The alarm on Father Pleasant’s nightstand unbearably howled every morning at six A.M. His role as Priest for the small town of Midwich came with responsibilities and no one in the congregation was dying to hear that he was up to late at the bar drinking, playing darts, and talking smack with the boys, they especially didn’t want to hear it daily. Being Catholic provided him with the luxuries of drinking intractable amounts of alcoholic libations, that was as long as he also did Mass, ran bingo, took communion, etc. He loved being the church’s Father, it is what got him up in the morning and motivated him to go on after all the trammel he had endured. He also liked to drink, it was the only thing that could get him to sleep at night.
He slammed his hand down on the clock muzzling the unbearable howl. He laid on his back for a few moments and stared at the ceiling, the practically exposed springs in his mattress sticking him in the back. With a rub of his eyes, he rolled over and sat up and perched on the edge of his bed. He prepared himself, prepared for the uncomfortable rearranging of joints that came with his years. He stood up to the sound of multiple cracks and creaks in his body.
Father Pleasant was not that old, but he felt it. He was all of forty-five but felt a hundred times that. This was the second time he had occupied a body on this fair earth. One would have thought that he would have gotten a tune-up, a brand new body, but apparently, they shoved him in the same old shitty one he had before.
He stood up and walked into the bathroom to wash his face. Shirtless and haggard he reviewed his form in the mirror. His body was like he liked to keep it, in perfect form, the muscles of an athlete fifteen years his junior. It was covered in dark, deep tattoos of runes and designs. For all the muscle, he knew that it was just a facade to cover the broken bones and shattered soul contained within. It was an armor he wore out of fear, an armor that would offer him little defense if he were to ever re-confront the trials of his past. Still, it is God’s temple and if he was going to abuse it all night, the least he could do was treat it well during the day. He slapped on his back-in-the-day punk mix and threw on his favorite threadbare old T-shirt and began his exercises. Three days a week he hit the gym, today was just maintenance with calisthenics and stretching, but today he wasn’t feeling it, as the song says, “blah blah blah – I’m tired of all this shit”, but what else is there to do? “When lost,” he always told himself, “lean on the good habits.”
He showered and put on his clergy shirt and pants. Finishing with his Roman collar he took another review of himself in the mirror. His face didn’t match his body. Father Pleasant was an unassuming man and he liked it that way. He never had a face that would draw in the ladies, but it wouldn’t chase them away either. He looked like everybody’s dad, like a teacher or a dean. He looks like a priest.
He walked out into the receiving area of the Midwich Cathloc Curch and pulled a piece of paper and his phone from his pocket.
He typed in the numbers from the paper and waited for the rings. The line is answered and he heard, “Buddy speaking”, on the other end.
“Mornin’, Buddy. This is Father Pleasant.” He said with a hidden moan and a rub of his clammy post drink forehead.
“Father, I’m happy you called. Afterin’ my run-in with them other two I was thinking no one was gonna help me out, ‘specially given your drinkin’ last night.” Buddy says.
“Don’t let the booze fool ya’, Buddy, I always remember and I always follow through with what I say I’m gonna do, no matter how crazy the farmer is that I promised to do it for. Welcome to the flock, I guess.” Father Pleasant responded, his own words stabbing through the filter of his sharp headache.
“Well, I sure do appreciate it, Father. I won’t doubt you again. You come out here and have a look and you can count on me to fill a seat and put a buck in the hat,” Buddy drawled.
At the front of the church’s receiving area, Father Pleasant saw a shadow pass in front of the glass. “I think I have company, Buddy. I have your address on the paper from last night still. What time should I show up?
“Few hours before nightfall I reckon, how about eight? I’ll put the dogs up and feed ya,” Buddy said.
“Mighty kind, I’ll see you then.” Father Pleasant hung up the phone as the shadow stood in the doorway.
He got up and opened the door. Standing there was Mrs. Shrewsbury holding a pie and fumbling with her keys. Her wild, slightly predementia eyes stared at him, and through him to the church behind at the same time.
“Good morning, Father Pleasant,” she said to him.
“Good morning, Mrs. Shrewsbury,” he responded.
She reached out handing him the pie, “I thought I would bring you breakfast, Father.”
Taking the pie Father Pleasant said, “Mrs. Shrewsbury, you left the church unlocked last night and I gave you those keys to help with church business, not to just let yourself in in the mornings.”
“Did you have company?” She asked, “I heard you talking in here.” She walked past him into the church.
“No, Mrs. Shrewsbury I was on the phone, and that’s beside the point,” he said, then paused and continued, “Nevermind. Thank you for the pie, an odd choice for breakfast, but who am I to turn down such a gift?”
“It’s chocolate!” She said with excitement as she nervously wrapped up her hands.
“Breakfast of champions,” he responded, with a nod of the head.
“You know, ever since my grandson left I have no one to cook for,” She starts to tell him… yet again.
“Oh yes, so terrible,” Father Pleasant cut her off, “I know the story, so terrible. How he went missing 20 years ago and…”
Mrs. Shrewsbury then cut him off in kind, “Yes, my poor grandson, did you know he went missing almost 20 years ago now? It was so terrible, he…”
Father Pleasant slipped the pie into one hand and checked his watch, “On Mrs. Shrewsbury, I’m so sorry to cut you off, as much as I’d love to hear all about it, I’m late for a very important church appointment,” He started ushering her towards the still-open door.
“He was only 40 when he went missing,” she continued, “it was 20 years ago when we were…”
He finally got her out the door. “I’ll see you in Mass, Mrs. Shrewsbury. You can tell me all about it on Sunday. Thank you so much for the pie. I really appreciate it”
He started to close the door as she grabbed his wrist strongly, her fingers wrapped around like gnarled iron twigs. “Eat the pie, you will love it.” Her eyes stared blankly into his.
He wriggled his hand away awkwardly, continuing to thank her, as he slowly, and politely as possible, closed the door.
Father Pleasant walked away toward the kitchen, he turned back and sees her shadow still standing in the doorway. He watches it for a moment trying to figure out if she needed help or if he does. The shadow then walked off down the steps with clog-like claps of her heavy-soled shoes.
He continued on into the kitchen and set down the pie. He turned on the small TV in the dining nook. Returning to the pie, he cut himself an ample slice, in doing so he saw chocolate mixed in with dirt and possibly bugs and leaves.
“Christ,” he said, throwing it in the trash and grabbing a protein bar. “I think we both need help.”
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