fiction, poetry & more

2023
FLASH FICTION CONTEST
Honorable Mention
$25 Award

I CLEAN THE CHURCH

by James Bosley

I clean the church. What job could be more beautiful than to clean a church, the place where God lives and where people come to worship. I love especially when the church is empty. To clean in the silence is beautiful, and holy. Though I am not Catholic, I feel that God is always here.

When I come for the job, I tell the priest I am Seventh Day Adventist. A smile comes to his face because it means I can work the Sunday. The Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday, so on Sunday I am here to make sure everything is right for the service.

He is a beautiful man, the priest. He shows love all the time. He is never without showing love for anyone he meets. One time I tell him, Father, you are like a love machine. So then he sings, he sings, “I’m just a love machine, I’m just a love machine” and he makes a dance with a twirl. I say to him Father, are you alright? And he says Yes, I’m just a goofball. Later at home I google goofball, and he is. He is a goofball.

Besides the cleaning, I must change the letterbox outside the church each week where they say what will be the name of the sermon. He always gives me a paper with the name of the sermon, and I bring out the letters to spell it in the letterbox. This time when I look at the paper it says, “You Too Can Be a Love Machine.” You never know when something you say to him can become a sermon.

I have also seen him show hate. He shows hate when he speaks about the Atlanta Braves. I also hate the Atlanta Braves. We are both Mets fans. He says it is okay to hate them. One morning on the radio they say that the very good pitcher on the Atlanta Braves has hurt his arm, and for a moment I feel joy. Good, I think. Then I feel bad about feeling good. Later when I see the Father I tell him how I felt joy at this injury. He says it’s okay to feel joy for it, because fuck those guys. And we both laugh because we share the same hate.

The Sunday morning, I am outside the church to sweep some papers from the sidewalk. It is a beautiful spring morning with only a very light sun shower, so I want to sweep the papers before they get wet because then it becomes hard to sweep them. The service is going on and I hear the singing when my son Angel comes to me. He is home from the navy. He is going to meet his girlfriend at her house with their family. Rose is her name. I believe they will get married when he is finished with the navy.

When he sees me outside the church, he crosses the street to say Hello Poppy, and gives me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I am sweeping the curb but it does not matter to him. He is not afraid to show love to me, my Angel. Many boys have that fear of showing love for their father, but not him.

Then I see that other boy across the street. He walks back and forth along the sidewalk across the street, pacing.

I know this boy from the church. At the midnight mass he vomited in the middle of the service and his father took him outside. I had to clean it up which I don’t like to do when the service is on because the people will watch me and not listen to the Father’s sermon. So I don’t use the mop and the bucket because I want to be small and I want to be quiet. So I leave the mop and bucket and take only rags, some wet and some dry, and I use the Fabuloso for the scent. On my knees I clean the vomit very fast, and I think I did it well. All this I remember in this second when I see him across the street. Then I see he carries a bag, and I see him open the bag and take out a gun. One of those guns we see all the time on the news. And he crosses the street toward the church and toward us.

I tell my son, Look out. Angel turns to see the boy as the boy raises his gun at us. Angel pulls me down to the sidewalk as the shots begin. When Angel pulls me down I hit hard on my shoulder and I feel great pain, and I feel too Angel’s body on me. It jerks as the bullets hit him.

I hear the shots now echoing, so I know that this boy is gone inside the church. I weep there under my boy as I hear more and more shots. I try to move out from under him. I cannot move my arm because of my shoulder. I manage to get out from under him and I lay myself over him as there is more shooting happening inside and I want to go and help but I cannot leave my boy.

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James Bosley’s plays have been published, translated, and produced in dozens of theaters across the U.S. and abroad. His screenplay adaptation of his stage play, FUN, was filmed and screened at Sundance and other festivals, and opened commercially at the Film Forum in New York. That screenplay was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Most recently his play, Chiquita! was produced at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival where it won the Audience Award. His poems have been published by the literary journals New Letters and Indigo. Bosley7@Gmail.com

December 2023