On Noah’s Ark ride the creatures, and I’m pained to think that the peacocks would not have made it on. In fact, none of the animals indigenous to India might have made it on, because they were employed in the service of gods. In biblical times such whetting would have been encouraged. I voice this aloud, and Pastor says, How do you explain them surviving? Evolution, I try. No, he insists, Every creature survived the flood.
It’s funny to think of Father and I descending from Noah. There are no Hindus in the Bible. Still, Pastor insists we have the same ancestors.
One look at us and you’d think the days of the Old Testament were back. Things out in the open—Father’s affairs, unpaid bills from Mother’s sickness, envelopes marked FINAL NOTICE covering the furniture on which I stub my toes, as Father yells, Tell me that was your head you burst open.
Going to hell is a serious prospect, Pastor says. Can I allow my own father to go to hell? Which is why Pastor must meet him. He pulls out his Blackberry and suggests dates.
You’ve gone and done it. Exposed what was best concealed. There isn’t any dignity left in you! Father is so furious he can’t look at me.
I pull out my diary and write the word PERSECUTION. I tell myself there is a reward for this. Already, my story of conversion is somewhat of a legend, a miracle for which everyone rushes to take credit. It was me that saved her, claims Laura. I shared the bridge diagram with her first, claims Ben. If I am patient and persevering, my father’s anger will earn me fame.
Jesus says, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. In my case, I’d chosen to fish for Father.
Brainwashed, Father’s word for me. Doesn’t it bother you there aren’t any goddesses in Christianity? I thought you were a feminist.
There’s Mother Mary, I say faintly.
As his final punch, my father delivers this: If your mother were alive would you have converted her too?
Mother. It was midnight in my dorm room when I was accepting Christ. At the same time Mother was dying, her pulmonary artery bursting beyond repair. I like to think she passed me by that night. Since her death I think the sky is her palm — open with the light of many days.
Think of all the gods, Father says. Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh. You convert to Christianity and what do you get? Just one God.
I could have told Father that all those gods were a figment of Satan’s imagination. But I no longer wish to fish. I will leave it to Pastor. One day he will latch onto Father’s unsaved soul like he latched onto frisbees. He will tell Father that Noah’s Ark had secret passages, and our common ancestors made it out of the floods alive.
Shilpi Suneja was born in India. She holds an MA in English from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she was awarded the Saul Bellow Prize. Her work appears in Solstice, Kartika Review, Bat City Review, Hyphen, Consequence, Breakwater Review, Kafila.online, and TwoCircles.net, among other places. A 2018 NEA Literature Fellow, she is currently at work on a novel about the long shadow of the Indian Partition.
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