If you've grown bored of watching It's a Wonderful Life for the hundredth time, then perhaps it's time to read Robert Reed's twist on the classic film. In "A Woman's Best Friend," Clarence isn't an angel but a dimension-hopping hoaxster.
In Reed's story, which first appeared last year in Clarkesworld Magazine, George Bailey finds himself in a foreign dimension looking at a woman who strongly resembles his wife Mary. But George isn't here to learn an important lesson about his self-worth; instead, he's been dropped here without rhyme or reason by interdimensional traveler with too much time on his hands. Fortunately, Mary, the librarian of a much more advanced civilization than George's, quickly surmises what's going on:
"Then how do you know he was an angel?"
"He said he was."
"And after you rescued him...what happened? Wait, no. Let me guess. Did your angel make noise about earning an aura or his halo-?"
"Really? And you believed that story?"
"And what did this wingless man promise you, George."
"To show me..."
"How the world would be if I'd never been born."
She couldn't help but laugh again. Really, this man seemed so sweet and so terribly lost. She was curious, even intrigued. Not that the stranger was her type, of course. But then again, this was a remarkable situation, and maybe if she gave him a chance...
It may not be a heartwarming tale of personal redemption, but it's an interesting tale of parallel worlds, and an optimistic one in its own right.
A Woman's Best Friend [Clarkesworld Magazine]