There was a weather-stained carving of an old-fashioned cross above the kitchen sink. It looked as hard as iron, but the wood was soft, held together by strands of brown rope. It came from their home in Georgia. She said it was a sure-enough heirloom, passed down from the old plantation days. When the family moved, it was wrapped in tissue paper and set in a small pecan-wood box, then packed in hard cardboard. It wasn’t very big, the size of a boy’s hand, and it was colorless against the yellow kitchen wall. Some nights, he would see his mother staring at the cross, her hands wrist-deep in soap bubbles. She was listening or praying, idly scrubbing an iron skillet, or fumbling with cutlery. He envied her faith and wondered what she saw, what she heard. He knew she would pass the cross on to him when the time came, and he hoped that when it did, he would understand what she was waiting on.