According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:
“The Five Wounds” by Kristin Valdez Quade
In Kristin Valdez Quade’s unsettling short story, first published in 2009, Amadeo prepares to portray Jesus in an extreme version of a passion play, but is discombobulated by the arrival of his pregnant teenage daughter. Quade’s unspooling of the family dynamics, the subtle and unsubtle grief and shame and rage, is masterful—but it is the perception and pain in Amadeo’s desire for transcendence that makes this story truly great. If by the end you feel desperate to know more, for once you are in luck: Quade expanded the story into a novel, also titled The Five Wounds, published in 2021. But this is a good place to start:
The story begins:
This year Amadeo Padilla is Jesus. The hermanos have been practicing in the dirt yard behind the morada, which used to be a filling station. People are saying that Amadeo is the best Jesus they’ve had in years, maybe the best since Manuel García.
Here it is, just Holy Tuesday, and even those who would rather spend the evening at home watching their satellite TVs are lined up in the alley, leaning in, fingers curled around the chain-link, because they can see that Amadeo is bringing something special to the role.
This is no silky-haired, rosy-cheeked, honey-eyed Jesus, no Jesus-of-the-children, Jesus-with-the-lambs. Amadeo is pockmarked and bad-toothed, hair shaved close to a scalp scarred from fights, roll of skin where skull meets thick neck. You name the sin, he’s done it: gluttony, sloth, fucked a second cousin on the dark bleachers at the high school.