Monday, December 22, 2008

Holy Communion A Novel excerpt by Mykola Dementiuk

HOLY COMMUNION is a rite-of-passage novel that follows a seven-year-old's first communion preparations and celebration. Throughout the four-day period the boy deals with cruel nuns, sadistic babysitters, his mother's unfortunate accident,a drunken father, plus a pedophile or two, but he finds a way to cope in the midst of so much tragedy -- first by indifference, later by defiance and rebellion. He also discovers that his urban surroundings in New York City give him autonomy, comfort, and satisfaction. HOLY COMMUNION is full of the boy's despair and self-questioning, along with author Mykola Dementiuk's powerful insights into the human condition.

Holy Communion A Novel
Synergy Press 2008 (August 1, 2008)
ISBN: 0975858149


The boy bounded into the dim cubicle and the door slammed behind him. He focused his eyes to the hazy darkness, and saw a contorted figure of Jesus hung from a crucifix on the wall. The booth seemed more like a hopeless coffin than a redeeming confessional. It was stifling; the air heavy and stagnant, smelling like a fart. One would come to this booth not to reveal, but to hide. There was no prospect of salvation here.

The boy knelt and stared at the grille before him. The dim figure of the priest was visible through the pale yellowish grille; he was softly intoning to himself. The boy made the sign of the cross.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” he whispered. “This is my first confession and these are the sins I have committed.”

His voice was dry and hesitant. He felt afraid and did not want to be here. He wanted his mother. He wanted to get away from this dark dreadful booth before everything became a lie.

He began a recital of the sins that came to mind. He told the priest of some early lies he had told his parents (where he had not been and who he was not with), and the time he glanced over and spotted a different spelling of a test word on a neighbor’s exam paper and wrote it on his own (it turned out to be wrong), of some chalk he had stolen from the blackboard and marked up the building wall across from school (someone else was blamed), of the girl he had struck seated behind him (this only because the old priest had witnessed him do so).

He whispered how bad he was and that he was sorry he had hurt Jesus and he wanted so much for God to take away his sins and forgive him. He also wanted to scream and protest that it was not his fault, that he did not know why these things were happening, why everything was going wrong. He wanted to shout that his mother was in the hospital, that he made in his pants, that he was not allowed on the class trip, that a man had kissed him, that girls did things to him, that his father was drunk and did things to his godmother.

Oh, he wanted to tell of things that were hurting him, that were pushing and pulling him away from the people who were confusing and tormenting him. He wanted God — Oh, please, Jesus! — to come and ease him, to stroke his head in love, to make him a good boy. He wanted to cry out and tell everything: the sins, the lies, the truth.

He grimaced and jerked and doubled over and clutched his belly as a trickle of urine escaped his penis, running down his leg. He crouched on his knees, his face beaded in sweat, and rocked back and forth. At any moment he would no longer be able to hold it in and it would erupt in his pants.

He looked about him. Beneath the prie-dieu on which he knelt a plush red carpet lined the booth. He glanced at the figure behind the grille, then un-zippered his pants and pulled out his penis and began to urinate against the wall of the confessional. The liquid spewed refreshingly out and ran down to the carpet. He felt calm and relaxed.

On the other side the priest began his homily to the boy, telling him, by rote, the importance of penance and redemption. The boy felt at peace, relieved, all anxiety having left him.

He strained and pushed out a few remaining drops, then zippered his pants and surveyed the room. The urine had spread to the carpet beneath the prie-dieu but the darkness of the confessional hid the stain from showing too readily. A warm brothy smell hovered about the dingy booth. The boy crossed himself and thanked the priest for his benediction, then glanced indifferently at the carpet and exited the room.

He did not look at the girls on line but walked briskly to the front of the church and joined the group of scattered children kneeling before the altar and saying their penance. He wondered how long he should remain kneeling and pretend to pray for forgiveness. He had not heard what the priest told him to do to atone for his sins, and he wasn’t certain what exactly was required of him.

He crossed himself and bowed his head. A boy kneeling nearby rose and walked away. How long had he been there? He recited an Our Father to himself. Too short. He said another one. Two Hail Marys wouldn’t hurt. He saw another boy rise and depart. He was certain the boy had come to the altar after him. He recited one more Hail Mary, then crossed himself and walked away.

He spotted the nun. She stood in the center aisle, next to the few remaining children in the quickly emptying pews, sternly surveying the constant movement of the other children throughout the church. The boy bowed his head and walked quietly down the aisle. The weaving bottom of the nun’s black habit and the cracked leather toes of her worn black shoes appeared in a corner of his eyes. He walked past and was almost free of the vision when she suddenly grabbed and spun him around.

“Do you still have to go to the bathroom or have you made in your pants?” the
nun bellowed and shook his shoulder.

“No, Sister,” he stammered.

“No, what?”

“I don’t have to go,” he said quietly.

The nun stooped down and groped between his legs. He squirmed and tried to break away, but she held him tightly. “Just make sure you behave until tomorrow,” she hissed, and slapped him on his backside, propelling him away from her.

He shoved past the gawking children and rushed to the rear, pushing open the heavy doors of the dark church. Sunlight struck his wet eyes. Behind him a girl squealed in disgust and a din arose from the few remaining girls on line. He turned and saw a girl pointing at the floor of the confessional he had been in as the nun raced down the aisle. His eyes widened, and he turned and bolted through the door, leaping down the steep church steps.

He darted past a few lingering children at the bottom of the steps and ran up the street, legs and arms pumping, his lungs aching, his bruised chest hurting and pulsing, but his cadence smooth and even, till the church was far behind him.

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