Among the spruce and maples, surrounded on three sides by vast fields of freshly tilled soil, Joy pushed her baby girl in a swing. Her husband couldn’t pass the wooden structure without slapping a beam and grinning. “Solid as a rock!”
In her first audacious foray into playdates, Joy had invited a friend from church and a colleague from her husband’s work for an afternoon of fun and frolic. Joy exhaled a cautious breath. So far so good. The kids are getting along well together.
A professional in a pinstripe pantsuit, Ginny Hawthorn exuded efficient confidence; while Ruth in a jean skirt and a flowery blouse breathed exuberance—like a full-page, color advertisement for the outdoor life. Ginny’s boy, Frank, tossed a Frisbee to Ruth’s boy, Ezra. Being the same age, they enjoyed the usual eight-year-old entertainments. One minute they were racing each other across the yard; the next, they were climbing a tree to see who could get to the top the fastest. Ruth watched them with an anxious eye, but Ginny hardly peeled her gaze from her phone.
After lifting her baby from the swing, Joy ambled over to the two women. “I’m so glad the boys are getting along.” She pointed to Ruth’s round tummy. “Soon, we’ll have another little one to join in the fun.”
Ruth’s face glowed. “I can hardly wait. It’s been so long—I just about gave up hope. But God is good.”
With a slight grimace, Ginny slipped her phone into her purse and peered across the yard. “Hey, kiddo, I’ve got a conference call at 5:00 — twenty minutes.” She strode over to an Adirondack chair and perched on the edge. “I really appreciate your befriending us, Joy. The kids at Frank’s school are such Neanderthals — obsessed with the latest gadget. I’m too busy to play games, so the kid doesn’t get much fresh air, and I’m sure he’s putting on weight.”
Joy shrugged. “I don’t know how you do it. I can barely manage with Rick and the baby, yet you juggle a family and a full-time career.”
Ruth shaded her eyes as she scanned the yard, a frown building between her eyes. “Is it okay if they play in that dirt over there?”
Joy turned and appraised the scene. The two boys had jumped into a fresh hole and were digging with frenetic energy. “Oh, I don’t think they can do any harm. Rick pulled out a fallen tree, and he thought maybe he’d excavate a bit and make a root cellar. He sure —”
A scream sent all three women hustling toward the site.
Frank scrambled out of the hole holding a large, angular jaw bone ennobled with wide, flat teeth. Ezra ran to his mother and yanked her over. “Look at what we found! It’s a skull — think it might be from a dinosaur?”
Ruth’s frown deepened.
Ginny leaned in, adjusting her glasses to peer at the skull in her son’s hands. “Could be — I’ve heard of farmers finding all sorts of prehistoric —”
“Cool!” Ezra jumped forward and stroked the bone. “I wish I could’ve seen it when it was alive. I would’ve ridden —”
Frank lifted the bone out of reach. “Don’t be stupid. Humans and dinosaurs didn’t live at the same time. Dinosaurs had been gone for a zillion years —”
Ezra shook his head and leaped for the bone. “Not true. Men and animals were created in the same week — says so in the Bible.”
Ginny laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding — only flat-worlders believe in that nonsense.”
Ruth pulled Ezra to her side. “The Bible isn’t nonsense. It’s the world of God, and He doesn’t lie.”
“You can’t be serious —”
Joy cleared her throat and tried to steer Ruth toward the house. “Come on, let’s not get into a debate. We’re friends —”
Ruth’s gaze met Joy regretfully. “I’m sorry, Joy, but we have to go. Ezra doesn’t need to hear a grown woman spouting misinformation —”
Ginny waved an accusing finger. “Misinformation? Because I teach my kid to use his brain and not believe every —”
A truck pulled into the driveway. Joy sighed and waved. “Rick’s home. He can probably identify the bone for us.”
Ginny waved Joy’s suggestion away. “I’ve got to go.” She patted Joy’s limp hand. “Nice try anyway.” Ginny nudged Frank toward her car.
Ruth wrapped her arm around Ezra and pointed to their minivan. The boy lumbered away with his head down. Ruth stroked Joy’s arm. “I’m sorry, but I can’t just stand by while someone tries to shake my son’s faith. I have to stand up for what I believe, right?”
Joy nodded and shifted her baby higher on her hip. “Sure. You just have different views.”
Ruth shook her head. “More than that. Well, I better go. See you Sunday.”
After her guests had cleared the driveway, Joy picked up the bone and drifted toward her husband.
Rick greeted his wife with a kiss on the cheek. He accepted the bone and laughed. “Good heavens, where did you find this?”
“The boys dug it up from the hole — where the old tree used to be.”
Folding one arm around his wife and the baby, Rick nudged them toward the back door. A grin broke across his face. “Old Diablo — I forgot we buried him under that tree.”
Joy’s eyes widened — alarmed. “What? Who?”
Rick stopped and gazed over a distant field. “An old donkey of my dad’s — meanest creature ever to set hoof on God’s green earth. He called it Diablo because he swore that the devil himself had a hand in creating that creature’s nasty tricks.”
“So you buried him by the tree?”
“He fell dead there one day, and Dad dug a hole and pushed him in. He said that Ol’ Diablo wouldn’t get the last laugh this time.” He squeezed her shoulder. “Have a good time with your friends?” He rubbed his stomach. “Boy, I’m starving.”
Joy nodded. “Dinner’s almost ready.” She started up the back porch steps after her husband. “But you know —” she looked back toward the hole, “I think Ol’ Diablo’s still laughing.”
Copyright 2018 Ann K. Frailey