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The Preacher This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The church, set apart from the town, alone in this midwestern desert. The wind blows dirt around in clouds, flying in the night sky. It whispers and reminds the young priest sitting on the steps how alone he is. This emptiness reminds him why he joined this church and chose the life he did. He sees the dull headlights miles away on this flat, barren land, and rises, patting the dust off his black pants. He pushes the door open slowly, and enters with the smell of incense and must in the air. He walks to the altar, lighting the parish of candles he set up. The light luminates the hardwood floors and the crucifix hanging on the wall behind him, the clay face of Christ flickering with the flame, a man hiding in the shadows.

As the wax begins to drip slowly down to the base, so do his memories begin to crawl down to his conscience. His father, unshaven face and empty, brown eyes. How his fist hurt almost as much as his words. The fist, that would leave the bitter taste of what the old man felt for him with split lips, and the words that would strip any pleasure he got out of life. This slip from reality ends as he comes back with a jolt, looking down at his hands. The blood runs in drops from his wrists from where his fingers dug in. He pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and dabs the small cuts, wiping away the red to reveal old scars, attempted before he found a purpose, a salvation.

He hears the car pull up, disturbing the silence with rustling of gravel stones. He looks at the mosaic of colored glass, the saintly figures etched in, the windows that reveal nothing outside. Footsteps creeping up the stairs, voices whisper, and the priest looks at the oak double doors and braces himself against a pew. He's ready. The door opens with a push of a latch, and four teenagers face him. The teens look at him, one lights a cigarette, the stroke of a match the only sound. They walk in, the priest welcomes them back and notices one is missing. The smoker sits on the edge of the front pew, while the others sit on the floor by the altar. A young girl about sixteen says she'll go first tonight. She coughs to clear her throat, and begins talking about last night and how it contrasts with the first time he did it. Her voice chokes, but she continues, rubbing bruises hidden beneath layers of clothes and lies. The young father listens, his own demons coming to the surface with every word from her lips. All tell their stories of the week, the abuse from loving parents. The father has his turn, and reveals more about his past, his escape from hell to the present. When he's finished, they all get up and walk to the doors. One hugs him, putting his cigarette out first. They all take the steps to the car, turn around and wave before driving out into the early morning sun, its rays just peaking over the cliffs in the distance.

These are always late nights. The priest pulls his eyes away from the sunrise and re-enters his sanctuary of secrets. He moves between the pews, stops at the front one. He bends down to a single knee, faces the cross, and picks up the cigarette butts next to him. The holy man gets up and retrieves some incense from the back room. He lights it, the smoke rises out of the urn, killing the scent of the smoker. He hopes these secret meetings help ease the souls of these tortured four. He hopes the abuse will end, the pain will go away. With these thoughts, he kneels before the cross, looks into the eyes of the crucified savior, and prays.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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