The sun still beat down on the tin-roofed house as flies attempted to squeeze through the screens in the open windows. Nona Sue sat on a stool in a corner and picked at the plaster. Her face was wet but she was no longer crying.
"It's okay," said her older sister Ivonette. "Mama's gone to church."
"What if she comes back?" asked Nona Sue.
"She won't not for a few hours. There's the church social after the service, then she'll stick around for the funeral of Mr. Benson in the afternoon."
"She likes funerals."
"That she does."
Ivonette walked around the doorway, pressed her back against the wall then slid down it until she was sitting at the same level as Nona Sue.
"Why didn't you go with her?"
"I told her services would be around if anyone noticed that you were home alone today."
"Gruff is here."
"Dogs aren't allowed to care for children."
"He's better than Mama."
"He is. Doesn't change the law about it."
Nona Sue slipped down off the stool and into Ivonette's lap. Ivonette began to finger-comb her sister's matted hair.
"I didn't do anything wrong," said Nona Sue. She stuck her thumb in her mouth and listened to her sister's heartbeat.
"What did you do?"
"I said I didn't want to wear a dress, and Mama said 'all girls wear dresses' and I said I didn't want to be a girl then if I had to wear a dress all the time and then she smacked me and said I wouldn't go to heaven and God doesn't love me and she made me sit here."
"You're a bad one," she said.
"No I'm not!" Nona Sue pulled away from her.
"Oh, I meant that in a good way."
"How is bad good?"
"You stick up for what you believe in, though Mama does that too I guess. It's good to stick up for what you believe in, even if it gets you in trouble sometimes."
"I guess sitting here isn't too bad. It's boring though."
"We could go outside and play baseball."
"It's too hot."
"What do you want to do?"
"Tell me a story."
"Hmm. Did you hear the one about the frog?"
"I guess not then. Well, there was this frog, and he was a smart frog. He had gone through all sorts of book learning and read so much that he needed glasses. And you can imagine how hard it is for a frog to wear glasses, they kept slipping down his slimy nose and he kept having to push them back up all the time."
Nona Sue giggled and pressed closer to Ivonette.
"And the more and more he read, the more and more he learned about the world beyond his pond and the more and more he felt he didn't know about it. But that was different than the other frogs in the pond. They all had very strong opinions and they liked to ribbet them out at night to each other when the sun went down--" Ivonette changed to a low croaking voice, "The world is the pond! When it rains, it's the sun that's crying! The water makes the tasty flies we eat so we should thank the water for them! And of course the frog would say, No, that's not right, that's not right at all, and he would go and try to explain why and they just ignored him."
"Why did they ignore him?"
"Because he once said that he didn't know much about the world, which was true, but he still knew more than they did. Plus they didn't trust him because he enjoyed reading more than he did swimming, catching flies, or sunbathing, which is what all the other frogs did."
"What did he do?"
"He made friends with the ducks!" said Ivonette with a big silly grin. Nona Sue exploded into a fit of laughter.
"Why the ducks?" she asked giggling.
"Because they understood what he was talking about. They flew above the pond and away from it, so they knew the world was bigger than the pond. They flew above the clouds so they knew that the sun didn't ever cry. They weren't sure about the flies and the water, but then they didn't pay much attention to flies to begin with. The frog could have decent conversations with them."
"So that's the end?"
"No. One day, the frog had had enough, and he asked the ducks to take him away from the pond so that he could see the world for himself. The ducks were skeptical, thinking he might dehydrate and shrivel up, but he knew this wasn't true and he finally convinced one to fly him away, and she did. She carried him in her beak and they flew away from the pond and he got to see the forest and cities and towns and farms and one day she even took him to the big big ocean."
"Yes. She set him down on the beach and they watched the waves roll in and out. Then she said," she switched to a raspy voice, "you know, I never would have come here if you hadn't asked. We've both seen something new. Thank you. Thank you, said the frog."
"They were good friends."
"So are we, don't you think?"
Nona Sue thought about this.
"Am I the frog?"
"Yes. And I'm the duck. And we're going to have lots of adventures together, and it doesn't matter if we get into heaven or not because we'll be happy just as we are."
Nona Sue smiled and hugged her sister tightly. Then they ate ice cream and played Scrabble.