In normal times, Johnny wouldn’t be tempted to indulge. In normal times, Johnny would walk down the street and confess to Father Kincaid. But these days the potential for sin is extreme. The Quietus is everywhere, and in life under quarantine, repentance feels like an ocean away.
And so Johnny must find a new way to sin in these post-factual, post-coital, post-apocalyptic days. Because make no mistake: although Father Kincaid may be somewhere up there in the big blue, up in his mansion bunker in the Smoky Mountains, Johnny is still here sitting in the shadow of a church, and he cannot masturbate if he cannot repent.
Staring out from his bedroom window at Jebodiah Presbyterian, he looks at the raven that’s been watching him for days. It’s enough to make Johnny cower at all the thoughts he’s been having. It’s enough to make the hair on the back of his soul stand erect in the face of God, or at least a raven.
Johnny’s webcam has been watching, too, which is why his computer has just turned on. From out of the immaculate screen’s darkness appears a pop-up window: REPENT NOW with the all-new Grace of God’s Quarantine Confessionals™, brought to you by Zoom. Sign up for free.
Johnny clicks. According to Matthew 5:27-30, “If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go to hell.” Johnny may be left handed, but no matter. If he lets just one finger slip down into Beelzebub’s playground, Johnny will be acting in direct violation of Romans 8:6, Romans 13:14, Galatians 5:16 and a whole lot more. And without Father Kincaid waiting with open arms across the street, Johnny is in danger of floating out into a sea of endless free streaming content. Salvation comes in many forms. Maybe this pop-up ad will show him the way.
“Honey?” Johnny’s mother peeks her head into his bedroom. Her hair smells like flowers. Johnny resents this.
“I’m going to the store,” she chirps. “We need to resupply before the next wave. Do you want anything special?”
“No, mother. Just the regular.”
“I’ll get you some Choco Puffs, sweetie. You used to love those. Remember?”
“I don’t drink milk anymore, mom. You know that.”
“Okay, sweetie. I’ll get the one made with the soy beans then!”
She stalls at the altar of Johnny’s salvation.
“Can you close the door mom?” he says. “I’m going to try and nap.”
The mother abides. She knows what nap means. “Alright, sweetie! Be good! I’ll be back in an hour!”
Be good. She always says it. Johnny hears be bad.
He looks up at the church steeple. The raven is still there. He closes the blinds andknows he’s in trouble as soon as he hears the front door close. It’s inevitable. He knows he’s doomed once his mother’s green Subaru pulls out of the driveway. You can commit a lot of sins in one hour. Johnny’s been there.
He peeks through the blinds and the raven is gone now. Johnny takes this as a sign but when he returns to his computer screen, he hears the disembodied voice of Father Kincaid.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” Johnny responds. “It’s been twenty-three days since my last erection.”
The sin is as much in the act of thinking as doing, Johnny. Johnny thinks about trying to sleep off the thoughts, but recently his afternoon naps haven’t provided any quarter, either. His dreams torment him with flashes of the tan skin of Johnny’s one and only love, Rachel Stieglitz. She is Jewish, and Johnny is not, and so she is forbidden. But oh what it would mean to spend just one Sunday with sweet smelling Rachel—Jesus, Yaweh, and Father Kincaid be damned.
Johnny makes a mental note to confess this sin, too. In ancient times they used to cut out the tongues of blasphemers.
The thought of tongues gets Johnny’s blood moving again. He clicks through a pop-up window and sees the blinking cursor again. He scrunches his legs tight to try and cut the circulation. He opens the blinds to look out the window. The raven is no longer there.
Johnny stares at the winking, blinking cursor in his web browser and thinks about the first letters of all of the things he might search in normal times: Star Wars XXX, PAWG, POV, FFM, CFNM, HD POV, 1080p, and kissing. Johnny has no preference, really. He doesn’t allow himself to make that kind of choice. He clicks-through the advertisement, the one that first popped up: Grace of God’s Quarantine Confessionals™.
That’s the name of what he clicks on. That’s what he just read.
What follows is a black screen and a momentary buzzing, followed by click. An HD rendering of a wooden confessional window emerges onto the screen.
“Welcome back,” a disembodied voice says.
“Forgive me father for I have sinned,” Johnny says.
“It’s mother, actually,” the female voice coos.
“What’s that now?”
“I’m a female priest. But please, go on.”
“Oh, forgive me, mother. I have not masturbated in three weeks.”
“Well that is no sin, my son. You are doing God’s work.”
“But I’ve been thinking about it every day, father. I mean, mother. Or, sister? Sorry, I—”
“Oh, that’s okay,” the disembodied voice giggles. “You can call me sister. Or mother, if you prefer. You can call me whatever you want. So you’ve been thinking about masturbating. And where exactly have your thoughts strayed?”
“Well, there’s this girl at my school, Rachel. I think I’m in love with her.”
“What does Rachel look like?”
Johnny is only slightly curious about the question. “Um. Well, her tits—sorry, her breasts.”
“Oh, please, you can say tits. That is no sin.”
“Oh, okay. Well, her tits are heaven. I want to swim in them.”
“Mmhm. And what else?”
“And her hair is so soft. It smells like Pantene Pro-V, the one that smells like flowers, the one with anti-dandruff conditioner.”
“Having dandruff is no sin, son. Please, go on.”
“I can’t stop thinking about her. I’ve been sitting on myself and it’s starting to hurt. And I feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t do something.”
“Oh, you’re a bad, bad boy, aren’t you Johnny?”
And now Johnny sees something emerging from the wooden mesh confessional on the screen:
a nipple. A glorious, HD-rendered, 1080p nipple, squeezing through the grating of the wooden confessional.
At the bottom of the screen Johnny reads the text: “LIVE CAM.” It’s too late. Even though Johnny’s hands remain above the keyboard, in a miraculous event that defies explanation, the devil’s hand takes him in his grasp.
It’s over in a matter of seconds.
“Thank you for using Grace Anne’s Quarantine Confessionals. The forty-five dollar charge will be charged to your computer’s registered credit card and will appear in your next billing cycle as Quarantine Confessionals. Thank you for coming. Have a devious day.”
Johnny collapses onto his bed and looks out the window. His mother’s car pulls into the driveway. The raven is back again.