A story that will be published in a forthcoming magazine.
Beggars lay like splinters from the wooden door, the one that led into a church, discarded but still acting as some kind of physical barrier to entering. Yet, I entered and took a pew. Priests spoke in tongues of Spanish and Madrid, and I felt a spark of excitement. Tapping on my shoulder, Mel Gibson smiled and guided me back to 1950s Italy.
He looked younger but crazy. Lethal Weapon crazy, not roadside indiscretion crazy, and as the Australian squealed and slapped his own face, we were both free. Free to be lost in the Latin mass, in the glorious mystery, bowing like a domesticated wolf at the desired command, and he was in a temporal plane made wider by an absence of slurs and sugar tits.
Around us, a whirl of Vespas and coffee swirled. I was annoyed that my own imagination seemed to be a bastardized Lonely Planet. I would have suggested getting a gelato, but Mel didn’t seem the type to walking around a European capital, a cone in his hand, and all the time in the world to kill.
A priest waved his incense wand, and poor Mel started dissipating into a cloud of smoke. ‘Wish me luck’, he said.
‘You won’t need it’, said I.
The fingers of smoke became a fist, knocking the life out of the conversation.
By now, the first reading of some letter from Paul to the Corinthians was being read. My eyes scanned the roof of the church, searching for the most Holy, while my feet tapped with impatience, sending Morse code to Satan. My shoulders were unburdened by devils or angels, but my torso was caught between a well-meaning mind and bored feet, itching and arching toward some sort of escape.
A retreat from the Basilica de San Isidro. A surrender acknowledging the confession – I had tried to become a better person too fast, too soon.
Checking the face of my watch, San Isidro’s statue stared down implacably, his face unmoved and uncaring. ‘It’s not my fault’, I whispered. ‘I haven’t heard the bells yet; they always mean it’s nearly over’.
I felt a tap on my other shoulder. Saint Patrick was sitting down next to me, his feet resting on the wooden part where you normally rest your hands to pray.
‘What?’ he asked. ‘I’m a saint, I can do whatever want. This is my house, too’.
‘You should go San Isidro’s crib, it’s lovely’, I said, to his disapproval.
He took me to upstairs and in the place with room for a choir, he showed me a slideshow of his best moments. He sounded like Don Draper trying to flog Kodak’s Carousel camera. I listened in the same way I listened to the priest.
‘Well’, I argued, ‘he helped farmers and you killed snakes. There’s your icebreaker. You’ve got more in common than you think’.
‘The church is no place for blue helmets’, Patrick replied cryptically.
An Irish Goodbye
The sound of bells.
Paddy did his Irish goodbye and left without a word.
And so I marched up, feeling a surge of collective understanding in the throng going up and down. The man in the dog collar fed me some bread and wine, and the dullness in my head was lifted. Hair of the dog – that brief sip took the edge off the comedown from the previous day’s drunken murder of an evening.
With fresh courage, I summoned up my best indifference and walked back out that door.
Thanks for reading!