Friday, 22 July 2011

With God on Your Side

Father Nick Portman arrived hurriedly and late to take confessional. Wednesday was the day Pete intoned his weeks miscellaneous trivia and Father Nick was not looking forward to it. The one saving grace was that Father Nick had managed to twist his schedule so Peter Crane was the only Wednesday recalcitrant. The more interesting and mostly female reprobates being reserved for other days. That way Peter's monologue could be cut short with claimed urgent pastoral duties. Usually a comforting glass of sherry. But there would be no sherry today as Father Nick had a prior appointment.

Flinging the church door open and Father Nick did not see the dullard he expected. Harry Tate was anxiously pacing the aisle. The sudden sound causing the thick set Harry to spin round and almost loose his balance.

“Got to see you Father,” he said, his large hand grabbing a pew to steady himself.

Harry Tate was robust, mid forties and not one to argue with on his way home from the pub. A couple of times a week he had his regular nights out at the village local and this only encouraged him to become belligerent. Fortunately it was only late afternoon so Father Nick hoped there was some reasoning with him in his troubled state.

“It's my normal time to take confession,“ Father Nick said.

“Hadn't thought of that, not sure, just wanted a chat, some advice.”

“Come on Harry, it's been a long time.”

“I suppose I could.” Harry looked sideways. “You don't mind if I go first, good.” He then marched towards the booth and stepped inside.

It was only then Father Nick noticed Peter sitting on a pew in the background. There he was: slender, mid-thirties, white shirt and civil service spectacles. The epitome of church going conservatism. This looked like being a tiring day.

It had been a long time since Harry had made any attempt at a confession. Hence Father Nick felt a reasonable start would be to explain again his particular procedure.

“Father I have sinned,” Harry blurted out before the curtains were drawn.

“We all...”

“It's my Kate. I don't know how to say it.” Kate was Harry's wife, nice lady and regular church goer. Pristine and pious would best describe her appearance and mind set. “Heard my Kate on the phone, talking to this bloke.” Harry hesitated unwilling to believe what he was about to utter. “Clear they was at it. Didn't have a clue. But they're at it alright.”

“Harry, are you sure?”

“I heard the bitch, like I said, on the phone, just hours ago, making arrangements. Sickening it was, sickening.”

“Now your sure you haven't got things mixed up, have you Harry. It's not like her. Just not like her.”

“I know what I heard. You call me a liar?”

“No, no, of course not.” It was Father Nick's turn to hesitate. “Do you know who it is?”

“Hell Father, I ain't no mind reader, she was talking all quiet like. But I'll get him I will. I'll blow his brains out. Dusted off me old shotgun I have.”

“Now Harry...”

“Sorry about the 'hell' Father, you in your trade.”

“No need to worry about that. But you can't...”

“Around now I'm usually off down pub. Guess you know that Father. That's what she expects. But I'll wait out for him. Out down the lane. And when he shows his face he'll get it. Be the surprise of his life. Both barrels full of surprise.”

“But you'll be committing a far greater sin. Don't you see...”

“Don't know Father, has to think about it. I thought you'd give the green light. The way you prattle on about family values and sin and all that. I'll give him sin, and her as well.”

“God is supposed...”

“We'll see, we'll see, has to think about it. That don't help me much now does it. Look it's getting near time he's turning up about now. Have to go. Expected better from you Father. Really did. Expected better.”

Before Father Nick Portman could say anything more Henry was out the confessional and heading towards the door.

“Don't do anything you'll regret,” Father Nick shouted after him.

The patiently waiting Peter stood up and smiled.

“Seems a bit agitated,“ he said. “Must have been interesting. Give us a clue.”

“You understand the sanctity of the confessional.”

“Sure Father, sure, you couldn't make an exception, just this once.”

“This is not the time for flippant jokes.”

Peter's smile dropped.

“Just give me a moment to get my head together Peter. Just a second. Then we'll get started.”

By comparison Peter's confession was dull and time consuming. But then Peter never did have anything of substance to confess and really only came here for a long winded chat.

Father Nick yawned as he stretched his legs. Confession number two was well and truly over.

“Peter could you do me a favour,” Father Nick said.

“Any time.”

“I promised to return a book, to Henry's wife, completely slipped my mind, just now, slipped my mind. It's on your way isn't it. I'll just get it.”

“Sure,” Peter muttered in the direction of Father Nick's rapidly vanishing back. It really wasn't 'on his way' but Peter was always over eager to oblige.

A deal of searching later and Father Nick returned with a tatty looking volume. “Found it. Much to do. You understand. I'm sorry to put you out like this.” And Peter was summarily dismissed from the omniscient's presence.

After some time faffing about Father Nick was briskly walking along the church lane homeward. He listened to the police siren. It grew louder, louder, then faded in the direction of Harry's abode. 'With God on your side,' he thought and a smug grin crossed his face. Tomorrow would provide a wonderful opportunity to revisit and comfort the distraught suspects wife – tasty, something to look forward to. The victims grieving wife might also provide new opportunities – not as rounded as he liked, but tolerable.

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