His collar was turned up against the wind because it WAS a dark and stormy night. The gale pushed against his body and tore at his cape pulling at the only clasp till it gave way. Father Roy grabbed at the cover between his now chilled body and the fierce storm. “Why couldn’t the church find its way clear to pay the contractor to add another button or two on these things.” he muttered.
Father Roy had been in his study enjoying his third toddy when Sister Olivia called. She needed to meet with him immediately, it was urgent. The old Priest was a bit put out by the abrupt interruption to his evening “vespers”, but duty called. Seems there’s always a fly entering the ointment whenever plans were made. Maybe the Quran has it right; don’t tempt God by presuming to make plans. Instead of directing our lives as if we were in control, perhaps it is best to live under the Islam command of Insha’Allah…God willing.
The weather being what it was, the old man decided to take a short cut through the alley to the Cathedral. Past the backside of an old ice plant, he knew it well. It was the same alley he used as a child growing up in the small town whenever he was late to Sunday Mass to serve as Alter Boy. The Parrish supported the Devine Trinity Holy Church well and at eighteen, he decided to enter the Priesthood. Eventually serving as Bishop of the Manhattan Diocese, he had done pretty well for a small town Nebraska boy. Now, he had returned, to serve his boyhood home. The old ice plant used to be part of Moore’s Dairy. The alley was as dimly lit this night as it had been in his youth.
Father remembered the uneven paving bricks and remembered, too, the excitement of an unforgettable night long ago. He and the girl working at the soda fountain in the dairy had met on the loading dock behind a stack of milk cans late one evening. He remembered the temptations of youth and the useless resistance of pubescent hormones tracing trough their bodies. Roy chuckled as he recalled the sound of cream cans tumbling off the dock as their passion rose. Knowing that he would soon become a Priest, and live a life of celibacy, he threw caution to the wind…
The old Vicker entered the naïve of the great building, noting that the holy water needed tending, making a mental note of it. At the alter he saw the outline of Sister Olivia, still wearing the old order habit. She had never left the dusty Sandhills town and had served her church faithfully. He knew her well, as their paths had crossed many times over the years, even when he rose to the heights of Bishop. The church community is a small one and harbors no secrets.
As he approached her, she responded, and asked to take confession. Father Roy wondered if this could have waited till the morrow, but thought…no matter, we’re here, now.
He could see that good Nun was dying, and she related a lifetime of sins. Father Roy was only half listening, thinking of his toddy sitting on the table by his reading chair next to the fire. Suddenly, she became silent. The silence only increased the thunder of the words that next came from her lips recalling a night many years ago in the shadows of a loading dock in this very town, when she sinned a great sin. He looked closely through the veiled window of the confessional at the aged Nun’s face framed by the habit. Was this an old man’s mind playing some sort of trick?