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Detroit, 1955. Fourth grade
Precious Blood School. Dominican nuns all whimpled teach the ten
commandments. Explaining number 6 "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
Evil thoughts words or deeds. Seemed a bit vague, but I was 9.
Monday, our friend Carl Altman asked my brother
Jon and me, Want to see pictures of naked ladies? Sure. So we go to his
garage and he brings out playing cards he found in his father's dresser
drawer. Wednesday we ask to see them again. We did.
Saturday. Dinner at 6 with Mom, Dad and my 4
younger siblings. Tomorrow
is Sunday. Mass and communion. Except I've committed a mortal
sin – had
an evil thought word or deed. I Imagine sitting in the pew and not
going up to communion. Explaining to Mom. No.
Hop on my bike and ride to Precious Blood to go to
confessionals in use. The friendly assistant pastor, Fr. Nolan has a
line almost out the door. The mean pastor, Msgr. Hermes has no line and
one poor soul in the box. If I wait in Fr. Nolan's line I will be late
for dinner. Mom: Why are you late? Me: I went to confession? Mom: Why?
So I get in Msgr. Hermes confessional. Hear the other penitent get up
and leave. See the wood door slide back and see the Msgr. in silhouette
through the cloth screen.
Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been two
weeks since my last
confession. I have committed adultery two times. The Msgr's head turns
toward me. How old are you my son? Nine. Well, what exactly did you do.
Mortified – I not only have to confess a mortal sin, but have to
describe something he will surely find to be terrible. Told about the
cards. Hear a snort and for a second think it's anger. Two Our Fathers
and two Hail Mary's and don't do it again.
Two Our Fathers and two Hail Mary's? Adultery's
not such a bad sin.
Forrest Hainline is
a trial lawyer and poet. His poems can be found at poemhunter.com,
poemsabout.com, poems.globala.ru and other poetry blogs. His
translation of Chaucer's The
Franklin, from the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales,
was read by Nicholas Farrell in the BBC programme Abundance,
performed December 23, 2012. He lives in San Francisco.
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by Anthony Kitterick, 2012