Tuesday, 20 August 2013


“We want to call him Piñata, Mother.”
The speaker was a woman of indeterminate age with faded tattoos on her elbows, the backs of her knees, and her shins.  She was wearing a summer dress, a little shorter than the Reverend Mother approved of, but then it was also clear that she’d never attended church so the Mother held her tongue.  She had a conch-necklace around her neck, and there were pewter rings on all of her fingers and toes.  She was, by and large, a fairly typical representative of the community around here, and although the church was attempting to get people to adorn themselves less and think of their spiritual life more, it wasn’t really getting anywhere.
Next to the woman was a man, who the Mother presumed was her common-law husband.  There hadn’t been a wedding for four years now, and though the church regularly explained that sanctifying marriage was a wonderful thing and brought many intangible benefits to people, the people didn’t seem inclined to listen.  The man was enormous, both with muscle and fat, and the Reverend Mother wondered just for a minute how sex worked between the couple.  Then she put the prurient thoughts out of her head and made a mental note to punish herself later for impure and improper considerations.
“That seems like a poor choice of name,” she said, unable to keep the tone of disapproval from her voice.  She knew she sounded prissy.
“Why is that, priestess?”  The man practically rumbled when he spoke; his voice was deep and seemed to come from his diaphragm which was well buried in his body.  The Reverend Mother writhed just a tiny little bit; the church hated the use of the word priestess which was far too pagan.
“A piñata is something that gets beaten until it breaks,” she said.  Surely these savages knew that much?  Her hands twisted in her lap and she pinched herself for calling them savages.  They were people, all God’s children.  Unruly, spoiled and wilful children, but nonetheless His children.
“Nominative determinism?” asked the woman.  Was their spite in her voice or was the Mother just imagining it?  “Surely the church can’t believe in such a notion?”
Peut-etre,” said the Mother quietly.  It wasn’t that she believed that the name of the child dictated their fate, any more than she believed that God planned out every moment of everyone’s life, but she did believe that this community had a bluntness that meant they wouldn’t pick a name out without having some intent behind it.
“I don’t believe I know that word, Mother,” rumbled the man.  “Is it Latin?”
“French,” said the Mother.  “I was blessing myself.  Of course the church has no use for the doctrine of nominative determinism, but nevertheless, it does believe that a name for a child should express a hope for that child’s future, no matter what path they may later choose.  What kind of hope for a child is piñata?”
“We’re hoping for a suicide bomber,” said the woman.  Neither she nor the man laughed, and the Mother felt as though she were being scrutinised to see what her reaction would be.
“You’ve come to the wrong church, then,” she said, pleased that her voice stayed level.  “We don’t do that kind of thing, you want the–“
“We want this church,” said the man, cutting her off before she could pass responsibility – guilt – for this bizarre little family and their horrible ideas to any of the fourteen other faiths that had come here to convert the natives.  “You make the biggest promises about the afterlife.”
“I’m sure that suicide bombers get special treatment in several of our competing faiths,” said the Reverend Mother.  “More so that they would get from the church, which expressly forbids suicide.  After all, our lives are not ours to take–“
“Rubbish,” said the woman.  Her teeth sparkled in the sunlight, reminding the Reverend Mother than these weren’t quite the humans they appeared to be.  “We’ve read your book, and it’s open to interpretation.”
“By people who commune with God!”
“By anyone, who then later claims they commune with your God.  Who, incidentally, we can’t easily separate from many of these other Gods that are claimed.  But if nothing else, there appears to be a doctrine of redemption: repent enough just before you die, and you get all these benefits.  Which, incidentally, you would do far better to lay out in their own section.  Like the insurance companies do.”
“The church is not an insurance company!”  The Reverend Mother rose to her feet, her whole body trembling with rage.
“Of course you are,” rumbled the man.  “You promise to look after the soul in the afterlife in return for service in the current life.  That’s a premium being paid up front for a delivery of service later on.  How is that not insurance?”
“I… we… I…!”
“So we think your policy offers the best benefits.  And we want to take it out, just the way you say it has to be done.  We’ve read the fine print.”
“Fine print!”  The Reverend Mother sank back down again, still trembling and feeling oddly weak.  Her heart seemed to be fluttering in her chest.  “There’s no fine print in the Bible.”
“It’s all fine print, if you read it properly,” said the woman.  “Don’t worry though, we’ve worked it out for you.  We just need a baptism.  And we’d like to call our son Piñata.”
Dynamite Piñata,” said the man.  “But we’ll understand if you can’t call him Dynamite as a first name.”

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