A figure emerged from under the streetlight. It was Mary Murphy, and she jumped over the wall at the side of the church. She knew exactly where the wheelbarrow was in the dark. The wheels squeaked and whistled as she pushed it into motion.
Sidling around the back of the church she made her way to the big wooden door. With her hands on her hips, she smacked her lips and shook her head as she looked down at the black mass at her feet.
‘Lord save us all’
She fastened the untied shoelace and banged his foot back onto the ground with force.
‘You’re nothin’ but a drunken fecker’
Bending down to grab his armpits she pulled with all her might. Once she had him half-way up she realised she’d forgotten to put the wheelbarrow in place.
‘Jesus Christ, almighty tonight’
She let him drop with a thud. A mixture of rage and pleasure ran through her. She hoped he’d bruise!
At the second attempt, he fell into the wheelbarrow when she let go. He lay on his back with his knees bent upright, and his head hanging off the other side. He groaned. Coming to life for a moment he looked up and smiled broadly at her!
‘Ah Mary, my guardian angel, leave me here for another hour. It’ll be grand’
She bit her tongue for fear of what might come out of her mouth. Pulling both handles up to assess the weight, she took a deep breath and sidled back around the church. She’d throw him onto the sofa she’d moved in there so he could sleep it off.
The wheelbarrow back in its place, she watched the village blink; lights in the houses came on. As the Winter’s morning rose, she strode through the church slowly, basking in its glory, and checking everything was in order for the ceremony. Looking up at one of the stations of the cross, she thought she caught the eye of Jesus. She stopped and turned to the painting. What was he telling her? He was suffering. But he was suffering in the name of God. She raised her head defiantly, glaring at the door behind the altar.
The Show Must Go On!
‘Up and at them Father! Your congregation will be here in thirty minutes to hear the word of the lord’
She walked over to where the long green and white robes hung and rubbed her hands slowly down the course fabric.
‘Would you like a cup of tea, Father?’
He rolled over and groaned.
‘It’s all in the name of our Lord, Father. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea and we’ll get you up and into your robes’
‘Why do I do this, Mary?’
‘I ask myself that all the time Father! Why do you insist on getting yourself into such states on a Saturday night when you have a mass on Sunday. These Saturday weddings are no good for you at all, strutting your stuff down at the Sands Hotel. Free Whisky for the priest, no doubt’
He looked up sheepishly. His face was a grizzly shadow, shattered with fatigue and swollen with the alcohol.
‘No, Mary, I mean this-this-the mass, the ceremony. Why do I do it?’
She turned around instantly and glared at him. Walking towards him quickly, she bent over where he sat on the sofa, clenching her fists but hiding them behind her. Mary’s cheeks flushed and spit escaped in little darts onto her chin as she tried to compose herself.
‘You selfish b-b – Ah Father!!!’
‘Mary, listen now, Mary.’
She stood upright with her hands on her hips, her eyes facing the door with her jaw to one side.
‘Never mind me. It’s the drink talking. What about that nice cup of tea you promised?’
The change in her face was quick, a little too quick for his liking. She walked over to kettle and began her own ceremony.
‘Are you still off the sugar, Father? Or would you take a bit of brown?’