The Last Ecstasy of The Forbidden Fruit.

I am one of the religious assistants at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Sacred Hearts in the Parish of Mariden..Actually, I am a Seminarian.. a priest in training..My name is Brian Hurley..I have the job of approaching anyone I see in the church on days of confession to assist them if they need comforting after their penitence and to offer them a tract of comforting words we have printed up for such occasions. I can also take them to the little café we have prepared off the side of the church proper and offer them a cup of cheer and words of comfort if needed…I have been voluntarily employed in this enviable position for three years now..and I am thankful every day for the opportunity to give the help of Jesus to those willing to let him into their hearts.

It was in the application of this most fulfilling duty that I approached an old man in row three of the pews from the front…He was sitting in deep concentration so I quietly asked if he would like some help with his sentiments..

“Please”..he replied “ I am concentrating on my thoughts before I speak to Father O’Brien in the confessional and I would like some peace..thank you”..

Of course, I apologised most profusely as I believed he had come FROM the confessional and was resting after his penitence..and I humbly made my way out of his personal space. But I could tell from his speech that he was from an Eastern European bloc nation..and from his body shape Slavic, I was thinking. It was later, in the small café that I again saw the old man..sitting at a table near the window in silent, pensive thought..He had a cup of coffee in front of him that he sipped from in a desultory manner. I again approached him to again apologise for so rudely disturbing him earlier..I was armed with a cup of tea and several biscuits on a side-plate to make my approach more congenial.

“May I join you?” I asked…The old man looked at me in a fixedly manner grunted and motioned with his hand to the seat opposite..I smiled my cheery “hail brother well met” smile, sat and used the sugar bowl to spoon in a serve of sugar to my tea…I offered my hand and my name..he looked at my hand like it was a sticky sweet but gave his name…he refused the offer of a biscuit.

“Millitich”..he spoke the Millitich word with heavy pronunciation on the “ ‘tich “ ending so it sounded “titsch”..the one name being the only one offered.

“Oh..right..” I responded “Is that a Hungarian name?”

“Serbian” he replied.

“Oh..Slavic “ I encouraged.

“ is Serbian..I am frrom Serbia.” I was chastised.

I thought it best to take a familiar approach..

“I’ve seen you here quite a few times lately, but not in church on you have another church you go to?”..I was quite aware that some parishioners will go to a distant church to take confession, reasoning that no-one will recognise them when they go..sin, it would seem, doesn’t necessarily always follow the guilty. The old man placed his hands in his ample lap and leaned into the table.

“Why would I go to your church on Sundays?” his thick accent slowly inquired.

“Well…this IS a Catholic church..and you DO go to I presume. . . “ I left the answer in the air.

Seeming to have resolved a dilemma in his mind concerning myself and my interest in his company, Millitich rested back in the chair and looked at me a long time before answering..It was like he was “sizeing me up” as a possible confident..I could feel my grin go from “cheezy” to “cheese-cake” wasn’t going well..this old man was hard work. He inhaled heavily through his expanded nostrils and spoke heavily and meaningfully.

“I do not go to your church, Mr Hurley, because I do not believe in God..I am an atheist.” I have to admit this flippant bit of information flabbergasted me.

“ atheist” I replied in a vague way trying to regain my balance. “But you go to confession.” I probed.

“You are again mistaken, Mr see me go into the “confessional box” (he made inverted comma signs with his fingers around the word ; confessional) so you presume I am taking the confession..but I am not..I am going to the box to give information to the good Father O’Brien.”

I was now not only surprised, but intrigued.

“Information?” I automatically responded “of a general topic…like on the weather, for instance?”

“Personal”..Millitich pouted toward me.

“Oh well..then that can be like a confession.” I cheerily replied.

“Except I have not sinned, Mr Hurley…I have done no wrong thing TO confess..I am simply informing the good priest of my thoughts…which..while they may be sometimes of a…colourful nature, are of no consequence to himself or the God above.” And he raised his eyes to the church ceiling. I pressed on, with a degree I have to admit, of pique..for here was this old man, uncivil to me along with little care or apparent faith in my church or my Lord Jesus, yet he is brazen enough to front the most private of places where a person can seek the ear of The Lord to have their sins washed from their souls..yes..I was offended.

“Well…if it is of no consequence to God, why go to the confessional at all..why not just make an appointment with Father O’Brien and speak with him in his office?” I must admit my voice became a tad inquisitorial at the end. Millitich sat silently, heavily, like one of those paintings of an ancient Chinese emperor you’d imagine..He sat there in deep silence while he contemplated his answer..when he did it was more than I expected..

“You’re a rather impertinent little man, Mr Hurley…who do you think you are..coming to my table uninvited..”his lip curled as he gazed at my side-plate of biscuits..the one remaining shortbread looking now quite lonely and pathetic “With your tazza di te and your little biscuit…..We talk of love, Mr. Hurley…a love that the good father could never consummate and I with my age can no longer contemplate..we talk of a love only I can tell of and only I can share with the priest behind the screen.. I go to the confessional because there, what I say the priest cannot reveal..and conversely, what I tell the priest I am sworn by my own want of privacy..or else I could tell any inquisitive stranger…like yourself, MR. HURLEY”.

With that last emphasised naming of myself, the old man rose and made his way out of the church.

I cannot begin to tell you how deeply offended I was..I could feel my cheeks huffing and puffing from anger of the arrogance of that old poltroon! I sat at that table in low temper for quite a while longer as I plotted to hear just what those two were discussing in the confessional…I justified my contempt by wondering if old Father O’Brien..Father Stephen O’Brien.. was coming down with senile dementia and this Millitich chap wasn’t taking advantage of his failing mental capabilities. So I made it my objective to find a way to listen in to their conversations… It was the thought of but a moment to resolve to place my mobile phone in recording mode near the ceiling vent of the confessional the next time this Millitich blasphemer made a visit..and if that Slavic chap was up to mischief, well..I’m downright going to do something about it!..I cannot stand by and see my faith mocked..

So I made it my business to keep a wary eye out for our MR. MILLITICH and then to place my listening device over the ceiling vent of the confessional where I would be able to record every word, cough or mumble of these two conspirators!

It was another fortnight before I spied Mr. Millitich making has way toward the church nave on confession day…I quickly made preparations with my recording device placed strategically..I would later retrieve the phone and listen in to all they said.

Well…I retrieved the phone after Millitich had left and I played the result…Heaven’s knows what their previous conversations were like, but this one wasn’t that exciting..but it looks like we will be seeing less of Mr. Millitich now, if what he said is true…here, I’ll let you listen in…:

“Good morning Stephan”…

“Good morning again Saavo…how is your health?”

“About as good as it will ever be, Stephan…and yours?”

“God will provide…”

“Doomed like the rest of us oldies then.”

“Well, Saavo…I do not have the luxury of distraction that you cultivate..I have this…flock..of recalcitrant sinners to deal with…it is they, I suspect, who will put me in the ground before any disease.”

“Ah yes, Stephan…The saints and the sinners of Christendom…I believe your Jesus became a victim of the same sentiments.”


“My turn to laugh!…but I suspect you may have a fifth column in your congregation…I think Mr. Hurley suspects me for a communist agent trying to turn you to the dark side.”

“Mr. Hurley, of the middle-class, his parents wanted a doctor, lawyer and a priest in the family..kind of like “criminality with insurance”…and typical of that class, he suspects everybody of something, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was listening in to our conversations.”

“Well, Stephan..we have a saying in our country..: ‘doctors, lawyers and priests…one will ruin your health, one your pocket and the last ; your soul’…I may have inadvertently given him cause last time I was here…he was getting somewhat nosey about our “confessions” and I told him we talked of love.”

“He wouldn’t know what the word entailed…even his love of God comes with a rider written up, no doubt, by his brother the lawyer…and speaking of such, tell me Saavo of the latest turn in your affair of the heart…does it progress, is it it a false love?”

“Now you are mocking me, know I had no choice in the pursuit of this …arrangement”.

“Not at all, fact, I envy you the freedom to move about in public un-noticed as you constructed your seraglio of desire…I, with my cassock am far too visible to be able to gaze too long at the opposite sex without contempt being heaped upon my person.”

“Have you not one or two delightful nuns to assist you in your imaginings, Stephan?”

“Bite your tongue, Saavo and say a dozen Ave Marias for penance or I’ll have Mr. Hurley flog your hide with the in-house flagellation whip for your blasphemy!”

“Well..Father O’Brien…I do beg your forgiveness..but I pity you your imposed celibacy of body and mind…especially the mind..for I would have passed away if I had not discovered this outlet for my desires…But I have important news regarding my “love affair” with the delightful Alessandra of the “Spiked Echidna Café”…”

“Oh…tell me..did you finally make a fool of yourself and confess your affection to the embarrassment of the poor woman?”

“No…I was all for continuing our secret “affair…”
“Saavo!..for can hardly say “our affair” when the lady in question had no idea you were using her person and personality to construct this imaginary liaison with her.”

“Wait…let me explain, Stephan…as it turned out, it was less imaginary than I thought..after all, there is more to this world than your philosophy can explain, my dear priest..As it turned out, I was there at the café last Tuesday, enjoying my usual short black..being served at the table by the adorable Alessandra..we exchanged as per usual the daily pleasantries, myself stealing and storing the memory of the inflection and tone of her voice as she spoke for later reminisce..and I thanked Alessandra with using her full name…though she allows others there to address her as “Alex”….Alex, do you mind…a beautiful name like Alessandra to be “Aussified” into a mockery neither male nor female..but there it is, Australia; the common denominator…but on to Alessandra..I remember once when I had cut the back of my hand and I had one of those wide, cloth band-aids across it..Alessandra saw it as she was taking my order and asked what had happened..I told her and to my surprise, she took my hand in both of hers, her right hand flat supporting my injured hand palm to palm..I recall how warm was her hand…why are women’s hands so soft and warm even when they do hard work? Her other palpitated over the cloth plaster..she looked at where the wound was , then to me…to me quite intensely she looked and she asked ;

“Does it hurt, Saavo?…”..of course I replied that it did when it happened but it is alright now..but she repeated as if she had not heard me..”Does it hurt, Saavo?”…..I just looked at her and did not answer but took my hand away from hers..they were so warm…but now, Stephan….now I know why she was asking..what it was about she was was not about my wounded hand, but about the hurt in my heart..for you are very aware as are all us aging men who know there is little hope of finding another defining love affair as we head into eternity…never more to have our hunger for the delights of a woman to caress and fill our senses with their lyrical voices and sexual is a cold lonely ride on the ferry across the Styx I am sure..with only Charon for dubious company…why, when there is still the furnace burning fierce in the body must a smothering social obligation of the “Grandfather Image” of some revolting Walt Disney type character be the only model for us older men…that or the curse of being shunned as a “dirty old man” for harbouring those desires that once were not only natural, but expected of the male…who can stop the speeding train once it is shifted into motion…who has the right?…

Anyway, Stephan…I had my coffee, collected the days reflection of the delightful Alessandra and I turned to go, Stephan….I turned to go and just then a lady at the table next to us shifted her chair and so my foot caught in the chair leg and I started to fall…I grabbed for something to stop but there wasn’t anything there..all of a sudden I was clasped and held and gently lowered so I only fell to my side…it was was fortunate and I looked to see and thank my saving grace and there she was…it was Alessandra who held me…

“Are you alright?’ she asked and I could see by the look in her eyes she really was concerned..but I was too shocked…not from the fall, you understand, Stephan?…not from the fall but from the fact that here was my “lover” embracing me and asking after my wellbeing.. I couldn’t talk, let alone give a sensible answer..

“Is there any pain…does it hurt?” Alessandra asked…her eyes just there, her voice almost a whisper into my ear.. and I could feel myself falling…going into a faint, a swoon.. and all I could see was her face and the ceiling fan spinning slowly, rhythmically overhead, blowing wisps of Alessandra’s hair as she leant over me, her hair dropping either side of her face shielding us from the view of the people invisible to me now as the silence was so solid and palpable..and I cannot be sure if I fainted away or dreamt it, but I sense I replied to her..

“Yes…yes, Alessandra, it hurts like never before”..

“Does it truly hurt?” she asked again and I saw now that she was not asking after my physical self, but after my deeper self…and it was at that moment we touched…not physically, you understand, Stephan..nor of the heart or soul as they say…but another place, another part..a part of ourselves that has no name…but beauty…an un-named beauty that is so pure between a man and a woman..and I then realised she had known of my want for her from a long time ago..and so I looked straight into her eyes and replied..

“Yes, Alessandra….it does hurt….it always hurts..”

“Yes, I know”..she said in a whisper “ It hurts for me too”.

“You have to be more careful of yourself, Saavo..” she softly spoke “You must take care…” and I as suddenly awoke from my trance and became aware of the noise and people around me.

Well with Alessandra’s assistance and some others I was helped to my feet, dusted down and I went to go on my way…I turned one last time to look to Alessandra and her eyes said it all..

“Take care of yourself, Saavo..” she said.. and I nodded my head toward her in silence and with abashed eyes, I turned away.

“So you see, Stephan.. unbeknown to myself, and all this while I have been…”manufacturing” my little fantasy of an affair at a distance…my own liaison amoureuse a’ distance.. Alessandra has been playing this same game with me…Why ?….I confess I do not know.. ..But I do know that I will keep up the pretence..and I suspect Alessandra will also..what choice do either of us have, the public will crucify us if we did otherwise…it’s a cruel world, Stephan..a cruel world.. But I will not be gracing your confessional any further, Father O’Brien..I have no more need to ‘confess’ my fantasy”.

“Are you sure, Saavo that you can hold to such secrecy?”

“I have to, Stephan…I have’s now part of the contract we have made between ourselves..we cannot..dare not reveal ourselves…but yes..I..for my part will hold true..I WILL hold true to Alessandra”…

“Goodbye Stephan…and good luck to both of us.”

“Well…goodbye Saavo…and best of luck…and Saavo…on your way out, perhaps, for me, take Brian Hurley to a pew, humour him and please..say a prayer for this old man”.

That song by Blondie.

Loquat/Japanese Plum Tree.

That song by Blondie : “In The Flesh” (

 …threw me back many years…way before that song was written..back to my apprenticeship years as a young blade on the building site. In the smoko room of a multi-story building site…

Back in those days..mid-sixties or so, we had a loquat tree in our yard at home and this year it was most proficient with fruit, so I used to take a small bag of them with me to work to eat at smoko and lunch…but in those days, I, and anyone I knew , used to not peel the fruit, but just eat them skin and all..till one day on the site, at smoko..this Slavic chap at the table watched me eat the whole fruit and then addressed me so;

(I won’t try to do his accent)

“Why, my young friend, do you eat the loquat, skin and all?”

“I don’t know”..I shrugged” I just else would you eat it?”…He put his apple down into his lunch-box and said..

“Here..give me one..I see you have many..that big fat one there..they are the best to show you…” I gave it to him “ Yes..very juicy”..

He wiped the surface with his rough hand and then held it up in front of us both as in display.

‘This fruit is not just a lump of food..(pause)..this is a sensuous delight..not just to chomp down on like the glutton you are , my young friend!”..and he lay it clutched in one palm and proceeded to peel it with his other hand…a strip at a time ..all the while giving me..and those other bemused older men at the table, a running commentary…I have to admit I felt a tad blushing in those innocent days..

His eyes concentrated and his voice softened..

“This fruit is like a have to be very gentle..for she will bruise so if you handle her like this fruit? must never be rough with that you must gently peel away the outer layers of “garment” (he paused in his action to give me a querying stare) you understand?” (several other men stifled a guffaw) and when you have it down to the flesh…you gently , with both the flesh wide so you can see the seeds..which you ease out with the index-finger..The young not only to be used for rough I see you throw around those ‘Acrow props’…you must be more gentle in your work”..and he looked at me sternly.

He performed the whole procedure with all the care and sensuality of a lover..”And there”..he displayed the bare fruit in his open hand..and after a suitable pause for me to absorb the result, he raised the dripping delight to his lips and voluptuously pressed them down on the flesh so the juice oozed over his lips, which he dabbled with his napkin…His eyes rolled back in his head….he then spoke in a almost voiceless whisper..

“And then…my so young and innocent friend..when you bring your lips to touch on that forbidden flesh , you can feel both the fruit and your mouth yield to a higher pleasure than you will ever experience in your otherwise worthless existence …” There was a long pause while he held his pointed to the ceiling hand for a moment of appreciation..

“Pitchken dim..” he sighed.

There was a sudden outburst of laughter in the smoko room from the other men and I felt more than a little uncomfortable.

But the other end of my life, I can reflect back on the incident with a somewhat sentimental smile at the Slav’s performance….and I recollect a poem (I have it somewhere around here) of Penelope (of Ulysses myth) saying goodbye to her secret lover as it was rumoured Ulysses was returning to the island. Her lover, a rugged but handsome young fisherman who travelled with the seasonal schools of fish for his livelihood.

She met him as he brought his catch to the house for purchase, his strong young body stripped to his fisher’s apron and his muscles a glimmer with the virile strength of his years. Aphrodite indeed did on this occasion bless his form with an inviting allure so that Penelope shivered with desire. Penelope would sneak out at night disguised as her faithful servant Eurycleia, to make love to Tomas (for that was his name) on warm sheep-skin rugs in the prow of his ketch, while Eurycleia would sit at the loom disguised as Penelope weaving the shroud…But then all fine things must end, and now there was a whisper that her husband was returning, and the lowly-born Tomas was in no position to claim affection for Penelope.

The young fishermen who was then moored at the wharf in Ithaca,  asked Penelope for a token to take with him when he sailed that day as a keep sake, a talisman.. and (if I clumsily recall.from memory ) she spoke from her balcony to him below..:

“There sir, by your hand..a white Athens rose,

Throw it to me that I may grant your desire.”

Tomas plucked the flower and did as she sought.

Penelope pressed the stem to her bared breast,

So a thorn pricked her milk-white flesh.

A noiseless cry shaped her red lips and,

A drop of her blood rose upon the place,

As she pressed the white blossom upon it,

So a single petal held her blood token there.

She cast her loving eyes to Tomas,

And returned the flower which he cupped

In his hand ..then raising it to his lips,

He plucked out that single petal upon his tongue,

And took it into his body as a sign

Of his endearing affection for Penelope..

“Addio..( he softly whispered)…addio my sweet lady..”

I have that whole poem around here somewhere..I’ll have to search it out one of these days..