Karin Beery is a part-time writer, part-time substitute teacher, and part-time home-maker. She has had dozens of articles published in local and national periodicals. Her passion, however, is fiction, and she is currently working on her second novel (both still unpublished). She thanks God daily for a supportive husband with a well-paying job who encourages her to pursue her not yet well-paying passion. Her life's ambitions are to write novels and get them published, sing the National Anthem at a Detroit Red Wings game, and own a china cabinet full of snow globes. Visit her blog at: www.therehastobeabeginning.blogspot.com
Large tears rolled over the chubby apples of my four-year-old daughter’s cheeks. One of her little hands smeared them across her face, while the other hand clung to mine. Her watery, blue eyes peered up at me. Blond ringlets danced around her face when she nodded. I smiled at her before turning toward my husband. He began.
“We’re gathered here today to say good-bye to a cherished friend—”
Courtney pulled on my arm. “What’s sharished?”
“Cherished, sweetie. That means we loved her a lot.”
Courtney bit her lip. “Okay.” Her little head turned toward her daddy and nodded. He grinned and started again.
“Pinkie lived a good life.”
“Pinkie ’Lizbeth Tewart,” corrected Courtney.
“Pinkie Elizabeth Stewart,” he continued, “brought joy and love to our home during her two weeks with us. We will miss her.” He knelt beside our daughter, dwarfing her shoulders with his calloused hand. “It’s time.”
Courtney took a deep breath. With her free hand she took the shiny gold box from John. She stepped toward the small hole she had helped dig in front of my purple peonies. Her hand shook as she leaned forward and dropped Pinkie, the carnival goldfish, into the shallow grave. John pushed the dirt over the jewelry box casket and pressed it down until each textured corner disappeared.
Courtney swiped at her nose. “You were my best pet ever.”
I forced back a smile and squeezed her hand. My husband bowed his head, but the light shaking of his shoulders betrayed his amusement.
After we propped up the Popsicle-stick cross and said the final prayer, I sat with my family at the kitchen table. Courtney sniffled, rubbing her red-rimmed eyes. I opened a bag of cookies and set them in front of her. Her eyes widened. I tipped my head, indicating she take a cookie. Her hand inched its way forward, closing in on the chocolate chip treats.
I picked up a cookie and handed it to her. “Maybe we should get you a real pet. Not something Daddy wins at the fair.”
Courtney accepted the dessert and shoved it into her mouth. “Can I have a turkey?” she said, spitting crumbs onto the table.
My husband chuckled. “A turkey’s not really a pet. How about a small dog, or a cat?”
“Or a bird,” I suggested, “or hamster.”
John burst out in a loud laugh. “Or a rock.”
Courtney giggled. She grabbed another cookie. “Rocks aren’t pets, Daddy.”
Leaning across the table as if to share a carefully guarded secret, John motioned Courtney closer. They looked at each other, their eyes level. “They used to be.”
Her eyes grew wide. “Oh,” she breathed.
I bit into a cookie so I wouldn’t laugh.
“A rock,” Courtney whispered.
John winked at her.
“Why don’t you think about it?” I said. “There are a lot of options. You can decide later.”
Courtney looked at me. She pressed her lips together and her brow creased.
I handed her another cookie.
In the following days, I questioned Courtney about her next pet. After a week she had narrowed it down to either a dog or a cat but insisted she wasn’t ready to commit. Her thoughtful consideration humored me, so I didn’t force the issue.
Two weeks after Pinkie’s funeral, I sat in church between my spouse and my child as the pastor taught out of the book of Luke about Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Courtney colored while John and I listened. After the service we greeted our friends and chatted with my parents. It wasn’t until we were in the car that my daughter surprised me with her announcement.
“I’m ready for a new pet.”
I twisted in my seat and smiled at her. “What do you want? A puppy or a kitty?”
I stared at my little darling beaming at me with sparkling eyes. Then I glared at my husband as he forced an unconvincing cough. “A rock? Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Courtney insisted. “Rocks love Jesus, just like I do.”
I furrowed my brow. “They do? How do you know that?”
“Pastor Dave said so.”
I blinked. I tried to remember what the pastor might have said, then I jumped at John’s roaring laughter.
He glanced over at me, his eyes twinkling like our daughter’s. “You’re right, sweetheart. He said so this morning. In Luke: ‘If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers.’”
“A stone is a rock, isn’t it, Mommy?” Courtney said, her voice shaking.
I looked at my daughter, at the pure innocent hope radiating from her cherub face. My heart welled with pride. Courtney wasn’t ashamed of her faith. She loved Jesus, and she wanted a pet that loved Him as much as she did. Nothing could have pleased me more.
“Yes, honey. A stone is a rock.”
“I think it would make an excellent pet.”