Father Goodman’s Tale

 as told to Kris Brazell

 

The man was haggard and unshaven.  His hair was mussed and greasy.  I wasn’t sure if the smell was coming from him or the bar.  I finally decided it was him.  He may have been handsome once, but those days appeared to be gone for good.  Goodman stared into the dregs of his mug for a while.  At first, I thought he was never going to speak.

“I was a pompous ass,” he finally started.  “I was proud and arrogant.  Of course, I didn’t see it at the time.  It was only after I failed that I discovered just what a miserable person I really was.”  He paused here, as if unsure where to continue.

“I still remember my last sermon.”

He halted again as if listening to the entire thing play out in his head.

“Evil does not exist precisely as it is portrayed in the Bible,” he intoned.  “It is not physical, it in the mind and in the heart.  The Bible uses physical representations of evil for illustrative purposes.  But we must look further to really be able to fight it and do God’s holy work.

“It is more difficult to look into ourselves for evil than it is to simply wait for a physical manifestation that we secretly believe will never come to pass.  We say that we will confront evil when we see it, but we do not expect to ever be called upon to put up that fight.

“The true nature of evil is within ourselves.  To fight ourselves, our own perceptions, cravings and desires, is much more difficult and more disturbing than worrying about a non-existent antagonist.  But as long as we have faith in God, He will never desert us.  As long as you truly believe, He will be there in your darkest hour, in your time of need.”

He glanced up at me briefly.  “It felt good to be a positive influence… to be a source of change,” he mumbled.

“I should’ve known I wasn’t the right man.  I took pride in the fact that the girls turned their heads as I walked by.  I enjoyed getting a second look, even though I would never act upon it.  But I did sometimes ponder what life would have held had I made different choices.  But I knew in my heart that I had made the right decisions.  I was acutely aware of every person I had helped along the way.  I knew how different those lives would be if not for me.  I wrongly took pride in that as well.

“I had no regrets.  Now I realize that anyone could’ve helped the people I helped.  Anyone could’ve written the sermons.  But it took me to destroy that family.  It took me and my arrogance to condemn that boy to Hell.  If I could go back… if I could just go back and make a different decision.  I could’ve been a family man with an eight to five job.  Keep a roof over our heads and play with the kids before bed.  I didn’t need to change the world.  I could’ve just been part of it.”

He finished his beer and, without looking at me, nudged it enough that I would take the hint and order another.  I went to the bar to order so as not to inconvenience the overworked bartender who was actually picking his nose when I pushed my chair back.

After getting a new glass of courage, Goodman continued, “I was sitting in my office, surrounded by antique books and religious curiosities.  I stared out the window and marveled at the signs of creation spread out before me:  the children playing on the grass, the dark green trees against the crystal blue sky as sunlight pierced through the few brief scattering of clouds.

“The phone rang, pulling me from my pretentious contemplations.  I picked up the receiver and answered.”

“‘Father, this is Father Davids.  I desperately need your help.  This will sound crazy, but I have just seen a boy who is clearly possessed.’

“‘What?’ I asked incredulously.

“‘The boy has a demon inside him.  We need to perform an exorcism,’ Davids said.

“‘Jesus Christ,’ I actually thought.  Davids always had a literal perception of the Bible and Christianity which sometimes allowed his imagination to roam.

“‘Give me the address,’ I sighed.  I needed to get over there.  A boy was having mental issues and Davids was simply exacerbating the problem.  An exorcism.  No one really performs them anymore, but I knew the basic concept.  It was standard procedure for at least two priests to conduct an exorcism since the process should be continual with the victim.  Once priest conducts the rights while the other rests and then they switch duties.  They get a rest while the supposed demon is subjected to a constant barrage of God’s love and power.  In actuality, I believed, exorcisms were just for parents crying out for help.  Their undisciplined children were simply running rampant and wreaking havoc while the adults searched for a resolution and a cause beyond their own poor parenting skills.”

Goodman stopped talking for a few more minutes while he slowly drained his beer.

“I arrived at the Bunel home shortly after dusk.  The sun was sinking and the streetlights flickered to life.  Behind the curtained windows on the second floor, I could see shadows undulating against the light.

“I approached the front door and knocked.  A woman, Maria, answered the door and motioned for me to come in.  Maria’s makeup was streaked and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot.  She had obviously been sobbing.  Several family members stood together in a corner of the living room, staring silently up at the ceiling.

“‘What the hell has Davids been doing here?’ I wondered to myself.

“Suddenly, terrible shrieks of pain and rage erupted from upstairs.

“‘My son is up there!  Please help us!’ Maria begged.

“I slowly ascended the stairs.  The floorboards creaked at my passing.  At the top of the stairs, I looked down the hall.  Father Davids was leaning against the wall, exhausted.  Sweat stood out on his face.  Between deep breaths, the priest said, ‘The boy is in there… tied to each of the bedposts… more for our protection than his.  Be careful… and be warned.’

“What had I gotten myself into?  I was thinking we would be better off calling the police and an ambulance.

“But I was already there, and I needed to fix whatever Davids had done before we made the ten o’clock news and faced a lawsuit.

“I strode toward the door, the wind from an open window pulling at my robes.  I reached for the doorknob, but before my hand got there, the door slid open a couple of inches.  I pushed it the rest of the way and stepped cautiously into the doorway.

“The dim lights in the room fluctuated.  Everything was shrouded in darkness.  I looked to the bed.  It sat askew, no longer flush to the wall.  The sheets were shredded and torn as if a wild animal was loose in the room.  Thick ropes were tied in knots around each bedpost, but they terminated in flayed ends lying limply upon the bed.  The bed was empty, Carlos was not there.

“I went further into the room and looked around trying to peer into the wavering shadows;  nothing.  I turned back to the door where Father Davids waited.

“‘There’s no one here.  The room’s empty,’ I said.

“Father David’s face looked comically inquisitive, when suddenly two claws clutched the hair on either side of my head and yanked me further into the room.  The door slammed shut on Father Davids’ look of incomprehension.

“I was spun around and dashed against the wall.  Blood trickled down my forehead.  I grasped the cross around my neck and saw that the room still appeared empty.  Rushing to the door, I grabbed the knob, but the door refused to open.  I reared back thinking to kick the door down.  Lunging into it with all my might, my foot crashed into the door and I broke two bones in my foot.  It felt like kicking a concrete wall.

“I could hear Father Davids banging on the door and screaming, but I couldn’t make out what he was shouting.

“Spying the window, I knew no matter what, it was only glass.  I hobbled over to a wooden chair in the corner.  Seizing it, I hurled it against the window.  The chair shattered like my faith in God, the wooden splinters floating in the air before my face.  It seemed as if I was dreaming.  Nothing made sense.

“A rough, gravelly whisper oozed from beneath the bed, ‘If you want to leave so badly, let me show you the way.’

“I was plunged toward the closet.  The door hung limply to the side.  I lashed out and grabbed the doorframe, holding myself back.  I was met with utter darkness.  Screams of the damned shrieked from the endless night within.  I could see nothing, and it was frigid, but those screams managed to fill all five of my senses on their own.

“The voice from beneath the bed was now directly in my ear, ‘Everyone in this house will die.  And you, Father, I will rape your face before I rape your soul.’

“A movement registered out of the corner of my eye.  I spun around, but there was nothing behind me.  And then Carlos was on me.  His fingers scratching and tearing at my face and clothes.  I had nothing, not even my faith to defend me now.

“Without thinking, I clasped the crucifix and yanked it from my neck.  The necklace snapped free.  I plunged one end like a dagger into the boy’s eye.  Blood and gore poured out of the wound, and Carlos fell to the ceiling.

“Looking up, I saw Carlos suspended from the ceiling.  He faced downwards, toward me, the bottoms of his feet and palms flat against the ceiling.  His ruined eye hung free of its socket.  His clothes hung in rags from his emaciated form, his bones practically protruding from his skin.  The opposite ends of the torn ropes from the bed draped like tentacles from his wrists and ankles.  The boy’s face was pale blue, almost white.  His one remaining eye was a dark and penetrating burgundy with an elongated pupil that looked almost reptilian.

“Carlos’ face lunged forward, hissing before it started to gag.  Spittle and vomit spilled to the floor before the mouth stretched impossibly open.  A massive, black and twisted cock emerged from the boy’s gaping mouth.

“I stepped back and closer to the door.

“‘Oh, fuck no,’ was all I could say.

“I stumbled into the door and thankfully it now opened beneath my weight.

“Maria and Father Davids were both in the hallway.

“‘What should we do now?’ Maria asked me.

“I reached up to my neck, grabbed the white collar and pulled it free of my robe.  ‘Just lock the door and let him starve to death.’

“‘Goodman!’ Davids shouted.

“I pushed past both of them and hobbled to the stairs.

“‘Where are you going?’ Father Davids demanded.

“‘To get laid.’  And with that, I let my collar fall to the floor as I limped down the steps and out the front door.  I basically didn’t stop until I got here.”

Goodman stopped talking and didn’t seem as if he was inclined to start again.  I realized that Goodman never asked what became of Carlos.  I stood up and motioned for the bartender.  I dropped another five dollar bill on the table and indicated another drink for the ex-priest;  see if I could help him finish what he started.  I made my way around the empty tables heading for the exit.

“Hey, aren’t you going to help your friend there get home?” the bartender asked.

            I felt like the dark jukebox in the corner when I shouted over my shoulder, “He ain’t no friend of mine,” and walked out into the night air.