Flowers by D. I Jolly

For reasons best known to himself and God, Maalik found himself standing under a streetlamp in the middle of the night trying desperately to light a cigarette in the rain. As he finally managed to get the match to stay lit long enough to get a lung full of smoke, he wondered out loud.

“There has got to be a better way of earning a living than this, right?”

He then turned his gaze skyward and said again.

“Right?”

Lightning flashed in answer and he let out a long sigh.

“Or not.”

A few larger drops hit near the ember of his cigarette which made the smoke taste funny, but he’d learned to let those sorts of small things go. In the grand scheme of life, a weird tasting cigarette didn’t really matter. What did matter was the car that had pulled up in front of him and wound down its window.

“Hey buddy!’

Came a voice from inside the car.

‘You need a ride or something?”

Maalik bent to see the speaker and came face to face with a gruff looking man in a medium-priced business suit.

“That’s real nice of you, but sadly I’ve got to wait here. I appreciate you stopping though, most people wouldn’t. So, thanks.”

He pulled in another long drag, then smiled. The other man shook his head and chuckled knowingly.

“Alright pal, well, I hope they’re worth it.”

Maalik cocked an eyebrow and resisted the urge to look up.

“Me too.”

The window wound back up and the car pulled off slowly, careful not to spray water as it went. Looking skyward again Maalik said.

“Fine, I’ll help him, but not because you made me.”

Lightning flashed and he pulled the collar of his coat up and started walking off down the street. An hour and a few more wet cigarettes later, he arrived outside of a decent looking apartment building and for the second time, that night stood under a street lamp considering his life choices. Thunder cracked, which made him frown, and then he spotted him. Top floor standing at the window with a drink in his hand, talking to someone was the guy from the car. Luckily, the rain had caused the front door of the building to swell, and not close properly, so he could just walk in. Unluckily the elevator was out of order. A few flights of stairs later Maalik found himself wet and tired and more than a little grumpy, but finally, outside the door he was looking for. He reached for his pack of cigarettes only to be interrupted by a crack of thunder, which he ignored. As he put one in his mouth and reached for his matches lightning flashed and thunder cracked again even louder and frowning Maalik said,

“Fine!”

And rang the doorbell. A few moments later the door opened on the chain and a face belonging to not the man he’d seen before appeared in the gap.

“Fuck off.”

Maalik smiled,

“If it’s alright with you, I’d like to come in and talk to you about God and the good work he does.”

The face scrunched up in fury and said again.

“Fuck off.”

Then closed the door. Maalik frowned, sighed and kicked the door so hard it came off its hinges and knocked the man out cold. Inside he found the man from the car, an older looking man in a slightly more expensive suit and another thug, who was pointing a gun at him. Maalik smiled and said almost cheerfully.

“Oh, actually, I’ve got something for that.”

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he drew a very simple looking long sword. Seeing it the older man let out a rasping laugh and croaked.

“Looks like you brought a knife to a gunfight son. Kill him.”

Instantly the thug fired three shots, two in the heart and one in the head. Maalik’s head snapped back and his eye’s lost focus, and for just an instant it looked like he was going to crumble to the ground, but didn’t. His eyes blinked back to life and as he looked forward the blade of his sword burst into flame.

“Wow! That really hurts.”

The thug stared wide-eyed as the older man said.

“Lord Jesus protect me, what sort of devilry is this!”

Which made Maalik frown.

“Seriously. You’re career criminals who just tried to murder me for basically being here, and you really think God is on your side?”

He then waved the flaming sword at them.

“Think it through maybe?”

The thug had sudden visions of his grandmother and dropped his gun to raise his hands while the older man took a long breath in and said.

“What do you want from us?”

“I want you to go home, give up your criminal ways, repent in the eyes of God and to spend the rest of your lives in the pursuit of good and humble endeavours. But I’ll settle for you just going.”

The two men looked at each other and, unsure of what to do, quickly made their way out the door. Stopping only briefly to pick up their unconscious cohort. Maalik waited for a few moments then reached for a cigarette and tilting his head carefully lit if from the sword as thunder exploded just outside the window.

“Oh relax.”

All the while the man from the car had stood paralysed, staring at the flaming sword questioning every decision he’d ever made. Maalik inhaled the smoke then put the sword on a table and found himself a chair, content to wait until things had settled down. The man from the car continued to stare at the sword but when he realised that the table wasn’t burning the spell seemed to break and thoughts flooded back into his mind. He turned to look at Maalik and realised that he recognised him.

“You, you’re the man from earlier, out in the rain.”

“Yup, and you’re Jeremey Potter.”

Jeremey stiffened at the sound of his own name and opened his mouth to ask the obvious question but stopped as Maalik pointed at the sword.

“I know it’s weird when people full name you like that, but it’s also an effective way of showing that I know more than I should.”

“Wha…. What do you want from me?”

“You’re a good man Jeremey, you’ve got a good heart. You’ve made some terrible decisions over the course of your life. But you’ve got a good heart.”

Jeremey stared a bit more, wondering what to do with that information and settled on saying.

“Okay? So?”

“So, you’re walking down a… dark path, and if you stay the way you’re going, it’s not going to end well for you, afterlife wise, and there are some people that… would rather that not be the case. Basically, I’m here to offer you a job.”

“A what? What sort of job.”

A smile spread across Maalik’s face that literally lit up the room.

“A really weird, inconvenient and difficult one that will put you in life-threatening situations that you won’t even believe possible until you come face to face with them and have to find a solution too.”

Jeremey’s expression turned blank and he manoeuvred himself into a chair in case he fell over.

“Oh but don’t worry, it’s actually kind of fun, once you get used to it.”

“You’re, an Angel, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And you want to offer me a job?”

“Yes.”

“As in working for God?”

“Yes.”

“Can… can I refuse?”

The light from Maalik’s smile seemed to get a bit brighter and the sword flickered.

“Yes! Choice, it’s kind of a big deal.”

Jeremey nodded then scratched the back of his neck nervously, revealing a tattoo of a rose he’d had on his forearm since he was a misguided teenager.

“I don’t suppose it comes with clear instructions and a solid onboarding process does it?”

“Sadly no, got that whole, ‘works in mysterious ways’ thing to maintain.”

Nodding a bit more confidently Jeremey let out a long breath and said.

“I guess I’m in then.”

Maalik quickly jumped to his feet, picked up his sword and said cheerfully.

“Great. We’ll be in touch.”

And a moment later Jeremey woke up. As he walked cautiously through his apartment, he found his front door firmly back in place, and an angel’s cigarette crushed out in a whiskey glass on his dining room table.

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