H1. Faith is Struck by Lightning

Dan bit his nails as he paced in the airport lobby. Each time he turned he checked the schedule on the opposite wall. Jay’s flight filtered to the top as his plane approached.

“How much longer, Dainty?” Faith stretched across four seats, threading herself through three armrests. “Why’d we come so early?”

“He’ll be here in half an hour.” Dan scanned the misty morning sky for the shape of an airplane. The landing-strips were frosted and dewy.  “I wanted to beat traffic.”

“There’ll be no beating traffic on the way back,” said Faith. “It’ll be rush-hour. Maybe I should drive us home so you don’t have to worry.”

“I can drive us home.”

“Are you sure?” Faith now crawled over the armrests. She wore a heavy green sweater, as the clouds looked like rain. “You bite your fingertips when you’re anxious, Dainty. If you have to drive in traffic you’ll bleed on the steering wheel.”

Dan almost put a finger in his mouth, but refrained. “I’m not anxious about traffic.”

“Oh.” Faith slid into one seat. She crossed her ankles and clasped her hands in the pocket of her sweater. “I miss Beatrice, too, Dan. She was my girlfriend. It’s gonna be okay.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Before he could stop himself he found his index finger between his lips.

“Well, is there anything I can get you? Maybe breakfast?”

Dan checked the restaurants down the airport corridor. “Nothing here really appeals to me.”

“A bag of chips? Some gum?”

“No, no.” Dan sighed and looked over the streets of Burbank. “A cinnamon bun sounds good.”

“Oh? Where do you see them? I’ll buy three so Jay and I can have one.”

He pointed out the window. Across the street a diner advertised cinnamon buns dripping with thick white icing. “Let me give you some cash.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got enough!” Faith stood and pranced to the escalators. “If JayJay gets here before I’m back, tell him I missed him, okay? And tell him breakfast is on its way.”

As soon as she was away Dan tore a fingernail with his teeth. He tore more than the white crescent; the skin under the nail was magenta. He rubbed it to salt the wound.

If Faith saw the nail she’d throw a fit. Well, no, but she’d coo sympathetically, which was worse. Dan jogged to an airport convenience store and bought black gloves. He didn’t put them on right away; he sat near Jay’s terminal and ate the skin around his nails until his fingers had magenta streaks. When Jay’s plane broke through the clouds, he donned the gloves to hide his hands.

Jay was among the first to disembark. Dan waved at him. “Jay! Jay!”

“Dan! Oran dora!”

“How was the flight?”

“Not great, but I survived.” The two hugged. “Is Faith with you?”

“She’s buying us breakfast. She wanted me to say she missed you. Did you get any good photos?”

Jay showed Dan his camera’s digital screen. “Look, these masked dancers lead you to this circle of hundreds of people. They walk, they chant—it’s like the Kaaba, but there’s a bird in the middle. That’s why my framing is wonky, there are massive birds everywhere and Sheridanians are emphatic about not taking pictures of them. Here, this statue is actual size, maybe even a little small.”

“Whoa.” Dan compared the statue to pine trees in the background. “It must be eight feet tall.”

“It represents the Biggest Bird, a local folk hero who’s twenty feet tall. That’s not a toddler it’s cradling, it’s a full-grown man, the first man, Nemo. It’s just not-to-scale.” Jay skipped to a picture of Virgil Jango Skyy. “I’ve never seen anything like Sheridan. You’ve got to go, Dan. You know more about religion than I do. Let’s explore this, together.”

Dan tried to press buttons on the camera, but his black gloves were too cumbersome. “I need to finish graduate school eventually. Maybe I can write my thesis on Sheridan. I’ll run it by my adviser.”

“Here, I got you a souvenir.” Jay gave him the orange plush fledgling he bought near the airport. “I bought seashells for Faith, but they’re being mailed to me. Where’s she buying breakfast? Can we join her?

“She’s bringing buns from across the street.” Dan led Jay to the window to overlook the diner. “There she is. See?”

“She looks happy,” said Jay. Faith bounced on her toes waiting at the crosswalk with a bag of buns. “How are you, Dan? Are you feeling alright?”

“Oh, you know.” Dan sucked at one gloved finger. “Not great.”

As Faith crossed the street she noticed Dan and Jay at the window. “Hey! JayJay!” In the distracted moment a speeding bus ran the red light and almost hit her head-on. Faith leapt to safety with a yelp. When her adrenaline wore off, she laughed and finished crossing the street.

Then she was struck by lightning. She left only a scorch mark on the sidewalk.

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