COVID revealed what life was really like.
|It was worse at Ebenezer Ranch than back in Africa. Everyone knew it. When it was threatened that they would send them back like they had Tony, everyone just shrugged. At least Tony had free time at the orphanage. Here at the ranch it was work, work, work: filter the water and carry it to the house, harvest all the vegetables and carry them inside, do the cleaning, washing, and laundry. The pale children, whose bodies were more fragile, got to stay inside bottling oils and mailing packages, but not the African children. They were meant to do hard work: their bodies were made for it, and if they complained, they were told they were not thankful for their good life here. |
It wasn’t much of a life. They didn’t even get to go to school. Mommy read to the little children, and they all read the Bible at devotions. That was it. Mommy said school was against God, and God would rather them all work and learn from working. In Africa there had been school, at least.
And then there was the food. It wasn’t real. No bread, no meat, no cheese. They all had to be healthy, and this would keep their bodies clean. Just a little food, along with the supplements from food God had told Mommy and Aunt Marla to make, capsules of sweet potatoes, cilantro, and spinach, that were designed to give energy, help women have healthy babies, and prevent and treat illness. Mommy and Aunt Marla had received instructions from God about what they were to make. They had a book about it you could buy at Wal-Mart, with a skinny woman on the spine, what you could become if you followed the plan. It was how God provided. And how everyone starved.
And in Africa, there was no Mr. Disc. Nothing that made it impossible to sit for a whole day in “the name of the Lord.” Nothing like it that set fear into the minds of young people. And Mr. Disc visited often. For forgetting to get the laundry from the clothesline before a storm. For being caught with eyes open during prayers. For asking “impertinent” questions to Mommy, like who made God or how a woman had a baby. God disciplines those He loves, and Mr. Disc was a way for Mommy and Daddy to do God’s work.
Dalia said there would be vindication. Anna thought it was weird she still liked God, after all the mean things he told Mommy and Daddy to do, and all the pain He caused her, through Mr. Disc, through the not eating that was supposedly from Him, through the hard work filtering the pond and hauling water. It was all God’s way, Mommy and Daddy said. But Dalia said it wasn’t God’s way, it was their way, and God would make things right someday.
“It is all in Revelations,” she said, whispering in the bed they shared late at night, when everyone else was sleeping. “There will be a tv show of what everyone did in life. They will be found out and will be ashamed.” Anna hoped so but didn’t think that would happen.
These days, they were especially busy, making Vitamin D FIX!, a mix of foods high in Vitamin D, to prevent and treat the new ‘rona virus. God had given Daddy a dream about what to do. God always gave Daddy the dreams, as the head of the household. He told Mommy and Aunt Marla what to do, and they did it, just like things were supposed to work. So he had a dream of what to make for the ‘rona, which Daddy said was spiritual warfare sent from China to weaken America and its leader President Trump, who was the most Godly President in history and God’s chosen. People loved FIX!, so there was more planting and harvesting, more cleaning dishes, more carrying water to use in the paste to make it.
Every day it was the same. Breakfast, work, lunch break, devotions, then work until dark. After work you had to watch a video of an old White man in a church somewhere telling you what a bad person you were. Then evening devotions, accountability time. Mr. Disc came out most of the time then, because someone had seen something bad. Then bedtime. Except for Sundays, when you spent all day at church.
But today was different. The grown-ups were acting weird. They didn’t eat with everyone in the share room like they always did. Instead, they went into the office where Daddy did the books for the business: Mommy, Daddy, Aunt Marla, Uncle Jim, even Grandma and Grandpa. The door was thin and Anna could hear a few words: “unauthorized,” “FDA,” “raid.”
Everyone just sat there after breakfast. If you left the table without being excused, you could get Mr. Disc. No one wanted that. So all the children, the pale ones, the cousins, and the dark ones, all just sat there, silently. Then Anna saw something out the window. She nudged Dalila. “Something is happening,” she mouthed, trying to hold her head away from the sight of the pale children.
There were more cars than Anna had ever seen. Not just trucks or mini-vans either, but cars with four doors like some of the people at church had. A door opened at one car and a woman got out. Anna hadn’t seen a woman like her since she left Ethiopia. She had short hair and wore glasses. Her face was painted like the pastor said Jezebels had. She was also wearing pants! That was not something allowed at home, or at church, even when working outside. Daddy said that women who painted their faces and wore pants were sinful and a sign of America’s evil. She didn’t look sinful, though. She looked pretty. Other people started getting out of their cars. Some wore funny outfits-nice jackets like the pastor wore or blue outfits with badges on them.
The woman came up to the house, a man following right behind her. She pounded on the door. Daddy talked through the door.
“We know our rights!”
“I have a warrant!”
“We have children!”
“Let us in for their sake! It will be better for everyone!”
“We will come in anyway if you don’t open up!” Finally, grandpa shook his head and opened the door.
“Alica Erdgan, FDA,” the woman said. “My partner Harry Orbitz. We are here to investigate your laboratory.”
“Our-our laboratory?” Daddy was whiter than Anna had ever seen him.
“Yes, where you produce your products,” the woman said. “We have reports of adverse effects.”
“We have religious rights-“
“Your rights end when people get hurt.”
The woman glanced in the room. “Are these all your children?”
“The ones God gave us.”
“Let me show you around,” Anna said.
The pale children went to Grandma, but the dark ones went to a special house with other children. A kind lady tried to get Anna to talk about her feelings and told her they had never been adopted right. They wouldn’t go back to Africa but would not have to go back to Ebenezer Ranch.
In the new house they ate bread, meat, and milk, and went to school. They also watched tv, but not scary preachers but all kinds of things. One night they were watching the news when they saw. Mommy and Daddy in a room. A woman was wearing a long, black robe and shaking her head at Mommy and Daddy. Mommy was crying. A woman in a suit was telling all the bad things they had done. Dalia punched Anna in the arm. “Revelations,” she said.