Lord Have Mercy

December 11, 2010
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Alone, a man walks up the granite-grey steps of a church and enters. He smiles grimy teeth, and asks where he can confess.

The confessions are in an ill lit room, and the man sits on a dark wooden chair, leaning forward to peer through the screen at the hidden priest. The man smiles his grimy grin and asks, “Tell me father, do people confess future sins?”

The priest considers this for a moment and says, “No. No one before.”

The smiling man displays his teeth again almost in a forced act of formality, and the room is silent.

Seeing that the man means for him to go on, the priest continues, “I mean, no one’s done it before, but if it’s a sin that’s unavoidable, and I suppose that’s what you’re suggesting, then it’s better than going unforgiven. Are you saying you’re absolutely sure you’re going to commit this certain sin?”

“Yes, Father. I am. Tonight.”

The priest sighs and says, “Well I suppose, but God would rather you not sin altogether.”

The man doesn’t answer, and the priest doesn’t pursue it any more. Somewhere in the back of the church a organ strikes up, the man grins and makes the sign of the cross.

“Forgive me father for I shall sin.”

“And son, what is the nature of your sin?”

The confessor draws pleasure from the empty room and smiles greater.

“Murder, father.”

The priest stops, and sits very still. The man smiles more.

“My son, this is a terrible thought.” Then, “When did you last confess?”

“Today will be my first.”

“And why would you kill?”

Silence.

“Will I be forgiven father?”

The confessor leans to the screen, face practically pressing against it, even through the screen the priest can smell his rancid breath.

“Why would you kill?”

Teeth gritted, the man hisses, “Father, I asked, will you forgive me?”

“It’s God that must forgive you not me.”

“But will you forgive me?”

“Tell me why you would kill.”

With a sudden rage the man stands and screams, “Can I be forgiven, Father?”

The priest looks through the screen, “Not yet... Please,” He begs, “Can I try to talk you out of this? Why do you have to kill? I’m sure we can think of a peaceful way to resolve your problem whatever it may be.”
The man remains standing, breathing fiercely.

“Father... Can you not forgive me?”

Silence, The man’s breathing returns to normal then he sits back down, he’s calmer, “Father you know... I do have a gun.”

“You wouldn’t. Not a Priest.”

“Father, even a priest can’t predict a stranger’s actions.”

The man can hear the priest breathing heavily.

“Please, please. Calm down...”

In reluctance, he says, “OK, OK, just... just... Repeat after me.”

Unsure of himself the priest begins, “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee” Then he adds starting to sob, “Or for planning to offend Thee.”

Happy, the man repeats, “O my god, I am heartily sorry for planning to offend thee.”

In monotone the priest says, “And I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell.”

Smiling his grimy grin, the confessor repeats every word.

Continuing, the priest goes, “But most of all because they offend Thee, my God.”

The man repeats.

“Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve.”

“Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve.”

The priest sobs. Then he continues, “With the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins.”

“With the help of thy grace, to confess my sins.”

“To do penance, and amend my life.”

The man repeats, “To do penance, and amend my life.”

“Amen.”

“Amen.”

Silence.

Softly the man says, “Will I be forgiven Father?”

The Priest is trembling. Afraid, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

Standing again. And louder. He anger is homogenous with his words together and they flow from him like lava from a bubbling volcano. He grits his teeth again: “Will I be forgiven Father?”

The priest is crying.

“Do I have your Penance father?”

“No go away, I refuse.”

Man, “Father... I really do have a gun.”

“No. Son. Don’t”

“Then forgive me father.”

Through crying, the priest answers, “OK. OK.”

He pauses. Then he looks straight up and appears to be praying, moving his lips in solid silence. Then he says, “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself, and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace. I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father...” gulp, “And of the Son... and of the Holy Spirit... Amen.”

Softly, “Will I be forgiven father. Then, tonight, when I do kill?”
The priest is crying and curled in a ball in his chair.

“Yes, tonight if you do kill then God will forgive you. Now leave.”

The man smiles his grimy grin.

“But will you forgive me Father?”

“Yes, yes, please, leave me.”

With honest sincerity the man says, “Thank you father.”
The man rises from his seat. He withdraws a gun. The priest is curled up and he doesn’t see. The Man holds it there a moment, poised toward the wicker screen.

He says, “Father, if you can’t see, I really do have a gun.”

The priest stops his crying. The room is silent, the air settles like thick snow. Airy organ notes drift through the room, and the choir sings in Latin voices.

“Lord, have mercy.”

The man smiles, “Yes, Lord, have mercy on us all.”

Then he fires. Again, again, and again, splinting the wicker screen. The priest slides backward off his seat, and drops to the floor.

The man leaves.





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