A whimsical look at a modern – yet timeless – confessional.
>You may begin.
The letters zipped onto the screen one by one, all by themselves.
Catherine’s fingers had been resting lightly on the keyboard, in ‘wait’ mode. Then she typed:
>Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
>No need for that ‘father’ crap, babe. Just lay it on me.
Catherine was, to say the least, a little taken aback. This did not sound like old Father Callahan, that’s for sure. Her fingers hesitated over the home keys.
She took a moment to look around the booth. It resembled the telephone booth of old, but instead of a telephone, a computer terminal faced her, its monitor dull black. Although she was familiar with computers, the application that she was using now was new to her.
She shivered. She had always, unaccountably, been nervous before confession. She used to think that her lack of conviction, lack of dedication to her faith was too obvious. That’s why she’d stopped going. But hadn’t a priest once admitted to her, years ago, that even he had doubts?
In fact, that was probably why he and others of his calling had been ‘phased out’: too flawed, too — human. Since then, automation had taken over even this holy bastion. And so she dared to try it out.
>Hon? Are you there? Go for it!
>Uh…what do I call you then?
>Hmm. How about ‘Friend’?
Catherine frowned. She had friends. If she’d wanted to talk to them, she could have! But right now she needed… she needed… What did she need, anyway?
>How can you say you’re my friend? You don’t even know me.
>I may not know you, but I’ll also never judge you. Something’s weighing you down, girl. Let it go.
At that, Catherine burst into tears. Seconds passed.
>Yoo-hoo! You still there?? Talk to me, hon!
Sobbing, Catherine fought to calm herself. His (her? its?) familiarity was starting to grate. She typed furiously:
>Would you stop with the “hons” and “babes”?! How do you expect me to open up to you if you come across like a male chauvinist… machine, dammit! Oh, sorry…
>Okay, okay. Geez… Just trying to set you at ease here. I get the feeling it’s been awhile for you. Am I right?
>Like, when was your last confession?
>A looooonngg time ago. Trust me.
>I do trust you, ba— oops, heh heh… The question is, do YOU trust yourself??
>Maybe that’s part of my problem…Friend.
>And just what IS the problem may I ask??
>Well… the thing bothering me most right now is: I hated my father, I was mean to him; now he’s dead, what can I do?
Catherine sniffled anew, and wiped a tear from her eye.
>Wow, heav-y! Well, you’re asking the right question: “What can you do with it NOW?”
>Nothing! That’s the thing, he’s dead! I can’t undo the past!
>Read my lips girl! I’m talking about NOW. It’s what you do with it NOW that matters.
>I don’t know what to do. Help me…
>You gotta start by learning to let it go, kid.
>I’m NOT a kid!
>Whatever. Doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80. The point is to let it go. And move on.
>But I –
Catherine kept typing, but no letters appeared on the screen, which was now beginning to dim.
“Wait! Friend! Wait! Oh geez…” She slumped on the stool, head bowed. Then, almost imperceptibly, her shoulders began to straighten, and she felt just a little lighter. She sat up and stared at the dark screen. She took a slow, deep breath. Carefully she raised her hands and touched her fingertips to the screen’s surface. “Thank you…Friend,” she whispered. She stood up, opened the door, and exited the booth. She walked down the street, head held high.
Something flickered on the screen in the booth. Visible for just an instant were the words:
>Bless you, hon.