Mary and Joseph and Holly the Witch

Mary and Joseph and Holly the Witch December 9, 2023

statues of Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary arriving at Bethlehem
image via Pixabay


The Scrapper came back to see Holly the Witch, at her house on the South Side of Columbus.

He wanted to know if there was any work he could do for her to earn a few dollars.

She asked why he was clenching his teeth.

“Some guy cracked out and broke my jaw and shot me in the armpit. They wanted me to stay another week in the hospital but I’ll lose my room. I need money to buy food that I can smash up small enough to eat. You need your leaves raked?”

No, she wasn’t going to let a man who had just been shot do manual labor. She gave him a soda and a straw, canned soup and some crackers and bananas, and also a bag of Tylenol.

Another homeless lady, Mary, came by for breakfast later that month. Sometimes Mary likes scrambled eggs, but this time she just wanted milk for her Fruity Pebbles and a warm place to eat them. As she ate, they chatted. Mary noticed that Holly was wearing a scarf with the symbol from the back of the Immaculate Conception medal printed on it. Holly isn’t a Christian, but she’s got icons of the Virgin Mary all over the house.

““I didn’t know you were religious. They (religious people that help the homeless) just want to tell me about Jesus before they help anybody,” Mary the homeless woman remarked.

Holly said she was more interested in getting some food in Mary’s stomach.

Mary and The Scrapper came back again yesterday. It turns out The Scrapper’s name is Joseph; this is the first time I’ve heard it. Holly wrote about the visit on her Patreon:

Mary and Joseph both came by yesterday. I feel it’s rather heavy handed of God to give the names Mary and Joseph to my most frequent homeless guests this month of December. Like damn, Lady I’m not that dense.

Joseph is maybe 55. He had been a construction worker his whole life until he broke his back in a car accident. Pain led to drugs drugs led to crime crime led to prison and illiteracy led to accidental parole violations and warrants so complex he has no idea how to start fixing that without ending up in jail so he just stays under the radar and works for cash around the neighborhood. Last time i saw him he was mugged and shot. His jaw was broken and wired shut but they just discharged him with no pain meds, nothing. I gave him Advil and Tylenol and soup and soft things to eat. Haven’t seen him since and have been a little worried. He stopped by yesterday and got some snacks and a drink, and I had a 5$ from a macrame ornament i sold, so he was ecstatic and said when he was healed up he’d mow my grass anytime.

Mary slept on the porch last night. She’s an addict, fentanyl and heroin, Mary has severe cellulitis from shooting up. She’s young probably not even 35. She’s got pretty blue eyes and a cloud of natural blond hair. But legs are arms are grotesquely misshapen . She cries in her sleep on the concrete of my porch while i sit warm and drink coffee on the other side of the window. I had a feeling she’d be there last night so i put out a thick rug and huge comforter, snacks and a couple heat packs. So, she’s better off than she was, but she’s a human being crying in her sleep on a concrete porch. And what’s worse is she is feeling really lucky she’s here compared to places she’s slept before.

I can’t let her in, she’s literally got fent in tinfoil and a needle falling out of her bra. If i lost the house I’d be out there next to her.

Eventually she wakes up. I’ve spent the day calling around to find somewhere for her to stay. The system is bewildering for me to navigate and I’m pretty bright, literate and not on drugs. When she woke up, I made her some eggs and toast, gave her some change and offered to take her to the warming center and get her signed up for a bed.

She wouldn’t meet my eye and cried, I can’t- I am so sick. She means dopesick. In withdrawal. She’s crying in pain and shame because she knows she’s going to go “get someone to help her” give her drugs and then she’ll have to work to pay it off and once she’s got the drugs and made her money, the shelter will be closed or full.  And of course by making her money, I mean sex work.

Mary ate her eggs and toast ravenously and only threw up a little standing over my porch rail.

There are two vacant houses, nicely furnished, waiting for travelling nurses or temp tech workers within sight of where Mary was grateful to have something in her stomach to throw up. Fuck your property values and mine too.

I can’t do anything but bear witness to Mary and Joseph and tell their stories.

Don’t look away.

Don’t look away.

I don’t have any answers for you and Holly doesn’t either. Life is impossible and there’s so little we can do.  But you mustn’t look away.

Maybe take a look at Holly’s Patreon, which is how she gets supplies to hand out to the homeless.

Maybe take a look at the homeless in your own community. Find your own Mary and Joseph and give them some soup and milk for their cereal.

Let’s all try to make it a better world.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

"Cardinals do not ordinarily flock, but once in a while they do. A flock of ..."

The God of Crows and Eagles
"I'm glad things are going better. A coincidence, this morning I read a piece on ..."

The God of Crows and Eagles
""I found out that the Lost Girl had been arrested."Sometimes it is useful to think ..."

The God of Crows and Eagles
"It's an opinion piece by that bully Megan Basham. And a lie. Trans Day of ..."

Don’t Be This Person in the ..."

Browse Our Archives