The Alphabet Disciple greets me with open arms in the lobby at the train station. “Welcome stranger,” he says, “to the City of Angels.” He’s wearing faded jeans and an L.A. Kings T-shirt. It’s 8:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and I’ve just arrived from my hometown. I’ve got an hour to kill before another train takes me far, far away.
He looms tall, voice booming, hands casting about as he projects. “Welcome to the last grand feat of architecture in this country! What is your name, dear wanderer?”
I hesitate to give it, but a security guard leans against the wall, arms crossed, a look of resignation on his face. “Samantha,” I say.
“Samantha,” he shouts, “Samantha begins with S and S if for Sarah, wife of Abraham, mother of Isaac!” A family rushes past brushing me with suitcases on roller wheels. “Where are you from,” the Alphabet Disciple asks me, “and where are you going?”
I do not tell him that I come from a wonderful life, that it was stolen from me. That my fiancé left me for our neighbor’s cousin because she makes him feel alive again. That I’m riding on trains and buses to get to a new life, one that is frightening and wide open, a lonely blank space where my marriage should be. He leans in and whispers, “Isaiah Chapter 35, Verse 5: and the mute tongue shall sing for joy!”
He spreads his palms and begins singing, “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!” I’m no believer so I excuse myself to get coffee. “Accept Jesus into your heart,” he calls, “and good fortune will follow you through life on this planet!”
Homeless people dot the floor of the wide lobby, some leaning against pillars with gaunt faces. Abandoned souls sitting cross legged under a tiled mosaic ceiling, cardboard signs describing their plight in black spray-painted letters. Hungry, lost, broke. Broken. Travelers weave around them like they don’t exist, stepping over heaps of tatty blankets, distracted by watches and phones and departure boards.
A battered upright piano stands against a wall by the restroom, a sign daring the public to “show us what you got!” A young woman with long colorful braids sits down and plunks dissonant notes as a boy in a hoodie rides a bicycle through the crowd yelling, “You suck!” The girl shouts back an obscenity and begins Alla Turca, slim digits peeking through fingerless gloves that fly over the keys. She pauses to place a baseball hat on top of the instrument, and a few generous onlookers toss coins in her direction.
I wait in line at a kiosk while the barista hustles espressos and lattes to construction workers in dirty coveralls and office managers in sleek suits. I can hear the Alphabet Disciple raving above the music, “Liam! Liam begins with L and L is for Lazarus, raised from the dead by the Son of God!” Liam looks confused, but I turn a blind eye wanting to blend into transience.
The man in front of me doesn’t have any money so the barista refuses to give him caffeine. The man slaps a hand on the counter and the barista calls for help. The security guard ambles in muttering complaints, ushers the man away, tossing him into the sea of people, a rack of raging bones.
The coffee burns my tongue like a punishment for my silence, so I hold the Styrofoam cup in my hand without drinking. I sit in a leather chair inside a roped-off waiting area for ticketed passengers only and wonder what I could’ve done differently in that old life that was taken from me. Maybe I’d been too mute, too joyless. Maybe I should’ve spoken up sooner, shouted my love like the Alphabet Disciple shouts his love for the Messiah. The man with no money is threading his way toward the piano, eyes fixated on the rainbow-haired girl’s hat. I stand up, accusations caught in my throat. He lurches a wiry arm forward to snatch a few coins, and the music stops abruptly as the girl gets up to chase him.
“Hey!” I yell, pent-up frustration escaping my lips like a song. “Security!”
The pianist throws herself on top of the man with no money, all punching fists and kicking legs. The security guard dives into the scuffle to separate them, and the Alphabet Disciple rises into the air, halo beaming like a saint in stained glass, his beating heart a pulsating red glow through his shirt. “Mayhem!” he cries, “Mayhem starts with M like Mary Mother of God!”
I join the melee, shouting to the guard that it’s all a misunderstanding. I give the man with no money my coffee, and he hands the change back to the girl. The Alphabet Disciple descends to the ground like some deflated alien, no longer glowing. “What is your name, child?” he asks the piano player as she accepts an apology from the man with no money. “Rebecca,” she answers.
“Rebecca starts with R, like the Rainbow after the flood, a promise of protection from the Lord Almighty! Rebecca, your hair is a covenant of peace in this station.”
A voice over a loudspeaker announces my train is boarding. The security guard tells us all to keep moving before he decides to call the police. I watch as the three misfit angels straggle to the exit, the Alphabet Disciple in the middle with the other two talking to him like old friends.
The train picks up speed and scenes flash by, underpasses, junk yards, graffiti, palm trees. I’m sitting beside Liam who is reading a novel. Liam starts with L and L is for love, love that maybe I will find once again. Or luck, good fortune in the ominous future. I sneak a glance at Liam’s profile, he smells good. I’m still pretty sure that God is dead, but maybe the Alphabet Disciple raised me back to life after all.
Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her stories have appeared in Milk Candy Review, Fictive Dream, JMWW, Sage Cigarettes, New World Writing, Bending Genres, Ghost Parachute, Ruminate Online, Trampset, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Her chapbook “Static Disruption” is available from Alien Buddha Press. Her collection “Flight Instinct” is available from ELJ Editions. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie, and on Instagram at @sbdobwrites.