Not Where Peter Is


It was a hot day at church when Santiago heard the news: Peter was killed. He did not know what
that meant, and his mom tried to explain to him that it meant that he was not going to live here on
planet Earth with us. Instead, he was going to heaven, where the people that loved Christ went. He
was even more puzzled than before. He knew Peter, and he was not a good person. He was a mean,
mean boy that mocked him every time they had a chance, he and his pals. One day, not a hot one,
he arrived happily to church, wearing a beautiful red sweater that his father brought him from Agua
Prieta. This sweater had a funny-looking clown on it, and he felt that he was a little clown himself,
trying to make people laugh. He did not know where he was, but he liked the way they put the chairs
together, hundreds of chairs. An usher told him that he could help if he wanted, and he did. The joy
in Santiago’s face was something new, even his mother told his father so.

“Great job, give me a high-five”, said the usher, smiling at him.

And he went off to talk to some kids that were playing outside that big auditorium, a place so
foreign to him that he thought he was at a rich man’s mansion, just like the one Richie Rich’s family
had. “Mom, do you think there’s a McDonald’s there too?”, he asked her one day after service, and
she just guffawed. He loved to make his mother laugh, even though this time it was not intentional.
The kids were playing with some kind of Game Boy, and when Santiago asked them if he could see
the screen, a fat, brown kid shoved him away. Then, a little white kid said: “Get lost, this is Laura’s
game, and she lent it to us, us only!”, and then the others chimed in, “YEAH!”.

So now, in this hot day, he was wondering why everything was so glum, why they were all crying…
weren’t they supposed to be worshipping the Lord? That was what his mother told him that they did
every Sunday when they sang and danced. He liked those songs, and he was always stood up and
danced with the rest of the kids. But now they were crying. Then this guy, up in the stage, started
speaking loudly:

“Father, we are gathered here today to praise you even in these sad moments, because that’s what
Job taught us”, and then a woman in the front screamed, “AMEN”

“Because”, the guy continued, “we now know that Peter’s up there with you, singing and dancing.
And that is why we are remembering Peter’s heart and spirit, praying for his family that has to
endure this harsh event. But we know that everything is in your plans, and you will wipe every tear from our eyes, because when you come back there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain”.

“AMEN”, the crowd shouted.

And then a big light was cast onto the wall from a little, funny machine, and some words appeared:
“Rest in peace, Peter. We will see you in Paradise”. Santiago read the words and wondered what it all
meant. And he saw a picture of Peter, too, and he remembered that it was him that said that he
wasn’t going to let him see the videogame screen. And he remembered well the words Peter said
after the fat, brown kid shoved him… “Laura doesn’t like dumb kids”. Santiago did not even know
who Laura was, so he went away, ‘minding his own business’, like his older brothers told him to do
all the time at home. And finally, he remembered what happened next, the reason why he did not like Peter.

After they got bored with the game, Santiago went looking for this woman named Laura. She agreed
to lending him the game, and he went back to the kids, grinning. “I told you to get lost!”, and this
time Peter pushed him. He got so mad that he punched Peter on the cheek, and the other kids
started hitting him. “And we’ll beat you up again”, the fat kid said, “don’t you know he’s Julian’s
brother?”. And they left him there on the dirt. He was bawling. He just wanted to make some

After this weird guy up on the stage stopped talking, the grown-ups started to talk to themselves in a
low voice. Santiago always got afraid when they started doing this, because all of a sudden people
would start wailing, some would throw themselves on the ground, others would yell weird words. So
he left the auditorium, running as fast as he could, and even his mother did not notice. Outside there
were some kids standing around a barbed wire circle where some ponies lived. He got close to them,
trying to make some friends again, but then he noticed that they were the same kids that beat him

“What are you doing here? You weren’t even his friend!”, a tiny kid cried.

“Yeah, you do not have any friends here. Get lost!”, an older kid said, apparently the older brother
of the tiny kid because they looked alike.

“But I want to be friends with you”, replied Santiago.

“Well now you can’t”, said an even older kid, “he’s DEAD”.

“You’re a bad kid, you’re the kind of kid that will go to hell. You are a bad person”, said the fat kid,
“that’s what Pastor Roberto said”.

“Who’s Pastor Roberto?”, Santiago was confused, why did they know all these grown-ups?

“You don’t even know who Pastor Roberto is?”, the fat kid yelled to his face, and his spittle hit
Santiago’s eyes, “get out of here, you really are a dumb kid!”.

“You’re a fool”, another one cried, “you’re stupid”, cried another, “and ugly!”, cried the last one to
say something.

And Santiago started crying again, but this time they mocked him for being a crybaby, a fag, a loser.
And they started chanting: “crybaby, crybaby!”.

He ran away, in the middle of the dust, and his skin looked like the breaded fish his father made
from time to time, right before they cooked it. He could not see anything, there was a lot of dust
that day, raised by the scorching wind of August, and he could not find the way to the auditorium.
Finally, he found the door, and he stood outside, sitting, crying his eyes out. A woman came outside,
found him, and said:

“Oh, my dear child, we’re all very sad for Peter, may his soul be with the Lord”, said a tall, white
lady with boring-looking glasses.

“I.. I’m not crying because of Peter! He was not my friend, I hate him!”, Santiago shrieked.

“You bad-mannered, lousy kid!”, the white woman screamed at him, “you should be ashamed of
yourself!”, and she went back inside.

“If Paradise is where people like Peter go, then I don’t want to go where Christ lives”, the five-year-
old Santiago thought to himself, hanging his head between his legs, with sweat and tears on his face