The alarm on Father Pleasant’s nightstand unbearably howls every morning at six A.M. His role as Priest for the small town of Midwich comes with responsibilities and no one wants to hear that he was up to late at the bar drinking, playing darts, and talking smack with the boys, they especially don’t want to hear it daily. Being Catholic provided him with the luxuries of drinking intractable amounts of alcoholic libations, that is 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 slams his hand down on the clock muzzling the alarm’s unbearable howl. He lays on his back for a few moments staring at the ceiling, the practically exposed springs in his mattress sticking him in the back. With a rub of his eyes, he rolls over and sits up perching on the edge of his bed. He prepares himself and stands up to the sound of multiple cracks and creaks in his body.
Father Pleasant is not that old, but he feels it. His is all of forty-five but feels a hundred times that. This is the second time he has occupied a body on this fair earth. One would have thought that he would have gotten a tune-up, but apparently they shoved him in the same old shitty one he had before.
He stands up and walks into the bathroom to wash his face. Shirtless and haggard he reviews his form in the mirror. His body is like he likes to keep it. In perfect form. The muscles of an athlete fifteen years his junior. It is covered in dark, deep tattoos of runes and designs. For all the muscle, he knows that it is just a facade to cover the broken bones and shattered soul contained within. It is an armor he wears out of fear, an armor that would offer him little defense if he were to 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 slaps on his back-in-the-day punk mix and throws on his favorite threadbare old T-shirt and begins his exercises. Three days a week he hits the gym, today is just maintenance with calisthenics and stretching. Today he’s not feeling it, as the song says, “blah blah blah – I’m tired of all this shit”, but what else is there to do?
He showers and puts on his clergy shirt and pants. Finishing with his Roman collar he takes another review of himself in the mirror. His face did not match his body. Father Pleasant is an unassuming man and he likes it that way. He never had a face that would draw in the ladies, but it wouldn’t chase them away either. He looks like everybody’s dad, like a teacher or a dean. He looks like a priest.
He walks out into the receiving area of the Midwich Cathloc Curch and pulls a piece of paper and his phone from his pocket.
He types in the numbers from the paper and waits for the rings. The line is answered and he hears, “Buddy speaking”, on the other end.
“Good morning, Buddy. This is Father Pleasant.” He says 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 responds 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 drawls.
At the front of the church’s receiving area, Father Pleasant sees 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 says.
“Mighty kind, I’ll see you then.” Father Pleasant hangs up the font as the shadow stands in the doorway.
He gets up and opens the door. Standing there is Mrs. Shrewsbury holding a pie and fumbling with her keys. Her wild, slightly predementia eyes staring at him, and through him to the church behind at the same time.
“Good morning, Father Pleasant,” she says to him.
“Good morning, Mrs. Shrewsbury,” he responds.
She reaches out handing him the pie, “I thought I would bring you breakfast, Father.”
Taking the pie he says, “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 asks, “I heard you talking in here.” She walks past him into the church.
“No, Mrs. Shrewsbury I was on the phone, and that’s beside the point,” he says, then pauses and continues, “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 says with excitement, nervously wrapping up her hands.
“Breakfast of champions,” he responds.
“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 cuts her off, “I know the story, so terrible. How he went missing 20 years ago and…”
Mrs. Shrewsbury cuts him off, “Yes, my poor grandson, did you know he went missing almost 20 years ago now? It was so terrible, he…”
Father Pleasant slips the pie into one hand and checks 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 starts ushering her towards the still-open door.
“He was only 40 when he went missing,” she continues, “it was 20 years ago when we were…”
He finally gets 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 starts to close the door as she grabs his wrist strongly, her fingers wrapped around like gnarled iron twigs. “Eat the pie, you will love it.” Her eyes stare blankly into his.
He wriggles his hand away awkwardly continuing to thank her and closes the door.
Father Pleasant walks away toward the kitchen, he turns back and sees her shadow still standing in the doorway. He watches it for a moment trying to figure out if she needs help or if he does. The shadow then walks off down the steps with clog like claps of her heavy-soled shoes.
He continues on into the kitchen and sets down the pie. He turns on the small TV in the dining nook. Returning to the pie he cuts himself an ample slice, in doing so he sees chocolate mixed in with dirt and possibly bugs and leaves.
“Christ,” he says, throwing it in the trash and grabbing a protein bar. “I think we both need help.”