Signal Virtue

Amy Barnes

There’s mold on Virgin Mary’s face.

          She’s supposed to be glowing, not gross green. It’s rained for days and the sanctuary roof leaks so saint tears erode her face like teenage acne. I try to scrub it, pray it away with mother of grace rosary rhymes. It doesn’t work. The green-gray creeps onto the baby hanging off her breast turning him seasick green. Before I can stop it, the mold climbs the pipes of the pipe organ a snake of mossy mess.

          I feel for Mary of the Moldy Face. She’s only fourteen and had a baby too. When my baby isn’t a baby anymore, I read if you have a starring role in a nativity scene you will be a better person, a better parent. Whoever wrote that didn’t have their own baby as baby Jesus or maternity pants on under their Mary dress or Joseph pinching their butt while the angels sang Barf the Angels Sing loudly.


          I wet a prayer cloth with Jean Naté to anoint Mary. I feel like Mary of Mary and Martha instead of Mary Magdalene for a minute as I’m proud to follow the Biblical guidance to shower her with drugstore perfume.

          The bishop arrives and tries to exorcise the statue with his own scrub brush but it’s too late. She’s ruined, spoiled, no longer good enough to stand in the church as a saintly figure.


          I look down at my baby after he’s born, watching for fungus to grow on his face or fingers. He’s spared, born with a perfect blue-eyed, blond-haired Jesus countenance. At fifteen, I turn into a moldy statue in the house where he doesn’t sleep.

Amy Barnes has words at sites including: FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, X-Ray Lit, Stymie Lit, No Contact Mag, Streetcake Magazine, JMMW, The Molotov Cocktail, Lucent Dreaming, TunaFish Journal, Reckon Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Flash Frog, Janus Literary, Leon Review, Lunate Fiction, Rejection Lit, Perhappened, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit, and others. She’s a Fractured Lit Associate Editor and reads for CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, NFFD, Retreat West, The MacGuffin, and Narratively. Her flash collection “Mother Figures” is forthcoming at ELJ Editions, Ltd in summer, 2021.