“Tide. Toothpaste. Oatmeal.”
As his world slowly crumbles around him, Father Peter centers himself the only way he knows how: by reciting this creed of everyday things from his life.
A story about a life utterly upended by an unfounded accusation, Bridget Brewer’s “Credo” has echoes of “The Crucible” in the way it grapples with the devastating consequences of juvenile deception and vengeance without reason.
The story shifts back and forth between Father Peter and a group of seventh grade boys at a Catholic school who unthinkingly precipitate his downfall. This structure of changing points of view and tenses allows us different angles of the same situations; so what the boys see as insignificant in one scene, we find actually hold great significance to Father Peter in another.
Father Peter is a wonder of a character, going from totally destroyed (we find out “he can no longer see a cathedral in a red pepper when he slices the waxy, hollow body”) to ultimately finding escape and redemption by working in a paradisiacal garden, a change in profession and surroundings that ushers forth a new creed for him.
The story also conveys well the imperfect understanding children have of everlasting friendship: ”You mean forever, you spit and swap blood to ensure it, you do terrible things and wonderful things that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, but most times ‘friendship forever’ really does only mean until the end of seventh grade.” The ephemeral nature of their friendship of course serves as stark contrast to Father Peter’s lifelong sentence.
“Credo” shows us the power of consequences, and asks “How do you account for a child’s mistakes when they affect in the most devastating of ways the life of another?”
Read and enjoy the fall 2011 Carve story “Credo,” which placed 2nd in the 2011 Raymond Carver Contest.