Man of The Cloth

My winning story for The Cemetery Gates Society’s March flash fiction contest gives a quick glimpse inside the private space of the confessional. Like the narrator, I’ve never been to confession before. But that’s where our similarities end. Here’s how it starts:

“Forgive me if I’m not doing this right. I’m not exactly Catholic. Never been inside one of these little boxes. It’s not as cozy as they look in the movies; more claustrophobic, like a coffin. Kind of musty and dead-smelling under the incense, if you want me to be honest.

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Honesty.

I’ll do my best, but let’s be clear about one thing. I won’t call you Father.

Nothing personal, of course. I’m told you’re a fine, respected man of the cloth. Beautiful phrase, “man of the cloth.” Man is a succinct word, an open-mouthed vowel nestled between twin hums of satisfaction. Of and the rhyme their bookended uncertainties, linked by a small glut of whispery consonants. The phrase almost stops on the sharp cough of the “C” in cloth; it’s abrupt, then smoothed out by the airy tenderness of the last note. That sound lacks finality, though, doesn’t it? Lips remain parted with expectation. Another syllable is implied, as if the last breath is a prelude.

Maybe every last breath is a prelude.”

Read the rest here: Man of The Cloth

Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at and on Twitter @horrorsong.

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