Father Fletcher looked exactly like Clarence Odbody, George Bailey’s guardian angel in “Its a Wonderful Life.” The stereo-typical old Irish man. His nose was usually red and his hair parted to the left. He would speak to himself and when caught would say he was speaking to the Lord. He would hum when he was nervous which presented him with some uncomfortable situations. He was Anthony’s oldest friend and confidant.
“Forgive me father for i have sinned, it has been you know how long since my last confession.”
Anthony confessed to sins he had not committed yet felt obliged to express. When he was done he let out a short laugh.
Father Fletcher responded quickly and ended with, “…and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.”
He crossed himself and said, “How are ya Anthony?”
“Good Peter, sorry I havent been around. I met someone – I feel alive again.”
“So why are you confessing that to me? Come on lets go have a tiny drop of somethin’.”
“I feel guilty Father.”
“Stop with the Father crap, lets speak as friends. Have you done anything to feel guilty about?”
“No I haven’t but I feel the temptation and I wonder, do you think Marie would mind?”
“Are you confessing to God or Marie?”
That silenced him into enforced introspection. He thought to himself, “If it were me that had died I would not want her to be alone…but would I be ok with her loving another man?”
“Anthony? Step outside and lets go for a walk as friends.”
The Father walked into the backroom, pulled on his coat and tapped on his stetson, tilted to the left. He threw his scarf around his neck and walked to greet Anthony.
“How you doing buddy?” The Father outstretched his hand.
“I am doing well Pete.”
“Shall we?” Gesturing towards the exit.
“We shall.” He smiled.
As they sat in a booth at “O’Leary’s,” a dark and damp rectangular tavern with wooden floors and walls. As you walked you could feel your shoes lightly sticking to the floor – the lights were always set to a low dim because it would be poor business to lighten up the room and expose the stains on the floors, walls and bar itself. The bar had been opened for sixty years and many a great man has spent moments of muddled confusion amid the aromas of vomit and a floor that had not had a proper mopping in over a decade. Al was at the helm today and he smiled as he greeted the old friends.
“Pete today, Father later on.” He winked.
They sat down as friends now – friends since they first met back in the 60’s some time. When Anthony looked across the table he thought to himself that his good friend had aged none to kindly. Then he caught a glimpse in the speckled mirror across the floor and saw what he mistook for an older man looking right back at him. OK I guess time spares no one…besides Sofia Loren I guess.
“So tell me about this ‘new found happiness.'”
“Well, I met this girl…”
“OK I am interrupting you. Is she a good person?”
“Yes, it seems like she-”
“Is she nice to you?”
“Yes, of cour-”
“The cut the bullshit, excuse me, and enjoy the company and the love – for a lot of people it comes once in a life, for some two or three times. But for some it never comes so – if God has blessed your ugly mug with love – grab it and don’t let it go.”
“Is that spoken as a father or friend?”
“Both now be quiet and order another round, I am thirsty.”
Anthony smiled, looked at his friend and noticed the emptiness in his eyes. He had helped hundreds, maybe thousands with his guidance over the years, still he found himself living alone and possibly in regret as well. Now he felt guilty again. How could he take love for granted? What kind of person would be given the chance to posses the most valuable stuff in the world and dismiss it as a nuisance? Love wasn’t to be taken for granted – love was to be treasured and grabbed onto each second of its presence.
The barkeep brought them their two shots and two extra’s “On me, gentlemen.” They smiled.
They looked at the glasses, smiled and Anthony proposed a toast.
They both laughed. Before they drank there was a pause.
“I miss that son of a bitch.” The Father’s eyes welled up with a sadness that could not be expressed too openly. Sometimes ‘love’ can be considered a sin even if its love.
“I know…I do as well. I love you Pete you are my brother.”
“If I am your brother and your Father – and Irv was my…we make up a really messed up family, kid.”
They drank and drank again; all the time laughter replaced the sadness they both felt inside. They time had been stolen from them from under their feet – the worlds laws and expectations causing shifts in the foundation of being human.
“What’s her name?”
“Lydia.” Anthony said with a smile.
The Father began to sing, “Lydia oh Lydia, have you met Lydia? Lydia the Queen of tattoos. Does she have any tattoos?”
“Not sure yet.” He winked, “But I intend to find out soon.”