Monday, April 12, 2021

New Short Fiction by Sandra Williams

 Mystery Men

 For two days, I saw a una-bomber look-alike in a baggy orange sweat shirt wandering around restlessly through the halls of the hospice center where we each had a friend who lay dying. When we passed each other one night, I tried to read the words on his shirt, but the folds of the shirt kept folding in on the letters. His red MAGA hat, too small over his shaggy hair—reminded me of those clown hats with a wig attached to it. Around his neck was a heavy silver chain with a figure dangling from it. 
 Later I learned the figure was St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. That says it all, I thought, but still haven’t figured out what the “all” was. 
 Did he believe that America needed to be “great again,” but didn’t have much hope that it would happen, or was the lost cause his friend who had no options left, except waiting for the grim reaper to swing his scythe?
 On the third day, at the coffee cart, I asked him, “So, who is the little shiny fella there?” pointing to the dangling figure on the chain.
 “It’s St. Jude!” he said in a tone of voice suggesting I should have known.
 “But Judas isn’t a saint, is he?” that much I knew, but I got the wrong saint, or in this case, sinner.
 “No, no, no, you are thinking of Judas Iscariot. He was the apostle who betrayed Jesus,” he said.
 “Yeah, that’s him, for thirty pieces of silver, right?” I said.
 Exactly thirty? I wondered. Just before I bit into my multi-grain muffin, I blurted out, "Well, they say no good deed goes unpunished.”
 “What do you mean, good deed? His was the greatest betrayal in the history of the world.”
 “You mean the greatest catch 22! I mean, if Judas didn’t turn him over to the Romans, Christ wouldn’t have 'died for our sins,' which was the plan all along. So, they both end up hanging from a tree, right?”
 “Yes,” he said, “but Jesus in victory and Judas in defeat.”
 “But…but,” I started to say.  Then I decided to put the mystery men: the una-bomber look-alike, Judas the sinner and St. Jude the saint out of my mind. It was starting to sound like a sporting event.
 I poured the guy a coffee, passed him the cup, and we stood eating our muffins in silence. Then we moved on into our respective friends’ rooms—to watch and wait at the foot of their beds.
 My friend died that afternoon, and I wept.  
 On my way out, I saw Mystery Man #1 coming down the hall. Our eyes met for a moment, then I looked down and was able to make out what was on that orange shirt:
 It was the image of the blue marble Earth in darkness, and below it the words:


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