• Forgive me.. really!

    From August Abolins@august@nospamwantedashlies.ca to ILink.IL_CHIT-CHAT on Sun Oct 25 12:20:58 2020
    Previous one had the same problem. Here's the last attempt, I promise:

    Paris, November, 1585.

    "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been nine years
    since my last confession."

    From beyond the latticework screen came a sharp inhal-
    ation through teeth, barely audible. For a long time, it seemed
    as if he would not speak. You could almost hear the echo
    bouncing through his skull: nine years?

    "And what has happened to keep you so far from God's
    grace, my son?"

    That slight nasal quality to his voice, it coloured every—
    thing he said with an unfortunate sneer, even on the rare
    occasions where none-was intended.

    "Ah, Father — Where to begin? I was caught reading
    forbidden books in the privy by my prior, I abandoned the
    Dominican , order without permission to avoid the
    Inquisition, for Which offence I was-excommunicated by
    the last Pope; I have Written and published books ques-
    tioning the authority of the Holy Scr1ptures and the Church
    Fathers, I have publicly attacked Aristotle and defended
    the cosmology of Copernicus, I have been accused of heresy
    and necromancy—" a swift pause to draw breath — "I have
    frequently sworn oaths and taken the Lord's name in vain,
    I have envied my friends, lain with women, and brought
    about the death of more than one person — though, in my
    defence, those cases were complicated."

    "Anything else?" Openly sarcastic now.

    "Oh —- yes. 1 have also borne false witness. Too many times
    to count." Including this confession.

    A prickly silence unfolded. Inside the confessional, nothing
    but the familiar scent of old wood and incense, and the slow
    dance of dust motes, disturbed only by our breathing, his
    and mine, visible in the November chill. A distant door
    slammed, the sound ringing down the vaulted stone of the

    "Will you give me penance?"

    He made an impatient noise. "Penance? You could endow
    a cathedral and walk to Santiago on your knees for the rest
    of your natural life, it would barely scratch the surface.

    Besides—" the wooden bench creaked as he shifted his weight
    —- "haven't you forgotten something, my son?"
    "I may have left out some of the detail," I conceded.
    "Otherwise we'd be here till Judgement Day."

    "I meant, I have not yet heard you say, 'For these and all
    the sins of my past life, I ask pardon of God.' Because, in
    your heart, you are not really contrite, are you? You are, it
    seems to me, quite proud of this catalogue of iniquity."

    "Should we add the sin of pride, then, while I am here?
    Save me coming back?"

    A further silence stretched taut across the minutes. His
    face was pressed close to the grille; I knew he was looking
    straight at me.