March 27, 2014 Comments Off on Saint Jude By Carly Berg
Mama had thirteen kids, and a taste for shiftless men and corn whiskey. Us older kids brought home dimes from our paper routes and errands for the neighbor ladies. But Mama still had to go to St. Jude the Apostle’s for hand-me-down clothes, canned goods, and help with the rent money.
Mama said they gave an ounce of charity with a pound of moralizing, which made her so mad that one day she came home with the church’s most sacred holy relic in her brassiere. She pulled St. Jude’s pinky bone from between her bosoms for us kids to behold. Even the latest shiftless gasped.
That night came knocking from under the floorboards, same say someone would knock at the front door. Mama opened the inside door to the root cellar and there stood St. Jude himself. I knew him from Sunday school prayer cards and the ring of fire around his head.
He said, “As the patron saint of impossible situations, I see I’ve found the right place.”
Mama blubbered in her lit up state, but St. Jude lifted his hand to halt her. Well, his hand except for the pinky finger.
By and by, we settled back into our usual ways, figuring he needed impossible situations as much as we needed bailing out of them.
Sometimes Mama even called him Jude the Prude. She’d make him fetch her a bottle of hooch. Once or twice, she made him wash her feet. The latest shiftless man spluttered and gawked. But Mama said saints were martyrs, so they liked to be done wrong.
© 2013 Carly Berg
Carly Berg is a dark cloud hovering over sunny Houston. Her stories appear in several dozen journals and anthologies, including PANK, Word Riot, Bartleby Snopes, and JMWW, and she’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize as well. http://www.carlyberg.com
February 27, 2014 Comments Off on The Fishwife’s Last Voyage By Carly Berg
Maria slipped through soft sand and easy waves toward the row of tiki torches. Or she was dying, and blessed with this nighttime mirage to ease her passage. A circle surrounded the moon. From many years as a fisherman’s wife, she knew that halo went with tonight’s smooth sea.
Wading toward the light brought her ashore. The flames lined the front of a restaurant with tourist-pink walls and a thatched roof.
The late night rush was in full swing. Waitresses bustled by with seafood platters and fruity rum drinks. A band played old Beach Boys songs. Maria’s terror calmed. She snatched a white beach cover-up and sandals from the souvenir stand on her way to the restroom.
Dry in the new terry cloth dress, her focus turned to the delicious food aroma. A tall skeletal man with a pirate eye-patch waited at the reception stand. He said, “Dining alone, my little thief?”
Maria spluttered a half-answer before realizing the dreadful man was laughing at her. He said, “Don’t worry, dear. Come with me.”
He led her through the dining room to a small room behind the kitchen. A candlelit table for two awaited. “Sit here,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. My name is Thano, and I’m your host.”
She was ravenous, trying to think exhausted her.
Thano brought two plates of food and a dozen black roses.
She waved away the roses but tore into the fish without stopping for lemon or tartar sauce. “My, this is good. What is it, salmon?”
“Funny. How about some more of that wine?”
Thano re-filled her glass with red wine. “Drink this, for it is your blood.”
Maria ignored her weird suitor. She wolfed down the rest of her fish, baked potato, ginger slaw, and hush puppies. The band from the dining room played a song about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
“You ate like it was your last supper. Did you have enough?”
“Yes, thank you.” Now she felt terribly tired, too tired to argue when Thano arose and held out his hand.
“Come,” he said.
He led her through another door to a lit deli case surrounded by candles and flowers. A young woman lay inside, long hair flowing down her naked torso. From the waist down, she was a giant fish with a few slices missing. Thano mumbled, “Eat this, for it is your flesh.”
Maria swayed. Thano caught her. “Don’t worry,” he said. “All is as it should be.”
He opened a door. Moonlight spilled in. “Don’t be afraid.” He put his bony arm around her. “Go now. To the true light this time.”
She was so very, very tired. The moon had a halo, the trip would be smooth. The light came closer, brighter, and then it went out.
© 2013 Carly Berg
Carly Berg is a dark cloud hovering above sunny Houston. Her stories appear in several dozen journals and anthologies, including PANK, Word Riot, Bartleby Snopes, and JMWW. She can be found here: http://www.carlyberg.com
March 28, 2013 Comments Off on Crimson and Clover by Carly Berg
Baby hair stuck up through the mulch, feathery blond tufts. Dammit, Millie thought as she tossed her rose clippers down and then yanked it out of the ground like a turnip. It remained still and gray even after the mud was scooped from its mouth. But when she snipped the roots, freeing the carcass for the trash can, it howled like a storm.
In the kitchen, the greedy thing drank half a bottle of liquid houseplant food from a dropper.
She laid him in an inch of water in the sink to keep him moist. He kicked his twiggy legs.
“Bring me a big flowerpot, would you?” she called to Jack, since by then she was thawing ground beef in a pan on the stove.
“Christ on a cracker, Millie. Not another one.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” she said. She’d told him that the house was built on the old Woodstock field, but he just had to have it anyway.
“Dirty hippies,” he replied as if he had read her mind.
“You got that right. See if there’s any more potting soil out there too, would ya?”
Jack potted up the new dirt baby while Millie fixed Hamburger Helper.
Late at night sometimes, they’d sneak a few babies onto the neighbors’ porches, and some mornings, they’d awake to find a few of the neighbors’ babies on theirs.
The little ones need their soil changed often and need to be fed by hand. The older ones hop around the garden, nibbling the plants down to nubs. They howl when they’re hungry, and they’re always hungry. They give no love. It’s all me, me, me.
© 2012 Carly Berg
Carly Berg’s stories appear in PANK, Word Riot, Bartleby Snopes and elsewhere. She was playing the song “Crimson and Clover” and wondering what the heck it meant and this is what she came up with.