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by RIO 

Posted: 19 March 2016
Word Count: 690
Summary: Challenge 592

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I recognize the driver as soon as the taxi pulls up. Getting into the back, I throw my holdall onto the seat next to me, loosening my scarf then thinking it is probably best if I don’t.
He looks at me through the rear mirror.
“Hello Raymond,” I say.
After the initial shock on his face, I notice a twitch in a muscle on the left hand side.
He starts to laughs nervously. “Hey, you’re Johnny Hayes from school.”
“Jonathan,” I correct him.
He goes quiet and the vehicle begins to move.
“Where to mate?” he asks in a fake jocular tone.
“Sacred Heart Church on Bannister Street,”
“So, you’re still a God Botherer.”
I give a deep sigh. That is what he used to call me when I was singing in the church choir whilst he was playing football on the park with his friends who soon learned to shout the same at me when they saw me in the streets.
And once again, I am sat behind and he is in the driver’s seat; just as it was at school. Steering my life from the front row where the troublesome pupils sat, the academics like me at the back of the classroom.
He always got what he wanted from me. I spent my free time doing his school projects to avoid going home with a bloody nose and torn blazer. A large percentage of my pocket money ended up in his pocket to be shared with his fellow friends who ran a protection racket emulating their gangster heroes from the films and TV.
And then, years later, there was Rose Hewitt. She was a stunner, her red hair cascading down to her waist.
He found out that I was going to ask her to come with me to the end-of-year school ball. How he found out. I do not know. I suppose it could have been my sister. She soon became jealous when she was not the centre of my attraction. Anyway, he asked Rose first and they were soon dating, the pain of their relationship far worse that any threat of abuse from him.
I’m brought back to the present when he brakes hard at a changing traffic light.
“Sorry,” he says.
He is not a good driver.
̒He drives on his brakes,᾽  as my father used to say.
“Not just for braking quickly,” he continues. “For . . . well you know. How I was with you when we were younger.”
 It felt as if he had been reading my thoughts, experiencing what had happened from my point of view.
“You certainly made my younger days difficult,” I say.
I wait for his reply for several minutes. “Yes. Things look a lot different when you become a parent yourself and it’s your child that’s being bullied. . . It sure makes you think.”
We arrive at my destination.
He coughs. “That’s £13.60.”
I give him a £20 note. “Keep the change.”
I pick up my holdall and lean forward touching his left arm. “You are forgiven,” is all I say.
What I don’t tell him is that I hadn’t; until that moment; that I have held that hatred towards him all these years, that in many ways I am no better than he.
The pain he made me suffer over the loss of the only woman I ever had feelings for had made me into the person I am today. It had molded and shaped my life in a way I never expected.
I open the taxi door almost knocking over a woman who is passing.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Booth.” I say.
“It’s O K, Father Jonathan,” she says. “I am so pleased you are taking our Good Friday Liturgy. It’s so difficult now we have to share Father Hudson with Our Lady of Sorrows parish.”
I smile as I see Raymond waving to me, his face relaxed now that a heavy burden has been lifted from him, and like the Man from Nazareth, I truly understand for the first time in my ministry, how the joy of complete forgiveness quells the pain of true suffering.   

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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 11:17 on 20 March 2016  Report this post
Hi Rio,

Pleased to see you've posted on this challenging challenge also. For awhile I was feeling very lonely.

I was impressed by the real emotions here and with the clever way you almost revealed his clerical calling in the opening few lines. I noticed it on the reread and feel that's always a sign of asuccessful twist. Clearly your story is more grounded in the real world than mine but we each write to your strengths and yours is strong characterisation. My only criticism might be the title which did telegraph a religious aspect. However single  word titles are dramatic so still a well done there. 

Concise writing, positive win-win situation, and thoroughly satisfying read. What more can you want? 


FelixBenson at 13:14 on 20 March 2016  Report this post
I really enjoyed this absorbing 'Road to Damascus' style story, Rio. I think the reversal at the the end is particularly well handled. Not just the surprise that our main character is a priest, but the apology:

What I don’t tell him is that I hadn’t; until that moment; that I have held that hatred towards him all these years, that in many ways I am no better than he.

This seemed very apt. The only thing in this story that I wondered about was word use. 
I'm thinking of this bit.

She was a stunner, her red hair cascading down to her waist.

'Stunner' sounded a bit tabloid newspaper, whereas your character sounds even in his own thoughts, consistently formal and conservative. Now I am not saying that the reader can't imagine a priest using the word stunner, but in this story it didn't sound like the way Father Jonathan, who is a man of finer feelings, would describe his true love.

That aside, I liked this story so much - especially that it is the priest who learns forgiveness.

Excellently told

Bazz at 15:27 on 20 March 2016  Report this post
Hi Rio, a really thoughtful and subtle character piece here. It unfolds carefully concluding with nuanced observations about the connections between both characters, and the way they've affected each other. There's a lot packed in here, two lives lived out, regrets, shared histories, and eventual release. Great piece of flash fiction.

loosening my scarf then thinking it is probably best if I don’t.

Lovely subtle touch at the beginning.

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