Volume III (Summer 2008)
ISSN 1934-4324

T.R. Healy

T.R. Healy was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His stories have appeared in such publications as the Beloit Fiction Journal, Foliate Oak, and the Red Cedar Review.



"She asked for it, my wife did," the apologist began, "but I'm still sorry I went home with this woman I met the other night in some bar. If my wife would show me the kind of attention she used to, this would never have happened. I'm sure of it." It was signed, "Your loving husband, Bill W."

Dalrymple, leaning back from the computer screen, ground his knuckles into his eye sockets then scrolled down to another confession.

"I stole another book from the library. I know I shouldn't do this but the librarians at the checkout desk always look at me as if I'd done something wrong. I hate it when people look at me that way. I'll bring the book back, though. I know I will."

Dalrymple read a couple more, convinced they were as genuine as most of the others he had looked at tonight. He was surprised. Frequently the confessions he received were sheer invention, the writers finding some peculiar thrill in concocting wild claims about dropping acid in a reservoir or setting a warehouse on fire. The more outrageous they were the less seriously he regarded them, even if they might be the gospel truth. What he was interested in were the mundane cruelties that people inflicted on one another each and every day.

Scattered across his desk were the notes he had made while attending the Robert Bresson retrospective at the Biograph Theater over the weekend. Usually he reviewed current releases on his website but, as a longtime admirer of the French filmmaker, he felt obliged to articulate his views on his work. Yet he could not seem to get started because he kept going back to the confessions, which were much more interesting than anything he had to write. Nearly five months ago he began writing film criticisms on his own site, "The Lowdown Truth," hoping he might attract enough advertisers to make some money, but scarcely anyone was interested except a couple of neighborhood theaters. Then at the suggestion of a friend, he offered what he called the "Apology Corner," inviting people who felt so inclined to get their transgressions off their chests and apologize to whomever they had wronged. He first announced the offer on his website but attracted only a few responses then he placed an ad in the newspaper and ever since he had been inundated with apologies. And he even began to earn a little money, to his surprise.


"I've gone to confession all my adult life," one person wrote to the corner, "and apologized until I'm blue in the face and it's never done me much good because I continue to do the same stupid things time after time. So, my question is, why would saying I'm sorry on your website be any different than saying it to a priest?"

Dalrymple was tempted to answer the person, admitting it probably wouldn't be any different unless you really meant what you were apologizing for rather than simply fulfilling some weekly requirement so you could receive communion on Sunday. But he didn't. He never responded to any of the people who submitted apologies even though some of them implored him to comment on their confessions. He was not their confessor despite what some of them believed. He was just someone providing a platform so they could express their regret for some misdeed they had committed.


"Saying you're sorry is the hardest thing a person can do ... harder than teaching dinosaurs to dance."


"My grandmother always used the expression 'six kinds of sorry' when she was upset, which I never quite understood, because you're either sorry or you're not. So there is only one kind, as far as I'm concerned."


"I don't believe in apologies. Look at all the famous people who get into trouble and then release some cloying apology when you know the only thing they're sorry about is that they got caught. Most people do what they do because they want to---if they didn't, they wouldn't have done it."


"I am convinced the worst thing you can do is betray someone, even someone you barely know," the penitent declared. "I know because I've done it---more than once I regret to admit. But the worst time was when I was in college and this girl who lived in my apartment house asked if she could borrow my car to pick up a friend at the train station. Irene was the sort of person who never spoke to you unless she wanted something from you. I was really surprised when she asked me because until then she had barely acknowledged my presence whenever we passed in the hallway. At most, sometimes, she might nod or raise an eyebrow. I didn't care for her. Not only because she hardly noticed me but because she was one of those blessed people who always got what she wanted---looks, smarts, grades, clothes, boyfriends---whenever she wanted them."

Dalrymple, sipping steaming cinnamon-flavored tea, smiled as he read the confession, easily able to identify with someone who felt snubbed by others.

"Anyway, I said yes, and I don't know why. I guess I was so surprised I didn't know what else to say since my car was just sitting there in the parking lot. With scarcely more than a smile she took the keys and left. However, the more I thought about it the angrier I became, cursing myself for letting someone who thought she was so much better than me borrow my car. So, after a few minutes, I called the police and reported my car had been stolen. That was wrong, I knew it was when I did it, but I wanted her to have to suffer for once, to feel what it was like not to have your way all the time. And suffer she did for a couple of hours, the cops hauling her down to the stationhouse where she was photographed and fingerprinted and locked in a holding cell until her father bailed her out.

"Eventually I claimed there'd been a misunderstanding, and all charges were dropped. But she never forgave me, and she was right not to, but for a long time I still felt a certain satisfaction about what I put her through. Not now, though, now I regret it very much. It was a wicked thing to do. Just wished I didn't let my damn jealousy get the better of me."

Dalrymple read a few more apologies then found himself returning to the one signed "Irene's former friend," whom he assumed was a woman. What she did was clearly wrong but what made it even worse was that she did it to someone she knew.


The next evening, after dinner, Dalrymple read the searing apology once again, unable to put it out of his mind. He knew why, too, because he had done something similar a long time ago, something he tried not to think about, but now after reading what this woman wrote he could not think of anything else.

Sliding his mug of tea aside, he sat up and clicked the "Compose" button.

"My first serious job after I got out of the Air Force was at a beverage distribution company on the waterfront where I was hired to drive a delivery truck. The route I was assigned wound through some of the most dangerous parts of the city, and I was encouraged to take along a baseball bat to keep people from stealing bottle cartons off the truck. Barney, one of the first drivers I got to know there, was the person who suggested I get a bat, something I hadn't owned since I was a kid, and he gave me other useful advice that helped me get through the route every day with my nerves intact. Often we got together after work for a beer and occasionally he invited me over to his house on the weekend for dinner. It was during one of these visits that he invited me to smoke hashish with him. I declined, which seemed to surprise him, but he didn't press me and put the hashish away and never mentioned another word about it.

"There was zero tolerance for the possession or use of illegal intoxicants at the distribution company and all employees were compelled to report anyone they suspected of violating this policy. Barney always appeared completely under control at work so I doubted if he smoked when he was out on his route. But I didn't know that for a fact so I decided I better report him, convincing myself that if he ever got involved in a traffic accident and seriously injured someone I could not forgive myself. The next day, at the end of his shift, he was ordered to submit a urine sample, which he did, and the result was positive and he was terminated at once. When he told me what'd happened, I tried to console him but I never revealed I was the one who reported him. After that, I saw him a few times at the tavern the drivers frequented but then he disappeared out of my life.

"I drove for the company two and a half years, even took over Barney's route after he was fired. I continued to believe what I did was right but deep in my heart I knew it wasn't. What I should've done was speak with Barney in private about his smoking and urge him to quit on his own or to seek professional help if necessary. But, instead, I went behind his back, just so I could drive a route where I wasn't so afraid I had to carry a baseball bat for protection. For what it's worth, Barney, I'm sorry. Terribly, terribly sorry."

Dalrymple looked over what he had written then signed his complete name and sent the apology to his own website. He doubted if his old friend would ever see the apology, doubted if anyone who knew him would, but at least he had admitted something he had always tried to deny.