"Father," I said, "I've made a mondo decision and I was just looking for some advice that might indicate that I've chosen correctly."
"Ah, yes, your parents tell me you're getting married. Many congratulations, Charles. I hope Christ the King will be conducting the ceremony."
"That's kind of you, but Gillian is Jewish, Father."
"I see. Well . . . that's okay. Our Savior was a Jew, as well, remember. She can always convert, though. No one would have to know about her . . . past. Perhaps talk to her about that. Now, about this dilemma of yours."
I asked if I had his confidence, if he was cloud-bound by the Lord to stay mute about whatever I spilled to him, and when he confirmed, I belched out the Marvin Gluck saga front to back.
When I finished, he felt the blubber above a collar cranked too tight and said, "Sounds like an atheist, this Marvin. Strychnine in society."
Ahh, strychnine in society: so he was a fan of my verbiage after all.
"Father," I said, "he's an atheist through and through. I hear he has a sculpture of Percy Shelley and Bertrand Russell doing a French kiss and ball-sack grab."
"Scandalous. All these atheists everywhere all of a sudden. Writing books — bestsellers! — giving interviews on television, having conferences. Call themselves the New Atheism. Nothing new about devil worship, Charles, believe me. I've been around quite a while."
I nodded emphatically, dunce-like.
"And so you say you'll murder him, Charles?"
"Well, I think so. I mean, that's what I've been telling people. You know, pump up my image as a man's man."
"I see," he said. "Makes a good story, murder. Murder sells."
"Right. Agatha Christie and so forth."
"Charles," he said, "you have my blessing," and he patted my forearm and breathed heavily to his feet. "Society could use one less atheist. Don't get caught."
I stood, too, and we shook hands in the back pew. "Many thanks, Father. I knew you'd understand. What with the Church's history of conspiracy and gore."
"And see about conversion for Gillian," he said, hobbling down the red-rugged center aisle of the church, like Yoda.
ON A FRIDAY afternoon Gillian left work and went to visit her vegan cousin, Sheri, in Vermont for the weekend while I went online and got detailed directions right to Marvin's awful doorstep. Just the day before we had received another menacing package from him; it was a bundle of blackish, withered roses with a greeting tag that read simply, Death. Gillian pretended not to be bothered but I could see that she was shaken right through to her spine. After she left, Groot called me from deep in South America, where he said he was liquidating cocaine growers and setting fire to their crops. He had been thinking about my "mission" and had some further tips for me:
"Wait till he's asleep so there's no struggle. Wear gloves, naturally. A state trooper is bound to have security on his house, so don't break in, don't risk an alarm. Hide behind a tree or something, wait for him to get home, and when he goes to take the garbage out, try to sneak in. Park a mile away, at least, so no one sees your ride at the scene. Wear shoes one size too big, in case you leave a footprint. Remember, pull up on the serrated end of the blade. Enter through the bottom of the windpipe, drag up to the chin, and then over the jugular. That way, if he doesn't die right away at least he can't scream and wake up the neighbors."