Absolution

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Short Story

Submitted: May 22, 2013

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Submitted: May 22, 2013

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ABSOLUTION

 

Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

 

Beth and I went to live with Grandpa and Grandma the day after our parents were killed in that terrible train accident up there near Baton Rouge. I was going on fourteen and Beth was twelve. Our grandparents were all alone on this big farm as all our aunts and uncles had left to get married and make their own lives. Well, they weren’t entirely alone. They had a big likeable fellow staying with them to keep the place from going to seed. They insisted they were never moving out, no matter what, and hired Joel Benton to do the things they could not do anymore. He was given room and board and a couple of dollars from Grandpa’s pension money every week that he spent in town on weekends. It was an arrangement that suited everyone.

 

Beth and I were raised pretty strict Catholics by Mom with Dad’s reluctant Baptist approval so we wondered what would happen once we got to the farm. These were Dad’s folks after all. Riding to the farm from the cemetery, Beth grasped my arm tightly and whispered,

 

“Do you think we’ll be alright, Bobi?” I nodded, not at all sure.

 

We need not have worried. The first Sunday we were there, Grandma woke us at 6 o’clock and told us to have another bath and to dress up good. Joel was going to drive us to Saint David’s for Mass. Her exact words were,

 

“Your Ma raised you to be Catholics and, by the Gentle Lord in Heaven, you’re going to be the best ones there is as long as you’re living with us.”

 

And so it was. We took the bus to Saint David’s Elementary School Monday to Friday and Joel drove us to Mass on Sunday mornings in Grandpa’s old truck.

 

We liked Joel despite his gruff manner and he became like an older brother to us.

He helped Beth with her chores when he had the time and taught me how to fish for big mouth bass in the bayou down the road. He even told me about Devil’s Hole, a hidden offshoot of the bayou where the big ones lay in wait for the hovering greenflies. He claimed he found Devil’s Hole by accident a few years back and he was probably the only one who knew about it. The only thing was, he warned, the gators liked it too and you should only fish there in the dark hours when they slept. We went there many a time at night where, with his flashlight, he showed me the gators asleep in the reeds waiting for the sun to come up when they would begin to hunt.

 

In return, I taught Joel, who had never gone to school, to read and write the best I could. Reading was arduous for him but writing script was hopeless. So I taught him to print which was a lot easier. In a few month’s time, he became quite good at it and he and I would write each other notes just for fun and then ask Beth which one wrote which, a harmless game which, we had no way of predicting, would one day become ominous.

 

Beth and I never really lost the wounds of losing our parents but life was pretty darn good, considering, until the day two years later when I found her weeping in the loft of the barn. I was in there feeding old Hank, our grey stallion, when I heard a sound from above that would change my life forever. From the top of the ladder, I saw her all curled up in a ball, cowering in a corner sobbing. Wondering how she could have hurt herself, I rushed to her side. She threw herself into my arms and clung to me desperately. I was mystified as to her distress since I could not see an injury of any kind. Yet she continued to weep. I held her tight.

 

Finally, after what seemed like hours, she told me what Joel had done. Right then and there, I wanted to rush from the barn to reap vengeance on this man I thought was my friend but was held back when Beth told me of his warning.

 

“He said he would kill you, Bobi, if I told. And then he said he would hurt Papa and Nanny and probably burn the house down. You have to make believe you don’t know anything. He gave me his word he wouldn’t touch me again. Promise me, Bobi, promise me you won’t do anything.”

 

As she spoke, I was certain I could keep no such promise. However, at the same time, I knew I could bide my time. From some evil depth of my being, Satan spoke to me in a voice I welcomed. And so I agreed.

 

A week went by while Satan and I formulated a plan. Then, on a rainy Friday evening, I told Joel I was heading out to the bayou for some big-mouth bass, knowing full well he would want to go too. The weather was perfect. He couldn’t resist. We agreed to leave shortly after Papa and Nanny went to bed this time so as not to disturb them.

 

We arrived at Devil’s Hole close to midnight and set about getting our gear ready for the fish. I had an extra piece of gear in my pack this time. As Joel prepared to light us a small fire for warmth, I snuck silently up behind him and hit him with the heavy end of the hatchet I used for twig collecting. He folded unconscious to the ground and I quickly bound his legs and arms before he could recover. Then I waited, my heart pounding like it wanted to leave my chest. He came to after a few minutes, tried to sit up and failed. He looked at me with sad eyes and guessed my intentions.

 

“I didn’t mean it, Bobi, I swear. I don’t know what came over me. I won’t do it again, please!”

 

“It’s no use, Joel. I’ve made up my mind. Beth is scarred for life. You can’t undo what you did to her. You are the gators’ breakfast when the sun comes up tomorrow”

 

“Bobi, don’t do this; think of it man. You can’t get away with it. Your grandfolks will miss me and they can’t run the farm alone. They’ll tell the Sheriff I’m missing.”

 

“No they won’t, Joel. You see, you wrote them a note in the beautiful printing I taught you saying you are going to Texas and won’t be back. You even took most of your clothes with you. As far as the farm is concerned, you have taught me all I need to know.”

 

With no one within earshot for miles, he began to scream and slither away as I approached again with the hatchet. This time, it was the sharp end forward as I drew it back. His eyes conveyed a mixture of sadness, fear, and yes, love as I drove the blade into his forehead, splitting his skull like a piece of kindling. Before I lost my nerve, I pulled him over to the water and pushed him into the deepest part of the flow, directly across from the sleeping gators. He disappeared into its depths with a slight release of air and all was quiet. I could not see the blood for the darkness.

 

I buried his gear, packed mine again and walked back home to bed. The next day, I joined the usual lineup of people at St. David’s for afternoon confession.

 

Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

 

Richard Torpey April, 2009


© Copyright 2018 Richard W Torpey. All rights reserved.

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