“Not again!” he moaned as he stared at where she had appeared opposite him in the booth. Leaning forward, he spoke in a low voice. “I told you, I don’t want to be anyone’s guardian angel!”
“You won’t be. That’s my job. All I’m asking is you become his ‘Big Brother.’”
“He doesn’t need a Big Brother. You said it yourself; he’s got foster parents.”
Her semitransparent face grew serious. “But they aren’t very nice people. He needs someone who can be his friend—someone to show him the kindness he’s not getting.”
Leaning back again, Brien sighed heavily while still keeping his voice low. “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
“Simple,” she replied. “You call the number I gave you, and tell them you want to be a Big Brother to Kevin Jacobs.”
“But won’t they want to know how I know him?”
“Tell them you met Kevin at the Abbots’ Christmas party they held for the kids in the system.”
“But he’s not going to know me!”
“Yes, he will. I’ve already told him about you.”
“I entered his dreams. He’s looking forward to meeting you.”
Judy was Brien’s old girlfriend. Even back when she was alive, she often pushed him to do better. He was living in his grandmother’s basement after his parents died in the fire that destroyed their home. Even though Brien didn’t have a job, his grandmother didn’t push him to find one. She had seen TV shows where they described how kids playing video games all the time became millionaires and started their own corporations, so she let him continue unrestricted.
The day Judy first approached Brien, he was eating lunch in the same restaurant where he was now. When she appeared in the booth across from him, Brien nearly choked on his tuna sandwich.
“What are you?” he asked, his eyes growing so big that they threatened to pop out of his head.
“I’m Judy,” she replied.
Looking around himself first, Brien whispered, “You can’t be; you’re dead!”
“But . . . but how?”
Waving a dismissive hand, she replied, “That would be too hard to explain. Just know that I’m now your guardian angel.”
Brien shook his head, not sure he believed what he was hearing. “O-kayyyy, but why me?”
“Because you still need someone to push you.”
Brien moaned as if in pain. “Even dead, you’re going to bug me?”
Smiling, Judy replied, “Yep!”
It took a couple of days, but finally Brien called the number Judy had given him. The woman at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office had him fill out all the paperwork then said they’d get back to him. But Brien was sure he’d never hear from them. He could tell by the questions they had asked that the organization was looking for someone who was reliable, and stable, and not someone who played video games all day. But then Judy entered his dreams and told him that everything was set for him to become Kevin’s Big Brother.
“Don’t worry about it. Just know that I can be very resourceful when I need to be.”
So that same day, Brien went to introduce himself to Kevin and his foster parents. They knew he was coming because of the call they had received from Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Kevin’s guardians tried to come across as amiable, but Brien wasn’t buying it. He could tell by the shabbiness of their house’s interior that they were not as caring as they pretended to be. Plus, he could smell the heavy odor of beer and cigarettes, which seemed to saturate the air. His suspicions were later confirmed when he asked Kevin what he thought about his foster parents.
“They’re okay, I guess . . . as long as no one bothers them while they’re having their after supper beers. That’s why I stay in my room most nights and play video games.”
That was the first moment Brien found himself becoming enthusiastic about being a Big Brother. It turned out he and 12-year-old Kevin had something in common. They both were heavily into playing Armored Command, which was why they spent that whole first afternoon and part of the evening in Brien’s grandmother’s basement playing the game.
Besides video games, they had other things in common, like American muscle cars for one. And then there was their love of monster and ghost movies. It was during one of these talks about movies that Brien accidentally let it slip that he had a ghost of his own.
“No kidding!” exclaimed Kevin, a huge grin on his face. “You have your own ghost?” Brien didn’t want to, but he nodded anyway. “It’s just like in that movie, The Ghost And Mrs. Muir!”
“What’s that?” asked Brien.
“It’s an old black and white flick I saw on TV. This woman moves into an old house where this ghost of a sea captain hangs out. At first, he’s pissed that she’s invaded his territory, but then, he kind of falls in love with her, and even helps her write a book about his seafaring adventures. In the end, they become this ghost couple.”
“Sounds kind of romantic.”
Kevin scrunched up his nose. “Yeah, if you like that sort of thing.” Then his eyes lit up and he asked, “Is there any way I can meet your ghost in person?”
“I thought you already did meet her?”
Kevin looked confused. “When?”
“She said she entered your dreams and told you about me.”
“That was her?” Brien nodded. “Well, all I heard was a voice. I didn’t see anything.”
Brien looked conflicted. “I’m not sure she would allow it.”
“Could you ask, anyway?”
After a moment, Brien replied, “I suppose I could try.”
Kevin beamed. “Great!”
The next time Brien was alone, he explained to Judy that Kevin wanted to meet her in person. “He says he’s never met a ghost before.”
Judy scrunched up her mouth a little. It looked like she was thinking. “I’ll have to ask for permission, but if it’s okay, I have no qualms about it.”
Brien smiled. “Great! Where shall we meet?”
“In the same restaurant where we’ve been meeting.”
“Whatever time you show up, I’ll know you’re there.”
Smiling, Brien replied, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” Since this was Friday, and Kevin was still in school, Brien decided Saturday was the best day for them to meet up.
“Now you mustn’t get too excited when you see her,” Brien warned Kevin, right after he picked him up. “When she shows up, keep your voice low so no one else hears.” Kevin agreed, but was practically bursting at the seams as they entered the restaurant and slipped into a booth.
“And you say no one else can see or hear her except you and me?” Brien nodded.
Kevin could barely contain his excitement as he looked around, thinking that she might come waltzing in through the front door any second. But of course, she didn’t. Instead, Judy’s spirit began to slowly appear in the booth directly across from Kevin.
“Holy sheet!” Kevin exclaimed, in a voice a little too loud for Brien.
“Shush!” Brien ordered, touching his index finger to his lips. “Keep it down!”
“Sorry,” replied Kevin, looking contrite.
Just then, a waitress showed up with menus, and asked what they wanted to drink. Both ordered cokes. Then after she left, Kevin, who was staring wide-eyed at Judy’s spirit, managed to croak out a quiet, “High.”
“High, kid,” she said with a smile. She looked young; Judy had been twenty-two when she died.
Once he could find his voice again, the first question Kevin asked was, “What’s it like being dead?”
Judy replied, “There are some things we guardian angels aren’t allowed to talk about.”
Disappointed, Kevin went on to ask, “Are you Brien’s guardian angel?” Judy nodded. “So what do you do for him?”
“Mostly, I try to keep him on the straight and narrow, and hopefully, one of these days, talk him into finding a job.”
Brien, who was sitting next to Kevin in the booth, moaned slightly.
“Why does he need a job?” asked Kevin. “His grandmother lets him live with her for free, and besides, he’s doing great playing Armored Command. He can beat just about anyone I know.”
“Yeah, but life isn’t all video games and pizzas.”
Just then, their waitress returned to take their orders. Each ordered a cheeseburger and fries. Then after she left, Judy said, “Well, now that you’ve seen me, I have to go.”
“Why?” asked Kevin, disappointment darkening his face.
“I have things to do.”
“What kind of things?”
“Heavenly things.” Then she began to quickly fade, until she disappeared altogether.
That’s when Kevin switched over to the other side of the booth, and asked, “What did she mean by heavenly things?”
Brien shrugged. “I have no idea.”
When not in school, Kevin tried to hang out with Brien as much as possible. He even stayed overnight a few times on weekends. Kevin also got along great with Brien’s grandmother. In fact, she acted almost like a real grandmother, buying him things, as well as new clothes to wear. She even showed him how to cook meals and bake things like cakes and muffins. It turned out, Kevin had a real knack, which would eventually come in handy when, after graduating high school, he went on to culinary school.
In the meantime, Brien found he was enjoying have Kevin around way more than he ever thought he would. Then, one day, he got a call. It was from Kevin.
“I’m down at Child Services. I need you to give me a ride.”
“I’m getting a new guardian.”
“What’s the new address where you’re going?” When Kevin raddled it off, Brien was stunned. “Wait a minute, that’s my address!”
“Yep!” replied Kevin, humor in his voice. “Your grandmother is going to be my new foster parent.”
Brien shook his head several times in disbelief. “But how did that happen?”
Kevin replied with a chuckle, “Something tells me your guardian angel had something to do with it.”
And of course, she did.