Ross McMeekin ~ The Face of God

When four-year-old Doug threw his Jesus Christ orna­ment into the fire­place, every­one in the fam­i­ly jumped up at once, but his grand­moth­er Deb led the way. Deb was a retired high school English teacher with a beautician’s pos­ture and unusu­al­ly long bangs. She shook the pok­er free from the fire­place set and stabbed it into the hearth.

Use the shov­el!” said her hus­band Allen, an almond-shaped man.

Deb dropped the pok­er and used the shov­el to dig out the orna­ment. They rushed into the kitchen and ran cold water over it. Steam and smoke waft­ed up from the ash. The fire alarm sound­ed and Allen shut it off. Once the Jesus orna­ment cooled, Deb held it out to them on the shov­el, which was drip­ping gray water onto the floor.

I sup­pose we could still use it,” said Deb.

Show it to Doug,” said Allen. “This is one of those lessons a boy has to learn.”

Shut up,” said Deb. She reached to touch the orna­ment and pulled her fin­gers back. “It doesn’t make sense now,” she said. “Jesus’ lacrosse stick looks like a noo­dle. And that stocky boy has a melt­ed face.”

We could cut him out,” said Allen. “And we could cut off Jesus’s stick, too. It will look like he’s just giv­ing them instruc­tion.”

Deb began to clean the figure’s face with the fold­ed edge of a paper tow­el but she paused. “Oh. Look at this. What do you think, Doug?”

The face looked very sad. He shook his head.

She held it out to Allen. “Doesn’t he look sad? But real­is­ti­cal­ly sad. It’s uncan­ny.”

Peter’s gone and dis­owned him,” said Allen, drift­ing back into the kitchen.

Deb rubbed some smeared ash from Jesus’ body with her fin­ger and wiped it off on her apron. “It’s noth­ing a mark­er can’t fix. Project time, Doug.” She laid a place­mat on the kitchen table and set up his boost­er seat. Doug climbed in while Deb brought him a thin-tipped black mark­er. Doug took the fig­urine in his hand and with his oth­er hand held the pen like a chis­el. He care­ful­ly drew a smile arc­ing up from the frown. But the pen slipped and he acci­den­tal­ly rubbed a knuck­le against Jesus’ face, smudg­ing the ink.

Doug held it up. There were words for how Jesus looked, but he didn’t know them yet. To him, it appeared as though every shape a mouth could make had been laid down at once in black and gray ink. He didn’t know what to make of it.

~

Ross McMeekin’s sto­ries have appeared in places like Virginia Quarterly Review, X‑R-A‑Y, Redivider, Lost Balloon, and Post Road Magazine. His debut nov­el, The Hummingbirds (Skyhorse), came out in 2018. He’s received fel­low­ships from the Hugo House and Jack Straw Cultural Center in Seattle. He edits the lit­er­ary jour­nal Spartan.