The hot seat. I was on the hot seat being grilled again, relentless questions, borderline vitriol, my interrogator becoming obviously frustrated with his lack of success. In the dim, tiny space, I could sense his cumbersome frame shifting on the bench. Poor fellow had a tremendous appetite making him a giant man in tiny shoes.The wooden seat relayed his every impulse with skittish movements and a tiny symphony of squeaks. These were the motions of a restless soul, well beyond foot-tapping, movements longing to be a palm slamming on the chair or a head banging against the wall. Wonderful, he was making nervous twitches, and I was not. I was the one being questioned, and I was cool.
"How many times did you do that?" His voice had no energy. It was by now reduced to a raspy whisper, a weakling feature that still attempted to slash and hurt with its last strength.
"As often as I pleased!"
A head bang. The man was exasperated; I remained on top. I smiled in quiet satisfaction.
"Have you no guilt, no shame?"
"Guilt for what? For doing what comes naturally. Man is an animal driven by impulses to survive. Money, power, sex..."
"Shut up! I will not have you lecturing me about morality." Creak, squeak, bang!
"You're not God!" I said.
Swoosh! Clang! His hands clawed the screen between us. I could hear fingernails rattling along rows of metal. "I'm the closest to God you'll ever get!" he bellowed.
Silence. A lovely pause where he gathered his resources and I, well, I gloated.
"Your penance will be three Hail Mary's and an Act of Contrition recited daily until you see the evil of your ways."
With a swish the tiny curtain closed, and the murmur of another confession wafted over. I sighed. The fun was over. I couldn't help but wonder why they expected me to do this every year. It was so hard on Father O'Leary, Ah well, I had impulses to service before I'd be back next year.
A new issue of Word Catalyst is out. A snippet and a link for my column:
Joe pushed his fedora back off his forehead and his hand lingered, fingers wrestling with strands of hair. The newsstand was a busy place with people pushing and shoving behind him on the crowded sidewalk. It was hard to take the time to peruse the glossy covers in the rack. One old lady banged his ankle with her cane as she passed.
"Find anything?" Smitty, the proprietor asked. Obviously, he was anxious for Joe to make up his mind, pay and go to make room for more customers.
"No!" He growled the response. Smitty had a point though. Franklin could show up. That's the last thing he needed, his worst enemy confronting him smack dab on Fifth Avenue. His eyes scanned the rack again. Esquire, GQ, Newsweek. Truth be told, he didn't have much interest in news magazines. He picked up Esquire, handed a couple bills to Smitty and took off.
Scanning the sidewalk, his quickened pace indicated a man in a hurry, long stride after long stride taking him home. What a hell of a way to live, always looking over your shoulder. But Franklin wanted him dead. Read more.