-Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood-
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”
He stared at the ceiling as he reclined on the big bed, his naked body stretched straight, seeking relief from his back pain.
“It’s been years, my son, since your last confession. I hear desperation in your voice. Is the Church your last bastion of hope?”
A mournful smile of contrition and watery eyes looked upward to the ceiling. He would play both parts of this little satire from his soul, not mocking the billions of people who habitually practiced their faith in a Deity, rather, an awkward attempt at an anodyne for his pain.
“Yes, Father, on all accounts…” a back spasm interrupted his soliloquy and he sought another position on the bed. He was too tightly wound and needed to move his limbs in some exercises the cute young lady in physical therapy had insisted he practice each day.
Finally, he found some relief and continued with his conversation with the ‘Holy Father’ there in the center of his ceiling. “Yes, Father, many years, and, in conflicting ways, a lifetime ago, yet, now, here, as the filmstrip of my earthly adventure unveils itself to me, my weekly spiritual visits to your Church seems not so far away.”
The man was almost ready to hear a reply. Not to be, he continued.
“So, on to my confession, Father, one, I fear will take more than a few ‘Hail Marys’ and a heavy penitence to absolve.” The man closed his eyes and his face took on a grimace.
“I confess to one of Man’s oldest of the seven sins, Pride. All my life I’ve taken umbrage with people who sully me, sometimes, in simple remarks that attempt to jest and tease. Perhaps that sin comes from a youthful disconnect with family and a poor quality of life. This sin has cost me friends and love connections. It is also truth to say it is the least of my sins.
“I confess to an earlier life rife with excessive sensual pleasures, Lust/Debauchery of the wicked and most wild, orgy-filled, salacious kind. I sought out and experimented with life’s underworld of Bacchus-plus drug madness. There were moments of intense euphoria, gratification, and immoral depravity.
“And, when the days and nights of playing Nero’s mad fiddle ended, there were tears, self-recrimination, times for soul-wrenching and no resolutions: preparation-time, it could be said, for the next ‘big toot’.
“I confess, Father, to periods of Envy, of Sloth, of Gluttony, and of Greed.
“There remains one more sin, Father, that of Wrath. I have saved it for the final portion of my confession because there was a prelude of most, if not all, the seven virtues before its denouement… a period in my life of happiness so fulfilling, so real, that it seemed my life had found its right and true moral compass.
“Having run the gamut of my ‘fiddling' days, I sought to find a more righteous purpose in my life. A friend of mine who had been lost in the same forest of shame as I invited me to go to church with him on a beautiful Sunday morning in June. After smiling stupidly at the idea, I decided to go…to see how the ‘moral half’ lived.
“Are you still with me, Father? Have I lost you in my recount of decadence?”
The man could almost see the Father’s smile. “How could I not? What with such an interesting life you present to me?”
“You, Father, speak with a forked tongue. You must know it’s the fires of hell I’m destined for!
“Whatever, at the beautiful church with my friend, I met Maureen, a woman of remarkable beauty I felt destiny had placed in my path. We both felt a Karmic bonding and began a long relationship which ended in marriage.
“Our love was pure and, by any standard, storybook. We danced in the moonlight and worked every day at our jobs, saved our money and became wealthy, mostly by her artistic talent and her huge following. We were together all the moments we were not working or at a painting exhibition.
“We had a baby boy who died in his sixth month of an undiagnosed tumor.
“Maureen and I were devastated by Brian’s death, but, for her, there was an emptiness she could not fill. She began drinking. She stopped painting, and fate pulled her from me into the arms of another man. She was still trying to fill the void left by Brian.
“We began to argue, our spats becoming an ugly, yet another obtrusion to our love.
“Last night, Maureen arrived home after midnight, clearly in the mood for another spat. I pleaded with her to go to bed. She became infuriated with me and began slapping me. The slaps made me angry, and I tried to wrap my arms around her to carry her off to bed. She stomped my foot with the heel of her shoe and pushed me backward. I began to fall and grabbed her wrist instinctively to secure my footing. Then, she, too, began to fall, and I let go so she could get her footing. Her head banged loudly into the granite counter in our bar area and she went down onto the carpet, blood spreading out in a profuse flow from the gash. Maureen died last night, Father.”
The man could almost hear the sorrow in the Father’s voice, see the pain on his face through a small imagined window in a small imagined confessional.
On the bed, as tears flowed from the man’s eyes, he saw a pale shadowy figure, an apparition, Maureen, her arms extended toward him, her sad tearful eyes and still beautiful face beckoning to him.
The man’s face was covered in tears, his voice gagging and pitiful gasps, as he thrust the butcher knife upward into his heart.
The bedroom was silent in its darkness as the two wraiths walked across the room to eternity.
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood - May 25, 2017
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