Palacios lived in a church for a month. It was Saint Barbara’s. Locust Street. The night of his thirty-fifth birthday, me and Fillmore climbed through the basement window. We brought Grain Belt and donuts and a dirty magazine we had to stop at six places to find, and for a while we thought they didn’t even sell them anymore. The centerfold was dark and green-eyed, and I remembered back to dirt roads and ranchland and places with no lights. Places you could really see the sky.
“Shit,” said Palacios. “It’s been a fucking year,” and we nodded. There wasn’t anything else to say.
For a while we drank in the mother’s chapel. It smelled like diapers and cheap perfume, and we lit a few cigarettes to try and cover it up. At some point, Fillmore asked about the smoke detector, and Palacios said he raided the batteries ages ago, and the boredom was a crusty motherfucker, but if we really wanted to party he knew where Father Barrett kept the hard stuff. The collection plate and the old communion wafers and some other shit you’d be shocked to find, and so we followed him back toward the sacristy. It was cold. Fillmore kept throwing the flashlight up to stained glass, and for some reason one of the windows had a picture of soldiers stacking cannonballs, and we guessed it was donated by the VFW, or maybe the Knights of Columbus. Palacios went behind the altar. We heard metal scraping. I said it was like being an altar boy all over again, only with a cheaper kind of thrill, and Palacios came out with tight fists. With a few crumpled fives in his left. Shaking some pills in his right. Fillmore said, “That’s what I’m talking about,” and I kept looking up at the crucifix. At the blood on the ribcage. The nails in the hands. I saw Palacios coming toward us and then put out my palm and thought how Jesus was dead. Jesus was a man. I figured He’d probably forgive whatever we were about to do.
Brett Biebel teaches writing and literature at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. His (mostly very) short fiction has appeared in Chautauqua, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Masters Review, Emrys Journal, and elsewhere. 48 Blitz, his debut story collection, is available from Split/Lip Press. You can follow him on Twitter @bbl_brett.
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