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Amen's Boy: A Fictionalized Autobiography

Amen's Boy: A Fictionalized Autobiography

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Amen's Boy: A Fictionalized Autobiography

237 Seiten
2 Stunden
Jan 15, 2013


Ripped from today's headlines, and based on the scandalously true story, Amen's Boy tells the tale of a young man who decides to become a Catholic priest. But before he can graduate from the seminary, he must preserve his youthful innocence from the physical, mental, and sexual abuse of...a sadistic father, a violent brother, a molesting classmate, and a secret cabal of priests hiding within the very framework of Mother Church herself. In the end, Jacob Campbell can only maintain his core self through what may be an actual epiphany, including visitations by angels and heavenly hosts--or possibly drug-induced self-delusions conjured up by exposure to hallucinogens and prescription pills. A riveting, terrifying, moving, and ultimately redeeming visit to seminary hell--and back again!
Jan 15, 2013

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Copyright © 2012 by Jacob Campbell and William Maltese

Published by Wildside Press LLC


To Benny


To the memory of Jean Genet, whose Mettray Reformatory — in his novel THE MIRACLE OF THE ROSE — provides literary echoes that astute readers will recognize as reverberating within our Mettray Seminary, found here.



Deep, forest nighttime quiet covered us all eventually in a blanket of forgetfulness, but the early evening of this second pre-seminary camping trip had become a nightmare for me. I feared that I would be harmed by the other seminarians, and Father Terry’s drunkenness made him seem strange to me—monstrous, uncaring, insensitive—unlike he usually was in his car when we were together alone, or at the rectory when I went for private confession.

I noticed the effect that the whiskey and cigarettes was having on me after only a few drinks, and after two cigarettes I felt dizzy and nauseated. I had only had whiskey before on our last camping trip, and my parents would have killed me if they knew about me smoking and drinking at eleven years old.

I began smoking a year before we formed the group of altar boys who would go to the seminary. I found a carton of Kent cigarettes lying on the ground one day when I was riding my bicycle in the park on the bike trails. That carton lasted Paul and me a year almost. We didn’t like smoking too much, and usually shared just one cigarette, and we didn’t do that every day. Since everyone we knew smoked, in real life and in the movies, we wanted to learn how, but we had some sick days when we tried too hard to smoke like adults.

Now, at the camp, Father Terry secretly gave us bourbon to mix with our cokes.

Paul wasn’t allowed to come with us. Paul was my best buddy and friend, and although he was planning to attend Mettray Seminary in the fall, I think his mother did not want him to be in such a rustic place as Blueberry Hill, and at Brucie’s daddy’s open-air style camp. It was a huge building with a corrugated tin roof, no ceiling beneath the rafters made of massive foot square hewn beams twenty feet long—four of them rising from each corner of the building and meeting in a peak. Wooden lats where nailed to the beams and then covered with corrugated tin. A foot square central column held the peak of the roof up about twenty feet at the top.

In a way, it was so spacious it seemed like we were really outdoors. From the rafters were just some wires hanging down on which hung ceiling fans, each with a single light bulb. The sleeping porches had additional big poultry fans that could blow a cyclonic mist to cool sleepers in the heat of the Southern summers, and a ceiling fan hung above each cubicle that made up the four bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen. Every sound in the whole building was amplified by the roof structure. The side porch was on all four sides of the building and was set out with a total of twelve camp beds. The camp could sleep twelve kids on the porch and eight adults inside, but when we came, Rebel, Brucie, Vellas, and I were going to sleep on the veranda cooled by the ceiling fans, but things turned sour.

Rebel was drunk on whiskey, and he and Brucie and Vellas were playing poker with Father Terry, and since I didn’t play cards, I watched and sat behind Father’s back watching him play his hand. I sipped my bourbon and coke, but wanted to go to bed. I felt drugged sleep coming on. The others were not sleepy, however, and they were rowdy and had begun cussing saying damn and shit and Rebel even saying, Fuck it. I wondered why Father didn’t say anything to correct them.

It was hot. Rebel and Vellas both were in their underwear. Brucie only had on an oversized T-shirt and his swimming trunks that he seemed to never take off. Father was in his T- shirt, barefooted, and wearing his black pants. I alone was still fully dressed. All together they made a tableau that looked like gangsters from the thirties. Cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, palming cards and holding them cautiously away from each other’s sight. Tensions grew.

I knew Vellas was cheating, because I’d seen him put a card under the flesh of his right leg. I didn’t know what card he hid there but I figured it was a high card.

Suddenly, the game collapsed in one big noisy sound of misery and disgust as Father Terry took the pot and beat them all at once. Rebel got up in his white briefs and stood on the chair shouting at Father that he was cheating, and Vellas laughed and showed his hidden card. This had the oddest effect, really surprising me, because Brucie got angry then, and since he was the biggest, he came after me to get the whiskey. It was pure chance that I was holding the bottle.

Come here you skinny beanpole! he shouted at me. Come over between my bed and Rebel’s bed and lay on the floor, you hold that damn bottle so we can have it anytime we want during the night. I want to reach out and you hand that bottle to me.

I didn’t believe my ears. Then Rebel shouted too, Yeah, get on the floor between our beds you faggot! Kneel down and hold that bottle for me when I’m ready for a drink!

The hideous laughter sent me into panic and alarm. I’d been so conditioned to expect total devastation when my older brother began shouting and hitting on me, I just imagined that they were going to harm me, make me sleep on the floor between their beds, and thump ashes on me and who knows what all when they got really drunk.

I saw Father’s Chevrolet keys on the table by the door, and I was the only one wearing shoes, so I didn’t hesitate to grab the keys to the car, run out the front door in a flash, jump three steps at a time, make it through the sand thistles and stickers much faster than Rebel or Brucie could pursue me barefooted.

I was in the car. They reached for the door handles I slapped down the locks, and cut them off, stopping their charge against me. It was like I had a tank.

I moved over to the steering wheel. I only came up to the center of it, but I could push the horn with no trouble, and began trumpeting a sound into the early night audible all through the Blueberry Hill woods and bayou camping area. Father Terry came with his shoes just partially on, and began banging on the window like a child, himself, and pleading in loud whispers for me to hush up, and to stop honking the horn before I caused the police to come.

I kept on honking. I challenged him to send everybody into the camp building, and while they all went back inside I stayed safely locked in the car. I stopped screaming and stopped honking the horn, but kept my hands on the horn and steering wheel just in case. I was serious and holding out for some drastic protection. In many ways, I was an adult when it came to abuse, and I was determined not to lose out in this challenge. I knew not to give in too fast to bullies.

Come out, Tadpole, Father was saying, but he looked drunk, and not his usual self. You’re okay, what’s wrong?

I told him through a tiny crack in the vent window about the threats to make me a slave to their drinking all night, and Father Terry told me they were just joking. I knew they were not joking. I held out, and I didn’t unlock the door. Finally, Father promised to make the boys all go get in their bunks and have lights out, then he’d come escort me into the house, and I would get to sleep inside in one of the bedrooms, not out on the screened in porch, away from the drunken teens.

I thought of it as a victory and a win over the duller boys. I was even more secure when Father told me I could share the double bed he was sleeping in with him. I put on my pajamas, knelt to say my prayers, and crawled into the big bed, piled with cotton sheets and an abundance of pillows. Father was in the bathroom brushing his teeth, and I heard him peeing with the door open, and then he turned out the bathroom light, walked out on the porch and told the guys to stay put until morning, and to pee off the porch if they had to go during the night, not to make a ruckus using the indoor toilet.

I was surprised to find Father smelled of tobacco, tobacco mixed with the smell of toothpaste, and the day’s remnant of cheap aftershave still on. The night surrounded us and a tumultuous roar of tree frogs began, and crickets by the thousands, night birds calling strange calls, and then thunder in the distance, slowly coming. I woke up with the sound of the heavy rain on the tin roof above us making a roar. I lay still. Thunder followed bright flashes of lightening that were so frequent that it was like a strobe light, and the sound of the rain was like pebbles being dropped onto the tin roof. I lay still, peeked over to see Father Terry’s face looking at me, but his eyes were closed. I did not move.

The storm lightened and got heavy again, and I must have drifted off to sleep, but when I halfway woke up, I felt Father next to me. In his sleep he was lying against me. I was facing him, on my right side, and his tummy was against mine. It was too warm for bed covers, and we were under a single white sheet. I felt safer next to him, but for some reason I knew not to move. I didn’t know what to do. I felt his body warmth and then he pressed closer to me. It was a mixture of sensations. The bristly beard on his chin was against my forehead, and felt rough. His arm was lying on top of me, heavy and hairy. I felt pressure below my navel from him. Somehow, I knew not to move away. I would have disturbed him if I pulled out from under his arm. I felt paralyzed, unable to move, and he lay like this next to me all night.

I slept some, but he woke me now and then with pressure on me, and it was getting sweaty between us. I didn’t know for sure how, but he was poking me firmly in my underwear. He pressed against me and then let up, and then after a while of wiggling around some, repositioning and talking in his sleep saying, Sally, oh Sally. I would feel him pulling me into his arms firmly. He called out this girl’s name every now and then. I froze in place. It seemed I should not move. I did not move. Hours passed. Small rearrangements continued by him, but we did not speak to each other. I thought he was faking being asleep. However, I didn’t know what to do except I knew not to disturb anyone during the night at the camp. Secrecy seemed key. It seemed like a secret closeness. At one point I woke from sleep and felt a warm wetness released on me. It was the first time I ever felt a man fully intimate against me like that. He slept afterwards, snoring.

This was not how it began. There was this time when we were alone together, in the Chevy and on the road at night on Saturday nights going to the mission, and coming home to Assisi Parish from the Blueberry Hill Bayou Chapel where Father celebrated Saturday night Mass. The fishermen could hear Mass on Saturday nights and thereby be free to go out in the wee early hours of Sunday to fish. I was selected his altar boy. I lived across the street from Assisi Church front door. I always got called to special services, like funerals, and weddings. Being called upon frequently when things popped up at the church exposed me to all manner of church activities: funerals, weddings, Masses, the Way of the Cross, Adoration of the Holy Eucharist all of which required advanced server skills, and since practice makes perfect for Latin and the ins and outs of liturgy they called on me a lot because I knew all the routines. Being one of the knowledgeable altar boys made all the rituals into easy routines and I was proud of my skills as an altar server.

I liked the safety of father Terry’s Chevrolet. I lived in hell at home, and Father Terry knew, and he tried to help me.

My brother, Bubba, was violent towards me. I didn’t know why he hated me so much, but he told me he would rather have a snake for a brother than me. He beat me. He hung me from trees upside down with a rope tied around just one ankle. He whipped my back and legs with his bullwhip. He took me to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and put me on rides that made me puke. He kicked me in my ribs and tackled me hard throwing me onto the ground hurting me. He pushed me out of the boat when we were fishing, and drove so fast I lay on the back floor of the car while my parents yelled at him to slow down. He wouldn’t.

I heard him call me a lot of names and some of them I didn’t know what they meant, but I got it figured out he hated me because I was a sissy and a mama’s boy. He was very jealous of my mother’s love for me. I was an embarrassment to him.

I didn’t mind the time in bed with Father at camp, and I didn’t mind not getting a whole night’s sleep because he was protecting me, and I felt in need of protection all the time. My dream in life was to live where I could be safe and free from harm, free from the constant criticism, free of fear from my family day and night. I dreamed of being a child in the forest living alone in a tree house. I had a playmate come to me in my dreams, always naked, a boy about a foot tall, but each night in dreams he comforted me and we played camping and army games in the forest, but only in my dreams. My wish to be safe and to have a brother-like friend was unfulfilled at this point in my life. I was beaten more than once a week. Always it had been this way. Always.

When this camping trip ended, on the next day, I sat next to Father Terry in the car. He pulled me next to him and put his arm over my shoulder and let me lean against him for the ride home. The other guys cut up and joked around, making farting sounds, and being bad in a subdued way. No one mentioned that Father held me next to him. On the car radio somewhat quietly Fats Domino was singing about finding his thrill on Blueberry Hill. All the guys were laughing and making like Tarzan’s monkey (Cheetah faces), faking kisses at each other. It was kind of funny.

Coming home at other times from the Saturday night Masses at Blueberry Hill alone together, Father Terry and I were always both in a good mood. Father always left a few tablespoons of wine in the cruet for me to sip after Mass, and then we put on the radio to dreamy music and I would lean under his arm and watch the green lights of the 1956 Chevy dashboard. The bright light indicator came on and off as cars passed in the night, and I felt safe. Once we got to town, and once he dropped me off at my driveway I became terrified. I lived in terror all the time.

Some Saturday nights Daddy was up reading the newspaper and smoking his pipe, the television was on, especially if there was a baseball game or boxing match. Sometimes he just sat in the chair facing the front door. When I entered the house, he would say something about me being late, or my shoes being scuffed on the toes from kneeling on the wooden floor of the chapel, or he would criticize my shirt tail not tucked in. He never said hello, or that he was glad to see me, but he checked to see if I was hungry, and after a quick supper, he hurried me off to bed so we could be ready for the ride to the convent in the morning before dawn.



Years of preparation came before my entry into Mettray Seminary. Serving at Mass as an altar boy was one of my favorite things. I went to Mass daily. The convent at Assisi hospital was a special opportunity for me.

Freezing in winter, often storming in summer, the predawn Sunday rides to the hospital convent chapel to serve Mass as the nun’s privileged altar boy, allowed Dad and me time alone together. I’d been picked to serve the cloistered nuns—they who never saw the everyday world needed a special boy who was not worldly. There were times when I loved my father, even through all the many years of illness and sorrow to come. I always forgave him everything and anything and always wanted him to approve of me. I loved him when he held me close. In winter, with one arm, he pulled me next to him as he drove these early morning drives to the convent. The inside of the black and white 1957 Mercury was freezing. Again, I loved the times when he knelt in the convent pews behind the nun’s choir and bowed his head, fingering his rosary and praying. These two images are central to a positive image of my father: holding me as a child away from the chill; and the reverent man praying humbly before his God on the cross. Those boyhood memories have helped me for a lifetime.

Memories break in on my consciousness as if a dream brightly, and brilliantly,

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