by Laura Loomis
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession. And that wasnít 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 didnít mean any harm. Iíve babysat for the Jamisons since Patricia was born. Sheís 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. Iíve never seen a face that color before. He wasnít moving. I picked him up and shook him, and still he didnít breathe.
Iím so sorry, Father. I didnít 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 Michaelís 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 couldnít feel anything there. She said to put my mouth over Michaelís 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 Lukeís, 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 Iíd 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 didnít 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 thatís when Mrs. Jamison asked me.
"Did you baptize him?"
Iíve 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 hadnít 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. Iíve 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 sonís life. She really kept her head." And there they were thanking me, after what Iíd done!
Iíve 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 werenít leaving him with anyone, not after what almost happened. And I didnít confess, so I would have been stuck in purgatory forever if I died this month. But thatís only fair.
This morning they finally had a real baptism, with a priest and godparents and everything. I almost didnít go. I wanted to say I was sick, but that would have been another lie. So I went, and Iím glad I did. I got to see the water touch Michaelís forehead, and hear the priest say, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.Ē Now I know Michaelís safe.
I know I donít deserve forgiveness, Father. No penance would ever be enough.
One Our Father and ten Hail Marys? Really, Father? Really?
ďMargaretís ConfessionĒ was originally published in the 2004 edition of Spanish Moss.
Laura Loomis is a social worker who lives in the San Francisco area with her partner. Her fiction has most recently appeared in The First Line, New Delta Review, and On the Premises.