The Vicar of St. Dunstan's Ep. 20byNigel Debonnaire©
The Vicar continues to juggle encounters, hoping his parents won't find how exactly how well he knows his Quilting Ladies.
Dinner was at seven, so there was time to relax and freshen up after we got back from the cinema before the other guests arrived. After a quick shower, I worked through some more papers on my desk and got myself organized for the weekend. Incredible aromas wafted up from the kitchen: the Quilting Ladies were working their magic again. The time seemed to fly and the doorbell starting ringing at 7:00. I changed into something more presentable than light summer casual wear and went downstairs to greet my guests in the front room.
George and Rachel Staton were first to arrive, a dignified couple in middle age. He was wearing his dog collar out of habit, sweating a little in the warm weather, mopping his brow occasionally with a white handkerchief in his hand. Rachel was a tall woman with blond hair, clear blue eyes, tanned and fit, wearing a blue dress and black pumps, her face and hair beautifully done: she must have visited the hairdresser earlier that day. Next was Harry Hazelton, a portly man in his sixties with greying hair, who donned a nice blazer that was a size too small for him over a tan shirt and dark trousers. Niall Jones and Francis Watson were next, smartly dressed but looking preoccupied as they took their drinks, and separated to chat with the others rather than maneuvering together as they usually did at social events. Mary Sterns was next, looking like a queen carrying her portfolio and wearing a crisp blue business suit with medium skirt, followed by Derrick and Jenny Sterns with their son Alfred, who was squirming to get in my arms as soon as he saw me.
Last to arrive were Lucinda Parkhurst-Frazelton, escorted by her butler Willikins, and the two nuns from St. George's Convent. Mother Mary Rufus had donned a pair of thick, black rimmed glasses for the evening, and Sister Mary Martha gave me a knowing look as she greeted me. As I introduced them to my parents, my Father gave no indication that he'd met one of them earlier that day, but my Mother did a double take and narrowed her eyes for a moment before relaxing. Lucinda was very lucid that evening, so my worry about her opening an embarrassing topic faded. Willikins was reserved, accepting only soda water since he was on duty.
I handed the baby off to Mother Mary Martha, who made friends with him instantly, and went back to the kitchen to check on things. Mavis shooed me out immediately: "Now, Vicar, everything's going to be fine. Don't be buzzing around here and getting in the way. Me and Agnes will have it on the table in a few, so go back, have another drink, and relax. Did Harry make it?"
"Yes, Mavis, he got here a half hour ago."
She muttered to herself. "Will wonders never cease. And did he dress decent, or does he look like a tramp who staggered in from the Irish bogs?"
"He's wearing his blazer, he's clean shaven, freshly scrubbed, and behaving beautifully." An incredulous toss of her head and she bustled back to the kitchen. Mary Sterns cornered me in the hallway as I returned. "Hey, big boy, where you going?" she said, batting her eyelashes coquettishly. "Just back to the party."
"I'm back in town for a while. We need to get together."
"My folks are in town and taking up almost all my time. I don't know when I'll be free."
She furrowed her brow for a moment, the smiled. "I'll think of something. What are you doing tomorrow?"
"We're going into London in the late morning. Tourist stuff: Trafalgar Square, Tower of London, Parliament, etc."
"Mind if I tag along? Maybe bring along the kids?"
"I don't imagine it'll be a problem. The folks remember your visit a year ago; you'll be welcome companions. They love big excursions: they hauled all six of us around the Midwest in our old Ford station wagon like gypsies. "
"Grand. Be ready for anything." She let me by to rejoin my guests as she went back to the kitchen.
Agnes had placards for the seating arrangement, and broke up the couples to encourage conversation with new people. Betsy and Bea served us dressed as French Maids, their outfits scandalously low cut and high on the thigh. Like their mother and grandmother, they were a little plump, with plenty of curves, medium height, with dark hair and crystal blue eyes. They were made up the same way Agnes was, moderately but to excellent effect, that highlighted the roundness of the their faces and the length of their eyelashes. The men at the table locked eyes on them as soon as they came into view: George Staton gulped his drink, Niall and Francis opened their eyes wide in disbelief, my father smiled broadly, and Harry's chest swelled with pride like the cock of the walk. As Betsy put my appetizer in front of me, caviar with blini, I could see all the way down her right breast to the aureole. My father quipped as he was served: "You have a wonderful parish here, son."
Mavis also looked very proud of her descendants. They were turning eighteen in six months, and their eyes held a special twinkle when they caught mine. My palms started to sweat. My mother was sitting down the table from me and gave me a questioning look, which I responded to sheepishly.
I sat between Mary and Lucinda, who occasionally touched my knee or thigh as the meal progressed. The conversations at table were lively, and drifted to me in snippets.
Rachel Staton and Agnes: "I used to play tennis all the time, got a medal at university." "Still play?" "Oh, it's been ages. Need to get my racket re-strung." "I've needed a partner for months: Jenny's been too busy with the baby to play regularly. I could play every day if I had the chance." "Are you free around mid day?" "Yes, that's the only time in my schedule that isn't taken." "Why don't we try a set next week and see how it goes?"
Harry Hazelton and Francis Watson: "Your granddaughters are growing up fast." "They always do, mate. They take after their mother, but their height comes from my side of the family." "Do they always look so sharp?" "No, only on special occasions. I imagine they had help tonight, but they look a treat, don't they? I'm so proud of them: they could pose for Playboy." "Doubtlessly. If you say so."
My Father and Lucinda Parkhust-Frazelton: "How many head of cattle do you have Mr. . ." "Fletcher, Mrs. Parkhurst-Frazelton, please call me Fletcher." "You Americans are always so informal. Please call me Lucy." "Well, Lucy, I don't know exactly how many we have right now, my son Jonathan takes care of the business these days." "Yes, my children run my business as well, I never now what's going on with them. Do the big cattle drives over the endless prairie take up much of your time?" "No, Mrs. . .Lucy. We truck 'em to market in Hays. After we sell 'em, the buyer transports them for processing." "Do you have many problems with Indian attacks?"
Niall and Agnes: "I don't know if I could. My home is here, my work is here, I couldn't walk away from it." "But you love him don't you?" "Yes. That's the problem." "Then go with him." A sniff. "Don't think he wants me to."
George Staton and Mary: "No, I don't know when Bishop Delacroix is retiring. He's turning more and more over to his staff every month." "Do you think Tommy Hughes will be the next bishop?" "There's a block forming to vote against him, but I can't see them coming up with a majority unless he does something stupid." "I wonder how that can be arranged?"
Mother Mary Martha and Mavis: "So, do you noones ever take off your habits?" "Well, we have to take a shower now and then. We have go to bed at night." "Oooh, I think you girls probably have some fun in the dorms, after the light's out, don't ya now?" "Mrs. Hazelton, Matins comes very early in the morning."
Coincidence left me out of most of the conversations, and I tried to keep myself from piecing together too much from what I overheard. The twins made sure to display themselves to me every time they served and cleared, so I was well distracted by them and the worry that my mother might see me ogling them. My John Thomas was waxing and waning so quickly that my prostate didn't know what to do.
The evening ended without major mishap or embarrassment. Mother Mary Martha was quite charming, monopolizing the baby most of the evening while conversing with Willikins, and Mother Mary Rufus chatted casually with my Dad, who didn't seem to realize that he'd met her earlier in the day. Niall and his partner Francis hardly looked at each other. Rachel Staton and Agnes seemed to focus solely on each other. I caught my mother talking with George Staton frequently, but every time I looked at them, she turned away to look at the baby while George looked like he'd been caught in flagrante.
I saw our guests out eventually, and Agnes sat up with us playing cards until my parents were ready for bed. I turned our usual good night kiss into a chaste embrace since my parents were still watching, however they gave me a knowing look when I left them. That night, I fought the image of my Mother giving my Father fellatio that tried to monopolize my imagination. I knew they had a sex life since I have five older brothers and sisters, but I've always been militantly indifferent to the details.
The next morning we gathered for the excursion to London. The entire Sterns clan was to accompany us: Mary, Agnes, Jenny, Derrick and little Alfred turned out. My Mother was in heaven, fussing over the young people and the baby, my Father let the baby ride in the wheelchair in front of him, much to the child's delight. As we were feeding pigeons in Trafalgar square after the noon meal, a familiar face drifted by: Arthur Farnsworth, the missing Vicar of St. Edmund's, was out with an svelte, older man with grey hair and a thin, dark moustache. They both wore polo shirts, shorts, and sandals, the other man wore dark socks as well.
I accosted him and he reluctantly recognized me. "Alfie, old mate, what brings you to London," he exploded wringing my hand and clapping my shoulder. "Gunther, meet one of my colleagues in the business, Alfred Allen. Alfred, this is Gunther, a friend I met a few days ago."
"Pleased to meet you, Herr Allen," Gunther said, extending his hand. His grip was firm and secure; he followed it by giving me his business card.. "Any friend of Karl's is a friend of mine." His English was excellent. Gunther Kellermann, Altenahr, Deutschland, the card proclaimed, with a phone number and a bottle of wine embossed on the card. "Ah, Karl?"
Arthur was looking around, and finally caught sight of the Sterns family and my parents. A look of desperation crossed his face. " I'm Karl Rove, Karl Arthur Rove, an old mate of Alfie's, sightseeing here with my friend Gunther. Surely he's told you about me."
Mary gave him a glacial look. "Yes, Karl, he's told us a lot about you." The others looked vaguely at him, but didn't respond to him.
My parents were looking back and forth between us; they must have caught the surprised expression on my face at Arthur's unexpected arrival. My Mom started to say something, then thought the better of it; my Dad looked like a six foot rock in eight feet of water.
"You're seeing the sights of London? Excellent. . ." Arthur carried on desperately.
"Karl, a quiet word with you." I took his arm and led him aside, out of range of the others. "What the hell are you up to? Where the hell have you been?"
Arthur peeked up at the others and whispered conspiratorially. "I met Gunther about ten days ago; he's part of a tour over here. Never thought I'd get him away from the Ball and Chain, but I did it. He's amazing, Alfie, amazing."
"But you promised to cover for me when I was out of town, and your own parish doesn't know where you are."
"But George and Pammy are around, so what's the big deal? Opportunities like Gunther don't happen every day. My God, Alfie, if you were gay, you'd know how fantastic this man is, although I'd have to kill you to keep you away from him."
I put a hand on his shoulder. "Spare me the details. Just move along and let me stay ignorant of what's going on. You've already spooked my parents, and the Sterns family. Get lost as soon as possible and talk to me when you're finished with this little melodrama."
Gunther was chatting with my parents about his winery in Germany, when Arthur returned to the group. "Gunther, my friend, we must be going if we're going to make the curtain."
Gunther looked confused. "Curtain?"
"You know, the Curtain. The matinee? The performance this afternoon?"
"Ach, ja." Gunther said, realizing whatever Arthur was referring to. "We have tickets to a--special event," he said with a wink. "It has been nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Mary said.
Arthur took Gunther's arm and hustled him down the pavement. They disappeared quickly as we stared after them. My Mother had a puzzled look on her face: "Who was that son? Doesn't he know your last name?"
"Later, Mom. Just forget you saw him for now and let's get on with the day. This is only a soap opera that you're better off not knowing about."
Mary nodded her head. "Vicar Alfred's right, Wilma. Ignorance is bliss." "Well, sometimes ya gotta grab some bliss," my Dad interjected. Everyone laughed and the spell was broken.
Just then, Mary's cell phone buzzed. "Hello. Yes, this is Mary Sterns. What? Where? The Baptist Church on Thornbridge Road? All right, I'm on my way. What? Call the Vicar? No, he's with me, we're down in London. All right, bye." She rang off, and turned to the rest of us. "There's a problem at the Thornbridge Soup Kitchen. The Vicar and I are on the Board, and there's an emergency meeting. Don't think it will take long, but we'll have to go back. Why don't you meet us at the Crow's Nest for Tea and we'll spend the evening there? Will that be all right, Wilma?"
My mother looked at me, then back at her. "I don't see any problem with that, Mary, I'm sure the kids can take us around London. When should we look for you?"
"Oh, I'd say we'll be at the Crow's Nest when you get there. Probably around Half Eight."
Derrick piped up. "Don't worry, Vicar, we'll take care of your parents well. See you at the Pub at 7:30."
Mary hailed a cab and gave an address for a Baptist church near St. Dunstan's. We settled back and I looked at her with doubting eyes. "All right, what do you have in mind?"
She batted her eyes and said: "I don't know what you're talking about." Her tone became serious. "Hazel Milton called and said there was a break in at the Soup Kitchen. The police are there, but they need a solicitor, your truly, and another trustee, you, to vouch for the state of the inventory and to witness to Hazel's innocence."
"Why can't their pastor, the eminent John Charles, do those things?"
"Because he's in the country with his family. They have a substitute tomorrow, and they're such a small congregation they don't have a full time staff. Remember?"
"Oh, yes, now I remember. How long is this likely to take?"
"Not long, after we assist the police with their inquiries. We may be able to take care of a couple other things before we rendezvous with our kindred." She shot me a bawdy wink and a broad smile
After a few moments, I mused: "One might this that this is a set up for us to get some time alone."
"One might, however this is for real," she replied regally. "It is serendipitous: Mavis was going to ring me with a phantom crisis in half an hour to get us away if this hadn't come up. Oh, that reminds me, I have to call her off."
The Thornbridge Soup Kitchen was originally an ecumenical endeavor of all the Christian churches in our area, and in the past few years the local Orthodox Synagogue and Sunni Mosque joined us in the ministry. It was adjacent to the Thornbridge Baptist Church in the poorest part of town: a low, squat brick building next to a simple church with a modest steeple. A window in the kitchen had been broken out, and a few supplies were missing, but the safe was untouched. Hazel Milton was the pastor of the Free Church down the block: she opened up that morning, discovered the damage and rung for the police. A group from the local Mosque were serving that day, and they worked around the crime scene as several customers needed a hot meal.
Mary assisted Hazel with the report to the constable, and I countersigned some documents attesting to what was missing, since I'd helped take inventory the day before. We cleaned everything up and I blocked the missing pane until Percy and Stan could fix it the next day. Mary offered to lockup so Hazel could go home and get ready for her service the next day; when Hazel left Mary turned to me with a gleam in her eye. "Now, let's get to a little overdue business."
"All right, Mary. Where? I don't think they have a quilting room here."
The storeroom was tiny and half full of staples: cans, boxes and crates. The kitchen offered no surface that satisfied Mary, nor did the dining room, the tables were somewhat rickety and could only hold the weight of the dishes. A concrete floor was unappealing.
Mary led me through a connecting hallway that ended in a small, plain door. She took out a key and we were in the vestibule of the church. It was rather severe, with posters for different events, a table for bulletins and a picture of Christ knocking at the door. She ushered me into the small worship space: it was dimly lit by stained glass windows framed by floor length curtains. A deep rug covered the floor and the eight rows of pews were heavily padded. There was a small balcony above us, and behind the huge pulpit that dominated the platform was a small altar. "I've always wanted to have sex in a church," she said.
"Oh yes. When I was a gal, we had a very dishy pastor, and I used to imagine that I was crouching naked in the pulpit to distract him as he preached. Don't know how I would have fought my way through his vestments, but that didn't matter. Kept me amused through many boring sermons." "Would you like to have a go at that now? I've always wondered what it would be like to have someone in the pulpit doing that while I preached."
Mary stripped down to her birthday suit in nothing flat. At the age of 63, a grandmother several times over and a great-grandmother, her body was still smooth and curvaceous. The colors from the stained glass windows set her red hair on fire: in her vanity, she dyed her public hair as well as the hair of her head for my benefit. Going to the pulpit, she knelt down and turned her back, totally hidden from the pews.
I took a deep breath and ascended to the rostrum. Peeking down, I saw her eyes glowing with lust as I organized myself to preach to an empty church. "Brothers and Sisters," I began with my best revival preacher impression, "hear the word of the Lord. He hath said unto us: 'be fruitful and multiply.' What teaching can we take from this divine word, from the One who told us to 'Love One Another'?" Mary unzipped my fly and was pulling out my swelling protuberance. "Should we sit alone in our small rooms and turn our backs on the great gift of procreation he hath given us? Or rather should we seek to share that divine impulse, going out to share it with as many as those lonely lost souls as we can, bringing divine love to them in a very special and personal way?"
Mary's tongue was doing its regular magic, swirling around my corona and teasing the slit, while her right hand wanked me and her left reached down to stimulate herself. "It is Satan, the Prince of Darkness, that tries to deceive us, to make us believe that sex is dirty, forbidden, unworthy of pious souls. It is the Father of Lies that would have us believe that we have to hide our true affections behind a wall of SHAME!" I pounded the pulpit. "This is abominable! This is unjust! This is a denial of the true gift of holy joy! Amen?"