“Through there, Father,” Mabel stopped at the door. “He’s in there.”
The priest looked at the door. It was labelled ‘Jimmy’s Room’ and covered with stickers and posters, most of them issuing dire warnings to trespassers. Teenagers!
He twisted the handle and pushed the door open. A noisome smell hit him in the face as he stepped into the boy’s bedroom. But then again, that was nothing out of the ordinary. Old socks and underwear, half-finished meals, shoved under the bed and forgotten.
On the bed lay Jimmy, his hands and ankles strapped to the bedframe. He writhed as the shadow of the priest fell over him, eyes wide and rolling. He growled deep in his throat, his words muffled by the tea towels that formed a makeshift gag.
Mabel lingered in the doorway, wringing her hands. “We – we had no other choice, Father. We thought he might hurt himself. Or somebody else.”
The priest nodded. “How long has he been like this?”
Mabel shook her head. “It all came to a head about a week ago. Oh, he’d been acting strangely for weeks beforehand but we never thought nothing of it. You know: teenagers. Rolling his eyes, slamming the doors, stomping around. You know. But then he started saying these terrible things. Just awful, shocking things. And we thought he was only showing off, saying it for effect, you know. And we thought, well, we won’t give him the reaction he wants, we’ll just ignore him. Well, he kept on at it, didn’t he? Getting worse and worse and worse. The things he comes out with! Enough to make your hair curl. And I began to think, that’s not my Jimmy saying those terrible things. That’s not my boy at all.”
The priest exhaled. He had heard it all before. He fished a well-worn, leatherbound Bible from his bag and straightened the narrow stole that hung around his neck. Then he reached for the gag.
Mabel let out an anguished cry.
The priest looked over his shoulder. “It’s all right, Mrs Bevan; I’ve heard worse, I can assure you.”
He loosened the tea towels and hooked them under the boy’s chin. Jimmy’s tongue lapped at the air like a thirsty dog. He fixed the priest with a wide-eyed stare and laughed. It was like the devil being tickled.
“Stop the boats!” Jimmy roared in a deep and guttural voice. “Stop the fucking boats! Send them all back! We don’t want them coming over here, taking our jobs. Claiming our benefits. Close the borders! Stop the fucking boats.”
Jimmy flinched as the priest sprinkled him with a spritz of holy water. The priest replaced the gag.
“It’s quite a severe case, Mrs Bevan, I have to say.”
Mabel clutched at the priest’s forearm. “Can you do anything for him, Father?”
The priest closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, steeling himself before he gave his answer. Then, when he spoke, it was in a deep and guttural voice.
“Stop the boats, Mrs Bevan!” he cackled. “Stop the fucking boats!”