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First Confession
by [?]

Before I could even get to my feet to defend myself she bent down and gave me a clip across the ear. This reminded me that I was so stunned I had even forgotten to cry, so that people might think I wasn’t hurt at all, when in fact I was probably maimed for life. I gave a roar out of me.

“What’s all this about? “the priest hissed, getting angrier than ever and pushing Nora off me.”How dare you hit the child like that, you little vixen?”

“But I can’t do my penance with him, father,” Nora cried, cocking an outraged eye up at him.

“Well, go and do it, or I’ll give you some more to do,” he said, giving me a hand up.”Was it coming to confession you were, my poor man?” he asked me.

“‘Twas, father,” said I with a sob.

“Oh,” he said respectfully, “a big hefty fellow like you must have terrible sins. Is this your first?”

‘Tis, father,” said I.

“Worse and worse,” he said gloomily.”The crimes of a lifetime. I don’t know will I get rid of you at all today. You’d better wait now till I’m finished with these old ones. You can see by the looks of them they haven’t much to tell.”

“I will, father,” I said with something approaching joy.

The relief of it was really enormous. Nora stuck out her tongue at me from behind his back, but I couldn’t even be bothered retorting. I knew from the very moment that man opened his mouth that he was intelligent above the ordinary. When I had time to think, I saw how right I was. It only stood to reason that a fellow confessing after seven years would have more to tell than people that went every week. The crimes of a lifetime, exactly as he said. It was only what he expected, and the rest was the cackle of old women and girls with their talk of hell, the bishop, and the penitential psalms. That was all they knew. I started to make my examination of conscience, and barring the one bad business of my grandmother, it didn’t seem so bad.

The next time, the priest steered me into the confession box himself and left the shutter back, the way I could see him get in and sit down at the further side of the grille from me.

“Well, now,” he said, “what do they call you?”

“Jackie, father,” said I.

“And what’s a-trouble to you, Jackie?”

Father,” I said, feeling I might as well get it over while I had him in good humour, “I had it all arranged to kill my grandmother.”

He seemed a bit shaken by that, all right, because he said nothing for quite a while.

“My goodness,” he said at last, “that’d be a shocking thing to do. What put that into your head?”

Father,” I said, feeling very sorry for myself, ” she’s an awful woman.

Is she? ” he asked.” What way is she awful?

She takes porter, father,” I said, knowing well from the way Mother talked of it that this was a mortal sin, and hoping it would make the priest take a more favourable view of my case.

“Oh, my ! ” he said, and I could see he was impressed.

“And snuff, father,” said I.

“That’s a bad case, sure enough, Jackie,” he said.

“And she goes round in her bare feet, father,” I went on in a rush of self-pity, “and she knows I don’t like her, and she gives pennies to Nora and none to me, and my da sides with her and flakes me, and one night I was so heart-scalded I made up my mind I’d have to kill her.”

“And what would you do with the body? “he asked with great interest.

“I was thinking I could chop that up and carry it away in a barrow I have,” I said.

“Begor, Jackie,” he said, “do you know you’re a terrible child?

“I know, father,” I said, for I was just thinking the same thing myself.”I tried to kill Nora too with a bread-knife under the table, only I missed her.”