Offering by Laura S. Marshall

My patron saint only visits when he needs something from me, his head bowed to bestow grace but watching for someone who might blow his cover. I first saw him in a dream, the kind that wakes you gasping, catching yourself as you fall back into your bed, but after that he started coming around every afternoon with some little request or other. He shuffles down the hallway to my room to ask for some little thing. I never know what he needs it for because he’s not really much of a talker.

Today it’s socks. “Do you have a fresh pair of socks?” he asks. His robes rustle around his feet.

“Fresh as in clean, or fresh as in new?” I mutter. His nimbus makes my dorm room look dingy. “What do you need the socks for?”

He doesn’t answer. He never answers my questions. Not about the things he needs and not about anything else.

I could give him an older pair, thin worn grey with holes burgeoning on the bottoms, but who gives garbage to a holy figure? 

I place a clean pair of socks in his patient hand. They’re among my favorites, thick and warm and navy-flecked with orange toes and heels; they make my new boots bite less sharply at my feet.

“What did you do with the safety goggles yesterday?” I ask. 

He just holds out his hand and waits for my offering. He makes that blessing sign with the other, his thumb and first two fingers up, gentle, like rays of light could shoot out from his heart and warm the air around me if I would just shut up for a minute.

I never know when it will be my turn to ask for something, or what I should ask for when my turn comes. For now, he’s the one who does all the asking. I watch him walk to the stairwell and wonder what he does with my stuff, why he chose me, when I’ll finally see some kind of blessing in return for all this gifting.

When he shambles over for a roll of film, the day after, I choose to be the silent one. Holy and beatific, my head ringed with light. A chorus of seraphim, rapturous, as I open the door. My patron saint tips his head back in saintly surprise, then rummages in his pocket and hands me a single crinkly butterscotch candy.

 

Laura S. Marshall (she/they) is a queer, nonbinary disabled poet, educator, and former linguist who lives outside of Albany, NY. Their work appears in South Dakota Review, Bennington Review, Juked, Lunch Ticket, 8 Poems, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Amherst, and has served as guest editor at Trestle Ties and special features editor for jubilat.

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