The Ink Chase Serial appears below, after An Angel Visiting
An Angel Visiting
by Adam Nannini
On the morning of April the first of 2014, Babs Messing, a forty-seven-year-old Kinko’s employee from the town of Flint, Michigan, enjoyed her lunch break (still in her Kinko’s apron) feeding ducks at a pond in a unkempt park, wondering to herself if she had truly found her calling, if her work in printing and copying and customer service rewarded her emotionally enough. Perhaps there was something greater for her to to do, something higher.
The ducks munched away and quacked at each other, marching to and fro in their stiff-legged way as she tossed stale bread here and there, when suddenly, a man stood next to her and lifted his arms in the air.
“Hail, Babs of Flint! My name is Mervin! I am an angel sent unto you with a message!” he said.
Babs didn’t think it much of an angelic name, Mervin. She wondered how he knew her name, but then she realized she had her nametag on. He sat down next to her, wearing loose blue jeans, a gray fleece top, and a multi-colored knit cap. He had no wings, but his bronze and shimmering curly-tipped mustache was divine, she thought. So perfectly manicured, so perfectly combed and trimmed, she knew she had never seen a mustache like it before, and she felt an intense desire to stroke the curled-up end with her finger.
“Thou art truly blessed among women, for the Lord hath given thee a task in these dark times.”
“Uh-huh,” she said, tossing more bread onto the lawn.
“Babs of Flint, in the coming days, there shall be a man, a prophet of the Lord who shall come into thy Kinko’s chain establishment to make some copies to tape to a sandwich board that shall predict the coming end of the world!”
Babs took a piece of bread from her bag, put it in her mouth, and chewed slowly. “Mm-hmm.”
“You shall give him free copies! And lo, when he shall try to make the copies, there shall be a jam in the copier, a most egregious jam!”
“I like your mustache,” she said, reaching out with her finger to touch it. “Do all ‘angels’ have mustaches like yours?”
Mervin blocked her hand then paused to stroke his glorious mustache and clear his throat. “Yea. It is part of the uniform.”
“I see,” she said.
“Babs of Flint! It is important that you understand your task. When this man shall enter thy establishment and after thou hast given him free copies, you must be able to unjam the copier! That is your quest, Babs of Flint!”
Babs threw some more bread on the ground, and the ducks quacked with delight.
“I can unjam the copiers,” she said. She reached out again to touch his mustache. “How do you get it so shiny?” she asked.
“Never mind!” he said. “My mustache has nothing to do with your quest!” said Mervin.
“So, let’s just say I believe you. How’m I gonna know this guy? We get a lot o’ weirdos in there, goth kids, and creepos making band posters and stuff.”
“Babs of Flint!” said Mervin. “Babs is fine, dearie,” she said, patting his leg.
“Babs, then. The man shall enter and he shall have hair like sheep’s wool, and he shall be wearing a coffee-stained Buffalo Bills Starter jacket from the early 1990s. But this shall be a sign unto you, for you shall know him by his smell, for he shall have an odor most foul!”
Babs tossed more bread. This time, the bread caught the attention of a Canadian goose that tried to come up from the pond and steal it, but a plucky little mallard hissed and quacked until the avian Goliath was subdued back into the pond.
“I dunno,” she said. “I’ve smelled some pretty rank customers.”
“This customer shall have the most rank odor, one like you have never smelled.”
“I see,” she said. “Okay.”
This time she darted her hand out to him quick, and, with her index finger, touched the right fringe of his mustache. It felt so satiny smooth. Mervin jumped back in his seat, startled.
“Thou shalt not touch the mustache!” he commanded.
“Sorry. Couldn’t help it. It’s so pretty.”
“Nevertheless,” he said.
With that, Mervin stood from the bench. “You have your quest, Babs of Flint!”
“Yup,” she said, shrugging, and took another bite of stale bread.
“Fare thee well!” he shouted, then he turned from the bench and walked over the ridge behind her, and like that, he was gone.
Babs looked at her watch. Her break was nearly done, so she overturned her paper bag to dump the remaining bread on the ground, but when she did, the bread poured out continuously in a stream. A mound of stale white bread piled around her ankles and up to her shins, and geese and ducks and fowl of every kind flew in from the surrounding area, and lo, she was sore afraid.
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Adam is aptly named, in that he writes for the fallen man. His work springs from a working-class culture, and his style is simple and clear. Adam is from Cheshire County, New Hampshire, by way of Grand Rapids, Michigan, but currently resides in Milledgeville, Georgia where he is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at Georgia College & State University.
The Ink Chase
A Serial in eight parts
Next day at the office it was back to backbreaking paperwork, overseeing of the harbor construction by the prisoner chain-gangs; a visit to the Panopticon—a 100-eyed monster watchtower designed for gaining supremacy of mind over mind, in a measure so far without compare. It grimly surveyed prisoners immured in bleak and comfortless structures – a vast mill for grinding rogues authentic. There were no demons here—no inky phantoms of the night—just plain, brutal humans crushing free will and dignity.
“Salaam, Governor Barry sahib,” Radhe, the stick orderly saluted, smartly catching the white toupee I tossed at him.
“Salaam. Nimbu paani—chilled,” I ordered, inserting a finger in my starch collar and prying it away from my sticky, perspiring neck. I was thankful to be back in the cool of the khus-tutty’s wetted shade, and the punkah’s lazy breeze.
I got so caught up in work I didn’t know when the sun went down and when it became dark. I looked out the window and it seemed the clouds had appeared from nowhere, with the air smelling heavily of black.
“It’s going to rain,” I muttered to the coolie who still tugged at the punkah’s string with his big toe though he was fast asleep. I walked out and saw a few perplexed brown clerks staring at the sky above, looking for the clouds that weren’t there: just a black pall shrouding the firmamentv not a tear of rain on the fevered skin. The sun was a black disk like the underside of a stovetop kettle. I wondered if it had anything to do with me. I suddenly thought of Diane and a strange, speechless fear gripped me. I ordered for the motorcar to be placed.
As we rode home the pall lifted and the skies opened up once again. But soon the shade overtook us and moved overhead as we went down the sunlit street—a solitary black cloud following me in a bright world. I brought the darkness home and slamming the porch door, drew the curtains on it.
“Is it going to rain?” Diane, happy to see me early, began to open my shirt buttons. “My, you are so wet. You smell of the sea—and prison. Been out at the harbor again?”
“Work as usual,” I said, splashing myself down at the sink while she stood behind with a towel and a clean shirt.
After lunch and a long nap I walked out to the lawns where tea had been laid out. It was bright and sunny again, and the repose had cast aside the shadows that’d been haunting me.
“Weather’s been funny, playing tricks, isn’t it dear,” Diane commented as she poured out steaming cardamom tea.
“Damn tropics—none of the balmy English weather,” I said, and we laughed. Diane looked frail—she had been having a lot of sick spells lately. “You’ll have plenty on your hands once the baby arrives.”
“You think everything will be fine, David,” she asked, her brow clouding.
She’d had a miscarriage and I was worried silly. I noticed the blue tinge around the fingernails and the pallor in her baggy eyes were getting darker. “I’m sure, darling. Dr. Watson said so, didn’t he? You just take rest and watch your step—that’s all.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to take another…”
I rose and placed a finger on her lips. “Shush…” I stood over her and caressed her neck and shoulders. She nestled her head against my thigh, gripping my hands. “I promise my dear,” I said, raising her face up toward me and looking into her eyes, “with all the power, love, and faith dear god has vested in me—I will make it right this time.”
Diane smiled, a tear clung to the brim of her eye, and she kissed my hands gratefully, and crossed herself. “I believe—I believe in you first, and in dear god above next.”
To be continued