Excerpt - "The Confessions of Marcus Stearns"
"The Confession of Marcus Stearns" is a 40 page short story that will be published in The Confessions, an Original Sinners story and interview collection coming Spring 2016 to an online bookstore near you. Don't miss the cover release and the order links - join the Mailing List today!
“Do you care to walk?” Father Ballard asked and Marcus said he didn’t mind. They needed to get away from the church to have this conversation. “We’ll go to Trinity Cemetery. If anyone asks, we’re merely paying our respects to the Astors.”
“Weren’t the Astors staunchly anti-Catholic?” Marcus asked.
“They’re dead. Surely they’ve learned their lesson by now.”
They didn’t speak all the way to the cemetery. Ballard didn’t trust himself to say anything yet, not until he’d heard the story. And talking now wouldn’t have been a good idea even if he’d had the words. Too many people were aware of them to hold a private conversation. It wasn’t every day New Yorkers saw two Jesuit priests in black cassocks striding purposely up Saint Nicholas Avenue. Of course, even when Marcus wore street clothes he got looks both curious and hungry from women and men. The faces that stared at Marcus all wore the same expression, said the same thing…
What a waste.
“You hate me right now, don’t you?” Ballard asked him as they turned the corner and walked through the gates of the old cemetery.
“Hate is a strong word,” Marcus said, a diplomatic answer from a priest not known for his diplomacy.
“The cassock sets us apart. This is a good thing. People need to identify us.”
“The collar isn’t enough for you?”
“Diocesan priests wear collars. Jesuits should wear cassocks.”
“You and I both pastor in parish churches now,” Marcus reminded him. “We aren’t on the mission field.”
“The world is the mission field. Also, black is slimming and the cassock makes me look taller, don’t you think?” Ballard required all the Jesuits he counseled to wear a cassock in his presence. Marcus had called him a sadist for that reason. Because he knew Marcus so well, Ballard took it as a compliment.
“If you haven’t noticed, looking taller is not something I need help with,” Marcus said.
“Humility is, however. You hate wearing a cassock because you feel ridiculous wearing one,” Ballard said.
“It’s medieval,” Marcus said. “You might as well walk down the street in a suit of armor.”
“This is my armor,” Father Ballard said and stopped at the junction of two walking paths. To his left stood an ivy-covered crypt. To his right, the tomb of Alfred Dickens, son of Charles Dickens. He and Marcus weren’t the only sons of England present and accounted for in the cemetery today.
“I don’t need armor,” Marcus said. “I intimidate people too much as it is.”
“And you like it. Also, if we were in street clothes I might be tempted to send you arse over elbow, young man. This cassock is the only thing coming between you and a bloody nose.”
“The cassock and eight inches of air,” Marcus said.
“I’m five-eight. That isn’t short.”
Marcus arched his eyebrow and looked down at him.
“Fuck the cassock,” Father Ballard said. “Kneel down. I want to break your nose.”
Marcus stood up straighter. “You’ll be threatening to box my ears next.”
“Bastard,” Father Ballard said. “Remind me again why I like you so much.”
“If I knew, I would tell you.”
“Walk.” Ballard waved his hand toward the path. “Tell me about this girl.”
“You’ll hear my confession?”
“I suppose I’ll have to,” Ballard said, following Marcus onto the path. “I certainly don’t want you telling it to anyone else.”
“I never considered speaking to anyone else.”
“Then confess. I’ll be over here praying lightning strikes us both and puts us out of our misery.”
“I came to you for comfort and guidance,” Marcus said. “I can’t quite remember why.”
“Stop stalling. Get to the dirt.”
Marcus stopped in the middle of the path, faced him, and crossed himself. “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been six months since my last confession.”
“What happened six months ago?”
“I met Eleanor.”