Tess Walker slid her hands into the soapy dishwater and let the warmth penetrate her frayed nerves. Amy and Penny had only been at the farm for two days. Already they had broken her mother’s rose pattern teapot, the crystal vase that Darren had given her for their fifteenth wedding anniversary, and the full length mirror in the gable room that they were sharing. Tess looked at the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall – three more days. Methodically, Tess went to work washing the dishes, her mind straying.
As she scrubbed the plastic cutlery, Tess looked out the window of the old farmhouse, enjoying the view of the orchard in bloom. That afternoon, she had treated the girls to a picnic lunch under the trees. They had insisted they bring the new pets that Uncle Darren gave them for the week – two peeping chicks dressed in soft yellow down. No doubt the girls would want to sleep with the birds tonight. Not in my house, Tess thought with a shudder. She’d never get the chicken droppings out of the sheets.
A flash of denim and red caught Tess’ attention. Amy was running wildly, her blond pigtails bouncing against her back, Penny close on her heals. To her horror, Tess watched Penny push Amy to the ground, grab something out of her hands and take off running in the opposite direction. Tess dried her hands on a dish cloth. The girls ran past the window again, this time with Penny in the lead. Tess rushed out of the house just as Penny’s foot caught an exposed root and sent her tumbling to the ground. A fuzzy chick rolled from her hands. Amy snatched it up.
“What is going on here?” Tess asked, putting her hands on her hips.
“Penny took my chick.” Amy said. “I had to get it back.”
“Did not!” Penny shouted as she wiped dirt from her hands. “Auntie Tess, Amy took the chick from me.”
“There were two chicks at lunch. Where’s the other one?”
The girls pointed at each other and then said in unison, “She killed it.” They glared at each other.
“I didn’t kill it, you did.”
“Did not!” Amy stuck her tongue out at Penny.
“Enough!” Tess rubbed her temples. One less laying hen come winter, she groaned inwardly. She closed her eyes, took a few deep breaths and willed the tension in her neck to cease. “Let me see if I understand.” She said, keeping her tone even. “One of your chicks is dead, and you both claim that this one is yours.”
“But it is mine, Aunt Tess,” Amy said squeezing the poor animal till it cheeped.
“No, it’s my chick.” Penny insisted.
Tess held out a hand. “Amy, give me the bird.” Amy handed the chick over slowly. Tess felt bad for the delicate little creature. A few more minutes and this one would have been dead too, no doubt, Tess thought.
“This is what we’re going to do. Since you can’t agree, we are going to cut this little bird in half, and that way you both can play with it.” Tess watched their reactions closely. “Do you think that’s fair, Amy?”
“Yes, Aunt Tess.” Amy nodded in solemn agreement.
“What about you, Penny?”
Tears streamed down Penny’s face. “Please, Auntie, don’t hurt the little thing.” She sniffed. “Amy can have it. I don’t want it to get cut up.”
Tess reached down and enveloped Penny in a warm hug. “I won’t hurt the chick, and I know that you’ll take good care of it.” She handed the down ball to Penny’s trembling hands.
“Thank you, Auntie!” Penny said.
“Amy, I want you to come help me with the dishes. We need to talk about telling the truth.” Amy hung her head and followed Tess inside.
I Kings 3:16-27
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