Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Johann's Dilemma

This is my FFF #11 entry and must contain these four words: Pater, Pest, Perpendicular, & Schlemiel. This is my offering:

Father Tom settled into the confessional booth and opened his favorite book. It was Friday and there just wasn't much traffic at three-thirty in the afternoon, so why not while away the time with a good read? He clicked on his little reading lamp and opened his tattered copy of "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" and found where he had left Arthur and Ford Prefect heading off to the pub. He smiled to himself as he dabbed his tea bag around in his mug.

He welcomed the chance to cover for Father Randal and have a quiet bit of time to himself. Friday afternoon in confession was this close to a day off. The Saturday night/Sunday afternoons were the worst, as all of God's children had to start the work week with a clean breast. The lines were long and the sins were boring.

But Friday afternoon was Heaven. Most people seemed to be lining up their sins at this time, not coming in the seek reprieve. Father Tom sipped his tea and settled in. He stretched his legs as much as the booth would allow and read about the man who pretended to be from Guilford but was really from Betelgeuse.

He was caught totally unawares where the confessional door was pulled open and a large man plopped down. Father Tom was just reaching for his mug at the time and when the door let in the strong afternoon sunlight through the stained glass windows, he was blinded. The hot tea fell in his lap and he leaped up with a yelp and struck his head quite hard against the wall. His glasses fell with a clatter to the floor and joined his broken mug, his ruined paperback, and his tiny reading lamp. He was tempted to use the Lord's name in vain but was too busy holding his steaming hot pants away from his genitals.

"Pater?" said the man. His door was still open and it framed him in a crimson-shaded silhouette as he called out.

"It's alright my son," Father Tom said through clenched teeth as the hot tea headed for his shoes. The man closed the confessional door and Father Tom had to let his eyes adjust to the dark before he could make out his glasses by the lamp on the floor. He settled them on his nose and kicked the book and shards off to one side, and sat down.

The man took this as his cue to begin, "Good night Pater. Forget me for my sins." He spoke each word in it's turn as if he were reading from a foreign language phrase book. "Pardon Pater. Anglish not many good," he sighed. He scratched his head and sat in silence.

Father Tom waited for a bit, then said, "Speak my son. I will help as best I can."

"Pater, me got trouble. Bad trouble. Woman trouble."

"What woman?"

"Brother's woman. Brother dead. Dead year ago. Dead under train," each word came haltingly.

"You brother's woman? Your brother's girlfriend?" then man held up his left hand and clasped a finger, then it dawned on Father Tom, "Your sister-in-law! Your brother's wife!"

"Ya! Ya!" he nodded in recognition. "Sister-law want baby! She spaken want baby now. No brother give her baby. Want baby many bad!" The man shuffled his big frame and seemed to shake the entire booth. He rested his head in his hands and thought. In a moment, he sat up. Very quietly he said, "Sister-law want me good baby. Brother dead. Want me good baby."

"She wants you to give her a baby?" Father Tom asked.

"Bible say law. Genesis. Must give widow baby, keep brother's line going."

"Well, I don't know-"

"She look good Pater. She look good to me. She ubermilf! No woman for Johann since come America. Johann," he pointed to himself, "Johann me. No woman by no many Anglish Pater. Johann is..." he stumbled and tried to think of the right word, "hairy. Many, many hairy!"

"Horny?" Father Tom suggested, and then wished he hadn't.

"Ya! Horny! Me no sleep good. Think all night, give Sister-law good baby, but think of brother in Heaven too. Don't know..."

Father Tom thought a moment, "God tells us to go forth and be fruitful, and the lesson of Onan is to obey God's law but-"

"Danke Pater! Me no pest! Me go give good baby right now!" and with that he dashed from the booth through the blood red light. Father Tom fumbled for the door handle in the sudden glare, and when he managed to get out of the booth, he found himself yelling "Wait!" to an empty church. Father Tom bowed his head, "God protect you my son and keep you from sin," he muttered.

Off and on throughout the next week, Father Tom thought of poor, misguided Johann. He watched the parishioners who came and went, and searched for the outline of Johann's face amongst the crowds. He had never gotten a good look at the big man in the booth and was unsure if he would recognize him even if he saw him. At night, as he knelt by his little bed, he prayed to God to send Johann back to him so that he could help him see the error of his ways.

Friday came and he was covering for Father Randal again in the confessional. "Please God, let him come today!" he prayed in earnest. The door swung open, "Father? Are you in here?" said the silhouette.

"Johann! Saints be praised!" Father Tom brightened at the answer to his prayers.

"No Father. It's Officer Brown," said the big man, "Come quick Father! There has been an accident and the poor guy doesn't have long. You need to do the Last Rites Father. Now!" Father Tom flew from the booth and followed Officer Brown as quickly as he could. "The guy was crossin' the street perpendicular to the church Father and he got hit by a trolley," Officer Brown explained as they hustled into the street.

There on the pavement lay Johann, blood oozing from his nose and ears. Father Tom knelt beside him and began to pray. Johann's eyes fluttered and were lit with recognition. "Pater," he said in a hoarse whisper.

"Yes, my son?"

"Pater, I fooled her. Wore rubber!" and with a chuckle, Johann died.

"God in Heaven," Father Tom prayed, "welcome this poor schlemiel!" and his tears mingled with the spilled blood.


**Author's Note** I am not Catholic and know very little about it, but the word "Pater" suggested a story with a priest to me. This was one of the toughest ones I've had to write so far. Like all good hacks, I swiped the story, but if you can't steal from the Bible, where can you? I tried to make the deaths of Johann and his brother the same (both dying by a train) in keeping with the parable, and the red light was supposed to be foreshadowing. Clumsy, I know. I hope you enjoyed this weeks installment and maybe next week I won't have to kill anyone off.


  1. Be fritful and multifry.

    An interesting tale, Doc...and it kept within the recurring tragic tone that seems to be pervasive this week.

  2. Oh good one Doc! Good one!

    I chuckled at this line…. "She look good Pater. She look good to me. She ubermilf!

    And why does Father Randal always have Friday afternoons off? Something suspicious going on there maybe…

  3. Had me giggling in places. A bit of comedy in the confessional with the hot tea and a smack on the head, classic! Great story Doc.
    Regards, David.

  4. A very interesting, darkly comic tale, sir. Bless you, my son.

  5. Got to be good to get Pater, pest, perpendicular, schlemiel, ubermilf, parables and The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy all into one short, smart, comical tale.


  6. Nicely done! I enjoy a good trolley death and to have two in one story, well that's gravy!

  7. Great story and I've got to admit anything that mentioned Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy makes my day. I hated the movie but after it I've gotten to where I picture Zooey Deschanel as Trillian all the time.

  8. Cormac- Forgive me old friend but I don't know what fritful is. Multifry I am vaguely familiar with as I tried a hookah once with some friends.

    Alan- Let me be honest. Most of the words I know in German, I learned from war movies. There are a few exceptions, but very few. My grasp of the language is dubious at best. Also, it has been my experience that the use of a good name is fantastic short hand for a writer of short stories. In one word, it gives a good impression to the reader as to the disposition of the character, e.g. Professor Snape in Harry Potter. I follow this rule as much as I can but I am often at a loss for a good name. I am not above using the names of people who might read it. After all, doesn't it feel good to see your name in print and it isn't in the court records? "...why does Father Randal always have Friday afternoons off?" Because he is trying to recover from his drunken strip Bingo games from the night before.

    David- I gleen from the classics as much as I can, the Marx Brothers mostly.

    Randal- And may the Lord go with you. Did you enjoy your Bingo game?

    Lewis- I sweated bullets over this one and it took me three edits, which is a major effort, as I don't know Anglish any better than Johann.

    Thank you all for dropping by, first timers and regulars. I look forward to many more Flash Fiction Fridays.


  9. Doc:

    So well done! I love the use of confessional imagery along with the everpresent "Western" feel of your writing. A joy to read! Thank you!


  10. Doc,

    I misused the word "frit." I meant flitful, and that's probably not even grammatically correct.

  11. Boy, that Randal really gets around!

    I love how it's almost set up like a joke, and the rubber line made me laugh out loud. Ha! Poor, Johann, but better for the sister-in-law, I suppose. ;)


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