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Authors: Alan Weisz

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BOOK: Finals
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As the meeting came to a close, I concluded that like my fellow editors, I needed to do some digging, and I knew the perfect place to go. An enlightening conversation with a priest was needed to clear my hazy conscious and unearth vital material.

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

I
can’t lie, I felt great about killing Brent. The dark voices in my head congratulated me constantly, as if I had done the world a great service. I was like the student body president who had stuffed the ballot ensuring that Brock Hunter, the biggest jerk on the football team, would not be given the title of prom king. (With a name like Brock, you knew he was a steroid using douche bag who was overcompensating for having a three-inch penis). He didn’t deserve to dance with Destiny Fairchild, the most gorgeous girl ever to don a tiara, just like Brent didn’t deserve to live. Ok, so the voices weren’t great with metaphors but still, the continuous praise made me feel good about slitting his throat.

 

Throughout our
Gazette
meeting, I didn’t experience a second of remorse. Hayley was arguably the closest person to Brent on campus. She was one of his few confidants, but as I looked into her eyes at that meeting, I didn’t feel the least bit sorry for killing the guy who was most likely sticking it to her.

 

Now, as I walked towards Father O’Connor’s apartment,
I couldn’t help but recall the innate ability this wiry old priest
had
for making me come to terms
with
my sins. It wasn’t as though he rubbed my nose in the fact that I occasionally copied
a friend’s homework or
ignored
a phone call from my mother,
but
he
did help me understand
my guilt as
though it were
a hideous perm that
I couldn’t see for myself.

 

After killing a man, I admit it sounds strangely odd but I still sought the approval of this religious man.
Due to an improbable friendship that stemmed from the corridors of Andrews Hall, as my college years continued my connection with this elderly Catholic priest flourished.

 

In every dorm at St. Elizabeth, a nun or priest lives in the building with the students. Besides having a weekly service, the Holy Cross member rarely interacts with the students, unless advice is needed or opinions required for coursework. Thankfully for me, Father O’Connor’s two-year stint in Andrews Hall came my freshman and sophomore year. At first, our discussions occurred only after Mass, but his desire to get to know me made an impression on me. Dissimilar to other Andrews Hall staff members, Father O’Connor had a genuine interest in our doings. Our run-ins became routine, as did his inquiries about my welfare. Despite our frequent chats, it wasn’t until a mutual love of Jimmy Buffett was discovered that we truly became friends.

 

Many people in the dorms blare their awful music for all to hear, but most of the music is popular and socially acceptable. Soulja Boy was played so often my freshman year, “Super Man dat hoe” was like our hall motto. Easy to say, Jimmy Buffett was high on the list of artists never to play in a college hall dorm, alongside Savage Garden and Ashlee Simpson.

 

I knew better than to blast the Buffett throughout the hall, so I played it loud enough so only my neighbors and I could hear it. I was listening to the song “Fruitcakes”
when out of the blue Father O’Connor happened to come by right as the song began playing. He popped his head in my room and smiled. “I want my junior mints! We need more fruitcakes in this world, less bakers!” I instantly started to crack up, and from that lyrical exchange onward, Father O’Connor managed to remain close.

 

Like Hayley and Lexie, Father O’Connor lived in the building known as The Village after leaving my beloved former dormitory. The Village was filled with apartment complexes, mostly occupied by juniors and seniors. Like the dorms on campus, The Village had a small chapel where a weekly service was held. Father O’Connor’s apartment was located one complex away from the chapel. I had yet to visit my favorite priest’s new digs, but in my defense, I had been rather busy completing finance projects and planning murders.

 

Popping an orange Tic-Tac in my mouth, I stood outside the priest’s apartment waiting for a few seconds. From inside, I heard shuffling feet accompanied with a loud mucous-filled hack. I knew the priest was home. I took a few deep breaths and told myself I wasn’t going to give in to the priest’s charismatic charms and spill the beans.
I had stepped out underneath my cover that had been Catholicism but that didn’t mean I should let
this empowering evil
spiral
out of control. I had stood by watching
as a former friend swam
in a pool of his own blood. I was ruthless,
but that didn’t mean I was stupid. I had projected my innocent schoolboy demeanor since junior high
and
it wasn’t time quite yet to end my façade.

 


Wayne, my boy!” exclaimed Father O’Connor,
opening the door as he extended a
hand. “What brings you to my neck of the woods?”

 


Oh, the usual,” I stated shaking the priest’s hand as his loving presence swept over me. Whenever I was around Father O’Connor I was filled with warmth, and I acknowledged my need for self-betterment. He made me strive to become a better person. With him at my side, I wanted to join the Peace Corps, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or send nine bucks a month to help a starving child in Africa, but instead of bettering the world I was slaughtering my classmates like sheep.

 


Come on in, come on in,” the priest said happily.

 

His place was smaller than his previous apartment in Andrews Hall. Walking through this narrow hallway, the room opened up to reveal his kitchen/living room. A kitchenette complete with a fridge, microwave, two stovetops and a small oven was located left of the hallway entrance. Across from the kitchenette sat one plush leather couch, one La-Z-Boy recliner, an oak coffee table and a moderately sized television. A few photos and paintings covered the walls as well, the majority murals of Jesus and Mary but I did notice one particular photo of myself along with other Andrews Hall alumni up on the wall. For an old man, Father O’Connor‘s décor wasn’t terrible nor did his apartment reek of the stereotypical nursing home smell.

 


The usual you say eh Wayne, I pray you haven’t snatched the innocence from another poor young lass, or have you merely been avoiding telephone calls from your mother?”

 


I would say the latter Father, but I’ve actually come to talk about Brent Crane,” I said, taking a seat on the far end of the comfy couch.

 


Brent Crane, huh
? Let an old man take his medication then I’ll come join you shortly,”
the priest said, as he removed the pile of papers
and a bottle of pills
from the coffee table
.

 

I didn’t know what Father O’Connor’s position was precisely, however I knew the man was a workaholic and that the university paid him handsomely for whatever it was he did. Years ago, I inquired as to the priest’s official title, but he disliked discussing work off the clock. Also, Father O’Connor had a knack for redirecting the conversation back towards the other party, meaning that despite my interest in the man’s personal affairs, I always seemed to be the one doing most of the talking.

 

After taking two white pills followed by a sip from a small bottle of FIJI water
, Father O’Connor rejoined me on the couch.

 


I hope you’re not getting closer to death’s doorstep Father, I want you to stick around for a while.”

 


I appreciate the sentiment, my boy. It’s nothing to worry about; I simply take these nitroglycerin tablets so my old ticker stays in check.”

 


Would you mind if I have a mint?” Father asked, noticing the Tic-Tac container in my possession. “You wouldn’t believe the vile aftertaste of this medication.”

 

Tossing him the container, he caught it and popped a mint in his mouth before loudly clearing his throat.

 


So what about Mr. Crane would you care to discuss, Wayne? I was under the presupposition you boys weren’t that close anymore.”

 


What gave you that notion?” I inquired. We hadn’t discussed my friendship with Brent recently, but in Andrews Hall we were like gross conjoined twins, never able to stay too far from one another.

 


I don’t know what you kids call it, Mary Jane or Little Bo Peep or what have you, but I was informed by various students that Mr. Crane consumed these substances on a regular basis. I know I jest or tease you on occasion about your transgressions Wayne, but unless I am a poor judge of character my understanding is that you would not involve yourself in such activities.”

 


I’m glad I don’t come across as a junkie, Father,” I answered. “How did you happen to hear about Brent’s drug problem?”

 


I assume you are aware but Holy Cross members write the prayers for the general intercession at every Mass. The speaker for that particular evening service, a lovely gal named, Olivia Winmund, suggested we pray for a swift recovery of a young freshman girl named Debra Birch. Unaware of Debra’s predicament I asked Miss Winmund to indulge me. She stated young Debra had overdosed on an illegal substance at Mr. Crane’s residence, and had to be taken to Adventist Medical Center to have her stomach pumped.”

 


Wow, that’s awful, poor Debra,” I said, pretending as though this was news to my ears. “So do you think Brent distributed this illegal substance to this freshman girl?” I asked innocently.

 


That is my belief, yes, but please correct me if I am wrong. Decrepit old men tend to overdramatize circumstances you see. “

 


I was merely checking to see if you had more sources, since I know you’re a frequent eavesdropper, or if it was only a hunch.”

 


The concerns I have for others should not be mistaken for eavesdropping, Mr. York. As a priest of the Holy Cross, one of my responsibilities is to create a loving community
, a
community in which no student is overlooked. To quote from the Gospel of John

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.’ John 10:16. As a follower and teacher of Christ’s works, I solemnly believe as Jesus did, I must tend to the whims of my flock.”

 


I don’t mean to be rude Father, but were
you
concerned about Brent’s whims?”

 

My attempt was not to come across as hostile but from Father O’Connor’s muddled facial expression he was not thrilled with the direction this conversation was headed. In our discussions, arguments were a rarity, the majority being frivolous fights about the Fighting Irish’s BCS chances. We were in new territory thanks to my line of questioning. I really didn’t know why I was pressing this issue. I had gutted Brent like a rainbow trout, so why did I give a shit if Father O’Connor cared about Brent’s well-being, since I didn’t care too much myself.
I suppose I was merely curious to hear the old man’s answer.

 

I might have expected a bitter response had it been a different St. Elizabeth priest, but due to years of heated conversations with students Father O’Connor had established a tough skin and an unwavering temperament.

 


If you are insinuating I could have done more to assist Mr. Crane with his substance abuse problem then you are absolutely correct,” Father O’Connor said calmly. “By no means of the imagination do I claim to be perfect, I have my faults and deficiencies like any other man. Now if you or one of my favorite parishioners such as Miss Winmund were in dire straits, then I would do everything in my power to help. With regards to Mr. Crane, I did not condone his behaviors, nor would I describe our encounters as anything more than cordial. I did not mean Mr. Cane any ill will. I prayed that one day he would return to our flock once more on his own accord. In hindsight, I now see my assistance may have been of some benefit. ”

 


Sorry Father, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I feel like I could have done more to help Brent too.”

 


Wayne, my boy,” the priest said, placing his arm on my shoulder. “I can see your grief and you may feel as though you could have done something to alter the course of Brent’s fate but you are mistaken. This was Brent’s doing and ultimately it
was
part of God’s plan. There was nothing you could have done to alter this course.”

 

I tried to smile and give one of those, “Oh if you say so” looks as I tried to keep it together. For a few moments, we sat in silence until I decided to change topics. The rest of the evening, we talked about Notre Dame’s chances of going to a bowl game as I tried to push Brent’s death to the back of my mind. The overwhelming desire to divulge my secret was pressing down on me, but I had to accept the fact that I was now off the beaten path. I was now entering a land of lies and deception, and if hoped to stay a free man I was going to have to accept this fate.

BOOK: Finals
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