Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The bright morning sun from the parlor window acted as a solar alarm clock to the figure stretched out asleep on the rectory sofa. Fr. Kevin O'Kenney wiggled, yawned, and tried to unfold his six foot frame off the five foot davenport. His left arm, and all of the upholstery on the seat back, was damp from the rain that had poured through the crack in the window, and his right foot was firmly wedged under the cushion on the opposite end. Despite the deep ache over the bridge of his nose, and a crick in his neck where it had hung over the sofa arm, Kevin felt relatively well rested and ready to tackle whatever shit Wednesday threw at him.
Bringing himself to a sitting position, he kicked away a used potato chip bag, an empty jar of peanut butter, and a china plate that strangely held the remnants of several half eaten s'mores. As he headed toward the kitchen, he tried to wrap his still sleeping brain around the question of the left over outdoor treats. It had most definitely rained all day yesterday, as his soaked furniture and favorite hoodie attested to, so he wasn't quite sure how someone...undoubtedly Brian...had toasted the gooey marshmallows for the snack? Sans campfire?
The grandfather clock in the foyer chimed 6 AM, as Kevin padded over to the counter to make a fresh pot of coffee. It was then that he noticed an entire bag of Stay-Puff marshmallows melted to the coiled burners of his electric stove, in a majorly disgusting, sticky mess, that he was sure would take hours to scrape off. Another damn thing to add to his ever growing, mid-week list of chores.
8:30 Mass was unusually crowded, but rather uneventful. Fr. O'Kenney had his doubts that his parishioners had decided to start their day with the liturgy, solely based on their desire to please the Lord. He had a sneaky feeling that they had come to get a good look at the damage Tessa Peppers had done to his face in his attempt to "save her life". No one said a word, but he could see the side looks and hidden smirks as he made his way to the church door after the final prayer. He lingered on the steps for a few moments, but no one could really meet his eye, nor did they want to chance a giggle as they chatted with the banged up Pastor. Looking at the overgrown jungle surrounding the grotto, and enjoying the cooler temperature of the morning, Kevin decided that today would be a perfect day for some lawn and garden maintenance. The hard work would do his soul some good.
He changed into some shorts and his hoodie, which could use some drying out anyway, and began to tackle the job of weed pulling and pruning. He spent several minutes looking for the sharp pruning shears, but then remembered that someone had used them to stab Marco in the back, and that they were currently crime scene evidence. The shears reminded him that he had another appointment with Sheriff Beckett tomorrow afternoon, and he debated once again on how to best explain the sticky residue on Marco's undershirt. He was so lost in thoughts of murder and arson, and the best way to handle both Brian and the ruined burner coils, that he didn't hear the footsteps behind him until it was too late to escape.
"Whatcha doin' Fr. O'Kenney? Can I help?"
If your insides could groan, Kevin's let out a doozy. The last person he wanted to deal with today, after Tessa Peppers, of course, was Irwin Teller. He was a nice enough kid, who probably meant well, but he was annoying as hell. He never shut up, his nonsense conversations going on, and on, and on, until you wanted to strangle either him or yourself. On top of that, the kid was just all together freaky...digging in the dirt for bugs, and then sealing them up in glass jars. What he did with all those bugs, Fr. Kevin was sure he didn't want to know. In fact, he really didn't want to know much of anything this morning. All he had wanted today was some chill time for himself, and the catharsis of some physical, outdoor labor. He figured the less he responded, the faster Irwin would go away. He was wrong.
"I'm weeding the garden, Irwin."
"Can I help?"
"No. I think I can handle it. Thanks anyway."
"Are you sure, 'cause I'm awesome at digging?"
"I'm sure. Why don't you ask your mother if she needs help digging at your house."
"No...she told me to go outside and find something to do."
"Honestly Irwin, there's is nothing to do here either."
"Oh, you're wrong, Fr. O'Kenney. There's always something going on over here. My dad says so. Says Holy Family is like a three-ring circus. I'd love to see your circus, Father, can I?"
Trying to keep his cool, Fr. Kevin replied, "Gee Irwin, that's a funny thing for your dad to say. Why do you think he said that?" He had a momentary pinch of guilt for probing a kid about the neighborhood gossip, but let it slide. This was Irwin he was dealing with, after all.
Irwin, finally glad to be engaged in a conversation, and knowing interest when he saw it, smiled sweetly and said, "My dad says you got beat up by a harmless, old lady. That true, Fr. O'Kenney? That why your face looks all nasty and beat up?"
Damned if he was going to let an eleven year old get the best of him. Using the best of his child psychology, he decided to explain his side of the story to someone who was actually interested in hearing it. "Well, you see Irwin. That's not exactly what happened. We were at the bank, and I honestly thought Mrs. Peppers..."
"It was old lady Peepers that popped you in the face, Fr. O'Kenney? Then I understand, completely"
"What do you mean by that?"
"That one is all kinds of crazy. You best stay away from her, Father. Mrs. Peepers poisoned my friend Eddie Gerber's cat. Said he found Mr. Boots in his yard all stiff and stuff. It was terribly nasty."
"Now, really, Irwin. It's not nice to spread untrue stories like that. It's called gossip, you know. And it's a sin. Do you know what sin is, Irwin?"
Irwin puffed out his chest, all indignant, and sputtered, "Yeah, yeah, Father. Mrs. Sykes at school told us all about it. She said your soul gets all black, and then you go to confession, and God takes a big eraser, and erases all the sins, and then you and God are good again. But I'm not making it up, Father O'Kenney, honest I'm not. 'Cause lying to a priest would be like a mega-sin, right? And I wouldn't want my soul black like that, no siree! I'd have to go to confession, and I'm not crazy about that whole thing. But, I'm telling you the truth right now. One time Mrs. Peepers..."
"Could we please call her by her right name, Irwin. It seems disrespectful to keep calling her Mrs. Peepers, even if you are not terribly fond of the lady." Kevin worked hard at stifling a smile at the name "Peepers" attached to Tessa Peppers.
"I was just gettn' to that part, Father. You never let me finish!" The boy paused, assured that he had the priest's full attention. "One time, I was looking for bugs on Mr. Scutney's lawn. You know him, right, Father? Tall, skinny guy that drives the red Mustang...always has a girl with him? That guy. He lives right next door to Mrs. Peep...I mean Mrs. Peppers."
"Yes, Irwin. I think I know who you're talking about." Amazed at the amount of information the kid had seemed to amass about the people of Dollyville, Fr. Kevin vowed from now on to watch everything he said or did in front of Irwin Teller. "So what about Mr. Scutney?"
"Well, like I said, I was digging for bugs along side his back fence. You know I like bugs, right Father?"
"Yes, Irwin. I know all about the bugs. But what does that have to do with Mr. Scutney or Mrs. Peep...I mean Mrs. Peppers?" He prayed he'd never slip and call the woman "Peepers" to her face.
"Well, I was just there digging with a stick, when I saw Mrs... the old lady...sneak up to Mr. Scutney's window and look inside. She was watching for a long time. Then, I saw her take out her cell phone, and I think she was taking pictures, Father. Of Mr. Scutney. I was pretty scared, so I tried to sneak away. But she saw, and chased after me. Told me she'd break all my fingers and poison my dog, Patches, if I told anybody about what I'd seen. I love Patches, Father! I wouldn't want him to end up like Eddie Gerber's cat. I'm only telling you Father O'Kenney, 'cause you're a priest and all that. You can't tell people's secrets, right?"
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus