Heading home from school today, we drove past a dead squirrel, its body stiff, but its big, bushy tail whipping gaily in the high Northwest Arkansas wind. I quickly hoped my animal-loving daughter, Ladybug, wouldn’t see it, but really was not too concerned because she typically doesn’t notice dead animals lying the road unless we’re taking a walk. (In fact, the other day we were driving on I-540 and my husband and I were assaulted by the bloody vision of a half-skinned deer with a flock of vultures jockeying for position over the carrion. She didn’t even notice, thank goodness).

But back to the stiff squirrel.

“That was a cat! It’s going to get hit by a car!” Ladybug yelped.

“Honey, that was a squirrel and, well, I think somebody did hit it already,” I said for some crazy, truth-telling reason.

Cue crying. Hers.

Cue to mommy quickly painting a lovely picture of what squirrels might get up to in Heaven. “Not if they’re bad,” she said grimly from the backseat. Wow. We’ve never told her about THAT place before. “What do you mean?” I asked, pained.

“A kid at school said if you’re bad you go to a fiery place with a bad guy.” Hmmmm.

I started to sweat as we pulled into Sonic. This could be the opening I need to talk more deeply about our faith and share this with Ladybug, I thought. She stopped sniffling long enough to ask for Tater Tots and a Blue Coconut Slush. As we waited, I tried to formulate a response. Finally, I opened my mouth and squeaked out, “Ladybug, about that squirrel….”

“What squirrel?” she asked.

Um, the one you were just SOBBING about, I wanted to say, but instead went with, “Well, I just wanted you to know that you can ask me any questions you want to about what your friend at school said. You can always ask me anything.”

After a brief pause, she said: “Can I try a cherry slush today?”