The Gold-Plated Crucifix
The crucifix is ten inches long, its square metal staves a mere quarter inch wide and made of brass, though it never used to be so obvious its glow was only a thin layer of gold, probably dipped into a vat for half a second, then hung to dry, and, I believe this because there is residue at the bottom, a thickening that wasn’t trimmed as neatly as one might think, considering that it is Jesus who hangs from the cross in all his muscled beauty.
He is skewered in each palm just above the wrist with screws, his fingers folded downward. His head leans to the left, my left, and his hair, if I ignore the crown of thorns which is somewhat less threatening because age and poor craftsmanship have smoothed out the details, I am reminded of the boys I knew when I was young, when we were flower children in paisley shirts, bell bottom pants, our heads wreathed with daisies. This Jesus is as beautiful as they were, those boys who smoked pot and loved the Doors, naked to the waist, playing volleyball in the sand, their skin as golden as this man-god on my cross.
Instead of knee-length board shorts, this Jesus wears a cloth that folds along his hip bones, loose and gently draped which makes me wonder how it could stay on, given the treatment he received from Pilot’s strong-arm soldiers as he trudged along the dusty Via Dolorosa carrying that rugged wooden rood. The bones in his legs must have shuddered under the weight, yet here on this plated crucifix, his legs look strong and graceful, his right foot placed over his left and secured as with his palms. The whole of him is solemn, sad, the cross itself light-weight and cold in my hand. I run a fingertip along the ragged bottom edge. Press it into the skin, feel its light discomfort, press it harder, harder.
Given to me by Father Ara at my mother’s grave, my sister has its twin. The priest blessed us after he blessed her. The loss of her was sharper then, but I am sadder than I was the day we saw her lowered into the ground because the cross warming in my hand now offered me an assuring comfort, a comfort I no longer feel and no longer believe in.
Gay Degani has received nominations and honors for her work including Pushcart consideration and Best Small Fictions. She won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. She's published a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). She occasionally blogs at Words in Place.