The door opened. "Oh, yes, hello. You're the young reporter who asked to interview me. Come in. Come in."
"I'm so glad you could see me, Bishop Bryon. I know these are busy times for you." His face was a wreath of kindness as I shook his hand.
"Well, I'm not a Bishop until the ceremony tomorrow. Just call me Father. Will you also be reporting that event?"
"Yes, Father. That's why I needed this interview tonight. I'd like to have a little background information to give depth to the article. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"Oh, no, my son. Please be seated. I was just preparing some tea. Would you care for a cup?"
I quickly accepted the offer, hoping to put us both more at ease. While he retrieved the tea from his small kitchen, I glanced around the room. There were plaques and awards on every wall, and pictures of several ceremonies, his handsome smile gracious in every photo. On a small shelf near the sofa, stood a photo of a much younger Father Bryon with a group of teenagers. Their faces were alight with joy as they held up a soccer trophy.
When he returned with the tea, I couldn't help comparing his face with the face in the photo. Time had etched deep lines around his mouth, and produced considerable sag in his eyebrows and cheeks, but he still radiated the same charisma evident in the photos.
I nodded toward them as he took his seat: "Do you miss those times, Father?"
"Oh, no, my son." His face mirrored complete humility. "Those were wonderful times, but God's work sometimes moves a man in different directions. I still manage to keep myself very busy."
"I'm sure you do, Father. Tell me: if you could sum up your attitude toward the ministry in one sentence, what would it be?"
"Oh my! I'll have to think about that a moment." His face was a study of calm as he met my gaze. His eyes were twin blue ocean pools, still and deep. I felt like I was drowning in his calmness.
He finally answered, "I'd have to say ... that I'm a vessel -- a sailboat -- awaiting the wind of the Spirit." He smiled -- dawn breaking on a summer day.
I smiled back. "Tell me, Father, do you have any regrets? Is there anything you'd do differently, if you had the chance?"
His eyes narrowed a moment, just a passing shadow, then the summer day was clear again. "What do you mean?" I thought I detected a slight edge to his inflection.
"I mean you've experienced forty years of ministry, doing God's work in many cities. Some ministries thrived, others faltered. Would you do anything differently?" My face -- I hoped -- was all sincerity and charm.
The summer day brightened -- with relief? -- and he answered quickly: "Oh no, my son. God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes he even brings success out of the ashes of failure. I have no regrets."
This was becoming difficult. I struggled a bit, then regained my composure. I think he must have noticed something in my eyes, because he began to study me a little more closely -- discreetly, of course. I sipped my tea.
We chatted about his parishes and his ministry, about the awards decorating his walls, about the weather. This man could charm a check from old Scrooge himself.
"So, Father, on this eve of your promotion, as you prepare to take a position of deeper responsibility, you declare that you have no regrets? None at all?"
His smile faded a bit -- another cloud -- he studied me a little more closely. "I've already answered that question, my...." Recognition began to dawn: "Do I know you? Somehow you look familiar."
Then I dropped the bomb.
My smile went cold, this time. Cold as ice. "A good many years ago, I'm afraid. I was thirteen when you transferred to a new parish. I'm Eddie. Eddie Wilson ... Prairie Junction."
His face blanched in shock, then fear took over, then it slowly settled into resolution.
"You're here to cause trouble, aren't you? Look, that was a good many years ago. I was young and foolish...."
"And also transient."
"What do you mean?"
"You know good and well what I mean, Father. The church covered up your trail. They moved you again and again. How many were there in all, you bastard!" I spat the last words, venom steeped in pain. He jerked visibly with the impact.
He arose, quaking, striving to control himself. I enjoyed his discomfort immensely. "Please don't cause problems." His shaking hand wiped angrily at the tears that had suddenly seeped unbidden from the blue pools. He could fight them, but he couldn't stop them. "I'm so very sorry!" The fear on his face was palpable.
"I'm not here to cause problems, Father." I smiled as a timorous relief crept into his face.
It was only then that he glanced down at my hand. His eyes widened.
The concussion slapped against both my eardrums at once -- it hurt. Father Byron slammed against the wall, and drew a crimson streak down it as he slid to a sitting position. The shock on his face slowly faded to a distant glaze.
I stood there a moment, breathing the acrid gunpowder fumes, my ears ringing, then I finished my statement: "I'm here to forgive you." I calmly walked to the door, then stopped
and looked back. "I have no regrets."