(Or How I Dealt with the Problem of God)
Our landlady has five kids.
Now, usually, I am fond of children. I'm the kindergarten-teacher type. I'm good with constant repetition and runny noses and sticky fingers. I don't mind the occasional fit or pair of soiled undies. But, for whatever reason, I've never really warmed up to Marcelina's children. I'm not sure why. I guess it's because they are simply rather evil.
We first had a problem with Dashido (also spelled "Tatchito"). He asked to borrow an ankle brace, and then claimed that it was stolen. Days later, we learned that it was sold. Sold! By Dashido! For profit! Immediately afterwards, he stole four eggs from the carton on our porch. When our thermometer and cooking spoon went missing two days later, he received a life-long ban from the yard of Lisa Spencer. To this day, whenever he sees me, he spits and calls me as A'zungu.
Then Dan found the oldest boy hitting our dog with a hammer (for fun), the oldest girl failed tenth grade and stopped showing up for school, and the littlest one started being really, really bad. Things got ugly, very quickly.
Case in point: The God Fiasco
God (or God-ee, as it is usually pronounced) is the youngest of Marcelina's five children. He is somewhere between five and six years old and is quickly becoming a smirking little hoodlum. His cute face belies the fact that a maniacal brain is plotting within.
The God Fiasco (Part 1) took place on Friday, February 22nd. Dan and I left our house to go to the city, and came back home unexpectedly early. When we returned, we found God standing on our front porch, trying to break in. The six year old boy was sticking his arms through our metal grate, pushing on the front door with all of his might. He had seen that we didn't lock our wooden door, and he wanted to get it open. When Dan and I come into sight, God instantly jumped off the porch and disappeared into the neighborhood. I was angry, but I wasn't willing to chase him.
The next day, God left a urine-filled condom directly in front of our concrete front steps. It was perplexing, shocking, and surprisingly malevolent. At that point, we let it be known that we were on the lookout for God. The first child to find him was to bring him to us.
The God Fiasco (Part II) took place on Sunday, February 24. Seni appeared on my front porch, holding a screaming God by the crook of his arm.
"Here he is," said Seni. "What do you want me to do with him?"
God was kicking and screaming, creating a scene. Unfortunately for him, his loud screams weren't doing him any favors. His wails were attracting a large crowd of children, who were vying to see what the fuss was about. The neighborhood kids piled in waves around the edge of the yard.
"I'll talk to him right here," I said. "Thanks, Seni."
Without further ado, I took God by the shoulder and led him to the bottom of my concrete front step. At this point, he was screaming bloody murder, screaming and flapping his arms. I just stood there with a firm hand on his shoulder and one hand on my hip. Then I lowered my voice.
“O que é que tens que compreender, God, é que não podes brincar conosco. Ouviu? Essa casa aquí é a nossa casa. Essa quintal? A nossa quintal. Nunca mais vais entrar a minha quintal sem pedir liçensa. NUNCA mais. NUNCA mais. NUNCA mais.”
(Read: "What you have to understand, God, is that you can't fool around with us. Do you hear me? This house is our house. This yard? Our yard. You will never again enter our yard without asking permission. NEVER again.")
And with every "NUNCA," God got a swift spanking on the rear. Then, I let him go. Shrieking and hollering, he went tearing out of our yard. The neighborhood kids were all doubled over, rolling around with laughter.
His mother was angry, of course. We heard her yelling about us, all throughout the neighborhood. "THOSE A'ZUNGU," she yelled. "THOSE UNWELCOME WHITE FOREIGNERS."
But I didn't feel bad in the slightest. It takes a village to raise a child, you know. And, as of this moment, I consider myself to be a respected, substantial, decision-making part of this village. I made my decision to punish God, and I am sticking with it.
|God (right) and Junior on the step|
|God (top) and Dashido|
|God (right) and the neighborhood kids|
|Handsome little devil. I think that this picture sums it up.|
Believe it or not, this story does have a happy ending.
Dan and I enjoyed a long and pleasant week. God was nowhere to be seen. Nobody tried to sneak into our house, and nobody dropped urine balloons on our doorstep. The "A" word was hardly audible. Things were finally quiet and calm.
Then, on Friday night, we had an unofficial party. Dan was playing soccer in the yard with Romao and Seni. A few of the neighborhood girls came over, and, before we knew it, it was a Dance Party Central. The girls were singing and clapping and the boys were showing off. The hullabaloo was a wonder to behold. Even God couldn't stay away.
He appeared at the edge of the yard, peaking around the fence. He was holding a tire and a stick. Slowly, he moved to the center of the path and stood there, nervous and transfixed. His tire lay forgotten in his hand. For nearly 20 minutes, he moved neither forward nor backward, standing stock-still at the boundary to our yard. He didn't dare enter, but he didn't want to go away.
Finally, I gave him a small signal. God, I decided, had been punished enough.
"Come here," I said. "Come and play with your friends."
And with a small and nervous smile, God tiptoed into the circle of dancing children. I smiled at him in return. And an honest truce was granted.