“Try it, it’s beer. “
The kid who stood there offering a suspicious looking liquid was the same one who had hit and bruised me three days earlier. I didn’t think it looked like beer so I refused to take the cup.
“you’re a coward” he taunted me “you’re stupid and retarted”
I had heard the word “stupid” before, but not that new one…I assumed it wasn’t good.
I was 11 (almost 12) and this was a new commune, the smallest one I’d been in, only 20 people. We were crammed into a three story building near Toyonaka, a prefecture near Osaka Japan. My family moved here from the biggest commune we’d been in (94 people) and I’d gone from living with a group of kids my age and seeing my parents once a month (or every few months) to living with them and my siblings in the same room.
It was 1996 and two major things had happened recently. One was the release of “The Charter”, a book of rules for the cult (The Children of God) which- among other things- told us to disband the large communes because they were too easy for the authorities to find. The authorities around the world had began acting on charges of child abuse and started raiding our communes in the last few years.
Communes in Brazil, England and Argentina had been raided in the middle of the night, the children removed and our cults security compromised. In all the cases the children were returned to their parents after a lengthy court battle. But better to avoid the situation in the first place by staying under the radar.
The new max was 36 people per commune. I don’t know why they chose that number, all I knew is I had never been in such cramped quarters with so few people.
The Second major thing that happened was the great Kobe earthquake. On January 17 1995, it had leveled the city. My father had started taking teams down from Nagoya (the big commune) to help with the clean up. After working in Kobe for a few months, and with the introduction of the Charter, he decided it would be best to move his family down to Osaka. So we piled into a van and joined a much smaller commune.
This commune had a single mom in it who we called English Joy, she had 5 kids, one of whom was the beer offerer, Michael.
“I’m not going to taste it” I told him. He glared, then offered it to my younger sister standing next to me.
“try it, it’s beer”
She had seen our exchange and my refusal, but she was younger and not as wise as I was (still in the single digits) She took the beer and drank. She looked nervously at me, then at him and said “Mmm… Yum”
“Haahaa! You idiot, it’s water and soy-sauce with dish-soap on top! “ He laughed but didn’t stay to gloat, he ran out of the room to go hide.
My sister put the beer down and we looked at each-other. We didn’t know if we wanted to report on him or not. He was a bad kid who got beatings every day, but clearly they weren’t helping…We also knew if we didn’t help him stay on the straight and narrow Satan would get him, and that would be worse than the beatings.
We reported on him to the next adult we saw (Uncle Paul) who looked at the soy-sauce beer then laughed at us for thinking that was what real beer looked like.
Michael ended up getting his daily beating.
The next day, he cracked an egg on my head.