Chapter 1 Quiet lay upon the meadow like a soft, green blanket. The sun, a globe of molten gold, shot laser beams across the fields and through the trees, burning away the early morning mist. The valley began springing to life. Rusty hinges of cottage doors squeaked open as farmers and factory workers slipped out into the narrow alleys to begin another day. The air was fresh and cool. A few friendly voices broke the stillness, A rooster crowed in the distance. A lone horse's hooves and wagon wheels clacked against the stone pavement. Peace reigned everywhere. If there were a heaven, its beauty and peace could not surpass the serenity of this countryside.Michael Whitehead walked down the alley toward the main street on his way to work. "Good morning!" he yelled to his neighbor, Charlie Fellows."Good morning, Mike. It's too nice to work today. I'd rather be fishing."Mike and Charlie had been friends since they were kids. They were inseparable. Mike was Catholic. Charlie was Presbyterian. It made no difference. Their families were close. Though they were not officially allowed to take part in each other's religious services, they were unofficially godfathers for each other's children. This did not sit too well with some individuals in town who wanted to keep everybody where they "belonged."As the two men walked down the street together, a little voice called out, "Daddy, Daddy, you forgot your lunch again." It was Mike's daughter, Annie. She was only four and her father's pet. She and her brother, Pat, who was Charlie's godson, were running up the alley toward the main street, trying to catch up with their father.As the two children reached the corner, barely a hundred feet behind the two men, an old beat-up car careened around the corner. A hand jerked open the window and tossed a grapefruit-sized object into the street just behind Mike and Charlie. It bounced and rolled away from the men and toward the children. The screeching tires were familiar sounds and almost always presaged some evil and violent act. The men reeled around, suspecting the worst. They saw the object and tried to warn the children, but it was too late. The thing exploded and hurled little Annie into the wall of the house on the corner, her father's lunch pail flying clear across the street. The boy, who was a few feet behind his sister, was somewhat shielded from the full impact of the explosion, but the force was so great, it lifted him off the ground and threw him to the stone pavement. His body was badly mangled.Both men screamed in horror and disbelief. Instinctively, one man went to one child, the other to the other child. The girl was dead. The boy was in shock, unconscious, his left arm torn off and lying in the street a few feet away, his left leg cut in a hundred places and bleeding profusely. It would be a blessing if the child died. Mike cried like a baby, not knowing what to do with what remained of his son. Charlie told him Annie was dead and went to pick up the boy's arm. Mike made a tourniquet to control the bleeding from the stump, then picked up his son. Charlie carried the limp, lifeless body of the girl. The two men ran down the street as fast as they could to the doctor's house, praying that he would be home.Joe Kelly, though everyone called him Tony, was a slow-moving, peaceful man. He talked little, but his quiet, thoughtful gaze missed nothing. One could tell he had seen a lot and felt deeply about everything but revealed nothing of what he thought. As early as it was, it was unusual to catch him home. He began his rounds of the village early each day, long before he went to the hospital.Charlie knocked on the door. It opened immediately, as if someone had been waiting. It was the doctor. He winced when he saw the bleeding child in his father's arms. He told the men to put the children on the two examining tables in his office, He checked the girl. She was dead. He examined the boGirzone, Joseph F. is the author of 'Joshua and the Children A Parable' with ISBN 9780684813455 and ISBN 0684813459.