SINS OF THE FATHER
The Prodigal Sin
It is the summer of 1864 and a lone horseman rides into the humble Mexican village of Santuario. The horseman is a thin and dissolute pistolero, gunman, with a full head of long matted hair and no hat. In the mid-day heat of Santuario no souls tread the dust. Insects hide upon the sparse shadows of adobe walls. The pistolero feels the prosecution of the sun
The pistolero finally dismounts carefully not far from the little adobe capilla, chapel. Softly he approaches and then he enters the cloak of the Church. He maneuvers slowly down the aisle of wooden benches toward the altar. There at the altar a young priest kneels with his back to the pistolero at the feet of a tattered crucified Jesus.
When the stealthy pistolero is only a footstep behind the priest he suddenly reaches past the priest’s head and releases a handful of shiny brass bullet cartridges that sing into the metal offering plate
The pistolero says, “Souls I have provided for you,” and then he laughs, adding with a nod of mock reverence, “Father-Brother Emanuel. Look: I am saved! I did not burst into flames upon entering here!”
Without moving the priest finishes his prayer and then says, “Even you are welcome here, Faustino. My hermanastro, half-brother.”
Faustino smirks and says slyly, “The call me La Parca now, the Grim Reaper, hermanastro.”
Padre Emanuel turns to face Faustino. On his forehead Padre Emanuel has a tiny purple birthmark in the shape of a dagger or cross staked above his left eyelid. He shakes his head with disapproval at Faustino’s sinful pride.
Faustino is quickly angry and he says, “Our father was a killer. Our mothers were whores,” and then he gestures at the statue of The Crucifixion and cries, “And now your precious Jesus finds himself once again between two thieves!”
Emanuel looks up at the tortured face of Jesus whose bowed head looks down upon him. Emanuel says calmly, “Yes, but one day one of us will be with him in Paradise.”
From behind the altar a nun emerges looking down at her clasped hands. She raises a smile at Padre Emanuel but then her beneficent gaze is suddenly struck down by the recognition of Faustino beside him.
She says involuntarily and too loudly, “You?!”
There is a reverberation that echoes from the metal of the altar.
Faustino grins as he looks the nun up and down and he says, “Well, the virgin Lucida. A disguise as wonderful as that of Father-Brother here!”
Sister Lucida looks quickly to Padre Emanuel and asks urgently, “What is he doing here? Are you alright, Eman…, Padre Emanuel?”
Padre Emanuel raises a reassuring hand and says to her softly, “I am fine, Sister,” and then he looks to Faustino and says, “Faustino was about to tell me why he is here.”
Sister Lucida looks back at Faustino and says with defiant bitterness, “There is nothing to steal here.”
Faustino shrugs innocently. Padre Emanuel corrects Sister Lucida, “You forget yourself!”
Sister Lucida averts her eyes and says reluctantly, “I am sorry … Padre Emanuel.”
Faustino laughs heartily and says, “The three childhood comrades reunited in such a blessed setting,” then he says pointedly, “Lucida, I would only steal you.”
Sister Lucida looks up startled.
Faustino continues, “If I could.”
Padre Emanuel quickly interjects, “Faustino. Why are you here?” and then he adds with bitter humor, “Did you lose a wager with Satan?”
Faustino makes a sour face and replies, “I wager with my gun and I never lose.”
Sister Lucida admonishes Faustino, saying, “You are losing your soul to Satan every time, bullet by bullet.”
Faustino nods at Sister Lucida and says, “Very good, Lucida. Father-Brother here is a good teacher,” then he looks at the statue of the Crucifixion and he boasts, “My challenge to Satan stands. He sends me only his wretched motherfuckers and the enemies of our father and the fucking bastard children of the enemies of our father,” and Faustino draws his gun with his left hand and holds it aloft and then he raises his right hand as if in benediction. His right hand has a sixth finger.
Faustino flexes his right hand and then he looks toward Sister Lucida and he says, “It seems to me that you once enjoyed my deformities… deeply, Sister Lucida.”
Sister Lucida blushes fiercely and her eyes water.
Padre Emanuel cries out, “Enough! Enough, Faustino! It is enough that you and I suffer the sins of our father! Do not invoke our own transgressions!” and Padre Emanuel glances with pain at Sister Lucida and he adds, “We were wild animals. It is a miracle that any of us have found forgiveness.”
Sister Lucida looks at him gratefully and tries to smile but her lips tremble. She then glares at Faustino and demands, “Why are you here?!”
Faustino holsters his gun and runs his right hand through his matted hair. He suddenly confesses, “I partook of the…charms of a French colonel’s wife.”
Padre Emanuel slumps and moans, “Oh, merciful Father in Heaven.”
Faustino continues, “I could not have dreamed of such a woman; such a headstrong spirit! She was riding alone and came to the river where I was camping. There were then very few words and much God-given fire between us.”
Sister Lucida spits, “Hell-fire, you cursed goat!”
Faustino narrows his eyes at Sister Lucida but he continues his confession, saying, “Perhaps. In my passion I took our love…”
Padre Emanuel cries to heaven, “Love?!”
Faustino is unfazed and he continues, “…down roads that she had not traveled.”
Sister Lucida covers her face.
Faustino sighs, “Seraphine came willingly…”
Padre Emanuel scowls sarcastically, “So this one has a name? So, it must have been love after all.”
Faustino grimaces, “…Seraphine shrieked like a dying animal but it did not dispel her damned Catholicism! I said something…something … and she became as angry as she had been passionate. She threatened to tell her husband, the French colonel, that I had raped her. I left her there naked upon the chaos of her garments and I fled away with her curses striking me like bullets.”
Padre Emanuel holds his face in his hands.
Irritated, Faustino demands, “And how can you even pretend to be part of the Church when they support this French invasion and they welcome, along with our fucking upper classes, the establishment of a European monarchy here?”
Sister Lucida jabs, “So the goat is particular about whom he steals from?”
Faustino says coldly, “I steal the best. As you well know.”
Sister Lucida averts her eyes toward Emanuel.
Padre Emanuel shakes his head to dispel the encroaching hopelessness and he asks Faustino matter-of-factly, “Are you being pursued?”
Faustino replies, “I am not sure. But something tells me to count on it.”
Sister Lucida says triumphantly, “So you have come here to hide!”
Padre Emanuel says quietly, “You put all of Santuario at risk.”
Faustino explains, “No one has seen me. I saw no one when I entered the town. I have been watching behind me for campfire lights the whole way here. I made no campfires.”
Sister Lucida asks, “What if the French are doing the same? They have many men and your, your… Seraphine saw the direction in which you fled!”
Padre Emanuel adds with disheart, “And a dishonored French colonel will be unstoppable.”
to be continued…
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