‘Well, now,’ he said, ‘what do they call you?’
‘Jackie, father,’ I said.
‘And what’s a-trouble to you, Jackie?’
‘Father,’ I said, feeling I might as well get it over while I had him in good humour, ‘I had it all arranged to kill my grandmother.’
He seemed a bit shaken by that, all right, because he said nothing for quite a while.
‘My goodness,’ he said at least, ‘that’d be a shocking thing to do. What put that into your head?’
‘Father,’ I said, feeling very sorry for myself, ‘she’s an awful woman.’
‘Is she?’ he said. ‘In what way is she awful?’
‘She takes porter, father,’ I said, knowing well from the way Mother talked of it that this was a mortal sin, and hoping it would make the priest take a more favourable view of my case.
‘Oh my!’ he said, and I could see he was impressed.
‘And snuff, father,’ I said,
‘That’s a bad case, sure enough, Jackie,’ he said.
‘And she goes round in her bare feet, father,’ I went on in a rush of self-pity, ‘and she know I don’t like her, and she gives pennies to Nora and none to me, and my da sides with her and flakes me, and one night I was so heart-scalded I made up my mind I’d have to kill her.’
‘And what would you do with the body?’ he asked with great interest.
‘I was thinking I could chop that up and carry it away in a barrow I have,’ I said.
‘Begor, Jackie,’ he said, ‘do you know you’re a terrible child?’
‘I know, father,’ I said, for I was just thinking the same thing myself. ‘I tried to kill Nora too, with a bread knife under the table, only I missed her.’
‘Is that the little girl that was beating you just now?’
‘Someone will go for her with a bread knife one day, and won’t miss her,’ he said rather cryptically. ‘You must have great courage. Between ourselves there’s a lot of people I’d like to do the same to, but I’d never have the nerve. Hanging is an awful death.’
‘Is it, father?’ I asked with the deepest interest – I was always very keen on hanging. ‘Did you ever see a fellow hanged?’
‘Dozens of them,’ he said solemnly, ‘and they all died roaring.’
‘Jay!’ I said.
‘Oh, a horrible death,’ he said with great satisfaction. ‘Lots of the fellows I saw killed their grandmothers too, but they all said ’twas never worth it.’
He had me there for a full ten minutes talking and then walked out the chapel yard with me. I was genuinely sorry to part with him, because he was the most entertaining character I’d met up with in the religious line.
Frank O’Connor First Confession (My Oedipus Complex and other stories).
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