One Reason I Don’t Believe in Hell
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One Reason I Don’t Believe in Hell

“. . . one God, father & almighty, maker of heaven & earth, of all that is seen & unseen.”

Nicene Creed

Answering phones at the parole office     means slouching at a chicken-wire reception window, pulling files from cabinets to read out of boredom — Manila folders stuffed with court documents,       testimonies, grainy mug shots, puzzling together stories like Marburger’s —   a child rapist arrested down the road in Monument Park,   who twice a week sits nervous & cross-legged in wire-rim glasses, glancing up the hallway, down at his watch,       tapping his feet until Vickie shows up,         takes him back to the office to talk.

He’d called it a ringing in the ears, the need —       told them he couldn’t help it. & when his number came down, he’d even asked not to be released.

There’s a scene from a movie whose title I can’t recall: a foot soldier, a grunt, points a rifle at a cowering villager. He’s nervous, shaking,       sweat seeping through his stubble, dripping into his eyes. The villager — an old man, frail — sobs in terror,         practically crumpled against a wall. Beside the soldier stands a commander — hard jaw, calm eyes.      “Shoot him in the knee, private,” he says. The soldier is panting so hard you could call it a whimper. He doesn’t pull the trigger; doesn’t lower the gun either.     “You heard me, son, do it.” & the old man wails before the report even sounds.

& I think of Marburger — squirming in a gray office chair,      as though trying to shake out of his own skin; [End Page 25] of the police report — the arresting officer        who’d been walking through the park when the boy — nine years old — ran from a cluster of bushes, “practically leapt into my arms” he’d said. & I no longer wonder how God         can allow such evil into this world — but rather if Marburger can still hear it in that chair, God’s voice in his head, a ringing in the ears:     “You heard me, son, do it.” [End Page 26]

Chuck Carlise

Chuck Carlise was born in Canton, Ohio, on the first Flag Day of the Jimmy Carter era. His chapbook, A Broken Escalator Still Isn’t the Stairs, is forthcoming from Concrete Wolf (2011 contest winner), and his poems and essays have appeared in Southern Review, Pleiades, DIAGRAM, Quarterly West, Beloit Poetry Journal, Hayden’s Ferry, and others. He is currently a fourth-year PhD candidate at the University of Houston and is a former nonfiction editor of Gulf Coast.

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