“The difference is, I lie for a reason. The reason changes every time. It’s usually to avoid trouble. Isn’t that worth something?”
“Lying is still a sin. And that’s why you’re here, correct? Forgiveness.”
“I’m here out of obligation.”
“Your heavenly father and my earthly mother. One grants forgiveness much more frequently than the other, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
Pieces of rotting wood get caught under the fingernail with every scrap at the ledge pushing back against his resting chest.
“Is that really all that matters?”
“No,” his answer. That’s another lie for a confession on another day.
There’s silence in the room but his heart is pounding louder than the hammering of nails into a crucifix.
“Should I continue or are we still hung up on my lying?”
“This is your act of contrition, my son. I’m merely a representative of the Lord.”
He lists the lies. He gives no specifics, just brushes broad strokes of lies across a massive canvas. He’s overcome with the need to provide justification for each.
“I read a piece about why exactly people lie. Did you know that even in the most innocent conversation, people lie, on average of at least four times? Little stuff. Exaggerations mostly. Though don’t quote me on that number.”
Outside the vestibule door, the organist practices the hymns for service that evening. There isn’t a spot inside the hundred year old house of worship where the cords of the pipe organ don’t reach. There also isn’t a crack or crevice he hasn’t explored, memorized defaced on those long afternoons waiting for mom to organize another Alter Rosary Society bake sale or polish another piece from the sacristy until it shined brighter than the heavens.
Sound traveled in, he learned, but not out of those hidden spaces. The objections of a young boy toward an advancing monsignor stagnant in the air among smoke from the thurible until eventually the objections turn to muffled cries, not because of what was happening again, but because again no one would believe the tales of a troublemaking little kid no matter how much he swore to God it was the truth.
“I’ve stolen. Food, mostly, but occasionally loose change from a half-comatose tweaker. I figure it this way – he’s only going to collect all the change into a lump sum and use it to score more, so in a way, I’m actually helping the guy.”
“And you planned to use the money for…”
“The Sunday collection basket.”
There was this movie, he saw it a couple times as a kid but the name is absent from memory, involves these young kids playing an organ made of bones. Hit the right sequence of notes and an escape passage opens, freeing them from underground tunnels and straight to a buried treasure. Piles of gold and jewels high enough to save a section of houses, their homes, from being bulldozed.
After every chord, he’s checked his surroundings for a moved pew or even a passage behind a painting. He had no interest in treasure, just escape. Even now, he’s eyeballing the inside of the closet for a way out. Nothing. Just the door which he walked into freely.
“So we done here, father?”
“Done? We’re never done. Though you seem to be finished. For your penance, complete three Our Fathers, one entire rosary and…”
The priest stops at the sound of the confessional door opening and daylight shining into the dark room on the other side of the screen. He hadn’t even waited for the right chord.
The priest exits his designated area and comes face to face with the man making his monthly act of contrition. The liar’s face almost identical to his own father’s except many more years of rough living and still much more handsome than Pop ever was.
“Be safe,” was all he could muster, no longer hidden by the darkness.
The organist stops to rearrange pages before fingering the first few notes of a recessional hymn. As if on cue, the back doors to the church open, not moved by music but by an older volunteer eager to polish the most heavily trafficked area of the old church.
“I’m trying,” his reply, walking down the middle aisle, pretending not to notice their mother perched high above in the choir loft. He doesn’t acknowledge her with a nod or bother saying a word. She wouldn’t hear him. She never did.
One of the characters, in the movie, was known as a habitual liar. Not his friends, nor his family, or even the cops believed a word he ever said no matter how hard he swore to God. In the end, the kid joined the rest of the group during a celebration of found treasures and paid off debts.
Click to read more of my fiction work.