Glass House, Tainted Dreams, Clever Chinese

March 30, 2009

Sunlight streaked through the cold, stained glass of the church’s south wall, lighting a narrow diagonal path across the oak pews until reaching the marble steps of the pulpit.  It was the first time Fr. Clem had remembered sitting in the pews since being reassigned to the church early last year, and he thought, momentarily, of whether or not it was merely his subconscious that had invited him to sit in the chilly, shadowed ones on the opposite side.  As he gazed through the glass podium he usually spoke to his parishioners from, his eyes fixed upon an earth-toned, stained glass image of Saint Michael readying his sword above a demon below his feet.  Fr. Clem gave a scared sigh of relief.  He felt free, finally, in a disturbed sort of way—like when a homeless man gets locked up and provided with a warm bed and three meals—but he wanted to believe that this wasn’t how things were supposed to go for him.  He knew this was the end, and he prayed that it would not be he looking up at the Archangel’s sharp, sure justice one day.                  

He remembered the time when people once loved him.  When they’d invite him to their homes for dinner and give him pies to take home when he left.  When boys would ask him to come to their soccer games and the girls would hope to see him at their recitals.  When housewives would send him thank-you letters if they thought he delivered an exceptionally good message to their family, and their husbands would constantly query him about his gifts of acceptance and tolerance.  Everywhere he went people considered him an icon of the community, and he never once took it for granted.  Never once did he develop an ego or a superior attitude.  It was his job, he thought, to be caring and humble.  It was his job to be there for others.  And it was his job, at one time, to always make the right decision and guide others to do the same.  People once loved him.   He missed those times.  

As he scraped the dried blood from the fingernail of his thumb he heard the northern most doors behind him open and close.  Soon after followed a quick-paced, cushioned thud-thud-thud.  Fr. Clem could almost visualize his future unfolding in front of him.  Stopping next to him at the second pew where he sat, Sr. Manna took a moment to catch her breath.

“I’m sorry to bother you Father, but you must come right away.  Something terrible…” Her last words weren’t lost in thought as much as they were known to be unnecessary.  After noticing his appearance—tears dripping down a blood spattered ghost-white face, and hands that slowly kept wrapping round one another—she knew her words were useless.  

“Call the police, Sister,” he said without looking up.  “Tell them there’s been an accident.”

Sr. Manna stood motionless.  She did not want to believe that the dear priest she had grown very fond of had been the sole contributor of the scene she had just come from.  But then again, everything kind of seemed to make sense to her now: his many transfers; the gossip—which for the most part was frowned on but almost inevitable—that had followed him to the new ministry; his teachings on intimacy and love, which were, in his words, “not to be denied, but strengthened beyond the understandings of this world;” and the fact that he had the practice of not talking to any female in his office without another from the ministry present.  An extreme contradiction, she thought, of the faith and honesty the church prided itself on. 

“Please, sister,” this time facing her, but avoiding eye contact.  “Call them for me.  Tell them they need to hurry.”

Another moment went by before Sr. Manna found it in her to make a move toward the door and to a phone.  She, and the other sisters connected to the diocese, had become very fond of Fr. Clem, and she could understand why he had had so much difficulty in the priesthood.  She had even heard about a few of the younger nuns who were sent away after jokingly admitting that, “Fr. Clem had stirred something very primitive inside them by his slightest glance or smile.”  But they all felt it.  There was no joke about it.  It was very serious.  Only the strong ones were able to suppress these feelings and move on with their lives of love and unification with God.  Those who talked about these impure thoughts were harshly dealt with and transferred, and those who didn’t, who couldn’t suppress it, lived with it; like an organ hemorrhaging a poisonous cyst.  And those unfortunate ones who actually came to him to talk about it, openly and honestly—well, that was the needle puncturing the tumor.  No prayer could help them then. 

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Father Clem?” 

She knew what the phone call would mean.  That it would probably be the last time she would talk with him.  That the media would frenzy over the opportunity of uncovering another vile and corrupt minister.  And his past, whatever it was comprised of, would resurface and be twisted in the direction they’d need for it to support some certain angle of theirs.

“No,” he said somewhat uncertain, remembering the message of his fortune cookie last night that read; Extend a hand and you’ll live long.  “I believe it’s too late to do anything for me.”


Forgive me, Father, I have sinned. 

It is, of course, the usual opening for those who come to the confession booth, and Fr. Clem had heard it now for 14 years, 4 days a week, over and over.  The mornings of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were for the public—who usually (Fr. Clem thought, at least) white-knuckled their way to salvation with half-truths and slants.  Just enough for them to walk away feeling forgiven, but not really enough to keep them from doing whatever they confessed about next week, or tomorrow even.  The forth day on the other hand, Saturday, was for those who belonged to the ministry; nuns, acolytes, students, and trainees. 

The nuns, who hardly ever missed an opportunity to confess, whether it stemmed from obligation or the chance to finally let loose of womanly emotions without repercussion, were frequently boring to listen to.  They often consisted of things such as not praying long enough before sleep; daydreaming during the rosary; being too unorganized, or too meticulous.  Things you and I would hardly imagine adding to a confession.  Things we would believe were harmless personality traits.  Things Fr. Clem had wished never would’ve changed, because in July of 1977, the good priest was overwhelmed with a surge of confessions that left him fearing for his sanctity and his life.


“Forgive me, Father,” said Sr. Willona, her voice trembling, “for I have dreamed very sinfully.” 

“Yes, but remember Sister,” Fr. Clem said soft and soothingly.  “Our dreams are just another way for God to communicate to us.  Please do not be frightened of them.  It is his way of allowing the two of you to become closer.”

“I understand Father, but if God wants me to be closer with him then I am positive it was not He that allowed me to dream such things.” 

Sr. Willona had come to the convent roughly two years earlier and had visited with Fr. Clem on many occasions.  Most of the time she came to him in tears, outside the confession booth, and talked to him of the hatred she felt coming from the other sisters.  Fr. Clem believed the other nuns treated her unfavorably out of jealousy, out of the fact that she had been born with a womanly charm not often seen about the nunnery.  And though he could do little to help her in most of these affairs, he did speak of the matter with the Mother Superior, whose last words—“We treat each other with fairness and equality, Father!”—were spoken with a strength not to be questioned again. 

“I would ask you to pray on it Sister.  Pray and ask God to take your unclean dreams from you.”

“I have Father,” she said now in a low, desperate voice.  “For the last two months now I’ve prayed He take them, and pray He hasn’t turned his back on me.”

“My child, God turns his back on no one, and I’m sure you know that.”

“Yes, Father.  But what can I do?” she whispered pleadingly.  “It seems that the harder I pray the easier it is for me to have these unholy thoughts.  At first it was just one or two a week, but it’s been eighteen consecutive nights now, and each one grows more vivid, more real.”

“Have you spoken to anyone about them?” Fr. Clem asked patiently.

“Heavens no, Father!  I will not give the sisters any more reason to doubt my love and devotion to God.”

“Do you wish to, my child?  Maybe if you spoke to someone about these dreams it would help them go away.  Maybe you just need to get things off your mind.” 

Fr. Clem waited a moment for a response but heard only light sobs through the confession window.  “Would you like me to set up an appointment with outside counsel?”

“I don’t think so, Father,” she sighed.  “If I leave someone’s certain to ask where I am or where I went, and will not be able to tell falsely of my whereabouts.  Sooner or later they’ll know where I went.  It’s better if I stay here.”

Again, Fr. Clem hesitated, and then softly spoke.  “You know, of course, your thoughts stay here, with us.  But you do not need to go any further with me.  I know your heart is pure, and God knows it as well.”

“I think if you knew of my dreams you would question the purity of my heart as much as He is,” she said in a cold whisper.

“My child, maybe it is He you dream of.  Have you thought of that?”

“Father, it is not!” she struck out before breaking into sobs.  “And as much as I pray that it would be, that the face of the man that I reach lustfully for turns into my lord Jesus Christ’s, it becomes more and more noticeable of who…of who…”

Sr. Willona could not find the strength to speak about her troubles through the voice of a frustrated girl and found herself turning the sobbing emotions into fearful spite.

“Father,” she said in a quick, crisp whisper, “it is you I dream of.  I dream that I’m lying in bed and there’s fire all around me.  I can’t see the flames but I feel them.  There’s so much heat but I can’t seem to get out of my room.  I try to get out but for some reason I don’t really want to, so I dream the door is pulled shut by someone on the other side.  Smoke starts rising from the bottom of my habit and then I see you and reach for you.  You hover above me in some sort of balloon.  I know you’ve been there the whole time watching me, and maybe that’s what I like about it.  Maybe that’s where this fire comes from.  And then you pull me close to you as we rise up to heaven.  But there’s no balloon really, not anything, just fire, rising up from our bodies.  I look up in hopes of seeing heaven, but it’s not there—only blackness.  And when we’re through, I land alone, in a lake.  But,” she said, gasping for breath between tears and letting go of a fuf-fuf-fuf sound.  “The most disturbing thing about it, Father, is when I wake up, I’m…” 

Sr. Willona found herself stopping short of using such description.  Fr. Clem, she thought, would understand well enough. 

“My sheets must be taken to the laundry every morning and it’s getting more and more difficult to hide this from the others.”

Fr. Clem sat motionless, stunned.  It was the first time he felt that he could not give a bit of prompt, calming guidance.  In a way he felt threatened but instantly dismissed this victimized feeling.

“You will be plagued with many things in your life, my child.  You have encountered another test of your devotion and love to God.  You must not let these dreams interrupt the progress of your work.  Reject them as best you can and do your best to feel no guilt, for they are only concepts of your subconscious.  Go forth, and sin no more, Sister.”

Sr. Willona stepped embarrassingly from the confession booth.  Her intentions, she recalled, were not to divulge as much as she had, but for unknown reasons could not resist.  She realized she had always felt most comfortable speaking with Fr. Clem, and that this level of comfort would now be greatly lessened.  But she was relieved she hadn’t gone so far as to admitting her love.

In the days following, the good priest was nearly mortified to learn that Sr. Willona was not the only one fraught with tainted dreams.  Two of the other seven were having them as well, and their confessions weighed so heavily upon him that he felt as if each had cast a stone through the structure of his spirituality.  A structure that had now become very brittle.

Sr. Florece, a portly 26-year-old of sisterly qualities, confessed that she constantly dreamed that she stood naked in a meadow of tulips that had died before blossoming, and that she would methodically unwrap the dead, brown encasings of each in hopes of seeing them come back to life.  And in the distance, when she saw the good priest coming toward her, scathing down each dead tulip in his path, she’d find herself dancing around and singing until he’d look up, notice her beauty, and mistakenly sever himself.  If she could stay asleep long enough, which, she thought was the biggest sin of all, he would vanish and she would commence in enjoying herself—all the tulips blossoming red.

The most shocking of them all, though, came from Sr. Deirdre who, as well, had sisterly qualities, but hers seemed to parallel that of a crowbar’s; strong, steady, unbendable, and always seeming to have a particular knowledge somehow of all that took place within the church.  She had been living in the convent for nearly 20 years, and she was one of the last sisters Fr. Clem would have guessed would yield to anything unholy.  And when she spoke with him outside of the confession booth one cold afternoon, her words fell out of her mouth in a not-so-subtle, sarcastic sashay that conveyed a sort of nefarious humor, as if the good priest himself was about to get a lesson in sin 101.

“So, Father Clem,” she began, a slight wicked smile slanted cross her left cheek.  “Things for you have been…rather interesting lately—No?”

At first he thought that she had just been keenly in tune with his recent withdrawn demeanor.

“It has been quite unusual, yes,” he nodded, a bewildered glare beaming out his eyes.

“Are you sure this is what you want?”

“I’m not following you, Sister,” he said, shifting uncomfortably in the leather chair.  “Am I sure what?”

“Oh, it’s too late to act naïve about it, Father.  The chains are finally broken.  And though I tried fighting it for many months,” she said, slowly removing her headdress, “I finally understand what He wants from me, as I’m sure you do as well.”

Fr. Clem’s mouth fell loose and he could hear the rhythm of his pulse.  His mouth went dry and he began to feel nauseous, and he cautiously waited before saying anything too presumptuous.

“If your plan is to leave the convent, Sister Deirdre, this is not the proper way.”  He hoped his stern voice would halt any of her further actions.

“Leave the convent?” she mocked.  “I’m not leaving, Father.” 

Sr. Deirdre stood, walked to the door, closed and locked it, and pulled down the silver drape, revealing an image of Christ, portrayed as if he were cherishing a moment—his head slightly bowed and his hands peacefully clasped together. 

            “For 70 nights you have come to me in my dreams and have used your sarcophagus to pound relentlessly away on the giant, unmovable chain connecting me—my love and adoration—to God.”

Fr. Clem swiveled his chair in order to keep Sr. Deirdre directly in front of him.  He did not understand her intentions, and could now feel his heart beating furiously. 

“Until the last day,” she said, slowly moving toward him, “I had believed you were a man of evil hiding behind the collar.  And each time you came to break the chain I kneeled down and prayed for you to leave, for you to never succeed in doing it.  In fact,” stopping just in front of him and looking down into his fearful eyes, “I didn’t really think it was possible for you to do and was just praying to no longer think of you.  I was planning on taking those dreams to my grave with me, Father.”  Sr. Deirdre now pulled the robed habit off her and over her head, and threw it to the floor next to his chair.  “But then you freed me, and for the first time it was as if sunlight had blasted through the windows of the dark dungeon I’d thought was love—this dark prison I thought I’d spend eternity in.”

Fr. Clem stood up in a controlled fury to face his accuser eye-to-eye.  “I think you’ve gone mad Sister, and I will make a motion to the committee for your transfer.  Excuse me.”  The good priest tried moving past Sr. Deirdre, but with one hand on his chest she threw him back to his seat and stood over him with a conviction he had never seen or felt before.  Fr. Clem now trembled with frustration and fear.  He knew he was stronger than she was but for some reason wasn’t willing to test her again.        

In a quiet but angered voice, Sr. Deirdre explained again.  “Don’t you dare pass this off as me being mad!  My thoughts are more rational than they ever have been before.  Don’t you see it?” her voice softened again.  “Don’t you know what this means?  He has given me to you.  He wants us to be together.”  She stepped closer to him again, this time unbuttoning the white blouse of her undergarments.  “He wants a child from us, Father.”

“Someone HELP!  HELP ME, PLEASE!”  It was only thing Fr. Clem could think of doing.  Evil, he thought, was upon him and he had little strength to battle it himself.  He needed someone to save him, but nobody came.  And though he felt paralyzed by the magnitude of her unholy desires, he was, in a way, mesmerized by it as well.  The good priest closed his eyes and prayed, and Sr. Deirdre had her way with him. 


Within a few days the story had made it to the bishop, archbishop, and finally the pope.  It didn’t matter what version of the story they believed—who took advantage of whom—but all agreed that the separation between them had to be far and wide.

Throughout the ten years after the initial transfer, Fr. Clem found himself occupying six different churches in the country.  The story seemed to follow him everywhere within the sect and he had difficulty finding peace where he went.  The ten years also seemed to age him more drastically than any previous ten had his whole life, and he had the trouble trying to rid the inner cloud of despair that he had acquired. 

Not once did he hear from Sr. Deirdre again, but he did hear that she excommunicated herself not too long after her first transfer.  He supposed that many within the clergy hadn’t believed her side of the story all that much, and that the sisterhood had turned their backs on her.  He was happy thinking this was true.  It’s what made his days a bit more endurable sometimes.

On the third Sunday in February of 1987, just after he had finished ministering ten o’clock mass, Fr. Clem walked across the snowy, narrow yard connecting the church to his residence and found his front door standing open a few inches.  He thought he remembered locking it, but as he got closer he noticed shards of wood splintering from the frame as if someone had kicked it in. 

Standing on its stoop and peering through the tiny crack, Fr. Clem tried listening to hear if the perpetrator was still inside.  He heard nothing, and believing it was only teenage vandals slowly pushed the door open and stepped inside. 

Wet imprints of tiny feet, he noticed, were tracked across the linoleum of the small foyer and onto the carpet of the living room, and he did not see any coming back the opposite direction. 

“I’m calling the authorities,” he bluffed, hoping their feet had just dried off on the carpet before making an exit.  He stood there another moment, but upon hearing nothing again decided to peak his head around corner of the living room.   

 The boy, who looked to be about ten years old, sat in the middle of the old brown, upholstered couch, and beamed a big teasing smile.  He wore the clothes of an average ten year old—blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a puffy black winter coat—but his slicked black hair and dark vile eyes seemed to give the impression that life had already begun pounding its salt too hard on him.  Not to mention that he was looking fairly talented with the use of the butterfly knife he whipped around in his hand.

“Hiya, Father.  It’s nice to meet you finally,” he chimed.

“The police are on their way.  What do you want?”

“They are?  That’s funny, I didn’t hear you call anyone,” he said getting up from the couch, the knife thrashing open and closed at his side now.

“Well I’m calling them now!” 

Fr. Clem walked quickly to the kitchen phone that sat on the counter and began dialing.  It was a rotary phone and as he dialed he silently spoke the number to the police station.

“Nine,” he whispered, hovering his finger above the next number to come and waiting for the dial to fall back into place.

“Eight,” he waited. 

“Two.”  When he got to the fifth number the boy rounded the corner and stepped into the kitchen with his knife still thrashing away near his thigh.   

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Father,” the boy smiled, and calmly walked to the wall where the phone jack was.  “I wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone,” said the boy, looking directly into the good priest’s eyes, cutting the cord in the middle of the word inconvenience. 

Fr. Clem gently hung up the phone and slowly backed up to the other counter near the sink, knocking over an empty Chinese take-out box from last night and hearing the chopsticks clatter about. 

“Who are you and what do you want?” Fr. Clem beseeched.

“Well, why do you think I keep calling you Father?” the boy smirked.  “I’m your son, and I’m here to kill you.” 

The boy’s knife slapped to stop with its shinny, silver blade sticking out.  His smile disappeared and his dark eyes winced with an evil the good priest had only seen once before.  Then the boy’s breathing became robust and ferocious, and he let out a terrible scream as he rushed at the Father, the sharp knife extended out in front.


Quickly, Fr. Clem turned and grabbed one of the chopsticks and immediately thrust it out before him, burying it deep into the boy’s right eye and stopping him just an inch before the blade made contact.  Slowly Fr. Clem released his grip on the wooden weapon, and the young boy dropped his arm back to his side and gave the priest a couple how-could-you-do-that-to-me blinks before collapsing to the floor.  Fr. Clem gave a scared sigh of relief, stepped over the dead boy, and made his way back to the church.  He knew his career was over.  Whether or not he had killed in self-defense or if the boy had in fact spawned from evil could never be proved.  All Fr. Clem knew was that there was a ten-year-old lying dead in his home and he needed a moment to try making things right with God.  

As he closed his door a draft circled throughout the kitchen, and the small fortune cookie paper lifted off the table and feathered slowly down, coming to rest on the young boy’s bloody cheek. 


4 Responses to “Glass House, Tainted Dreams, Clever Chinese”

  1. hhansen88 Says:

    Wow, that was an amazing short story. I was totally hooked when Father Clem started picking the dried blood off of his thumb. There were so many surprising parts in the story. Especially the part where the priest got raped, I was not expecting that. Again, that was an amazing story.

    • Thank you for your comments. I wrote that story about four years ago and never really thought much of it. Please tell me your name. Also, please read “Rise of Sex in a Young Boy,” and “When You Just Can’t Hold It.” I believe you might want to make sure those two stories are “okay” with you before you link to me (I am fine with that, by the way). I just want to make sure they (stories) aren’t too raw/graphic.

  2. hhansen88 Says:

    Oh I forgot to ask, could I link this blog to a blog of mine?

  3. hhansen88 Says:

    I’d be happy to read your other stories. 🙂 And I’ll probably still link to your blog even if the stories are a bit raw because well I think you write extremely well and I like your writing.

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