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Issue #14 | ,

The Faith Healer

We don’t know why he came. Ours is not a big city. There are no stadiums, no conference centers, no airport hotels to fill with hosannas. Instead, he has a folding chair at the farmer’s market. Behind him rests a banana crate, handpainted. Miracles $10.

He does not look like a faith healer. As we load baskets with fresh mango, kohlrabi, peas, we eye him. This is what we do. He is new. His jeans are worn around the heel; his face is rubbered from sun, with jowls that droop over his jaw. He is clean shaven. His hair wears product like a crested gray wave. He does not look like a hippie or like a Christian. He looks, maybe, like someone newly homeless, selling CBD from the back of a truck. His sandals have lost their tread; we can tell when he swings his legs in his chair. The soles flap like bird wings. We don’t yet know whether this is funny or sad. We think, perhaps, it’s both.

Every week in the summer we are here. We come after choir, always the first to squeeze avocados and pick the most ripe. We eye the oatmeal soaps and smell them. We sample homemade hummus. The market is a maze of white tents that meander to the town gazebo. Today, every booth but his is busy.

Dawn strides toward him, but that is no surprise to us. She wears too-tight shorts and mandala shawls that drool with fringe. Her hair is dyed flame-red. (We suspect she even owns a bong.) We pretend to be interested in overpriced bread as Dawn extends her hand. He does not take it.

“Do you need to be healed?” he says.

We laugh behind our teeth. Does she ever.

“Just being neighborly,” Dawn says. Her hand drops to her side. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Are you sure?”

This is when the overpriced bread loses our attention completely. This is when we lean. We stop our half-hearted conversations about that condo collapse in Deland. We steal glances, wonder if Dawn has some glistening secret life—if this is an old boyfriend come to make up for lost time. His tone is so earnest. He seems to be asking, Don’t you remember me, Dawn dear—have I really changed? We think, he’s crazy. Miracles for cash means spot-me-money-for-the-whiskey crazy. But Dawn twirls the fringe around her ringed fingers. Seconds pass. The salt air ruffles the canvas booths around us with the gentlest of breezes. The morning is white and warm as sweet cream. The faith healer stands. He is shorter than Dawn. He is soft but thin, like an underripe pear. His voice lowers so we cannot hear, and his hand grazes Dawn’s so briefly that we miss this, almost. But we don’t.

 

We are women past our prime. We are mothers done mothering—we never lost the baby weight, but still we wear bikinis. Our skin is wrinkled from sun, our hair graced with gray. One husband is dead, another retired, the others still work here and there. (Construction, PE coach, water operator.) Our marriages are lazy. We used to take long runs along the lake and have shower sex before work, but now we fear our fat would jiggle. We have cellulite and lines. It’s shameful to be seen.

Our children—our world—live states away and call when they remember. We tell them about new choir music, novels picked for book club, saucy recipes we find for kale. They complain about the president and the news, spout opinions on stories we’ve never heard. We nod along. We do not say how sad FaceTime makes us. How we can tell that they type while they talk. We take what we can get. When they ask (finally) how we are, we tell them. Oh, you know. Sore some days. Headaches. Tired more than usual. We tell them of the remedies we’ve tried: oils, Keto, acupuncture needles. They say “Just talk to your doctor” and give us looks which say they have higher degrees than we do: our children who’ve surpassed us. We cannot keep up with the people we created. When they visit in the summers, they want to ride bicycles and play tennis or row through the algae-crested lake. We’d rather sit and talk, serve beer in cool glasses. One day with them and we are tired for weeks. We can feel the aging in our marrow.

We hate this, the feeling small. We hate this more than anything.

 

To read the rest of this story, please purchase a copy of Issue #14 or subscribe to the magazine

Ciera McElroy has published fiction in AGNI, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Bridge Eight, among others. She is represented by Folio Literary Management, and her debut novel is forthcoming from Blair Publishing in February 2023. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of Central Florida, Ciera has worked as a communications consultant for …

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