Me: Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been twelve weeks since my last confession (holidays, measles, some reason).
Priest: Twelve weeks? This had better be good.
It was never good. As a performance. As worthy of anybody’s while. I was a boring sinner and a more boring penitent. Same made-ups every time. I’m nine, what do you want? I told a lie to my mother; I was mean to one of my sisters; I… Jesus, that’s about it. What do you think I’m going to tell you in this daft old wardrobe? You know my mother, for God’s sake.
You know everyone’s mother. Mothers crouch hiding in their hallways when you come a-knocking on your rounds. That’s how much everyone round here knows you – they want to avoid your creepy teatime drop-ins. Your parishioners have priest holes to hide from the priests. Because of you, and how much you’re not liked.
And so here’s one:
Bless me Father, for I have sinned. Along with the rest of the family, I hid from you and pretended to be out when you came down the drive. All the neighbours were phoning around to tip each other off that you were on one of your occasional teatime prowls of the parish. It felt like we were all a part of something – something exciting and, yes, sinful. It feels exciting to be confessing this too, a real change from the usual stuff. I guess it’s the kind of thing you want to hear confessed. Good material. You must have wondered where everyone had got to that Tuesday. Father? Are you okay in there? Hello?
Little in life measured up to the elation felt upon leaving the confessional. Knowing that it’d be a full four weeks before I had to endure that holy charade again. Even at nine I was plenty aware that the dynamic of merciful release was very much down to the dispensing with an ordeal, and not to do with any spiritual healing. It was the same elation felt on leaving the dentist’s, the barber’s, the chiropodist – all of whom asked for confessions of sorts. I felt relief and uplift exactly because I’d gotten away with another bout of play-acting, and the bored-sounding old man behind the grill had sighed as he always did.
Have you apologised to your sister? To your mother? Questions he did not ask. No direction to the obvious, pragmatic, the at-hand.
I needed to get to the chip shop, which was my job after Saturday confession. The family were waiting, hungry at home, looking out for me coming down the drive.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012.