Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fiction - The Priest

My first attempt at fiction was met with rave review (yeah, just one, but I'll take it where I can get it. P.S. Thanks Cuz it's good to have a fan). So here's another little one I dreamed up in the truck on the way home from work today.

The old priest stood silent and still by the communion rail. His gaze passed slowly over the pews and rested on the candles flickering by the door. He would check them later to make sure there were enough fresh ones and empty the few coins from the box.

The church would have seemed silent to the average person but not to him. Quiet, certainly, but the building spoke to him like an old friend relating the news of the day. The radiators made an occasional bump and tick, the almost inaudible hiss of the steam like a reassuring whisper of comfort and warmth. He could hear snow skirling on the stained glass window at the back, it only did that when the wind was over ten miles an hour and under twenty. Above all the faint sounds of an old stone building bracing itself against winter was the rush hour traffic, steadily building outside the massive, iron bound timbers of the front doors.

The whoosh of tires was suddenly inside with him. Someone had opened a side door. Likely it was a student or two from the Catholic school next door, cutting through the church to save a few frigid footsteps on the journey home. He didn't mind. All were welcome. He greeted them all the same way, the elderly faithful, the rowdy school boys, the homeless, with whatever expression could most convey God's' love. He told people of it every day, on Sundays he used words. Every person that had ever crossed those thresholds was met with a silent greeting, but a greeting nonetheless. The worn creases of his face could speak many things, welcome, joy, concern, once in a while even anger, but above all, love.

He kept quite still as the boys, three of them, made their way along the first pew. As they passed by his left shoulder, turned slightly away from them they slowed but continued their noisy exchange. A quarter turn of his white head accomplished that, God's house is to be respected. He smiled though, remembering his own days in a school uniform, he could still remember youthful exuberance and was not irked in the slightest.

As he watched the boys make their way up the aisle he noticed the two in the lead were doing all the talking, arms waving. The third followed along, keeping up the quick pace but was silent. There was something about his walk that suggested a certain heaviness, a slump in the shoulders, a slight down turn of the head. Likely nothing more than the result of a scolding from one of the Sisters, a slight inner grin as his mind strayed back to playing tricks on Sister Mary Dolores nearly seventy years past.

The front door swung open and closed, letting in a brief swish of tires. The priest's gaze came back into focus a moment later when the curl of cold air reached the altar. He turned then to see who was there. He knew he was not alone yet, something he could sense in the not quite stillness of the air. Someone must have slipped in when the boys went out. His eyebrows raised just a tick in surprise at seeing the third, silent boy standing in the center of the aisle.

The boy stood looking at the crucifix with something that was somehow both anger and wonder, almost longing. The boy's gaze fell on him then and changed slightly. He had it now, loss. In front of him stood a young man who had lost someone dear, perhaps even a parent. His poor heart strained not to break as he questioned the reality of Heaven and a God who could let this happen. They locked eyes. The old priest barely moved a muscle, but the boy somehow saw the change. In the old man's face was his message.

"You have lost, my son. I know. I have lost too. I don't know how God let this happen but I still find my comfort in Him."

The boy's eyes went wide though he didn't realize it. In his face the priest read the words of his boiling heart and troubled mind. He had expected merely cold comfort, if anything from the wizened figure in the robes. He had received no empty words, he wasn't sure what he had received. The priest let just the glimmer of a smile spread to one side of his face. The boy's face mirrored his. Inside he was digesting one tiny drop of healing elixir. He was feeling better. How long would it last? Who could say. The priest merely loved everyone who passed through his door, as often and as much as they needed.

The boy turned slowly and padded to the front door. The hinges whispered their familiar words into the silent sanctuary, like the last line of a favorite poem. Bummm. The sound of their closing. Tick, tick, tick, curl... the cold air reached him. He would check the candles in a moment. He stood. Still. And bowed his head in prayer.

2 comments:

  1. I love your attention to detail, just enough to really give you a feel for the atmosphere, without going to far indepth to lose the reader. But, I like the story and there has to be more to this, what happened to the kid, what role is the priest gonna play in the kids life....this needs a chapter 2 from the boys perspective.

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  2. I just read a compilation of some of the best short stories of the 20th century. The mark of a good one is that it's just a glimpse, not complete but complete enough. They all had it (Except for the one by Susan Sontag, that one was just annoying).

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