There are hundreds of stories about religious statues. Most statue stories are proven to be fake. A small minority never get adequately explained. I don’t know what they are about.

There’s no doubt that Catholicism has left me scarred. My brain goes to places it shouldn’t. When you marry stories of miracle statues with my obvious wariness about the Catholic Church, something like “Statue” comes out.

Glover wanted it to be real, but he was too sharp to admit that it could be. Too logical, too cynical, whatever. It didn’t matter that he had seen it three days in a row, nor that when he was in its presence, he found his doubts swamped by the sheer insistence of the shapes. It just could not be. Not now. Not when science was on the cusp of making man God. Not him, a sinner of well, consistency, and quality.

He cleared his desk and watched the office clock crawl its last lap to a quarter past twelve. If he skipped lunch and took the car, he could spend a good half-hour with the statue. Maybe he could prove to himself that he was seeing an optical illusion. With this thought, he hurried out of the office, not seeing Harry Sumpton, the firm’s number one client, enter the customer foyer as he rushed through.

By car, the church was a mere five minutes away. Glover smiled, wondering what any of his mates would say if they knew this was how he put in his lunch hour and for a crazy moment, he had a vision of Macca, Don, HJ, Trooper, and “Watto” standing outside the church and clutching rosary beads as they waited for him. He shook his head, muttered to himself that he was losing it, and started the car.

He parked outside the front door – the church was hardly a thriving place of business and hurried up the steps two at a time. He stopped at the entrance and took several deep breaths. “Analyse and question,” he reminded himself and entered.

As usual, the church was deserted. He remembered thinking when he first entered a week ago that the place was a nice peaceful sanctuary in which to take a break. Even then, he had been rationalizing what had been occurring.         

He had not felt the slightest need to enter a church for close to twenty years when he had been gripped by a need to “pay a visit,” as old Brother McGuire used to encourage him to do during his school years. He had just gone with the flow and found himself seated at the rear of a small, deserted church, staring at the same timeless images that had been drummed into him when he was a youth. Florid paintings depicting the stations of the cross, large crucifixes portraying a dignified, almost sleeping Christ nailed to them, the sacristy, the altar, and statues of the usual suspects, Saint Joseph, an angel or two, the patron saint of the church and, of course, Mary, the virgin mother of God.

Glover had been surprised at how comforting he found these images that he had thought were irrelevant over the past twenty years. Irrelevant was wrong. He had been pushed away by the very people seeking to save his soul. By their stubborn brutality and their pious clinging to superstition. Glover remembered cynically christening the Headmaster, Brother Gunn, the chief pharisee because he was more interested in position and status than behaving in a manner like Christ would have wished. Cynicism was easy at a Christian Brothers College. So many easy targets at an age when you were meant to rebel anyway.

So, when Glover joined the workforce, he had walked away from the church. No big deal. Everybody was doing it.

Except he knew that there was something. He caught himself muttering prayers to somebody in times of need, and occasionally when he was ambushed by nature’s beauty, he breathed a thank you to the entity that was responsible for it, but if asked, he always said that he had no religion.

He stood at the rear of the church, eyeing the altar with a mixture of bemusement, awe, and even a little fear; then, he strode to the front pew, deciding that close contact was the best way to analyze what was occurring. The statue of Mary was situated to the right of the altar, staring stonily out at the empty church. Glover lined himself up with it, hesitated, then knelt before it and stared back.

Up until recently, life had been pretty good for Glover. He had married his childhood sweetheart, Maryanne, and begun to raise a family. Barry and Nicola were born eighteen months apart and were typical Aussie kids. He had received regular promotions in his job at the bank and had risen to the rank of Senior Relationship Manager, and Maryanne seemed content with her sculpting and her circle of friends. Life had been pretty cosy until he’d come home pissed for the first time in years.

            He had started an argument over something trivial, and Maryanne had bit back with all guns blazing. When he thought back on it, it was like she had been waiting for him to stuff up and been keeping her tinder dry for years. She laid it all on him her boredom, his indifference, her frustration, and his inadequacy. He had slept on the couch, hurt irreparably and somehow unmanned by the things that she had said about him.

She took the kids and left the next day. Before she left, he begged her for another chance. She had laughed at him and told him to go back to work. She had a life to lead. Devastated, he’d moped around the house for two days hoping that she’d come back. Fat chance.

Up close, the statue seemed cold. The features that, from a distance, seemed fine and well-crafted had a harder edge to them. Glover pushed the thought away and focused on the Virgin’s face, and began to pray.

Simple thoughts were best, as opposed to a stream of remembered chants. He “spoke” of his day and the things that he had seen and appreciated, all the while keeping his eyes on the virgin’s face. Nothing happened at first, but then Glover’s vision began to blur. He blinked, and the statue’s face swam back into view, its face as impassive as ever.

Maryanne was not coming back. Not when she had a new lover. Well, he was not exactly new, as it turned out. Glover should have recognized the signs well before the bust-up. He had simply been too involved in his work to notice. He had only realized that he was not missing her when he’d started his daily visits to the church. So, there was a benefit.

The statue’s face changed.

Glover stopped praying and stared helplessly up at the image.

Shadows danced across the stone face, shaping and moulding images faster than Glover’s harried mind could register them. Faces – some weathered and aged, others young and pretty flitted across the virgin’s image. He recognized the face of a girl that he worked with years ago; then he thought he saw his mother’s face smiling at him. This was too much. He shook his head from side to side and blinked rapidly in an attempt to break the spell. When he dared to look back at the statue, it had assumed its physical shape.

This is an excerpt from the story Statue, available in eBook format at Amazon and Lulu. More details are available here

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By Mark