Veronica enters the church, looks around, goes down the aisle to the pews next to the confessional; sits behind an old couple who sit at each end of a pew gazing at the tabernacle in an odd silence. She sniffs the air; incense, stale, left over for mass, and human bodies, dampness from old walls. I haven’t been in here for ages; don’t like to confess at the local church; I like neutral territory for confessions. Take my chance on the priest; take a chance on him being sympathetic, understanding. She stares at the head of the man in front; grey haired; his head to one side as if he was trying to hear the confession of the person in the box. Nosy guy, damned nosy. She thinks she ought to kneel; prepare for confession; say Come , Holy Spirit, but she doesn’t, she crosses her legs; pulls her skirt over her knees; itches for a cigarette; a good drag on it; hope they’re not going to be too long. Not at their age; too old for sin; too old for much, unless they’re going to bring up their past lives; all the sins of their youth. She shakes her head. Knows they won’t. The woman on her right at the front fiddles with her beads; nods her head as if in some kind of trance. Mumbles come from her like a cat mewing; like pain, like an annoying sound. Look at those candles. She looks. They add something of mystery to the place. Maybe that’s the idea. Set the scene. Show business. She sighs. Looks at the woman’s hat; old white thing; seen better days; smells of age; of dying. What to confess? What to say? Depends on the priest. What he’s like. Keep it short if he’s a moody type. Long if he’s sweet and wet behind the ears. Tell him about Matt? No, best not. Too soon. She looks at the confessional. The door shut. Whispers still heard. Get a move on. Others are waiting. A person could die out here and then what? Eh? What then? Hell? Purgatory? She sits back and pulls at her skirt again. Keeps riding up; shows her thigh. She’s itching for that cigarette. Her lips pout. She scratches at her thigh; a real itch. She sighs. They dead in there? Come, Holy Spirit, wake them up. She looks at the hands; puts them on her knees. Ought to prepare; a prayer at least; just a small preparation. A short run through. Why a priest at all? Why not just go up front to the tabernacle, confess to Jesus there, and cut out the middleman? No guarantee he’d heard. Best bet the priest. Absolution. Get it over and done with…The door of the confessional opens. She sits up; watches a middle-aged man with a screwed up face as if he’d been sucking lemons walk to the back of the church; sit and mumble things. The old man shuffles into the box, huffing and puffing as if he’s going to pass out before he’s made his confession. Waste of trip. The door closes. The old woman looks at the door and rattles her bead more and faster. Cat’s mewing sound. Damn.
Terry Collett is a 59-year-old poet who has been writing since 1972. He has had two slim volumes of poems published in 1974 and 1978. Since that time he has had poems and short stories printed in anthologies, magazines and newspapers. He is married with eight children and eight grandchildren.