She finds the cross buried under Cabbage Patch Kids and old lace dresses stained green with mildew. The old lady running the garage sale wants five dollars, but Faith Bacon can only offer three. The coins are from her mother’s car, but her mother will never notice. Their house is filled with half-empty boxes and dirty clothes. There are bugs inside the cupboards and they run away in two pieces when Faith squishes them under her tiny shoes. The car is not much different; it smells like French fries and burnt hair. The windows are stuck open and it leaks washer fluid everywhere. It makes its mark. Faith Bacon holds out her change and counts all of the faces. The old woman shakes her head. No, five dollars is as low as she can go. That’s the Lord himself Faith holds in her hands, and not something to be taken lightly. Look at his eyes girl—they are filled with forgiveness. The body on the cross looks more like a skeleton than a person, looks like the puked up leftovers from Arthur, the neighbour’s cat. The bones press right up against the flesh, threatening to puncture his skin. The eyes are very blue though, so Faith Bacon nods because that must be what forgiveness looks like. It is blue like the sky and the fish they have at school. It is blue like a robin’s egg. The woman holds out her gnarled hand for the money. She smiles, but her eyes aren’t blue. They are still and black and filled with reflections.
Faith Bacon runs. She runs clutching the crucifix until she can’t hear anyone behind her. Her mother will be at the cafeteria all day, serving peas to hospital patients and doctors and nurses with giant, heavy shoes. Faith Bacon should be visiting her dad, but he is sleeping on the couch. His belly is filled with grilled cheese and beer. He will ask her where she found the silly cross man and she doesn’t want to say she stole him. She saved him. Saved him from a life trapped under Cabbage Patch kids, trapped inside some old lady’s house with no fresh air to breathe.
She tries dropping the cross from the top of her neighbour’s shed, watches it bounce from one side of the yard to the other. She waits for it to fly or come alive, but the cross refuses. The skeleton man doesn’t say anything. His expression never changes. Even when his nose comes off after one of his journeys to the ground, he only continues to stare up at Faith Bacon. She doesn’t like his accusations. She just wants to know what he can do. She saved him from a life hiding in the dark—she deserves something in return. She tries hanging him from trees in the woods, dunking him in ponds. He can’t even float and so she has to wade into the water, ruining her shoes to save him from the frogs and snapping turtles that lurk around its edges. Her dad says a snapping turtle can take your finger off with one bite. He says that’s how he lost his thumb.
Faith Bacon takes the cross up to her room and places it on the unmade bed. All the sheets are still in boxes. She sleeps with pillow cases and keeps her dirty clothes in a bucket by the door. The man stares back at her without a nose. His eyes are blue like the lady said, but they don’t seem to help Faith very much. Arthur was a mean cat after all. He stole food from the counter when her mother wasn’t looking and liked to pee inside their suitcases. You couldn’t get the smell out afterwards; it lingered over everything. His owners never kept him inside their house. Arthur roamed the neighbourhood, killing baby birds and hamsters. Sometimes he left their bodies outside Faith’s door. One of his eyes was split with three seams of yellow pus.
Faith Bacon let him eat the dead bugs from under the fridge, the ones her mother sprayed to death with aerosol, the ones that could no longer scurry away in two different pieces. She had watched him swallow them whole and then stumble outside into the overgrown garden. His belly grew just like her father’s and his pus-filled eye finally closed sometime during the night. Faith had carried him into the street that morning and stuffed the body down a sewer grate. It took a few jabs with a stick until he fell into the rushing stream of garbage below.
She does not miss Arthur now. She knows the neighbours have been asking questions, but they won’t look to her. She was always so nice to that stupid cat, even when it ate the songbirds above her window. Her shoes are still wet, so she kicks them off across the room. The skeleton man stares at her with his blue eyes. He asks her why she did it, but she doesn’t have an answer. She doesn’t like broken things. Her life is made of broken things, of one-eyed cats and windows that won’t roll up. Faith is tired of trying to fix everything. Even her socks have holes.
Faith Bacon buries the crucifix inside her closet, pushing the blank, knowing face down into the carpet. She stacks cardboard boxes over it and tries to look outside instead. The sky is still blue, so she decides to pull the blinds shut. Blue follows her everywhere, forgiving everything under the stupid sun. Faith decides to close her eyes, to wait until it is dark again. She imagines Arthur floating out there in the sea or a deep river somewhere, but the water isn’t blue. It is black and there are no men on crosses. Everyone is quiet. Arthur is whole again. Arthur is new.
Nobody asks her to apologize. Faith Bacon does not want their forgiveness.
About the Author: Andrew F. Sullivan was born in Peterborough, Ontario. His fiction has recently been published by Joyland, The Good Men Project, Monkeybicycle, The Cleveland Review, Necessary Fiction and Riddle Fence. He no longer works in a warehouse or as a butcher, but is currently the associate fiction editor for The Puritan. You can find him at: http://afsullivan.blogspot.com/