The Ten Weeks, 7 February, The Burden of Our Sins is Intolerable

Sunday morning came and the 0800 Holy Communion came with it. They found an acolyte robe for Jack; both he and Rick, stiff and sore from their beatings, performed their duties as best they could. Fortunately St. Mark’s was not as large as All Saints, so getting around wasn’t as difficult. Jack had drifted away from the church, but in the present circumstance he found the routine comforting, even though he almost started laughing when he remembered Coleman’s remark about the intolerable burden that was repeated in the General Confession.
Attendance was somewhat sparse at this early service, although Jack noted to himself that it was thicker than back home. A quiet service with no music, it ended a lot sooner than the pompous business that took place at 1100, which suited Jack just fine. Jack and Rick got out of their robes and Rick led Jack back into the church to meet Athena.
She had been there during Communion; Jack wasn’t expecting much, but she was definitely up to his own standard. Thin with a long dress, she carried herself with grace, something Jack especially noted when she came up for communion. Jack knew that such deportment was not only a lost art back home, but would get a girl laughed at. Here it wasn’t funny, and Jack felt himself drawn to it, as Rick obviously had with Athena.
“Jack, this is Athena Ballman. Athena, this is Jack Arnold, Bishop Mark Arnold’s grandson,” Rick said rather ceremoniously.
“It’s a pleasure,” Athena replied, curtseying. “I understand that you got into trouble with the Ecclesiastical Constable.”
“We got into trouble,” Jack clarified. “I just got into more trouble than Rick did.”
“It was his idea,” Rick pointed out. Athena showed a look at alternated between anger, amusement and confusion.
“It’s not difficult to get into trouble in this country,” Athena said. “Now you know what it’s like. Just be glad they let you off with the punishment they did.” Jack weighed that remark with the things Rick had said about her grandfather’s and uncles’ execution.
“You’re as pretty as Rick said you were,” Jack noted. Athena smiled.
“He says many nice things,” she noted. “But he tells me that you have a school mate who performs miracles. Is it true?”
Jack hadn’t thought of Madeleine since he entered Serelian waters. He had been too focused on his task—and subsequent disaster—with Denise. Her question jolted him back to the time when they stood out in the hall, both thrown out of class, and he had really talked with her in a serious way for the first time.
“Yes, it is,” Jack confirmed. “She’s in my class.”
“You really think she did all that?” Rick asked.
“You got a better idea?” Jack came back.
“What is she like?” Athena asked. “Isn’t she Roman Catholic?”
“Very,” Jack confirmed. “She’s French. She’s kinda shy, talks very softly, but when she does, it sorta hurts sometimes.”
“Hurts?” Athena queried.
“She says what she thinks,” Jack elaborated. “Oh, yeah, she’s pretty, too.”
“A friend at St. Anne’s tells me she has travelled extensively. I have never been out of Serelia my entire life,” Athena said.
“Her old man sells tyres,” Rick said. “She’s lived all over.”
“She came to the Island—and the school—in Fourth Form,” Jack said.
“I would like to meet her sometime,” Athena said. “I’ve never spent time with a Roman Catholic before. I want to know what it’s like. And I’d like to know what it’s like to perform miracles—our Bishop doesn’t think that miracles happen any more, but my aunt says that we are going to get a new Bishop soon.”
“And if her aunt says it, you can make book on it,” Rick confirmed. At that point Paul Langley came up to the group.
“I think it’s time for you to head back,” Paul said to Jack. “The constable has his eye on the place.”
“I guess so,” Jack said reluctantly. “Nice to meet you,” he said to Athena.
“And you also,” Athena replied.
“I’ll take you to the dock,” Rick said. They left and got into the truck that had gotten them both into so much trouble, then Rick drove Jack to the dock.
“I always thought you said that Maddy was stuck up and a prude,” Rick told his friend.
“I did,” Jack said. “She is.”
“Well, you sure talked her up to Athena.”
“I don’t see you dating a girl that’s much different.”
“There’s nothing else up here. They’re all that way.”
“Maybe you have a better field to play after all,” Jack said. “Take it easy.” They shook hands, then Jack checked the fuel (the constable had thoughtfully filled the tank, which bill Jack had to pay.) After that he started the engine, untied the boat, pushed the throttles forward and headed away from the dock and out into the Crescan Sound.

Jack was glad that it was possible to pilot the boat without having to sit. He had more to deal with on the return voyage than on the way up. To start with, he had to be more careful than usual because of the low tide in the Crescan Sound. More serious, however, was the rain shower that tossed him about right near the mouth of the Sangler River. The storm coming from land, Jack was forced to turn the boat towards the river mouth to prevent capsizing. This didn’t last very long and Jack was able to resume his course, which enabled him to dry both himself and his boat out.
The sun was almost in his face as he entered Verecunda Bay. Steering to port, he came back to the Arnold slip at the yacht club. Even though Jack was fearful about the reception he would get, he was glad to see the familiar sights of home, from the lighthouse on down the Point. It had been a long weekend; he was physically and mentally exhausted. He tied the boat up, secured everything, put the canvas cover back on the boat, took his things and went around the back of the club house to his GTO. Firing it up, he made the short journey down the Point to his home.
He left his things in the car and came through the front door. Sitting in wait for him were his father, mother and even Cat, who had a look of fear on her face, signalling trouble. Next to his father was his scotch and water, which Jack knew only made matters worse.
“Where have you been?” Mark asked as Jack walked towards the centre of the room.
“To our tennis match in Alemara,” he replied. “I won. We won.”
“And?”
“To see Rick Langley in Drago. His father has a very nice church there.”
“And?” he demanded, the anger in his voice rising with every question.
“I went to see Denise.”
“And?”
“I got in trouble with the church cop up there.”
“Because?”
“Denise and I went out drinking. It’s legal up there.”
“You’ve lied long enough!” Mark finally snapped. “You went to bed with Denise, and that’s not legal up there, and that’s not right down here either, young man! I’m going to,” and he started to take off his belt.
“Don’t do that!” Jack pleaded. “The church cop beat my ass raw with a razor strap!”
“Don’t you talk in front of your mother and sister like that!” Mark shouted, coming out of his chair, belt in hand.
“You think I’m lying? Come on up and see for yourself. If I’m not telling the truth, you can beat me with that belt ‘til I die, ‘cause I don’t care any more!” With that Jack took off to his room, with Mark in hot pursuit.
“Please don’t hurt him!” Helen pleaded. Mark ignored her cry as he followed Jack up the stairs to the inside balcony. Helen and Cat held each other for comfort, too scared to do anything else.
Jack entered his room; Mark followed and slammed the door behind him. The girls expected the worst, but in a minute Mark opened the door and emerged from the room visibly shaken, his belt still in his hand.
“What’s the matter,” Helen asked, mystified by the sudden change of mood.
“Call Jeff and get him over here as quick as he can,” Mark replied. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” As Helen called Mark’s brother, he walked slowly, in a daze, around the balcony and down the stairs. Jack emerged a little bit later; his mother, off the phone, ran up and threw her arms around her son, bursting into tears.
Jeff was the family doctor in every sense of the word. He lived only a block over from Mark, so it wasn’t long before he arrived, bag in hand. He went up to Jack’s room, where he took a look at Coleman’s handiwork for about five or ten minutes. He emerged almost as shaken as Mark had, Jack following him.
“This is one of the worst cases of beating I have ever seen,” he said. “If I thought it would do any good, I would ask our Foreign Ministry to file a protest with the Serelian embassy over this. This is barbaric.”
“So why don’t we?” Mark asked.
“Because Jack had the bad taste to get involved with the President’s daughter,” Jeff explained. “They won’t lift a finger for you.”
“Maybe Paul Langley can help us,” Helen suggested.
“He’s too new to their system.”
“So did he break anything?” Cat asked.
“Art Coleman obviously has had a lot of practice with this,” Jeff observed. “He knew exactly what he was doing. There are no broken bones that I can tell, although an x-ray wouldn’t hurt.”
“So what does it look like?” Cat asked, her curiosity pushing her on.
“He’s black and blue all across his posterior,” Jeff reported. “The edema’s serious. He needs some cold compresses there.”
Cat started to giggle at the idea.
“It’s not funny!” Jack protested.
“Yes, it is,” Cat replied. “I’ll tell Terry tomorrow that your butt’s on ice.”
“You better not!”
“You two stop!” Helen said. “Thank you for coming,” she told Jeff.
“Stay out of trouble, Jack,” Jeff admonished him.
“I’ll try,” Jack replied. Jeff said his goodbyes and left.
The room was silent; Jack obviously preferred to still stand.
“You still haven’t explained to me why you did it,” Mark told Jack. Jack had to think about that for a second.
“I did it for me,” Jack finally explained. “And I did it for you.”
“Don’t blame this on your mother and me,” Mark said defensively.
“Look, ever since I was a kid, you’ve always told me how our family was a ‘founding family’ of Verecunda, how we founded this club, and we built that section, and the senators and mayors and ambassadors we had, and how Grandpa went and helped start the Church of Serelia and then came back to be our Bishop. You taught us we were the greatest. Then some jerk from Jersey. . .”
“Don’t talk about the President of the Republic that way!” Mark snapped. “It’s not your place!”
“It is my place!” Jack came back. “We’re the Arnolds, we’re the best this country has to offer. But now look—you’ve been kicked off the Vestry, your hand-picked Rector was forced to leave the country, and that Kendall slut dumps me without an ‘Dear John’ letter for a guy whose grandfather cleaned toilets at our yacht club! What good does it do to be an Arnold when you have to live with crap like this? And that’s why I came back the next day: I wanted to see Denise go down in flames, and she did, and it’s was the most beautiful girl on the Island that did it to her.”
“Who is that?” Cat asked.
“Theresa Amherst,” Jack said. “If we can’t be what you keep telling me we are, maybe her folks need to come down here and kill these blowfish off!”
There was another time of silence in the Arnold family. Finally Mark said, “I wouldn’t repeat that speech, if I were you. Besides, you seem to run with dangerous company everywhere you go. To make things easier, you’re grounded until further notice.”
“Grounded?” Jack asked.
“Grounded.” Mark confirmed. Jack looked at the floor.
“Guess it doesn’t matter—I don’t have anywhere else to go around here.” With that he turned and walked to the stairway. Ascending the steps, he walked around the balcony to his room, went in and closed the door behind him.
Jack made his way to the balcony. He walked outside, debating to himself whether he wanted another smoke or not. It seemed to be a harder decision than usual; his mind was so filled with the events of the weekend and the crash at the end that he couldn’t even bring himself to make the most basic of decisions. He finally decided to light up; he went back in his room to get a pack when he met Cat bringing in his things from the car.
“I thought I’d bring your stuff in. I pulled the car around too. Dad’s got the keys.”
“Thanks, Cat, you’re the best.” She put the stuff down and stood as he eased over to the night table.
“There’s something I want to say.”
“You, too, huh?”
“I want you know that I’m proud of you. I’ve been on the phone all afternoon—everybody at school knows about it. A lot of people are happy—she got what she deserved, and you did it.”
“Wasn’t easy,” Jack observed.
“You know, Denise has been to bed with a lot of boys—I have too, I guess—but when you took her out back at that bar, that was the first time she went to bed with a man. I’m proud to be your sister.”
Jack was near to tears at that. “That made it all worth it. Too bad that Dad doesn’t get it.”
“He will—I just wish he’d hurry up.”
“But, with Denise, once you’re on her blacklist, that’s it. Most of the girls in our class won’t even look at you.”
“That’s over. They know who’s the best now. And you still keep talking about Madeleine.”
“Yeah, I asked her brother Raymond about that. Sounds pretty tough, if you ask me. I don’t know whether she’ll look at me after I did this in front of God and everybody.”
“But she doesn’t like Denise. Or her old man. They’ve ridden her case pretty bad about the miracles. But you’ll still probably have to do something special to get her to go out with you.”
“You’re probably right, Cat.”
“And I’m still telling Terry your butt’s on ice here!”
“You will not!”
“I’m calling her now!” She turned and raced out his room and around the balcony to hers.
“No, you’re not!” he cried, lamely chasing after her to beat her to the phone.
Mark and Helen looked up in amusement. “Maybe things will get back to normal again,” she mused.

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