by Barbara Robinson
When I arrive at the Cana Community Centre and Social Club—with my disciples and Cousin John, who lives in the desert—everyone’s drunk and dancing to ‘Single Ladies’. Apart from Mam, who runs over to me in flitters.
‘They’re after running out of wine,’ she says.
‘Mam, what’s it got to do with me?’
She pulls me to one side. ‘Jesus, this is your chance. Your first miracle! Be your father’s son.’
Not this again. My dad—the man I call ‘Dad’—is a joiner. Not a fucking sommelier. My ‘real dad’ is something mysterious. High up. Important.
Cousin John ambles over, rolling a fag. ‘Auntie Mary,’ he says. Mam ignores him, pushing past him to join Auntie Liz, John’s mum, in the social club’s kitchenette. ‘What’s up her hole?’
‘They’re out of wine.’
‘Is that all?’ He turns his back on the room and produces a leather pouch filled with tiny, grey-brown mushrooms. ‘Remember these?’
Manna, from the desert. Last time I visited him we ate them until we saw God. He points to six large urns on the kitchenette counter. ‘Fill them with water and add these.’ He hands me the leather pouch, first grabbing a handful of the mushrooms and stuffing them into his mouth. There’s a catering-sized bottle of Vimto in the kitchenette. I mix this with water and add the manna, doing some hand movements over the urns to distract Auntie Liz and Mam, who are watching.
The wedding guests sip the ‘fruit punch’ cautiously at first, but soon they’re chugging it and within half an hour, it’s like a Roman orgy in the Cana Community Centre and Social Club. I’m leaning against the bar with Cousin John, watching the bride and groom and their guests—including Mam and Auntie Liz—dancing to Stormzy.
‘I’m a fucking genius,’ he says. ‘Say it.’
‘You’re a fucking genius,’ I say, as I butt my polystyrene cup of spiked Vimto against his, drinking in the happiness all around me.
Mam waves and shouts from the dance floor. ‘Water into wine! Your first miracle!’
Without warning, illuminated images flash into my mind: a severed head, a wreath of thorns, rough wood, nails stabbing into flesh. I turn to John and see my fear reflected in his dilated pupils.
‘Bad trip?’ he says.
‘I hope so,’ I say.
Barbara Robinson was born and lives in Manchester. She has been published in Willesden Herald New Short Stories 9 and New Short Stories Story of the Month, Ellipsis Zine, Fictive Dream and Cicerone Journal. Her first novel, Elbow Street, was shortlisted for 2018 Northern Writers’ Awards in the Andrea Badenoch Award category and longlisted for the 2018 Grindstone Literary Prize. She is currently working on her second novel.