Friday, September 19, 2014

The Laughing Man

The voice was that of a tired man, past middle age, but not old. It was nearly accentless, and unemotional, like a small market radio announcer reading bean futures. If patience had a voice, this would be it. It belonged to someone who had seen everything and was long past surprise.

"Will the next person please step up to the podium." 

Two uniformed guards with revolvers on their hips indicated a man in the crowded waiting room. He was a big man, with a big, meaty face that might have been designed for jollity. He stirred, stretched and approached the worn, wooden podium before the judge. He carried himself well and radiated confidence.

"I imagine you know why you're here, friend. I've reviewed your file. Let's cut to the chase."

"I'm sure my file is in order."

"Actually, it's not. There are numerous homosexual acts."

The man gave a disbelieving smile. "Seriously?"

"Can you imagine why I would be joking under the circumstances?"

"No," the man answered, a shadow of confusion clouding his face for the first time. "No, I just meant that I can't believe in this day and age we're standing here talking about homosexuality. I think we can all agree its time to move on. We know now that gay people are born that way. There's... like a gene, or something. I'm pretty sure that was proven. In any case, it isn't their fault. I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that."

"We've always seen things differently, as you know. Did not all the warnings impress you?"

A smirk of disbelief once again broke through the man's clouded face. "Well, perhaps for their time, but you hardly expect people to believe all that in this day and age, and... and I'm sure, I know I read it somewhere, that there was... okay, I'm not sure if it was a gene exactly, or a part... part of the brain or whatever, but the point is there was nothing to be done about it! Seriously? That's what we're going to talk about?"

"Yes." The judge flipped through a thick file, finally fixing his eyes near the bottom of a page. "Yes, that's what we're going to talk about," he said with a sigh. "We're going to talk about nintey-seven million, nine-hundred and fifty-two thousand, six-hundred and twenty-seven individual acts of the mortal sin of sodomy."

The man at the podium's face went blank, then broke out in a grin. "No, there must be some mistake. No, that can't be me. That couldn't be anyone! You've got the wrong file. I never... no, not even once. In fact, I was celibate. It's just a matter of finding the right file. You'll see. I'm a priest. In fact a bishop. This is all a misunderstanding."

"There's no misunderstanding. How many homilies did you give about homosexuality?"

"Oh, several. Many!"

"I mean condemning it."

"Why, none, of course. I always believed in a pastoral approach."

"Each one of those ninety-seven million homosexual acts was committed by people to whom you had an obligation to instruct, to warn, and to encourage in virtue. Committed by them, and by the people with whom they engaged in vice, and so on, in a geometrical progression. That's all on you, friend."

"But I didn't do any of it! It's not fair! I didn't know."

"You knew. As for it being fair, tell that to the millions of souls were lost to the vice you did nothing to discourage, no, that you encouraged by your bland smile and cosmopolitan sensibilities." The judge remained seated, but squared his shoulders. When he spoke it struck fear into the souls of all present. "Depart from me. I never knew you."

The guards approached the man from either side and led him to a door on the left. Over it was the silhouette of the profile of a bearded goat. The man recovered his composure. "A goat? What is this supposed to be, Hell? We both know there's no such thing!" He shook off the guards, and with a hearty laugh, stepped through the door on his own.


  1. Nice.

    I assume there was also darkness, waling and gnashing of teeth as well.?

    I read something similar in a shared world SF series called "Reaching for Paradise" by Brad Miner. A priest ends up in Hell for almost exactly what you describe but in this case marital infidelity rather than homosex. It's not a very Catholic story but the description of the "harrowing of hell" by the bad theif is very very entertaining.

    1. The fate of the Laughing Man is left entirely to your imagination, gentle reader.

  2. Just a story for your amusement. Any resemblance to persons living or dead, etc., etc., etc.,

  3. I'm imagining this in the style of an old "Twilight Zone" episode...perhaps even in black & white. The boisterous over the top lap of a certain U.S. Cardinal echoing at the close...very nice read. Well done.

    1. Yes, it does have the hit-you-over-the-head lack of subtlety, and could be staged with a very low budget. Perhaps starring Jack Weston.

  4. That was quite good. It was elegant and reminded me of the Obsolete Man Twilight Zone episode.

    1. Thanks! Yes, one of the TZs starring Burgess Meredith. Then there was the one where he is the man who loves to read who survives WWIII only to break his glasses, and a couple of others. On New Year's Day we used to always watch the TZ marathon.


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