I almost died in that doodu pit, but mummy beat me anyway. I think my mummy is a very frustrated woman. Until I was 3 years old, we lived with Brother Claire, his wife and three daughters, in their big house on a big piece of land. Mummy was going to be homeless, so they let us stay with them. The yard was full of trees and grass. There was even a river nearby. I loved that house. Now we live in one little room on a church commune. We live on top of the church and sleep on one little bed. Sister Aspy and Sister Norma are in this little room too. Sister Henry’s really small room is separated by a curtain. Mummy and I sleep on a mattress made of coconut husk. They prick me every night I go to bed. Every morning when we get up Mummy picks off the chinks from me and her. Mummy says these bed bugs are little vampires, like Barnabas Collins. They suck your blood and kill you. I’m afraid of chinks. Then we kneel down by the bedside.
“Steve, clasp your hands and close your eyes. Heavenly father, we thank you for sparing our lives through another night of slumber.”
I hate praying, my knees hurt. I’m tired of all this praying. Everyday, all we do is pray, pray, pray. First thing in the morning, last thing at night. Sometimes if somebody is sick, all the church Sisters pray in the church at 4 o’clock in the morning. And then the person they’re praying for dies anyway.
“Thank you mighty Jesus for giving us yet another day. You could’ve taken us in our sleep, but you were merciful instead.
“Close your eyes.”
Mummy is always pinching me. How would she know my eyes are open if her eyes weren’t open too?
“Lord you see the conditions we are living in. The nightly hails of gunfire, the killings, the black heart men who prey on little children.”
When I grow up to be a big man, I will never pray or go to church.
“We ask you once again oh Jesus of Nazareth, to cover us with your blood. Guide and protect us with your mighty hands oh Lord, until you come to reign again amen.”
Then we select a bible scripture from the promise box.
Mine reads: “Blessed be the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.”
I hate all this praying and reading the bible. I hate church. I hate church, just like I hate the broken down houses in the neighbourhood; the stinking dead dogs on the streets; the sewage running in the middle of the street. I hate this place! I hate everything about this place. I want to go to America. My father is in America. He’s rich. Everybody is rich in America. My father has a Cadillac in America. A Cadillac is a big American car. We don’t even have shoes.
In America, everybody has a gas stove with an oven. We have to cook on a coal stove or wood fire out in the yard. It’s smoky, I can’t breathe and it makes my eyes water. And if we want to bake something, we have to put the pot with the batter on the wood fire, then put a piece of tin on the pot, then put some burning coal on the tin. That’s why Mummy never bakes. Everybody has an electric iron in America. We have to iron with a triangle piece of iron, that says “iron” on it, that we have to make hot on a wood fire or coal stove out in the yard. In America people eat at McDonald’s everyday. We have to go to the market every Saturday morning to buy food from people who come from the countryside. Then we have to cook the food on the wood fire outside. People have toilet and bathroom inside their house in America. We have to pee or poo in a pot at night time and I have to take it out in the mornings. Sometimes I forget to take it out and mummy waits until night, when we come back from church, to make me take it to the toilet downstairs out in the yard. When I’m taking it out at night time, the boogeyman scares me and the stinking pee splash on me.
“Mummy I want to go to daddy in America.”
“You want to gu to your father? Yu want to go to your father? Has your father ever sent you one red cent from America?”
“Then how do you know your father wants you?”
Mummy is right. Since my father went to America when I was 2 years old, he wrote only once, a long time ago. I don’t even know my father. I don’t know what he looks like. He’s never even sent me a picture. Mummy doesn’t have any pictures of him either. All I know is, every time mummy gets mad at me, she tells me I look exactly like him.
“Mummy, I want to roll off the bed and die.”
“Is what kind of foolishness you talking boy? You know it’s the devil in you making you say these things?” “No mummy, it’s true. I really want to kill myself.”
Mummy yanks me by the arm.
“Come here to me!”
I know I’m going to get a good beating.
“We are going across to the churchyard. I’m going to ask Bishop to cast this demon out of you so you can stop talking all this rubbish.”
At least I’m not getting a beating. At least not yet.
Before I know it, I’m standing in front of Bishop Brown and many church sisters.
“Bishop, can you believe that Steve, at this tender age, is talking about killing himself? If that’s not the work of Satan himself, then I don’t know what is.”
The news shock the church sisters.
“That Sister D, this is the work of Lucifer and all his angels. Let me get the consecrated oil.”
Another prayer meeting. That’s ok, I was expecting a beating. Praying is better than beating any day. Bishop Brown comes back with a small bottle of oil. It says, ‘pure virgin olive oil’ on the bottle. I recognize that oil, Bishop uses it when he’s christening babies. They’re marching me back across the yard to the church. Sister Diviney starts to say something. “Little Stevie, you need to give your heart to Jesus and accept him as your personal savior. See how he saved you from the doodu pit? You need to get saved and give your heart to the Lord.”
Me and my big mouth. Next time I feel like killing myself, I won’t tell anyone. I’ll just kill myself. I’m pretty sure I’m going to kill myself before I get saved. Sister Diviney starts to ask me some questions. She’s a very important evangelist in the church.
“Steve, when did the devil start making you think these things?
“I don’t know.”
I’m standing at the altar in church. Bishop Brown, my mom and the church sisters are all around me. Bishop Brown has his very large hand on my head. He’s very old. His hand is shaking. He puts some Consecrated oil on his fingers and rub them on my forehead.
“In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit, I command thee Satan, to leave the body of this innocent child.”
Sister Diviney speaks in tongues.
“Doola Sooola makooola. Salla mallakai matoola.”
I think she’s crazy. I think they’re all crazy. Every one of them, Bishop Brown, the church sisters and mummy. I wish I could tell them they are crazy, but I’d lose all my teeth and the prayer would be longer. I want to tell them that I don’t believe in any of this foolishness. I just want to leave here and go to America. I want to run away. I want run away to grandma and my uncles and aunts in Mountain View. But I’m sure they’d just take me back here and beat me for running away.
“Oh heavenly father, drive out Lucifer from this innocent child, in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy ghost. Amen.”
I still hate this place. I’m still sad. I still want to kill myself . I want to kill myself or go to America.