Friday, November 4, 2016

The Blessed Virgin by Phil Temples

Catholic schoolboy Anthony suffers from a patch of eczema on his rear end in the shape of the Virgin Mary; by Phil Temples.

It began innocently one Saturday morning when little Antony Giordano walked up the steps to the front of St. Joseph's Parish Church in the North End, escorted by his grandmother, Francesca Giordano. Mrs. Giordano noticed that Antony was fidgeting and scratching his butt.

"Antony Mario, you stop that this instant!"

"But it itches," Antony replied.

"You're standing at the door to the house of Jesus and Mary. Show some respect to your Lord and Savior and his Mother, bless her soul." She slapped him across the head - not as hard as previous times, but hard enough to know he'd earned her ire.

Once they got inside, Antony asked his granny if he could go the bathroom.

"Yes, you may go. But don't linger. Father has a short line this morning so it won't be long until your confession. And I expect you to add this transgression to your list."



Once inside, Antony checked under the stalls. Confident that he was alone, Antony dropped his drawers and stood with his back to the mirrors. He stuck his butt up in the air awkwardly. At that angle he could barely make out the source of his almost constant irritation the past few days: a large rash on his left buttock. The church restroom was the only place Antony could think of to get a look at his bottom. There were no large mirrors in his house. He had thought about taking his sister's hand mirror, but he already he had accumulated a long list of transgressions against God since his last confession and he didn't want the list to grow longer.

As Antony shifted his butt cheeks, he could make out a very familiar shape - an outline, actually. It looked a little like...

"Antony!"

Just then, the door burst open. There stood his grandmother, pissed. "Hurry up, he's..." But as she took in the scene of her grandson in his unusual pose, she began to shout, "Sweet Jesus! If you are doing disgusting things, Antony Mario, so help me I will..."

Mrs. Giordano stopped, speechless, when she noticed the pattern on the boy's posterior. The old woman crossed herself. She rushed forward excitedly to the young boy.

"Pull your pants up, and come with me. Father must see this immediately!"



Father Galarza, a balding man in his sixties, was getting an earful from Mrs. Giordano about something. A few parishioners, mostly older women with small children in tow, were curious. They came closer to hear what the commotion was about. When the whispering ceased, the priest looked at Antony with a shocked expression. He crossed himself. Then he motioned Antony forward. Antony did as commanded. He walked over to Father, very much aware that a dozen people were intently eyeing him.

"Child, kindly remove your trousers. Please."

Antony was horrified. "Here?"

"Yes, here."

Antony slowly undid his buckle and zipper. He slid down his pants.

"Now, your underwear."

There was no escaping this moment of humiliation. In addition to the parishioners, Antony was sure that God himself was looking down at this moment upon him.

"Now bend over."

There were gasps from the crowd, followed by much hand crossing.

"Sweet Mary, Mother of Jesus," shouted Father Galarza. "It is you. IT IS YOU!"

Emblazoned upon Antony's butt, in all its eczematic glory, was a crude, but unmistakable outline of the Virgin Mother Mary.

With tears in his eyes, Father Galarza bent over and grabbed Antony by the waist. Then he planted a long, wet kiss on Antony's butt cheek.



Word spread quickly throughout the parish of the miraculous vision of Mary on the child's behind. When Antony arrived at his school the following Monday, he was met with taunts and name-calling.

"Hey, Mary Butt! Can I kiss your ass?"

"Did the priest autograph your butt cheeks?"

"Wow, Antony will do anything for attention. He'll even carve Mary's face on his bum!"

The day was unbearable. The teasing continued non-stop right through the last class of the day - science. Sister Felicia taught it and it was normally Antony's favorite. But her lessons were disrupted on several occasions by catcalling. Sister Felicia found it necessary to discipline two of the troublemakers with lashes, courtesy her ruler. That made the boys very angry at Antony. They whispered to Antony, "We'll see you outside, later." Finally, it was 3:30 PM and school was over. "Class dismissed," announced Sister Felicia. "Antony, will you please remain."

Antony was sure his visit with the nun was bound to be unpleasant. Already he had had to suffer the embarrassment of dropping his drawers for the principal and another male teacher. He preferred the alternative of going outside and receiving his licks from David and Stephen.

"Antony, I understand you've been receiving a lot of... unwelcome attention as a result of a rash on your extremities. It's nothing to be ashamed about. I'm sure it's just a little eczema. Do you know what eczema is?"

Antony shook his head no.

"Well, no matter. It's harmless enough." She paused while opening up a drawer under her desk. She pulled out a something that looked like toothpaste.

"Even though I'm a religious person, I also believe in science. I seriously doubt that our Lord wants to torture a young lad like you with a likeness of our Blessed Mother. Here, take this ointment. Apply it to the affected area, once in the morning, and again before you go to bed. I treated a rash with this cream a few months ago. It works like a charm. Just don't tell anyone where you got it. Okay?"



For the next several days, Antony treated the rash religiously with the hydrocortisone solution he received from Sister. After four days, many of the prominent features of the Virgin Mary began to disappear. Her forehead and chin were no longer visible. One of the eyes had also disappeared. Much to his grandma's disappointment, the Holy image was barely discernable. But the parish priest was disappointed even more. Father Galarza had made arrangements for the Bishop to stop by the church to personally witness the miraculous event. The Bishop was scheduled to return to the city in two days.

"Oh, Lord!" he thought. Why didn't I take a picture of his bum?

At least the priest took comfort in the fact that the boy's grandmother - and several of the parishioners - were eyewitnesses to the miracle.

All is not lost, he reminded himself. I will still have my day of glory!



Life slowly began to return to normal for Antony. The taunts and torments at school were dying down, as the bullies lost interest and focused their attention on other weaker, unfortunate victims.

Antony sat down at the school cafeteria and examined the lunch tray: canned corn, soggy green beans, a hard boiled egg, and something orange-brown that was supposed to be pudding. He decided to start first with the egg. As Antony examined the egg's partially smashed shell he was horrified! Its pattern revealed an exquisite portrait of the Virgin Mary. Her image was visible in even finer detail than the eczema pattern on his ass. He looked around. There! Dennis Mahoney had just gotten up to refill his water. Dennis was the ugly duckling. He was a scrawny boy, and one of the few Irish kids in a school comprised almost entirely of Italians. Without hesitating, Antony grabbed his egg, walked over to Dennis' tray, and switched the boy's egg with Antony's miraculous spheroid. He quickly retreated to his table. A moment later, he heard excited voices behind him.

Forgive me, Father.

Antony smiled.

5 comments:

  1. Really funny! I loved this story. The ending was perfect.

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  2. This would seem ridiculous except it is 2016 and Trump is running for president of the US.

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  3. A brilliantly conceived and neat short story. Very funny, many thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  4. Great fun and depth there, too, if you want to find it. Thank you, Phil Temples.

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  5. What a ripper! Love the way this sure-handed writer took such a light tight-wire trip across such potentially calamitous terrain.

    A small part of me wanted to see Antony react differently to the reappearance of his old friend Mary, but he's young, a time when the demands of peer groups are almost as cruel as those of short stories.

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