An Angel Named Jim
By Chris Sharp
“I can understand an angel helping with the signing of the Declaration of Independence,” said the outspoken young man named Jim in the Bible Study Class. “But it doesn’t work for me unless he believes he’s not an angel.”
As he spoke, the young visitor who said he was dropping by from his U.S. Navy ship looked at each of the four people in the class. It was as if he were solemnly lighting four candles at a catacomb ceremony.
The fact that everything about the visitor would soon be completely forgotten didn’t stop him from pressing his point.
“An angel can’t mingle with mankind and perform anything like an angel’s service unless he really believes he’s an ordinary human being.” Then he repeated his own name. “Like an angel named Jim. Like an ordinary Jim Homberg, to give you an example.”
Jim Homberg sat one woman away from the teacher, whom everyone knew as “Pastor Alex.” He was two women away on the roundtable to the young pastor’s right. The visitor wore blue jeans and a blue work shirt that approximated the faded look of his face. His veined forehead became practically diaphanous where it was punctuated by unkempt sandy brown hair. But in a few months no one could remember that anything had been unkempt.
The once-per-week Bible class continued meeting for another three months until it covered the Book of Revelation. A month after the class ended, Pastor Alex collected an important talisman of the experience. He married the class member named Barbara Murietta.
The couple brought so much absorbing content to each other’s lives that neither partner thought about stopping the momentum to think too seriously about their lack of children. But when Barbara died the flow of content stopped so suddenly in the empty house that Pastor Alex felt he had plunged into some never-ending hole.
Pastor Alex was 78 when he suddenly became a widower and an assistant pastor with minimal church duties. He began to board in extra rooms on a short-term basis so he could enjoy the back-and-forth of young families. But he had grown so old that he was afraid of scaring the children in the house with the spectacle of decomposition on his own worn body.
On any given night he would have to walk to the bathroom as many as ten times to relieve the pressure on his bladder from his enlarged prostrate. Too many times he would confront with his old and grave face a cheerful child in the household. He would apologize for his sad spectacle and sink into his bedroom for the larger part of the day.
Increasingly, he wrote lists in a notebook to cue back active details of his active former life. From his years with Barbara in New York City he lined his notebook with the names of the restaurants they visited again and again, like “The Paris Café,” “The Ideal Restaurant,” “Hong Fat’s,” “Amy’s,” “The Front Porch.”
Once when he was younger he had taught a course at the Princeton Theological Seminary and sometimes he and Barbara took bus trips from the Port Authority terminal in old Times Square into downtown Princeton. At Renwick’s Pancake House on Nassau Street, he had taken out a pocket knife to etch “Barbara and Alex” on a table that had collected etchings from the ages. Now – to bring back the memories – he made lists of all the streets and restaurants in Princeton so he could with effort conjure that past life back into his old life.
One night in his boarding room he made a list of all the people he could remember attending his Bible classes through the years. Just before the list has reached its end, he had conjured from the deep past the name “ordinary Jim Homberg.”
In the day Jim Homberg had visited the class, Pastor Alex had met his wife at the round table. Barbara Murietta had come to the class at the invitation and in the company of her friend, “Marybird Lyon.”
Using every skill he had learned on the World Wide Web, Pastor Alex discovered the phone number of Marybird Lyon by joining a website membership of her graduating high school class.
Within a year, Pastor Alex and Marybird were married in the room of the old church where they had once attended a Bible class. Before the wedding, he wrote the name of “Jim Homberg” into three of his all-time favorite Bibles.
Throughout his wedding, he kept hearing a young voice that on one ordinary day had described an angel named Jim.
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Chris Sharp has had fiction published in DailyLove.net (Oct. 24, 2010), Yesteryear Fiction (Feb. 8, March 6, and March 18, 2011), Kalkion.com, Aphelion@webvine.com and West Ranch Beacon.com. He won the 2003 West 35th Street Award in “Best New Short PI Fiction” for his story. “A Smell on the Beach” from Crimestalkers.com. He is married to the poet Debbie Bongiovanni-Sharp and they live with a cat and a parrot in Menifee, California.
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