by James Claffey
When the Virgin Mary appeared to me in the holler, I was full to the gills, sloshed, you might say. Sitting on the ruins of the old Singer sewing machine, I’d been inclined to have a tipple, but after a spin or two of the old flywheel, I’d emptied half the goddamned bottle. I remember wiping off the smudge of fingerprint I’d left there, and through the greenish lens of the bottle a shape blurred into flesh. I reckon you’d think I was some sort of crank, fanatic maybe, but I swear to you, in those blue robes, she was true. A tingle went through my fingers and the bottle hit the soft grass and the whiskey spilled into the dry ground. she bent over, picked up the bottle and wiped the neck with the sleeve of her gown. “You remind me of my son,” she said, swallowing a mouthful, and placing the bottle on the ground. “He had hands like yours, calloused, honest. I miss him, you know.” What do you say to the Virgin Mary? I reckon she must have liked me well enough, if she was talking to me. “Ma’am, I hear he was a good man, is all.” She hobbled a ways toward me, held out both hands, like you see her do in the statues. When I touched her hands I noticed how like my mother’s they were. She had the same crooked, arthritic bones. We sat together for a while, watching the crows return for the evening over the tops of the tall cork oaks, not really saying much to each other.