The last time I read “The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene was in college. Anyone who knows me well would be able to tell you that I have a horrible memory for plotlines– a small bonus of which is that I can put a book down for a few years and, remembering that I liked it the first time, pick it up and rediscover it as something (almost) completely new!
Despite this huge lapse in mental capacity, I am capable of remembering vignettes or certain aspects of a story very vividly. There is one scene from “The Power and the Glory” that remained with me, despite the rest of it completely fading away. Our itinerant “whisky priest” has just stumbled into the crude hospitality of an old man and his family. They give him a little straw mat to lie down on:
‘After five years there is so much to confess.’…
…’Can’t you let me sleep for five minutes?’ He lay down again…
…The old man said softly, ‘It would be a pity if the soldiers came before we had time…such a burden on poor souls, father…’ The priest shouldered himself upright against the wall and said furiously, ‘Very well. Begin. I will hear your confession.’ The rats scuffled in the maize. ‘Go on then,’ he said. ‘Don’t waste time. Hurry. When did you last…?’ The old man knelt beside the fire…
…The priest leant against the wall with his legs droawn up beneath him, and the rats accustomed to the voices moved again in the maize. The old man picked out his sins which difficulty, blowing at the fire. ‘Make a good act of contrition,’ the priest said, ‘and say-say- have you a rosary?- then say the Joyful Mysteries.’ His eyes closed, his lips and tongue stumbled over the absolution, failed to finish… he sprang awake again.
‘Can I bring the women?’ the old man was saying. ‘It is five years…’
‘Oh, let them come. Let them all come,’ the priest cried angrily. ‘I am your servant.’ He put his hand over his eyes and began to weep.
I read that passage again tonight, with an infant collapsed and snoring happily in my lap. These past few weeks have truly been difficult: my husband is working 14+ hours each day, Emmie has discovered that three is the perfect age to be awful in every way, Sofie has gotten fed up with being home and is SO ready to leave me for kindergarten, house-hunting has thrown me for a thousand loops and Isaac has not only battled infections and pre-teething, but is now in the the throes of his four-month cognitive leap (fussy, not sleeping well, needing to be held and entertained ALL THE TIME). I am no itinerant whisky priest, but I am a stay-at-home mom with a grapefruit shandy tonight. And I think we understand each other perfectly.