I’ve decided to share my latest book (The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man) with my followers here, free of charge, one chapter at a time. So… Where were we on this read-along… Oh, yes…
Chapter 21: The Mexican Kids in the Trash Pile
After I had officially flunked out of SUU, I came home to try and figure out what I was going to do with my life. I honestly had no idea what to do. Every female friend I had was still going to the college that had just given me the boot. All my guy friends, home and away, were now “of age.” One by one they were all leaving to be Mormon missionaries for two years.
Where we lived, the population was as close to being 100% Mormon as a population could come. I’m pretty sure the only reason it wasn’t 100% was because they accidentally counted the creepy Aspen tree up on Alpine Circle that looked like a guy coming at you with a Brazilian machete in the right light. The creepy murderous tree, who I shall call Kevin, was apparently not a Mormon, because everyone else sure was.
But, yeah. When you’re a guy, and you turned 19 in Mormontowne U.S.A, you went on a mission. It’s how you bring honor to your family. It’s how you become worthy of your future bride. It’s how you prove to the world that you weren’t down at college doing the most naughty things with the most naughty girls.
I really didn’t want to go on a mission. Trolling through strange neighborhoods for two years, knocking on the doors of strangers, and telling strict Catholics to believe in something I didn’t ever believe in just didn’t sound like the most appealing way to spend my time. But as all my friends disappeared, and as my 19th birthday came and went, and the pressure continued to mount, I finally consented and agreed to go. I should also mention that it didn’t hurt that Mom and Dad generously offered to buy me a new car when I got back. And, no. It was not a bribe. It was a kickback from two very generous parents for giving such a big part of the best years of my life to the Lord. Okay. It was definitely kind of a bribe. And I took it.
I ended up in Mexico. The Mormon leadership doesn’t give you a choice of where you’ll serve. They ask God, they pick a truly inspired spot in the world, and they send you there. Or they throw darts at a map. I have no idea. All I know is that I opened “the call,” it said Mexico, and that was that.
And they didn’t send me to some awesome part of Mexico with white sandy beaches, or epic mariachi bands, or beautiful Latina women who desired desperately to help young gringo men acclimate by giving them shoulder rubs and potent margaritas.
No, they sent me to a part of Mexico City where you could buy ten cent tacos made from dog meat from a guy with no teeth.
And no, I’m not being facetious, nor am I making this up. Most of the meals church members served us while I was there consisted of at least one of the following… Bull testicle. Pig intestine. Chicken innards. Or on special occasions, something that vaguely resembled fish. Every meal was served with corn tortillas that tasted like they’d been stored on a shelf in the sewer. There were few missionaries who didn’t crap their pants at least once while they were out there because of the food. I came close several times, and I promise you that had I stayed there any longer, I would have.
While I was there, which wasn’t very long, I saw a man dying on the side of the road. He had been hit by a passing vehicle and left to die. Others were walking over and around him as if nothing had happened. I once watched our bus driver stop the bus, pull out a baseball bat, get out of the bus, and head toward another car. The driver of the other car pulled out a gun and our driver hurried back to his duties and drove us all away from certain murder. There was a murder-suicide right next to our apartment. A man slit his wife’s throat and then his own. I was bit by a rabid dog. I was attacked with rocks and bricks by drunken gang members. I was attacked with rocks and bricks by school children. I killed a stray mutt who attacked my companion and me. I injured countless other aggressive dogs. And I saw poverty that you will never understand until you walk through it, and live in it.
One day in late February, Elder Petersen (my companion at the time) and I were riding the bus to go work for the day in an even poorer neighborhood on the other side of the city.
Petersen was the perfect Mormon missionary. Clean cut. Average build. Not too tall. Not too short. Broke no rules. Wasn’t a prude. Wasn’t a goof-off. Woke up on time every morning. Prayed for an hour every night. Only shit his pants once while we were serving together. He made me work, which was annoying, but he didn’t ever act like he was better than me, which was rare.
While on the bus that day, we passed a huge mountain of garbage that had collected in an abandoned lot between two cinderblock shacks. It must have been fifteen feet high at least. Trash was nothing new for us. Entire streets were used for dumping trash. It was everywhere.
But on this particular trash heap, nine or ten kids were scattered across it, rummaging for whatever it is poverty-stricken Mexican kids rummage. If I had to guess, most of them fell between the ages of four and seven. Most of them were without shoes. Most of them were emaciated and filthy. Most of them wore tattered rags for clothes.
And I, the all-important, well-fed, giant white man began making fun of them in English to my companion.
I made fun of them.
I laughed at them.
I don’t remember what I said, but I remember kind of what I said, and I remember the taunting and jeering tone I said it in…