For I have sinned - Editor
Gray Cell Blue
by J.R. Carson
The cell was four foot by six foot, with a seven foot ceiling. It had been Chris’s home for over a year now, as he awaited his court-appointed fate. He sat on his thin bed, head in hands, with sweat shining on his forehead. A voice in his mind caught his attention.
“How are you holding up, Christopher?”
Chris turned to see that, rather than originating from his head, the voice belonged to Father Muldoon, now sitting beside Chris on the bed. His white clerical collar was missing and his top shirt button was undone. Father Muldoon wore a tweed sport jacket rather than his vestments. Even in his street clothes, the priest had an air of softness, congeniality. Chris shifted his weight a bit and answered.
“I’m alright, Father.” His voice cracked a bit. “Time’s getting short.” He looked back down at his feet.
“There’s still time,” Father Muldoon said, “for the sacrament of penance.”
“Because He doesn’t know?”
The priest sighed heavily, showing a trace of age in his slumped shoulders. “Then to yourself, Christopher. You have to face yourself before you go to face God.”
“I trusted you, Father. And so did Jimmy.” Chris pushed his hand over his wet hair forcefully, pulling the skin on his forehead tight against his skull. “Jimmy loved you.”
“Aye, and I loved you both.” Father Muldoon sat up straight and tried to catch Chris’s gaze as he paced. “You were a good altar boy, Christopher, but you lost faith. You lost hope and trust in God. James never did.”
“Never?” Chris snapped. “Not even when God abandoned him in that rectory basement? He was alone and helpless, Father. No God, no brother, no one to help him.”
“You aren’t alone, Christopher. God is with you. I am with you.”
“Like you were with James? Like that?” Chris had stopped pacing and now stood, chest heaving, in front of the priest. “When I found him, he tried so hard to hide his tears, to be brave. Even with the stains still on his clothes, he wouldn’t tell me who had done that to him.”
“He was in shock, Christopher. You couldn’t expect him to have all of his faculties after what happened.” Muldoon’s speech quickened a bit as he spoke. “You can’t know what he was thinking, what he was going through.”
“Oh, I have a pretty good idea, Father.” Chris turned his trashcan upside down and used it as a makeshift stool to sit on. “And where were you, Father? When I came to you, asked you for help, where were you?”
“I was there, Christo-“
“Bullshit! Do you have any idea how hard it was to get Jimmy to talk? How scared he was? It was two months before he finally told me the name of the priest that did it. He wouldn’t leave the house, wouldn’t leave his room, for Christ’s sake.”
Father Muldoon shifted a bit on the bed, trying to find a more comfortable position.
“And I came to you, and I spilled it all to you, knowing Jimmy didn’t want anyone to know. But I wanted to see that man pay. Pay for what he did to a sweet, trusting eleven year old boy.”
“You wanted vengeance, Christopher. That wrath is for God, alone.” Father Muldoon’s gaze stayed down, away from Chris.
“You’re goddamn right I wanted vengeance. And didn’t I deserve it? Didn’t Jimmy deserve it? Didn’t that piece of shit deserve it for putting his hands on an innocent child?” Spit flew from his mouth as Christopher’s face turned red and swollen.
“No,” Muldoon said, weakly. “It’s not for us to judge…”
“No.” Chris’s voice had gone flat and calm. “No, not for us to judge. Only God, right? Well, I chose to judge. I judged and found him guilty.” Chris looked down at the floor. “But you wouldn’t give him up. You sent him away. Away for his safety.”
“For his salvation, Christopher!” The priest’s eyes darted with conviction toward Chris, but then quickly fell back to his feet. “He went to serve his penance in a place where he could be helped. Where his future could be saved.”
“Like Jimmy’s was?” Tears began to well up in Chris’s eyes and he wiped them away quickly, turning to face the back wall of the cell. He could hear Father Muldoon’s breath slow.
“So you blamed me,” said the priest, as if accepting his guilt for the first time.
“You. The Church. God.” More tears, more wiping. “But, I couldn’t punch God. I couldn’t stab the Church. But I could…” Chris put his face back into his palms and began to sob.
“But you could shoot me.” Father Muldoon stood and walked the two steps to Chris’s side. “And I can forgive you, my child.” He put a hand on Chris’s shoulder and began the Lord’s Prayer under his breath.
Chris continued to sob softly as the prayer faded into echoes. A loud metal clanking caught his attention, and he turned toward his opening cell door. Father Muldoon was nowhere to be seen.
Chris wiped his eyes quickly with the backs of his hands and scanned the cell again. In the doorway, a black cassocked man stood holding a bible.
“My name is Father Gregg. I’ve come to pray with you.” He sat down on the bed, in the same spot Father Muldoon had been. “Are you familiar with the sacrament of penance?”