Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Father Smith Cuts a Deal

Father Smith visits Mrs. Flanigan's boarding house to administer the last rites to the old sailor. The priest finds himself called upon to cut a deal:
It was obvious at once that the sailor had not been practicing his religion for years, because he said right away that he didn't remember when he had last been to Mass or holy communion, although he had never gone to sleep without saying a Hail Mary, because out East a fellow never knew when he wouldn't wake up with his throat slit. Then he started to tell the priest about all the women he had known in Buenos Aires and Hong Kong and said that he had liked he women in Hong Kong best, but Father Smith said that he thought they had better go through the Commandments from the beginning and see how many he had broken because after all it was a bigger mortal sin to have forgotten to love God all one's life than to have known tawdry Jezebels in foreign ports. The sailor said that that was quite easy and that here was no need to go through the Commandments at all, because he had broken the whole lot of them right down to coveting his neighbor's ass, and that Father Smith was quite wrong, as the women weren't tawdry at all, especially the ones in China, who had gold on their fingernails and worn black satin slippers with high red heels, and that now that he came to think of it he wasn't sorry for having known all these women at all, since they had all been so beautiful and that he would like to know them again if he go the chance. Father Smith said that was very wrong of the sailor and that our Lord and our Lady and Saint Joseph and the saints were very much more beautiful than number of Chinese harlots with high heels; but the sailor said that he wasn't so sure, and that he still wasn't sorry for having known all these women, because their dresses had made such lovely sounds when they walked, and in South America it had been much the same thing and the governor general had seemed to think so too, because he had always been at old Senora Alvarez's every Saturday night. The priest said that was no way for a man to talk to God when he was dying and that the old sailor had better hurry up and be sorry for his sins if he didn't want to go to hell and lose Almighty God for ever and ever; but the old sailor said that while he was sorry for having missed the Sacraments so often and for not having loved God more, he wasn't sorry for having known all those women, because they had all been so beautiful and some of them very kind as well. In his despair Father Smith asked the old sailor if he was sorry for not being sorry for having known all those women and the old sailor said that yes, he was sorry for not being sorry and he hoped that God would understand. Whereupon Father Smith said that he thought that perhaps God would understand. ...
That's from Bruce Marshall, The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith 19-20 (1945). How old was the old sailor, I wonder? 74? But he had had a hard life; I suspect more like 56. Note that he does not appear to have a name.

See also:

The Death of Rozzie

How Edith Died.

All the Murders.

1 comment:

elrojo said...

i was a seaman for a number of years, starting when i was 18. on one of my first trips, in 1945, headed to New Orleans to load Army cargo for the philippines, one "old" guy would talk to himself while he shaved. "I can;t wait to get to New Orleans, where the water tastes like cherry wine," he would say, over and over. when we got to new orleans, and i got shore leave, i went into a restaurant and asked for a glass of water. it tasted just like water. i think the old guy may have been in his 40's.