He was surprised how easy the lies came to him, now that he had started. Jack had always been an honest kid, but he was discovering he could lie just about as well as old Huck Finn. He did feel a little bad about it, but he didn't want to risk running into Father Delanoit, and if they stuck around the school, he might. Of course, he'd see him on Thursday at practice, but for right now, he was able to push that inevitability out of his mind. By Thursday, Jack would have a plan.
But Tuesday and Wednesday came and went, and by early Thursday morning he still didn't know what he was going to do. He thought about telling his grandma that he was sick again, but he knew that would only work for so long. He was scheduled to serve his first Mass the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and he didn't see how he could get out of going to practice. As much as he hated the thought of seeing Father Delanoit and remembering what he'd done, Jack figured he'd be okay today, with Wayne and the two other boys right there. He had to face the priest sooner or later, and today might as well be the day.
Jack was trembling when he and Wayne walked into the sacristy to vest. The other two boys were already there, and Jack had steeled himself in case there were any more nasty cracks, but today Ronny was quiet and subdued, making Jack wonder what Father Delanoit could have said to him. But he'd just have to keep wondering, because he wasn't about to ask.
They all went into the sanctuary, where Father Delanoit was waiting for them. He was sitting in the Celebrant's chair, his head bowed and lips moving slightly. Jack hurried in so he could stand as far away as possible from the priest. He felt nauseous, like he had on Friday, but he fought it off by concentrating on his duties. First, Father Delanoit again led them in a prayer: "Purify me, O Lord, and make me clean of heart," they chanted. Will I ever feel clean again, Jack wondered, his cheeks flaming as he remembered that awful day.
After they finished their practice, the four boys went back into the sacristy to change. Jack was dressed and out of there so fast that Wayne had to run to catch up with him.
"Where's the fire, man?" Wayne asked.
"Nowhere. But my grandma's making lasagna tonight and I want to get there before my brother and dad eat it all," Jack lied. Again. "What's the matter, can't keep up with me?" he taunted, grabbing Wayne's stocking cap and running down the street. Wayne took off after him and caught him at the end of the block.
"Turd breath!" Wayne said, grabbing Jack in a playful hold and wrestling the cap away from him.
Jack had to fight back a feeling of panic when Wayne touched him, but he remembered his resolve, to keep what had happened in that box in his mind, so he didn't let on what he was feeling. Instead, he punched Wayne in the arm, a little harder than he intended but still in the spirit of the game. He shoved the hat back on Wayne's head.
"You don't want your wittle eaws to get cold, Wayney," Jack mocked.
Wayne looked down at the ground, and then glanced quizzically at his friend. Wayne had a slight speech impediment, and while some of the kids teased him about it, Jack never did. That was a sore subject, like Mike's drinking was to Jack, and the boys were good enough friends that both understood those were not topics to kid each other about.
Jack immediately felt ashamed. Why did he say that? He felt about as bad as when he'd disappointed his grandma.
"Just kidding, buddy," he said. "I…I'm sorry."
"Forget it, man," Wayne said. They continued home and tried to act like nothing had happened. But they were both relieved when Wayne turned toward his house and they each went their own separate ways.
About Iowa Writes
Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.
In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.
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Janet Clark writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her work has appeared in The Iowan, Iowa Gardening, The Des Moines Register, Fort Dodge Today Magazine, The Messenger, and Fort Dodge Business Review. Her first novel, Blind Faith, was published by 1st World Publishing of Fairfield, Iowa, in 2007.
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