Sunday, September 23, 2012
The dog had to go. There really wasn't much else to debate. The damn animal was systematically driving him crazy. The incessant barking and growling, the ripping and chewing of his personal items, and the peeing all over the furniture had finally succeeded into pushing him over the edge. It was as if that four legged fiend were channeling the spirit of his crazy mistress, directly from her padded cell at the state hospital. Apparently shooting him hadn't been enough. Now Peppers had sic ed her mean little minion on him as a constant reminder of of her brooding ill will.
Fr. Kevin scrapped the dirt with his brand new shovel, the old one now being held as state's evidence. He had hoped that from this position at the front of the church, he'd be able to escape the sound of the Basil's grating yapping out the front window of the rectory. But in the quiet of the Saturday afternoon, the sound carried over the wind, and echoed in between the buildings. He turned up the volume on his ipod, and tried to think of something else, but his mind had stubbornly settled on the issue at hand.
It hadn't been for lack of trying. He had grown up with a variety of pets, and considered himself a certified dog person. When Basil first took up residence, he had showered him with treats, toys and loads of personal attention, all without the least hint of them being acknowledged or appreciated. The dog would begrudgingly sniff out the offering, and once it was firmly grasped within it's teeth, would back off and growl at him from an opposite corner. He had taken over the rectory parlor, and whenever Kevin attempted to find a space in the room, the dog would stand on all fours, barking and yapping to warn him off. It had gotten so bad, he had taken to spending the evenings in his room, watching television on the small 13 inch tucked on his dresser, rather than dealing with the dog's lack of hospitality.
He considered calling the Sheriff a million times. Explain that it was wasn't working out, and asking him to find another home for the psycho animal. Something repeatedly stopped him from doing so. Beckett always seemed so calm and collected, and it was obvious the townspeople respected him. The last thing Fr. Kevin wanted, was to look like a loser in front of the man. To be forced to admit he couldn't handle a unruly mop of a dog. In addition, the Bishop had recently called to congratulate him on becoming a dog owner, and suggested it was just the thing to make him seem more "real" to his parishioners. After that conversation, he couldn't bring himself to say "no thanks". Mo was right. He really needed to grow a pair.
Leaning the shovel against the building, he stretched out on the front stoop of the church, and removed the speaker buds from his ears. In the distance he watched a small figure bicycle his way down the street and head towards the church. He tried not to feel annoyed, and instead focused on the fact that he indeed owed that particular child his life.
"Hey Father O'Kenney. What's up?" The boy dumped the bike on the church's lawn, and ambled over to the stairs.
"Not much, Irwin. How about you? How's the new school year going?"
"Aw, same as always, Father. But now we get tons more homework in the 6th grade. That really stinks."
"Do you like your teachers?"
The boy raised his eyebrows, and looked at him incredulously. "Nobody likes teachers, Fr. O'Kenney. They're just teachers. You're not supposed to like 'em."
Kevin nodded in agreement, trying hard to remember what it was like to be in the 6th grade. That was the year he had known for sure he wanted to be a priest, a thought he kept entirely to himself in fear of being made the butt of the class' scorn. But Sister Mary Agnes seemed to sense something in him, and Kevin spent the year basking in her favoritism. The reverie made him smile.
"How's your shoulder doin', Father?"
"Pretty well healed, Irwin. Thanks for asking. How about you? No nightmares or anything?"
"Naw. None at all. My ma made me go see some head doctor. She was worried that I might be tramalized. You know... seeing Peepers shoot you like that. All that blood squirting out the hole in your arm."
The priest's stomach turned at the mention of squirting blood. "You mean traumatized?"
"Yeah. That's what I said...tramalized. Doctor gave me some dumb 'ole pills to take. Said it would help with my anziety. But I don't like them at all. They make me feel all goofy inside. Like I'm a zombie or something."
The two sat in silence awhile, lost in their own private thoughts. Then the boy turned to the priest and out of no where asked, "Father O'Kenney, what days do you do Reconciliation in the church?"
"Usually Wednesday or Saturday afternoons, Irwin. From noon until 2:00pm"
"So I guess it's over for today, huh?"
"Technically. But I can hear your confession right now, if you'd like?"
"Right here outside? We don't have to go inside behind the curtain?" The boy's face was a picture of shock.
"Nope. Right here on the steps, face to face, is just fine."
"And it still works the same way? You can't say anything, and I still get forgiven?"
Something itchy wiggled at the back of Kevin's conscience, and he thought about the suitcase of money locked in the rectory safe "Yup. Just like if we were inside the church."
"Ok then." Irwin plopped himself next to the priest, and made the sign of the cross. He sighed long and hard, and began. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." The boy paused to collect his thoughts, and continued, "You see, Father O'Kenney, it's 'bout those pills. The ones I just told you about?"
"The ones for your anxiety?"
"Yeah, those ones. Well, like I said. I really don't like them at all. They make me all quiet like and dopey. Ruins all the fun for me. So when my mom gives me them twice a day, I don't swallow 'em. I stick them in my cheek, and when she's not looking, I spit them out, and stick 'em in my pocket."
Irwin pulled out a small lump of tissue, with a handful of small white tablets wrapped inside, and laid it on the step. "Then, I feel sorta bad, 'cause I know I'm being a liar." He looked sheepishly down at his feet, and kicked a few loose stones, not all together comfortable with the face to face conversation.
Kevin's mood lightened at the sincerity in the boy's countenance, and said the prayers for absolution. Forcing Irwin to look him in the eye he went on to explain, "Your sins are forgiven, Irwin, but you can't keep lying to your mom about the pills. She loves you, dude, and wants what's best for your health. It's dangerous to play games with medicine, and you need to have a heart to heart talk about it. Maybe if she knows it makes you feel so icky, she and the doctor can figure out something else for you to take?"
The boy didn't look convinced, but nodded in agreement. "But this is still 'tween you and me, right?"
"Seriously now, promise me you're not going to cheek those pills anymore, Irwin."
Irwin slid off the step and stood up, dusting the seat of his pants. "I promise, Fr. O'Kenney." He raised the bike up, and settled himself on the seat. "Thanks for listening to my confession. I gotta go now. I was supposed to be home an hour ago." And with a wave, the boy pedaled the bike down the street and out of sight.
Realizing it was past 4:00, and Saturday evening Mass started at 5, Fr. Kevin rose stiffly off the steps and gathered up the yard tools. Bending down to grab the clippers, he noticed the wad of tissue, stuffed with pills, still sitting where Irwin had placed it. He stuck them in his pocket, thinking he could imagine why Irwin's mother might be reluctant to take him off any meds that would slow the hyper kid down. He was constant noise and motion, and the thought of a few hours of peace and quiet would be hard for anyone to resist. At that moment, a tiny seed of an idea bloomed in his brain. He guessed Irwin might weigh somewhere around 70 lbs, and had pronounced to the priest that he took one pill, twice a day. Kevin rubbed his chin, deep in thought. As he slowly walked back to the rectory, he pondered just how much that damn dog weighed.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus