The Bored Madonna

“The unhappy one sits and will sit forever.” (Virgil)

The Madonna is bored with the little Jesus in her lap and her arms barely encircle him; he is free to twist and turn as babes do. He is small and white and naked with a full head of curling brown hair and a golden halo that thwacks her in the face sometimes when he turns his head quickly to gaze and to point at one of the be-harped Seraphim that keeps dive-bombing them from the wooden eves of the stable.

The six-winged creatures are loud and bright and shout down at all hours of the night and day, “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is the Lord of hosts: The whole Earth is filled with His glory!”

They will not stop, though she’s asked politely. She hasn’t slept in ages.

The Seraphim are on fire. It is all-consuming and unquenchable. They burn with the fire of charity, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness. This is what she has heard. The Madonna wonders why the barn doesn’t burn down with all of their harping and flapping. But the tiny Jesus in her lap loves them. He is joyful when they swoop so close—“Kadosh! Kadosh! Kadosh!”—she can smell her singed hair.

The Madonna is bored with this tiny naked Jesus in her lap. She is bored with her situation: relegated to a stool for his display. Visitors wander through the heavy stable doors unannounced and uninvited. They crowd the place with their murmuring adorations. They shuffle past and whisper and point to the tiny Jesus in her lap, and he makes sweeping gestures of holy cognition to the awed visitors. He holds out a chubby hand with solemnity, beckoning them to him, and the throngs are struck dumb. He bows his head for a moment then looks up meaningfully to the dusty beams of the barn where the Seraphim circle, blazing and keening their “Holy is the Lord of hosts! Holy is the Lord of hosts! Holy is the Lord of hosts!”

The catechumens follow the child’s gaze toward Heaven and see circling doves and a fine white mist and a self-contained amber point of light that oscillates above them. Zealots gasp and faint and cry out in ecstasy, “The whole earth is filled with His glory!” They lay gifts at the feet of the babe: gold pieces, lambs, deeds, skins of wine, brocade with red and silver threads, figs, finches. They shuffle past and bow and pray and weep into the Madonna’s feet as she stifles a yawn. She is so very sleepy.

Her husband stands in line to see them. He has no idea why this is happening. He hopes it’s good. He cannot see the Seraphim above, circling ablaze, doesn’t hear their constant caterwauling. He complains of the heat in the stable and moves his shoulders in irritation. The crowds press up against him, give him looks when he attempts to move towards the Madonna and child. The votary holds him back. Because of the crowds, he and his wife have not been alone, have not touched in weeks. For some reason he worries they may never have another child.

The bored Madonna sits with Jesus in her lap as he twists and poses and gesticulates his understanding of the universe to the reverent visitors filing past. She looks down at him with heavy-lidded eyes, her face pale and impassive. The Madonna is not curious about these people or angry or sad. She does not hold grudges or feel that she cannot bear the weight of this life. When she looks down at him, she doesn’t imagine the future or clutch him to her breast or coo into his tiny perfect ears. She does not make his child arm wave to the pilgrims or pose him for their adorations. Instead, she sighs. She looks down, not believing him to be any part of her and sighs again.


Megan Ayers received her MFA from Bowling Green State University where she served as an Assistant Fiction Editor for Mid-American Review. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Red Cedar Review, EDGE, The Emprise Review, and Licking River Review. She lives and teaches in Cincinnati, OH.


There were twelve beds in the hospital ward today; tomorrow there will be eleven.

My right-hand bedmate was instantly conciliatory to the hospital staff: “Of course you are overburdened,” she said, her voice dripping with compassion, “and there is at least one person here who is creating his own disease, just for attention. At least one,” she said and shut up, her hands placed saintly on the top bed sheet.

“Is that me? Is that who you mean?” This came from the end of the row against the wall, at the end of the line. “I have been dragged about by life—do you think you can be dragged all over the place without being wounded? That life doesn’t wound you? That life doesn’t kill you? There’s no worse thing than that. I ask you,” he said, pointing to the nurse with her cart of medications. “Do you have a cure for life?”

“Oh, we all get cured of that eventually,” the nurse said, largely ignoring him and moving on. “I want to watch you take that, now,” she said severely to the skinny man past the conciliatory woman, who took it glumly and popped it in but didn’t swallow. “It could be you on that bed tomorrow, dearie. Is that what you want?”

He swallowed hastily and she put a tick on the chart on her clipboard.

Read the full story in MMR Anthology 2011.


Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in anthologies and in dozens of literary and speculative publications from Alaska Quarterly Review and Fantasy Magazine to Weird Tales. She has published two novels and a short story collection, and has won an O. Henry award. Her latest novel, Journey to Bom Goody, concerns strange doings in the Amazon. She lives in New York City with her dog, Booker Prize, and cat, Pulitzer. Learn more about Karen Heuler at Moon Milk Review’s
Author Talk.

The Last Moment in Mexico

“Most of the lanterns were broked in the stampede,” Cooch says, and he lifts a candle to his face.

Take these, a terrible voice demanded, brushing past the back of my stool. The hands dropped a plastic pearl strand into my lap and lingered against my waist. You will use them tonight. The men like them.

Cooch noticed too, and his eyes were bright white and he had sandy dark skin, like the phantoms that chased me in my sleep. So I looked away.

I was still dreaming of going home. Maybe I could get home by 1925, dios mio. But Vaudeville was dying, and I had no true home.

Cooch kept talking, and his heavy breath blew against my face powder.  “You gon’ do that snake dance tonight, hm? Why, you looked  like a serpent made of stars.”

“Si, I am going to,” I said. “Cooch, could you bring me a candle?”

In Mexico I would be with Mama reading Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz under the trees where Papa slept. He worked hard, and his face often looked sad and tired and awaiting Mama to die. I think he knew she would.

Mama’s funeral was on a day of rain. It hadn’t rained in two years, and finally — we stood there praying to Quetzalcoatl or Jesus or anyone for the little mercy that should have been given. My hair was darker than black that day, and Papa said I reminded him of her and to get away.

He called me every name I never heard and every word I never said. He threw at me an avocado and told me to ‘eat up’ and get fat and show the white men what a Mexican cunt looked like.

Read the full story in MMR Anthology 2011.

Lisa Marie Basile is a writer, living in New York, and Editor-in-Chief of Caper Literary Journal . She has had work published in CommonLine, Aphros Literary Magazine, Vox Poetica, and The Medulla Review, among others. She studied English Language and Literature at Pace University in Manhattan, where she received 1st place in PU’s Annual Writing Contest for poetry and fiction. Her web site is and