Father Arnaud

Father Arnaud hung his surplice on the teak peg and turned to face the bright-eyed visitor.  “You were at Mass?”

“Yes. I’ve been coming every Sunday for the past four weeks.”

“Yet you did not take Communion.”

“No. I’m not Catholic.”

“Then why do you come to Mass?”  The ancient priest gave his most winning smile. “All are welcome, of course. I am merely curious.”

“I came because I had to be sure. You see, we’ve spent a long time searching you out.” The young man gestured toward the limitless sea they both could view through the open chapel door. “To the ends of the earth, it seems.”

Father Arnaud’s smile stiffened. “Me? Whatever for?”

The man pulled a photograph from his breast pocket.  It showed a young man in the uniform of an SS Ünteroffizier,  young and fresh and wearing an expression of placid confidence.

And clearly, indisputably, Father Arnaud.

 

What Pegman Saw

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10 thoughts on “Father Arnaud

  1. Ooof! As Rochelle would say, a punch to the gut. Very effective reveal, Josh.
    BTW, surplice is spelled surplice, not surplus! (Wretched autocorrect…!)

  2. That’s not what I thought he was going to pull out of his pocket. Expertly told, Josh. You mean there are still nazi war criminals to hunt down?

    1. Thanks! I was thinking this probably took place sometime in the 1970s. I couldn’t think of a way to convey that. They did recently find a 90-year-old camp guard in New Jersey, so anything’s possible!

  3. Great surprise twist, and I’ll echo Penny: what a punch in the gut to someone who thought he’d run far enough away to never be caught. Makes me wonder how sincere he is about his new vocation. This makes me imagine a story about someone hiding as a priest who ends up taking his originally-faked vows to heart, and struggles with whether he in fact deserves to be caught to pay for his sins.

    1. That’s super interesting to think about. . It never really occurred to me. Might be s fun exercise to write him in some different scenes throughout his life. Thanks for your comments

      1. The problem is that you’d have to make his crimes related to some other horrible war, even if what he actually did was exactly the same. Giving even the slightest nuance or sympathy to a Nazi war criminal is pretty much verboten.

  4. AS the others have said – fabulous writing, wonderful ending. You set the scene very clearly, very subtly too. The confident priest, secure in his safety now as he was certain in his beliefs back then, the fact that the man with the photograph isn’t Catholic, so perhaps a Jewish Nazi hunter? Great structure and as Joy suggests, it raises interesting questions about his subsequent career choice. Brilliant

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