Jerry A.G. Ericsson 8/23/00

Dinner With Father


Jerry A.G. Ericsson

Father will dine with Thomas Ardell tonight, Thomas died yesterday, and we received the call last night. Mother called the whole family together for prayers of protection, and prayers of forgiveness, as is the tradition in our village. I will accompany father, not to dine with them, just to watch, for, as the eldest son, I will take fathers position when he passes on. I do not look forward to this, as it has always been my desire to become a carpenter like Uncle Jacob. Tradition is tradition though, and I know that I must take over the family business.

We were met at the front door by the wife of Thomas Ardell, and without a word, we all knelt on the front door of their home, and prayed. The prayers lasted over an hour, and when they were at last over, we entered the house of Thomas Ardell.
Thomas Ardell had been a wicked man, his family prepared an especially grand meal for father. I noticed this as we entered their dinning room. Quietly, I moved to the dark corner of the room, and took a seat on the three legged stool that sat there, probably left by a misbehaved child of the Ardell family. Mrs. Ardell came into the room and joined father in a prayer of protection, they prayed for over an hour, until father ended the prayer with a loud "AMEN".
"It is time!" Father said, as he moved to the table which had been adorned with a black cloth. There on the table lay the suited body of Thomas Ardell. His ashen face still showed the evil

scrawl he had shown in life. Father opened his valise, and withdrew the black silk table cloth which he used to cover Thomas from his feet to just below the chin. Another prayer for forgiveness and protection followed. I kept note of these prayers for someday I too would be the dinner guest in a situation such as this.
The prayer ended, Mrs. Ardell came into the room with the first course, kneffla soup, it smelled delicious, but I was to have not a drop. Father began eating the soup with a gusto I have never seen at home. The soup was followed by a second helping of the same, as Thomas Ardell was a

very wicked man. As father finished the second helping I heard him groan in pain. Then came the breads, so many different types, that I fear I shall never know all the types, they were piled slice upon slice upon a large platter, each spread with a thick layer of home churned butter, as is the tradition in our village. The platter was placed upon the black cloth about in the center of Thomas's chest.
Before taking the bread, father said another prayer for forgiveness, and slowly whipped his brow with the black kerchief he had in the top pocket of his suit. I could see that this ceremony was not as easy as father had always said. It was work, despite the flavorful meal. As father began eating the bread he began to cry. With each slice, I could see the pain in fathers face grow. This shocked me, as I could see father was crying not in sorrow, but in pain, the pain of taking on sins, and there were so many sins to take on, as Thomas Ardell was a very wicked man.
The bread finished, Mrs. Ardell brought in a large plate of roast beef, smothered with onions, with a delicious smell of garlic and thyme, this made my mouth water, but I knew I was to have none, as it was all prepared for father, as is the tradition of our village. Father began eating the roast, and I heard him groan, as he swallowed the meat. About midway through the plate of beef, Mrs. Ardell brought in the potatoes, and placed a rather healthy portion on a second plate on Thomas's chest. It had to be large, as Thomas was an evil man, who had sinned greatly. Father stopped the feast, and again knelt and began to pray for forgiveness, as is the tradition of the eater of sins. I took great note of this, as I am the eldest son of the eater of sins.
The prayer finished, father again resumed eating the beef, and the potatoes which were covered

by a delicious milk gravy. Again my mouth began to water, but I knew that this feast was not for me.
When father finished the meat and potatoes, a large cake was brought in and placed on the black cloth covering the body of Thomas Ardell. The soiled dishes were promptly removed, and a thick whipped cream was brought in to cover the cake. Father took another break, and knelt beside the table, and again prayed for forgiveness, and strength, all the while the tears of pain ran down his face. I wanted so to join him in prayer, but as is the tradition of the eaters of sin, he prayed alone for both the forgiveness of his greatest sin, and protection of the evil that surrounded the body of Thomas Ardell, for Thomas Ardell was an evil man.
The prayers finished, father, now much more relaxed, as his task was nearly done, began to consume the large chocolate cake smothered with heavy whipped cream.
The meal now finished, Mrs. Ardell came again into the dinning room, and gave father three gold coins, as is the tradition of the village, and without a word, we left the home, and were on our way back home. I knew not to speak to father until we were home, within the safety of our fortified home. Such speaking could bring disaster upon both of us, as the evil that was Thomas Ardell was with us. Once home, Mother called us all into the living room, and we all knelt down in a circle, and then prayed for forgiveness and protection of father, and of the family.
Dinner with father was indeed an education, and I thanked God that I would never have to again accompany him on one of his missions, this had been my one and only time to see the work of the eater of sins. That night, father told me the whole truth of his honored position. This caused

me great concern, as being the eldest son of the eater of sins, I was to follow in his foot steps, as he had followed his fathers, and his fathers fathers, back seven generations.
"As the eater of sins feasts the food of the dead from the chest of the dead, he takes upon his own soul, all the sins of the dead man before him. This allows the soul of the dead to enter heaven despite the sins of his life. So you see son, I have the sins of many upon my soul, and the only way for me to enter heaven, is for my eldest son to take upon his soul all the sins I and my father, and my fathers father back seven generations have taken upon ours. This, son will be your hardest meal, and any that follow will be simple snacks in comparison despite the evil of the dead."
I was shocked, I had known that father was a holy man in the village, but never knew the horrors of his job.
The following day, I worked in the fields of our farm the whole day, as father, who was not feeling well, rested from his holy tasks. When I arrived at home, before I could enter the house, I was met by Mother. She said not a word, but took my hand and together we knelt on the front step and began to pray.