Max's friend Koffi is coming for a couple of days. On the way home from school, he asks Max what religion he is.
"Uh... dunno," says Max, who's clearly never even thought about it.
"Well, do you eat pork?" asks Koffi. "If you don't, then you're Muslim or Jewish."
"I'm not sure!" says Max. "We eat meat... and anyway, what's your
It turns out that's complicated. Koffi's father is Muslim, his mother's Catholic, and his African grandmother is animist. He's worried about Grandma, who's seriously ill, and he's praying that God will make her better.
"Don't they have doctors in Africa?" asks Lili.
"Now Lili..." says Mom.
"I mean," continues Lili, "you don't seriously believe
"LILI!!" says Mom. "Knock it off NOW!!!"
But Koffi isn't fazed. God, he tells them, is more powerful than any doctors. His simple faith impresses Max, who's never heard any of this before.
"So if I pray to God, I can get better marks on my tests?" he asks. Rather like Woody Allen in Hannah And Her Sisters
, he's kicking the tyres before buying. "Maybe," says Koffi. But he's more interested in talking about Grandma. He had a dream that Grandpa appeared and said she would soon be joining him in Heaven, and he's terrified that something bad is going to happen.
"I need to make a sacrifice," he says. "Here, Max, you can have my Nintendo."
"Huh?" says Max. "Why?"
Koffi explains. Max doesn't get it, but he's pretty happy to receive the Nintendo.
Lili is starting to think that she should be a little more tolerant. "Well," she says at school, "I don't really believe in this prayer shit. But suppose we all join hands with you, Koffi, and think positive thoughts about your Grandma in our own ways. It can't hurt."
Koffi is a popular kid, and everyone says they're in. They're surprised to discover that it feels really good. The next day, Koffi comes in looking much happier. The operation went well, and Grandma's out of danger.
"You can have your Nintendo back then," says Max.
"Are you KIDDING?" asks Koffi indignantly. "Do you want my Grandma to get ill again?"
Max is almost convinced, but he still needs to run a few more controlled experiments. "Look," he says, "here's what I'm going to do. Before my next test, I'm not doing any revision at all, just praying. Then we'll know for sure, right?"
Lili sighs. "Max," she says patiently, "it doesn't work like that..."