The High Priestess by Jack Hobbs
My hours are filled with flies. I try to pray, honest, I do, but they just keep coming. It wouldn’t bother me, its just from where they come. The crucifix, on the wall, they come from it like it’s spawning them, like they are hatching from it. It’s their mother. I’ll be praying, and then I’ll hear the buzzing. It’s an ugly sound. A choir of ugly gnats singing the ugly chorus of an ugly hymn that no church would ever endorse. It might sound nice to hear that one’s life consists of song, but this song, is anything but nice. The walls in my apartment are white, my crucifix is black. The flies are black. The walls are white, the flies are black. I see them even at night, when the lights are turned out but the starshine creeps through the windows, and reflects off the white of the walls. The crucifix is their mother.
I think about mothers a lot. Momma, and motherhood, and virginity, and marriage. Motherhood just may be the worst thing any woman could ever do to herself. My mother’d never have said it, probably never even thought it, but I could see the toll it took on her. I don’t think the Virgin was the epitome of womanhood, not compared to every other woman on the planet, and it’s not blasphemy to say so. She was a vessel, and she did her duty, but she didn’t do much more than that. Her sainthood is de facto, but all she did was give birth. All mothers give birth. My mother gave birth. It’s just the truth that other saints might have actually done something, and now live eternal in the shadow of Mary. Saint Mary is my favorite. Not the Virgin, the other one. Magdalene. From the Virgin came one child, but from the Magdalene came seven. Demons, they were. Each one a deadly sin. Jesus cleansed her of them because she believed, she was faithful and she followed him and she repented. She wasn’t chosen as a child and neither was I. We earned our place with God, but I don’t think the flies have. They’re something else. They’ll never be saints.
I hear the flies still, buzzing, flying into what they think is an exit but turns out to be glass. Sometimes I mistake that sound for raindrops. It almost sounds the same. It hasn’t rained in weeks, though. A drought like the ones California’s always having. My mother always said that rain is cleansing, that it’s like baptism. Stand out in it for a minute and it’ll wash the dirt right off you. Stay out a little longer and maybe it’ll get your sins too. When I hear thunder, I always go outside. Even when I’m praying; it’s a habit not so easily broken and I will put God on hold if I must. He’s the one sending the rain anyways. Rain saved my mother’s life once, I think. The whole day she’d been crying and she was in the kitchen all day alone and none of us could come in and she just kept standing by our oven. Said she was making gumbo but I know you don’t need an oven for that. We were outside, me and my brother, and it started raining and thundering too. When my mother heard that thunder, she came right outside. Fast. Almost running. We were real scared, thought she was angry, but it was the opposite. She was Christ-like, in that rain. Arms spread wide, head thrown back, laughter rising above the rain sounds. And she was yelling, too, hollering for my sisters to come outside. “Right now immediately,” is what she said, I think. And we were all laughing then, all of us. My father’d left a while ago and all us kids were confused about it and Momma was always sad about something it seemed and now that she was acting happy we couldn’t help ourselves. So much laughing on that day.
I owe it to her, to my mother, to feel that cool rain washing over me, to believe that the thunder is her voice and the drops her tears. I like to think that they’re happy tears, proud ones that love who I’ve become, but I worry that that is not the truth. They are too cold for that and they leave a bad taste in my mouth when I part my lips so as to catch the drops. They are worried tears, tears of fear for me and my siblings and maybe even my father too. They are a warning. I know not what for, but they are not for naught.