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Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned

I’m on the road to hell!

By Brendan DonaghyPublished about a month ago Updated 3 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2024
The Church Behind the Wall (author's image)

So, here’s me sitting on the 7b bus heading into town. I shouldn’t be on the bus. I don’t want to be on the bus. I should be on a bike, legs pumping like pistons. The freedom of the open road. Direction where the tyres press, as the poet said.

Ah, no! Not your poetry stuff again! You know that bores us rigid, right?

The Docking Station

When I left the house, I intended to hop onto one of Belfast’s public bikes. There’s a docking station on the main road at the top of our street. The bike gets me into town quicker than the bus. I also get to enjoy some healthy exercise.

Sat amongst the traffic, breathing in carbon monoxide fumes? Healthy my arse!

At the docking station, I fish out my phone. The handy app means I only need to scan a QR code to unlock a bike and start my journey.

The handy app invites me to log in. This doesn’t usually happen. It wants my username and six-digit PIN. This isn’t handy at all.

The username is my phone number. The PIN? Round up the usual six-digit suspects. It could be my birthday, her birthday, or the son’s. Might be our wedding day. It might even be our landline number.

You’re still using a landline? What are you, ninety?

I could try these usual suspects, but I’ll only get three attempts before I’m locked out.

There’s a helpline number. They can release a bike remotely.

The Road

I ring the helpline, but I can’t hear a word the fella’s saying.

The docking station sits on one of the busiest roads in Belfast. Freight lorries and motorbikes whizz past, not three feet away. Buses thunder by.

What are you on about? The buses are electric. They’re silent, ya spoofer!

The Docking Station (author's image)

To hear Mr. Helpline, I have to nip behind a wall into the grounds of the nearby Catholic church. I stand in the church car park with the phone pressed against one ear and a finger jammed into the other. Even here, I have to shout to be heard.

“Okay”, says Mr. Helpline. “What’s the number of the docking station you’re standing beside?”

“Hold on,” I say.

I dash out of the church grounds to squint at the docking station before turning around and running back.


“Perfect. And which bike would you like me to release?”

“Hold on again.”

Another dash. I see four bikes. One has a flat tyre. Two others have their saddles set so high you’d need legs the length of pylons to ride them. I note the number of the fourth bike and shuffle back into the church.


“I’m unlocking it now. Has it been released?”

“Just a sec.”

Not so much of a dash this time. I haven’t done shuttle sprints since 1992 and I’m struggling. We need a traffic bypass!

You’re the one who needs a bypass, fella. The state of you after a bit of gentle exercise!

I try and lift the bike off the rack. It doesn’t budge. Back to the church.

“It hasn’t unlocked.”

“That’s unusual,” he says, more to himself than me.

The Priest

I notice a man walking from the church towards me. He’s wearing a clerical collar. As he approaches, I acknowledge him with a smile and some clever use of my eyebrows.

“Is everything alright?” he asks. “Only I heard shouting. And then I saw you running around clutching your head. Are you hurt?”

“No, Father, I was…” Mr.Helpline starts talking to me again.

“Have you paid your annual subscription fee?” he asks.

“It comes off my debit card automatically,” I shout irritably. “I don’t pay it. You take it out.”

“It’s not showing,” says the voice.

The priest waves a hand to get my attention. “We have a funeral this morning and the family will arrive any minute. We can’t have you shouting in the car park when they come in.”

I nod in agreement.

“Check again,” I tell Mr. Helpline in a much quieter voice.

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” he replies.

“CHECK. IT. AGAIN!” I shout into the phone.

“Please keep your voice down!” the priest whispers urgently. He’s looking over my shoulder. There’s a hearse pulling slowly into the car park followed by a line of mourners.

“I’ve checked it twice. The fee hasn’t been paid.”

“It hasn’t been collected, is what you mean, right? RIGHT? Are you people totally incompetent?”

The priest stares at me in disbelief. Mourners look curiously in my direction as they file past. Ghosts of my ancestors appear before me and shake their heads sorrowfully.

“Have you changed your bank details recently?” Mr.Helpline asks.

Somewhere in a dark corner of my brain, a bell tinkles softly. A memory of a debit card lost and cancelled several months ago.

I mumble something abject and end the call.

Inappropriate Waving

“Sorry for the disturbance, Father,” I say. As I’m talking, I realise the fingers of my left hand are waggling a greeting at those mourners still staring at me.

I’m not sure why that’s happening. My brain has issued no instructions about finger-waggling. If my brain had issued instructions about finger-waggling, it would have been to impose a blanket ban on the practice, given the circumstances.

“Stop waving at the recently bereaved and leave the church grounds,” the priest tells me.

I trudge out of the car park and through the gates. I feel like a sinner cast into the wilderness. The road to perdition lies before me.

Fortunately, the 7b runs down that very road every fifteen minutes...


About the Creator

Brendan Donaghy

'Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man - there's your diamond in the rough.' Larry David

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Comments (12)

  • Mark Graham20 days ago

    Living in the States I still find this story very humorous and interesting. Good work.

  • Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Gael MacLean29 days ago

    Nothing I like better than a sinner! :)

  • Akaeid al akib29 days ago

    Wow, what a rollercoaster of a morning commute! From the anticipation of biking through Belfast to the chaotic quest to unlock a public bike, this story had me laughing out loud. Your knack for storytelling is spot on, capturing the absurdity and frustration of everyday mishaps with humor and wit. And the encounter with the priest during a funeral procession—priceless! Thanks for sharing your misadventures; it made my day.

  • Lamar Wiggins29 days ago

    😅 Oh lord... An unfortunate situation told with witty humor. Loved your story!

  • The Dani Writer29 days ago

    No fictional tidbits needed. The stuff that happens in real life on a daily. *Groan* Makes for interesting reading at least and a super top story 😁 Yays!

  • Ben Shepherd29 days ago

    Great read. Very relatable.

  • shanmuga priya30 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉

  • Golam Kibria30 days ago

    Congrats for top

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    This really speaks to old man!

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    So funny! Those fingers and their annoying erratic waggling!

  • Another brilliant funny serving from you. Thank you so much, a great start to my Friday

Brendan DonaghyWritten by Brendan Donaghy

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