The Abyss by Lisa Ciarfella

Father Trevor rolled the rosary beads round in his hand for the twentieth time in the last twelve minutes. He knew exactly how long it had been, since the hands on the old wooden clock hanging just overhead ticked down loud, extra noisy, reminding him. He could see that both the hands and the digits had been painted on the clock’s face years ago, bold and dark green, against a pale cream colored backdrop, making them hard to miss. Under the ancient timepiece sat the calendar with the day’s date circled in red; December 31, 1949.

So significant for Trevor, since it was a year ago exactly to the day that he’d been transferred to this bleak and quiet parish from his native, decadent Puerto Rican home-town. A move he’d hadn’t wanted, but was now resigned to. Monsignor had told him it was either that or face expulsion from the order, and that, he couldn’t have. Not after the sacrifices he’d gone through getting here. He’d gone through the priesthood’s training reluctantly instead of studying fashion, his real heart’s desire. He’d done it to both please and placate his father, and to hide his shame. And it had, for a while. But now, his father was the only one left smiling.

*

He’d packed up his things that very night, was put on a plane the next morning, and got settled down into his new, but old surroundings not ten hours later that same evening. Ohio was certainly not Puerto Rico. There was no escaping the monotony of Akron’s tight and closed off borders and strict priesthood rules. No avenues for escape like in San Juan, where the bars he’d found tucked away in the seedier downtown districts had led him straight to Eduardo. Eduardo and his outrageous flair for lavender pleated slacks and matching ties was different. And Trevor liked that, a lot.

That first night, after slinging back beers and shots of Triple-Sec, they’d done it. Had tucked out quick into the nearest, pay-by the hour joint, in spite of the peeling paint on the walls and roach-filled toilets. It was so good that the state of the joint just didn’t matter and they’d continued their trysts whenever Trevor could slip away unnoticed, just long enough to do the deed. They’d rendezvous there, or whatever place Eduardo could find hosting a blinking, green vacancy sign and a clerk just lackadaisical enough not to ask questions. Then, once satiated, they’d part ways and Trevor would sneak back to his priestly calling, no one being the wiser. But somehow, they’d found out. And Akron was the price he’d paid. Exiled, a million miles away, from both his secretly prized Eduardo and his deliciously decadent home town.  

*

Time passed slow in Akron, until finally he’d found a new hobby, here of all places in ultra-conservative Akron Ohio. And he guessed that they knew once again. He was going to be asked to come clean; could feel it coming as he rolled the beads round and round in his fingers, listening to the click of the clock, and wondering just what to say.

Should he tell them everything? Or just barely enough. Or maybe, nothing at all.

Maybe they didn’t really know, maybe only suspected.

Conflicted, Trevor mused over his latest conquest; the parish’s newest, and tastiest altar boy. So young, and so tantalizingly sweet! Trevor’s passions had got the better of him the very first time he’d seen the boy through the parish’s bathroom mirrors. They’d both been brushing their teeth, when the boy reached up to clear the fog off the mirror, and met Trevor’s gaze head on. Their eyes held steady, just for a moment and Trevor knew. And the very next morning as they’d stripped down for their showers, glances exchanged once again, and the deed was done.

Since then, midnight meetings in the parish cemetery just outside the main halls had become more frequent, at least until this last time when they’d both felt eyes in the sky, watching. Trevor shook now, an excited shiver running through his veins as he recollected the exact moment when they’d both looked up. They’d been interrupted just as they’d peaked, only to see the tiny window high overhead, closing in a hurry. The window’s latching had been loud enough to wake the dead from their graves.

*

“The Monsignor will see you now Father.”

Trevor looked up to see the lanky, lean messenger’s body requesting his attention. It broke him from all thoughts.

“Yes. Of course.”

Trevor rose from the pew, straightened his robes with the palm of his hand and tucked the beads down deep into his front trouser pocket hidden beneath.

I’ll tell them nothing, he thought. If they know, they know. And I’ll suffer the consequences. If they don’t, then it’s all on me.

*

He walked close behind the messenger, down the long narrow center aisle of the small chapel, where the sun setting through the stained glass windows clearly illuminated all things in front of him. His eyes took it all in; the round, firm globes swishing back and forth underneath the messenger’s robes walking just ahead and something stirred, deep below.

*

Lord help me, he thought. My sins are not my own doing. But, they are, likely will be, my undoing.

Trevor swallowed hard and pushed on. His abyss, as it were, was unfolding.

*

BIO : Lisa Ciarfella is a second year MFA candidate at California State University, Long Beach. Her writing slants dark, toward the noir, crime fiction, and hard-boiled, and channels inspiration from the likes of iconic greats Jim Thompson, Raymond Chandler, and Stephen King.  On the weekends, Lisa can be found throwing frisbees around the beach with her pups, Lola, and Boo, and riding them around in her beach cruiser basket! 

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