On television, Beth saw a show about New York. Everything seemed gross there, and the people were mean. They honked the horns of their cars at everything, they were rude, and some of them were really dirty. Even the people who made their living by washing people's car windows were dirty.
That made Beth sad, so she went to ask her mother about it. Beth's mother was at the kitchen table polishing their new silver. They had gotten the silver from Beth's great-grandmother's house because she wasn't using it and was too old to know that it was missing. Besides, when she died it would be their anyway.
"Mother," Beth asked her mother, taking a seat at the table, "why does God make the people in New York so sad and dirty?"
"Help me polish some of these spoons and I'll tell you, Dear One," said her mother.
And this is the story she told:
One day, God was talking to Moses and he said, "Don't make any statues of gods or stone statues of anything else and then bow in front of them. I'm God. Don't work on Saturday and be nice in church. I'm God.
"If you do what I tell you to do," continued God, "then I'll make it rain in the rainy season and plants and trees will grow for you. You'll have really big wheat fields and lots of bread and there will be no crime. I'll give you peace so that you can sleep and I will get rid of all the nasty animals and make sure nobody comes into town to kill you with swords. You'll be able to chase your enemies away or kill them and five of you will be able to frighten a hundred of them. A hundred of you will scare ten thousand of them, for that matter. I'll make everyone respect you and make sure that your women have lots of babies. You'll have lots of food around for emergencies, too.
"I'll make a temple in your town and I won't hate you. I'll walk around in the city you live in. I'll be your God, you'll be my people. I'm God and I helped you leave slavery in Egypt and stand up straight.
"But if you don't do what I tell you to, then you're really in trouble. I'll make you scared, thin, and sick. Your eyes will rot away and you'll be really depressed. Your enemies will eat your fruits and vegetables. I won't look at you, and people you don't like will kill you. You will be slaves of people who hate you and want to run away even when nobody is chasing you.
"If you still don't do what I tell you after that, then I'll punish you seven more times. I'll take away your pride and make sure that nothing grows when you plant it. If you walk away from me and don't listen, I'll make seven more bad things happen. I'll send animals to eat your children and cows and make sure that there aren't many of you. There won't be much traffic on your freeways.
"After all that, if you still ignore me, then I'll ignore you, too and I'll punish you seven more times. I'll stab you to get revenge, and when there are a lot of people in cities I'll make them all sick. I'll tell your enemies where you live. When I have broken the stick of your bread, ten women will bake bread in one oven and bring it to you by weight, and you'll eat it, but it won't be enough."
"I don't get that bread part," said Beth.
"It's a mystery of God," answered her mother.
"And if you still ignore me, then I'll be mad and really ignore you. I'll say that you are bad seven times. You'll eat your children, and I'll knock over your buildings and destroy your statues. I'll throw your dead bodies at statues and really hate you. I'll ruin your cities and safe places, and when you burn nice things for me I won't smell them.
"I'll ruin the land and your enemies will be amazed. I'll send you to live with savages and point a sword at you. Your land will be ruined and so will your cities. Then your land will finally get a chance to rest because you didn't let it rest on Saturdays like I told you to.
"Any people that are still alive after all this will get really afraid of everything. They'll run when leaves shake and fall over when nobody is chasing them. Then they'll fall all over each other when nobody's chasing them."
"Does that mean they'll all fall over twice?" Beth asked, but her mother ignored her.
"Then they'll die where savages live and bad people's land will eat them. After that, anybody who's left will be sad. Their kids will be sad, too."
Beth thought about this for a moment. "There must be a whole lot of bad people in New York," she said. "I'm glad that people are good in our town." Then she smiled and hugged her mother. All her questions had been answered.
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