Living – flash fiction by Laura Stamps


Lucinda enters the dimly lit church and kneels in a pew. Her parish is open twenty-four hours for Adoration on Thursdays. It’s her favorite time of the week, a private time for private prayer. After reciting her rosary, she slips out of the pew and stops in front of the statue of St. Jude to light one of the votive candles before she leaves. Looking up at the huge statue of her Patron Saint, she remembers how he protected her as a child, helped her escape the stranger who tried to pull her into his car one day after school. She survived, thanks to the saint. How he helped her escape her abusive college boyfriend. And she survived. How he helped her endure fifteen years of marriage to an alcoholic. And she survived. “Thank you for protecting me, St. Jude,” she whispers to the statue. “But I’m tired. Tired of surviving. Tired of taking care of needy people. Tired of doing for others and never for myself. I want more. I want to live. Surviving isn’t living. Teach me how to live well.” As she lights one of the votive candles for this prayer, her cell phone beeps in her purse. It’s a text from her sister, Paula. A distress message. The only kind she receives from her sister. It seems Paula’s babysitter quit, and she needs Lucinda to come over right now and babysit for her. It’s no wonder Paula can’t keep a babysitter. Her children are little monsters. Even so, Lucinda always comes when summoned. Paula is her only sister. What can she do? Beneath the serene face of the saint, Lucinda’s gaze rests on the flickering votives. All those candles. All those prayers. Always answered. After a while Lucinda makes the sign of the cross. Then she turns off her cell phone. She opens the big glass door of the church and steps out into the delicious heat of a summer afternoon.  

Laura Stamps is the author of several poetry and fiction books: The Year of the Cat, In the Garden, Cat Daze, Tuning Out, and more. Winner of the Muses Prize. Recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Mom of 5 cats. Twitter: @LauraStamps16.   

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