Rue walked next to Ivan on the other side of his umbrella, which wasn’t quite big enough for both of them. Rain had darkened the blue cloth of her right sleeve. Her jeans cuffs flapped damply.
Ivan was in mid-pontificate, as usual. “It’s absurd, saying that God chooses to save this person and it’s a miracle, when so many others aren’t saved. A God who doesn’t save everyone is no god at all. It’s like someone who walks along and notices a worm on the sidewalk, feels sorry for it and puts it on the grass so it won’t die. That’s a miracle to the worm. But then the person notices another worm, and another, and another, and they don’t stop to pick them all up, right, because who does that? Ergo, God either doesn’t exist — since he doesn’t save everyone who needs him — or he isn’t a god but a supernatural creature who sees us as nothing but worms and occasionally picks one of us up and puts us back in the grass.”
Ivan smirked, waiting for Rue’s argument so he could demolish it. Rue thought, “Your logic is faulty and your theology nonexistent,” but she didn’t say it. She didn’t feel like arguing with Ivan, who was always right.
They stopped at the corner and Ivan leaned over to punch the traffic button. Rain showered from the edge of the umbrella onto Rue’s hair. She frowned down at her wet shoes.
An earthworm writhed in a puddle near her feet. Did worms drown? Rue bent over and picked it up between her thumb and forefinger, careful not to pinch. Its wet pink body was soft, helpless.
She set the worm in the grass near the gutter. It lay for a moment as though stunned, then wriggled down between the grass blades. Rue smiled.
Ivan said, “You are so literal-minded,” in his patronizing way.
The WALK sign lit up. Rue said, “You are such a jerk, Ivan.” And she walked away from him.
She stopped and picked up every worm she saw on the way home.
K.C. Shaw lives in East Tennessee. Her stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies.