Rated R: Contains Misery
The Nameless Saint
by Willow Fagan
They all think that she is a cat lady: harmlessly crazy, smelly, alone. They have no idea that her house is full of cages, that she is a modern-day saint. They have no idea that she has sold her names for them, for the power to help them. Her names: her Christian name, her maiden name, and the name her husband gave her– these were all empty inheritances from people who left far too soon. They were a small price to pay for sainthood, for the chance to help them, the people who do not understand: the women who look away in the supermarket, the children who dare each other to climb over her fence, the men who will not stop manufacturing misery with their fists, their pants unzipped and crumpled on the wrong floors.
She collects their misery, keeps it safe from the world, the world safe from it, locked up in her house. Look, even now, when her bones pop every time she bends her knees, the nameless woman is crouched in the bushes beneath a stranger’s window.
The nameless woman holds up a glass bottle, empty save a slice of lemon anointed with her spit. (The lemon draws the misery in.) The misery in this house is subtle but lingering, like the smell of autumn leaves in the winter, like a fugue played slowly on a piano. Here, there is no man, only a woman with her silences, her long afternoons, her memories.
A waft of blue floats out of the window, like watercolor paint drifting in the air, and coalesces into the bottle. The misery appears midstream, a tiny, thin creature, dwarfed by its own delicate, intricate wings. The misery flaps its wings, struggling against the pull of the lemon. Though its wings are nearly useless, its will is not, and its movement slows. Impatient, she holds up the bottle to shorten the distance. As the misery is sucked into the bottle, and she twists the cap on triumphantly, a voice calls out, “What are you doing?”
About the Author
Willow Fagan lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he reads tarot and cultivates dreams. This is his third story appearing in Fantasy Magazine. His fiction has also appeared in Behind the Wainscot.