BOBBY: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was a week ago. (PRIEST nods absently.) Father … Father, are you there?
PRIEST: Hm? What? Uh, yes, my son, go ahead.
BOBBY: I mean, I’ve really sinned.
PRIEST: Go on. I’m listening.
BOBBY: It’s too terrible. I’d better warn you.
PRIEST: Nothing is too terrible for the ears of our Lord. You go right on ahead.
BOBBY: I mean, really terrible.
PRIEST: Don’t be worried, my son. I hear terrible things every day. Nature of the priesthood, you know.
BOBBY: You’ll be shocked.
PRIEST: My dear boy, I will listen with the patience of Job. Only please get on with it. (He picks up his magazine and glances over the cover.)
BOBBY: I’ve… oh, God … I can’t even say it.
PRIEST: It’s all right, my boy. Spit it out.
BOBBY: I’ve killed someone.
PRIEST: I see. (Sudden realization) Killed someone! … Killed someone?
PRIEST: (Breathless excitement) Goodness gracious. That is something. (He rubs his eyes roughly, leans forward.)
BOBBY: So you see, Father … I’m a murderer.
PRIEST: Well, what do you know about that. How did you do it? I mean, how did it happen?
BOBBY: It was one of those moments. I just lost control. I can’t explain why…
PRIEST: Yes, yes, yes. Only what did you do?
BOBBY: I… It was Ms. Sobel. My teacher. She’s had it in for me all semester. Yesterday she kept me after school. She said I plagiarized my term paper. I told her I didn’t, I told her, but she just laughed. She said she was going to keep me from graduating, and tell my parents… I was scared to go home, so I just wandered around, I didn’t know what I was doing. Anyway, I saw her, out by the rear door, on her way home. And in my head, she was still laughing… and next thing I knew, I had her by the neck. She tried to yell, but she couldn’t, her windpipe was shut off. Then she stopped struggling… she fell…
PRIEST: No blood, then.
BOBBY: (Thrown) What?
PRIEST: Oh, uh, I mean… (Picks up his magazine.) Strangling. Only leaves marks, you know. The only bleeding comes from burst blood vessels in the eyes.
BOBBY: (Pause) That’s gross … Where was I?
PRIEST: We’d just strangled her. So, would you say you’re like the Unavoidable Felon?
BOBBY: The what?
PRIEST: (Consulting the magazine) Oh, you know. (Half reading) “You felt your back was against the wall. It was kill or be killed… ”
BOBBY: Well, yes, that’s what it was. Still, there’s no excusing¬
PRIEST: Amazing! Why didn’t I catch this on the evening news! Was it on TV?
BOBBY: No. I mean yes. She was. Last night. But I took it away. The body. Into the river.
PRIEST: What river?
BOBBY: Who cares what river?!
PRIEST: I’m just curious¬
BOBBY: I’m baring my soul and you ask me what river!
PRIEST: Fine, fine, don’t get upset.
BOBBY: It doesn’t matter what river!
PRIEST: You’re right, I shouldn’t be so nosy. Only if you’re not willing to discuss the matter, then why exactly are you here?
BOBBY: Because I want to confess!
PRIEST: Are you going to the police?
BOBBY: The police! Who cares about the police? I need to clear my soul! Aren’t you shocked by any of this?
PRIEST: Oh yes, terrible. (Confidentially) Only… can you tell me … what did you feel? Looking down at that cold body, realizing what you’d done. How does that feel?
BOBBY: It… I don’t know, it feels awful. Why?
PRIEST: Well, I’ve certainly never murdered anyone. And to actually have a chance to talk to a cold-blooded killer!
BOBBY: Father! …
PRIEST: They say it’s a thrill, you know. Murderers on talk shows, they all say that. They get this icy feeling all down their spine. Were you thrilled? You know, in an icy sort of way?
BOBBY: What in the world are you, some kind of sicko maniac?
PRIEST: (Astonished and puzzled) But …
BOBBY: I mean, I was thrilled. Yeah, right. I was thrilled.
PRIEST: (After a pause, frowning) I see. (Slumping back in his chair) Was there anything else?
BOBBY: Anything else? What kind of priest are you? I’ve committed murder. Murder! I’ve broken the first commandment. “Thou shalt not kill.” I’ve killed!
PRIEST: Mm-hm. Refresh my memory. How did you do it again?
BOBBY: Uh… I waited, around a corner¬
PRIEST: Which hand was the knife in?
PRIEST: You don’t remember, do you?
BOBBY: What … I do! … Left.
PRIEST: Then you stabbed her after you strangled her?
BOBBY: Hang on! You’re confusing me!
PRIEST: You’re confusing yourself. (Sighs.) You really should’ve rehearsed this a little more, you know, before trying it out. Out of respect for my intelligence if nothing else.
BOBBY: You have to believe me.
PRIEST: Oh, honestly. Any devoted reader of Detective Magazine knows that the true murderer doesn’t get flustered recalling the details of his crime. (Sighs.) Well, I for one am pretty let down.
BOBBY: You don’t believe me.
PRIEST: Not in the least. Now, what is it you want from me?
BOBBY: I… want to be absolved.
PRIEST: But, my son, you haven’t done anything! …
BOBBY: (Exasperated) Oh, shit! (A beat) Excuse me.
PRIEST: That’s all right. Now… why are you here? Really.
BOBBY: Father… do you know who I am?
PRIEST: No. You don’t have to identify yourself if you don’t want to.
BOBBY: I do. I’m Robert Mackenzie.
PRIEST: Bobby Mackenzie? The kid on the track team who set the record for the ¬
BOBBY: Yeah, yeah.
PRIEST: You’re Melinda’s boy, aren’t you? Why, I’ve never heard anything but compliments about you. Why do you want to go inventing murder stories about yourself? You’re a good kid …
BOBBY: Don’t say that! I’m sick of that!
BOBBY: That’s all I ever get. Bobby the track star. Bobby the A student.. .
PRIEST: Bobby the Good Kid.
BOBBY: Exactly! I can’t do any wrong! Even when I tried to skip school. I got bored sitting at home and wrote my term paper instead. I won a prize and a scholarship.
PRIEST: Well, we all have our burdens.
BOBBY: OK, OK. Maybe it’s selfish of me.
BOBBY: I’m tired of being the Good Boy. I want to be bad, feel guilty, get yelled at. I want to rob a bank. I want to … bite a dog.
PRIEST: Bite a dog?
BOBBY: You see? I can’t even think bad! I never do anything shocking. I don’t even know how. I’m so perfect. I … I don’t have a life!
PRIEST: Ah. Yes. I know how you feel.
BOBBY: You do not.
PRIEST: Not the perfection bit, of course. We’re none of us qualified for that. Only I certainly do know what it’s like to be bored with the same old thing. What do you think it’s like sitting in this booth listening to other people’s lives all day?
BOBBY: At least you get to hear what real life is about.
PRIEST: Real life. The province of the extremely bored and boring, my son. This is a very dry month for transgressions. I actually got a confession from a chronic jaywalker once. (Crossing himself) God rest his soul… Yesterday I had to listen to a woman describe her sinful thoughts about the doctor who scrapes her feet. And she was the highlight of my week. You’re the only interesting confession I’ve had all year. And you had to make it up. What kind of excitement is that? Thanks for nothing.
BOBBY: I’m sorry.
PRIEST: Ah, well. You tried… Listen, it’s my turn to make a confession to you.
BOBBY: To me?
PRIEST: I used to dream about being a secret agent. All that seat-of¬-the-pants stuff, you know. James Bond, marvelous stuff. I’ve seen Dr. No eight times. That beats Father Johnson’s record.
BOBBY: Huh. From secret agent to priest.
PRIEST: I know, I know. But I ended up doing what was right for me. Not everybody can be James Bond, you know. The world needs … well, Good Kids.
BOBBY: (A beat) It’s not as much fun.
PRIEST: No. But you leave less of a mess behind you.
BOBBY: So you’re saying I’m better off being me.
PRIEST: You make it sound like a curse! A lot of people would love to be Bobby Mackenzie, you know. You actually did it. Congratulate yourself.
BOBBY: Thanks. You’re OK, too. I mean, you do good work.
PRIEST: Thank you.
BOBBY: I’m sorry about … you know, trying to shock you …
PRIEST: Oh, think nothing of it, my son! I was really awake there for a minute. Only who knows, next time it could be the real thing! Now couldn’t it! A man can dream.
BOBBY: (Getting up) I guess I just wanted … I don’t know. I’m so tired of doing everything right.
PRIEST: I wish I could help you, really.
BOBBY: Oh, never mind. I’m doomed to goodness. Just plain doomed. Thanks for trying…
PRIEST: (Sudden thought, snapping his fingers,) Just a minute there. I’m not through with you.
PRIEST: Sit down!
BOBBY: But… you said yourself, I haven’t done anything.
PRIEST: You call lying to a man of the cloth nothing? Do you realize that when you lie to me, you’re lying to God?
BOBBY: (Stunned) I … I didn’t think about it¬
PRIEST: That’s right. You didn’t think. Adam and Eve didn’t think when they committed original sin, you know. Only that wasn’t good enough. God called Adam and Eve to account, and what did they say? “We weren’t thinking. It wasn’t our fault. We’re just having an off day.” Whereupon God said, “Right! Out you go!” and stuck them out in the wasteland with barely a fig leaf to call their own. You can go to hell for this sort of thing!
BOBBY: I’m sorry,
PRIEST: (More and more excited) I’m talking hellfire, boy! Hellfire and bloody damnation! Hell has a special stinking hole for liars! The blackest, stinkingest pit in all of the underworld! Hot lava and blazing flame rains down upon their writhing bodies! And I’m not just talking about a little hopping around either! These bodies writhe!
BOBBY: (Speechless) Gosh! …
PRIEST: You’ll have to do a great deal better than that. You go away and say at least ten Hail Mary’s and ten Our Fathers and don’t you set foot in this holy place again until you’re properly atoned, you little heathen!
BOBBY: Y-yes, Father. (Beaming) Wow! … (They are both glowing with satisfaction)
PRIEST: How was that for some cooking?
BOBBY: Yeah, that was great. Wow! … (A beat) Father? … Are you here at this time every week?
PRIEST: Where else would I be? I’ve got no life. (BOBBY smiles, closes the window, and leaves the box. The PRIEST sighs blankly to himself, picks up his “True Detective,” and begins to read. He then reconsiders, puts the comic book away, and sits up in his chair, eagerly awaiting the next confession)