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Books and Free Excerpts

Fraser's Angel (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006).

Frasers Angel1. Angel Hill

"You could ask your angel someday," said Uncle Arthur. "She'll tell you."

Uncle Arthur was Fraser's favorite grown-up. With his twinkling eyes, his tickly mustache, and his warm, dimpled cheeks. He seemed to know everything yet he was always so mysterious. What had Fraser asked him? Simply this: "Where do the stars come from and why are there people?"

Fraser had never thought about this until one night just last week. He lay in his bed, tucked in under the quilt and cozy among its heavy folds, but his eyes were wide open. His hands rested on his tummy and he felt the rising and falling of his breathing. Then he had a peculiar sensation. It was like pulling on the threads in a large carpet until suddenly….

First he thought about Angel Hill which wasn't far from his home, just a quick dash up through the fields. Then he thought about Uncle Arthur's home in the next village, how it was a lot further away and you needed a bicycle to get there. Then Fraser thought about London, how that was still farther away, and took a long train ride to get there. Now the Moon - that's much farther away than London. Fraser began to see the great distance involved. And the Sun is - Fraser felt that tremendous distance. And then there are all the stars. They are impossibly far away.


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But what's on the other side of those stars?

As Fraser gasped at this incredible distance, his body became huge and hollow. It tingled and vibrated. The billions of stars in the night sky somehow were inside him in this gigantic body he'd become. He kept expanding too. But there was still something outside of his vast body of stars, something still on the other side of that. He didn't know, couldn't even imagine, what it was. It was such a mystery that Fraser was shocked.

That shock immediately brought him back into his eight-year old boy's body with a thump. There he was again with his soft grey eyes, black floppy hair, freckles all over, and large friendly ears. He squeezed his tummy for reassurance. Yet as he lay in his familiar bed, Fraser couldn't forget that massive mystery on the other side of the stars. He remembered he didn't know what it was, what was there. Fraser felt himself to be tiny against this infinity. He sat upright in bed, his mouth open in surprise.

All this meant - he knew it now so clearly - one day he would die.

It was impossible to describe all of this to his mother or father. They would probably tell him it was a bad dream. Anyway, he didn't have words for it, though he knew it. It was a little scary too. Yet Fraser knew that somehow Uncle Arthur, if anybody, would understand, if he could only explain it to him. But it took Fraser's breath away just thinking it through again.

Even though the mystery was stranger than anything he had ever experienced, it was also very curious. Different, intriguing. What he had seen was like a magician's curtain there at the end of the stars. Did he dare pull it to look beyond? This curtain, normally, was invisible to everyone, including himself, before that special odd moment when the whole carpet of the galaxy came unraveled in his hand as he lay in his bed.

But did he dare look beyond the curtain?

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In the morning Fraser sat in the kitchen, finishing his breakfast. It was Sunday and he was thinking about Uncle Arthur's strange answer. How could he ask his angel? What angel? He didn't know he had one. Fraser crunched on his toast and spread marmalade on the next piece when it popped out of the toaster. He dangled his feet under the table and wiggled a little in his chair as if he were dancing. His thoughts were set on Angel Hill. This was his favorite place in the village, and he always went there when he wasn't in school or when he didn't have chores at home.

On Angel Hill Fraser had his forts and castles and privacies and ambushes and hiding places and launching pads and sleeping nooks. From Angel Hill he watched the big puffy clouds careen past overhead: first a schooner, then a swan, then a jam jar, and they never kept the same shape for longer than a moment. Sometimes the fairy folk flitted about him like happy butterflies with glorious smiles, twinkles of rose and dimples, sparkles of merriment and play. To Fraser they were like hovering then darting bluebottles with the giggles and faces of young children.

Some mornings, the fairies danced about his nose like frisky laughing feathers. He watched them as he lay flat in the tall grass, his hands behind his head, his feet walking the clouds. He studied these little people with fascination. You can see clear through their wings, he thought. They're like stained glass windows or great canvas sails waving in a slow breeze. So light, so fragile, so friendly. In an instant the fairies would be aloft and alight, free-roaming like swallows chittering through the morning sunshine.

Fraser crunched another piece of toast. "In the old days Angel Hill was the place people went if they wanted to talk with the angels," Uncle Arthur said. It was another of those remarks he'd make that Fraser didn't understand, at first.

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Fraser tapped his sneakers on the kitchen floor. He sang to himself, hummed and mumbled, though he had never heard this song before. "Angels of the air, swaying through the clouds, coming among the grasses, flying me back to Heaven, letting go my worries…." Fraser shrugged his shoulders and wiggled some more in his chair, forgetting the song.

What is it like to be an angel? Fraser suddenly wondered. He stared at his half-empty glass of apple juice. Angels fly around in the clouds. They play hide-and-seek in the floating white mountains of mist. They squash the clouds together to make forts. They float down from the stars like spangled kites. They parade across the blue spaces, rows and rows and rows of smiling angels - so many wings, so much light in motion. They sing all day and never get a sore throat from it, not one of them, not once.

They make rhapsodies to the daises. They chant oratorios to the sheep. They bedazzle the fairies with their lanterns and angel dust. They ride the winds of the world faster than airplanes. They - Fraser reached for the toast as it popped out of the toaster. Then he heard something.

From a distance Fraser heard the soft voice of a woman, calling. "Fraser. We can reach the Singer. We can wear the Singer's smile all day long. We remember our Note." Fraser turned towards the door, but there was no woman there. His mother, yes, but it wasn't her who said this.

Fraser ran out of the kitchen, through the front door of the house, and let the screen slam, even though he knew his mother didn't like that. He dashed into the bright sunshine. He gazed up at Angel Hill and knew his forts and hollows and secrets were safe, waiting for him. He ran down the lane waving to the cows busy chewing their breakfasts. He ran past the fat, fluffy sheep lying indolently like black-nosed rugs by the turnstile. Fraser clambered over the wooden gate and ran up Angel Hill.

On his way he noticed his favorite rocks. He patted them in his mind as he ran past them. He smiled at the big grassy tussock that lived like a giant mushroom by the hawthorn tree. He often paused here on his way up the hill. He liked the view of the village from here. All of Knole was laid out before him, everything where it belonged. The baker's, the newsagent's, the stout red phone box by the hedge, the spire on the church at the end of the lane near his home. The pastures and grain fields around Angel Hill looked like patches on a quilt. Farmers were planting.

The morning air was soft and moist, expectant. Everything smelled like green shoots and new leaves. Fraser knew something was waiting for him, something new, and it was at the top of the hill.

Fraser ran to the top of Angel Hill and crouched under the old oak that towered alone and reminded him of a grandfather. He picked up a twig and poked the ground. He hummed. Wiggled a little. Tapped his feet. He watched a hawk glide under the hem of the bulging clouds. Everything is the way it's supposed to be on Angel Hill this Sunday morning, yet….

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