The Black Angel’s Death Song

by Victoria Large

Jason and Margot stood at the foot of the grave. The statue loomed over them, her expression hard. Margot shuddered. Jason had moved out to Iowa City for graduate school months ago, but this was Margot’s first visit. He had been pestering her all weekend to take the walk from his place in the Gaslight Village up to Oakland Cemetery to see the cursed Black Angel. That morning she had woken up to the screeching strings of “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” The Velvet Underground blaring from Jason’s turntable. He thought it was funny. She told him he was creeping her out, but that didn’t seem to faze him much.

Margot was trying to work out whether or not she had missed Jason. She had been happy to see him when he met her at the Cedar Rapids airport, ready to drive her through the cornfields in a rented car. He gave her a tour of the apartment and they fell onto the bed; she ran her hands through his long dark hair and he cupped her breast and talked about sculpture – his medium. But Margot didn’t feel the urgency that she had expected. She didn’t feel a panic as their days and hours together had begun to wear down, and she worried that she should. They’d been together for over a year before he left, taken for granted as a pair by their friends.

But the truth was that she had survived with Jason being gone, and she would continue to. She was already thinking about the work she had waiting for her back home – whether the substitute teacher for her art classes had followed her lesson plans or just let the kids play with their cell phones. She caught herself thinking about the broken window shade in her apartment, and she was sure that she shouldn’t be, not when she had come so far to see Jason, and they had so little time.

It was October now, Columbus Day weekend, and the leaves crunched under Margot and Jason’s feet as they headed to the cemetery. So ominous, Jason said. The air haunted by death, the scent of dead leaves.

The Black Angel was close to nine feet tall. She looked down instead of up, and her wings were contorted; only one swooped skyward. Jason explained that the statue had been bronze, but the metal had oxidized out in the elements, turning it black and cementing its strangeness. Margot had been shocked by the statue’s appearance as she and Jason came over the hill. It was so out of place in the otherwise sunny, ordinary cemetery. She knew why people were so intrigued by it. A woman had erected this ostentatious, wicked-looking memorial for her son and her husband. What a way to remember lost love.

It was bad luck to touch the angel, Jason told her. And did she see the left hand, where the fingers were hacked off? The idiot who did that died. Washed up on a beach outside Chicago or something, the fingers still in his pockets.

“Kiss the angel and you’re dead, too,” Jason said. “And kissing in the shadow of her wings…I’ve heard something about that. But was it good luck or bad?” Jason leaned to kiss Margot and she pushed him away, warning him that she didn’t think that things like this were funny. Jason laughed, and Margot closed her eyes, the screeching violins from the record still echoing in her head.

“The Angel gets blacker every Halloween,” Jason was saying now. “Kisses on Halloween, kisses on Halloween…Haven’t I heard something about kisses on Halloween? Of course, your visit will be over by then. So there won’t be any kisses on Halloween.”

Margot told him that she didn’t want to hear anymore. She turned her back to the grave. “Wait,” Jason said. When she looked again, he was reaching for the angel’s broken fingers.

Margot caught his arm and said, “Don’t.” Jason laughed and moved to kiss her. She dodged again and repeated, “Don’t.”


Victoria Large can sometimes be found walking in cemeteries.
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