One of the neighbor girls was over at our house tonight, helping Xy water the garden. She’s three years old, cute as a button, and her name is Willanita, but everyone calls her Mamaw or just Maw.
Willanita said she was hungry, and Xy asked me to fix her some oatmeal. She also likes rice milk, which we always have on hand, so I poured her a small glass. I fixed myself a rum and coke with a slice of lime.
Soon it was 8pm, and Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was coming on Turner Classic Movies. I didn’t want to leave Willanita unattended, so I asked her to come downstairs with me. I set her bowl of oatmeal down on a tray table and turned on the TV.
Soon we were watching a helicopter flying a statue over Rome. “Look,” I said, “that’s Jesus.”
Willanita’s reply: “He dead.”
“Yes,” I replied, “that’s true. He died a long time ago.”
Willanita said something I didn’t quite understand, except that it ended with “New Orleans.”
She repeated only the end of her previous statement: “in New Orleans.”
“What about New Orleans?”
And I swear I’m not making this up. This three-year old child said: “A lot of people die in New Orleans. Did Jesus die in New Orleans?”
“No,” I said. “He died a looong way away from here.”
“How did he die?”
“Well, some people came and got him — the police — and they killed him.”
“Did he run?”
“No, he didn’t run.”
“He should have run,” Willanita said. “He should have run away fast.”
“Yeah. Is that what you would do?”
She grinned and nodded and finished off her rice milk. I sipped my drink, and we watched the Italian actors prattling on, neither of us able to understand a word.