A story about a thirteen year old boy who just wants his life to make sense and break free the bonds of his Christian town and strict mother.
Couldn’t Do It Alone…
Chapter 1: Uncle Rich’s Funeral.
Today was my birthday. It was also the day of my Uncle Rich’s funeral. I hardly knew him. My birthday did not really matter. Despite turning thirteen only happened once and having the pleasure of not wearing a tacky and itchy new suit. My Aunt Gladys had picked it. The moment she saw me within the suit she had tears in her eyes and said I was the splitting image of Uncle Rich. Apparently, it was the same kind of orange plaited suit Uncle Rich used to wear. The moment my Aunt had said that I resembled Uncle Rich in the suit, I had an image of Uncle Rich wearing the same kind of suit in his coffin. I shuddered at the thought, not wanting to resemble a dead person, relative or not.
My mum practically had to drag me on the way to the car to attend the funeral at the town church. I put up a great struggle but eventually gave up. On the way, I kept fiddling with my orange bow tie. The high collar kept on threatening to strangle me and I kept on scratching, which only made the itchiness worse.
“Don’t fiddle with it, Henry,” stated my mother in a disapproving manner as she kept on driving.
Huffing slightly, I crossed my arms in a disgruntled manner and glanced out the window.
Sunday had come. I had wished last night that it would not happen but that sort of thing only happens in the movies or to rich people. I knew it would come, the dread dawned upon me as the sun rises into the sky at daybreak.
It was a morning service at the Church. We had to be there at eight-o-clock in the morning. I was not wearing my orange plaited suit this time but my Sunday best, my Church Robe that made me look like I was wearing a dress. It reminded me of how Brother David looked in his Priest robe, but the difference was that my robe was white and Brother David’s was black. Being a part of the Angelic Proclaim, a youth group of churchgoers, was not exactly the most thrilling experience of my young life. I hated it when I was younger and I hated it now. But, my mother had a very watchful eye on me that I was unable to do a thing about it. I once tried to hide my robe when I was eight but my mother found it anyway and told me to be more careful with it. The other members of the Angelic Proclaim were mostly boys near my age, around ten to fourteen. There was of course Billy Watkins, the smug kid who was an example to us all of how an Angelic Proclaim should behave. His usual flunkies were Roger and Ted Fairview, the two brothers whom worshipped Billy Watkins almost as much as the adults did. There were a few all right guys like Fred Mandel and Scott Pinto. Then there was the losers, Tom Eccles and I, Henry Dawson.
An odd group I guess who were mostly God-abiding examples in the small town of Dunsville. We did not do much as a group, we just sang together every Sunday before and after the sermon. We did not hang out much together, besides Tom and I.
As my mum parked outside the Church, I could tell she was also dreading this day because as soon as she looked out her window, Dad and Claire were in clear view. My Dad also wore his Sunday best, possibly the only fashionable suit he had. Claire meanwhile was wearing a simple white dress with light cream flowers patterned upon it. It reached just below her knees and seemed to flow effortlessly as she walked.
Shaking my head slightly to take my mind off it, I watched as my mum unbuckled her seatbelt with resolve and got out of the car. I followed suit, knowing though this day was not a day for me to enjoy I also did not want to not go.
My dad and Claire appeared to wait for us, walking with us as we made our way to the Church entrance.
Brother David stood soundly by the open doors, greeting those of his parish with a warm smile and a friendly handshake.
I noticed his face falter slightly however when he saw our larger group then he was accustomed to seeing.
“Mitch, how nice to see you again,” stated Brother David as nicely as possible as he shook my Dad’s hand. “It’s nice to see you back with our flock.”
“Well, you know how it is, David. Or should I call you Brother now?” asked Dad.
Brother David seemed gentile enough in his manner but I noticed he held onto my father’s hand longer then he should.
“Caroline stated you were in a coma,” said Brother David with an even tone.
My dad seemed slightly shocked at this, in fact, so was I. I never knew my mother said things like that. Then again, with the way he treated her, I was half surprised she did not say he was dead.
“Did she? Well, I got better,” responded my dad in good humour but behind that there was a slight note in his voice that found it beyond amusing.
Brother David did not comment on this as he let go of my dad’s hand. He drew his attention down to me, giving my mother an opportunity to give my father a sour look.
“So, young Henry, I heard you turned thirteen yesterday. I’m sorry it seemed to happen under circumstances beyond our control,” said Brother David kindly to me.
In English, I think he meant he was sorry my Uncle died on the day of my Birthday.
“It’s no biggie,” I replied before my mum nudged the back of my head with her elbow. “I mean I shall miss my Uncle greatly, Brother David.”
“Still, you shall all have time to pray,” said Brother David as my mother and I wandered inside. I didn’t want to continue on inside, but my mother pushing against me gave me no choice in the matter.
I gave a quick glance back and my Dad was introducing Claire to Brother David. Brother David had this look in his eyes, an almost regrettable look but at the time I thought nothing of it since I was too busy looking at Claire. It was hard to believe she was twenty-five years old, but that was apparently what my mother muttered to herself over and over at the dinner table last night. My mother had hardly acknowledged me then, like so many other times.
“Henry, eyes front,” I heard my mother’s stern voice say.
Right now I had wished she would ignore me this one time. I hesitantly turned my head to look to the front of the Church as we were walking past the almost half-full aisles.
I saw Billy Watkins with his mother and father. He looked all prim and proper, the smug dipstick. He was a rather weedy-looking kid my age though was a good three inches taller then me in height. His family was one of those lots that lived on the Suburbia-like Street and did not really come across to the dirt-side of the town.
Heaven forbid they get themselves all messy!
I Don’t know why I hated Billy so much, maybe because I thought he had things pretty easy. Clean clothes, clean hairstyle, decent folks and a whole community thinking you were the next Jesus. Well, nearly the whole community. Tom and I did not favour his types, especially since he snitched on us at any opportunity.
I drew my attention away from Billy and his family and glanced at the altar that had a huge cross on the stone block that had red drapes hanging over it. Yesterday that was where Uncle Rich’s coffin and corpse was. Now it was empty aside from a few lighted candles and some gold-looking ornaments decorated upon it.
I sat by my mother in the second row, glancing back to see Tom sitting by himself in his whitish robe at the last row of aisles in the back.
Tom’s father never came to Church. He was probably too drunk to remember what day of the week it was. I began to wonder, if Tom hated Sundays so much, why did he bother to come to Church?
This thought was present in my mind as I turned back around as my father and Claire sat behind us. Claire gave me a slight smile before I turned back to glance at the front of somebody’s back. I was too short to see the altar from where I was but at that point I did not really care anymore. My mind was still nagging at that question I asked myself earlier.
I hardly acknowledged as Brother David shut the doors as the church bell rang eight times to signify the time. I did not notice Brother David pass by my seat, his robes lightly brushing by with a swishing noise. It was only until I heard Brother David’s words that I snapped back to my senses.
Forgive me for the short sermon...do not know how they are.
“God…hears the cries of us mortal men, yet we mortal men are too wrapped up in our own problems to acknowledge Him,” stated Brother David with clarity.
“I look upon the people sitting before me and would advise you all to repent your sins as quickly as you can, for God will judge you not unless there is need for you to be judged,” preached Brother David before he suddenly sighed after stating this fact.
I noticed his shoulders slump down slightly and gazed out at us with the look of a tired man.
“I can safely say that being a man of the Cloth for over ten years, even I too have sins I want to forget about,” stated Brother David.
I did not know what he was talking about. Brother David usually goes off in a monotonous speech about God, but today he seemed to act differently.
I heard my father lightly cough and turned to look at his face behind me. He seemed slightly distressed for some reason. I turned back as Brother David continued.
“The time has come for a confession to be known in the open. This sin is personal to me because I am the one who caused it,” said Brother David, ignoring the murmurs from some of the people in the aisles.
“My sin is one of Lust, pure and simple. I shall not go into details for God forbids me so. But I shall admit my guilt before you all and before God. I have committed adultery with one of my parishioners, I shall not say whom, but I want them to know that I have forgiven them and myself and hope they also forgive me,” remarked Brother David with conviction, pounding his fist into his other hand with vigour.
“Now, I shall let myself be at the Mercy of God and reflect upon my own actions in the past,” continued Brother David as another bout of murmurings died down.
“For without my Faith, I would have surely lost my way. With these thoughts in mind, good people, let us pray,” stated Brother David as he finished his sermon (or half of one) and put his hands together as he closed his eyes and bowed his head.
Everybody else in the Church followed suit, even me. I did not really understand what Brother David had said, was he admitting to fooling around with somebody from our group at the Church? I could hardly grasp my mind around it, but in the back of my mind as I was praying God to forgive my sins, one simple word as a question nagged at me…Who?
After ten minutes of praying, the whole group arose from the aisles and watched as the four other boys and I came out from our seats and stood in the middle where there was a red carpet going towards the marble draped at the front.
We walked single file slowly but surely until we all stood facing the rest of the church-going group.
I took a quick glance at Tom before we started to sing “Nearer My God To Thee” and noticed he seemed somewhat relaxed. Normally he would look upset, but today he was probably in a good mood.
Brother David was to the side, moving his hands as a conductor. Being the one who taught us the song, Brother David would of course conduct us.
Brother David seemed slightly more tense then usual but I hardly acknowledged that as I was trying to keep up with the other four singing. I knew the words, but it all seemed very dull to me. Sure, it sounded cool how our voices reached the ceiling and echoed around, but other then that it was nothing I took seriously. Hey, if your mother were the one to make you join when you were young and made to sing in a high-like voice in front of basically the whole town in a dress, you’d complain too, right?
Well, that was, unless you were Billy Watkins or one of those girly girls.
After we finished, there was some polite clapping and we all returned to our seats.
After that, we sang a few more songs as a whole group and then at around about nine, Church was over.
As I made my way with my mother to the doorway, I suddenly felt somebody clasp my hand. I glanced at the person in question to give them a talking to when I noticed it was Jenny, the girl who I guess liked me. Though why she liked me I had no idea. I mean, I like her, but I figured that was normal, boys like girls casually. But I think Jenny lost the point. Not that I’m complaining about having a girl like me, but for some reason it felt kind of…weird. I was still getting used to the idea of puberty that would eventually kick in. I didn’t need a girl to confuse me any further.
“I liked your singing, Henry,” said Jenny with a slight smirk on her face. I had to admit, she looked pretty cute with the smile. She was pretty cute to begin with.
“Uh, thanks,” I replied rather awkwardly, feeling my face getting hotter as Jenny stared into my eyes. We both glanced away in embarrassment and continued walking. My mother had gone ahead of me, possibly to greet Brother David at the door. I could see my Dad and Claire also ahead of me. Jenny seemed to grasp my hand slightly, making me glance at her again. She had this knowing smile on her face and for some reason it filled me with dread.
“Henry, do you think I’m sexy?” she suddenly asked me.
At first I didn’t respond. How could I? What was a thirteen-year-old guy going to say? It was a very straightforward question but the way she said it, it seemed so curious for her to ask me.
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