Story by Emmjay
The 3:15 to Ashfield was, unusually, right on time and a familiar face ambled into Lintoffs – dry cleaners to the clergy. The face, born on two spindly pins, looked expectantly at Granny who was moonlighting in her lunch break, serving behind the faded laminex counter at the dry cleaners.
“G’day, your grandmaternity”, he said.
“Father O’Way !
What brings you and your bolognese-stained cassock to our doorstep, meddlesome priest?” said Granny.
“I’ve got this dirty habit”, said Sandy O’Way.
“It’s all through your church, padre”, said Granny.
“Not the kiddie fiddling, Gran, THIS habit he said pointing to his investments.
“Would you like fries with that, friar?” she laughed and made a mental note to have the Tempe Council health inspector around to St Generic Brand’s church with the Lysol and carbolic spray.
“I’ve an important trip to make and I need to look sharp”, said Sandy.
“We’re dry cleaners, your wordship”, said Granny “Not miracle workers – that’s your job”.
Sandy O’Way was long on forgiveness and longer on patience. The Bish had said so many times. And he was a long long way from Rome, which is why the Bish had called him.
“Father, they know not what they are doing” said the Bish.
“That’s oblivious, your more impressive ringness” said Sandy. “It’s <i>obvious</i>” said the Bish. “Yes”, said Sandy.
“I’ll get right to the point”, said the Bish. “All right” said Sandy who was on a roll with this ekkerleasiastical conversation type talk”.
“Rome has asked me to instruct you to proceed there forthwith and with all haste. Since His Holiness has decided to take early retirement and go away and think it over for a very long time, the Vats have sought the wisdom of one of the shepherds of the flock of Rome far removed, from this sordid business of improper behaviour while under the influence of other improper behaviour” said the Bish. “Are you with me Sandy ?” “Yes, your middle order clericalness”, Sandy lied.
“In a couple of weeks the Cardinals, including P1..” “Mr Stinkypants ?” interrupted Sandy. “Yes, including P1” continued the Bish… “are going to meet in the Vatican, scrum it up, snort a few lines and seek divine confirmation of a foregone conclusion designed to kiss off the captains of the only semi-true flocks of Asia, Africa and South America. And they’re looking for a scapegoat, sorry I meant to say inspired contribution from the whiter members of the New World, more specifically a malleable type of distractible like you, or more specifically than that, precisely you. Are you with me Father ?”
“Are you saying that I’m going to be Pope Ular the First?” asked Sandy.
“No”, said the Bish “You’re going to reveal to the Vats who should be going to win the draw for the Friday Conclavical Meat Tray. You know how it’s always rigged at the Pig’s Arms ?”, said the Bish. “Yeah, sometime’s it’s not Emmjay’s brother-in-law”, said Sandy. “Well, I’m not saying that you’ll be the rigger for the Pope Draw, Sandy, but ….let’s say ….. good sources close to the trainer are putting money on you to come up with the right answer”.
“I see”, lied Sandy again, totting up a few dozen more Hail Maries. “If I was going to mark the card”, said Sandy….”Yes”, said the Bish …. “Would I be getting any heavenly guidance ?” inquired Sandy”
“I should say so !” said the Bish in a fairly emphatic kind of way that did not go unnoticed (but did go uncomprehended).
“It is written”, said the Bish “In this Email…… that the annointmented Holy Father will be pure of heart, loyal, faithful, cheerful, open, caring, tolerant, wise, humble, intelligent, of good humour and above all untainted by the sins of the flesh. There’s something crossed out here, Father. I think it said ‘safe with kiddies – stet’. Mature, but not of an age where vigorous activity is out of the question, above reproach, able to understand basic English and able to drive a bullet-proof golf cart. Hours flexible, but will have to work weekends. Previous spiritual experience a definite advantage. References required.”
“I bought you a premium economy ticket from Rosie’s Crucial Fiction Travel and Penta Coastal Surfing Adventure Tours and it’s waiting for you at the Pig’s Arms. Get yourself cleaned up and be on QF-666 leaving at 10:45 tonight for Rome.”
“Roger, Bish”, said Sandy. “And Sandy…”Yes Bish ?” “Try not to stuff it up like last time. No former Hitler Youth, no paedo-buriers, no ultra-conservatives, no gay supporters, no wealth redistributors, none of this ‘man-of-the-people” stuff, no radical lefties, no pro-shiela buffoons, none of those contraceptives or HIV talkers, no hardline economists, no climate denialists. We want a Pope that looks busy, is admired by everyone, has no copies of ‘Studs and Glory-holes Monthly’ in his locker, who can fake a bit of nomineae partridge and who excels at being loved while not doing much. He could look like he’s got a few miles on the clock, but not be one of those bloodless, pasty old Euros who looks asleep at the wheel. Clear on all that ?” said the Bish.
“Crystal decanter”, said Sandy.
“So who’ve you got in mind ?” asked Granny. “I’ve got a call to make first”, said Sandy. “Can you free me of my dirty habit in an hour ?” said Sandy. “Certainly” said Granny, unfussed by the image of Sandy standing before her in his sub-cassock Leichhardt Wanderers’ strip, replete with his Pig-tel dayglow crucifix, knobby spindly legs and hoop socks of different hues. “Have a couple of quiet Trotter’s Ales and come back in an hour” said Granny. “I’ll walk you to the pub, I’m coming off my break now”.
Granny and Sandy O’Way ambled across the Pig’s Arms car park, and stepping over Merv’s trusty old, and frighteningly deaf Shar Pei, patting her velvet soft head. She smiled in an amiably innocent and accepting way. And wagged her tail. They assumed the position at the bar and awaited their just rewards. Then Granny remembered that she was doing her cook impression and not her patron cameo role and quietly headed for the kitchen and the mountain of soon-to-be-wedges potatoes.
“Father”, nodded Merv, serving up a glass canoe of the pub’s finest foamy amber delight. “Ah, Moive, my sooon” said Sandy, already practicing his brogue for his Roman escapade. “I’ll be being off to Rome this very evenin”, he attempted.
“What would that be bein’ for, Father” replied Merv, sucked into a sudden Jamison’s moment.
“I’m off to ‘shape’ the Paypal Conclave’s deliberations, moi sooon”, he smiled, leprechaun-like.
“Do you be havin’ any especial preferences, Father ?” asked Moive. “Aye moit”, said Sandy. “I’ll be makin’ a quick call, if you dornt be mindin'”, said Sandy, extending his arm and hand towards Moiv’s phone.
“Hello, is dat de Bishop?” said Sandy. “Knock it off, Sandy”, said the Bish. “Listen”, said Sandy ” I was thinking about what you said earlier”. “Yes”. “About honest, loyal, friendly, lovable, safe with kiddies and that…” “Yes”. “And not a pasty Euro”. “Yes”. “Well, would it be out of the question, if the nominee was a little bit tinted, maybe with a touch of the Asiatic, a little wrinkled, but wise looking as well as loyal, friendly and definitely safe with kiddies ?” said Sandy.
“Is this nominee ….. an Australian ?” asked the Bish.
“Born and bred”, said Sandy. ‘And you’re absolutely sure about all their good qualities, Sandy ?” “Cross my heart and spit my death, Bish” said Sandy. “Then go ahead, the Vatican needs a Pope with those qualities, Sandy ….. and an Australian to boot.”
Father O’Way said his goodbye to the Bish, put down the phone and mumbled something about a photograph to Merv. “Sure, Father” said Merv returning to his familiar accent, turning around and taking a Polaroid down from the corner of the bar mirror. “Safe trip, Sandy”, said Merv. “See you soon. Thanks for the Trotter’s, Merv”.
The hour wasn’t quite up, but Paula Lintoff had already cleaned and pressed Father O’Way’s cassock and handed it to him over the counter. He put the photo on the counter and slipped into his old habit. “Nice photo, Father. That’s Merv’s dog Kali, isn’t it ?”
“It is. She’s a lovely old thing, restores one’s faith”, said Sandy. “Desexed, too.”