The soteriologist goes into the playroom to gaze upon the back yard, which looks so different now that a guy came and pruned a bunch of stuff and removed some bushes, everything had been so crowded. He notices his 13 year-old daughter. She is wearing her black tutu skirt, black net stockings, a black hoodie, and shoes of some sort. She is truckin’ up the cellar stairs with her bicycle, a pack in the basket.
Running away, in other words.
The sight fills him with a surprising joy.
God bless you, child, he thinks. Run as fast as you can.
It will be raining soon, so he cuts her off at the pass and says wait, let me get you a warmer coat. They get a coat sorted out, and he puts on shoes and a windbreaker and goes with her.
I’m running away, you can’t come along, she says.
Just part of the way, he says. She rides off and he jogs alongside, making conversation. The conversation quickly advances to talk of heart attacks and he asks her to stop and walk for a while, and to his surprise she does.
The soteriologist and the girl walk along the creek. Now and then a rain drop hits them, but it’s not really raining yet, just toying with the idea.
It’s such a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
The soteriologist expresses his shame at his mishandling of a situation involving preparation for school, confiscation of a mobile phone, verbal and physical bullying and general nastiness and disrespect.
The soteriologist mentions how beautiful it is. He says it reminds him of where he grew up. He would have liked to run away then, but there was nowhere to go. Everything was far away.
It gets better, he says.
He speaks of various things. He explains his cosmology and how she and her sister and mother are at the very center of it.
He explains why he is ashamed. It involves expectations of wisdom he failed to meet.
He says he would like to run away sometimes. It would be nice to have a cabin on a lake you could run away to at times like this. He says, what about your house in the back yard?
She says, it’s wet inside.
He says he’ll look into that.
He says, on the one hand it gets better, thirteen is hard. On the other hand, it never gets easy. You’re never done. As soon as you get used to one level, you’re on a different level figuring that out. Level, stage, whatever.
Learn to talk, and they potty train you. Then you have to get used to school. Then adulthood. Then your hearing goes, or your vision. Then your joints. Then your mind, or something.
But it’s not all bad.
Look how the light reflects on the creek.
I’m running away, she says, you’re not supposed to be so nice.
She says she’s just running away to a friend’s house, he can come pick her up in an hour.
He suggests stopping for a cocoa at McDonalds. It is cold out, after all. Then they can go home again.
He doesn’t want her to have the feeling she lost this round, whatever else happens, he decides.
She thinks about the cocoa. They stop under a bridge to talk because it’s getting windy and the rain is picking up. Not so much that she can feel it yet, because she is wearing a warm hat, but his hair is thin, or short, or both, and he can feel the drops hitting his scalp.
There under the bridge, they talk about falling into the water from rowboats. He did it right about where they are standing. She did it in the Czech Republic.
He turns and walks home about then. For two hundred meters, he doesn’t look back. If she follows him, it’ll be her decision. If she runs away to her friend’s house, it’ll be her decision too.
He prays to Life for everything to work out okay. Sometimes you have to park your helicopter and pray to Life instead.
After two hundred meters he looks back and she is gone.
A minute after he gets back home, he is still taking off his shoes, her friend’s mom arrives with her and her bike in the back of the truck.
He builds a fire and they have cocoa. He gives her back her mobile phone. She says, if he had waited two more seconds under the bridge, she would have come home with him.