John Vanderslice

Parker rested in the darkened privacy of the pew, waiting his turn for the confessional. He wasn’t kneeling. That would come later: the studied bowing of his head, the intercourse of his fingers, the hot points of his knees pressing red against the thin foam stapled to wood, the repeated exhalations of Hail Marys igniting in his mind to rise upward like smoke to the ears of whoever listened. So much work to do. For now he enjoyed the age-old, boardy smell of the brown chapel, the homey statues up front, the quiet tested only by the incomprehensible murmurs inside the box, the formidable stained glass, constructed not in the modern mode—treacle pastel painted on one sustained pane—but according to the older, sterner fashion: a single bite of hard color placed beside another hard color, held together by metal, piece by piece. Parker felt the cool seat snug against his back. His hand in his pocket fingered a string of plastic beads which in only a few minutes would act as the conductor for his elaborate performance of contrition. Ten Hail Marys. Ten Glorias. One Our Father. One decade down and on to another. His mind would say them without really saying and without really listening, while he struggled not to imagine the silk of a ten year old’s thigh, the exquisite pleasure where there is no hair to confront one, the divine entry into a place so small and so tight, so supple even though so small, supple because so small. Not long, dried, and overspent. He’d try not to think of that but would think of it anyway because that’s where the prayers would lead him—those images born from the words, his enthusiasm erected, the body of his body triumphantly transformed by the hard earnest work of reconciliation.


John Vanderslice lives and works in Conway, Arkansas where he teaches writing at the University of Central Arkansas and edits Toad Suck Review. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in scores of journals, including New Writing, Versal, Seattle Review, and Exquisite Corpse.  He also maintains the blog Payperazzi in which he comments on any and all matters related to the writing life and teaching writing.



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