The church looked amazing. The altar was adorned with huge candelabras, white roses and tulips, and there were chains of white daisies draping from the back of every pew. My catechism instructor had told the class that Father Elias was going to marry a couple after he was done with our confessions. I was a little confused because it was Wednesday afternoon, and I thought people only got married during Sunday mass.
I looked at my watch. I had been sitting on a wooden pew for over an hour. My butt was numb.
“You’re next.” Manuel Tapia’s voice made me jump. He was the oldest boy in my catechism group, and I had a crush on him. I confessed it to God as soon as I realized I liked him. I wasn’t sure if liking Manuel was a sin, but I told God anyway—you can never be too safe in the ever watchful eyes of God.
I walked to the confession booth rubbing my behind. Please God let the seat have some padding, I prayed in silence. My poor butt couldn’t take any more pew torture.
I got to the booth, climbed three steps, and took a look. Crap! Another wooden pew. I stood very still waiting for my punishment, and then I guessed that saying or thinking the word ‘crap’ wasn’t a sin because God didn’t strike me on the spot. I sat on the accursed bench.
“You have to kneel.”
“Crap!” Father Elias scared the living Jesus out of me. For a moment, I believed God had decided that saying ‘crap’ in his house was a sin after all, and I was about to get it. But it wasn’t God. The horrible breath sipping through the tiny screened window belonged to a familiar mortal.
“I won’t tolerate that kind of language in the house of God.” Father Elias moved so closed to the window that I could clearly see his angry little eyes. I wanted to protest and tell him that God hadn’t said anything, and it was his house. But Father Elias’s putrid breath made me dizzy, so I just nodded.
“Well?” asked Father Elias impatiently. “Didn’t you learn how to confess? You need to kneel.”
“But I don’t have anything to confess. I ask God for forgiveness as soon as I make a mistake.”
“Insolent girl! You can’t confess without a priest!”
I stared at the livid man thanking God for the screened window. Father Elias would have probably spat all over my face if it wasn’t for it. He continued ranting and I continued to stare without listening. My mind’s voice was screaming at me. Why do I need a priest to confess my sins? Why am I here? Why would I share anything with this lunatic? Will my mom be mad if I leave? One question actually crossed my lips: “Why can’t I talk to my God on my own?”
Father Elias was on my face a couple of seconds later. “Get out! Go talk to your teacher and tell her you are not ready. I will speak to her later. Send in whoever is next.”
I walked out of the booth and looked at my best friend, Dahlia, who had been seating behind me, waiting for her turn. I froze. What kind of friend would I be, if I let her face this crazy man without warning? Help me God.
“Well?” Father Elias spat into my thoughts.
I looked at the condemning fire in his eyes, and I knew that I had to do something, and do it fast.
I took off running.
I ran until my 11-year-old lungs ordered me to stop. I found an old oak tree to lean on, and waited for my breath to catch up.
“Maggy, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
It was Ms. Toledo, the town librarian. She was always nice to me. I touched my face and realized she was right. I was crying. I told her everything as we walked to the library. When we got there, Ms. Toledo offered me a chair, but I declined.
She let out a long sigh. “Oh, don’t worry too much. It’s not the end of the world.”
I knew she was trying to help, but she hadn’t seen Father Elias’s face. She wasn’t there when he told me that I wasn’t ready. Ready for what anyway? And why didn’t he answer my question?
Ms. Toledo must have read my mind because she said, “Tell you what, I’ll have a word with Father Elias.”
I gave her a pained look and said, “Thanks.” But I wasn’t sure if talking to the priest was the best idea.
Ms. Toledo walked away and I thought about stopping her. She should know that Father Elias wouldn’t listen. I gathered some courage and was ready to go find her, but she came back before I had a chance to move.
“Here,” she whispered. “Take it home. Come back next week and tell me what you think.”
The excitement of taking a book home made me forget all about Father Elias, sins, and confessions. You see, the library in my town was so small that it couldn’t allow people to check out books. So taking the book with me was an adventure, especially because I didn’t own any books. My family was too poor, so we couldn’t afford them. That was the reason why I was such good friends with Ms. Toledo. I used to spend as much time in the library as I was allowed, in order to finish a book.
I thanked Ms. Toledo and left with a smile on my face. I walked the 3 miles from the library to my house, taking glances at the book every now and then, but not daring to open it. What about if I dropped it and ruined it?
I got home, climbed my favorite mango tree, and opened my borrowed treasure. I read about ancient gods—males and females—who interacted with their people. I learned about olden times when humanity lived in harmony with the earth, when people honored the moon and the sun and these Old Powers listened; times when folks believe in the power of their own energy.
I enjoyed the book so much that I was really sad when Monday came and I had to return it. But my sadness didn’t last long; Ms. Toledo replaced the book. The new volume was filled with gods from all over the world. Some of the gods were terrible and scary, but I loved learning about each and every one of them. Their eclectic nature, the spontaneity of their ways, their darkness and light, reminded me of me.
This is a retelling of my first post, A Tale of Mythology and Paganism.
I felt it was appropriate to share it before Witches in Fiction.
It kind of explains some of my love for everything
Bookish and Witchy