Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a fictional series entitled “Danny Boy.” To catch up with the entire series, you can read these in chronological order:
Fiction Friday #1: Danny Boy – Promises Broken
Fiction Friday #2: Danny Boy – Moving Up the Ranks
Fiction Friday #3: Danny Boy – Redemption
Fiction Friday #4: Danny Boy – For Viv
Fiction Friday #5: Danny Boy – Outside the Lines
Fiction Friday #6: Danny Boy – Until We Meet Again
Fiction Friday #7: Danny Boy – Making Mother Proud
Danny slowly marched while holding the cross in front of his heart with both hands. Looking up, he saw the stained glass cross overhead with alternating faint patterns of purple, blue, purple, blue, purple, blue. He began to itch in his white linen altar dress, or “alb” his mom forced him to wear. Flanking both sides, were two other boys from his fourth grade class holding lighted candles.
One of the altar boys was his best friend, Bobby, the son of a local Irish boxer. He began to lose his footing on the steps toward the altar table, which sat to the right of Father O’Hara. The altar dress sagged over his scrawny, athletic body.
Danny dreamt of a normal life like his friends. Instead of the rough and tumble life of a gangster. At school when kids asked Danny what his dad did for a living he gave the standard response: “He owns a restaurant near The Strip.” Perplexed, kids would argue, “Well, you sure get picked up in a fancy car just for owning a restaurant!”
Near the altar table, Danny kissed the cross before placing it in between the candelabras. Turning to face the church with praying hands, the final chorus of “Glory to God in the Highest” echoed. He could see his parents in the crowd. His mother with her red hair neatly flipped at the ends in a light blue polyester dress. While his father nervously swayed back and forth on the tips of his expensive leather shoes, and constantly re-adjusted his tie. He could hear his father’s smoking hack over the off-key church organ.
“He’s probably dying for a smoke right now,” thought Danny. “Well, the asshole has to suffer…like me up here right now in this dumb outfit.” He could see his mother’s wide lipstick painted smile beaming towards him. She was so proud. Danny forced a smile in return. The processional song finally ended. Danny looking up mumbled, “Thank God.”
Father O’Hara began: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” while making the sign of the cross with his hands. As he spoke, Danny could feel his face growing hot as he caught the eye of his friend Bobby. Bobby was a well-liked kid as the son of a well-known Irish boxer. Like his father, he was a scrapper and would take on anyone at school who wanted to fight. But over the past few months, Danny noticed an unsettling quietness to Bobby.
During the church’s ceremonial practices, Bobby was especially jumpy. One day in particular, Danny remembers standing outside Father O’Hara’s office. He could hear Bobby scream, and then it was dead quiet. Bobby emerged a few minutes later, red faced, and then ran towards the back door of the church.
Danny knew. And Danny knew that Bobby knew it too. He knew that something sacred had been taken from Bobby. Danny knew that he could also never repeat what he witnessed. Danny swore to himself that he would never go into the father’s office alone. He’d kill him first.
To Danny, none of it made sense. This religion of pretending to be something we aren’t. Danny felt his whole life was a lie. Adding another layer of the hypocrisy was par for the course.
“You are going to be the cutest altar boy, ever,” his mom sad, pinching his cheek.
In his strong Irish accent, Father O’Hara read aloud the altar boy rules to Danny and Viv during the interest process at the church: “Must fold hands together in the proper position. Your son will need to hold his hands together in a reverent praying position for the majority of the Mass for approximately 45 minutes of a 60 minute Mass, of which an estimated 20 minutes is done while kneeling, five minutes while walking, and 20 minutes while standing. Practice with your son in the pew! Have him keep his hands folded while standing and kneeling for the Mass. He can rest his hands on his lap while he is sitting. He must remain focused on the altar, and he needs to refrain from looking at you, his Daddy, or other people during Mass. Your son will need to be able to practice self-restraint, Mrs. Dougan…with his eyes, refraining from looking around at the congregation, at the people behind him, at the ushers during the collection, and at children who start crying or making noise.”
“Oh, father, he will do all of these things. He’ll make you proud. Right, Danny Boy?” his mother said. A long silence filled the room. Bending down and firmly grabbing his arm, “Danny? Did you hear the father?” “Uh, yeah, mom,” he said.
“God bless you, father,” his mother said, as they left.
“Son? Son?” said the prison chaplain.
With Danny’s eyes tightly closed, images of a man’s hand going down the front of his black dress pants flashed. Shaking his head, he didn’t want it to be true. “No, no, no! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you,” Danny yelled.
Danny opened his eyes and looked up as he knelt on the hard cement floor. “The service ended 15 minutes ago. You need to return to your cell,” said the chaplain. “Are you okay?”
He wondered if his old best friend Bobby even existed. With his eyes wide open, he realized that Bobby was the boy he had invented to mask his pain.
Looking around at the makeshift chapel with metal folding chairs and a glued wooden cross on the wall, he had also realized that nothing good comes from a mix of perfection and hypocrisy. Ironically, he felt closer to God than ever before.
Standing up and walking towards the door, Danny waved his hand in the air, “God bless you, father. God bless you.”
And Danny meant it.
Whooooahhhh. That was crazy. Didn’t even know that was going to happen until I sat down to write this last night on my pad of paper. Deep. I know. According to Wikipedia: “In Ireland, a report (see Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse) was made covering six decades (from the 1950s) noting “endemic” sexual abuse in Catholic boys’ institutions with church leaders aware of what was going on and government inspectors failing to “stop beatings, rapes and humiliation.” Police examine sex abuse report: The commission’s report on church abuse ran to five volumes Police in the Irish Republic are examining if criminal charges can be brought over a damning report on child sex abuse at Catholic institutions.” So very, very sad.
I leave with you a super cool original song entitled “Eyes Wide Open.” Loved it!
Writing prompt: Brought to us this week by the talented Tammy Soong…Let your characters work through the old saying, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Finally, be sure to read the amazing fictional works of these friends!Follow