Keeping the Faith

(WARNING: The following story contains a depiction of graphic violence that many readers may find disturbing.)

“I didn’t start out wanting to kill her. No, that’s a lie. If I’m going to do this, then I’ve got to be up front with you.

“I’ve always been a moralist, and by that I mean that I think that people ought to live by a moral code of some sort.

“Now, I’m not real picky about whose moral code people choose to live by. If you’re a Buddhist, well, all right then, be a Buddhist. If you’re a Jew, well then, be the best Jew you can be. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, that’s not really the issue.

“For me, what’s really the issue is that you not be a hypocrite, and by that I mean, if you say you’re a Jew, and you want the folks around you to treat you like you’re a good Jew, the you’ve got to live by the Jews’ laws, or moral code, or whatever. That was mainly why I had to kill her.

“Not that she was a Jew, of course, I didn’t mean that, and I don’t want you to think that I’m a racist, ‘cause I’ve never had a racist thought in my life…Ok, there goes another lie. See? I’m trying to be real here. But the point is that I’m not a racist, and I consider myself to be a pretty moral person. I set high standards for myself ethically, and I make every effort to meet that standard. And when I miss the mark, I say so and move on.

“Anyway, obviously the lady wasn’t a Jew, otherwise why would she have been at Mass every week? And she took communion and all, just like a good Catholic should. So she wasn’t a Jew…Of course, if she was, say, a Jew, and she was there just pretending to be a Catholic for some strange, twisted reason, then I guess she’d have had it coming to her either way, right? I hate people like that.

“Not that I’m a hateful guy. No, I really care about people, generally. Like when I’m in the grocery store checkout line, and I see some woman behind me with a handful of crazy children and only a few things to buy, I’ll usually let her go in front of me, ‘cause I don’t want her to suffer like that with those damned noisy kids.

“And you know it’s got to be driving her nuts with the way those little monsters are crying and screaming for every damned thing, I mean they want the candy, they want the fucking balloons, and God, they just drive you over the edge. You know, now that I think about it, that woman that I killed had little kids too, I bet, ‘cause when I went through her purse afterwards, I saw pictures in there. Still, you don’t know how old the pictures were, or if they were even hers, but if they weren’t hers, well there’s one more reason she had it coming to her, another little piece of her sick hypocrisy…

“What I was saying? Oh yeah, right. So I’ve always tried to live by a high moral code, like Confucius did. You know he didn’t believe in God, per se, but he thought that everyone should strive to a higher standard, and that if people around you were moral failures, it’s your fault too, because you should be setting a pious example for those people.

“So, I’m kind of with Confucius on that, even though I’m a Catholic, because I can see where every person in a community is responsible for the actions of every other person. That’s why the world is the way that it is. For all of these years, we’ve just let people do whatever the hell they wanted, called it ‘the right to privacy’ and walked away.

“And now, we’re stuck with queer weddings, drugs all over the place, mixed marriages, and of course, abortion. But if good, honest people had just had the guts to stand up and say no, right from the start, then none of this crap ever would have happened. You know, in Turkey and Pakistan and a lot of places, they kill people who use drugs. They just kill them. No trial, no second chances. They just haul them out in the town square, put a sign on their chest and shoot the poor bastards.

“Not that I’m saying that that’s what we ought to do here, but you’ve got to know that they don’t have a problem with drugs in Turkey and Pakistan. Because that’s kind of what you have to do, you have to purge out the ones who will bring the rest of the people to ruin, even if that means killing a few of them. You know, sacrifice the few for the good of the many, see what I mean?

“So when I slit that girl’s throat, that’s what I was saying to myself, was that she was setting a horrible example and that it was better for her to die then for everyone else to be led astray by her and lose their souls. See? So it just gets back to how I feel about people, and people’s responsibility.

“She was, by her acting like a good Catholic and all, accepting that she was going to live by a certain moral code and what she was doing was just unacceptable.

“Bet you’re wondering how I knew what she was doing, right? That’s actually a pretty funny story. What it was is that one day last month I got a phone call at home from a travel agency or something, and all I have to do is to take this survey and I get a prize.

“Now I knew that this was really just some bullshit sales thing, but the lady on the phone was really polite, and I always try to do good by people, even if I don’t agree with how they make a living.

“So anyway, I take this survey, and she’s real sweet to me until the very end, when she finds out that I haven’t worked in a couple of years, ‘cause of my headaches and bad back and all. So after she hears that, she’s like ‘Ok, thanks for your time,’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you said I was getting a prize.’

“So she puts me on hold for a while and then comes back and says ‘Ok, well you’ve won a Digital Tire Air Pressure Gauge’. Do you believe that? A damned digital air pressure gauge. But still, I’m thinking, ok, that’s fine, send me the damned thing.

“Are you ready for this? She says I have to come to their place to claim it. They want me to drive downtown to see them to get my stupid damned digital tire air pressure gauge.

“But I decided to go anyway, because I won it, it was mine, and I deserved it. I know they never dreamed that anyone would actually go all the way to their office to get their crappy prize, but you know, I’m different than most people. What I mean is that if I didn’t go and get my prize, then they’d just keeping doing this to people, and they’d never have to pay anything, ‘cause nobody ever comes to get the prize.

“So by my going downtown to get that stupid gauge, I was really just keeping these people honest. And since I wasn’t working anyway, I figured ‘what the hell’?

“Long story short, as I’m leaving the building where their tiny little hole-in-the-wall office was, there’s all these anti-abortion protestors outside, working the picket line. Now I’ve never been much for walking around with a sign on my shoulder, but I do appreciate what these people feel.

“As I walking, getting closer to them, I see that they’re really giving it to this poor woman wearing in a scrub top and white pants, which tells me that she works in the doctor’s office, probably at the abortion clinic that these people are picketing.

“So lo and behold, as I get closer, I see the woman in the white pants trying to get around these people, and she’s crying and all, and I’m looking at her thinking, ‘Damn, I know that face from somewhere.’

“I looked at her for what seemed like a real long time and then it hits me. Church. That’s where I know her from. She sits about five rows in front of me at Mass. It’s funny how people always sit in the same place at Mass, isn’t it? It’s not like there’s assigned seating or anything, and it’s not like anybody is sitting with their friends or anything, but people just always end up sitting in about the same spot, Sunday after Sunday. It’s crazy when you think about it, you know?

“I’m looking at her there, in her scrub top and white pants, and I’m remembering how she always looks coming back down the aisle after communion, her head bowed, looking all pious and shit. So then I knew the truth, and I also knew what had to be done.

“Not that I looked forward to it, mind you. I mean, it’s kind of sad that the church is so weak and powerless that some hypocrite bitch like that can go and make a mockery of the church and not even have to worry about the consequences of her actions. Not that long ago, all I would have had to have done is to tell the parish priest, and they would have excommunicated her, which means she would have gone straight to hell, which is what she deserved.

“Man, a few hundred years ago they would have burned her at the stake for dumping on the faith like that. Burned alive! Can you imagine how horrible that must have been, with the smoke choking you and your skin just bubbling and peeling off like a damned chicken on the grill? All while you’re still alive?

“No, the way I see it, I did her a favor. I took care of the church’s dirty work, and I did it in a quick, humane way too. I mean, having your throat slit is a pretty painless way to go, which is why farmers kill pigs and cows that way.

“Not that it isn’t messy. Oh, not by a long shot. I thought that I had cut her pretty deep, but for, what it must have been a good minute or so, she was rolling around under me, gurgling and spitting up blood and coughing and God, the blood was everywhere, all over her, all over me, in puddles on the asphalt, you name it.

“I must admit, I got antsy there for a second. We were on a road that hardly anybody ever uses, which is why they didn’t find her for eighteen hours, but it was taking her so long to die that I was worried that a car might come by. It was broad daylight after all.

“You might think that I’ve got to be a pretty brave guy to do this in the daylight, but that’s not entirely true. You see, here again, I’m trying to be totally up front with you.

“That morning, the first Sunday after I saw her at the clinic, my only plan was to follow her home after Mass, just to see where she lived, so I could start sizing up the situation. Well, I figured she must live in one of the neighborhoods around the parish, in some nice suburban cottage, but no, she just keeps on driving out to the country, and soon we’re on these back roads, heading into White-Trash-ville.

“As I’m following her, I know she’s had to have noticed me, I mean, after all, it’s just the two of us out there all alone, so I start adjusting my plan. See? I’m a quick thinker that way. I just see where life’s taking me, and I adjust to the new situation, whatever it is. So, as I’m following her, I come up with a new plan.

“It was lucky for me that I always keep my hunting knife in the glove compartment, you know, just in case, or hell, I’d have missed a great opportunity, and God only gives you so many chances.

“We come to a stop sign in the middle of freaking nowhere, and I nail the back of her car at about fifteen miles per hour. Must have scared the shit out of her, I know. Well, I wait a second, then I get out, with the knife in my jacket pocket, and I go up and I look at the rear of her car.

“Now, I’m expecting her to get out and come back too, but she doesn’t. So then I’m thinking, ‘Oh shit, what if she’s calling the cops or somebody on her cell phone.’ “Cause you see, I hadn’t thought of that. That’s what I said before, I’m being real here.

“So after a minute, it occurs to me that maybe she’s hurt, which might make killing her easier, or harder, I wasn’t sure. Then I straighten up and I walk to her window and I tap on it, and I say all nice and stuff, ‘Mam, are you ok? I’m awfully sorry about your car.’

“Well, she turns real slow and looks at my face, and then all of the sudden I see her relax. She smiles back at me, rolls down her window and says, ‘Oh you’re the gentleman that sits behind me at church. Do you live out here?’

“I say to her, ‘Oh yes, mam. I live just a few miles from here. I don’t really know if you can drive the car the way it is. You’d better come look at it.’ She really didn’t want to unlock the door and get out, but I just kept on smiling at her like a freaking moron, and after a few awkward moments, she’s popping the locks and coming out of the car.

“Funny thing is, as I’m following her to the rear of the car, she’s apologizing for not getting out right away, saying stuff like ‘You can’t be too careful these days’ and stuff like that. Anyway, I tell her to have a look under the rear of the car, ‘cause I think it’s leaking gas or something.

“When she bends over, I pull the knife out of my jacket pocket, straddle her from behind, grab her by the top of her head, and cut her throat. All she said was something like, ‘umph’. I don’t know if she was trying to say a word or if that was maybe air escaping from her open throat, I really have no idea.

“Well, she falls down, and I fell on top of her, and I thought she’d be dead, but she wasn’t. She rolls around under me, grabbing at her throat, like she’s trying to hold the blood in, and I kind of stood up a little, ‘cause I didn’t want to hurt her by putting all of my weight on her, but at the same time, I couldn’t let her roll away, you know?

“So she’s rolling around between my knees, crying and all, and blood’s just pouring out of her neck, and her dress is soaked and her face is covered and I think she was trying to scream. I was trying to hold her shoulders down as best I could, thinking ‘Ok, she’s going to die any second now’, but man, she just keeps flopping around, like a damned fish on a pier.

“After a while, I can’t look at her anymore, and I’m thinking about traffic anyway, so I’m looking up and down the road, back and forth, while she’s tussling underneath me. I’ll tell you, I actually started to think about giving her another one in the heart, but while I was still debating it, the rolling turned into rocking and the then that stopped and I knew she was dead.

“I was glad that it was over, for her and for me. I took her arms, with the sleeves soaked as they were, and folded them neatly on her chest and I pulled her to the embankment, so she wouldn’t get hit by a car, ‘cause I didn’t want to see her body messed up, you know?

“After I pulled her away, I saw her purse lying there, and that was when, just out of curiosity, I went through it. She had about ten dollars in there that I could have taken, but I’m not like that, and I wouldn’t do it. I ended up just putting the purse next to her, all nice and neat, ‘cause I figured she’s have wanted to look nice when thy found her.

“So anyway, Father, that’s the deal, and I’ve been one hundred percent up front with you on this, I just want you to know that, because that’s the kind of guy I am. A lot of people don’t respect the church anymore, and they certainly don’t respect the confessional, but I live to a higher standard, and I think you see that now, right? Father?

“And I know that this place is holy, and what I say here stays here. I mean, if the cops ever got on to me, I could even ask the church for sanctuary here, and I could live here, and they couldn’t come in after me right? I mean the church still does that, doesn’t it? For people in trouble, I mean…

“Are you crying, Father? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, I really didn’t. You should be careful about that kind of thing though, because that doesn’t really set a good example for your flock, you know what I mean?

“Anyway, I can hear how upset you are, so I’ll come back tomorrow, and you can tell me about the absolution stuff then, ok?”

There was movement, the fading sound of footsteps and then silence.

Later, as the priest was driving home, he noticed a familiar face in the car behind him, and he was not afraid.


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