The Zechariah Experiment—1

By Linda Porter Carlyle

 Joseph Anderson Donetti’s eyes sparkled. Talk about a perfect idea!

He tucked his Primary Treasure into his Bible and set them down beside the big overstuffed chair. Pastor Chuck would be proud of him! Last Sabbath, Pastor Chuck had said that it was easy to forget that the people in the Bible stories were really ordinary people, just living their lives every day like people today. They hadn’t known that their lives would become stories that would be in the Bible one day and that millions of people would read about them. Pastor Chuck had asked the class to come up with an idea to help remind themselves of that fact this week. Joseph grinned. His idea would do that all right!

He stood up and stretched. The warm glow from the wood stove encircled him. He glanced into the shiny brass tub near the stove. There were only a few pieces of wood left in it. He’d better bring in some more. He headed for the back door.

G.M. (Joseph’s special nickname for Grandma Maddie) stood at the kitchen counter, peeling potatoes. Chopped onions and garlic sizzled in the big black frying pan on the stove.

Joseph took a deep breath. He loved the smell of onions and garlic cooking. G.M. always teased that it was because he had Italian taste buds. Joseph wondered exactly what G.M. was making. He stood beside her and watched the long strips of brown potato skin slide off as the peeler scraped along the potato.

“Did you finish reading your Sabbath School lesson?” G.M. asked. She turned on the faucet and rinsed the peeled potato.

Joseph nodded his head.

G.M. turned to look at him. “Did you finish reading your Sabbath School lesson?” she asked again.

Joseph nodded again.

“What’s the matter with you?” G.M. asked. “Has the cat got your tongue?”

Joseph shook his head. He wondered how that expression ever got started. He knew what it meant. But it didn’t make any sense. Did it mean that a cat had clawed his tongue, and now it was swollen and bleeding, and that’s why he couldn’t talk? What did cats have to do with tongues anyway?

G.M. put down the potato peeler. “Talk to me!” she said.

Joseph looked up at her. He grinned. He raised his hands and his shoulders in a huge shrug.

G.M. looked bewildered.

Joseph held up one hand like a traffic cop. He turned around and scurried to the kitchen table. He picked up a pencil and began to write.

G.M. leaned against the counter and waited.

Joseph finally finished his note and handed it to G.M.

G.M. read what he had written and looked up. “You can’t talk because Pastor Chuck told you not to?” she asked, disbelief in her voice.

Joseph waved his hands back and forth. It meant, No! No! Then he made motions in the air as if he were writing.

G.M. gave him back the piece of paper. Her eyes twinkled. “I think I’ll just keep working while you write,” she said.

Joseph wrote, and thought, and tapped the pencil against his chin, and finally wrote some more. It was somehow very difficult to explain on paper what would have been easy enough to explain out loud. Finally he gave the paper back to G.M. Joseph watched her face carefully while she read.

G.M. laughed. “OK,” she said. “Let me make sure I understand. You are not going to speak for a whole day because you want to feel how Zechariah felt when he couldn’t talk because he didn’t believe what the angel said.”

Joseph nodded.

“And this was Pastor Chuck’s idea?” G.M. asked.

Joseph thought. He didn’t know how to answer. It was Pastor Chuck’s idea to do something to understand the Bible characters better. But it was his own idea not to talk for a day. And he didn’t feel like writing down all of that! Joseph nodded his head and then shook it.

G.M. rolled her eyes at the ceiling. “I suppose the good news is that Zechariah got his voice back,” she said. “When you get yours back, I want to hear all the details!”

Joseph nodded happily. He stuck his arms in his old jacket and pulled on his leather work gloves so he could carry in wood from the stack beside the back porch. He had learned very quickly that if he tried to carry wood without wearing his jacket and gloves, he would end up with at least one painful splinter.

“I’m glad not talking doesn’t mean you aren’t going to do your chores,” G.M. remarked, grinning at him.

Joseph drew his eyebrows together. He took off one glove, picked up the pencil, and wrote, “Zechariah still did his work. I will still do mine.” He held it up so G.M. could read it.

Thud! Bang! Bang! Bang!

“I wonder who that could be,” G.M. said unnecessarily.

Joseph threw the back door open.

Mac danced in, rubbing her bare arms to warm up. She stopped just inside the door and waved, first to Joseph, then to G.M.

“Oh, no!” G.M. groaned. She rinsed another potato. “Don’t tell me you’re not talking!”

Mac nodded her head vigorously up and down.

“It’s going to be mighty quiet around here! Joseph isn’t talking either,” G.M. informed her.

Mac raised her eyebrows. It meant, “Why not?”

Joseph turned back to the table, picked up his pencil, and began to write once again.

Mac watched over his shoulder. Soon she giggled. She poked Joseph’s shoulder. When he looked at her, she pointed to herself and then held up two fingers. It meant, “Me too.”

Joseph couldn’t believe it! How could Mac come up with the very same idea he had? If he could only open his mouth and ask! It would take pages of paper to ask and answer everything! But talking would be cheating. Joseph sighed. He already had a pretty good idea of how Zechariah had felt! He had felt frustrated!

Continued next week

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