Virgin Prayers – Beth Konkoski

The Holy Virgin Mary, exact replica of the statue from the entryway of St. Theresa’s Catholic School, appeared in Jesse’s shower one Tuesday morning.  About three feet tall, she gestured with her small hands for him to move closer.  Her blue robes swayed in the corner, solid against the white tile, but the water did not reach her.  He covered himself before screaming, “What the fuck?”  Then regretted his words as a tear slipped down her cheek and she looked at the ground, away from him, ashamed for him.

Hail Mary, full of grace… the words came to his mind unbidden as he crouched in the steamy water and tried to hide his nakedness.  There was every reason to believe the vision was a hangover remnant, too much tequila no doubt.  But the words of the prayer continued, the Lord is with us.  He turned away from the corner and water sprayed him, stinging his eyes, pounding at his cheeks and lips.

“You need to take better care of yourself, Jesse.”  The voice was a confusing mix of his grandmother and Miss O’Hanlon his fourth grade teacher, the only one who was not a nun that year; she had been young enough to smile often, and she wore her long curls in a ponytail.

Blinking away the water, he looked again in the corner and the Holy Mother stared back, her hands out toward him in supplication.  Ignoring the shampoo still in his hair, he shut off the water and wrapped himself in a towel.  From outside the shower, he looked back and saw nothing.  What did “better care” mean exactly?  He chewed on the phrase whenever he couldn’t push the incident away from his mind.

The next morning she reached up and slapped his ass while he soaped his hair.  He screamed again, whirling around and expecting to see the girl he had just left in his bed, Amy, Amber, something like that.  “You must take better care of others, Jesse.”  He noted the idea of a theme and saw also how she scowled a bit, her voice a little rougher, less Miss O’Hanlon and more his grandmother after she’d had a few.  She stood with fists in the ready position. Blessed art though among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.  The prayer again an echo in his brain as he shut off the water and tried to forget the sting of her hand branding his cheek.

For two days he showered at the gym after work. By Saturday morning he was ready to brave his bathroom again, so he stood beneath the water, waiting.  He tried to pretend he didn’t know what this apparition meant when she scolded him, tried to believe as he closed his eyes that “better care” might mean waiting for their orgasm.  He used condoms; everyone had fun.  What was her deal?

She did not surprise him this time.  But the look on her face had gone from stern and intent to furious.  Her lips as she cursed him spit out the words, “I warned you Jesse.”  He faced her, unafraid and ready.   No shower vision was going to ruin his twenties or even make him feel guilty.  With his hands on his hips and his junk on full display, he prepared to answer back.  Holy Mary, Mother of God.

“What do you fucking want?  Is this some burning bush kind of thing?”

She shook her head, downcast eyes again, a moment benign and sacred, mother of Christ in a patient, long suffering froth of blue robe.  Pray for us sinners, now.     Her eyes lifted to him as the words of the prayer, like footsteps down an empty hallway echoed in his head.  And at the hour of our death.  In her hand, the razor he kept on top of the soap.  Amen.

 

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Beth Konkoski is a writer and high school English teacher who lives in suburban Washington D.C. and enjoys imagining other lives through her writing. Her fiction and poetry have been published in journals such as Story, Mid-American Review, Saranac Review and The Baltimore Review.

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