Last week, as I stopped by a stall near the highway in Trinidad to buy a “roast” corn, I thought of an old joke. There was a bridegroom who came to bed on his wedding night and was surprised to see a large padlocked chest at the foot of the bed. “What’s that for?” he asked his wife. She did not tell him, saying that its contents were a secret that she could not share with him. Since he was already in his 30s and had learnt some discretion, he reluctantly honoured her privacy and soon, distracted, he did not want to know.
He never raised the subject again for 50 years although the key for the chest was on a chain that his wife never took off from round her neck. Finally, on their golden anniversary of marriage, he approached his wife and begged her to tell him what was inside the chest. Gazing into his pleading eyes, she smiled and agreed to show him what was inside the chest. She took the key, opened the chest, and inside were two ears of corn and $50,000. “Corn?” expostulated the surprised old man. “What on earth is that for?” “Well,” his wife confessed, “every time I cheated on you I put an ear of corn in the chest.” The man looked from his wife to the chest. He was extremely surprised to learn that she had been unfaithful, but he had to admit that only twice in 50 years was not too bad. He smiled indulgently. “I am hurt,” he admitted, “but I can live with it. What about the $50,000 though? Where did that come from?” She replied truthfully, “Every time I had a bushel of corn, I sold it.”
Interestingly, while they say that confession is good for the soul, and that the truth will set you free, few people actually confess until they run out of other options. Some are assisted in their confessions. The police, from time immemorial, have relied heavily on what is called the “third degree” to extract confessions from persons suspected of crimes. Others, without the external force, hold back until the bitter end. Even the blessed St Peter, who now guards the Pearly Gates, thrice denied his leader. The evangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, one-time US presidential hopeful Ted Kennedy, former US president Bill Clinton, and many others first take the path of least resistance and confess only when they have no choice or when the end is near.
A bedridden young man said to his business partner, “Jimmy, I cannot die without telling you the truth about what a rotten person I have been to you. I embezzled over a million dollars from our company, and made even more by selling our trade secrets to our competitors. Just to be spiteful, I even fired the receptionist because I knew she was in love with you.” Jimmy was compassionate. He said softly, “That’s all right my friend. I’m the one who poisoned you.”
There was the newly-widowed woman, Josephine, whose husband had drowned. She inherited $10 million. “Imagine,” said her friend, “your husband couldn’t read or write, yet he left you so much money.” Josephine smiled and confessed, “He couldn’t swim either.”
The beneficial psychological effects of relieving the burdens of guilt have been recognised by the Catholic Church and institutionalised in the sacrament of confession. The newly ordained priest, Fr O’Reilly, asked the more experienced Fr McMartin to sit in and critique his handling of his first day of hearing confessions. “Not bad,” said Fr McMartin. “However, there is one thing. In the future I think you should make an effort to say ‘I understand’ instead of ‘Oh, wow!’”
A married woman was having an affair. Whenever her lover visited she put her nine-year-old son in the closet.
One day the woman heard a car in the driveway and put her lover in the closet as well. “It’s dark in here, isn’t it?” asked the little boy. The man replied, “Yes, it is.” “You want to buy a roast corn?” the boy enquired. When the man said he did not the boy insisted, “I think you want to buy a roast corn.” The man eventually shelled out the $25 the boy demanded. The following week the man ended up in the closet again when the woman heard a noise at the door. “It’s dark in here, isn’t it?” the boy started off. The man agreed. The boy asked, “Do you want to buy a roast corn?” The man initially demurred but finally had to pay the increased price of $50 that the boy demanded.
A few days later, the boy’s father found the money and asked him where he got the money from. When the boy admitted to selling two roast corns for $75, the father was angry. “That is thievery,” he thundered. “Go to the church now and confess your sin. Ask for forgiveness.” As the little boy went into the confessional, drew the curtain and sat down, he said, “It’s dark in here isn’t it?” The voice from the other side warned, “Now don’t start that nonsense in here, okay?”
• Tony Deyal was last seen wondering what his wife would reply to the question, “What would you do if you caught another woman in bed with your husband?” He never expected her to say, “I’d break her cane, shoot her Seeing Eye dog, and get a taxi to take her back to the asylum she escaped from.”