In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's a day since my last confession.
A day? And what sins have you committed in a day, my child?
I overslept. I nearly missed my First Communion. My grandmother said I have standing up, North of Ireland, Presbyterian hair. I threw up my First Communion breakfast. Now Grandma says she has God in her backyard and what should she do.
The priest is like the First Confession priest. He has the heavy breathing and the choking sounds.
Ah ... ah ... tell your grandmother to wash God away with a little water and for your penance say one Hail Mary and one Our Father. Say a prayer for me and God bless you, my child.
Grandma and Mam were waiting close to the confession box. Grandma said, Were you telling jokes to that priest in the confession box? If 'tis a thing I ever find out you were telling jokes to Jesuits I'll tear the bloody kidneys outa you. Now what did he say about God in my backyard?
He said wash Him away with a little water, Grandma.
Holy water or ordinary water?
He didn't say, Grandma.
Well, go back and ask him.
But, Grandma ...
She pushed me back into the confessional.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it's a minute since my last confession.
A minute! Are you the boy that was just here?
I am, Father.
What is it now?
My grandma says, Holy water or ordinary water?
Ordinary water, and tell your grandmother not to be bothering me again.
I told her, Ordinary water, Grandma, and he said don't be bothering him again.
Don't be bothering him again. That bloody ignorant bogtrotter.
I asked Mam, Can I go now and make The Collection? I want to see James Cagney.
Grandma said, You can forget about The Collection and James Cagney because you're not a proper Catholic the way you left God on the ground. Come on, go home.
Mam said, wait a minute. That's my son. That's my son on his First Communion day. He's going to see James Cagney.
No he's not.
Yes he is.
Grandma said, Take him then to James Cagney and see if that will save his Presbyterian North of Ireland American soul. Go ahead.
She pulled her shawl around her and walked away.
Mam said, God, it's getting very late for The Collection and you'll never see James Cagney. We'll go to the Lyric Cinema and see if they'll let you in anyway in your First Communion suit. We met Mikey Molloy on Barrington Street. He asked if I was going to the Lyric and I said I was trying. Trying? he said. You don't have money? I was ashamed to say no but I had to and he said, That's all right. I'll get you in. I'll create a diversion.
What's a diversion?
I have the money to go and when I get in I'll pretend to have the fit and the ticket man will be out of his mind and you can slip in when I let out the big scream. I'll be watching the door and when I see you in I'll have a miraculous recovery. That's a diversion. That's what I do to get my brothers in all the time.
Mam said, Oh, I don't know about that, Mikey. Wouldn't that be a sin and surely you wouldn't want Frank to commit a sin on his Communion day.
Mikey said if there was a sin it would be on his soul and he wasn't a proper Catholic anyway so it didn't matter. He let out his scream and I slipped in and sat next to Question Quigley and the ticket man, Frank Goggin, was so worried over Mikey he never noticed. It was a thrilling film but sad in the end because James Cagney was a public enemy and when they shot him they wrapped him in bandages and threw him in the door, shocking his poor old Irish mother, and that was the end of my First Communion day.
Copyright © 1996 by Frank McCourt
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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