by Laura Ruth Loomis
by Laura Ruth Loomis
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession. And that wasn’t even a real confession. I only told about the little stuff, like yelling at my brother or disobeying the teacher. The kind of things that get you one Our Father and ten Hail Marys. When really I was in a state of sin. Because of me, the Jamisons could have lost their baby forever.
I didn’t mean any harm. I’ve babysat for the Jamisons since Patricia was born. She’s a doll. Of course, when they had Michael, she got jealous. The way kids do, you know. So for her third birthday, her mom and dad wanted to take her out for a special day. It was the first time they ever left Michael with a sitter, and they chose me. They trusted me.
Everything was fine at first. I put him down to sleep and turned on Baywatch. I started getting this prickly feeling at the back of my neck. He was so quiet. I should have checked him. Stupid me, I waited for a commercial.
He was blue. Just blue. I’ve never seen a face that color before. He wasn’t moving. I picked him up and shook him, and still he didn’t breathe.
I’m so sorry, Father. I didn’t know what to do. I mean I did know, but I panicked. I grabbed the phone and called 911.
The woman had the nicest voice. She told me I had to calm down; it was Michael’s only chance. First she had me make sure his little heart was beating. It was hard to tell, with mine pounding so hard, but I found a pulse. Then I stuck my finger in his mouth to see if he was choking on something. I couldn’t feel anything there. She said to put my mouth over Michael’s mouth and nose and blow a tiny puff of air, very slowly. His face was so cold. I wanted to stop and just cry. But I did what she told me, blew and then watched his chest go back down. Another deep breath for me, and then I did it again. And again. Nothing mattered in the world except tiny, tiny breaths into his little body. I could still hear the Baywatch theme music from the next room. Breathe and blow, over and over. And then she was telling me to unlock the door for the paramedics.
I paged his parents from Saint Luke’s, and waited. And waited. At first I thought the doctor would come out any minute and say he was fine. But time just dragged on and on. Nobody would answer my questions. I sat there in the waiting room, staring at a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. There were two women in the room with me, crying and talking loud in Spanish. I tried to pray the rosary, but I’d forget where I was and have to start over.
Finally the Jamisons got there with Patricia, asking what happened. Was Michael okay? I said I didn’t know. But really I knew he was dead. Just knew it. Why else would they not tell me anything? Mr. Jamison went to find the doctor. And that’s when Mrs. Jamison asked me.
"Did you baptize him?"
I’ve heard it a hundred times: in an emergency, baptize first and then get help. Mom made sure I knew that before I ever got to babysit. And I knew Michael hadn’t been baptized yet, because they were planning a big ceremony for the next month.
Father, I lied. I was staring right at the statue of the Virgin Mary. I’ve never told a lie like that in my life. But how could I tell her that her Michael, her beautiful baby, would never get to heaven and it was all my fault?
And then Mr. Jamison came back with the doctor, and he said Michael was fine. The doctor even said, "This young lady saved your son’s life. She really kept her head." And there they were thanking me, after what I’d done!
I’ve been holding my breath for a month now. I even tried to think of a way to sneak in and baptize him, just in case. But of course they weren’t leaving him with anyone, not after what almost happened. And I didn’t confess, so I would have been stuck in purgatory forever if I died this month. But that’s only fair.
This morning they finally had a real baptism, with a priest and godparents and everything. I almost didn’t go. I wanted to say I was sick, but that would have been another lie. So I went, and I’m glad I did. I got to see the water touch Michael’s forehead, and hear the priest say, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Now I know Michael’s safe.
I know I don’t deserve forgiveness, Father. No penance would ever be enough.
One Our Father and ten Hail Marys? Really, Father? Really?
* * * * *
"Margaret's Confession" was first published in Spanish Moss.