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Monday, July 23, 2012

        Chuckling over the mental image of Mrs. Peppers tearing off in search of a red-breasted sap sucker, Fr. Kevin dried his hands on a towel, and wandered back into the living room, vowing to keep things polite with his hostess.  He silently groaned, knowing that his promise would be hard to keep, as he watched Tessa say good bye to the remaining group of committee members, leaving him as the solitary guest.

        Determined not to let the old woman drag him into another heated argument, he jumped at conversation before she could open her mouth, following the old adage about catching more flies with honey.  "Thank you so very much, Mrs. Peppers, for inviting me to this committee meeting.  I can tell that the parish picnic will be a huge success...the best one ever... under your capable hands."

          Tessa narrowed her eyes, and looked at him shrewdly, "Your most welcome, Father O'Kenney.  It's just knowing how to motivate people, is all.  Can I send you home with some treats?" she asked, changing the subject, and waving her hand over the still full table.  Without waiting for Kevin to answer, she grabbed a plate and began to heap on an assortment of the cakes and cookies.  Wrapping the entire bundle with foil, she handed it back to him, "There you go.  Enough to keep you satisfied for a few days."  She took him by the arm and lead him to the front door, seemingly anxious to give him the 'heave ho'.  "Enjoy the goodies, Father.  I'll let you know the final totals on the cost of the picnic."

       "Thank you again for everything, Mrs. Peppers.  You've been most kind."

       "No problem at all, Fr. O'Kenney.  Friends take care of friends."  And without another word, she quietly closed the front door in his face.

        For a moment, Fr. Kevin stood stunned, not believing that he had escaped her attentions so easily.  If this was a gift from heaven, who was he to complain?  Treats under arm, he rambled down the stairs and headed toward the rectory.  He was only about a block away, when he noticed Tessa Pepper's huge, black Buick pull out of her driveway, and race down the street in the opposite direction.
She obviously had somewhere else to be, he thought, but if it had played a role in his being able to leave so easily, he was grateful to whatever had pulled her away.

         The walk back to Holy Family was a short one, and not wanting to be locked inside on such a pleasant day, Kevin sat himself down on the stone bench in front of the grotto for some quiet time of prayer and reflection.  The last two weeks had been strange ones indeed.  Marco's murder...the deliberate fire and death at Su Casa...his ongoing feud with Tessa Peppers...Cassie McKreedy's bold faced lies...and of course the unbelievable appearance of 'Brian'.  A crazy, horrible, mixed up series of events.  He had this nagging feeling that all the answers were right there in front of him, but he couldn't fathom how he to make sense of it all.

         The sound of scrapping in the bushes startled him, and for just a second, he half expected Brian to come waltzing out from among the greenery, carrying his missing shoes and the proof coin.  Instead, it was just Patches, Irwin Teller's free roaming dog.  Normally, Patches would run to Kevin, jumping up and slobbering all over his clothes, he'd wait patiently for a belly rub or an ear scratch.  But today, the little dog kept his distance, staring at the priest with serious, brown eyes

        "Here, Patches.  Come here, boy."  Kevin coaxed, patting the bench next to him.

          The pooch remained where he sat, continuing to watch him with an uneasy stance.  For a dog person, this slight was too much to bear.  He unwrapped the plate of treats, and breaking off a piece of sugar cookie, held it out in the dog's direction.  "Here, Patches.  Want a treat?  Look boy...I've got some cookie for you."

          Patches held his ground, but then, catching a whiff of the cookie, decided better, and slowly made his way over to the bench.  He gingerly accepted the tidbit from Kevin's fingers, but then giving the priest a once over sniff, the dog took of, cookie firmly ensconced his mouth.

         Now thoroughly depressed at being shunned by the town's friendliest dog, Fr. O'Kenney turned back to the grotto and his prayers.





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