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(A short story of 4623 words)

The Feast of Saint Agatha


by Vivien Jones

Theresa says the Virgin in the Church of Saint Agatha has been seen weeping. Theresa is very excited. She calls her ‘Santa Agatha.’ It is Saint Agatha’s Feast Day on Friday and the procession will pass up Prince of Wales Road, where I live. This is destiny because Friday is my birthday so I must have an affinity with Saint Agatha. Theresa has asked if she can watch from our balcony and my mother, who is kind to our Maltese maid, has said yes. She herself will stay in the back garden under the apricot tree, away from the noise, but she says I can watch with Theresa if she doesn’t mind. Theresa has been telling me about it all morning. I had to follow her from room to room as she dusted and swept in order to hear the whole story. Theresa likes to work on all fours so, quite often, I found myself facing her huge bottom and the hard grey soles of her feet while she talked.

The statue that weeps will be placed in a barrow full of flowers, offerings and prayer slips and will be pulled by penitents all the way from the church to Sliema Creek. (This is why Theresa wants a good viewing point; she is too fat to walk the four miles in the midday heat even in February) Once there, the creek fishermen will ask for her blessing on their boats. Theresa has told me that Saint Agatha is the saint you pray to for protection from fire, and she is special to bell-makers. (I will ask Daddy why fishermen pray to Saint Agatha when Saint Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen.) There will be musicians and a choir, and best of all, a procession of nuns. How many, I ask shuddering with anticipation.
Maybe twenty, maybe more, Theresa guesses. I can’t wait to see that many.

I am going to be a nun one day. I haven’t told my mother and father yet though it was our trips to Mosta Dome and the Catacombs at Rabat that gave me the idea, so really it was their doing. My mother finds visiting Maltese places uncomfortable (she’s happiest in the NAAFI stores because they look like English shops) so I shall have to introduce the idea carefully. Ever since we came to Malta and I first saw nuns at close hand I have known that one day, I would dress in a swirling black robe with a belt made of beads, wear a silver cross and a bright white wimple and be a Bride of Christ. They were so calm and mysterious, murmuring to each other, eyes downcast unless they were in church, when they exuded something I later knew was ecstasy...


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