“You shouldn’t encourage her,” her mother pontificated.
“Me? I thought it must have been you.”
“I never said a word. She made it all up. By herself.”
“She has some imagination, I’ll grant her that. But she’s only a child. She’ll get over it. In time,” her dad said patiently.
“Reality catches up with us all,” sighed her mother.
“It’s just a pet. With so many, shellfiget soon enough,” replied Juanita’s Dad.
The back screen door groaned. Both parents looked at each other. Always they were bound to the unspoken rule. Parents must be seen and not heard. And never in front of the children.
A click of heels announced itself. A pink tutu swayed first side to side then up and down. A moppet curl appeared as if from nowhere.
In swept Juanita. She skipped lightly, her face beaming, her voice joyous.
“I said my prayers,” she said. “Just like I was told to.”
“Juanita…”, her Dad began. Her eyes smiled at him.
“Who told you that?” Her mother snapped.
“My friend. The one you can’t see.” Juanita’s voice was springwater.
“Sometimes, things don’t…,” counselled her mother. Juanita tossed her curls. And laughed.
“We know Misty is sick,” her father interjected.
“And sometimes sick people don’t get better.”
“They do. She said so. I said so. And Misty will too”, Juanita replied. “So there,” she concluded.
Her tousled hair flew. She nodded.”I know.” She pointed to herself. Then she pointed upwards. “And He does too.”
She danced away. The back door thudded shut. Mother and father exchanged forlorn looks.
“I don’t know where she gets it from,” her mother said, “she’s only going to be disappointed.”
“Well, I didn’t tell her. She certainly didn’t get those pious thoughts in her pretty little head from me,” her father chuckled. “I have a whole canon of atheism to defend. She’ll get over it.”
“I know. Losing a pet is a horrible experience for a child to go through. And she’s making it far worse by denying it,” her mother replied.
“I’m going to have to bury it, you know,” her father said grimly.
“If she’ll let you. She still goes back to it hoping it will wake up.”
Both parents looked outside. Juanita bent over a prone black body. Her parents turned away for a second. They both felt a warmth steal in from outside. They looked at each other. And shivered.
Steel wool scratched as if against a fry pan. A dull sproing. The rusty metallic groan as the screen door opened again. Both parents stared at each other, mouths agape.
For as usual then there was a thump. Soft rubber paddling on wood. Then the soft pitter patter up the stairs. Four paws padded in. Black eyes glittered from a smooth furry head. All suffixed by a hungry meow.
“What?” both parents spoke at once.
A click of heels. A pink tutu. A shake of curls. A flutter of angel wings. Then Juanita appeared. Skipping, dancing, smiling. “See!”