Our Lady of Crisis
Shaenrayce Leigland
Hayward Faultline Winner

Maria Diaz Arizmendi sat in the backseat of the car, gripping the roof handle to keep from flying across the seat as the driver fought through the traffic of Lima, Peru like it was the enemy. The driver had permed hair, sunglasses that only partly hid the wine-dark birthmark that saddled the bridge of his nose and spilled onto his right cheek. Three fingernails of his right hand were painted black. He tapped them on the steering wheel along with The Beatles as they sang 'Across the Universe’ through the CD player.

Maria, seventeen years old, wore a black skirt and billowing white blouse that she had borrowed from her aunt in an attempt to appear older, but only served to accentuate her youth. Her straight brown hair hung almost to her lap. She clutched a small black-framed picture with its face against her stomach.

—Is it far?

The driver did not respond, so she repeated the question. He turned down the music, muting John, Paul, and the other two.

—There is another car. We will stop and another car will take you to the doctor.

Maria nodded, too vigorously.

The traffic slowed and set like concrete. The occasional motorcycle shot by, but soon they could find no passage. Pedestrians abandoned the packed sidewalks and took to the streets. Maria was torn between shrinking from the tinted windows in horror that someone would recognize her and pressing her face against the glass to see.

—What did you say?

—I said, ‘Did you try pills?’

—Yes, twice. They didn’t work.

—Of course they didn’t work. Those that sell pills don’t have a commitment to honor as the rest of us. The doctor will fix it. It’s a simple procedure. After that, no more problems. What is that?

—What is what? This?

Maria turned over the picture.

—St. Christopher, for protection.

—Odd thing to hold across your belly. You should have brought one of Santa Rosa. This is her day. Look.

Up the street, standing on a bed of roses, looking like she was stepping on the shoulders of those gathered in the street, the Patron Saint of Lima glided by.

Those that venerated her raised their voices in exultation. Maria crossed herself and waited for her to pass. The driver turned up the music. The Beatles joined the jubilee, adding “Lady Madonna” to the worship. Maria felt the holy saint's presence fall upon her. The Lady understood.

After the saint passed and the revelers followed, the driver battered the palm of his hand against the horn until the traffic unclenched. Maria made it to her appointment.

First published: November 2018
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