“So, before we get started, can anyone force you to reveal what is said during our sessions, Dr Dre?”
“Yes ‘they’ can. If I think you are about to hurt yourself or someone else, I’m obliged to inform the authorities. Ditto, if I think you are about to commit a crime. Also, anyone can subpoena files for a civil or criminal trial. And, my name isn’t Dr Dre, it’s Dr Dredd. Some child stole both of the ‘d’s’ off my sign, and I haven’t gotten around to replacing them.”
“Thank you for clearing that up doctor. I’ll say good afternoon then.”
“But you haven’t finished your first free session,” said Dr Dredd.
“It’s okay, I’ll pass. You are no good to me Doc if anyone including a disgruntled plumber can access your files. I need someone who can keep their mouth shut,” said Susan.
“You mean like a priest. Are you Catholic, Ms Smith?”
“No, but I can spell ‘guilt’ “.
“Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. It has been a long time since my last confession (possibly I was a Catholic in a previous life?), and in recent years I discovered a doll that belonged to my grandmother,” said Susan on a sunny afternoon in an ornate church in South Melbourne.
Susan loved old churches, especially Catholic ones. She once convinced her school friend to smuggle her into a Sunday service. “Just do what I do and open and shut your mouth when the congregation is answering the priest. No one will notice.” It worked like a charm. From that day forward Susan wanted to be a Catholic until she found out what you were not allowed to do. Not drinking alcohol was bad enough, but not fooling around with boys was a bridge too far. “It’s okay,” said Susan’s Catholic friend, “you can let the boys have their wicked way with you on a Friday night and go to confession on a Saturday, and all is forgiven.”
“Confession?” said Susan.
“Yes. You see those doors over there,” she pointed to the carved wooden doors on either side of a similar sized room with a red velvet curtain drawn across, “the priest sits in the middle, and you kneel down and say the words, then tell him your sins and he gives you a penance, usually a few ‘Hail Marys’ and you are absolved.”
“What does ‘absolved’ mean?” said Susan.
“It means that you won’t go to hell if you get hit by a bus.”
“What if I go out and do stuff with boys on a Monday?”
“No worries. Just don’t get run over till Friday, tell the priest and you are right again. Best to keep the ‘boys’ stuff till later in the week. It cuts down on stress.”
“That’s fuckin’ brilliant,” said Susan.
“You’ll have to confess the swearing as well, don’t forget.”
“Fuck that,” said Susan.
“Do you want to be a fucking Catholic or what?” said Susan’s friend, “well learn the fuckin’ rules.”
“Owning your grandmother’s doll is not a sin,” said the young priest who had been at the South Melbourne parish for a bit less than a year. He just made it through ‘priest school’ having taken two leaves of absence.
“It might be a sin if I used the doll to start a secret life, stealing industrial secrets.”
There was a silence before Susan added, “You aren’t allowed to tell anyone any of this are you, father?”
“As long as I believe that you are truly repentant I absolve you of your sins, I cannot reveal anything that is told to me in confession.”
“The doll talks to me, and only me. She can talk to other people, but we try to keep that to a minimum. I have used her to record secrets, and she retells them to me. I’ve made a lot of money, and sometimes the wrong people get hurt, but mostly it’s the bad guys who get screwed, sorry father.”
“It’s okay, I’ve heard a lot worst. What do you do with the money?”
“I give some of it away. I buy diamonds with some of it and the rest I store in old shoe boxes. It’s not about the money, but having a lot of it is a lot of fun. Check the poor box when you get out of here. You might get a pleasant surprise,” said Susan.
“Why did you come here today? Are you ready to stop your sinful behaviour?”
“I came here because I had to tell someone. It is such an unbelievable secret that I cannot tell anyone. They’d either lock me up or steal what I have accumulated. I felt like I would explode if I didn’t tell someone.”
“It’s good to get things off your chest (father Michael felt strange for saying chest), but you must resolve to renounce your ways, or I cannot offer forgiveness.”
“Thank you, father. I feel a lot better knowing that someone else knows about my keeper of secrets.”
Father Micheal told Susan what her penance was and gave her his blessing, but after he said, ‘go now and sin no more’, he expected to hear the usual sounds of someone gathering themselves up and leaving the confessional, but there was only a profound silence.
“Hello?” said father, Michael.
Leaving silently and unrecognised was a skill that Susan had mastered.