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THE DIRTY GUY

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He was standing in the back, his hair all over the place, with black eyes, looking drawn, and rather dirty looking. He had spent the night partying and was giving off a light odor of sour beer. He had crept into the church. By some miracle, it was opened that morning. He did not take long to realize that it was a Sunday and that he had turned up in the middle of the mass.

There were some people scattered among the pews. What could have happened to him to enter in that place? He wanted to run away, but he noticed that no one had seen him. There was nobody around him neither behind him. He got his breath back. Why not stay for a moment. He was tired. He sat down.

He heard words being read in a dull way and boring hymns. He did not try to listen. He was not thinking he was not there. He was to doze off when some noise woke him up. Something was moving in front. It was communion time.

A puff of guilty feelings suddenly rose within him. He saw himself back during his first communion, beautiful like an angel, in his new costume and with a white armband. He was seeing himself again. He was ashamed. He had to get out of that place as fast as possible.

He rose and ran through the door, but just at that moment was entering a tiny grandmother, eyes wrinkled behind round eyeglasses with lens like the bottom of a bottle. She was in a hurry and did not see very well where she was going. And he himself had not seen her coming. They nearly hit one another. The grandmother lost her balance. The boy grabbed her so that she would not fall, and excused himself in a clumsy way. He had blushed to the roots of his hair. She smiled at him nicely and said to him:

- Do not excuse yourself, my lad, it's my fault. I do not see clearly anymore. Come with me, I do not want to miss communion.

She had a hard time walking and the communion was on the point of ending. The priest saw the grandmother coming down with difficulty in the central aisle at the arm of a young man with unkempt hair and a beaten look.

He knew her very well. She was always late. But he liked her and waited for her. The young man with tousled hair and with a dirty look tried to withdraw his arm from the grip of the grandmother, saying:

- « Sorry, but I cannot accompany you further, I must go. »

She held him with more strength and said to him:

- « My child, you are not to leave without receiving communion? That cannot be. Come with me, it will take only a second. »

He tried again to free himself, but there was nothing to do. The old lady was tied to him. He said to her:

- « I cannot. You know, I never come to mass and...my way of living is not... »

The old lady interrupted him:

- « I also am full of sins, but I still receive communion. It does me good and I think that it helps me to be less wicked. And you know, Jesus said: « I did not come for saintly people but for sinners »...

Both received communion. The young man nearly had the temptation of feeling less dirty. The grandmother invited him for a brunch. And the parish priest was happy for having one more communicant on that day.

 

Eloy Roy

Translated from the French by Jacques Bourdages

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