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"Clean Leap," short story excerpt

Wednesday 6/16/21

A man goes to confession and he sits in the booth, which he figures is probably the proper name, but it could also be the compartment and he prefers to call it the slot.

“Good day,” he says, then adds a “Father.”

“A good day to you, my son,” the priest replies.

“I’ll be honest with you,” the man begins.


“That is best,” the priest replies, cutting off the man in the middle of his sentence, which the man elects to overlook and not regard as rude.


“I’ll be honest with you,” the man begins again. “I haven’t done anything wrong for a while. Not actually outwardly.”


“Sometimes we sin without knowing we have sinned,” the priest suggested.


“No no no,” the man expostulates. He’s aware that he’s used the word “no” three times because that matters to priests and he wants to show his sincerity and conviction. “It is not that. I promise you.”


“Then why are you here, sir?” the priest asked.

The man isn't sure if the priest sounds miffed, as though he views his time is being wasted.


“Am I bothering you?”


The priest is taken aback, though he did in truth attempt to score a point by sounding miffed.


He himself has gone to confession for the very reason of lacking the patience he wishes to have with his parishioners.


“Not at all, my son,” the priest replies. “I am here to hear, serve, and absolve. Are you contrite?”


“Like I said,” the man continued, “I haven’t done anything for a while. I’ve thought things, but you’re allowed to think anything, right?”


“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. That can be a thought.”

“Well, sure. But it’s not a crime. You can want to do anything to anyone in your thoughts. Your neighbor. His wife. Yourself. Your child. They’re your thoughts. No one went to jail for anything they thought. You’re free there. And maybe nowhere else.”


“I’m sorry you feel that way,” the priest said.


“Ha,” the man responded. “It’s like I’m hearing your confession. I absolve you, Father. Did I do it right?”


The priest was unsure how to grant comfort. He was less sure how to offer guidance. When he was unsure about counsel, direction, practical ways to advise to take firm steps, he over-compensated on soft tones. Questions he once thought may have proved startling, suggesting what he might have known, were not taken as startling at all. Pain had a radiance making of its center a cynosure that the sufferer thought could be noted by anyone who took the time. Anyone who cared. Who listened. Who wanted to know.