The new kid showed up while Chris was in the middle of the story about the steamshovel.
He told the best stories,
This story was about a steamshovel named Mary Ann, and how she dug super fast for her best friend Mike. It was
Hakim dropped his shovel and walked off. At first
She dropped her bucket and went over to see. Hakim walked fast, and by the time she caught up, Hakim and the new boy were already talking.
“Jonas, right?” Hakim asked. “Your mom’s always making food for the orphans? With lots of boiled cabbage?”
Jonas ducked his head and nodded, staring down at the ground.
“What are you doing here?” Hakim asked. “Why are you digging?” He wasn’t angry,
“Jenny sent me,” he said.
Hakim rolled his eyes. He didn’t like the whole Jenny-business.
Jonas dug his toe in the dirt. “I want to help. You know,” he pointed at the hole, “dig.”
“Dig for what?”
“Are you snooping or something?” Chris walked up behind
“No.” Jonas shook his head, keeping his eyes on his feet. “I...wanna help,” he mumbled. “Dig.”
“Why?” Hakim asked again. “Why do you want to dig?” He frowned.
“What makes you think we want you help, anyways?” Chris stepped forward.
Hakim put his hand out, stopping Chris. “No, he can stay. If he wants to dig, he can stay.”
“Oh yeah?” Chris asked. He turned to Hakim. “Who put you in charge?”
“You want to be in charge? Go dig your own hole.”
Chris glared. He jerked his hand like he was about to hit Hakim, but stopped. “Fine. But if Jesus-boy tattles, don’t blame me.” He walked off.
“Fine!” Hakim shouted. He turned to Jonas. “What are you waiting for? Go dig!”
It was really annoying how Hakim had longer legs than
“Maybe I like boiled cabbage,” he said, which was stupid. He hated boiled cabbage, even now, after Jesus made everyone like vegetables. He’d sooner pick leaves off a tree for dinner than eat in the same house as boiled cabbage.
Jonas looked straight ahead. “I don’t see why you have to get on me just because I have parents. I mean, why are all of you digging?”
“My mom and dad are in the pit,” Hakim answered. “Just about everyone in my family, except for me and Fatima. They’re in there, and they’re on fire until I dig them out.”
Jonas turned his head and looked at Hakim a moment. His lip wobbled like he was about to cry, but he bit it and kept walking.
No one said anything for a while. It was easier for
After a while, Hakim said, “You don’t have to tell me. I’m not gonna make you. You can still come dig if you want. But I really want to know why.”
Jonas. “I had...you remember when everyone was getting burned up in the sun, and no one could go outside?”
“Well,” said Jonas. “I had a big brother. Danny. A teenager. He had a dog, Max. Nobody in my family was Christians, then. One day the sun went weird, and set people on fire. Do you remember that? Everyone had to stay inside.”
“It was nighttime, and we put cloth and wood over all the windows to keep the light out, and hid in my parent’s bedroom, because it had hardly any windows.”
“We hid in the basement,” Hakim said. “It was dark.
“We were supposed to bring the dog in,” Jonas said. “I think I was supposed to. But I forgot, and Mom and Dad were busy, and nobody brought the dog in. Then the sun came up.”
He took a deep breath. His hands balled up into fists. “I heard him out in the yard. Barking, then kind of whimpering. Then...screaming, sort of. Like how he’d yelp when he was hurt, but worse. Horrible. It went on forever. I wanted to got get him. But Dad said no, and Mom wouldn’t let go of me.”
He stopped, and took a few more breaths before speaking again. “Danny was bigger. And fast. He went out after Max. Dad ran out after him, but he must have made it outside before Dad could stop him. I didn’t see. Mom was holding on to me in the bedroom.”
He stopped again, and wiped his eyes with his balled-up hands. “I didn’t see, but I could hear him. Max had just stopped screaming. For just a second, everything was quiet, and I thought Danny had saved Max. But then Danny...started...screaming...” He pressed his hands against his eyes, and took a deep shaky breath.
“Dad came back afterwards. He wouldn’t talk. Mom took one look at him and started crying. I wanted to know where Danny was. Neither one of them would talk. They became Christians just after that. Because God burned Danny up. And I heard he’s still...burning...” He started crying, grinding his fists against his eyes like he was mad at something.
When they got to Jonas’s house, Hakim waved and led
“Listen,” he told her, when they’d gotten a bit away. “Don’t go around telling everyone about what Jonas said.”
“Because...” Hakim frowned again, and waved his hand for a bit. “Just because. Don’t. It’s not cool, okay? He didn’t tell everyone. Don’t say anything.”