Due to a bit of writer’s block I took a break from writing Beyond the Open Door. Here’s a short story that I started last year and just got around to finishing.
Father Truman and his dilemma on All Hallows Eve
“For thirty years, I have been serving our Father. I have been diligent, I have struggled to remain faithful and I have struggled to remain sane. The outline of my priesthood has consisted of enlightening ups and very dark downs. Throughout it all I tried my best to be as Godly as possible. Unfortunately, there are times that I have failed and fallen from His grace” Said Father Truman in the confessional booth. It was All Hallows Eve, or Halloween as most would call it.
In the Catholic Church Halloween serves as the beginning of honoring the Saints in heaven and those who have passed. It is the evening before All Saints Day and the first day of observance for Allhallowstide. Some cultures refer to Halloween as the Day of the Dead.
Father Truman of St. Mary’s Church in the city West End however was sick and guilt ridden. He was in no mood to participate in the festivities, instead he chose to make confession on this day.
The elderly Priest sat in confession, conflicted and wearing his shame on his soft wrinkled face.
The priest on the other side of the confession booth volunteered to soothe the woes of the aging Father as the confessor. The confessor just joined the priesthood and was much younger than Father Truman. The young confessor noticed the shaking in the father’s voice, and he knew that something was deeply upsetting Father Truman. The young priest vowed to assist in soothing the woes of Father Truman and was quite honored to serve as the confessor. This mission, however, would soon prove to be challenging.
“I am praying that this very catharsis can relieve me of my troubles” Father Truman wiped his tears from his face.
“Father if I may ask, what troubles you on this day” the young priest asks, concern flowing throughout his voice.
“Yes, well I suppose Allhallowstide is as good as any other time.” Father Truman’s trembling hands clench tighter together.
“How often do we find ourselves praying on behalf of others. How often are we asked to pray for their souls and save them for salvation.” The father asked of his colleague.
“It is our God Given duty Father” The young priest replies.
“Yes, it is. But how can we save others. If we struggle to save ourselves.”
“It is our duty during confession to bless those who have sinned and carry the burden of their guilt Father” The confessor assures Father Truman.
“I tell myself that every day. It is our duty. A duty I was proud of. A duty that weighs heavily on my own soul” Father Truman began to tremble in his sit. The tears flowed, and the young priest hesitated to interrupt him.
“Forgive me father or I have sinned, it has one month since my last confession”
Father Truman takes his glasses off and wipes the tears off. He places him back on, hoping the newly wiped lenses would provide mental clarity.
“I have lied to you all. For the sake of my image and it’s caused such great pain”
“Go on Father” The young priest waits for the rest of the confession in silence.
Father Truman hold his rosary tightly. He knew the story he was about to tell would cause scandal and anger. The burden, however was too much for his weak heart
“About a month ago, I stood in your seat and waited for someone to make their confession. Moments later someone comes in. I could hear in his voice that he was rather young man, maybe 16 or 17. Through the screen that separated us I could sense his build seemed large. His face framed with soft blond hair accompanied with rosy cheeks. When his voice spoke I immediately recognized him. It was the voice that I had not heard in years, Just a little bit deeper.
Father Truman began sobbing. His shame overwhelmed him.
“Father” The confessor tried to intervene but the sound of a fist hitting the sides of the walls stopped him. He stood silent, not knowing what to say next.
“The last time I saw this boy” Father Truman fought through his emotions and continued to speak.
“The last time I spoke to this boy he was 10. At that time, I was in a dreadful state. My mind was lost and not in God. This young boy came to me in his time of need, his parents were getting divorced and he had run from home. He was alone, angry and vulnerable and I knew that. There was nobody but him and I and the devil whispers in my ear.”
The young priest prepared himself for what Father Truman was to say next
“That night I battled the Devil and the Devil won. The boy’s innocence was the casualty”
Father Truman said no more.
“The young priest shook his head in disappointment.
“If you are truly sorry for the act you committed against this boy and you refrain from doing this again-“
“That is not all” Father Truman interrupted the young priest.
What the confessor did not know was that Father Truman’s act of atrocity not only affected the boy he victimized, but so much more people. What came out of that dark night was boy betrayed, angry and vengeful.
Seven years later the boy known as Julian Malloy, would return to very same place he once sought refuge in, to face his attacker. Julian was now 17 years old and the hate that he carried turn into a lustful vengeance.
“When this boy came back to me as a young man, I was scared. I never thought I would see him again because the last I heard the boy’s mother left the state and took him with her. I guess I thought I would never have to face what I had done. But I was wrong. As soon as he spoke, I knew who he was, and he knew who I was. I wanted to apologize, I wanted to tell him how sorry I felt after what I did and how I prayed every night that he and God would forgive me. But the words escaped me”
“Was this boy the only one” The confessor tried to choose his words carefully to not disrespect his elder priest.
“Yes, but it seems as that wouldn’t have mattered.”
The elderly father takes a deep breath, he grabbed on to his rosary bead so tight around his neck. We often forget that our sins have a way of evolving and growing. Like a disease, sins can be infectious and spread to many people, hurting them along the way. This was to be the lesson Father Truman would learn.
“Is that all” The confessor asks. He was eager to give Father Truman his penance end this confession, disgusted at what he heard.
“Do you recall the young woman they found last week near the river by the bridge.” Father Truman replied
“I know who slaughtered her.” Father Truman whispered.
“Are you sure you want to continue Father” The young priest was in shock but knew that if the Father Truman obtain this information through the confession of the young boy, he would risk breaking the seal of confession.
“Please allow me to continue” Father Truman begged, he was at the brink of his confession and didn’t want to stop there.
“This young man who visited me told me the names of two girls, Isabel Mejia and Marie Simon. He gave me those names a month ago before those girls went missing.”
The young confessor did not know if he should continue. He had heard about two weeks ago two girls, ages 13 and 14 had went missing. One of the girls Marie Simon came from an affluent Jewish family that had lived in one of the luxury apartment buildings near West End River. The other girl Isabel Mejia lived toward the middle-class area and was also a member of the St. Mary’s Church. The family grieved Isabel’s disappearance but as far at the confessor knew, the police had not found her body yet. Marie Simons had, it was found not far from the church in a park. Her body was placed in the bushes. She had the star of David wrapped around her hands as if she was in prayer. The police had confirmed that she was sexually assaulted and strangled. Because of our she was found police speculated that this was a hate crime, an anti-sematic driven murder. But when Isabel went missing, their theories had changed.
“Father they had not found Isabel yet” The confessor informed him.
“They will tonight, but she won’t have any breathe in her” Father Truman started sobbing again. Isabel Mejia’s family were at Mass every Sunday. Since she’s disappeared her parents have been coming more and more frequently for prayer and the safe return of their daughter. Father Truman knew this was not to happen.
“Father if you know this you need to go to the police, she may still be alive” The confessor pleaded. He too started to tear up, shaken by what he was hearing.
Father Truman violently shook his head.
“She is not”
“How do you know” The Confessor was now angry. Disappointed on how far this story went. He idolized Father Truman, thought of him as a mentor. To see him reduced to this atrocious stated, protecting a killer, disgusted him.
“Because he showed me her photo” Father Truman yelled. He stood up bewildered. With fisted clenched he continued.
“He held up his phone and showed me her lifeless body. Even through the screen I could see her pale face and strangled neck. It haunts me. He told me he was sorry and that he never thought he would hurt another child. Like I hurt him. I have to face the Mejia family every week knowing they will never see their daughter again.”
“The Seal of the Confessional can be broken if you do not feel the person who confessed is truly genuine in his pleas for forgiveness’ The Confessor so badly wanted to convince Father Truman to go to the police. He could hear Father Truman sitting back down in his sit. After a few seconds of silence, the confessor tapped on the screen.
Seal of the Confessional can be broken if you do not feel the person who confessed is truly genuine in his pleas for forgiveness’ The Confessor so badly wanted to convince Father Truman to go to the police. He could hear Father Truman sitting back down in his sit. After a few seconds of silence, the confessor tapped on the screen.
“Father Truman, are you alright” The confessor was not worried and tapped a couple of more times but no response.
“Father Truman are you alright” His voice rose, but still no response came. The confessor ran out from his side of the booth and into Father Truman’s side. He hastily pulled back the curtain to reveal Father Truman appearing to have collapsed into his seat.
“Oh no father please wake up” The confessor knelt down and shook father Truman. He went for a pulse but felt none. He began to scream for help as he grabbed Father Truman and dragged him out.
Another priest walked in the commotion and the confessor shouted for an ambulance to be called. The priest nodded in shock and ran to call an ambulance. When the confessor looked down at the Fathers body, Father Truman had slightly opened is eyes.
‘Father please, tell me who is the boy, the murderer, give me a name and I will grant you penance” The confessor hastily attempted to get an answer. He could not figure out what was wrong with Father Truman but his body was quickly turning cold, his face pale and the pace of his breathing was slowing down.
There would be no last words for the dying father.
All Saints Day was here but feeling of grief suffocated the members of St. Mary’s Church. Father Truman, one of the oldest priests in St. Mary’s, was in the hospital near death. He was battling an infectious cancer, for which he refused treatment for. The young priest who served as his confessor the night before was in shock, as were many members of the St. Mary’s who were oblivious to the diagnosis. Father Truman kept his illness a secret from all, but the most hurtful thing to his colleagues was not that he didn’t inform them of his cancer. It was the refusal of treatment that both perplexed and troubled them.
In a room full of the priests and nuns who serve at the Church, the young priest stood in front of them and delivered the news about Father Truman.
“It is only with absolute faith in Lord, will we be able to pray for Father Truman. I ask that all of you light a candle tonight. Thank you.” The young priest then walked out of the room as he could not look into their faces anymore. He scooped up a handful of Holy water from the flowing fountain the church had and drenched his face. Another priest came beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“It is a trying time for us all son. But God will is His will. We must trust in Him”
“Thank you, Father John,” the young priest replied.
“Father John, would you say you are familiar with most of the regulars who come here for confession”
“Well we do have many people who pass here”
“That is true. I am curious though have you noticed any new members here. Particularly someone who used to attend this church as a child several years ago and now has come back” The young priest knew Father John has been at St. Mary’s for over a decade and hoped he would give him an answer he was looking for.
Father shook his head as he went over the many souls that passed through these doors.
“I can’t say I recall.”
“A young man about 16 or 17 years old, he has blond hair and a pretty big frame. He attended this church with his mother about 7 years ago. He would have asked around for Father Truman. Do you have any idea who this man could be?”
Father John’s face hardened. For a couple of seconds, he did not utter a word.
The young priest waited for a response patiently.
“You were Father Truman’s last Confessor?” Father John finally spoke, to which the young priest nodded.
“I was, do you have any idea who the young man was that came looking for him”
“No, not by name. But I suggest upholding the vow we take as priests, and never ask this question again” Father John said before walking away from the young priest.
“I can’t believe this” the young priest whispered to himself. Feeling frustrated the young priest decided to go out for a walk. He stepped outside into the cool fall weather and went to the local deli. As he walked in the deli, he spotted the newspaper’s front-page story that made his heart sink.
The front page read:
“ALL SAINTS DAY TRAGEDY. MISSING TEENAGE GIRL FOUND IN EARLY MORNING DEAD IN WEST END PARK. ROSARY BEADS AROUND HER NECK”