Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Snap (09/04/08)
- TITLE: Divine Atonement
By Chely Roach
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After almost a decade, Jeremy had finally snapped.
He fell into a restless sleep—awake enough to be aware of his surroundings. Though paralyzed by the drugs and fatigue, Jeremy could hear the incessant ding of the seatbelt sign, the murmuring voices, and a baby crying somewhere behind him. The cabin noises intertwined with his reoccurring dream—the nightmare that had haunted him for three thousand nights...
The further he walked down the hallway to Josh’s room, the farther away it seemed. He could hear his own voice in the distance of his mind, “Josh? Are you up and moving? We’re gonna be late for Mass…” The Mets pennant on the door melted as he pushed it open. The bed was made, but the closet door was cracked with the light on inside. As he floated past, he caught a glimpse through the sliver. Jeremy’s pulse leapt through his skin—his bowels twisting as he flung the door wide.
Let the little children…
Blue. Limp. Knees bent and the tops of his bare feet touching the floor.
…come to me…
Black leather belt. Brass buckle. The frantic screams scalding Jeremy’s throat.
…and do not hinder them…
Paramedics. Police. Father Maguire’s rosary. Funeral. Benediction. Dust to dust.
…for the kingdom of God…
Jeremy tore the pennant down. Hannah sobbed in the hall. He launched the mattress across the room.
…belongs to such as these…
And there it was on the box spring. A black pocket notebook. The pages were filled with minuscule print. They shuddered relentlessly while squinting at the tiny words. Horrific, unspeakable words. And a name. The man with the rosary.
…Vengeance is Mine…
The plane jarred violently from a pocket of turbulence, and Jeremy cracked his temple against the cold wall. It took him a few moments to snap out of the trace from the dream, but once he was fully awake, he felt ill. He buried his face into the dreaded sickness bag, alternating retches with sobs. This can’t be happening…Lord, please, let me avenge my son.
Jeremy sighed. The silence was nothing new.
After the criminal trial, Jeremy was outraged by the verdict; guilty of four counts of forced sodomy—but not murder. Josh’s notebook chronicled twenty attacks, but he only named Father Maguire four times. He was sentenced to twelve years. Jeremy and Hannah took out a second mortgage to pay a lawyer for the civil trial, who was livid with them for turning down a multi-million dollar settlement offer from the “church”. The jury deliberated for three hours before returning their verdict: second degree murder. The monetary damages were paltry compared to the settlement offer, but they didn’t care—it was dirty money anyway. They paid off the lawyer, and put an enormous retainer on a private investigator to watch the defrocked Maguire during and after his sentence. They called a press conference to publicly donate the remaining money—nearly one million dollars—to S.N.A.P., the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Eight years later, Jeremy’s life was somewhat normal again. Then he got the call. Maguire was paroled early, shuffled around by the church for six months, and had been quietly placed in a parish near Brooklyn…with a new name. As he hung up the phone, Jeremy began to plan Maguire’s execution.
The plane began its descent, and Jeremy gazed at the buildings emerging out of vague patches of grey and brown. He thought of Hannah at home with their baby…the new life they had resurrected from the rubble.
Vengeance is Mine, Jeremy…
When the wheels touched the runway, he knew what he had to do.
On the third morning after Jeremy’s return home, he heard Hannah scream in the kitchen, and he bolted down the stairs with that same old fear plunging his soul. When he reached her side she was pointing to the television…the man with the rosary.
“…Investigators suspect that the church had sustained some undiscovered structural damage during the World Trade Center attacks seven years ago today. It appears that a beam above the pulpit snapped during Mass, crushing the newly appointed priest in front of two hundred parishioners…”
~Luke 18:16 NIV
~Deuteronomy 32:35 NIV
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