Fiery Mary & the Dog Days of Summer by Valerie Willis is a mythology horror suspense short story that is also Book One in The Willis Short Story Collection. The dog days of summer are roughly any time from early July to early September when the weather in the northern hemisphere is hot. As to why they are called dog days, it would be easy to think this is a description of days so hot dogs do not want to venture out. The actual origin came from a Roman belief that the hottest days of summer were associated with Sirius, the “Dog Star,” and the brightest star in its constellation.
The short story might interest readers of English as a second or foreign language. Only 37 pages, the novel addresses the beliefs of farming villages in mythology and the horror that might happen if humans do not follow the dictates of demons on their special days.
An Unnamed Narrator (UN) from Iowa backpacking across Europe has decided to go home. Walking through the former Yugoslavia, a robbery in Germany left him broke and helped with his decision to return home. There would be a lot of walking to save money, but UN was strong and could probably get part-time work from farmers who would give him a bit of cash plus room and board.
The first farmer to pick him up took him to the farmer’s home where he would have to rest for almost one week during the festival of Ognjena Marija. The farmer’s wife was very insistent that no work could begin until the conclusion of the feast. Routine tasks, like sewing, are included. UN agreed and went to sleep in a barn corner the farmer provided. On the following day, Day 1, UN rearranged hay bales. Only the rustle of one or two snakes disturbed the silence UN enjoyed.
On Day 2 UN decides to repair a plow. Each time, on Day 2 and days after, UN would continue to perform some small task. But any job was against the rules. Each day of broken rules was accompanied by more unusual sightings and beasts until the arrival of Ognjena Marija, Fiery Mary, herself.
What can we learn from this story? People from Iowa don’t pay attention. Perhaps. For those who believe in mythology, this story will provide a few memorable images. The tale is an OK story which I rated at three Amazon stars.