“Are you praying for them to come home, Daddy?” At the dinner table, Middle Child Drama Girl’s big brown eyes focused on my husband.
She was talking about our two dogs—Daisy May and Little Paint Lou—the ones that ran away. At least once a month. This particular time, they’d been gone eight days.
When Tony glared, she switched her gaze to me. “Are you praying for the dogs to come back, Mommy?”
I didn’t look up from my pork chop. “Sort of.”
All three kids gawked at me. “Sort of?”
“What kind of answer is ‘sort of’?’” Middle Child said.
I took my time answering.
“You know how God knows everything?” The kids nodded. “Well, I reckon he knows part of me is worn out, worn down, doesn’t necessarily want to keep doing this forever. If I pray for them to come back, it’s kind of like a lie, so why bother?”
Middle Child’s eyes were shiny, her voice, all quavery. “For real you don’t want them to come back?” A tear left one of her tarantula leg eyelashes. “How can you say that? What if they get mowed down by a car? What if they get picked up by some weirdo, freaky animal testing lab that wants to try out hair dye on them?”
“Oh, the drama of it all! I’m just being honest. You know what I’d really like? If they were found by someone with a big old farm where they could run all day, every day. That’s what I’m hoping.”
We all jumped when Drama Girl slapped the table. “I’ve got it! I’m going to fast.”
My mouth dropped open. My husband’s too.
Drama Girl nodded, her eyes wide. “Fasting is what people did in the Bible when they really wanted to get God’s attention, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
My husband pointed his fork at her.
“You, little missy, are too young and too small to fast. Who knows how long the dogs’ll be gone? What if they never come back? You’ll starve.”
Drama Girl crossed her arms and peered down her nose at him. “I’m not going to fast eating, Daddy. I’m going to fast TV. I’m not going to watch another show until the dogs come back. So there.”
That night she stayed in her room reading while the rest of us watched “High School Musical” on the Disney channel.
Later on as I lay in bed, I squinted at the ceiling. “God, you know my heart. You know I’m so tired of those long-legged, Beagle howling, slut puppies, and their gosh darn running away. You are fully aware I’d only be a little sad if I never saw them again.” I sighed. “But the kids, God…The kids want them to come home. For their sake, could you please bring the doggies back? Please? Amen.”
After school the next day, the kids and all their neighborhood buddies combed the nearby streets and yards. They returned after an hour.
“Any luck?” I said, as I set out pretzels and lemonade.
They all shook their heads and looked at their laps.
A little while later, the kids were donning their jackets to leave when one of the oldest peeked out the kitchen door window.
“Hey, you guys, Little Paint’s home! She’s on your back porch.”
I cracked the door and there she was, what was left of her anyway. The once stout and strong brown dog must’ve lost at least fifteen pounds. And her fur looked like someone blew their nose in it. As she panted, her tongue hung out like a strip of raw bacon. Her wagging tail swung her body side to side.
I opened the screen door and in she stumbled. As soon as she plopped down on her blanket, a half dozen kids fell on her—a dog pile, for real.
“Careful,” I said, wrinkling my nose. “She may have rolled in cow poo.”
They didn’t care. They petted and kissed and stroked every inch of her.
I phoned my husband at work. “You’ll never guess what just happened.”
“Little Paint did. I guess Drama Girl’s fasting got God’s attention after all.”
“I wonder what happened to Daisy May?” he said.
Daisy May showed up the next morning.