Heath Wilcock
Permanent Repentance

I break limbs. I stretch skin. I lock necks in place, with heads looking up to our Lord by snipping, shortening, and then re-stitching the sinews. I crack arms. I melt the tops of hands and attach the putty skin to the backs of wrists, palms flat and weighing the Heavens in an eternal pleading for forgiveness.

I used to be a forger of steel. Then a new king was put into place and his agenda pushed forth a holy purification through repentance positioning. The king sends sinners to me. The king pins a small painting to the sinners’ clothes, illustrating the exact Holy pose he would like the sinner to be molded, permanently. Paintings of sullen men and women, kneeling with hands clasped together, or standing with feet together, hands out, palms open, always palms open.

I have lost all five of my wives to the bog behind my house. They are still alive. They live on the bottom, together. They get along well, my five ex-wives. My five ex-wives will come out of the bog once every year. Four of them will perform a gorgonian chant while my fifth ex-wife pummels me in the mud. I know I shouldn’t, but I look forward to this night.

The sinners that come to me have to follow a procedure before I mold them into a repentance pose.

  1. Sinner must consume bark extract to empty bowels. This ensures that trapped air or stool does not cause a rupture once pressure is applied.
  2. Sinners must lose their voice beforehand by screaming towards the bog. Repentance is not torture and shouldn’t sound like it.
  3. Sinners must relax their muscles, tendons, and bones by lying in a large cheesecloth that is suspended above a pot of constant boiling water.

A drunken fellow was sentenced to become a permanent Bishop replica, hand over heart, other hand pointing up, and head down in reverence. He was seen having it out with The Almighty, claiming it was God’s fault his member could not be taken seriously, and then proceeded to urinate while lying on his back. He didn’t cleanse his bowels as I asked. I bent him sideways and his liver blew out of his torso. A thin-feathered bird picked it up and then immediately became drunk and fell into the bog where it and the liver drowned.

The king resembles a sack of grains. Fat pooling around and melting down his servants that carry him. It takes ten sturdy men to carry the king. The servants stuff their noses with balls of wine-soaked clothe due to the king’s stench, a thick curdled cream that could wallop a stomach. The king gives me meats. He coughs out a small hand and asks one of his servants if he would be so kind as to stuff it back into his mouth. This kingdom will be made pure, he says. The servants’ legs tremble as they hold their king.

A woman with unsanctified sexual tendencies was ordered to become a permanent weeping Mary. Husband claims the woman seduced him with spirits. He woke in the morning with a rutabaga plug in his ass. She didn’t lose her voice as I asked. Her wails turned into moans as I stitched her hands together with twine. I had to put the repentance positioning on hold. I walked outside to rub myself against the smooth wheel of my carriage. The carriage came loose and rolled into the bog.

It is written: the Lord was known to bounce. He walked, but when no one was around, he bounced up and down. One of his disciples caught him bouncing. No one believed him. A trial happened. The disciple was stoned.

The king arrives. He’s down to three servants who are pulling the king on a wagon. The king coughs out hands and asks me to throw them in the bog. Pose me, he says. The servants drop the rope and the wagon wheels down the hill and into the bog. The servants run away. The king doesn’t sink all the way in; his head stays out of the bog. I keep his majesty’s head warm at night by casting out a blanket with a rope attached. The king tells me of the different meals he’s eaten. My five ex-wives suck on the king’s toes. The king feels guilty about this but says there’s nothing he can do, he’s stuck in a constant repentance.

Sinners begin coming on their own. They are not sentenced. We just feel bad, they say. They question what is sinful. One woman says she picked up her daughter and she just knew it was a sin. Why would that be a sin? Because I picked her up, she says. Picking up my daughter from off the ground is a sin. A man was kind to his cow and he feels that that was one step too close to having an affair. More arrive every day, certain they displeased the lord. A child, a boy, no more than thirteen years of age asks to have his calf muscles sewn to the back of his thighs. I haven’t done anything wrong, he says. But when I do, I’ll be kneeling.

Heath Wilcock is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University and currently serves as the Special Projects Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. He lives in Tempe with his wife and 5-year-old daughter.