‘Forgive me father for I have sinned...’
Father Joe usually took confession on a Friday evening and on one certain Friday in particular his first confession would also be his last of the evening. This one confession stunned him so to the point that he would not be able to continue on taking more. It would take him to his own past and also have him question his future.
‘...Twenty-five years ago, today I killed a boy and I think it is about time that I came clean with the lord and say to you that I'm sorry...’
This caught Father Joe off guard for two reasons, one being that the confession of a murder was the last thing he was expecting to hear and two being the fact that his little brother had gone missing exactly twenty-five years prior to the day only to be found dead three weeks later.
‘And you came here today, why?' Father Joe asked after having taken a few seconds to take in what he had been told. 'It would make more sense if you were to turn yourself into the local police station.’
It is almost as if he missed the 'I'm sorry' part, but he didn't, he heard it quite clearly.
‘Nah, it's far too late for that, besides, this is God's house, better to atone here than in prison.’
Father Joe took a moment to remember his little brother. Jessie had only been ten years old when his life had been taken. Jessie was a fun little boy who would wear a smile on his face more often than not. He was small for his age though the general consensus was that this would be something that would change in time.
Approaching dinner time, Jessie had been out in the garden of the family home. Mom asked Joe to call Jessie to come in for dinner. Joe went outside as he was asked but Jessie was not there. It had been a little cold on this day and had looked like it may rain. Jessie's jacket had been bundled up right smack in the middle of the garden. If he would have gone off anywhere nearby then he would have taken his jacket but he knew dinner was almost ready so he would not have gone far and not by himself either.
Joe went around the block and there was no sign of his brother. He knocked into the neighbours on either side of his home and no one knew of Jessie's whereabouts. An hour passed then two and still there was no sign of Jessie. Police were called and a search got underway. A whole community got involved. Three weeks passed and Jessie's remains were discovered.
The reasons why and the who done it were never discovered. There had been no leads and nothing to follow up on. Joe, being the big brother by two years, blamed himself for years. He turned to religion for solace, and this led him to the priesthood. So, with it being twenty-five years to the day when Jessie went missing Joe or Father Joe as he now is, was not ready for what had come his way but it came his way all the same.
‘I'm calling the police,’ he speaks to his confessional visitor.
'You can't do that; confession is as confidential as any doctor-patient privilege is. Besides, if you call the police now then you will never know what really happened with your brother.'
‘Brother? What do you know of my brother?’
‘Jessie was his name I believe. Am I right?’
Father Joe at this moment wished that the confessional barrier didn't exist. He so wanted to see the face of the man who has come to him. For a brief moment, the priest thought about physically moving from one booth to the other though he soon thought better of that.
‘Alright, I'll listen to you. I however cannot guarantee that either I or the lord will be in any way forgiving.’
‘I'm not a bad man. I am not a good man. I hit a glitch and I screwed up. Being honest, it was you I was looking for, not your brother. It is no excuse, but I began looking at you before my son died. If he were alive today, he would be the same age as you...’
Father Joe sat silently and listened to what he was been told.
‘...His football team, my son's football team once played against the football team you played for. You were good and you stood out. My son took ill not long after that match. His illness tore through him. In my grief I sought out your football team and I attended some of your games...’
Somewhat agitated, Father Joe remembered playing football as a child, and yeah, thinking of it, he remembered a man who came to the games but for the life of him, he could not picture what this man looks like. Still, he remained silent as he continued to listen.
‘...I know this is odd, but my head was not in the right place. You see, I had lost my son and I guess I was seeking something in you. I wanted to get to know you and adopt you in some way, support you in all you were to do. I even tried to approach you after a couple of games but that didn't work. Following you, I found out where you lived. One day I finally decided I was going to talk to you but arriving at your home I began to realize how all this seemed...’
Father Joe was beginning to see where this was going and had no idea how to react to it so again, he continued to listen.
‘...Like what was I to say if I knocked to your door? What was I to say to you or your parents if they answered the door? I realized when I got to the gates that there was nothing I could say. Your brother was there, in the wrong place at the wrong time. I saw an opportunity. If I were to take your brother, I could get you to come to me so I took him...'
Fighting the will to react Father Joe bit his fist and waited.
‘...Your brother was silent at first but soon he started to cry, and he continued to cry, and he just wouldn't stop. I got annoyed and angry and had yet to even make an attempt to try to get you to come for him. My anger was too much, I grabbed your brother by the neck, and by the time I let go he was... Well...’
‘His name was Jessie; my brother's name was Jessie.’
‘I know and I am sorry. I am an old man now, and now it is my turn... I am dying. I had to come find you.’
The tears were streaming with both men with the visitor cracking first and Father Joe was feeling a strong anger, the likes which had rarely ever entered his life. Wanting to be the better man Father Joe took a moment and decided to confront that man in the next booth and the priest refused to let the anger get the better of him. He stood then began to move from one booth to the adjoining booth to find that no one was there. Whoever this man was or is, he has gone.
Three weeks pass and death notifications came Father Joe's way. One notification stood out in particular, and it so happened to be that of a man, an older man, who passed away after losing his battle with illness and this notification came with the words ‘I'm sorry.’
The weirdest thing of all was the fact which had also been stated with the notice of death was that he who had passed had been bed-bound for the better part of half a year. If he who had come to Father Joe had been bed-bound, then how did he manage to come for confession?