“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been two weeks since my last confession. No, wait…it’s been three weeks since my last confession.”
Hidden in shadows, Father Corelli grinned. He shifted uncomfortably in the confessional that steamed in the late July heat. He recognized the man kneeling next to him as Irwin Trade, a stout, awkward man who, despite his thirty-one years, lived with his mother. There was a lag in his confession, and when he spoke, it was with a noticeable quaver.
“I have to admit that I’m scared, Father.”
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
“Amen, Father. Amen.”
“What’s troubling you?”
Irwin chose his words fastidiously; each word laced with an essence of a camp side ghost story. “Well, you see, Father…it’s like this. It always takes a good four inches of hot oil to fry the onion rings. Too little oil, and they don’t crisp up, you know? About a week ago, we were talking and cooking, just like always when the joint closes for the night. Ma turned the lock on the door, balanced the till and then joined me in the kitchen. Business isn’t very good, Father. It’s bad, actually. Real bad, and I can’t sleep at night.”
The sun filtered through the stained-glass windows, brilliantly colouring Madonna, and Son. Father Corelli counted the beads on his rosary; 34, 36, 37. He felt the sweat drip down his back like a rivulet. The heat was stifling, and his mind drifted to other things.
“…bitching and screaming as if it’s all my fault. You know? Can I say ‘bitching’, Father?”
“Go on,” the Father said, clearing the cobwebs from his throat.
“So anyway, I lost my temper. I…it sure is hot in here, ain’t it, Father? So, like I was saying, I lost my temper. I couldn’t take the sound of her voice. It was like a screeching cat. Nag, nag, nag! That’s all she ever did was nag. To this day, I think of swear words as terms of endearment. She sure liked to remind me what an asshole I am.”
The priest adjusted his robes. Irwin’s tone had become insidious, laced with ghastly undertones; something nefarious lurking in the deepest recesses of his mind.
“It was reflex. I didn’t mean to. Maybe I did…I don’t know, but after it was over, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. It wasn’t the screams that got to me. It was how I could see her skin melting off.”
Paralyzed with an all-consuming fear, the Father succumbed to Lucifer, and purged all things sacred. Blank paper. Blank paper. Blank paper. The walls closed in on him, sending him closer to a lunatic.
“Did you hear me, Father?” Irwin asked, knocking softly on the wall between them. The air was polluted with things unsaid. A mouse scampered outside the confessional, seeking refuge. “When she passed out, I had to hoist her up using the dessert trolley. Took a long time, but I couldn’t tell the cops it was an accident. How do you get that much oil on your face by accident? It took three days for the body to burn, but after that, I was able to open for business. Pizza oven’s working again. That’s good, at least.”