, but now makes his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he spends time with his wife and daughter, works in IT, and writes stories. His short fiction has appeared in Literally Stones, Firewords, Dime Show Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Digging Through the Fat, and many more.

Bandit Fiction is an entirely not-for-profit organisation ran by passionate volunteers. We do our best to keep costs low, but we rely on the support of our readers and followers to be able to do what we do. The best way to support us is by purchasing one of our back issues. All issues are ‘pay what you want’, and all money goes directly towards paying operational costs.

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