EXPRESSIONS Fiction

The Priest (Episode 4 ) – Choose your battles well; you may not live to tell the tale.

“I cannot think well, Father. Ever since it happened I have not led a normal life.” That’s how he started his confession. He was in simple clothes but he was neatly dressed. The clean white t-shirt he wore had the inscription “DO NO EVIL” and his baggy shorts were slightly faded. He was muscular.
“Come to the Lord with all your troubles. He will not forsake you. Even if your sins be as scarlet, He will cleanse you and make them as snow.”

He started talking. “Father, I am a mason. I don’t get much from it but I am content with the little I get. My wife died painfully during the birth of our second child and since then, I vowed never to remarry. I really loved Martha. So, Father, I am the sole parent of both kids.”

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Sad. I remained silent. He took the cue and proceeded with his confession. “It was one Monday morning when I had already seen my children off to school. I was walking to the construction site where I had been employed to work on contract. I was dressed in my uniform. Father, I had just arrived at a bush path when I saw a shiny black Toyota Land cruiser breathing by the side of the pathway. Someone in the car called out. I stopped, made sure I was the one being addressed and even then, I treaded very cautiously; the world is a dangerous place nowadays.” He repeated that last statement with a heavy sigh and continued.

“A man in suit and tie got down and approached me with a smile. He asked if I was a mason and I replied in the affirmative. He looked very pleased. He told me that they needed someone like me for an urgent job that will not take even thirty minutes. Father, I was tempted. The inside of the car alone was killing me. But something did not feel right about the whole scenario. Why were they in the bushes so early in the morning? They looked like rich men. Surely, such people knew people who could easily do such jobs for them. So why?”

I was dying to know the rest of the story. I led him on. “The Lord makes ear for they who come to him with repentant hearts. Proceed with your confession, please.”

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He continued. “I told the man that I was already late for work but he would have none of it.He offered to pay me over twenty times my daily wage. And he was impatient with giving me time to consider the proposal. Father, this is where I should have backed off. But the situation in which I had been placed was a difficult one. What they were offering me was more than my whole monthly wage! I convinced myself that this was God opening a way for me! Who knew? Maybe this was my breakthrough. If I did the job well for them, they might help me get permanent employment. I entered the car. The next thing I remember was waking up in a commodious and elegant church auditorium.”

This was beginning to get very interesting. There was a very long pause. I was getting anxious.
“Father, when I came to…. I saw a huge trench ahead of me in the church building! Right before the trench was a mountain of already-mixed mortar and a shovel. Who had started the work? Why did he not finish it? These were questions begging to be answered and I began to fear. One commanded me harshly to the trench with the mortar. I picked the shovel to do it. I scooped the first portion and was about to drop it into the trench and what I saw stopped my heart. Father, in the trench was a naked pregnant woman!”

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I shouted ‘Jesus’! I knew it was against the rules of confession to still show open emotion but this was too much for me to bear! The penitent seemed to be okay with my outburst so he continued the story. But I apologized.

“Father, she looked like she was in her mid-twenties. She begged me not to do what I had been asked to do. But the men kept shouting at me and threatening me. At a point, I asked who they were and why they wanted to kill the poor innocent lady. The man who had convinced me to come with them replied, ‘Funny man. You people think all the miracles in the churches you see around are from God ehn? Hahaha! Fools!’”
Goosebumps filled my flesh. He was not done.

“After about thirty minutes of resistance, one of them pulled out a gun and threatened to kill me like he did the first mason who did not do the job. Father, I looked back at my two children. If I did not return home who would take care of them? They would be orphans in this cruel world! The quandary I had been put in was one of gargantuan dimensions. But I made a decision. Quietly, with a heavy heart and amidst the operose torment in my soul, I slowly heaped the mortar into the pit. With each scoop, I felt I was sealing my own doom. The shrill cry of the dying woman cut right through my heart. But soon… I heard her voice no more.”

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I was going crazy! I asked him, “You did what?!”
“Father, it was my life or hers! And if they killed me, they would still get the job done anyway.”
I sighed and apologized for judging him. “I’m only human,” I said.

He nodded and ended his story. “The next thing I saw was I was back on the road they picked me from. I hoped it was a bad dream but the GHc500 was lying by my side. Surely, money does not appear mysteriously on bush paths. Father, since that day I have not been human. Each night when I sleep, I see ghastly images. And that macabre cry…it haunts me! I wish I had chosen death that day.”

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I digested his story. The evil men could not be traced because they made sure to clean their tracks well. I asked whether there was nothing at all he remembered from the encounter which the police could use to unravel the case. He said try as he could, there were no clues. Besides, he did not wish to be arrested for murder so he had kept the events of that day to himself, until now.

Apart from recommending an act of penance to him, I took him to the church’s professional counselling office myself. The man was a scarred man and he needed more than just reconciliatory actions.
Two weeks after his confession, I read of his suicide in the news. I cried.
Choose your battles well; you may not live to tell the tale.

By : Leslie Akplah and Nana Elikem, Writers threesixtyGh

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