by Rita Bullwinkel 

My father told me that our church had a belly. It was named nave and sat at the very center of the cross, in the meat where the two structural lines crossed. I never saw anyone feed the nave and feared it was hungry. When we went to church I brought it things I thought it would like. I stuffed almonds in my pockets and gummy bears in the backs of my shoes. I whispered things to the floor, sure that the nave could hear me. I said, “I know you must be hungry because all the adults bring you is money.”

I pulled my profferings out and stuck them under the rug and mashed them up a bit with my foot so the nave wouldn’t have to chew. I brought it raisins and cereal and sometimes even honey. I hid the food in my jacket and when the adults weren’t looking I fed the ravenous nave like my parents fed me.

I always sat in the same seat because I liked the smell of the rot the nave gave me. No other children would sit next to me, and my parents did not like that I sat alone. After several weeks the adults began to sniff and told me the place where I sat was stinky.

“I am having private time with God,” I lied to them. I knew I had made the nave too dependent. I knew that if I didn’t feed the nave I would be the nave’s next feed.

At home one Sunday we ran out of snacks and I threw a fit. I refused to attend church but my mother had none of it and I was dragged out to the car, down the road and into a new seat in a pew between my parents.

The whole mass I could hear the rumblings of the church’s belly. The nave yelled and screamed. It wanted a granola bar. It wanted goldfish. It wanted all of the snacks I had ever brought it and it wanted them now.

Knowing that the time before the nave would eat me was near I began to cry. I readied myself for the ground to open. For the thin red carpet to rip and split into a fleshy cavern filled with thousands of teeth that crescendoed from smallest to biggest, so that there were daggers at the opening and a dense white center in the bellows that circled a tiny hole where all the fluids of the masticated people were slurped down and funneled directly into the stomach of God.

Rita Bullwinkel lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a fiction MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in NOON, The Fanzine, Spork, Everyday Genius, HTML Giant, The Brooklyn Rail, Heavy Feather Review, Paper Darts, Two Serious Ladies and the book Gigantic Worlds: An Anthology of Science Flash Fiction.

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