As promised, Parvez arranged for Clarence to visit the spirits of his mother and father, whom he had not seen since the Great Plague of London in 1665. After an exchange of kisses and hugs, Clarence shared the good news about his successful clockmaking business and beautiful family left behind in Bristol. A short time later he said goodbye to his parents, promising to soon return for another visit.
“My, that was grand,” Clarence said, as he and the trainer left their cottage. “Do you know the last time I had seen either of them was when they were lying in the pine boxes just before their burial? Took my father first and my mother soon after. Very sad to lose one’s parents, especially a lad of twelve.”
Clarence added that he considered himself fortunate. Just prior to their passing he had begun the apprenticeship to Master Crimson, the clockmaker. “You could say he saved my life.”
Parvez smiled. “Come along now, we are expected at Joseph’s office.”
“What for?” Clarence wondered.
“To begin your training.”
Joseph Kearns’ office occupied a portion of a Quonset hut. Within the sparse interior the supervising angel sat on a swivel chair behind a gun-metal gray desk, while two metal chairs for visitors faced the desk.
Clarence took a seat, leaned over and asked Parvez in a quiet voice, “How do you say ‘dark and dreary’ in Kashmiri?”
“Bē-nūr ĕ wath,” whispered the trainer. “Rough translation.”
Clarence snorted, drawing a scowl from the supervising angel behind the desk. “Alright, Odbody you’re to begin your guardian angel training at this time,” Joseph barked in his inimitable gruff style. “Any questions?”
Clarence appeared flummoxed. Parvez interjected, “You see, sir, I have yet to cover the main guidelines with him. As you’d suggested, I thought we should do it together.”
Joseph cut him short. “Well, alright, then, let’s get on with it.”
Parvez stood near the front and turned behind, as if waiting for permission.
“Come, come,” Joseph said, waving toward him. “Anything to get the show on the road.”
Parvez spun around facing Clarence and inhaled to gather his thoughts. Clarence leaned rightward in his chair to achieve a direct view of the supervising angel. With eyebrows arched he asked, “Is there something I’m supposed to be doing at present, sir?”
“Yes. Sit there and listen!” Joseph barked. “Get on with it, Parvez.”
The trainer nodded and in a clear voice explained there are four principal guidelines every trainee must follow in becoming a guardian angel. “One: Guide the subject but do not show them how to achieve their goal. There should be no direct interference, as free will is the guiding force.”
Clarence interrupted. “Just like the old saying, ‘You can bring a horse to the lake, but you can’t make him drink.’” Clarence’s head bob signified his glee at remembering the maxim; Parvez’s meek smile prompted Joseph to roll his eyes skyward.
“Yes, now guardian angels may use…” Parvez nervously rolled his hands while searching for the perfect word, “eh… ultra-human measures to achieve the goal. That may include appearing in human form, which is permissible, along with phasing in or out from the plane. But only when the guardian and the human subject are alone.”
“— alone and no other persons snooping around to observe.” Joseph’s growling interruption almost induced whiplash in the trainer. “We’re not running a circus up here for the benefit of a few nosy Nancys.”
Parvez nodded and continued. “Point well taken, sir.”
Clarence’s modified grimace and head bobbing indicated he was following along. “It all sounds reasonable,” he noted. “No direct interference and don’t show off in front of others. Anything else?”
Joseph’s loud exhalation suggested he’d reached the limit of his tolerance. Parvez cleared his throat to mask the supervisor’s misgiving and communicate he should continue once more. “Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, while developing trust with your subject, do not permit your feelings in any way to interfere with the mission. That means—”
“—that means don’t fall in love with the subject.”
A fresh layer clouded over Clarence’s face. Things appeared more complicated than he had first imagined.
“Joseph is absolutely correct. But the guardian may act in a friendly manner toward the subject to establish that trust; in fact, it is encouraged!” Parvez’s incessant head bobbing prompted the supervisor to roll his right hand with eyes skyward, suggesting Let’s move along.
“And finally,” Parvez announced, “number four… No direct contact or touching of the subject.
Clarence’s innocent smile, shoulder shrug and palms-up expression suggested he had no issue with the four guidelines as presented.