Fall From Grace
Joanne Faries
Now I know. I can still think with my head chopped off and hung on a post. It pains me that the unruly crowd kicked it in jest after it tumbled from the stage. If only I had composed my face on the chopping block. Instead my eyes bugged with fear, my mouth froze in a grimace. My last impulse restrained, I did silently regret my short life.
 
1594 Dorset did not look kindly upon papists. Blessed John Cornelius conducted himself with grace, saying his sacrament, blessing the ill, and professing his faith. He shall be a saint one day. I hid in the shadows, even watched a priest stoning one afternoon. Brutal to witness. I hurried home that day and gave myself fifty lashes, fasted for a week, and still denied my upbringing in Ireland. I stifled my accent, curled my fingers into a fist before they gave the sign of the cross.
 
Yet I served John Cornelius. He christened babies and consecrated the dead. I swept his hearth, baked his bread, and washed his feet. Oh I sinned at night, earning money on the streets. I’d slink home, smelling of whiskey, and hand over my silver as penance.
 
Alas, one night I crossed the wrong man – the king’s guard. My rosary slipped from my pocket. He followed and arrested John and me. And now I know. I, Seamus McCarey, age 13, can still think with a severed head.  My soul shall burn for eternity.

First published: November 2015
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