Martin Foreman
First and Fiftieth

The Stories
   Kitchen Table
   Night Traffic
   Foucault's Nightmare
   Homophobia, Darling
   Cold Silence
   Los Feliz
   Ten Million Years
   The Last Saturday in May
   First and Fiftieth
   Ben and Joe's


The Publishers

The Author
picture of Martin Foreman by mitamada
   Also Available

   A View from the Edge
   Arbery Books
   Arbery Productions
   God would be an atheist

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A priest in his fifties in northern London
opening paragraphs

The doorbell rings at the end of the day.

I have waited here an hour, but still the sound startles me. When I came down, my body cleansed, my garments new, my affairs in order, I sat by the unlit fire and resolved to pray. But my eyes would not close, so afraid I was of the darkness besieging my spirit. I tried Our Lord’s Prayer, but the words died and I could form no others. Into the silence came, not my pleas for strength and forgiveness, but a slow crescendo of mockery from the portraits of my predecessors surrounding me. As you abandon God, they whispered, whispered, so we abandon you.

The doorbell rings again, loud and insistent.

I stand too quickly, the room sways and sweat clings to me. I am too tired, too aware of approaching age, to hurry.

Again the doorbell.

I am coming, but let me savour these moments. Here in the hall, coat and hat in hand, let me remember the house around me, its proud, half-empty rooms, old shadows, creaks and groans. It has been my home for fifteen years, as it was the home of a dozen priests before me and will be of a dozen yet to come. Already it has turned its back on me.

I bow to Our Lord in His eternal agony, His head fallen, His muscles taut with pain, I crave His pity and know He offers none. I turn to Our Lady. Ave Maria. My sins might sentence me to ten thousand times ten thousand years in Hell and still the intercession of Her Grace and Love could cause ten thousand times those years to pass in an instant. Mother of God, Mother of all Mankind, Mother of this fearful, defiant servant, I beg Your blessing and forgiveness.

The ringing echoes through my head. I turn the latch, pull the door and there you stand, my Michael, my Angel. A vision of eternal beauty in your dark suit, your fair hair freshly cut, your cheeks narrow, ageless and razor smooth, your pale blue eyes taut with arrogance, intelligence and youth. A smile which once seduced and now terrifies.

Next story: First and Fiftieth

All Rights Reserved / World Copyright © Martin Foreman 2015

"Sometimes you sit, watch the trains, the sunset, the rain. Sometimes you talk. Tell your story if you've a mind to. Trouble is, memory changes things. Things you want to forget. Things you want to remember that never happened. Happens to everybody. Gets so, nobody's story's true. Not yours, not mine. But it's all we've got."

First and Fiftieth

Background & Comment

Many years ago I met a priest in similar circumstances to the one I describe here. Over drinks one evening, he told me about the conflict within him between his faith and his desire for men, and how he hoped it would be resolved. He asked me if I would facilitate the scene described later in the story. Young and unsure of myself, I declined.

In 2012 the story became the basis of a one-man play which I wrote and acted (directed by Emma King-Farlow - details here). The play is scheduled for revival with a different actor in early 2014.

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