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My Father’s Wish MAG
Elliott was admiring Tom Cruise’s ripped bod when the doorbell rang. He sighed. The plastic DVD cover hit the coffee table with a dejected clang; the plasma TV blinked off, black screen bursting into an ephemeral white star. He got up from the flattened yet coveted duvet and stretched, meticulously checking his appearance in the darkened TV screen. As he pivoted into the front foyer, he flattened his spiky hair and rubbed at a toothpaste stain on his shirt.
The doorbell rang again, gallingly persistent.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming.” He flung open the door. “Oh.”
Outside stood a pale young man in a somber Roman cassock. A silver crucifix dangled from a fine chain around his neck; his pale knuckles clutched a Bible and a rosary. Pinned to his chest was a shiny black name tag that gave his name as Father Jack.
“Good morning, Elliott,” Father Jack cheerfully said. His effete gestures and weak chin betrayed an uncertainty beneath his delightful goodwill. “May I come in?”
Elliott gritted his teeth. Dad sent for the priest, huh? No doubt he still thinks I can be saved from the eternal flames of hell with a little persuasion from the parish. He hung his head in disgusted amusement. “Yeah, whatever.” He stepped back from the door. The young priest hesitated. Elliott rolled his eyes. “What do you expect me to do? Usher you in on my knees?” Embarrassed, Father Jack promptly stepped inside. “That’s more like it,” suspired Elliott. “Now make yourself comfortable. I’ll go and get drinks.” Before the little priest could protest, Elliott headed down to the wine cellar, leaving Father Jack to look after himself.
Father Jack’s brown socks slipped out of his penny loafers onto the hardwood. A big toe poked out of a hole; red-faced, he shoved one foot under the other and sat on the leather sofa. He looked about him, almost suspicious of the grandeur. “It’s a nice house you’ve got here,” he called, hoping Elliott could hear him.
“Yeah, my father bought it for half a million bucks.” Elliott’s voice sounded hollow and faint from in the cellar. “You’d expect it to be something.”
Hot, smelting sunlight streamed in through the open French windows, forming a pool of golden lava that enveloped Jack in his soutane. He nervously laughed, tugging on his collar. It was stifling.
Elliott returned with the drinks: frothy, pink champagne in tumblers. The cleric looked slightly shocked. “What is this?”
Elliott shrugged. “My father won’t notice. Besides, we gotta celebrate.”
“You graduating from your seminary and my coming out.”
There was a delicate silence, broken only by Elliott’s slurping of his champagne.
“But surely ... is the latter cause for celebration?” Father Jack asked, hands irrevocably clasped, jutting elbows resting on his knees. Elliott did not reply. Stiltedly, the cleric resolutely continued. “Elliott, you are not ... What makes you think - ?”
“Why don’t you just say the word? I’m tired of people beating around the bush.” Florid patches were beginning to come out on Elliott’s face and neck. “Yes, I’m gay, okay? Ask me the question again.”
Father Jack looked away uncomfortably. His incongruous Adam’s apple bobbed with each word: “Why do you think you’re gay, Elliott?”
Elliott smiled at this small victory. “Why are you a priest, John?”
“That has nothing to do with it -”
“Yes, it does. It’s the exact same question.” He paused to chuckle at his small joke. “Why are you a priest?”
Father Jack wavered. He thought for a second, gazing at the floor, seemingly lost in the beauty of the hardwood. “I ... I don’t know ...”
“There you go.”
Father Jack seemed flustered, whether at his lack of faith or his defeat. “But you must know. There must be a reason. What makes you think you’re gay?”
Again that mysterious, arrogant smile crossed Elliott’s face. The next words he said were so soft, but so full of venom, that Father Jack had to lean in to hear them. “I’m gay, Jeff, because of the way I’m looking at you right now.” Elliott roared in laughter, slapping his knees.
Father Jack flushed a bright candy red. It was a few seconds before he could compose himself. “Please refrain from this in the future, Elliott.” Then he coughed discreetly into his sleeve.
Elliott crossed and uncrossed his legs. He noticed that the priest’s champagne was still untouched.
“Drink up,” he said. “It’ll cool you down.”
Father Jack desisted. “No, thanks. We must get back on track.”
Elliott shrugged. “Suit yourself, John.”
“Jack. The name’s Jack. Father Jack.”
“Sorry, Jake.” Elliott drained his glass. “I’m going to get some more. I’ll be right back.”
Father Jack again was left alone. He fidgeted, wiping the sweat that was streaming down his neck. He looked out the window at the blazing sun. Damn this collar, he thought, and with a vehement wrench, he tore it off. It really is too hot. His cassock burned at the touch. He undid the top few buttons of his shirt.
His gaze fell on the glass of champagne. Unthinkingly, he reached out. His fingers looped around the graceful stem, lightly cupping the cool liquid. Maybe I will have some ...
Impulsively, he downed the drink in a single gulp. The chilled, bubbly liquid felt refreshing against his parched throat. He gasped in relief. The cold in his stomach was beginning to seep through.
Feeling a pleasant buzz, he picked up a DVD on the coffee table - “Minority Report.” Tom Cruise stared balefully at him from the cover.
“Hey, have you seen it?” Elliott was back, with the entire bottle this time. A twinkle flashed in his eye when he saw the empty tumbler in Father Jack’s hand. The latter blushed, like a child caught with its hand in the cookie jar.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Man, you’re missing out. It’s a great movie.”
“I imagine so.” Father Jack smiled wistfully at the floor.
Elliott laughed. “Wow, they really don’t let you watch anything in priest school. Would you like to see it?”
The little priest brightened. “Sure, I’d love to.”
“Okay, I’ll go make some popcorn. You start the movie. Wait, you do know how to work a DVD player, right?”
Jack rolled his eyes, “Where do you think I’m from?”
Later as the end credits scrolled down the screen, like mutated Tetris squares, Elliott clicked off the TV. For a few minutes, they simply sat there, silent, staring straight into space. “Hey, Elliott.” “Yeah?” “Are you okay?”
Elliott got up from the couch. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” “Are you sure? I’m really sorry I couldn’t be of much help.” “No, it’s okay. Besides, it’s late. You better be heading back.”
Jack stood up, flustered at having overstayed his hospitality. “Yes, of course, I’m sorry.” He almost sprinted toward the door.
Elliott reached out to grasp his arm. Jack stopped. They faced each other, eyes intent. Elliott relaxed his grip, letting his arm fall to his side.
“Um, you forgot your collar,” Elliott said, extending the starched white fabric in his hand. He was careful not to graze Jack’s fingers. “Thanks for coming. I ... I ... really enjoyed talking to you. Yes, what you said was very enlightening.”
“No problem. I ... the movie was great. Thanks.”
“Please come again, Jack.”