Chapter Eight, "Old Man Riordan's Pond"
The next day, Billy and God went down to the river to catch crawdads.
They didn't actually catch any, but they came awful close, and God
said He saw a real live turtle, but it had dived under water by the time
Billy and God were having so much fun that they didn't realize how far
down the river they had gone. When Billy finally looked around, he saw that
they weren't far from Old Man Riordan's Pond. None of the kids went near
the pond, because it had big "Keep Out" signs all around, and a big
scary tree, and someone said that if you went to the pond Old Man Riordan
would come out and shoot you with his rifle which he kept
loaded with rock salt and hard, uncooked lima beans just for the purpose.
Billy thought about how Mikey had teased him the day before. If Billy could
prove that he had been to Old Man Riordan's Pond, that would show dumb Mikey
who was a Scaredy-Kitty Chicken-Baby. And he knew just how to do it.
"Come on, God," said Billy. "We're gonna climb the big scary tree!"
"I don't know, Billy," said God. "What if Old Man Riordan's around? I don't
want to get shot with no lima beans!"
"Don't worry, God," said Billy. "It won't take a second. I'll just climb up
and grab the twirly branch and climb back down." The twirly branch was a
branch way up high in the big scary tree, and Billy knew if he brought the
branch to school, all the kids would know what he had done.
God looked doubtful, but He agreed to go along. They decided that Billy would
climb all the way up the tree, and God would climb up just a little, and keep
and eye out for Old Man Riordan.
Climbing the big scary tree was easy, as long as Billy didn't look down.
It didn't take him long to get right up almost within arm's reach of the
"Hurry up!" urged God. "I don't want to be here any longer than I have to!"
That's when they heard Old Man Riordan. "Hey!" he shouted! "No kids in the
tree! And no Judeo-Christian deities, either!"
"Oh, no!" cried God. "He's gonna shoot us!"
"Quit shaking the tree, God!" said Billy.
But God didn't quit shaking the tree. In fact, He shook the tree so hard
that Billy couldn't hold on, and he fell right into the pond. Luckily,
Billy knew how to swim, but it was pretty unpleasant being wet with all
his regular clothes on just the same. He wasn't sure what to do, with
Old Man Riordan being there and all, but he knew he didn't want to stay
in the pond.
When Billy got to the shore of the pond, someone helped him out of the
water. Billy looked up, and saw it was Old Man Riordan. Billy was surprised.
"Here, boy," said Old Man Riordan. "Let's get you by the fire to warm up.
Your friend, too."
"You're not going to shoot us?" asked God.
Old Man Riordan laughed. "Of course I'm not going to shoot
you. Now come inside."
Inside, Old Man Riordan gave them each a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate.
"My name's Billy, and this is God," said Billy. "He made the world from void
and nothingness, but I'm better at marbles. We're sorry we climbed your tree."
"That's okay," said Old Man Riordan. "I don't mean to be mean, I just don't
want kids to hurt themselves. There's some pretty sharp rocks in that pond,
and that old tree's pretty creaky."
"I guess we learned a couple things today," said Billy. "Like you should
listen to grown-ups when they tell you to keep out."
"Yeah!" said God. "And don't always listen to kids when they tell stories!"
Old Man Riordan laughed again. "Well, I learned something, too. It's good
to try and keep people from hurting themselves, but it's best to be
friendly about it."
Billy smiled. He sure had something to tell the kids at school!