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Today's Story by C. E. Jones

I need the Gloria, I need to remember that God is glorious.

Christ in Me

Lucy slinks in late to the last chance Mass, Sunday six p.m. in the Valley. Still in her EMS blues, bedraggled hair wet, piled beneath a pink clip on the top of her head. It is the third Sunday of Lent, and Father Ghormley draws a crowd; she is forced to the front, second pew Saint Joseph’s side, with her elbow in the padded, flowered ribs of a disgruntled matron. Older woman, with three snot-nosed urchins. Must be grandkids, and they are trying her patience.

Well kiss my ass, lady. Push over.

Ah God, Lucy, stop it.

The church is at its peak of reverent beauty, the solemn Lenten season; all is silent, all is holy. Sleet scurries unabated against jewelled window glass and incense bakes her nostrils; she rubs her nose with the back of her hand.

Ah, sweet Christ, there is blood on my wrist, and it is not my own.

She had worn her gloves, for fuck’s sake, she always wore her gloves. She scrubs her wrist against her pant leg – fierce, frantic motion that draws the attention of the smallest child, the only girl. Somber eyes the color of creek water blink once, twice. Lucy fixes her gaze on the altar and wills her soul from her body, searching, searching. Feels it return, small and dejected.

The call had come in just before shift change, Goddamn the shitty luck. Multiple victims in a roll over, and everyone knew that Mount Bloom was not equipped in any fashion to handle that sort of large casualty incident. Of course, they went anyway – Lucy and her partner, and four from the fire service.

Defeated from the start.

The SUV had rolled end for end and come to rest on its roof in the ravine going into town by the cemetery. Air bags blown, and beer bottles scattered like baby toys. Black ice in a treacherous, lethal layer on the roadway, sleet coating the eyelashes as though to work the lids closed.

Blink, keep moving.

Five victims, oh my God. One of them talking, one of them crying, three utterly still.

Get help, get the helicopter.

She had slid on her belly to look in the window. Impossible, of course, to gain access, the metal crushed and twisted and the glass digging into her forearms.

Get out of the way.

Rough clutch at her collar. One of the firemen pulled her back, and she had remembered protocol then, had retreated to the roadside while the generators hummed to life and the jaws whined, drowning out the screams.

Lucy was rubbing her wrist again, and the little girl was staring, had shoved her fist half in her mouth and was sucking noisily. Father Ghormley was talking about Lazarus, delicious irony.

Her patient is the first one out, the crying one. Eighteen, maybe nineteen, with the brave beginnings of a goatee on his soft and rounded chin. He is asking for his mother. Can’t say his own name, doesn’t remember what happened or how or why, but he wants her to call Mom.

The fucked-up floodlights won’t come on and it is dark and so cold. Help me get him on a backboard, he needs to be in the rig.

Four other patients, baby.

Pelvis is . . .broken, oh Christ. Belly hard, he’s filling up, he’s bleeding out.

No helicopter, duh, the weather.

Forty miles to the nearest trauma center.

Stop it, Lucy, please just stop it.

Why can’t we say the Gloria during Lent? I need the Gloria, I need to remember that God is glorious.

She shifts in her seat, finds the kneeler and falls into prayer with the rest of the congregation. Lost, utterly lost.

The crying had been bad, because eighteen year old boys – even drunk ones – don’t cry. The silence so much worse.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, I am so sorry.

She had failed to get an airway in, and she couldn’t say why.

Sleet and darkness, so alone with this child while the frenetic activity whirls all around me. The Kings Airway is supposed to be error proof, dummy proof, why didn’t it go in?

Help me! Here, now, this patient, I am losing him!

She had lost him.

He broke the bread, gave it to the disciples and said take this all of you and eat it. This is my body which will be given up for you.

So dry, the Catholic Mass. Lucy rubs at her eyes before she remembers the blood and pulls her fist away as though electrocuted.

Jesus knew he was going to die; nobody goes down that easily. They cry and beg.

He didn’t have sky lit blue eyes, either. He must have had olive skin, like all the ragheads over there, and those lovely chocolate eyes. Not gentle – those eyes must have blazed with the fire that had consumed and killed him.

He had gathered up that rag-tag band of misfits one last time and said “This is it. This is the last time we’ll be together like this, because tomorrow I am going to die.”

I’m going to die.

They were afraid, they were angry. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Huddled barefoot in that dark and drafty room with the candle flames guttering and the bite of wine at the back of their throats. Cowering.

Don’t make it anything else.

A Catholic believes that he takes Christ into his body. Lucy went defiantly to the altar with the stink of her failure trailing her like a puff of skunk. Knelt again at her pew and rested with her chin on her palms and the holy Eucharist melting on her tongue, eyes closed while the boy cried in her head.

Christ in me Christ in me.

She came back to herself in time to sit again. Solemn frickin’ silence now.

The little girl worked her thumb in her mouth and gaped, and at last Lucy pulled an ugly face – bugaboo! – eyes crossed, tongue out.

Laughter, then. A great, irreverent peal that fluttered and bled out into the awful stillness.

Oh God. So whole, that laughter, so articulate.

Jesus in her as surely as her liver is intact. Even if he doesn’t see fit to visit me tonight. Just look at her.

She laughs.


C. E. Jones is an EMS/firefighter who writes in her spare time. She is working on her version of The Great American Novel.


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