I am a good child. Well, I was a very good child. I was always a very good child. I never broke any of the Ten Commandments. I never even took the Lord’s name in vain. Everyone thought I was weird because I went to church every Sunday, and went to religious instruction. I was a good child, and I was going to get confirmed.
Getting confirmed in my religion is one of the most holy of the holy sacraments. It happens the year you turn 14, but you have to take classes on it for a year before it. It is very intense and stressful. You have to memorize the Articles of Faith, the Ten Commandments, and a vow. There is miles and miles of homework. And if you don’t do it all perfectly on your first try, you have to do it all over again. It is really important and requires lots if work.
I wasn’t scared for it, though. I wasn’t scared to meet new people, I was friendly. I was a very hardworking person, so homework? Psh. No biggie. And memorization was so easy for me. I could memorize 5 minute songs within 3 times of hearing it. I wasn’t stressed at all, I was loose. Calm. Relaxed. Chill.
Maybe a little too chill. At least on the night of the introduction class.
It was a Monday and I was all tuckered out from school. I practically needed toothpicks to prop open my eyes. I was glued to my phone, trying to make the blue light destroy the Melatonin firing around in my brain. I was in the back room of the New Apostolic Church in Hollis, sitting in between my friends Fiona and Emma. An extremely tall man that I recognized vaguely entered the room, his feet clomping.
“Phones away,” he boomed.
I knew who that was. That was Priest Phelps. He was a very nice man, but he didn’t play games. I heard that one day, he made a bet with a girl in one of his previous confirmation classes that if she memorized her vow in less than a week, he would have to wear his clothes inside out to church. And if she didn’t, she would have to. I hoped I would never do that. I knew not to bet with Priest Phelps. Most people knew not to mess with Priest Phelps. He was quite large in height and he had a great personality. But he could yell. And when he yelled, Kansas was aware. I still wasn’t tense though, I was too tired to be anxious.
I clicked the button on my phone, the lock noise entering one ear and going out the other. It was clear that everything else that night would do the same.
“What is confirmation?” said Priest Phelps.
His words bounced around in my empty head and I payed no attention.
After a while, I noticed that it seemed like I didn’t know the answers to any of the easy questions that Priest Phelps was asking, so I decided that whatever the next one was, I would try to answer it. He wouldn’t care if I got it wrong. It was introduction night.
“When I was in Sunday School,” Priest Phelps said, his world now absorbing into my brain. “I had a strategy. Little old ladies teach Sunday School, so I would raise my hand and say either ‘God,’ ‘Jesus,’ ‘The Holy Spirit,’ or ‘I love everybody.” And they would say ‘Oh, how cute!’ Confirmation class is not like that. Because that’s BS, and I have a BS filter. Who knows what BS stands for?”
I shot my hand up, a curse word tingling on my lips.
“Yes, Hannah,” said Priest Phelps.
I opened my mouth and with great power came out, “BULL #$@%!”
“HANNAH!” Fiona yelled, astonished at my foul-mouthedness. “YOU JUST CURSED! IN CHURCH!”
“Oh…” I mumbled, smiling a guilty smile. There was no way to escape this one. I tried to laugh it off, but no one else was laughing. Just angry, appalled faces staring at me. I continued to laugh a frightened laugh as my heart sank into my stomach and seemed to dissolve. I scrunched up my toes, afraid of what was bound to happen. Get ready for hearing aids, people of Kansas.
I turned my face up to the ceiling as if to not cry, and I remembered when I had no idea what the words I had just uttered- well yelled- meant. I thought of my ancestors, dead and six feet underground, and felt envy. I wanted to shove my fist through a window and ask which one of my friends wanted my frozen DNA sample. I would die anyway, so why not chop off my own head?
I heard a hand slap a forehead. Priest Phelps was right behind me.
“Who thinks BS stands for bull @#$%?” he sighed.
I raised my hand shakily, thinking about what else in the world BS would stand for.
I looked around, expecting to find everyone looking at me, sitting on their hands, glaring at me with a thousand daggers and then once I put my hand down coming at me with torches and saying I was a witch and that I should be burned alive. My imagination went wild with all the horrid ways they would torture and kill me. Thinking about how ashamed my parents would be and how I would have no funeral and no one would miss the abomination of a girl that cursed in church. I was practically already in my casket. Goodbye, world, you were fun while we were together. I looked down and saw Priest Phelps on the inside of the circle of chairs, reminding me of a cult about to sacrifice me to their god, the almighty, omnipotent Heavenly Father, whom I had betrayed.
Priest Phelps moved away.
To my surprise, I saw my friend Harry, from across the room, raise his hand, his plait shirt crinkling under his elbow. I looked over to my left and saw that Emma had raised her hand, too. My fear started to crawl out of me, leaving a shell like a hermit crab.
“No,” Priest Phelps boomed. My little crab scuttled back into his shell.
“That is wrong,” he said. “BS stands for bad stuff.”
Oh, I thought. Wow.
I was just imagining all the horrible things I would go through, and I decided to just stay silent for the rest of my life.
Well, I learned my lesson, and they are sure tattooing it onto my brain. I felt the pain of boredom after every time I’ve beenasked what BS stands for. I have a pop quiz every confirmation class. BS stands for bad stuff.
I was once a good child. Now I am a delinquent, imprisoned behind bars of shame for creating one catastrophe. Now I know.
“It’s okay,” said Priest Phelps. “I’ll just give you a communion later.”