The confessional was cramped, the air stifling. I felt crushed beneath the weight of shame I’d carried in with me. It clung to me like whorehouse sheets, reeking of stale smoke and bottom shelf booze. I crossed myself, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
While Father Whalen spoke his blessing, I thought of sins and penance.
I’d never thought of hope as a sin, but what else do you call that desperate spark that drives you to play one more hand? Sure I’d gambled, maybe even a little more than the next guy. I figure you can’t always lose, and the longer you lose, the more likely you are to win. Of course, I’d been wrong so far.
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been six weeks since my last confession.”
Six weeks and $50,000. I hit the flask in my breast pocket to steady my hands and searched for the courage to do what I’d come here to do. Or, maybe I was trying to squeeze as many sins in as possible before this absolution: Take your pick. It doesn’t matter to me, and they’re probably both true.
“Father, I…” my voice cracked, “I have been intemperate in the abuse of my body many times in the past six weeks. I drink alcohol to excess and I smoke cigarettes.”
“In first Corinthians, chapter six, verse nineteen, we read that our bodies serve as a temple for the Holy Spirit. Abuse of this temple is an affront to God.”
“I have also gambled in excess many times. My family will suffer for the choices I have made, and I fear my soul may be beyond redemption,” I sobbed between clenched teeth.
Silence followed from the other side of the confessional as Father Whalen reflected a moment. He said warily, “No man who is penitent is beyond red…”
“I have also committed murder in the house of god, striking down a priest in retribution for hypocrisy and failure to satisfy gambling debts in the amount of $343,000.” There was a sudden sound of movement from the other side of the screen, but father Whalen couldn’t open the door before the revolver in my hand bucked twice. He slumped against the screen, silent ever after.
I dropped to my knees, “I am sorry for my sins. His mercy endures forever.” I put the revolver to my temple and it bucked a third and final time.