Beans are good for a sore heart

by James

Father Mulrooney was off again, unwed single mothers getting with child, the very affront of it, these young gels who could not keep their legs together. It was society to blame, these Cardassians with their vacuous faces and their overly large rear ends. Hoo-ers, the lot of them, and it was down to women like these that up had grown the cult of the cleet-oris and “finding the jay spot”.

The old man paused for breath, or for effect, his beady eyes scanning the church, sorting the sparse congregation into two groups of nodders and blank starerers. His chin was damp and glistening, the gold thread woven into his robes of office twinkling as the bunched muscles of his back and shoulders writhed in his passion.

Father Almost-But-Not-Quite-And-Maybe-Never Duncan tried to breathe and tried to tell himself that the pain rising in his body surely was not a hitherto undiagnosed inoperable cancer. Brain tumour, perhaps? Experts did say that your stomach was your second brain. He played back some of the old man’s sermon in his head. Translating some of the man’s heavily Irished words helped a little to distract him: whores, clitoris, and G-spot. In some ways, you had to admire the man. Bigoted as he was, he didn’t hold back.

Another knife of pain sliced through Father Duncan’s insides. Death was all that awaited him, nothing but. Well, at least it would answer that thorny question that had been pricking at him since leaving the seminary.

Did he still have faith?

He was an almost priest, cut down in his prime during an old man’s rant against the evils of society that was based on twenty-year-old tabloid newspaper headlines. The man could be preaching against the dangers of fake news or intolerance. He could be preaching a message of hope and reconciliation, throwing his passion behind the black lives matter protests or asking for compassion for those poor souls attempting to cross the channel in small boats. But no, it was thirteen-year-old girls bringing shame to themselves and their families and their Church.

And Father Duncan said nothing. He hugged his seat like a shy teacup lurking in the back of the cupboard, gritting his teeth as another rumble of pain began to rise. Was God annoyed that he was railing against the party line? Or was he annoyed that Father Duncan was mute as the old priest preached fire and thumped the lectern and called on God for a sign to bring fear to his disgraceful unbelievers?

Father Duncan became aware of the tiniest of rumbles breaking the dead silence of the Church. The blood red tips of Father Mulrooney’s ears twitched. Father Duncan was now aware that the intense fist of God that had been squeezing his heart had shifted its attention downwards. The image of a huge plate with three pieces of toast all covered in baked beans flashed into his mind.

Very delicately, Father Duncan leaned a little to his left to allow his right buttock to rise a little from the pew. Just a tiny, tiny release, that’s all it would take.

Moments later, the still of the Church was shattered as the whole congregation received a direct raspberry from God on the contents of Father Mulrooney’s sermon.