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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Our Lady of Perpetual Plastic

Story by Rosaleen Lynch (Read author interview) February 14, 2022

Art by Chelsea Biondolillo

Like our fields our bodies give no yield. We’re running out of food but have fewer to feed, the upside of the calamity Mama says when I tell her I can’t have children, as she makes tea and tells me she will build a shrine in Lego to the god of plastic, so I can expel the microscopic contamination like a demon exorcised, my words not hers. I sip my tea, a mix of raspberry leaves, nettle and red clover to promote fertility, and dried waxworm caterpillars to detox, flush out the microplastic particles, but they won’t do the job—they need to be alive to feed.

She builds her shrine, prays to the two-foot statue, a monstrosity of melted plastic waste on what was once a statue of the Virgin Mary, she drove back from Lourdes in the rain, in a hand-painted ultramarine Cortina, though some days she says she rescued it from the rubble on a clear-sky day when the churches were demolished and other days she says she found it glowing in moonlight, in an empty water tank, after a rooftop-service raid, and I ask if she had enough fuel to drive all the way and if she saw the steeples fall and what she was looking for on the roof, and she tells me cars were cars back then, churches churches and statues statues, and of course Mary is still in there in her saintly blue and white, under layers of burnt and dissolved plastic, caramelized candy-wrappers, globs of glue, like bubble gum, clear and opaque growths of contracted A4 plastic sheet-sleeves like hard-boiled sweets left too long, clumps of colour from straws, coffee cup lids and plastic cutlery, in the melted flesh of shrink-wrap and clotted plastic-film, that started out with one small crack in the virgin blue and without superglue, when my mother took a sweet wrapper—she says it was the colour of the sky—and with a match and eyebrow tweezers she applied it to the crack and though it didn’t stay a light sky-blue, she liked the effect of shrunken plastic, a small imperfection in the saintly blue. But now she makes it grow in masses like cancer on her statue’s body to create this fearsome God, man-made she says, that will wipe us out, from the inside and last long after the other statues crumble into earth, and will see us off with a plastic smile only the plastivores will survive, and she asks me why we can’t learn like waxworms to digest the Lego brick of plastic we eat each week.

As I watch her pull a space blanket from its packet and use the hairdryer like a torch to force the metallic plastic film to cling, mould to the frame, soften the lines, the statue now a shiny rocket, protrusions like nuts and bolts and lugs and pods and pumps, I won’t tell her I don’t want to bring a baby into this world, that maybe our bodies are adapting for other things to grow, that in the Virgin Mary’s face I see mine, that I pray there are no miracles today.

About the Author

Rosaleen Lynch, an Irish community worker and writer in the East End of London with words in lots of lovely places and can be found on Twitter @quotes_52 and 52Quotes.blogspot.com.

About the Artist

Chelsea Biondolillo is an artist and writer living just outside Portland, Oregon. She is the author of The Skinned Bird and two prose chapbooks, Ologies and #Lovesong.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Four
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

Deadline November 15!

The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction (The Smokey) is a biennial competition that celebrates and compensates excellence in flash. The grand prize winner of The Smokey is automatically nominated for The Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart, Best of the Net, and any other prize we deem appropriate. In addition to all this love, we will also pay the grand prize winner $2500. Second place: $1000. Third place $500. Finalists: $100. All finalists and placers will be published in the special competition issue in December 2022.