Our Lady of Fire

Laura Hogan

Every day they adorn this desk with stones smooth and polished, medium and small, the size of my palm or the roof of my mouth. At five o’clock they collect my rocks in a bucket and put them in a drawer. There is a man in the break room stirring glass cleaner into his coffee. He says his cup is stained. There are sixteen black and white photocopied portraits of Jesus on the walls of his cubicle. Security escorts him to the fountain in the courtyard, and I pound on the glass, afraid they will drown him for offending the Pharaoh. He gets away, he runs, his picture is posted in reception.

On Thursdays they collect bleating lambs and small goats for sacrifice on the game show stage. I see them gathering in the morning. There is a sign that says we will be poisoned to our daughter’s daughters. Chemicals in this Garage are known to the State of California to cause Cancer and Reproductive Harm.

Parking is difficult on Thursdays. The game show people arrive at the appointed time but there is something wrong with them. It’s the mingling of generations. The old and the young can bring water from the well, mash the beans, weave the cloth, but they cannot operate the elevator. The wise ones are weighed down by purses, keys, and hats. Their feet are hobbled. They mill outside the elevator mewing and counting the young ones. They lose track and have to start over. They push the button again.

When the doors close, the smallest one is left behind. He looks up at me, afraid he has done something wrong. He’s afraid I’ll sacrifice him, but I keep my knife from his soft throat, the color of buttermilk. There are signs in the elevator for people who can’t read. A stick figure of a man descending the stairs chased by flame.

The acolytes wear navy blue blazers. They have clipboards and headsets, and they herd my goats before me. The stragglers are chased by golf carts and forced behind a barrier made of rope. I wave my arms and shout to scatter them, but they won’t run. I knock down one of the blue blazers and rip down the barrier.

“Run away! Run away!”

They look sad and they bleat. “We’re from Chicago,” they say. “We’re on vacation.”

The blue blazer is getting up. He raises his hands above his head and the people still to listen. “Is anyone else here from Chicago?” he yells.

The people clap and hoot.

Maybe I can save just one. I chose an elderly man because he looks like he might be hollow inside. I pick him up and try to carry him away, but he gets too heavy. When I put him down he toddles back behind the rope.

Security is coming to take me to the fountain.

LAURA HOGAN has an MFA from the University of California at Irvine. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of literary journals including Binacle, Lullwater Review, Red Rock Review, Zone 3, and Willard & Maple.