I’m sorting out old papers in my bedroom when my son comes up to me. “So, Mum,” he says, “I’ve decided to become an apeist.”
“A what?” I say.
“You know. Like you and Richard Dawkins. I don’t believe in God anymore.”
“No,” he says. “I changed my mind about God. He doesn’t exist.”
“Brilliant,” I say. “Fantastic. Oh, that’s great. I thought you probably would in the end, as well. What made you change your mind?”
Rico sniffs nonchalantly. “Well, I’m in the third grade now. I’m not like a dumb little stupid silly kid like I was in the first grade. In the first grade, I believed in God and Father Christmas, in the second grade, I believed in God and in the third grade I don’t believe in nobody.”
I stare at him with misty eyes, my entire being filled suddenly with love, triumph and elation. Also a tiny bit of relief. My kid, the atheist. But I don’t want to congratulate him too much.
“You must never tell people who believe in God you think they’re stupid,” I tell him, sternly.
“Yeah but they are, aren’t they,” he says. I try not to beam too much.
“Aren’t you glad we didn’t get you christened in South Germany?” I say. “Aren’t you glad Mummy said to wait until you were really old enough to decide what you really wanted? That was good, huh? That’s good?”
“Yeah,” he says.
I look at him and think to myself: “Don’t be too happy, Jacinta Nandi. Let him change his mind in the future. He will grow up to be a Scientologist if you are too happy about this development. Do not be happy. Stop smiling. Act like this is normal. For fuck’s sake, Jacinta. Remember when you got converted by Billy Graham, your mum was so cool about it. Be cool. Do not fuck this up.” That’s what I’m thinking. Stuff like that.
“You wanna know what else made me change my mind?” He says.
“What?” I say.
He whispers importantly: “I think I saw some evolution happening.”
Slight pause while I digest this information. Then I say: “You did? Are you, erm, totally sure?”
He nods gravely. “Yes,” he says, “I saw it happen in a book.”
I look at him and nod a bit. After a few seconds of nodding, I say: “Where?”
He shrugs. “Well,” he says. “I saw a picture of Charles Darwin in a book, didn’t I. He had really a really long beard. And since then the people have been evolving without them really long beards. So I know evolution is true, definitely. And if evolution is true, then we definitely evolved from apes. And if we definitely evolved from apes, then I’m an apeist and God doesn’t exist.” He sighs. “I figured it out,” he adds, somewhat forlornly.
I look at him and wonder. Is this the right time to tell him about intelligent design, I wonder? No, I decide. Now is not the right time to tell him about intelligent design. Instead I show him a picture of me in Junior School, one that I found lost amongst my papers somewhere. I guess I was about his age when the photo was taken. It’s me with a hawk – some woman with these birds of prey came into school and we all had our photos taken. Some kids chose a hawk, some kids chose eagles. My hair is totally unbrushed, it looks like an animal’s been hiding out in it or something. My mum didn’t believe in forcing me to brush my hair. So I just didn’t brush my hair for the whole of Junior School. My mum was kind of like that. She was kind of easy-going, in a way. We were allowed to swear and everything. We were allowed to say fuck and bollocks and shit and bitch and wanker. We weren’t allowed to say slut or whore or prozzie or tart or slag, coz they were really misogynistic. My friends always found the rules really confusing, but I understood them. We never said cunt. I swear I didn’t find out about the word “cunt” until 1994. And I’ve never said it in front of my mum. Well, okay, I did once, but it was by accident.
So I show Rico the picture of me with a hawk and bird’s nest hair and he grins appreciatively.
“You were really cute, when you were a kid, Mum,” he says. “Almost as cute as me.”
“Yeah,” I say. I let it go, him thinking he was so cute, I probably shouldn’t. But I do. At least he doesn’t believe in God anymore, I think to myself. My son, the slightly vain atheist. Brilliant.