Ezy Reading: The Autumn Twilight

Evan Kanarakis

The church organist swayed back and forth as tremendous movements of sadness and grandeur filled the great church and echoed through ancient sandstone archways and swept against delicate rose windows and plate glass saints. It was five-thirty in the evening and Joseph Harrison sat, as he did each and every Tuesday and Thursday in the last row of the church. On Thursdays this task was a little more pleasant given the organist chose to rehearse these afternoons, but even his beautiful performances failed to distract Joseph from the sombre task at hand.

There was quite a queue today. Must have been a sinful week, he thought. Eleven in all. Seven could be discounted immediately. Five elderly ladies and two grey-haired men with canes, one of which was a regular and must have led some life as, withered, weak and harmless in his current state, he came twice a week, each and every week. Whatever his tale, Joseph could relate to this old-timer's obsession, and he offered the man with more guilt than a thousand visits could ever appease a slight, polite nod. The remaining crowd were non-descript enough. A young pregnant lady, a red-faced teenage boy led into the church by an irate mother, and a foreigner, perhaps of Mediterranean extraction, aged about forty or so. Joseph studied him carefully. Could this be the man? Anyone had it within him to commit such an act, this was for certain, but was this the man he had sought for so long? And how long had it been now? Months? Years?

Joseph looked down into his lap. His hands sat limp across his legs. Creases and aged lines streaked across bony, pale hands that had once been strong, callused with years of hard work. Not any more. The Mediterranean removed a set of brown rosary beads from his pocket, bowed his head in silent prayer and stepped into the confessional box. He ignored the bellowing pipe organ that thundered another hymn throughout the church as the organist, back arched, and a maniacal expression on his face, lost himself in his work.

No, thought Joseph. This was not the man he needed to find, nor had he found him last Tuesday, a week nor a month beforehand, nor in the multitude of faces he scanned in the streets each and every day since the night his brother was killed. It was getting harder, physically, to keep up the search. Joseph was getting on himself, and soon he too would need to join the queue along with these other sad souls and beg forgiveness for the miscues and mishaps of his own tormented life. He wasn't an ignorant man. He knew that this was but one church among several hundred, and even then, that was presuming the man would even be compelled to attend. But all he wanted was some assurance. Joseph shifted in his seat and turned to watch the organist again. He closed his eyes and listened. All he wanted was some assurance that this man, this man that had murdered his beloved brother and stolen away his peace of mind, he wanted some assurance that he had a conscience. That he felt a responsibility for his actions, whether punished or not. That whilst he had 'escaped', he had not escaped his own guilt, his own moral culpability. Joseph smiled to himself. 'Moral culpability'. This was a rather romantic notion. Shaking his head, he watched as the Mediterranean exited the confessional and a young priest, weighed down by another day's work wiped his brow and made immediately for the exit in a rush for fresh air.

Joseph took in a deep breath and stood up. With one last glance at the confessional box he slowly walked down the church's deep red aisle and toward the two large oak doors that guarded the entrance. He'd be back on Tuesday for another look. With hands in his pockets, his head bowed deep in thought, Joseph stepped outside and down the stairs. Echoes of the organist's sad requiem spilled out into the street and followed him for two blocks, grim, haunting notes drifting into the air and caught up in the cool breeze of another Autumn twilight.

Evan's laptop finally kicked the bucket this week, but dead computer or not, you can always tune in every Monday for another edition of Ezy Reading.