04 February 2011


By Curtis C. Chen

"Why does religion scare you so much?" Edith asked.

"Why doesn't it scare you?" Bernice replied.

A clattering noise came from the other room. Edith bent back over her chair and called, "Play nicely, boys!"

The two children on the floor separated and muttered something affirmative. Edith turned back to Bernice and shrugged.

"It's not like he's asking me to pledge an oath or anything," Edith said. "Honestly, it's mostly about community. Clarence needs other children to play with. This is an easy, well-established venue for socialization."

"But it's all about superstition," Bernice said, making a face. "I mean, have you read some of the mythology? It's all magical transformations, talking foliage, and predestination."

"They're just stories," Edith said. "Don't we have the same thing in our past? People telling tales to explain the world?"

"Yes, but that's actual history," Bernice said. "Not ludicrous fantasies about omnipotent entities controlling people's lives."

"So they're fictional." Edith shrugged again. "It doesn't make them any less significant or instructive."

"Except these religious people actually believe they're true!" Bernice said. "Turning water into wine? And what about this transubstantiation business?"

"You're talking about Catholicism," Edith said. "Clifford's Jewish."

"Now you're just splitting hairs," Bernice said. "They all believe in an intelligent creator-entity that exists outside of time and space. That's crazy."

"So is quantum theory," Edith said. "That doesn't stop—BOYS! What did I say about playing nicely?"

The crashing noises from the other room ceased, and then two juvenile shapes chased through the hallway, shouting something indistinct about going outside to play.

"Put on your jackets!" Bernice called. "It's freezing out there!"

More affirmative noises, clothing shuffled into place, and then the front door opened and slammed shut.

"Hubert seems to be adjusting well," Edith said.

Bernice made a snorting noise. "Lower gravity. All the blood's rushing to his head."

"Now who's being superstitious?"

"Don't change the subject." Bernice sipped at her tea. "Have you thought about how this religious identification is going to affect Clarence's development?"

"Given that he's going to be living among humans, I think whether or not we practice a few harmless rituals is going to be the least of our worries," Edith said. "Besides, it'll give him something in common with them."

"Even if it's all a big fat lie."

Edith sighed. "Why do we still honor the lunar observances, Bernice?"

"I don't know. Tradition, I suppose."

"Exactly. And that's all this is. It's their culture, and if we're going to be accepted by Clifford's people, Clarence and I need to understand their ways."

"I agree with that," Bernice said, "but this kind of immersion... Aren't you afraid that Clarence will grow up actually believing these myths?"

"Children believe all kinds of silly things," Edith said. "He'll grow out of it. But the important thing is, he'll have that connection to their culture."

"You must really love this human," Bernice said.

"Well," Edith said, waving an eyestalk, "I had his baby, didn't I?"

Bernice mimed regurgitation with her upper stomach. "Don't remind me."


Photo: Grand lustre de la synagogue de la rue Dohany (Budapest) by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, August, 2007