Forgive me Father
Jenny

Andrew wondered idly what penance Father Len would have meted out
for the sin of murder. No, not murder, he corrected himself firmly,
it was most definitely manslaughter. Not that he really cared what
his childhood priest would have thought but surely God, and more
importantly Rick, would take that lack of intent into consideration.

Andrew winced at the thought of his partner's potential reaction.
Hopefully he'd hid the body well enough that it would never be
found, leaving Rick forever in blissful ignorance. Hiding his
guilty conscience was a little trickier, which was why he was now
parked on their sofa, pretending to be deeply engrossed in an old
textbook.

Thinking of the unorthodox burial site, he couldn't quite bite back
the nervous laugh that bubbled up. Raising his head from his own
book, Rick gave him a questioning look.

"Funny stuff," Andrew said weakly, hoisting the heavy book on his
lap. Rick's face didn't lose its quizzical expression as he read
the title of the book, 'Crop Rotation; Preserving Topsoil during a
Drought'. But he didn't bother waiting for a detailed explanation;
Andrew's sense of humor often defied any explanation, no matter how
detailed. His attention diverted from his novel, Rick stood and
stretched. "I'm heading out to the barn to check the horses."

As soon as he heard the porch door slam, Andrew heaved a sigh of
relief and let the textbook slide from his grip, glad of a break
from the pretence of studying.

Giving in to the temptation to chew his nails, he sat wishing
fervently that he could relive the past two hours and 'make a better
choice' as Rick would have put it. But it was hopeless. There was
no undoing a fatal mistake, He never should have picked up that
gun.....

*********

The unfamiliar sight of the small BB gun, lying in the cabinet next
to the rifles, caught Andrew's eye. Smiling in fond recognition, he
unlocked the case and picked it up. Rick's nephew, Jason, had
brought it over that day to show off to them, leaving it at the farm
after a promise to practice shooting the next day had been given.
Andrew remembered his own first BB gun and the excitement at
receiving the symbol of his new status as a 'man'. Intent on
reliving his happy childhood memories, he took the small firearm
outside to do a little target practice of his own.

He stopped to pick a few empty soda cans out of the recycling box on
the porch and then carried on to the chicken coop where he began to
line them up along the fence. After he successfully balanced
several cans in a row, he backed up, carefully took aim and squeezed
the trigger. There was a satisfying ping and the first can fell
from its place, tumbling into the fenced area where the chickens
scratched in the dirt for stray grains of wheat. The flock
scattered, squawking indignantly at the sudden intrusion. Laughing
at their noisy reaction, Andrew walked over to reassure them,
soothing them with gentle clucking sounds.

Although Andrew had always been impulsive, age and Rick's guidance
had done a lot to curb his nature. There were still occasionally
moments when it shone through. Seeing the can lying on the ground,
heedless of the nearby chickens, he casually took aim and fired.
Then he watched in horror as an unfortunate bird abruptly keeled
over. Realizing the poor hen must have been struck by a ricocheting
pellet, Andrew rushed into the pen.

Hovering over the still bundle of feathers on the ground, Andrew
anxiously looked for any sign of life, There was no blood to be
seen, but the bird lay completely motionless.

The sound of the truck pulling onto the gravel road leading to the
farm sent his heart thumping. Panicked at the thought of having to
explain his carelessness to Rick, he picked up the limp body and
frantically looked around for a likely hiding spot. It was no use
burying it, Andrew knew, the dogs would just dig it up. Then he
noticed a nearby small building, an old outhouse from the days when
the farm's water supply was uncertain. Almost dizzy with relief he
ran to it and quickly dropped the carcass through the hole in the
wooden seat. With his heart still hammering, he hurried to the
house to return the gun to its original place.

*********

Lost in his unhappy recollections, Andrew hardly noticed Rick
returning from his evening chores. It wasn't until he heard the
banging of cupboard doors in the storage room that he came out of
his reverie.

"Andrew, have you seen that small basket? You know the one my Mom
sent the baking in at Christmas?" Rick asked.

"No. Why?"

"Well, it's the strangest thing. One of the chickens seems to have
got herself down that old outhouse and I need to lift her out
somehow."

The stomach full of cement that had been churning in Andrew's belly,
abruptly solidified. "What?" he whispered.

"Damdest thing ever," Rick explained incredulously. "I went to shoo
the chickens inside for the night when I heard a noise coming from
the outhouse. Looked down the hole and there was a chicken flapping
around down there. I don't understand how she could have ended up
there."

Alternate waves of relief and anxiety left Andrew too nauseous to
respond.

Oblivious to Andrew's distress, Rick continued to rummage noisily in
the cupboard. "Ah found it. I knew it was here somewhere. I
figure if I put some grain in the basket and lower it on a rope,
she'll climb in and I'll be able to lift her out. Come give me a
hand, okay?"

Andrew nodded and numbly got up to follow Rick outside. He shoved
his hands deep into his jean's pockets to hide their trembling as
they walked the short distance.

The two men crowded into the small space of the outhouse. Rick
trained the beam from the flashlight down the darkness of the hole,
illuminating the sight of one very alive, very pissed off chicken.
Obviously Andrew quickly realized, the pellet had only stunned the
bird.

Rick readied the small basket for the rescue attempt and both men
watched hopefully as it was lowered. The hungry chicken cautiously
hopped inside to peck at the grain. Once she was securely in, Rick
pulled steadily on the rope until she emerged from the hole.
Grinning in triumph, he picked her up and cradled her in the crook
of his arm.

"Well, you've been on an adventure, haven't you? How'd you get
yourself down there?" Rick asked the hen.

Andrew gave a silent prayer of thanks for chicken's inability to
talk, sure that this one would have lost no time in enlightening her
rescuer.

As they walked towards the coop to return the AWOL chicken, Rick
gently stroked her feathers. Suddenly he stopped and looking
puzzled, he pulled a small dark object from the feathers around her
neck. Holding it in the palm of his hand he studied it closely. "A
pellet," he said flatly.

Oh shit. Andrew looked at the unmistakeable round ball of metal
cupped in Rick's large palm.

"I can't believe Jason would do something like that. Bad enough to
shoot a chicken, but to hide it like that," Rick shook his head
sadly. "I'll have to tell his Dad. He can't be trusted with a gun
if he's going to be so careless."

Andrew could feel the dampness of his shirt sticking to him as he
began to sweat. No way could he let anyone think that it was Jason
who had done this.

He cleared his throat nervously and croaked, "I did it."

"What?" Rick asked blankly.

"It was me. I shot the chicken." Andrew admitted.

"Look, Andy. I know how much you love Jason, but you're not doing
him any favors trying to protect him. Boys need to take
responsibility for their mistakes....," Rick's voice trailed off as
he took in the guilty expression on his parner's face.

Andrew shrugged helplessly.

After Rick returned the chicken to its rightful place, he leaned
against the fence, looking at Andrew for a long moment, his
expression a mixture of curiousity and annoyance.

"So Andrew, why have you been shooting our chickens?"

"I didn't mean to!" Andrew protested.

Recognizing a potentially long conversation; Rick took Andrew's arm
and started towards the farmhouse. Once inside, he guided him to a
seat at the kitchen table.

"All right, let's hear it." Rick ordered.

Andrew squirmed on the hard oak chair, desperately searching for a
way to put a more positive spin on the situation. Nothing seemed
quite adequate and he sat in silence until Rick's palm smacked down
on the table right in front of him, making him jump.

"Andrew!" growled Rick.

"I used to have a gun like Jason's when I was a kid; I just wanted
to try it again. I was shooting too close to the chickens and a
pellet hit one of them by mistake." The words tumbled out in a
rush, Andrew's gaze never lifting from the table in front of him.

"How did she end up down the outhouse?" Rick demanded.

"I thought she was dead! Honest, she looked dead! Really, really
dead," Andrew said desperately. "I didn't want you to know. I felt
so bad."

Sighing, Rick took his hand, giving it a small squeeze. "So that's
why you've been buried in your books all afternoon, a guilty
conscience always makes you suspiciously hard working," Rick said
wryly.

"I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt her," Andrew pleaded for
understanding. He couldn't bear for Rick to think him deliberately
cruel.

"Of course you didn't, Andy. You're the kindest man I know," Rick
assured him. "But you certainly know better than to be so careless
with a gun," he continued more sternly.

"It was just a BB gun," Andrew argued.

"It's still capable of causing damage, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir," Andrew conceded miserably.

Rick pushed back his chair from the table and went into the ajoining
dining room, the loud noise of his cowboy boots on the hardwood
floor tracking his movements. Andrew held his breath as the sound
stopped for a moment and he heard a drawer opening in their large
desk.

Oh God. The paddle, Andrew lamented.

But when Rick strode back into the room his hands were empty except
for a small book. He tossed it on the table in front of Andrew.
Who dutifully picked it up and read the title, 'A Beginner's Guide
to Firearm Safety'.

"What's this?"

"Well, I bought it for Jason," explained Rick, "But I can always get
him another copy. I want you to read that over; until you've
convinced me you know that book inside and out, the key to the gun
cabinet stays with me."

Pushing the book away in disgust, Andrew sputtered, "That's
ridiculous. I KNOW how to use my guns safely."

"You obviously don't, Andy."

"I'm a better shot than you!" Andrew muttered angrily.

"That has nothing to do with it and you know it." Rick reached out
and gripped Andrew's chin in his large hand, forcing it up to make
eye contact. "Who's the boss, Andrew?"

Despite his anger, Andrew's answer was immediate and sincere, "You
are."

"That's right. You don't use those guns until I say so or you're
going to be very sorry." Rick promised grimly.

Andrew nodded reluctantly. His pride was horribly hurt at the
thought of not being trusted to act safly. But he knew, considering
what had happened that day, it was a fair punishment.

Rick nodded towards the dining room. "Go get the paddle."

Andrew stiffened in surprise and protested, "But the chicken, she's
all right. That's not fair."

"You would have known she was all right hours ago and saved yourself
a lot of worry if you hadn't tried to hide what you'd done. I would
have spanked you for your carelessness but trying to cover it up
like that has earned you a paddling." Rick explained.

"No, Rick." Andrew's show of defiance was spoiled by his trembling
lower lip and tear-filled eyes.

Rick didn't answer, just crossed his arms across his wide chest and
sat back to patiently wait for his partner to gather his courage.

Several long moments passed while Andrew struggled with himself.
Finally with a nod of acceptance, he shakily got up from the table
and started towards the dining room, his own cowboy boots making a
much more tentative tatoo on the hardwood. Finding the hated paddle
in its usual place, he picked it up and slowly made his way back to
Rick.

"Thank you," Rick said quietly when Andrew handed him the thin piece
of wood. Standing up, he held out his hand for Andrew and led him
to the couch in their living room. He quickly bared Andrew's bottom
and positioned him over his lap.

Both men were well muscled from their days spent in hard physical
labor, Rick ran his hand over Andrew's firm bottom, prompting some
anxious squirming. He placed his left hand over Andrew's tailbone,
protecting it from the paddle if he struggled during
punishment. "Rick!" Andrew cried out anxiously.

"You're all right," Rick soothed him. He rested the thin paddle on
the swell of Andrew's bottom for a moment before lifting it and
bringing it down with a sharp crack.

Guilt and natural stoicism kept Andrew in place for the first few
swats but by the tenth he was wiggling involuntarily and gasping at
the sharp pain. When Rick finished the first set of twenty, he lay
breathing heavily, trying to cope with the intense sting and burn.

"Why did you try to hide what you did Andy?" Rick asked gently.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Andrew gasped. He cried out as two solid
smacks came down, one on the back of each thigh.

"That's not what I asked. I know you're sorry."

"I was ashamed. I knew I was in trouble." Andrew said desperately.

"You need to face your mistakes Andy and their consequences."

"Yes, sir," Andrew agreed and braced himself as he felt the paddle
against his bottom again. Another set of twenty swats were firmly
delivered to the now frantically squirming backside. When they were
over, Andrew lay panting, his partner's deep voice an unwelcome
intrusion in his haze, a tether that kept him unwillingly anchored.

"You're going to be more careful with guns, aren't you?"

"Yes, yes, sir, I"ll be careful." Andrew promised, breaking into
loud sobs as he felt the full effect of the paddling. "Please," he
begged as he felt the paddle resting on his bottom once more. But
the paddle came down again, the last set bringing howls that Andrew
couldn't hold back.

He was aware of Rick's work-roughened hand gently rubbing his
bottom, both a comfort and a torment to the heated flesh. Then he
was pulled upright and Rick lay down on the couch, positioning him
on top. Andrew burrowed into the solid chest beneath him, his loud
cries graually dying away as the pain receded. Lulled by the
heartbeat of his partner, he drifted contentedly until he felt the
unmistakable rumble of suppressed laughter. Andrew pulled away,
outraged.

"What the hell is so funny?"

Rick couldn't hold back any longer and threw his head back and gave
in to helpless laughter. Finally, wiping the tears from his eyes,
he said, "Oh God, Andy. Promise me if you accidentally bump me off,
you'll find me a more dignified resting place.'

"It was a great spot to hide a body," Andrew couldn't help but laugh
too. "But next time I'm checking for a pulse."

 

The End