Atheist. What a silly word. I heard Mommy’s date, Daniel, say that he’s one and when I asked Mommy what the word meant, she got mad. I didn’t know why. It’s just a word. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, coming up with everything it could mean. I didn’t even know how to spell it. As soon as someone told me what the word meant, I would then start asking how it is spelled. But until then, my main concern was defining the word. You have to have your priorities straight, after all.
I wasn’t having any luck with that though. Then it occurred to me that most adults like to receive something in exchange for another thing (like Christmas gifts and giving money to the person at the cash register when you’re shopping). I picked some pretty white flowers I found near my favorite sculpture in the park—a cat statue made of sparkly tiles—and headed over to where Mommy and Daniel sat.
“Look what I found,” I said, trying to make them think that the white flowers were the best thing in the world, since everyone knows that the more value a gift has, the more you get back in return. I held them out in front of Daniel, “aren’t they pretty?”
He took the flowers from me, thanking me. He seemed to fall for it and assume that they were indeed the best things ever. I was glad he was pleased, even if they were just flowers. It’s not bad to lie if the person being lied to is happier that way.
But Mommy wasn’t falling for it. She knew what I was doing. She always knew everything, of course,“Run along, dear. Mommy’s busy,” she said, waving her hand in the direction of the cat statue. I took a moment to glare at her real deep. Why was she trying to make it so difficult? For some reason, she really didn’t want me to know what an “Atheist” is. Maybe that had something to do with what the word meant. I retreated back to the cat and started listing all the things Mommy didn’t like, keeping track on my fingers.
“Hmm. . . Sinners. People who ring the doorbell and give us pieces of paper with lots of words on them. Lasagna. Spicy food. When I say potty-mouth words they say on TV. Potty-mouth words. When my room isn’t clean. Laundry clothes on the floor. Aunt Marjorie. When I don’t eat my veggies. The Liberal media. . .whatever that is,” I had to stop because my mouth was getting dry from talking so much. I licked my lips, but there was no spit on my tongue. I was so thirsty. I hated that feeling. There was probably a drinking fountain in that building where they put all the art that doesn’t belong outside. It was nearby too. I decided that even though Mommy had said I couldn’t leave the area that I would just be gone for a minute, and it was worth it. I mean, people died from thirst in hot places like Africa.
I walked over to the building and went to the back where the bathrooms were. There was a drinking fountain between the room for men and the room for women. As I drank, standing on my tippy-toes, I wondered why there wasn’t a separate bathroom for kids. I drank for a long time until my front hair strands were soaked because they had fallen in the water, and then went back to Mommy, Daniel, and the cat statue. (I decided that I would name the cat statue Shirley. She looked like a Shirley.) Mommy and Daniel were still there. I climbed on top of Shirley and tried to listen to their conversation. Maybe they were talking about what an atheist is since I was gone.
“. . .Maybe if you are ever in Norway, I’ll take you,” Daniel said. Norway was where Daniel was from. He told me that in Norway you have to be fat because it’s so cold there and the fat kept you warm. That’s why he was fat and ate a lot of pizza. He tried to give Mommy a flower, but I knew that she wouldn’t be happy with it. She hadn’t fallen for my trick.
“I don’t like the cold,” Mommy said. She was using her mean voice she used when she yelled at the “liberals” on TV. I added “the cold” to my list of things that Mommy didn’t like.
Daniel looked sad, like the liberals would have probably looked if they heard her too, “Samara, what is wrong,” he asked, using her real name that I wasn’t allowed to call her. Mommy sighed real big like she did when she was tired or I was asking too many questions. I figured that Daniel was asking too many questions too.
“You’re an atheist,” Mommy said.
“Mommy, what’s an atheist,” I asked again, remembering that I still hadn’t figured out what it meant.
“Emery, go play,” Mommy said, still using her mean voice. My feelings were hurt and I decided that I would stop asking her that question if she was going to be so mean about it. She turned back to Daniel, “see what you’ve done?” What did he do? I wanted so badly to ask, but Mommy wasn’t in the mood to answer questions.
“You could tell her,” Daniel said. He was being what is called my “advocate” in mine and Mommy’s “conflict”.
“Tell a child that there are people who don’t believe in God,” Mommy said, using her outdoor voice, “you must be mad.” That was what an atheist is? Boring. I was hoping it would be something with a lot of pretty colors or made out of candy. My next guess was that an atheist is someone who becomes very fat in order to stay warm, by eating lots of pizza. But I suppose the real definition better explained why Mommy didn’t like that word very much.
I looked back across the grass and saw that Mommy wasn’t by Daniel anymore. She was walking away toward the car. I jumped off Shirley, waving bye-bye to Daniel, and ran to catch up with her. She was walking very fast and when she opened the car door for me–if she was like Arnold Schwarzenegger–she would have probably broke the door off the car. She was mad. I wondered if it had anything to do with Daniel. She didn’t seem to like him very much. But I liked him and that was all that mattered.
“Mommy, are we going to see Daniel again,” I asked, hoping that she would say yes. She clicked my seatbelt in and then went around to her door.
“No.” She was still using her mean voice.
“Why,” I asked, “he was funny.” Maybe that would remind her how much we needed Daniel around. Funny, nice guys who liked pizza as much as I did were nice to have around. Mommy didn’t answer though. I added “nice, funny guys who like pizza” and Daniel to my list of things that Mommy didn’t like.
I don’t know if I’ll go further with this or not, so it’s up here for now. I really enjoyed writing this, however I know there are flaws.