Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Meek

By Don Lafferty


"Clarkie, you fat fuck, if I hafta come over there I swear to God, I

will kick you in the nuts so fuckin' hard..."

Jack Leon's threat echoed through the vast expanse of the church. It

was like there was five of him. "Get your fat head in this fucking squeegee

right the fuck now."

Clarkie shuffled up the center aisle of the church toward Leon and

the waiting mop bucket while strains of "Silent Night" drifted up from the

music room, where Mrs. Opitz practiced the choir for tonight's vigil mass.

Behind Clarkie, Father Kelly burst through the sacristy door.

"Mr. Leon, you mind your language in God's house."

"Yes, Father Kelly. Sorry, Father Kelly." Leon called back over his

shoulder, but as Clarkie drew closer he whispered, "I am gonna fuck you up

good."

The old priest genuflected and stepped backwards off the altar.

"Jesus does not look with favor on the bully, Mr. Leon.", Said

Father Kelly without breaking stride. "I'm due in the rectory for our seven

fishes dinner, but I'll be back to hear your confessions in one hour."

"Father", Clarkie asked, "Does God really forgive our sins?"

The priest paused for a moment and considered the two boys. Jack

Leon, a strapping high school football star, and Thomas Clark, three years

younger, overweight and uncoordinated. "Is something troubling you, Thomas?"

Father Kelly asked.

Clarkie hesitated. "No, father. Just askin'. I ain't got no sins on

my soul. I just wondered."

"Of course God forgives us our sins, Thomas, that is, if we're truly

sorry, and make a sincere promise to never repeat the trespass."

The priest had come to terms with the code of the neighborhood a

long time ago. It was the same in every parish. As much as there appeared to

be no justice in it, The Meek would always be taking the heat from assholes

like Leon. There wasn't enough time to intervene in every beatdown or verbal

assault. These things usually had a way of working themselves out.

"Very well, then. I'll see you gentlemen in an hour." And with that,

the priest was gone.

"I ain't got no sins on my soul, Fatha." Leon mocked in a sing song

voice as he swung his wet mop around, catching the younger boy on the side

of the head, sending Clarkie skidding headlong into the unyielding walnut of

a pew with a slap and a muffled thud. "Get your fucking head in this

squeegee before I lose it!" Leon boomed in the cavernous church.

This was their routine. Leon would squeeze his head until Clarkie

begged sufficiently to end the cruel game. Leon would insist that Clarkie

thank him for toughening him up. Every day since he took this job at Saint

Tim's he'd endured Leon's abuse. Most times while the other guys just stood

around, too scared to help him or in league with the big dope. Nobody was

about to get in Leon's way. He was too big and too scary.

Clarkie shimmied over toward the bucket on his knees, his red hair

matted to his cheek.

"That's a good dog", said Leon, "tuck your fat little coconut right

in there."

Clarkie leaned forward toward the bucket when the stench of the

filthy, gray water incited an involuntary gag reflex. Leon put a hand on the

back of his doughy neck and pushed the kid toward the open maw of the

squeegee, but Clarkie resisted just the slightest bit, causing the bigger

boy to lean on him with all his weight, and they both tumbled into the slop

bucket.

Clarkie lay face down on the hard terrazzo floor waiting for Leon's

punishing fists to pound his kidneys, but the beating never came. Raising

his head tentatively, Clarkie found Leon propped at an odd angle, a broken,

three foot length of mop handle buried in his back. The top of the mop

handle was jammed under a kneeler with the sharp, broken end tucked neatly

between Leon's ribs, the spiked tip just inches from his racing heart.

Leon's feet scrabbled for purchase on the wet floor but the odd

angle of the mop handle and the pain in his back quickly immobilized him.

Clarkie stood slowly, casting a glance at the crucifix over the

altar. He looked down at Leon and wondered if this might be his chance to

win the older boy's favor. Like the mouse who pulls the thorn from the

lion's paw, God was serving up Clarkie's redemption on a silver platter.

Clarkie took Leon's right hand and positioned his sneakers to get a solid

grip on the wet floor.

Bright pink blood bubbled from Leon's nose and mouth. His eyes

darted wildly around looking at nothing in particular, when all at once he

locked eyes with Clarkie, and in a voice choked by the unnatural leaking of

body fluids, Leon croaked, "I'm gonna bash your fucking skull in, you little

fuck." Leon wheezed and more bloody bubbles popped under his nose and

trickled down his chin.

Clarkie held Leon's hand for a moment longer and looked back up at

the altar ringed by red and white poinsettias. He thought about what Father

Kelly said. About God's forgiveness.

Turning back to Leon, Clarkie gripped down tightly on the older

boy's wet hand. Leon tried to say something, but Clarkie wasn't listening

anymore. He slipped his right foot out of his Chuck Taylor, placed it on

Leon's chest and leaned into it with all his weight, driving the splintered

mop handle through Leon's black heart.


***

"When can I talk to the kid who saw this go down, Father?" asked

Detective O'Shea.

"Let him finish his penance.", Father Kelly answered, looking over

at Clarkie, head bowed, firmly resolving, with the help of His grace, to sin

no more.

Yes, the old priest thought to himself, these things usually have a

way of working themselves out. "He won't be long at all, detective."


***

Don Lafferty is a member of the Philly Liars Club, the social media director of the literary magazine, Wild River Review, and serves on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Writers' Conference.

14 comments:

Alan Griffiths said...

Nicely done, Don - great dialogue and a top story.

Julie Lewthwaite said...

Great story - I enjoyed that, nice work!

Don Lafferty said...

Alan & Julie - Many thanks for your kind words.

Debbie said...

Don, Great story. Well done.
Debbie

Gerri George said...

Fabulous story, Don. I loved it. I want more!

Joyce said...

Fantastic story. They shall indeed inherit the Earth, one mop handle at a time...

Paul D. Brazill said...

Splendid writing. Top of the range!

Don Lafferty said...

Debbie & Gerri - You're always so good to me. I can never thank you enough.

Joyce & Paul - Thanks for taking the time to read, and for your generous comments.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Don- Great job with that. Captured the feel of the Catholic church perfectly and what a great, unique way to give Leon his due. Nothing I love better than a bully getting taken out.

Col Bury said...

Hi Don,
Cool story, 'n' adept use of a mop!

Since my first ever story in print was called "Mopping Up", you're a man after my own heart!

Regards,
Col

ABSOLUTELY*KATE said...

" . . . firmly resolving, with the help of His grace, to sin no more."

Certainly cleaned up a Hail Mary play there Mr Lafferty. Damn good dialogue on the play-by-play action as well. Touch o'karma before the crucifix made its 'point'. ~ Absolutely*Kate

Don Lafferty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Lafferty said...

Sean - You know how it is. When one is forced to spend countless hours in a church, the atmosphere becomes second nature.

Col - To those of us who've swung a mop a time or a thousand, using one to serve up justice also seems like second nature. Would love to see "Mopping Up".

Kate - the "Hail Mary" nature of the Catholic sacrament of confession very likely continues to enable all manner of otherwise antisocial behavior.

Thanks to all for taking the time to read and comment.

Kathy Kulig said...

Great read, Don. Nicely done!