Lucy’s Temple

Not all temples are made of stone. Lucy’s temple, the one she prayed and sacrificed in, was made of a few stout and sturdy cardboard boxes that she’d pulled apart and made into walls that surrounded her shrine. The shrine itself was a dirty old plastic milk crate that someone had drawn a few rude pictures on. But Lucy thought that made it rather more authentic. After all, the old Greek and Roman gods were always naked and rather naughty, weren’t they?
The best thing about her temple was that it was moveable. She could pack it into her rickety shopping cart whenever she decided to move her camp to somewhere else. The cart was filled with the other essentials of her life – some extra clothing for the colder weather, a few emergency Twinkies that she kept for the worst nights when she hadn’t managed to get any money for food, and, of course, her box of treasures and sacrifices.
The box held her most prized possessions besides the temple and shrine. She never showed anyone what was in there, not even Dumbo, the large-eared man who she encountered on most days, feebly playing his trumpet for the passersby. He was her best friend on the street, and they would often share things with each other – their food, their drugs, and occasionally, when the mood struck them, their bodies as well.
When Lucy woke up on this Sunday morning, she realized that she hadn’t seen Dumbo in a while. Not since she’d constructed her shrine and her temple. She wanted to share them with him, because she thought that he would understand and that he would see exactly what it was that she was worshiping. Other people had laughed at her, and she ignored them easily enough – living on the street was an education in ignoring and being ignored – but she wanted to show someone the magic she’d discovered and cultivated in her collapsible temple.
She decided that, since it was sunny and warm, she should go and look for him. She didn’t find him in any of the usual spots – he wasn’t at any of the subway stops that he frequented, nor was he in the parks that were friendly to the homeless population of the city. The last place she looked was at the soup kitchen that neither one of them went to very often, but he wasn’t there either. The proprietress of the place tried to wave Lucy in and yelled out a few times for her to join the line and get some food, but Lucy smiled her semi-toothed smile and shook her head. She didn’t like being somewhere with so many people.
When the sun began to set and she still hadn’t found Dumbo, Lucy realized with a jolt what she had to do. She took her shopping cart back to the alleyway she’d spent her nights in over the last week and began to set up her shrine and the temple. She opened her box of treasures and ran her fingers around it, feeling the bits and pieces of her favorite things as they seemed to nuzzle against her, almost sentient. It was as if they were assuring her that she was loved by them and that they appreciated her taking as good care of them as she did.
She pulled out a piece of red string and held it up to the light that came from the lamp-post at the far end of the alleyway. It was still clean and shiny. She pulled a small pack of matches from her pocket and placed the string on her shrine. Lighting it on fire, she watched the smoke curl into the air of the temple and she began to pray. She prayed to the gods to find Dumbo and bring him to her, but she also prayed to them to keep him safe even if he didn’t come to find her.
She could feel them responding to her. She could feel Dumbo coming closer to her. She could smell him getting closer to her. Sure enough, as her lips finished mumbling the last words of her prayer, Dumbo ducked under the walls of temple and caused them to sway precariously. He knelt beside Lucy and watched her curiously. His long dreadlocks were tied in a tight knot at the nap of his neck and his beard was scraggly and dirtier than ever.
Lucy moved a little so that he could be more comfortable. “This is my shrine,” she said. Dumbo nodded. “I know,” he said. “I could tell.” He closed his eyes, put his hands together, and they began to pray together. Lucy was pleased. She knew that Dumbo would understand.


2 thoughts on “Lucy’s Temple

  1. Facinating. I love Lucy–want to know more about her. At the same time, I wanted this piece to end with less reolution. I wonder if you might want to explore that potential tension more–with Dumbo not reappearing so immediately.

    Great piece. I find Lucy’s character completely intriguing. Also, I’d like to know more about the actual objects she collects. What are those favorite things? Though maybe you don’t want to identify them. I don’t know. Just a thought.


  2. Erin M says:

    This was so cool, Ilana! Like . . . Neil Gaiman cool. You could totally be the next Neil Gaiman. You’re so creative. =]

    Seriously. Loved this.

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