Will Gatti & Daniel Finn

Story Bag

I am the wicked messenger

I am the wicked messenger


This isn’t really a story but perhaps the beginning of one. The picture of the house with those dead pumps outside it made me think of the gas stations you see in movies sometimes, way out on a long flat dusty road to nowhere, somewhere in Texas or New Mexico maybe. Perhaps a bit like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.47.31

And that made me think about a song by Bob Dylan that I really like; ‘The wicked messenger’. And that led me to this:

He came from Eli. He was on his own, driving up to the gas station in a beat up Volkswagon, the windscreen bleary with dirt and dust . None of this was unusual. Though in truth the few cars hitting this route tended to drive right by.

My gas station was out on the highway. It was surrounded by dry flat fields, with the horizon an eye strain in the distance. A middle of nowhere place, though only a little way out of the town, well, a couple of hour’s drive down the straight road with nothing too much to look at, apart from flat-board signs welcoming you to Stoker’s shoe store, Bringer’s Dining Excellence and other places that had closed down more than a year ago.

‘Fine place,’ he said.

‘We got one pump, a rest room out the back, which I keep clean enough. Never heard it called fine before.’

He had a thin face, dirty grey stubbled cheeks, scrawny neck and arms. He was wearing a dirty vest, his arms bare and stringy. An old tattoo on his arm. He smiled and his whole face twisted up on one side, his right eye wrinkling into what some folk might reckon was an endearing wink. Me, I always think that’s what a shooter does when he looks down the barrel of a gun, taking aim. ‘Fill her up, buddy. I got some road to run.’ He stayed sitting in the car, arms on the wheel, hands loose, tapping a private jig.

‘That right.’ I tapped the nozzle on the rim of the tank and hitched it back on the pump. ‘Mind me asking what you got written on that tattoo on your arm.’ It looked like a botched up pony express rider, waving a hat, looking over his shoulder.

‘Tidings of joy.’ He said. ‘I’m the messenger.’ He paid for the gas.

‘Who’d have thought,’ I said. ‘I thought the old style messengers came on foot or horseback, not in a German car, like you got here.’

He smiled a bit more. I got to say I didn’t like the way that eye kept taking aim at me. ‘My walking days are done,’ he said. ’The soles of my feet are burning. Whole time. On fire.’

He pulled away onto the road and shrank down to a beetle, a stone, and then was gone.

I knew him then for the wicked messenger from Eli. There was some word out about him. I couldn’t recall exactly what but I didn’t like that smiling look with one eye, taking aim. It nagged at me, wouldn’t let go. I was never uneasy about being out here but after that day, don’t ask me why, I’m looking over my shoulder the whole time. Tidings of joy, he had said. Tidings of joy.