Isaac punched Shemuel in the nose.
“Take it back!” he shouted.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Shemuel whimpered.
“You said my mum looked like she was my gran,” grunted Isaac. “And you laughed!”
Aaron jumped between his friends, placing an arm on each of their chests.
“Let it go, Isaac,” he said. “Shemuel was just stating the obvious. Your mum does look a lot older than the average mum. Even you can see that, can’t you?”
Isaac dropped his fists.
“Yeah. S’pose so. It’s not funny, that’s all.”
“So she’s like, what, 60 maybe?” asked Aaron, trying to be polite.
“More like 100,” Isaac muttered. “And yeah, it weirds me out too sometimes.”
“So... she’s your real mum?” asked Aaron, cautiously. “You’re not adopted or anything?”
“No. Real mum,” Isaac replied. “It’s a long story. See, my mum and dad didn’t grow up round here. They came from a place called Ur.”
“Errr... where’s that?” Shemuel sniggered.
Isaac sighed. “Errr... like I haven’t heard that one before. My folks say it’s a big city. Not like here at all.”
“Sounds nice,” said Shemuel. “So why’d they move?”
Isaac hesitated. “Promise you won’t laugh?”
“My face hurts too much to laugh,” said Shemuel.
“God told my dad to move. Him and the family and all his stuff.”
“God told your dad to move from, errr... Ur... to this place?” asked Shemuel, doing everything he could to keep a straight face.
“So he says,” Isaac replied. “God told him that if he left Ur and went where he told him to go, he would give him that land and more children than stars in the sky or grains of sand in the sea.”
“So maybe he should have called you Sandy?” Aaron chuckled.
“Or... Starry?” suggested Shemuel. “No, that’s not funny. How about Shiny? Glowy? Twinkly?”
“Yeah, we get the point,” Isaac sighed. “The thing is, when God made that promise, my dad didn’t have any children at all. And he and my mum were already pretty old.”
“So he came here, like God told him to...” said Aaron.
“And then they had you?” asked Shemuel. “Mr Sandy Starry Boy!”
“No,” said Isaac. “Dad did what God said, but then nothing happened. He and my mum had no kids. For years! And then one day, while Dad was sitting here under this very oak tree, three strangers arrived.”
“How strange?” asked Aaron.
“Very strange, apparently,” said Isaac. “He reckons they were God.”
“What? All of them?” Said Aaron.
“Yeah, sort of,” Isaac replied. “Dad says they all kind of spoke together, like they were one person instead of three.”
“Anyway,” he continued. “Dad asked them... him... whatever... if they wanted to rest and have something to eat. Then he ran off to make them some food.”
Shemuel sniggered again. “No offence, honest.” he said. “But you have to admit that the idea of your dad running anywhere has got to be just a little funny.”
Isaac smiled. “Yeah, well, maybe he just hurried a bit.”
“With the speed of a reasonably rapid tortoise,” suggested Aaron. “Or a snail. Or a bit of snot rolling down a hill.”
“First he went to see my mum,” Isaac explained. “She was in the tent, right next to the tree. He told her to make some bread, just as fast as she could.”
“Yet another unlikely result,” Shemuel chuckled.
“I don’t know how long it took,” sighed Isaac. “And yeah, they were old, so it probably did take a long time. Mum made the bread, and Dad had the servants kill a calf and cook it. And they gave it to the strangers to eat. That’s the important thing.”
“No, the important thing,” said Shemuel, “is that the strangers were actually God. Because if they were human beings they would have starved to death by the time the meal arrived.”
“Anyway,” sighed Isaac again, “they ate the food and then asked my dad where my mum was. He told them she was in the tent. And they told my dad that they would be coming back in a year...”
“The meal obviously wasn’t that bad...” Shemuel interrupted.
“They told my dad they would be coming back in a year,” Isaac repeated. “And by that time, Mum would have given birth to a son.”
“And what did your dad say?” asked Aaron.
“Dunno,” said Isaac, “but my mum was inside the tent earwigging. When the strangers said she was going to have a son, she laughed.”
“And then they punched her in the nose,” said Shemuel.
“Nobody punched anybody,” said Isaac. “They weren’t happy, though, because she didn’t believe them. They said she laughed. She said she didn’t. In the end, they left. And within the year...”
“Your folks set up a roadside cafe,” said Shemuel, “for wandering strangers with big appetites and patient dispositions.”
“No. Within a year, I was born. But my folks didn’t call me Sandy and they didn’t call me Glowy. They remembered what had happened on that day the strangers came, so they called me...”
“Slow-cooked beef,” said Shemuel.
“Ha ha,” said Isaac.
“I thought it was funny,” Shemuel grinned.
“No, that’s what they called me.” said Isaac. “Ha ha. Laughter. It’s what my name means.”
“Now that is funny,” replied Shemuel. “In an ‘I’m laughing with you not at you because I don’t want a bloody nose again’ sort of way.”
And then he laughed.
And Aaron laughed.
And the boy called ‘Laughter’ laughed too.