John Swamp leaned against the wall at the back of church, trying to look nonchalant. He had worked as the groundkeeper here for one month before getting fired. Could he help it that his car broke down and he missed three days of work in row? Weren’t religious people supposed to be understanding and forgiving, especially pastors? People walked past him as if he were invisible and took their seats in the pew.
Nobody suspected the insidious plan brewing inside his head. He despised all religions, but these quixotic Christians were the worst. Their conservative ideas were an infestation on humanity, responsible for everything that had gone wrong in the world. He listened as the pastor gave a banal sermon about loving your enemies. A smug grin curled the edge of his lips as he fingered the gun inside of his jacket. “After I'm through, everybody here ought to love me." He savored the thought of sending each and every one of them to the celestial choir.
Two years later, John sat in his cell, watching the newscast. The reporter was interviewing survivors of Bayside's Bloody Sunday. A young couple stood in front of the church.
The husband spoke first, “We were reciting the Our Father when the gunman attacked. I remember him shouting,'Burn in Hell all ye hypocrites'.”
The woman added tearfully, “I tried to shield our little boy, but it happened so fast. He died in my arms.”
The reporter paused as the camera panned in on the couple’s interlaced hands.
“What do you think of the killer being given the death penalty?” the reporter asked.
The couple shook their heads, and the husband responded. “The first weeks after the senseless rampage, I wanted to administer the death penalty myself, but the more I prayed about it, the more I realized that it wouldn’t bring my son back, or solve anything. John Swamp needs to stay in prison so he can’t hurt anyone else, but I wish him no harm. In fact, I’m praying for his conversion.”
“And you?” the reporter turns to the wife. “This man killed your little boy, how can you possibly forgive him?”
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others,” she said. “I am a sinner. How can I not forgive him?”
The above flash fiction was inspired by my local writing group. We get together once a month to schmooze over our craft. Before we conclude each meeting, a piece of paper is passed around and each person writes down a word. For the next meeting, anyone with the inclination, shares a short story that includes all the words from the list. It's strictly voluntary and just for fun.
These were the words that had to be worked into the story:
INSIDIOUS, INFESTATION, BANAL,SURVIVOR, QUIXOTIC, CONSERVATIVE, CELESTIAL NONCHALANT