Jeffrey De Shell

(an ex­cerpt)

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - Jeffrey DeShell

“I pray to God to rid me of God” CHAP­TER ONE: RE­QUIEM “In­troi­tus”

“Pray with­out ceas­ing.”

—Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans I 5:17

Pseudo- Diony­sius tells us, “We must be­gin with a prayer be­fore ev­ery­thing we do, but es­pe­cially be­fore we are about to talk of God” ( Di­vine Names Chap­ter 3). What is prayer? Our Lord tells us of­ten how to pray—“Our Fa­ther who art in Heaven,” (Matthew 6: 9-13)— and when to pray—“pray with­out ceas­ing”— and even what and whom we should pray for—“And what­ever you ask in prayer, you will re­ceive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21: 22) and “There­fore, con­fess your sins to­gether and pray for one another” ( James 5:16). Our Lord, in his wis­dom, even tells us how not to pray—“When you pray, you are not to be like the hyp­ocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the syn­a­gogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their re­ward in full.” (Matthew 6: 5, see also Luke 18). But this doesn’t quite an­swer the ques­tion, my broth­ers and sis­ters: What is prayer?

Prayer is lan­guage. And lan­guage is prayer. Prayer is lan­guage di­rected to­ward God. And lan­guage is prayer di­rected at both God and man. In the be­gin­ning was the Word ( John 1:1); we all know this. And Christ was the Word made flesh ( John 1:14). We all know this as well. And our lan­guage, our prayer, is the Word made word, our words that make the body that re­flect and di­rect the Word to­ward the things of the world, our fel­low hu­mans, and to­ward our­selves. Our lan­guage is a tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion from the Word into the word, from God into Christ, from Heaven into Earth. Our lan­guage is also the paschal, as pass­ing over from word into the Word, from Christ to God, from Earth to Heaven. Our lan­guage is a con­stant rep­e­ti­tion of these gifts, the aleph and omega of Chris­tian­ity, the vir­gin birth and the pas­sion. All lan­guage is prayer, and we pray with­out ceas­ing, in our hearts, minds and on our tongues.

This knowl­edge il­lu­mi­nates three dan­gers. The first dan­ger is the prob­lem of blas­phemy. If I have said above that all lan­guage is prayer, how can that in­clude blas­phemy? I have two things to say to you: First of all, I say to re­mem­ber that lan­guage is di­rected to both God and men, so that when men hear curses, God might hear praise. We can­not pre­sume to know what God hears. Se­condly, do non- be­liev­ers blas­pheme? Wouldn’t this be a waste of breath? In fact, most “non­be­liev­ers” do noth­ing but pray when they pre­tend or at­tempt to blas­pheme God. What men call blas­phemy is per­haps a purer prayer, a prayer un­en­cum­bered with hu­man sense, un­tainted by hu­man ex­pec­ta­tions and knowl­edge, a lan­guage in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to all but God. The Beast of Rev­e­la­tion is a pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion to this, but the Beast and the Whore of Baby­lon are fi­nally de­feated by the Word of God, ver­bum Dei ( Rev­e­la­tion 19:13).

The sec­ond ques­tion you may have with this knowl­edge is the ques­tion of ori­gin. Where does lan­guage as prayer and prayer as lan­guage orig­i­nate? If, as is usu­ally thought, prayer comes from man and woman, from our hearts, how can it re­flect the di­vine Word? Can we, full of sin, pos­si­bly be holy enough to speak to God? And should we use the same tongue, the same mouth, the same lan­guage that we use to speak of in­sects, of cows, and of the filth of the world, of our­selves, in short, our sins, weak­nesses, lusts and degra­da­tions, to speak to our Heav­enly Fa­ther? If we an­swer that cer­tainly prayers come from us, from our hearts, then how can we pos­si­bly think that we are blessed enough to speak to the Di­vine? Even the most pure among us, the Holy Fa­ther in Rome, has sinned. Think of the tremen­dous dis­tance sep­a­rat­ing God and our­selves, and how small and in­ad­e­quate our own sin­ful voices must be.

And if prayer does not come from us, if prayer is a gift from God, “Ev­ery best gift and ev­ery per­fect gift is from above” ( James 1:17), then we have a strange con­di­tion, a cir­cle, in which God presents a gift only on or­der that we use it to praise Him. God gives us a gift, lan­guage, only in or­der that we speak or give it back to Him. What kind of gift is this? Do we hon­estly be­lieve that God presents us with the gift of prayer only to have us “regift” it back to Him? What kind of small God needs His gift re­turned?

I say to you now that lan­guage and prayer come from God, as all things come from God. I say to you now that lan­guage and prayer come from us as well, at the same time. Just as lan­guage pre­ex­ists us, but we take it into our hearts to fash­ion it and ex­press our deep­est thoughts. Lan­guage is in­deed a gift from God, which we form to make ours, which in turn we give to God in prayer. “One thing God has spo­ken, two things I have heard” ( Psalm 62:11). This is the dual na­ture of lan­guage, and it is this dual­ity that an­swers these ques­tions about ori­gin by mak­ing them be­side the point. Yes, lan­guage and prayer come from God, but the words come and from no longer have the same mean­ing. And nei­ther does the word God. But I will speak of these things in other places.

Fi­nally, you ask about si­lence. Is si­lence prayer? Or is si­lence the lack of prayer? Our Christ gives an ex­am­ple: in Matthew 27 when our in­no­cent Lord Je­sus Christ was ac­cused by the chief priest and Pharisees, he re­sponded with si­lence, “ni­hil re­spon­dit.” And when then ques­tioned by Pi­late, again he an­swered with si­lence, “non re­spon­dit.” These si­lences were not si­lences, these si­lences were full of lan­guage and prayer; these si­lences meant ev­ery­thing. Even more than blas­phemy, si­lence is at the heart of prayer: si­lence is pure prayer. Si­lence asks for noth­ing, si­lence does noth­ing, si­lence rep­re­sents noth­ing, si­lence de­grades noth­ing, si­lence is noth­ing. In the noth­ing of si­lence, we speak to God, and God speaks to us, un­cor­rupted by the con­cerns of the world, un­cor­rupted by the con­cerns of our­selves, un­cor­rupted by any im­age of God. In si­lence, we avoid the hypocrisy of public prayer. In si­lence we ap­proach the true noth­ing that ap­proaches the si­lence of God. This is the prayer we must pray cease­lessly, the prayer of si­lence. In si­lence, we are one.

But be­ware. Even si­lence can be­come lyri­cal, can be­come public, can be­come im­pure and fallen. My words to you, my si­lence to you, per­haps falls back into lyri­cism: that is, my words and my si­lence are di­rected to­ward you and not to­ward God. That is the dan­ger of prayer. That is its dual­ity, its con­stant hypocrisy. That is its eter­nal, in­escapable irony. May God grant

us the abil­ity to pray in true si­lence. May this be the prayer we speak be­fore God. Amen. It was a quiet Sun­day morn­ing. But hot, al­ready seventy- some­thing at six- thirty. I’d been hav­ing trou­ble sleep­ing lately: fall­ing asleep im­me­di­ately but then wak­ing at four thirty and only maybe doz­ing un­til six forty-five when the alarm pushed me into the day. I wasn’t drink­ing— a cou­ple of glasses of wine with din­ner— so it wasn’t that. Thoughts of mor­tal­ity, maybe, but I’d suf­fered those since my son was born. Age.

Both my body and my head felt heavy, thick, like parts of me— heels, wrists, butt, shoul­der blades and the back of my skull— had liq­ue­fied in the night and set­tled in pools where my skin met the bed. I con­sid­ered rolling over to shut off the alarm be­fore it rang, but the Sun­day grav­ity kept my limbs pressed in place. I’d thrown off the top sheet some­time in the night, so I lay stiff, com­pletely ex­posed to the early morn­ing. I thought sud­denly of Dehmel, I don’t know why, in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion, slaugh­tered in the Ox­ford Ho­tel room. And of Lowen­thal’s de­stroyed head. I had never been so wrong. Never. I felt strangely de­tached from all the vic­tims, even Ben­der­son. Which is to say I felt no guilt. I did feel bad, for be­ing so wrong. And for Ben­der­son be­ing so wrong. And I sup­pose I sym­pa­thized with Dehmel, whom I knew least, and so who pos­sessed the great­est in­no­cence. Or at least lik­a­bil­ity. Maybe not: she mar­ried the fuck Lowen­thal in the first place. What kind of woman would do that? I know what kind of woman would do that. And crazy Zem­lin­sky, who pled guilty to mur­der two of Sixto and the gar­dener to avoid any charges with Ben­der­son. Ev­ery­one was happy to keep a lid on that. Zem­lin­sky would most cer­tainly rot in Cañon City. But the girl­friend had stones, I had to give her that. Ben­der­son got a full- dressed fu­neral.

Mostly I felt sorry not for them, but for my­self. Ben­der­son’s death af­fected me, sure, but it af­fected me mostly for how it af­fected me. When he was killed a part of my life was am­pu­tated. Truth be told, I had lit­tle af­fec­tion for the man him­self, but the past Ben­der­son, the for­mer Ben­der­son, the Ben­der­son whom I loved and who loved me, that Ben­der­son I missed. But how could I have been so wrong? I needed to let it go.

I had to get up, get some cof­fee in me, see if Ni­cholas needed a ride any­where, see if Hec­tor needed any­thing. Work was slow, a cou­ple of as­saults and gang shoot­ings, but vic­tims were sur­viv­ing, and I was con­sult­ing, not lead­ing any­thing at the mo­ment. Which was prob­a­bly a good thing. So this Sun­day was free. It would be too hot to run, un­less I left soon, and I wanted to read the pa­per and take my time over my cof­fee. I’d hit the gym later; try to get the flab off my arms. One, two, three, up.

I sat on the edge of the bed and yawned. I looked down at my chest: my boobs seemed not so much sag­ging as dis­ap­pear­ing. I wasn’t ex­actly miss­ing them. I yawned again, and thought about my mother. Two mas­tec­tomies, and dead at fifty. Never saw her grand­son. I was hav­ing a harder and harder time picturing her any­more. A quiet, un­com­plain­ing woman, am­bi­tion and joy hid­den or sti­fled by an of­ten cruel hus­band. Said cruel hus­band was see­ing out his last years in a Lake­wood nurs­ing home, vis­ited regularly by his grand­son, who liked to prac­tice on the large Stein­way Model B the Har­mony Pointe Nurs­ing Cen­ter had some­how ac­quired. Maybe I should go see him to­day. Take Nick and some booze. Maybe. Okay, time to get up, take a pee, and get some caf­feine.

I went to the bath­room, avoided the mir­ror above the sink, then put on my thin robe and padded down­stairs to the kitchen. Cof­fee smelled good, Hec­tor must be up. He was sit­ting at the kitchen ta­ble, his face be­hind the Post, steam ris­ing from his triple-sized McIn­tosh mug. He put the pa­per down when he heard me. “Hola.” “Hola. Ev­ery­thing okay?” “Ev­ery­thing’s fine. I’ve been up since five. Too hot to sleep.”

“You go­ing to mass to­day?” I asked, as I poured my­self a cup of cof­fee and added half and half.

“Went last night. Then went to the Le­gion with Maxie and Big Pe­dro.” “Stay out late?” He shook his head, glanced at his pa­per. “Eleven thirty. Big Pe­dro’s old lady’s sick. Some­thing with her belly. Could be can­cer. Daugh­ter’s com­ing up from Santa Fe.”

“That’s too bad. How old is she?” I sat down across.

“Same age as him I think. Seventy.” Cof­fee was good, strong. “Maxie says hi.” I looked at the head­line: A SCORCHER! I looked across at Hec­tor, who quickly dropped his eyes. “Why you try­ing to set me up with Maxie?”

“He’s fun and he’s got bucks. Could do worse.”

“I ain’t in the mar­ket. Be­sides, he’s ten years older than me.” “Eight.” Last fuck­ing thing I needed. “Read your pa­per.”

He lifted his right eye­brow quickly, like he was flick­ing off a fly. It was a ges­ture I rec­og­nized from his son, my dead hus­band. The day now seemed to stretch be­fore me with­out much plea­sure, in­ter­minable and hot. Hec­tor took a bite of toast and set it down care­fully on his plate. “You got plans to­day?”

“Noth­ing re­ally, why? I was think­ing about vis­it­ing my dad.”

“That’ll cheer you up.” He picked up the pa­per and an­gled it so he could both read and keep my face in sight, but he had to tilt his head so far back to read through his lower bifocal lenses that his necked popped loudly. He frowned and raised the Lo­cal Sec­tion up to his face.

“No, it won’t cheer me up,” I sighed. I thought of my fa­ther’s wild stringy white hair, the smell of piss and dis­in­fec­tant, the swollen an­kles of his cata­tonic room­mate. I hoped the AC was work­ing. How long had it been since I last vis­ited? Be­fore Me­mo­rial Day. April? March, def­i­nitely March. Christ. I’d try to get there well be­fore noon, so I wouldn’t have to eat lunch with him. And bring him a bot­tle of some­thing.

Would that be me, would that be the way I’d go out? I’d rather do a Ben­der­son. Ex­cept for the dump­ster part. And the naked part. And that wouldn’t be fair to Nick. Not that lin­ger­ing in some hell home would be all that great for him ei­ther. I picked up the front page and started to scan.

I barely heard my cell ring softly in my bed­room.

He pre­ferred stay­ing in and eat­ing Sun­day din­ner by him­self. Since the Ger­man came (there weren’t enough Poles to make a dif­fer­ence), the af­ter-mass meals had be­come te­dious, the con­ver­sa­tions dom­i­nated by the­o­log­i­cal gob­bly­gook or le­gal hair­split­ting, rather than light talk of wine and football. Here, he could fo­cus on his food, and not have to think about ques­tions of tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion, stat­ues of lim­i­ta­tions or the woman’s pill for the fol­low­ing morn­ing. At home he

could con­cen­trate on the de­light­ful sen­sa­tion of very young cow cooked quickly with for­ti­fied wine, but­ter, and pine nuts, not hav­ing to pause to pre­tend to lis­ten to Fa­ther Ver­tov’s stuffy and in­com­pre­hen­si­ble the­o­ries, to smile thinly at Mon­signor Belavaqua’s at­tempts at hu­mor, or nod at Car­di­nal Green’s ar­gu­ments about pre­teen boy whores. What did they know any­way? They never left the City. He was, as the Amer­i­cans said, boots on the ground. Not that he had to lis­ten to any­one any­more. He didn’t even have to pre­tend.

Here at home he could be alone with his chop, his string beans, and his wine. He could take off his shoes, sit com­fort­ably in his shirt­sleeves, lis­ten to mu­sic if he so de­sired, and think or not as the mood struck. He wasn’t lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, nor was he think­ing much. The veal was good, not dry like at the Sec­re­tary’s, although he would have liked a few more pine nuts. This was an ex­cep­tion­ally good wine, a 2001 Case Basse Brunello. He smiled to him­self as he thought that he’d fin­ish the bot­tle, yes, likely be­fore dessert, which would then re­quire a finé be­fore bed. The beans, how­ever, were not crisp enough, no, not all. He’d have to say some­thing to Fa­ther Benoit. He took another bite of veal. Per­haps the per­fec­tion of the veal com­pen­sated for the de­fi­ciency of the beans, and if he were to chas­tise Benoit for the lat­ter he’d have to praise him for the for­mer. The veal was de­li­cious, with just the right amount of ver­mouth. Sweet ver­mouth. He’d rather not speak to Benoit un­less he had to. But he liked string beans, and very much would like to avoid a rep­e­ti­tion of this par­tic­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ence. They were ed­i­ble, yes, but not en­joy­able. And it would be most un­fair to Benoit to let him be­lieve his kitchen was pleas­ing in all re­spects when it was not. He would have to say some­thing to­mor­row. He would men­tion the suc­cess of the veal as well.

He poured another glass of wine. Dabbed his lips with his nap­kin. He’d glimpsed the Holy Fa­ther ear­lier, walk­ing with Beau­ti­ful Ge­org in the Apos­tolic Palace, his head bent and his arms clasped be­hind his back. Beau­ti­ful Ge­org gave him a tiny, ner­vous smile, and his Heav­enly Fa­ther seemed to have closed his eyes. No mat­ter, he was do­ing God’s work. The recog­ni­tion came from God. Let not the left hand know what the right was do­ing. He was the right hand of God.

From whom all bless­ings came. In­clud­ing this meal, this meat and this wine. He put a small morsel of veal in his mouth and kept it on his tongue. This was a beau­ti­ful gift, from Christ the Lord, and he was not wor­thy. No, he was not wor­thy to re­ceive such a won­der, such a per­fect morsel, such a de­light­ful bite. From God to the mother cow, to the young calf, from the Ty­rol but­teros to the truck driv­ers, to the butch­ers, and then to Fa­ther Benoit, and the dairy farm­ers, the wine and spice mer­chants, the gro­cers, all to his ta­ble and then to his mouth. All un­der the watch­ful eyes of Je­sus, a gift to him and to him alone. He moved the morsel around with his tongue and bit into it with his right mo­lars. The juice of the meat mixed with the but­ter and spiced wine, ah, an in­ti­ma­tion of Heaven, just this side of per­fec­tion. He was not wor­thy to re­ceive such a boun­ti­ful gift, and he closed his eyes and bowed his head ever so slightly in grat­i­tude and amaze­ment.

He chewed slowly and swal­lowed, then opened his heavy lids and swal­lowed again. Another sip of wine, ex­quis­ite. Ad co­enam vi­tae aeter­nae per­d­u­cat nos, Rex aeter­nae glo­riae. Amen. He set his glass down and quickly made the sign of the Cross in front of his face. Per­haps some grappa af­ter the Brunello. He’d re­ceived a present of a cou­ple of bot­tles of home­made grappa gi­alla from his friend, Mon­signer Guz­man, Je­suit. The Je­suits had ev­ery­thing. They were al­ways so smart, and pol­ished. He sighed. He’d done fine for him­self, for a poor but cu­ri­ous coun­try priest. He was ed­u­cated and or­dained by the Fran­cis­cans, and brought to the Vat­i­can by Fa­ther Ci­avonne, for whom he did a few small fa­vors, three years be­fore John Paul II died, and the Ger­man was in­stalled. A cou­ple of small ones would help him sleep.

God’s gifts. And God’s work. Food was one of God’s gifts. So was wine. And sleep. And Re­demp­tion. And to help pay for this, he did God’s work. As best he could. But it was not re­ally pay­ment. How could it be? It was more ac­knowl­edge­ment of the Grace of God. “My grace is suf­fi­cient for you, for my power is made per­fect in weak­ness.” He was weak, but his weak­ness al­lowed God and his power to work through him. He smiled and took another bite of the veal. It was not pay­ment, no, for the gift was too great to ever be re­paid. His work was a re­minder, to him­self, that he could never re­pay God for his gifts and bless­ings. His work was a prayer, a prayer of weak­ness.

He yawned. The wine and the heavy meal were hav­ing an ef­fect. He took a fork­ful of the beans into his mouth and pushed his plate away. Be­sides the sog­gi­ness, they were sauced with too much vine­gar. He swal­lowed with some dif­fi­culty. These too were a gift from God, he sup­posed. More but­ter, and per­haps le­mon rather than vine­gar would be an im­prove­ment. And cer­tainly the cook­ing time halved: this is not Eng­land, Fa­ther Benoit. Although be­ing French, he should know his way around les hari­cot verts. Bel­gian, not French. Per­haps that ex­plained it. He was fin­ished with the wine, and the grappa would be waste­ful. As would ad­di­tional wine. He re­cited the Ágimus tibi gra­tias and made the sign of the cross.

He yawned again and loos­ened his col­lar. It was stuffy in his small sit­ting room where he took his meals: the drapes were heavy and the small ta­ble fan in­ef­fec­tive. He was pleased he had an air con­di­tioner in his bed­room. He would sponge him­self with cool wa­ter be­fore his com­pline. He looked at his cal­en­dar: St Bene­dicta of the Cross—Jer 31: 31 and Matthew 16: 16-18. “And I say to you that you are Peter, that upon the rock I will build my church.” He smiled. His cell­phone sig­naled the re­ceipt of a text mes­sage. And al­most im­me­di­ately his land­line be­gan to ring.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. But is the Lord with me? It doesn’t feel like any­body’s with me. Not with this ter­ri­ble, ter­ri­ble pain. I don’t get no sleep, Lord, hardly no sleep at all. I don’t know how I can stand it, Lord, how I can stand it. Bayer, Tylenol, Advil, none of it works, Lord, none of it. I talk to the doc­tor and the doc­tor, she’s a woman, she just looks at me. Maybe the priest will lis­ten, maybe the fa­ther will have some ideas. My neck hurts so bad, I can barely drive to church, Lord, barely drive the six blocks to Mass. One of these days I’m go­ing to end up in the hos­pi­tal, Lord.

God’s gifts. And God’s work. Food was one of God’s gifts. So was wine. And sleep. And Re­demp­tion. And to help pay for this, he did God’s work. As best he could.

I’m sorry, Lord. I know you’re my sav­ior and my per­sonal sal­va­tion. I know you sent Your only son, our Lord Je­sus Christ, to die for my sins. I know you sent Your most holy ser­vant, Saint Madron, to in­ter­cede for all those in pain, Lord, some with pain worse than mine. I know you don’t al­low more than we can bear, Lord. And what is my lit­tle pain com­pared to your Je­sus on the cross, Lord, it’s noth­ing.

In the name of the Fa­ther, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. There’s no holy wa­ter. It looks like I’ll have to cross over to the other side, and I can’t see any lit­tle red lights on over here. It’s so quiet here in the cathe­dral, so peace­ful. It looks like hardly any­body here. There’s an al­tar boy straight­en­ing the missals, but no­body else I can see. I like to say my con­fes­sion be­fore Mass, that way I can take com­mu­nion with a pure soul. Mr. DeMarco, rest in peace, used to moan and groan ev­ery sin­gle Sun­day. “What can’t you wait for eight- thirty mass once in a while? Even God ain’t up this early. It’d be nice to sleep in and have a nice Sun­day break­fast ev­ery so of­ten, wouldn’t it? I mean a man has a right to ask for that.” I slept like a baby back then. It was hard for me to get up. I loved Mr. DeMarco Lord, You know that, but I didn’t al­ways love the foolish things that came out his mouth.

I do love this church, this I do. All the beau­ti­ful stained glass, praise You Je­sus. Look at Je­sus over there, ris­ing to heaven, sur­rounded by those beau­ti­ful an­gels, isn’t that a sight this early morn­ing. The light just takes my breath away, Lord, stream­ing through that blue and white. It hurts my neck to look up that high, but isn’t that a sight.

All the doors are closed and the lit­tle red light is on, so I’ll have to wait. There’s no name­plate on the door. Hmmm. I’ll just sit on this pew, I don’t mind wait­ing. In the name of the Fa­ther, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, amen. I’m not go­ing to kneel, Lord, if that’s all right with you. There’s not another soul around. Oh, what’s this on my glove? Lip­stick. I hope that will come out with some bleach. I can keep my thumb over it like that. I do hope I can get that spot out, maybe put some Shout on it first. I’ve had these gloves for­ever, sim­ple white cot­ton gloves. The sim­plest is al­ways the best. I have another pair, one for win­ter, thin leather Mr. Demarco, bless his soul, gave to me for Easter a year be­fore he died. But these white cot­ton ones I’ve had for­ever. I don’t re­mem­ber get­ting lip­stick on them be­fore. The door is still closed and the light is still on. That per­son must have a lot to talk about.

I don’t have so much to talk about. You know that, Lord. Not that I’m per­fect, far from it, I’m a sin­ner and un­wor­thy of Your holy grace. But my sins, they’re tired sins, Lord, small and tired. I don’t think I have a mor­tal sin left in me. Not that I’d want to, Lord, not that I’d want to of­fend thee. And the fathers, they don’t want to hear the same old same old, how I com­plain too much, how I’m vain, and self­ish, and I want a new Sears toaster and a trip to Hawaii this Christ­mas, and I don’t do for oth­ers nearly as much as I should, Lord, and I don’t re­spect the mem­ory of our dearly de­parted Mr. DeMarco, my hus­band of forty years, not be­cause I don’t miss him, Lord, but be­cause I can’t re­mem­ber him the way I used to. I’m sorry honey, but it’s true. Those good fathers, I must bore them to tears. Es­pe­cially that old one, Fa­ther Philip, the one who al­ways gives me three rosaries to say. I think he’s sleep­ing half the time. I don’t like that young African, Fa­ther An­toine, who breathes through his mouth. You can hear him be­fore you get in the booth. I won­der who’s in there now. It’s odd that they didn’t bring a name­plate. All of the other lights are off, and the door’s slightly open.

They’re re­ally tak­ing their time, Lord. It’s al­ready a quar­ter to six. Usu­ally they close up at six so peo­ple can get ready for Mass. I’m not sure there’ll be enough time for me.

Maybe if I walk by, some­one will hear me and hurry it up. There’s usu­ally never any­one here this early, that’s why I come. I’ve never had to wait this long be­fore. Oh, oh, my neck. The other booths are empty; I can see that. Is there any­one else around who could help? I could ask that al­tar boy to see if he could find another priest, but that would likely take too long. I could wait un­til next week, I sup­pose. I’m go­ing to get up and walk past.

I can’t hear any­thing. What’s that on the floor? Some­one must have dropped their wal­let. I’d bet­ter pick it up and give it to the dea­con. There’re so many sneak thieves around ev­ery­where, even in church. That’s why they have to lock the col­lec­tion boxes. I could give it to that al­tar boy, but lead us not into temp­ta­tion, Lord. I won­der who it be­longs to. Willem Martinez it says. Colorado driver’s li­cense. He looks like a crazy, like a drug ad­dict. Four dol­lars. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the king­dom of heaven. Maybe he’s in con­fes­sion now, that’s why it’s tak­ing so long. I can’t hear any­thing, though. I shouldn’t stand up here like this, go­ing through a man’s wal­let.

Did some­one spill wine on the floor? This church is usu­ally so clean. Who’s been drink­ing in the con­fes­sional booth? Maybe some­one snuck in and passed out last night. This isn’t right. There’s no noise, not a sound, and some­thing’s spilled on the floor in­side. I wish I’d brought my other glasses, but I don’t think its wine. I’ll knock. Lord, for­give me. Fa­ther, are you in there? Is ev­ery­thing all right? Fa­ther? Lord, this isn’t right. The door’s not locked. Je­sus, for­give me.

It’s dark in here. Oh God, oh God, of Lord, of Je­sus Christ! I can’t speak, I can’t breathe. He has no face! No sound, no sound. Lord Je­sus, he has no face! Oh God!

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