The white Mercedes was in the driveway, under the Catalpa trees. It was a muggy spring night, and the seed pods had been blown down all over everything, everything except the white Mercedes. Roscoe knew there were worms up in the trees, big ones that the wasps would find and lay their eggs in. Roscoe had had some under a cake dish one summer, when he was a child. After a while, it was hard to tell where the worm ended and the egg sacs began, whether there was a worm under all those egg sacs or if it was just a vehicle now, warm worm juices for the wasps.
Roscoe felt the same way about the cancer. It had started before he even knew it was there, and now it was everywhere. Some sort of parasite, worse for the fact that it had started as a perfectly normal particle of Roscoe. He thought if he had grown it, he could beat it back. Use the machete of the mind, the armor of faith. He thought that, maybe, if he willed hard enough, he would wake up in his bed and the crushing, the burning, the tingling, the weakness, the coughed up blood would just be another small verse in the Book of Roscoe. Put “Cancer” next to “Notable Trips to the Bi-Lo” and “Great Works Done in the Pest Control Business.” Now Roscoe couldn’t even tell if he had actually believed that, or if there was something in him even then that had known it was futile.
He had given the money to the faith healer, who lived in Charlotte. He had seen Her on the TV, heard Her on the radio. Miracles worked. Little kids rising from wheelchairs. Foreclosures prevented. Cats healed. She had said that all it took was faith, faith to give Her the donation and trust. You could do it with as little as five dollars a month, but wouldn’t that be hedging bets? She said that good things came unto those who went all in, who held nothing back. Roscoe had never been one to hold back. Roscoe had never trusted the tent revivalists or preachers in cinderblock cells off Highway 27. Scared old men scaring their flock in turn. Roscoe had been around the block, he knew that Jesus didn’t heal. But She was different. She had a big church. She had a website and all the social media you could handle. She would send you a daily text message with inspiration and an easy link to donate. She even had videos of the little kids who had been healed talking about how much they loved Her. Roscoe came to believe that maybe the difference between the preachers and Her was that She had no need for any helper.
So Roscoe had gone all-in. He had held nothing back. He had sold the pest control business, emptied the little apartment on the edge of town. Sold the TV he had first seen Her on. He had driven to Charlotte, stood in front of the crowd, told Her his name, what the hell was wrong with him, sobbed into the camera, and She had laid hands on him, whispered in his ear to trust. Then they had ushered him off to the side and back into the congregation. Two months passed unmiraculously, and the crushing and the burning and the numbness just got worse, and no matter how hard he tried to trust, he found his faith wearing thin.
He had finally caved and gone back to the doctor. More debt he wouldn’t be around to pay. They told him it had gotten worse. He didn’t have too long. He could try some last-ditch experimental treatment, but the doctor told him that if he was him, he would just try to enjoy all that life had left. So Roscoe went home. Home to the empty apartment. He looked on the faith healer’s website, just to see if any new promises were out, if Her gifts had taken a two-month break to help some kids in Haiti but were back in town now. He just saw a picture of a brand new Mercedes, with a caption about how every year She got a new one as evidence of the good things that happened to those who trusted.
Roscoe thought about it for two weeks. He felt like maybe he had to do something soon, because if he waited too long he would be dead and She would still have her white Mercedes. Roscoe thought about a crowbar, a gas can, but decided that that would all be too crude. No real message in that. He could see the headlines in the Times-News now: “Disgruntled, Dying Man Arrested for Arson in Mecklenburg County.” iT Just wouldn’t do. So Roscoe started cruising the roads, looking for things that were dead but not completely flattened. Roscoe was on a lot of pain pills now. They didn’t really numb the pain at all, but they blunted the world around him, so everything looked stereotyped and duplicated: telephone poles, fences, fields, dead possums. It was like he had gotten a look at the templates used to create the world, a glimpse that the divine vision was more mundane than anything else, smaller now than he could have ever imagined. Soon he’d found what he was looking for: two possums, two raccoons, half a snake. He’d put them in garbage bags and keep them in the chest freezer, about the only thing he hadn’t sold, along with the store-brand pizzas, while he tried to divine a way. He put on the armor of God, found the courage of a man about to die.
Roscoe could smell the bags now. They were getting thawed. He knew he had to move soon. The leaves were sticky under him. He hurt like he’d never hurt before. He hadn’t taken the pills so that he could experience this moment, relish it, but there was so much pain that everything just felt more surreal. Pain that didn’t quite hurt anymore, just sucked you into another dimension. Still, it was a quiet night. He guessed it might’ve been nice out.
He started moving, dragging the bags behind him. He’d been out here before, in the bushes. He had figured out that She left the car unlocked when She came here, not Her house, but the house of a NASCAR driver who was on the news a lot with his wife and kids. He figured he kept them in his other house, probably over on Lake Norman. He opened the bags and put the roadkill in the seats of the white Mercedes one by one, gently, buckling them in, flies already gathering in the thick air. He put a toy tiara on possum in the driver’s seat. On the half-snake riding hump, he put a pink cowboy hat. A lollipop in the paw of a raccoon. Something to make it even more memorable, even though the smell would probably never come out. A celebration. He fished a crumpled note out of his pocket and put it on the dash.
“how bout you heal these now why dont you.”