It’s not what she meant to say

“It’s what you find beneath your feet that holds you up,”

She said  to me;

I had stopped a moment in her sacred space

To explain the ill-wind that was blowing in my face.

I could have offered more of what I was about

But she turned her thoughts from me.

It gave me pause to disregard her intent,

Give a deeper possibility to what the words  meant.

Do we always cherish those who care for us,

Those who give us all the space we need,

Yet watch from afar should our missteps cause us to bleed?

Like an old raincoat that keeps us from the drenching;

It becomes something we use, not something we cherish.

So it is with the earth beneath our feet.

Two Windows

Scented oils, lavender among them,

the breeze from the screened door offers a ride.

Out-there can find no mercy from the wind,

The winds of change I mean:

Ill winds that blow only scurrilous defamation 

In thunderous heaps beyond reason.

Yes, the lavender is soothing, perhaps a touch of grape;

It mixes well with the smell of smoke from the fireplace.

It’s safe here for awhile

Should I not turn on what is happening.

So many windows in this noble house,

Built to be so, close to the ground where it’s easy to see.

Windows to the world used to be few and guarded;

Much was done to protect what was let in and let out.

That has all gone, even the walls are windows, now.

The world has become a glass bottom boat.

I glimpse outside; the chipmunks prepare for winter.

The leaves fall gently.

I know what to expect of my winter.

The other is more difficult to frame.

I must leave here soon,

But not before the oils have had their way with me.

When institutions outlive their usefulness there must be change,

From the hunter to the grower, from technology to humanity.

And none go easy, the fight is always fierce,

Last gasps of desperation from a broken system.

Perhaps a sip of brandy, a junk of wood to the fire

The light is dimming outside,

Soon it will be time to sleep.

Not so for the turmoil to come.



I walk behind them as they keep their nose to ground,
One following the other, a sniff, a leg cocked in the air.
They mark what is theirs to mark,
Especially should some new scent linger there.
I can tell when something new comes to bear.
No, I have no ability like these two, not nearly so,
However, they tell me much when they longer pause,
And insist on greater inspection before we go.


Maybe I should do the same,
And perhaps I do without noticing the mark I’ve made.
I sometimes wonder about things I’ve left behind
But it’s mixed up with the price I’ve paid.
I tear pictures up inside my head
And toss out softer things that like to cling.
I cannot take the pull of future against past;
Either one has only sorrow left to bring.


The dogs do it better, marking what is theirs I mean.
What they truly love has no need for such marking:
The house, the den, the dish, the human, the toy,
It is part of what they are, no different from their barking.
I would not care to guess what taking that away means;
How they cope with change is their mystery.
In each new place, you’ll find them once again
Creating a brand new history


My fear is in not finding something better.
What I have shines so bright I scarce expect more.
Yet the time calls for moving on to something new,
Some place I have not been before.
And then, there is the greater need to leave
That looms closer with each footstep that I take.
I tell my dogs it’s time that we go home.
They care not for the silly entendre I might make.


If I could find Jesus

I find myself thinking

Something evil is blocking the light

It’s not just a notion

Some darkness that comes in the night

                                                                            It’s out all around me

                                                                          It feeds on the left and the right

                                                                         There’s an upset in heaven

                                                                          And Jesus is losing the fight


                                                                   People are starving

                                                                    His children die every day

                                                                    The screams from my TV

                                                                        Tell me more pain’s on the way

                                                                  There’s terror next door

                                                                     Don’t care what you might say

                                                               Blow them to bits

                                                                    It’s time someone else had to pay


                                                              I find myself thinking

                                                               Our mother is shaking in fear

                                                               Trampled green grass and flowers

                                                                The weight is too much to bear

                                                                 I weep as she suffers alone all alone

                                                                 And if only Jesus could see

                                                             He’d have all of us leave

                                                             Set paradise free


                                                             My iphone just called me

                                                              My internet says don’t delay

                                                              Those pills on the table

                                                               Will help me forget yesterday

                                                            If I could find Jesus

                                                                 But I know something keeps him away

                                                             So I have a bad feeling

                                                                It’s just gonna be hell today


Dad, I still miss you

This is my third attempt to write about Father’s day. Why write at all you might ask? Good question. And it deserves an answer.

Because I’m still not sure I’m any good at it, and I’m damn sure I made many mistakes in the process of being one—for a short spell, when I should have, not being one at all. So yes, I feel compelled to write about Father’s day.

My dad passed away when I was ten, and I have given few men any latitude when offering me guidance or direction. I have learned most things the hard way, including how to be a father.

Of course circumstance has a way of making decisions for us. No matter how wonderful the notion of “following your own path,” there are roads you are forced to take, rough roads that trip you and push you to your knees. Those roads don’t make fathers. They make you accept that much in life is beyond your control. To experience that little fact a time or two sucks.

I won’t for a moment make some excuse for anything I did or didn’t. I am now what formed me back then. I take full responsibly for the good and the bad.

So, ya, Fathers. I’ve been around long enough to meet all types: the true father, work-alcoholic, the alcoholic, the cheater, the beater, the lover, the child, the provider, the loser, and a myriad of other wonderful characterizations.

No, those tags are not boxes I put fathers in. They are notions shared by the family who knew them; people who for reasons of their own felt compelled to add those tags. A mother is either good or bad, mostly good. (I offer that not as a jealous observation of how well mothers are treated, a story for another piece of writing, rather that’s the way mothers get described)   Fathers tend to come with the tags depicted above.

I don’t believe any Father belongs in one of those boxes. We all make mistakes. We all stumble. Divorce and separation are not exactly a rare occurrence, yet it is probably the Father who will deal with one of those monikers.

So, my hat today is “off” to all those Fathers who have fallen from grace, to all those who have struggled and tried, who in the end never gave up, no matter the scars.

Happy Father’s Day!

The Select Few

Brent’s Cove, Newfoundland. The place I was born, and then lived-in for ten years before moving to the big city, St. John’s. Childhood offers its own protection from the atrocities of life, but I think most people who lived in the cove felt safe. Even in St. John’s, where I spent by early teenage years, and Montreal where I went to University, and found my first “real” job, I was subjected to very little regarding the grievous affairs of the world. News of such events was given a scant ten or fifteen minutes on the six o’clock TV news, with maybe a few minutes extra on the eleven o’clock news. Anyone under thirty years of age scarcely listened to either.

That’s not to say we did not have world issues to contend with: The Cuban crisis, the Vietnam War, race issues, managed to find their way into our Canadian lives; even my university was the center of a race confrontation where the entire computer system was destroyed, education grinding to a halt for a week or so. Those were all troubling events, but the news surrounding the circumstances moved into the shadow as the days sped by. The reason for that was not our unconcern for what was happening to others; we returned to reacting to the stimulus of our day-to-day lives: the homes we lived in, the people we encountered, the streets we drove on, the sidewalks we walked on, the stores we visited, the workplace, the nightclubs. All else came as outside news and had but a tiny window and a wisp of time to capture our attention.

I mention this, as today we are all inundated with every grim and grizzly encounter that might take place on a planet with 7.5 billion people. I don’t believe we were meant to take on the impact of every depraved situation that a bloated planet of people might conjure up every few seconds. Yes, the speed of information being as it is, that is exactly what is happening—a vast network of interested parties pushing to claim your next second, and then sell you something: maybe an ideology, maybe the latest drug, or maybe, something more sinister, to riddle you with fear. I vote that the latter has a heavy set of interested parties. Fear is a powerful motivator, even if the most likely outcome of a sustained fear is a debilitating state of mind.

We greatly need to understand, believe, accept that we all still live in Brent’s Cove; but we just don’t know it. Now, I’m not so naïve that I accept putting on blinders and ignoring the rest of the world is a solution to anything. Rather, I am equally confident that focusing on your own neighborhood, your friends, your family will have the best possibility of keeping your town, city, or suburb safe and livable, and your mind uncluttered with the constant fear that is being promulgated by the excess of media. Realize, be aware, that when you tune-in you are being sold, set-up for some purpose. Expose yourself to only what you deem relevant and necessary, then tune-out and return to your Brent’s Cove.

So ends part one of my intention.

Part two has to do with  the Selected Few behind the curtain? Yes, they have been there since the commencement of the industrial age, and, in all likelihood, before that. Up until the Internet they knew we were not looking.

But the internet did come along.

From the radio, to the TV, to the Internet, it took less than a century to take the relative freedom and anonymity that folks had to live their own lives, and have them quickly become totally dependent on the system and the paycheck. That, my dear friend, was orchestrated to happen by the Selected Few. We were being corralled by advertising and marketing even as the Sears catalog sat in the outhouse so we could wipe our ass with it. The radio began the propaganda of the “good life;” the TV took over as best it could.

The Internet is the monster.

The big push came after the second world war, and by the time the eighties were upon us, it was quick becoming that two people were required to work to sustain a household: that a university education was a prerequisite for any type of well-paying job, that every family needed a big house, two cars. Soon enough the cost of an education, the cost of insurance, the cost of maintaining a household, was all too often a numbing day to day burden—the noose as tight as could be without total strangulation.

I won’t pretend I’m some well-informed economist. Nor will I for a moment believe that it is only in the past year or so that our world had become unhinged in leadership and direction. What I refer to above took time and planning. The game has been “afoot” for some time—the Selected Few behind the curtain pulling the strings and pushing us all to work longer and harder, spend more, expand, drink in the Kool-Aid of consumption.  Behind the curtain the same old game continued —the Selected Few—People of extreme privilege and power doing  whatever they feel needs to be done to extend that power and wealth.

The media took a pot shot at a few, mostly irrelevant fodder in the big machine; now and again a mighty figure might seem to fall—my favorite is Martha Stewart; of all the corruption she becomes one of the few hung out to shame—give me a break. WE, THE People were oblivious to it all.

The Internet changed that.

There were always a few on the people’s side who tried to warn the rest of us—a Ralph Nader of sorts. They were few and far-between with little access to mass media. That lack of access has ended. The many, many sins of humanity against humanity now hangs out in shame like a Monday morning wash hanging on a clothesline in some long ago era. Those who seek to stay hidden have less and less places to hide; their affiliations, their avarice, their power is being more and more exposed, and so they become more desperate.

Be careful. This is not a time to celebrate. The Selected Few who need to stay behind the curtain have adopted a new game. What they cannot take away, they will add to; they ensure we are fed on a minute-by- minute basis: fear and division.  Fear mongering, as the machinery of our broken institutions make their final gasp at serving the few—the citizens of Rome looking down upon the staged performance of its paid for and owned gladiators; but, no one dies here, it’s all about posturing, the misguiding presentation of cows humping cows, nothing more, nothing less.

The Internet is a monster of resurrection and doom. It can and will deliver one or the other. Let’s ensure it’s the outcome we desire.


The Male Image

The right to use image – purchased

I have always been in touch with my feminine side, or so I used to think. I enjoy and work better with women than I do with men. I’m as sensitive as a humming bird attempting to stand still, but I purposefully carry along a few tortoise shells in case I need to protect myself; and I have been known on many occasions to drag myself back up even when my good friend, Whiskey, said he could be of no help.

I was lucky enough, in my earlier days, to be part of a very successful international firm in accounting, and for many years I followed the winding stairs to the top; even making it up a vast number of floors before an absurd notion overtook me: I hated it. Not the work. That was fine. It was the culture. Then it was mostly men. But the road to that final floor was clear. It was who you know, and who knew you. What you knew was at that point irrelevant, as it was assumed you were an expert or you would not have made it this far. It was all about jousting for the favor of the powers above who would invite you up that last set of steps. I could not do it, so I quit.

It’s a long way back to that time, and I am more than pleased that I had the wisdom to make that incredible decision. Yet, for some time I questioned what it was that was so to my dislike. My search for that answer took some time, but indeed I found it. Rather than share how I found that answer I would like to share two short anecdotes that I hope will give you the answer.

I was in the presence of a well-know dressage teacher (there with my wife who rides natural horsemanship there days) and he and I were at one end of the arena as a screaming match erupted among a few of the attendees. He turned his back on what was happening and came over to me. His words rang clear what was going on in the corporate world I had almost gotten lost in. “It’s okay, Russell. Let’s you and me chat. …That there is nothing more than cows humping cows.”

The next story has to do with a webinar I took some time ago. It was on spirit, soul, and how we are all in need of growth and change. Wonderful, thoughtful, and helps point the way back on the path if one is into that sort of thing. The two got into a discussion of a need for the feminine to take over the planet. The elder of the two, and perhaps the more seasoned in knowledge of what we males tend to project, was adamant; No, we are in need of the masculine. What we have witnessed thus far in our history is nothing more than ego driven, cruel, selfish, power hungry males taking what they can before they are consumed by their own fear. The masculine should be the nurturing, protective father. We need many more of those.

How much do you pay for a high fructose corn syrup soda

If someone does not like what I write, that is their right. But then, move on.

And people should know they have not earned some special right to read a book for free, listen to music for free, watch a movie for free, or consume any other form of art, for free. It behooves me to comprehend how people look at artists. Just this morning I saw a post on Face book bemoaning why a band would want to be paid… they should be happy to have a place to showcase their music…Really?

I can only talk for myself. I am self-published. I will be the first to agree that my first book might not have earned the endorsement of Ernest Hemingway, and even the second and third might not be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. But, before someone trashes me as being without credentials, that I am tossing out worthless trash, and wasting their valuable money ($3.99) and time to read the book, let me give them my story.

I have enjoys the art of writing for most of my life. As a child I loved stories, and as soon as I could, I became an avid reader, and I am still one to this day. I have always loved poetry, and since my first infatuation with a long-ago beautiful young lady I have written poetry.

I never could spell, and hated to research in the local library, so it was not until the internet and Word that I became prolific at writing short stories, songs, and more poetry. Some five or six years ago I got the idea of writing a novel. Okay, I’m a gamer, even at my ripe age, and I love the Fantasy genre, from Terry Brooks to the great late Robert Jordan. So, it had to be fantasy.

I spent a year writing that first novel. I found an editor for $600 or so, a cover for $200 or so and off I went to self-publishing. A lot has happened since then: I wrote a second book, went to a lot of online courses on how-to-write ($1000 or so, in total); began writing a third book, purchased a lot of how-to-write books (between ten and twenty books)… from deep pov, who’s pov, head-hopping, hooks, plot, pace, character building, world building, et al. I also found a new editor who was excellent at his craft and a great teacher.

After all of that I went back and rewrote the first, paid an editor to once again make it less than a grammar catastrophe, rewrote the second book, once again had it edited, and finally, produced a third book. With new covers, reviews and the like I invested some $6,000 to $8,000; I’m afraid to compute an exact tally.

What I have ended up with is a three book series that has taken five years, lots of research, hard work and effort, not to mention the out-of-pocket expenses over and above those listed above, i.e. advertising, marketing, website, etc.. I am proud of what I have accomplished, and I believe the products I have created are worthy of being called art.

I have had some good reviews and I am pleased that a select few enjoy reading my book. But one review was bitter in its intent and lacking in its credibility. I did not attack it as I have learned that the few who write such shite do so with the expectation of stirring up the pot for their own benefit. Still I would like to say a few things:

My books sell for $3.99. Most people belong to some group or club; my bad review came from someone who managed to get the book for free, from someone else who had gotten it for free. Even at $3.99 how much ire do they believe they have bought, no matter how bad they might judge my book? A soda drink at some fountain made with high fructose corn syrup and laced with ice and water costs more. That drink is a health risk at best, and half gets tossed away in some garbage bin, along with the plastic mug that helps pollute the planet, yet no one ever complains about the waste of money. However my free book has in some way given a person the need to be outrages. Whatever.

I get lots of folks who, once they learn I have written a book, ask for a copy. They would love to read it, as if they are doing me some favor. Yes, I give away copies and usually make a request that they might add a review should they find the book to their liking. I can count on one hand how many folks follow through. And that’s fine. We have not signed a contract, after all. But, please, no one is doing me a favor. The thousands of hours I have put into these books are indeed my own choice. I have a day job, thank the gods, and I have a wonderful family and friends who support my efforts. I ask for no more. I write this not to complain, rather to clarify a few facts about writers. I don’t for a moment believe I am alone in what I have experienced.

So, where do I go from here? I will keep on writing. I read lots of other books, and I pay for each one I read. I listen to music and pay a monthly fee to do so. I recognize the hard work and effort that goes into art. And I do my best whenever I meet an artist to understand and recognize the efforts they have put forth.


The Confession


New Year’s Eve, a sultry bar—The Rusty Anchor. A light wind tapped on the windows. Or maybe it was the spirits of old sailors looking for a leeward place to steady themselves when their memory of freezing high winds and cold salty ocean spray begged for a bar such as this. No rattle of bottles or clinking of mugs, at least not tonight. Most old time sailors had long gone to their rest, and the younger ones who now fished on the big trawlers were tucked in with their families and friends for a night of celebration that was more about balls dropping, champagne, and movie of the year. He glanced at the clock, a few ticks after nine; a look in the mirror gave up the bar’s only patron, himself. The bartender had disappeared in back. No matter, he preferred being alone.


How had he gotten here? He was the victim of dreadful improbable events that should not have come together. What was that science program he had recently watched: the Kuiper belt? In extremely rare circumstances a chunk of ice would get pulled into the gravitational vortex of the earth, collide with the atmosphere with such velocity that it would burst into flame, and leave nothing more than a brief flicker of light in the sky. Few would see it. None would care. And here he was now: cold and alone, trapped in a situation too late for any possibility of escape.

He tapped the bottom of his glass into one of the many spills covering the splintered wooden bar. The bartender appeared without a look or a word, and tipped the three-quarter full bottle. He nodded, took a sip and allowed a furtive look towards the door. How long had he been here? One, two hours? And still no sign.

His left hand quivered. He pressed it against the bar; smears of blood. He had used his shirt to wipe away what he could before tossing the shirt into the bay. The t-shirt and black coat he had on were more suited for autumn that a cold winter’s night. There would be no going back to his room to get another shirt or a better coat. That ship had sailed, so went the old axiom: bridges burnt, horses or fucking cows leaving the barn with the doors open; whichever way it went. His brain exploded in full realization that none of those ridiculous clichés gave any measure to the magnitude of what he had done.


“Bless me, Father…” The subtle aroma of spring flowers floated in through the small opening in the wall, lavender maybe; a memory of his sister popped into his consciousness. He pushed it away, but the smell lingered, as did the memory of Celia. He was unable to identify for sure what the wonderful aroma was, not being versed enough to tell one flower’s smell from another. His knowledge ended with telling the difference between a rose and a tulip, only then because he saw so many roses at funerals, and the lilies were always on display at Easter. He knew even less about women, coming from a family of four brothers, and only one sister, she much younger than him.  He had been shuffled off to the seminary at a very young age; his best memory of her was she as a child.

She stumbled with her words. “I don’t know when it was I had my last confession.”

He had given up long ago saying, “What are your sins, my child?”  Maybe that was when he had found out early on that few of his visitors were in fact children, and their dumping of sins was often repetitive as a drunk saying, one more time, he would never drink again as the last vestige of a relationship passed out his door. Not that he condemned anyone; he merely came to accept that the repetition of sin was not much different than taking a piss or a dump. You wipe your ass and move on until it happened again.

…and so he said, “You bring a most wonderful reminder of spring flowers. What is it you would like to share with God?” He would have liked to explain that he was not playing at being God. He was more facilitating a direct talk with God where one could be honest and sincere. He believed that to some degree. Yet, he knew somehow that the people who told him their sins looked to him to forgive them, as if he were the one in judgment. There was no amount of talking that could explain the difference, and so he allowed the sinner to follow through as they saw fit.

Silence. He could hear her breathing, and then a small sniffle; different than what might be heard from a head cold.

He held back a smile as he realized he was sort of an expert on such things; sitting here in the dark, his ears became his eyes, he had learned to read what the penitents were feeling and groping to share.

“Father!  It’s okay if you hate me for what I’ve done. I’m sure God does.”

He took his time before he answered. He didn’t want to come across insincere. “God does not hate anyone. He hates sin, but he loves the sinner.”

“I have to tell you my sins before I can be forgiven, right?”

He paused again. “No, you may focus on your sin and then ask for forgiveness. Our church teaches that it might be best to share with a priest as doing so states clearly what the sin might be, and in granting absolution both the penitent and priest understand the sin being forgiven. The priest might then offer a suitable penance before granting absolution, such that the penitent might reflect on the sin so as not to repeat it.”

More silence. She blew her nose this time, and stuffed the tissue in her handbag. She shifted on her knees, and in the dim light through the small latticed window he watched in his peripheral vision as she bowed her head.

“I didn’t want them to do it, but I let them.” She got up, opened the door to the confessional and raced away. He could hear her receding footsteps echoing against the walls and ceilings of the expansive basilica, and then silence.

The door opened, and someone else entered. “Bless me, Father…”


The confession had taken place months ago, somewhere around the middle of July. His first assumption was that it was a young girl having her first sexual encounter. He remembered discussing that very topic with many of the other priests. He never saw it as temptation. He saw it as the natural urges of young men and women to pursue what the universe had given them—an incredible need to continue the species. How many got too mixed up in the sin and missed entirely the new responsibility of being sexually active? Once again he was no expert, but he had heard every view from it was God’s fault for making them want sex, to it’s not really sex unless there’s a child conceived.

He pondered in the weeks to come that the young girl might carry a more serious grief. The word she had spoken was them. That gave it a different possibility. Plus, her demeanor was one of total desperation. He thought of his sister again. No matter, the young lady was now long gone. He would let the mystery settle in with the many others that came to him in the confessional over the years. Even now as he sat at the bar, that small glimpse into her suffering soul resonated into a terrible sadness. He had not come here tonight for his usual escape; the finality of that flashed through his mind.

He loved the docks and he loved the water. He also loved to drink. Not to excess, just enough to keep the edge off of the strange life he led. It was by no means a hard life, but it had those few moments which shifted his very soul to scream stop; let me off. He had suffered the indignation of the priest scandal, where even a few of his pastor friends were shuffled away. He had scolded himself for being so naïve, even worse when he recalled some of the confessions where young men and women took on as sins of their own the cruel acts of the maggots and the filth of society. But even now he lifted his glass to the true sinners. “May God forgive them.” And the priest inside him could. It was a whole other matter for the man who had bared witness to so much. And so, he had found the docks, and the many bars in the area that asked no questions of him.

He had assumed he would be a fisherman like his father and two of his older brothers. When his mother died everything changed. His father became withdrawn and angry. His father’s love of whiskey went well beyond his hold on the bottle, and in many of those drunken stupors his father informed him that it was his mother’s wish he become a priest. In his final year of high school the decision was made, and he was shipped away.

His brothers, sister, and father had come to celebrate his ordination, and even though they were on different coasts they would find time to visit every so often, each telling him how their mother would be so proud of him. Still, he secretly longed for the sea and the life of a fisherman. It did not bother him as his brothers started families that he could not. Families, he soon learned, often came with secrets and dark places in great violation of the love and safety they depicted to represent. The things they told him in the confessional scorched his soul to where he would come back to his small room, get down on his knees, rock back and forth, and dream of the sea: wind and rain, high swells and white water, hard work, far away from the sins of this world. And every time he would get up off his knees and move on; his mother had wanted him to become a priest, even though he never once remembered her saying that to him directly.

The Nor’easter was the catalyst for all that was to come. And as one disaster might well insist on another, so it was that the second one went on to stamp a spot of darkness on his soul that knew no God or master. Two of his brothers on one boat, a hell of a storm, both lost at sea up along the coast of Maine. He had moved back here then to console his father, sister, and his only other brother. But his father was broken, and his sister soon found herself alone in a house with no parenting.

Instead of recognizing that Celia was a lost girl without a mother or father he had merely resented the shame that came when the principal of her school tracked him down to discuss his sister’s fall from grace, and his father’s apparent inability to deal with it. She was skipping classes, producing only failing grades, disrupting classes—the few she bothered to attend—and the principal informed him she was using drugs.

He talked with his brother, but Jared had family problems of his own. His father merely brushed him off as a priest who knew nothing about real life. When he finally spoke with Celia she screamed that she didn’t need a priest, she needed someone who gave a damn, not some prayer spewing robot who hid away safe and sound in some boy’s club. Her cutting remarks accused him of not being there for her. It left him feeble and useless. He took on her problem as his own, he the one being shamed, he the one having to deal with the circumstances—the school and the principal. He had totally missed the child that so needed help and guidance; he only saw the lashing out and the rebellion and his shame. He let his own feeling take precedence over the real guts of the situation. Returning to his parish, he researched the many forms of wayward behavior of teenagers, spending weeks on the computer looking for a solution, when he realized, too late, all he was doing was avoiding getting truly involved.

She skipped out one evening and was found overdosed on a park bench while he sat safe and sound in his parish rectory, becoming an expert on teenage difficulties.

Not a year later he received a call from the local police department asking if he was the son of Jack Martin. With the help of the many empty bottles spread about his house, his father had joined them there on the floor one spring morning. No need to research that one; he was dead; the alcohol had done its job.

He swore he would never leave a soul in need ever again.

This bar held a picture of his brothers and the others lost, but none knew they were his brothers, and none knew he came to drink not only for them, but for himself and his failure of his sister and father.

He gave another tap on the bar.


“Hello, Father…”

That smell again, spring flowers. “You’ve come back.”

An icy chill shook his being.

“I have nowhere else to go.”

“Do you not have family?”

“I did, once.” Silence. He heard the shuffling as she shifted from one knee to the other, clearly uncomfortable.

“Would you like that we meet outside the confessional where you might sit and be more comfortable? Something he rarely offered.

“Oh, please. Yes.”

“If you will sit in one of the pews in front, I will finish with the two other parishioners waiting outside, and we will find a private place to talk.”

“Thank you, Father. But I only have a few minutes.”

“I’ll be quick, promise.”

She got up and left. No footsteps echoing off the walls this time. He listened to his two parishioners’ confessions, gave them absolution and their prayers of penance. The Lord would forgive him that he might have sounded a little impatient with the second penitent. He took off his purple stole and exited the confessional to find an empty church, other than the woman facing forward in the front pew. It was still two hours to the Saturday evening mass.

He gave a slight cough so as not to frighten her. She turned and stood up. She put her hand out, and then pulled it back. He reached out his, and when she took it he covered it with his other hand, and smiled. He saw his sister’s eyes, not the same color, very much the same sadness. “There’s a rectory in back where we can sit and share a tea while we talk, if that will be okay.”

She nodded, and followed him. He offered her a seat and readied the tea. He caught as she glanced at her watch. Otherwise she kept her head down until he joined her.

Mid twenties perhaps, maybe a little more. Those dark circles on her eyes told a story of its own. He took a sip of his tea. “You said you had family, once. Would you care to tell me about it?”

“I met you many years ago.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t remember.”

“That’s okay. You gave the speech at the service when my brother and father died. There were lots of people. You were even sadder than me. You had lost your two brothers to that storm.”

“Oh my, your brother and father were on that fishing boat. Oh, yes I remember… you and your mom, such red eyes, Stacey…  Stacey Driscol.”

She smiled. The smile disappeared as quickly as it had come.

“The sorrow, ten people died…” He forced himself back. “How’s your mother?”

“She’s dead.”

Another icy chill like the one in the confessional, dominos being stacked before they would all tip one against the other to some horrible finale.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”

“You’re the only one I can talk to. I saw your grief and your pain even as I felt my own. I need someone who might understand what I have done. I don’t think anyone who has not suffered can really understand.”

He nodded and kept his eyes on her, waiting for her to continue.

“Soon after the funeral, my mom… took her life, and with two months to go until I finished school I was alone. I wish they had left me alone. I gave up on God, the world, everything.”

“God will never give up on you.”

“Oh Father. I’m so far beyond needing God to do anything, including forgiving my sins. I could have handled being alone, the bottom of that hole would have been bearable.”

“What do you need?”

“I need you to take her away. My daughter. She should not suffer for my sins. You have to help me.”

“I can get in touch with child services and…”

“No, no, you’re not listening. I came to you because there’s no one else who can help me.” She looked at the watch again, and got up to leave.

He grabbed her arm. “Wait, wait, I’m sorry. Tell me what you need me to do, please.”

She turned and stared into his eyes. “I have to go now. Can I come back tomorrow?”

“Yes, of course. What time?”

“Two, maybe three.”

“I’ll be here.

She turned and ran from the rectory.


He glanced at the clock. Ten had come and gone. The bartender had made two more visits, and the bottle was now better than half empty.

One other person had come into the bar, asking for directions to a cruise ship. He had seemed excited and anxious he not be late for departure. The bartender had explained that this side was all about fishing boats; the cruisers could be found on the other side, and he pointed to where outside his barroom door would show the well lit piers on the other side of the bay.

Perhaps she had changed her mind. A deep remorse took hold. Not only for what he had done but that she might have to witness and withstand the terrible aftermath. And her daughter, and her baby, what would happen to them? He clamped his right hand over his left to stop the shaking.

Had he lost his way with God? What a silly question, as if God had some plan, some vision for everyone that lived or had ever lived. He had lost his way with mankind, and most importantly his family. He might not have been able to save his brothers, but he sure could have done more for his sister and his father. At least he had connected again with Jared; though the two needing each other might be a better take on the reality of the situation. And every one of their meetings brought along the ghosts of their pasts where no amount of talking and sharing could make them at peace. There was a bond of shared misery and guilt, and that somehow covered the shame.


The next day, a little after two, she returned. This time he had the tea prepared, and even added a few cookies.

“If you can’t help me, say so, and I’ll leave.”

“Of course, I’ll help you as best I can…”

“Okay, but once I tell you, that’s it. I don’t need you thinking and questioning, or wanting time to consider. If that happens I leave and never come back.”

“I’m not sure what you’re asking, but, yes, I understand.”

“After my mother died, I was three months from turning eighteen. There was no other family. Instead of carting me off, they thought it best I stay on in my home with a guardian, and finish my last few months in school, and as an adult at eighteen I could get a job and take over my family house.”

Stacey lowered her head and touched her belly. “I didn’t care much about living at the time, so I merely went along which what was arranged.”

Her story went from a sad tale of being left alone to incredible abuse at the hands of her guardian and the guardian’s boyfriend and his buddies. Even before school was out she was being fed drugs and alcohol to where she participated in anything and everything offered.

After school ended, the house was summarily sold, the money taken by her captors and she was moved to a house well isolated from any prying noses. Two other girls were added to the household, and the three were made to offer a consortium of sexual favors for paying customers.

She was cursed and beaten when found pregnant, and made to deliver her baby in the basement, the men watching and cheering her on, even as the girlfriend smacked the tiny child into life.

She was immediately after that put on the pill, a prescription that came without any visit to a doctor, the result being that four months ago she found herself pregnant again.

The only way she could get out to visit this church was because her four year old daughter was being left behind as a hostage, her captors too lazy to shop for themselves, their laziness at least providing the cover for her visits to him.

She went on to explain that one of the girls who had joined them had recently disappeared, and that the disappearance was final. They were none at all too subtle in explaining that the same would go for her and her daughter should she not do what she was told.

She believed that no matter who she went to for help, they would find out, first kill her daughter, and then kill her. A priest could not talk to anyone. He was the only one she would talk with.

The tears streamed down her cheeks as she told the last of her story. She continued to rub her stomach and wipe her eyes. “I can’t let them kill my daughter. And if I stay it will even be worse for her, and now…”

It was his head that went down this time. Celia had no one to talk to. His father in a drunken stupor, Jared lost in his own life, he wrapped up in the work of God. His sister all alone sitting on a park bench trying to find some escape that perhaps she did indeed find; all because her remaining family kept thinking about dead people more than the living.  The autopsy had showed her to be three months pregnant. The dark spot on his soul shivered as he remembered the details of the coroner’s report being read to him.

He reached out to hug her, to hug his sister. She recoiled and fled from the rectory. He followed. “Stacey, Stacey, please wait. I’m sorry. Please, let me talk to you.”

She halted but did not turn around. “I would kill myself. I should have. But then I would have given my daughter what my mother gave me.” She rubbed her stomach. “And this one pounds my insides. She wants so much to be alive. Even more than I want death.”

He went around to face her. “I understand what you’re feeling.”

“Then you know why I no longer want or need a God. But, I do need someone, someone that understands how desperate I am. Will you help me?”



 A few clicks before twelve. The bottle was all but empty.

He had gone back to his room after that last encounter with Stacey, got down on his knees and tried to find the sea. But there was no escaping this time. Them. That was the same word his sister had used. “You’re no better than them,” she had screamed during their last encounter. He now understood what Stacey had meant when she used the word. And he finally understood what his sister was trying to tell him, and he had refused to hear. All the listening to sins, the kind words, the absolution, yet he had not heard his baby sister cry out that she had been raped, and then ignored by her own family. He might as well have done it to her himself. He had, and now his dead sister was coming back to witness his failure and suffer his weakness a second time. His heart cracked into pieces, his mind sped out of control: the insanity of it all, the hopelessness, the sundering of innocence into depravity and guilt, utter despair, …and then nothing.

It was dark when he opened his eyes again; his knees ached. He crawled toward the bed and cradled his head in his arms against the quilt. Tears followed tears until there could be no more, and he remained on his knees until the light came.

His brother had not believed him when he told him what he had to do. Of course he left out the details, but explained the circumstances many times over. The two had argued a bit about their sister, each wanting to take the blame that the other strived to embrace. He looked at his cell phone, knowing Jared would not contact him. He had demanded him not too. There would be no trace to what was ordained to happen. Stacy would call Jared when she arrived, from a disposable phone he had gotten for her; if she arrived. Dear God, please let her show up.

A change of name for her and her child, a new life with the two-hundred thousand that sat in his late father’s estate for him to claim. His brother had found a place where she would be safe. He knew of course that she would not feel safe no matter where they took her to. She firmly believed they would track her down and kill her, her daughter, and her baby. But Stacy carried another secret she had not shared with him.

The barroom door opened. He led her to a booth in the corner where she laid her daughter who was fast asleep.

“I’m sorry I’m late.” She looked down at her daughter. “She was sick and throwing up. I couldn’t take her out in the cold. I had to pay the clerk at the motel to go get her some soup. She finally fell asleep. She glanced at the clock over the bar. Plus, …getting a cab this late on New Year’s Eve.”

He sent the bartender away with two-hundred dollars in his hand, telling him they would be departing shortly. The bartender grinned with some evil conclusion he had made of the scene and headed to the back once again.

“You have to come with me. You know they’ll kill you if they find out you helped me, don’t you?”

“Stacey, make the call to my brother. It’ll take him a few minutes to get here.”

He passed her the disposable phone, the number ready to dial. “Yes, I’m here…  We’re ready. She passed him back the phone even as she kept looking around, then at her daughter, and finally back at him. “I have never been more afraid in all my life. Please, take my daughter, and let me go back. I will kill them all, and she will be safe.”

He put his hand on her cheek. She shriveled and backed away a little. “There’s no going back. I watched as you pushed your daughter out through the window.”

“You were watching…?”

“Please, let me finish. I gave you a half hour to get on your way, and I climbed back in through the window you left open. You were right of course. They were all passed out, the extra strong dose of drugs and the crushed sleeping pills I provided did its job; even the other girl was fast asleep. Their early New Year’s party was meant to start early and end late. The extra dose of sleeping pills added to the dope made sure it ended early.”

He knew he couldn’t give her the details of what he did next; he couldn’t bring himself to believe it. Still it all flashed through his memory.

The immense amount of blood. He slit the girlfriend’s throat first. He didn’t want to see her eyes, but he knew who she was from the description he had carefully gathered from Stacey without her knowing his intention. She fell back onto the bed as the blood spurted out her neck. Her boyfriend was naked, his hand on his crotch, snoring in his stupor, a stupid smile on his face from some dream he did not deserve to have, the two lip rings that Stacey had described were holding onto something that had not made it completely in or out of his mouth. He pushed the pillow over his face and slit his throat, but he still sprung awake and grabbed his left hand. He tried to stab at the hand and did more damage to himself than the boyfriend. He finally managed a stab to the chest.

The second man in the bed tried to sit up. Covered from head to foot with etchings he looked much like an ad campaign for a tattoo parlor. He was the one who had raped her first.  He screamed an obscenity. A slice to his throat turned the screaming to gurgles and he slid back down on top of the other two dead bodies.

The other girl was by now awake. Stacey has said they called her Blondie. She scratched her blond hair as she tried to focus on what was happening. He screamed for her to get her clothes on and get out; she did so and was out of the house before the blood stopped dripping from his knife. His white shirt was covered in blood. He poured the two gallons of gas over the bedroom, lit the match and left. He removed his shirt and tossed it in a ball on the floor of the car, and put his black coat back on.

He left the rectory sedan a mile or so from the docks, wiped his blood seeping hand with the remaining clean spot on his shirt, and tossed the shirt and the knife into the bay, then headed for the bar.

He had almost lost his focus as he recalled the events. Stacey was staring at him, and so he hurried to continue. “I got the girl out of the house, but the girlfriend and her two boyfriends are dead; I burnt the house down so it will take some time if ever to figure out who they were. I leave it to God to figure out what they were.”

“Oh, Father, no.” She shook her head, again and again.

“Stacey, you never have to fear they will come for you.”

“Oh, Father, no. I was going back to kill them once my daughter was safe.”

“Yes, I know your secret. I knew you had no intention of saving yourself, only your daughter. I could not allow that.”

Head lights flashed in the window. “Let’s go. He picked up the child and carried her to where his brother waited. His brother tried to talk with him. He pushed him back inside the car. “No, no, please go.”

She looked him in the eyes. “Father, this was not…”

“Go. It’s what needed to be done.”

She kissed his cheek.

They sped away.

He touched his cheek; the cold wind brushed the warmth of the kiss away. A bell tolled; he looked out across the bay as a cruise ship pulled away from the pier. He turned and went to find his penance; a penance that was not something a few simple prayers would satisfy.