First Monday Free Fiction: Our Lady of the Burning Heart

Our Lady of the Burning Heart by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the March 2021 edition of First Monday Free Fiction, which is also posted on the first day of the month this time around.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month.

This month’s free story is Our Lady of the Burning Heart, the story of a would-be burglar who tries to rob a church and has an experience that not only puts the fear of God into him but also makes him go straight. And if that sounds too religious for you, don’t worry, because it’s not really that kind of story at all.

Our Lady of the Burning Heart

Liam Connor walked down Market Street, pondering a dilemma of immense proportions. For Liam needed money and he needed it fast, cause Dan “the Man” O’Brien, bookmaker and bonebreaker, had threatened to break some of Liam’s bones, if Liam did not pay back the twenty thousand he owed Dan “the Man” within twenty-four hours.

Liam didn’t want his bones broken. However, he didn’t have twenty thousand dollars. He didn’t even have twenty dollars. In fact, after turning his pockets inside out, he found that he had exactly two dollars and forty-seven cents to his name. And two dollars and forty-seven cents wouldn’t even serve as a downpayment for Dan “the Man”. So Liam needed to procure money, a lot of money, twenty thousand dollars worth of money, to pay off Dan “the Man”. And he needed to procure that money within twenty-four hours.

Now there were very few professions in the world where one could earn twenty thousand dollars in a single day and unfortunately, Liam was crap at all of them. Indeed, Liam had never been able to hold down a job, any job, for more than a few weeks. He knew only two ways of making money and that was by stealing or by gambling. And Liam wasn’t very good at either of them, otherwise he would never have racked up twenty thousand dollars worth of debt.

However, Lady Luck had smiled down on Liam for once. Just in the most dire hour of his need she had handed him a sure-fire bet. For there was a horse running in the fifth race at Suffolk Downs tonight, a horse named Fiddler’s Fortune. Fiddler’s Fortune was a complete and utter outsider who had never won a minor race, let alone a major one. But Liam had it on one hundred percent certain authority that Fiddler’s Fortune’s streak of losses would end tonight, even though the odds of that happening were two hundred to one.

If Liam were to bet only a single grand on Fiddler’s Fortune in the fifth race tonight, he’d be able to pay off Dan “the Man” in a single swoop. If he were to bet more, he’d even have money left over. A lot of money. More money than Liam had ever seen in a single place in his whole lifetime.

There was only one problem. Liam did not have a grand to bet on Fiddler’s Fortune, let alone more. All he had was two dollars and forty-seven cents and even with odds of two hundred to one, that would be… — well, math had never been his strong suit, but he knew that it wouldn’t be nearly enough.

That left Liam with three choices, all equally unpleasant. One, he could bet his two dollars and forty-seven cents on Fiddler’s Fortune, hand over his winnings to Dan “the Man” and get his bones broken for his troubles. Two, he could bet his two dollars and forty-seven cents on Fiddler’s Fortune and use his meagre winnings to skip town and buy a bus ticket to a place that was hopefully beyond the reach of Dan “the Man”. Three, he could somehow try to raise a grand or two, bet it all on Fiddler’s Fortune and use the winnings to pay off Dan “the Man”.

Number three was clearly the most appealing choice. There was just one problem, namely that Liam had no more chance of raising a hundred dollars than he had of raising twenty thousand dollars. Which meant that he’d either have to skip town or get his bones broken or both, should Dan “the Man” ever find him.

And so Liam walked briskly down Market Street, head kept down and hands stuffed into his pockets against the chilly wind, and prayed for a miracle that would somehow solve all of his problems at once. To his own amazement, he got one.

The End

Madonna of the Glowing Heart

Here is the inspiration for the story, the Madonna of the Burning Heart, which is not a miracle, but a votive candle holder. The light of the candle shines through the porcelain and the effect is quite spectacular.


This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Our Lady of the Burning Heart. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.


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