Welding with Children

Free Welding with Children by Tim Gautreaux

Book: Welding with Children by Tim Gautreaux Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tim Gautreaux
lights began to fire up across the street and next door, people coming out to the edge of their driveways and looking.
    â€œIt’s Father Ledet,” Vic called out. “He’s getting a ticket or two.”
    Nelson was standing next to the car before his eyes opened fully and his head swung from side to side at the dusty apparition. “What the hell? This here’s my old car that got stole.”
    Vic gave the priest a hard look. “Collections been a little slow, Father?”
    â€œDon’t be absurd. I was returning Nelson’s car.”
    â€œYou know who stole my car?” Nelson lumbered around the hood. “You better tell me right now. I didn’t sleep for a year after this thing got taken. I always had a feeling it was somebody I knew.”
    â€œI can’t say anything.”
    â€œIt came out in a confession,” Vic explained.
    Nelson ran his hand over the chalky paint of the roof. “Well, charge him with auto theft and I’ll bet he’ll tell us.”
    Two ladies in curlers and a tall middle-aged man wearing a robe and slippers approached from across the street. “What’s going on, Vic?” the man asked. “Hello, Father.”
    The priest nodded, hiding the handcuffs behind him. “Good evening, Mayor. This isn’t what it appears to be.”
    â€œI hope not,” one of the women said.
    Other neighbors began walking into the circle of crackling light cast by the police car’s flashers. Then the parish deputy pulled up, his own lights blazing. Vic looked on as the priest tried to explain to everyone that he was doing a good thing, that they couldn’t know all the details. The patrolman felt sorry for him, he really did, felt bad as he filled out the tickets, as he pushed the old head under the roofline of the patrol car, and, later, as he fingerprinted the soft hands and put the holy body into the cell, taking his belt, his shoelaces, and his rosary.
    *   *   *
    Father Ledet had to journey to Baton Rouge to endure the frowns and lecturing of the bishop. His parish was taken away for two months, and he was put into an AA program in his own community, where he sat many times in rusty folding chairs along with fundamentalist garage mechanics, striptease artists, and spoiled, depressed subdivision wives to listen to testimonials, admonitions, confessions without end. He rode in cabs to these meetings, and in the evenings no one invited him to the Ladies’ Altar Society dinners or to anyplace else. Mrs. Arceneaux never called to sympathize, and pretty Mrs. Barrilleaux would not look at him when he waved as she drove by the rectory in her new secondhand car. The first day he was again allowed to put on vestments was a Sunday, and he went in to say the eleven o’clock Mass. The church was full, and the sun was bleeding gold streamers of light down through the sacristy windows behind the altar. Alter the Gloria was sung by the birdlike voices of a visiting children’s choir, the priest stood in the pulpit and read the Gospel, drawing scant solace from the story of Jesus turning water into wine. The congregation then sat down in a rumble of settling pews and kicked-up kneelers. Father Ledet began to talk about Christ’s first miracle, an old sermon, one he’d given dozens of times. The elder parishioners in the front pews seemed to regard him as a stranger, the children were uninterested, and he felt disconnected and sad as he spoke, wondering if he would ever be punished enough for what he had done. He scanned the faces in the congregation as he preached, looking for forgiveness of any sort, and fifteen minutes into the sermon, he saw in the fifth pew, against the wall, something that was better than forgiveness, better than what he deserved, something that gave sudden light to his dull voice and turned bored heads up to the freshened preaching. It was Clyde Arceneaux, a plastic tube creeping down

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