A small Kentucky town. Late February, 1937.
Although she cannot overcome her disappointment that her vision had failed to manifest itself, days have passed since her devastating experience, and Margaret is journeying to the nearest town to obtain a birth certificate for her child. She has not yet grown accustomed to the constant presence of the Handmaidens, but they do relieve Margaret of the burdens of child care. Thus, she rests and regains her strength day by day as the women feed, bathe, and dress the infant.
In return, Devil Don rewards the ladies with brilliant smiles, witty remarks, and occasional songs.
Margaret does not know how the Handmaidens secured the donkey-driven cart they are using, but the ride into town is pleasant enough for a winter day. Everyone is bundled up, and all the women, excepting Margaret, are infatuated with the baby, who comes out of his milk coma first humming, then singing “Harbor Lights.” Margaret recalls that the song was playing on the radio earlier in the morning.
Well, he is a quick study, and he has quite a range for one so young, Margaret observes. And his diction is excellent.
Margaret and the Handmaidens reach the building containing the Muhlenberg County Records office and hurry inside for relief from the wind. Margaret tells the women to stay in the hallway, but Devil Don resists her efforts to remove him from the arms of one of the most attractive Handmaidens, so Margaret indicates that the woman holding her child can enter the office with her. All the Handmaidens crowd into the office with Margaret, but fortunately the reception area is empty when they seat themselves.
The Handmaiden carrying Devil Don settles down in the middle of the group, and Margaret strides up to the counter alone, seething. In a mechanical voice, she gives Miss Evans, the woman in charge of registering births, the particulars of the baby’s date of birth and estimated weight. Margaret then states that the boy is to be named in part for his father, Isaac, but will be called by his second name, Damian.
Throughout their conversation, Miss Evans is distracted by the group of females surrounding Margaret. These women appear to ignore the young mother while focusing their attention on her baby. Miss Evans keeps her eyes on the infant as she backs slowly away from the counter and moves toward the heavy Underwood manual typewriter at the back desk.
As she waits, Margaret eyes the sign that reads, “Now serving number 08.” Next to the sign is a hook holding the numbers for townspeople already helped that morning. Abruptly, Margaret turns to the baby’s followers: “Ladies, I will soon be instituting a new system for those of you wishing to suckle, embrace, or marry this man-child.”
Miss Evans herself wants desperately to touch that baby. Hands shaking, she assembles a stack of three identical printed forms, interspersing them with black carbon sheets. She then rolls the collection carefully into the Underwood’s carriage. Maybe she could say that the State of Kentucky demanded that she actually hold the infant, just as a check on the estimated weight.
With her mind’s eye still on the kneeling women and her thoughts on holding the baby, the clerk places her nervous fingers on the keyboard. And just as Margaret hisses, “I told you to stay outside,” Miss Evans begins to type a name that comes to her in a musical male voice:
I-S-A-A-C D-O-N-A-L-D E-V-E-R-L-Y
Miss Evans brings Margaret’s copy of the registration back to the counter, only to find a teenaged girl holding the infant in outstretched arms. “He says you can touch his curls.”
Miss Evans gently fingers the soft ringlets and studies the perfect face. The baby’s eyes twinkle, and he whispers softly: “Thanks, Darlin’. I didn’t care for the name Mama chose.”