Josie wondered about adults. In their possession were items of great value-- Cheerios and warm white juice to name a few. But how did they attain such wonders as these? And how did they grow so tremendously? Josie recalled a woman who occasionally fussed about the kitchen, running items on the tops of things and making noises without opening her mouth. She was wider than mother and father standing side by side, or laying horizontally and moving jaggedly around. How did this woman achieve so much space? Was it something in the warm white juice?
And why names? At the time, Josie was unfamiliar with the word name and door and housemaid, but she observed with great toddler insight that each body’s head perked at the exclamation of a certain sound. “Dada,” who had originally appeared to be more of a “Keith,” raised his eyebrows very high at Josie’s exclamation of the latter.
“Da Da,” he said, making a point of both syllables.
“Looks like you've got a twenty-something baby on your hands, Keith.” The man who spoke was also large and always damp. He shook and reddened with pleasure or pain.
“Keith,” Josie said, showing off.
Another phenomenon, and perhaps the most unsettling, was God. He was a west highland white terrier with a hard tongue against her toes. She liked to kick him. God would make a screeching noise like the spring bed in her playroom-- the bed where she often kicked him.
Josie was occasionally alone with Dada’s quivering tomato friend. On one notable occasion, following another notable shattering of glass, he melted into the couch and changed her television program. A woman’s voice was urgently communicating, looking right at Josie with a cylindrical instrument in her hand. Josie cupped her hand and held it towards her mouth.
“Want some of this?” Tomato man held up his reincarnated glass.
Josie never knew what to say, so she said “no,” triggering Tomato’s infamous convulsions.
Just then, a white-clothed man appeared on the screen. He was extending his arms and mouthing something, maybe requesting a bottle of warm white juice.
“One more pope closer to the apocalypse.”
Josie looked at Tomato and back at the screen, and then back at Tomato. He was watching her with a curved lip.
“Do you know what a pope is? God? Jesus?”
Josie was beginning to recognize the raised final note of a question. It was her turn to speak. She drooled.
“I'm gonna tell you a secret, little lady,” he set down his glass and reached for God, who was curling up as far away as possible from Tomato. God did his spring bed impersonation. “This creature is about as God as anything else they try to convince you about.”
Josie didn't understand.
“This dog is God.” This. Dog. Is. God. “Say it, little lady. Say, God.”
Josie tried it out. “God-uh.” She had pleased tomato man. He was as red as ever.
“You have just been saved,” he said, pouring the glass’s contents into her cheerio bowl. “The Blood of Christ. Amen.”
Mama and Dada talked to God when he was clearly far away, salivating in circles on the lawn or gnawing on toys disguised as shoes. Josie found this strange. Could God hear her everywhere, too?
“God-uh,” Josie once contributed.
“Yes honey!” Mama’s eyes widened and moved closer to Josie’s, stopping when her breath was Josie’s only oxygen. “Yes. God is with us.”
“No,” Josie said plainly.
Mama chuckled. “One day you'll understand.”
“Hopefully I will, too,” Dada said.
Mama sighed. “We all feel like we’re losing our faith sometimes, Keith. You just need to pray, be patient, and wait for God’s calling.”
“Does God call you?”
“Every day,” Mama touched her neck. “Every day, He calls my name.”
Josie continued waiting to understand, but first, she was required to learn the meaning of “understand.” For now, she told herself, she must strengthen her relationship with God.
Josie sat with the holy terrier until he had rubbed his tongue on every extremity. She was not particularly fond of God but thought that, for her parent’s sake, she ought to try him out. But he smelled like bad breath and adult bodies on rainy days. He barked too often. Then he died. Josie found him lying in the living room with his tongue falling towards the carpet. She rubbed her foot against it.
When mama found Josie and God, she cried out and held her daughter close. “I'm sorry, Josie. I'm so sorry.”
She had earned a kiss on the forehead. “Yes, honey, he's with God now.”
It took Josie a while to grasp the concept of death. She watched from the window as Dada buried the box God was placed in, wondering how long it would take for the tiny white body to emerge beside the lilies and salivate once again. A minute? An hour? Perhaps, on the third day, he would rise again.
God had not taught Josie much about the afterlife. This would explain why, on a sunny August afternoon in the month following God’s death, she witnessed his resurrection with astonishment. The family was resting on a blanket as scratchy as tongue. Dada was sipping the blood of Christ. Nearby was a trail with adults in a hurry or sitting on propelling wheels. Josie found herself in a trance, waiting religiously for the next passerby to emerge from behind the concealing shrubbery and surprise her with a different shape or color. Quite suddenly, and without pomp and circumstance, God jogged into plain view. He was sporting a long leash and a hurrying neon-colored human.
“God-uh!” Josie shrieked and pointed and prepared her foot for licking. Her followed her chubby pointer finger but clearly missed God’s fluffy white crown of curls rising from the dead.
“God?” Mama asked. “Is she saying God, Keith?”
Dada shook his head, painfully unaware of Josie’s racing heart, her jolts of delight, her awakening. She had found God.
“Do you see God?” Mama asked. Both parents bent close to Josie on their hands and knees. “Is God standing here?”
Josie gave her most eloquent “no,” hoping to redden their faces just like Tomato Man’s but managing only to curve their lips downwards. And worse, God was gone.
“God-uh!” She tried again, looking up and down and all around for the the missing puppy prophet. Where did all dogs go?
“Is God calling to you? What is he saying, Josie?” Dada asked, demonstrating profound interest with a brow raise. Josie wanted his two furrows to ascend into heaven. She vividly recalled the only other time they had done so and knew, for the first time, what had to be said.