Encounter

The sun was in the sky and the trees were in bloom as the Judea Memorial Park buzzed with activity; children of different ages were scurrying around in frenzies, their parents watching safely from the benches.

Most of the children were clumped together in clusters and groups. Some were playing hide and seek; others, tag, or they were simply swinging on the swings or running up and down the slides and tumbling into the wood-chips.

Two boys, however, were apart from the groups. The first, a slender blonde boy of about ten, had crouched down beside a set of tires that had been submerged in a row for children to run across. The second was a brown-haired boy, a little older, who was scowling as he leaned against the wooden fence and watched the other children play, refusing obstinately to join in.

"You need to learn to play with the other kids," the brown-haired boy's mother was pleading with him. "You need to stop stand here stalking and scowling." She turned to her husband and put up her hands in frustration. "Simon, you know he does this. Why won't you tell him to stop it?"

"Lydia, we can't make him do anything he doesn't want to do," the man next to her replied with a shrug. "Maybe he's just more of a loner."

"But I don't understand why he just doesn't connect," Lydia said with a sigh. She turned to walk over to the trees, and her husband followed her to continue their ongoing argument. Along the way, she accidentally bumped into a slender woman with straight dark-brown hair, who was contently watching the blonde boy, whatever it was he was up to. "Sorry," Lydia murmured, "Not watching where I was going."

"Oh, it's no problem," the other woman replied serenely. "Which one's yours?" Lydia grimaced and jerked her finger in her son's direction. "That one – Judas." She flung her hands in the air again and sighed. "What can you do, right?" The other woman laughed.

"The blonde one is mine," she replied. "I'm sure things will work out in the end with your son. Sometimes you just need to give them time. Mine is a little unusual, himself." Lydia raised an eyebrow; she was certainly right, as the blonde boy hadn't really moved from his spot by the tires. At least she wasn't the only one with a child who didn't seem quite right.

A few moments later, the two women found themselves chatting happily away off to the side, their attention turned away from their sons. Seeing that he was no longer being watched like a hawk, Judas took a tentative step towards the blonde boy, curious as to what he was doing and why he, like himself, was doing whatever it was alone and not joining in with the rowdy roughhousing and active play of the other children.

Slow strides brought Judas up to the blonde.

"Hi," he said softly, staring ahead, wondering what kind of response he would get.

The boy in front of him shook a moment, slightly startled, before turning his head and looking up at the new arrival with calm, content and deep blue eyes.

"Hi," he replied.

"What're you doing?" Judas asked quietly. "Why're you sitting out here?" The blonde smiled and pointed slowly.

"There a duck under the tire," he replied, "I'm trying to get her to come out."

"A duck?" Judas asked, surprised. He wondered how a duck could have wandered all the way from the pond, which was on the far side of the park, to the tire.

"Yeah," the other boy replied, "She might have a nest under there."

Judas watched as the blonde extended his arm and placed a piece of bread underneath the tire, then stared in fascination as a beak emerged, followed by a tuft of feathers.

"Wow," he gasped out, then looked at the blonde. "What's your name, anyway?"

"Jesus," the blonde replied, not looking back at Judas as the duck moved a little closer and scooped up, with her beak, a piece of bread. The blonde moved his hand to gently run a finger over the duck's back, gently seeming to soothe it as it moved closer to the two boys.

"Wow – how'd you do that?" Judas asked in fascination. There seemed to be a magnetism that attracted not only the duck, but Judas himself to the other boy. The blonde shrugged.

"I'm just good with birds," he said quietly. "They like me." He stared up at Judas and smiled. "What's your name?"

"Judas Iscariot," came the quiet yet proud reply.

"I think I'm going to remember you," Jesus said as he fed the duck another piece of bread. "I don't know why – but I think I will."