|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
Father Flannahan frowned, shook his head, and leaned closer to the confessional window. "I'm sorry, my son. Could you repeat that?"
The man on the other side sighed. "I said, I wanted to trade my soul in."
OK. So maybe he hadn't misunderstood. The priest chewed his lip absently, trying to figure out what to say. "Ummm. I don't quite understand what you are asking. I can provide penance, and help you cleanse your soul before God."
"No, that's not it. I want to trade in my human soul."
"Souls are permanent, my son. Whatever you have done, whatever sin you have committed, I am sure that we can find a way to bring you absolution."
"I don't need absolution. Oh, I take a drink every now and then, and I cuss a bit. But there's no big sin hangin' over me."
"Then why...?" Father Flannahan stopped and tried to think out his question carefully. "You obviously believe in the soul. Don't you realize that you can't just give it up?"
"I don't want to just give it up.!" The man was sounding annoyed. "Look, Satan buys souls. Right?" When the priest didn't answer, he continued. "Now, I'm not about to deal with that fella. I mean, if there is a Devil, there is a Hell. And nothing on this Earth is worth going to Hell over."
"I can agree with you on that."
"Good. Well, I figure that God gave me the soul I have. Right?"
The Priest was hesitant, not sure where this was going. "Uh, yes."
"OK. I'm here to trade it in."
Flannagan was getting a little flustered now. "You can't just trade your soul in like a used car!"
"Why not? I'm giving God a great deal. My human soul for an animal soul."
This time, the priest actually did slide the latch of the confessional booth open. "Why in Heaven's Name would you want an animal soul?"
The man was very matter-of-fact. "I don't want to be human any more."
"Man is God's greatest creation!" Flannagan couldn't quite decide whether to be shocked or outraged.
"What do you mean, why?"
"Why is man God's greatest creation?" The man snorted. "What about Oak trees? Or insects? Both of those contribute to the planet, and the rest of God's creations. Man alone is responsible for pollution, strip mining, extinction of whole species. Maybe God had a plan when he made Adam and Eve, but everything is all mucked up now. Not His fault, of course. Well, maybe it is his fault. After all, he is supposed to know everything."
Flannagan had his pat answer ready. "Free will, my son. God gave us free will, so we could choose."
There was a brief pause. "So, God gave me the gift of humanity, and the ability to choose?"
The priest smiled. Now he was getting through. "Yes, my son. That's it."
"OK. I choose to exchange my gift. I want to be a horse."
Flannagan's knuckles turned white as he gripped his bible. Taking a deep breath, he spoke carefully. "Confession is for absolution of sin. Perhaps you should talk to someone else about this. I can recommend a good therapist..."
There was an angry mutter from the other side of the wall. "I'm not crazy! Even WalMart has a satisfaction guarantee. Are you telling me God doesn't have a Customer Service desk? No wonder he's losing customers!"
The confessional rocked suddenly, and Flannagan grabbed at the wall to steady himself. Heavens! The man was getting violent! "Look, my son. I didn't mean to upset you." There was the sound of splintering wood. The priest leaped out of the booth as it rocked again, violently this time. And then everything fell silent. Approaching the still-drawn curtain cautiously, the priest waited a few minutes. Nothing. "Are you OK?" More silence.
Steeling himself, he pulled the curtain aside and stepped back out of harm's way. The confessional was empty. Bewildered, Flannagan looked around the empty church, and then took a closer look at the booth itself. The wooden bench had splintered, as if broken by great weight. And there was a faint scent of clover.
Exchange copyright 1999 by Bob Stein.
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