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Short story By: Terry Collett
Flash fiction

Mary Moran's confession and the priest's reaction.

Submitted:May 12, 2007    Reads: 125    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

Father Joseph sat in the dark confessional in stunned silence. Either the young girl had told him a pack of lies or she was a budding Lucrezia Borgia. He fiddled with his thumbs; threw the sins she'd confessed around in his head like a juggler, wondering where the extra balls had come from. It was that Moran girl he was sure. The things she'd said. The times and manners, he mused. On the other side of the confessional, Mary Moran knelt with her eyes closed. She searched through her mind for any sins she may have forgotten to relate like one sorting through a laundry basket for soiled garments for the wash. No, she could remember nothing else. That was it. At least as far as she could recall. She fidgeted on her knees. Scratched her thigh. Breathed heavy against the metal grille. She smelt the scent of polish and after-shave; the odd smell of mothballs that her Da's suits had when he brought them out for funerals or weddings. She opened her eyes and stared at the semi-dark. Had the priest fallen asleep? she mused, moving from knee to knee, wondering if he'd be long, she was dying for a pee; wanting to get out in the air and light again. She heard the rustle of cloth and sighs, a slight cough, a deeper breath. The priest spoke softly and said things that floated around Mary's head like smoke; disappeared into the dark corners of the confessional without penetrating her ears or mind. If she were a daughter of his, he mused, in between words of absolution, gazing at the feint outline of the girl through the grille, letting the familiar words leave his lips, hoping the Crucified was listening and that he'd not be a father to a child like that for all the holy water in Rome. Mary squeezed her knees together; bit her lower lip in desperation. If the father didn't get a move on there'd be a puddle on the floor; she'd not be the one to clear it up, so she wouldn't. Did I tell about the truancy? she mused, squeezing the knees tighter, thinking of abandoning the confessional for a quick run; risk purgatory or worse, she couldn't give a fresh fig. Father Joseph paused; sniffed the air; fiddled with his thumbs again. Was she still there? he wondered, listening to the silence, peering through the grille, making out the outline of the girl's head. Mary waited for the penance. It reminded her of waiting for her Da to home after her mother threatened to tell him all she'd done; the wait; the tanned backside; the dark room. The priest spoke. His words cutting the air like Sister Thomas's ruler in mathematics, when she waved it madly above her head if the girls were talking in class. The first chapter of St John's Gospel. No Aves or Pater Nosters. She sighed. Bit her lip. Rose to her feet, thrust her hand between her thighs. Muttered a Thank You. Pushed opened the door into the church and, after a smile at Magdalene in the pews, walked at a fast pace down the side aisle to the lavatory outside in the passageway beside the statue of St Joseph which lingered by door. Father Joseph stared into the darkness; listened to the silence. The girl had gone. Her scent lingered. Her words hung in his head like harpies. He breathed in deeply. Thanked God for celibacy. Awaited the next girl. Hoped she was a minor saint in the making and not another Lucrezia Borgia and a mouthful of sins. Mary sat in the cubicle and stared at the graffiti on the door of the toilet. References to the priest and Sister Luke were scrawled in red ink; some remarks about Brian Brady, which she hoped, were not true, at least she didn't recall as true. The smell of after-shave and incense lingered in her nose; the first chapter of St John's Gospel loomed large; and the sense of relief flowed through her as she smiled at the memory of the priest's silence after the words about Brady's hands and intentions in the woods a few days back. That was worth any amount of chapters from gospels or a mouthful of Aves from noon until night, she mused. She smiled; recited a whispered Ave; closed her eyes to the days' light and the noise from the playground outside the window.


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