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Pastor did Papa’s burial.

Plenty people did not come. If I counted them, they would not be more than 40. His friends that he used to follow to drink palm wine came, 5 of them. Aisha and her parents came. Some people from papa’s former office came.

Two of mama’s friends from the market helped us to cook “concoction rice” and fried fish.

Our neighbours came too, and I wanted to pursue them out of the house. Even in my small mind, I knew that they did not wish us well. All of them came to eat our rice, rice that we would need more than them later sef.

Pastor gave us #1,000 when he was going, and told mama to come to church for cleansing prayers the next day. Mary hissed when he said this and went out and did not come back till night. They did not hear her hiss, but I heard it.

The house was always silent now. Mama was always in church if she was not in the market. Mary did not come home too much again. People in school were saying that she was sleeping around for money, and I was wondering why people would be giving her money to sleep in their beds; is that how people don’t know what to do with their money?

I wanted them to come and give us the money if they did not have what to use it for, because our food was never enough for us to eat, and because mama was always going for prayers and she had to drop things with Pastor’s errand boy, we hardly had money.

Many times, Mary said she was adding money to mama’s money for our school fees so we will not stop school ever-ever. Mama always said she wanted us to go to school and have sense so we will not become like her, and that’s why she was always going for prayers, so that Pastor will help her daughters not to marry people that will beat them. She was praying so that her children will marry men that have money. Sometimes, I wanted to ask her why she was not praying so that we ourselves will have our money, but I never did because maybe God wants only boys to have money so that they will be giving the girls that will marry them.

Mama was always looking tired though Mary said she was not pregnant again since papa was dead. But she still went to church often, from morning to evening, staying under the sun to see Pastor and give him our food. But now, she did not come back with her wrapper shifted to one side and her face sweating like Christmas goat. That means that Pastor has bought fan for his office, I believed.

I have finished talking.

Pastor is still the same every time we go to church.He is still shouting everytime and telling us how to flog the devil so he will die.

He is always telling us about hell fire too, the place that they said is very, very hot and can jo-jo somebody forever and ever and will not allow the people to die.

Every time, Pastor will be telling us of the people that will go to the hellfire. He says it is the people that come to collect prayer and anointing for having children with only small rice and beans and chicken, while in their house, they cook onebiiig pot of food just for afternoon food. When he will say this, my mind will ask myself if he used to finish all the food the people bring every week. Is he giving the poor people or selling them to give people whose father and mother have died? I can never know, but I don’t want to go hell, so I will close my eyes tight and thank God mama gives him plenty money so that we won’t go to hell.

Every time too, Pastor is always saying that people that are “sleeping around” will go to hell. Their own hell will be very hot because they are doing it for greed and not to help people. Mary always comes to my mind when he says that, and I will then pray she will have sense and stop sleeping on people’s beds for money; she should allow them to sleep on their beds by themselves so that she will not go to a place where smoke-smoke will be smelling on her hair, and her body will be burning her and she will not be able to die.

Among the people sleeping around that will go to hell, Pastor says there are the ones sleeping around without sense; boys and boys and girls and girls, because boys are doing like girls, and girls are doing like boys—there will be pepper in their own hell fire. In fact, Pastor says that if we catch all those kind of people, we are to bind and cast them, and if the devil refuses to come out, we are to kill them.

Once in church, my mind remembered the yellow boy we saw the day mama and I went to see Pastor after papa beat her. I wondered if Pastor had been able to flog the devil out of him, or if they had had to kill him. I wondered if his father had pursued his mother out of the house later because of him. I wondered if a small boy like that will go to hell too because he liked to play with dolly-baby and walk quari-quari like a girl.

The boy was fine. I do not want him to go to where they will burn him every day and every night. That kind of place is supposed to be for people that used to steal and kill people, and for people that cannot help a woman when they are beating her—people like Pastor’s wife and our neighbours.

I wonderif papa is in the hell fire too because Mary, that day outside the hospital, said he killed the babies that were not his own. If he is in hell, I do not know if it would be because he killed the babies, or because they were not his own, or because he used to make blood come out from mama’s wrapper.

I always hopePastor himself will not go to hell for making all the women sweat in his office because he did not buy fan, till they will have to be using their wrapper to clean their face and it will be shifted before they come out of his office. I also hope he will not go to hell because people use to bring food and money for him to pray for them and flog out devils, and will still have to stay under the sun for long, and not in the church, even though they are sick, like the children of that balloon woman that day.

I hope I will not go to hell for not understanding many things, and for thinking about too many things I cannot say because nobody will hear me.

I don’t want to go to hell for not crying when papa died. I forced the tears, but they did not fall down from my eyes.

I don’t want to burn forever for not telling Mary to stop when she was shouting at papa outside the hospital till his chest started to pain him. I don’t also want my hair to besmoke-smoke forever because I did not shout to the people to look, that papa was holding his chest, and his face was rumpling,and he was falling down.

I hope God will forgive me for seeing so many things and not being able to do too many things because I am small.

They say it is Ngozi, Mary’s friend that taught her the business of “sleeping around” to collect people’s money. I don’t know the kind of job that thing is, but the way people’s nose use to squeeze when they are saying it, it is like it is a bad thing. And since Pastoreven says that people who do it will burn forever, it must be badder than bad.

I want Mary to stop the thing she is doing, just like I sometimes want mama not to be giving all our money and food to Pastor so that we can eat better food and wear better clothes, but…what can I do? Who will hear me? Everybody is always busy doing what they think big people must do every time, even though to me, sometimes, it is something that a goat or sheep will do—animals that don’t have sense.

So…my elder sister’s friend is a lele, and as like everything around my life that is always confusing my head, I don’t know what to do about it.

It is Aisha that taught me this word for the “girl and girl” pastor is always talking about—lele.

Pastor says lele people will go to hell, but I don’t want them to go to hell.

If Ngozi teaches Mary how to lele, just like they say she taught her how to sleep around for money, she will become a lele too, and that means she will go to hell. And, because two of us are sleeping on the same bed, she can try to lele me if the thing sweets her and it is night; I will not be able to slap her to leave me alone, and then I will have to go to hell too.

But I want to ask Pastor why he thinks the leles have to be killed on earth and burned in hell.

 I want to ask him why he thinks people like mama must come for prayers and not people like papa.

I want to ask him why he never came one day to tell papa to stop making blood come out from mama.

 I want to ask him if he had ever asked mama about Mary and me and how we were coping with having little money and still bringing things every week to come and take prayers.

I want to tell Pastor that if it was only his wife remaining in the world, mama would have died because we are not rich people that can give her something after helping mama to the hospital.

I want to tell Pastor that it is Aisha’s father—one of the people he always says are not like us in the church and so are not good—that saved mama’s life when his wife closed the door at my face, my face that was showing tiredness from running all the way to get help.

I want to ask him why the devil he is flogging out of people’s bodies have to be flogged out every week with bags of rice, beans and oil…why doesn’t the devil even die,sef?

Pastor talks like he knows everything, so I want him to answer these things for me so that my head can stop paining me with all the things in them that have question mark.

I am tired of all the kinds of things the big-big people say and do. Plenty of them are stupid, too stupid that I tell Aisha, sometimes, that I want to remain a child with her forever.

Growing…it’s like it changes people too much—it has changed Mary; I don’t see her at home too much again because she is always looking for money so we will go to school; for mama, it has made her very small, too small that all that is in her head is papa and Pastor and the market. I now almost understand why Mary said that she wants to slap mama sometimes so she will have sense, so she can be free and play and laugh and be happy like Aisha and me.

If growing up makes somebody collect food from poor people, and their money too, and keep them under the sun just to come and take flogging, then I want to remain konkolo forever.

I don’t want to be big like papa and be drinking too much of things and be coming back home in the night and be beating somebody because of food and because there is no child that is a boy. If being big means that people have to be killing themselves because somebody is a girl and not a boy, then I don’t want to be stupid like that.

I don’t want to be stupid. I don’t want to have to kill people because of who they are and who the other person is.

 I want to remain small so that I can keep having people like Aisha as my friend, somebody I can think with, laugh with and talk with though we are not “the same” according to the grown people.

So…Ngozi can continue being a lele if that is how she wants to be, but she should not force it on Mary—that one is the stupidity. It is what somebody wants that somebody will take. Nobody should force anybody to be anything because they don’t like what they are.

It is sweeting me to be small—to be able to be far from all these things these big people are doing; to not understand why they are wicked to the other person; why they behave how they like to the other person; and, why they feel better than the other person because that other person is not like them. The way they behave is so sad, so it is good to not see it in the big way they see it. I think that seeing it the way they are seeing it will soon make me too start behaving like it.

I still don’t understand many of the things Pastor says and does, or if being a lele is actually good or bad, or where the blood from mama’s wrapper came from, or why they will sack papa from his job the way they did, or why he will beat mama like that every time, or why Mary is doing something that is making people squeeze their nose when they are saying it, or who owns the babies she said papa killed…I do not know all these things, but I am happy that I don’t have to understand the world the way they understand it, the annoying way they understand it.

I am okay with the small-smallthings that concern Aisha and I. They allow us to be truly happy.

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