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                        "Bless me, Father for I have sinned."


            The voice behind the confessional screen was an airy whine. Father O'Brien placed it easily. Jenny Wheeler; a forty something divorcee with two teenage children and a taste for the bottle.

"It's been two weeks since my last confession."

                        "Go on, my child."

                        "Father, I drank to excess three times this week. Also, I took the lord's name in vain several times. I lied to my mother about..."

            Father O'Brien closed his eyes, listening just enough to respond at the appropriate times. He knew this confession by heart. In a town as small as Coddington, it didn't take long to recognize members of your congregation and only slightly longer to learn their vices.

                        ".... and for these sins I am truly sorry."

            Father O'Brien cleared his throat and attended his duty.

                        "Your penance is ten 'Hail Mary’s' and five 'Our Fathers'," he said. "and when you are alone with your                                  thoughts, I want you to consider Romans 12:1,2 from the Holy Scriptures which instructs us to sanctify our                          bodies unto God."

            The words flowed from his lips smoothly; a litany he'd uttered countless times in the eighteen years that he'd been parish priest at Saint Michael’s.

                       "Thank you, Father," Jenny Wheeler said, pleased at the slap on the wrist, and exited the confessional.

            She'll be drinking by lunchtime; Father O'Brien thought dryly and closed his eyes.

            He heard the door to the confessional open a moment later and then close as someone sat down.

                        "Bless me Father for I have sinned." The male speaker was older, his voice hoarse and hesitant. Father                                O'Brien could almost place it.

                        "It’s been about a month since my last visit, padre."

                        "Aaaaah, Judd Miller. Father O'Brien thought. No one else called him "padre".

                        "I've been stretchin' the truth at work a bit Padre," Judd began.

            I just bet you have. Father O'Brien shook his head. Judd owned a small used car lot in Tilson, a town just north of here. His dealings with the patrons were often less than honest. He shows up every once in a while to clean the slate. Just one of the many parishioners who uses Catholicism like a shower: A place to wash his dirty ass.

                        "Five 'Our Fathers', and you must perform one good deed for someone less fortunate than yourself before                          your next confession."

            He heard Judd shift position on the other side of the wall. What’s the matter Judd ol'boy? Medicine a little too strong for you? Don't worry. With the time you take between confessions you could start your own charity.

"and when you are alone with your thoughts”, Father O’Brien went on, “I want you to consider Matthew 6:24 from the Holy Scriptures which reminds us that as children of God we cannot serve both God and Money."

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