Angel in a Bulls Jacket

The rumbling of a garbage truck awoke me before 07:00 AM Saturday morning in the garage apartment my 10 year old son and I called home. A messy divorcce had left me struggling financially, and I was forced to move with Levi into a less-than-desirable part of town. Drug dealers loitered out front late into the night. "God, will You be able to keep us safe here?" I worried.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard banging on the front door. Who could it be so early ? I threw on a sweatsuit and unlocked the door, opening it only part way. There stood a hulking teenager wearing a leather Chicago Bulls jacket. " Yes?" I asked warily.

" Lady, you got a bad gas leak!" I opened the door a bit wider and stuck my head out. The stench of natural gas was overpowering, and I covered my mouth and nose to keep from gagging. "You gotta get out," he said. His deep brown eyes pleaded with me. " The whole place could blow."

Levi ! I ran to his bedroom. " Wake up," I said, shaking him. " Mom, it's Saturday," he groaned. "No school."

" Honey, there's a gas leak. We've got to get out of here. Now !" I tossed him a pair of jeans, and Levi dressed quickly while I grabbed the cordless phone. We rushed outside, where the young man in the Bulls jacket was waiting. " It's gonna be okay," he said. "Call 911."

Of course ! I was wasting time. The fumes grew stronger by the minute. I dialed. " Emergency," I said to the operator, giving all the information. Help was on the way.

" We'll be fine now," I assured the young man, but he stayed to watch the street fill with fire trucks and police cars.

I was called over to answer questions while the rescuers shut the gas off and checked the area. One firefighter came out of the garage with a sniffer, a device that detects flammable vapors in the air. "The gas meter's punctured," he said, trying to catch his breath. "It's lucky you woke up when you did, ma'am."

The young man who'd warned me was leaning on our car talking to Levi. There are some good people around here too, I realized, walking over to join them.

"Time to get going," the young man said. "Later, Levi. Take care of your mom." He shook my hand and walked down the street. "Come back anytime," I called after him, waving.

The firefighter in charge told us it was safe to go back inside. " That young man probably saved our lives," I said. The fireman stared at me blankly. " The one who was with my son and me," I added. " You saw him." The crew looked at one another uncomfortably. I tried again. " He was over six feet tall, a black kid in his late teens, wearing a Bulls jacket." " I'm a Bulls fan," one of the policemen said. " I'd have noticed a kid in a Bulls jacket."

" We didn't see any teenagers around here," another officer insisted. "Just you two. And you're darned lucky you got out when you did." I stood in the midst of the dispersing crowd, trying to make sense of what had happened.

Levi took my hand. " I saw him, Mom, so don't worry," he said. And for the first time in ages, I promised God I'd try not to.

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