Sunday, September 2, 2012
Kevin wiped up the last of the lasagna with a piece of bread, and leaned back in the chair, his hands crossed over his stuffed belly. If there was anything positive about getting shot, it had to be the fridge full of casserole dishes and Tupper Ware bowls. The ladies of the parish seemed to believe he'd heal much quicker on a steady diet of elbow macaroni and cream of mushroom soup, with an occasional bundt cake thrown in for good measure. Not that he was complaining, mind you. He hadn't eaten this well since his transfer out of St. Benedict's. And he had to admit it felt rather nice to be fussed over.
For the first time since his arrival at Holy Family, Fr. O'Kenney felt like he finally belonged. The church community had rallied around him in the weeks after the shooting, offering help with the day to day chores, as well as plenty of prayers and good wishes. He was a bit surprised, though, that no one had mentioned Tessa Peppers. Not one single word. Nada. Zippo. Nothing. Plenty odd that they didn't seem to be in the least bit shocked that one of their own was accused of murder, arson and assault. Or maybe, he was just politely being left out of the loop. He wasn't quite sure. In Dollyville, things were never the way you'd expect.
He had been present at Mrs. Peppers' arraignment, and if he had witnessed anything stranger, he couldn't remember. She had appeared in front of the judge in a yellow rain coat and polka dot galoshes, her gray hair tied up with a funky purple scarf. The old girl had waved to everyone seated in the gallery, smiling widely and clacking her dentures. Everyone, that is, except her Pastor. She had located him sitting in the back row, his arm still in the sling from the emergency room. Instead of the remorse he had expected to see, she had looked him square in the eye, and had forcefully stuck up her middle finger. The judge had threatened to hold her in contempt, while her novice public defender tried to regain control of his client. Amidst the circus atmosphere, it came as no surprise when the lawyer entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge denied bail, and Tessa was remitted to the care of the the state mental hospital until her court date in October.
Kevin shook his head, and pushed away from the table. It was definitely not in keeping with his role as a Shepard to the flock, but he felt much better knowing that crazy woman was locked up, and no where near the rectory. He still had nightmares about looking down the barrel of a hand gun pointed directly at his chest. Even thinking about it now made him shaky. He was decidely creeped out enough to consider the weed still buried in his sock drawer. He wondered, as he cleaned the crumbs off the table, whether he had time for a quick toke or two before physical therapy.
Before he could he even ponder the problems involved, his attention was shifted to the rectory's front door bell. Dressed in only his gym shorts, he wasn't really presentable for company, but a quick look out the window revealed he had little to worry about regarding his appearance. Ted Becket stood uncomfortably on the porch, a small pet carrier in his hands. Since the night of the shooting, the two men had forged a tentative bond of mutual admiration. During the hours following his assault, Kevin had discovered that the Sheriff was not the rude, patronizing bastard he had originally thought he was. And the Sheriff surprisingly witnessed that the young priest had more moxie and wits than he had previously judged him to possess.
"Hey, Sheriff. What brings you to Holy Family today? Have time for some lunch? I still have half a lasagna in the fridge I'd be happy to share."
"Don't tempt me, Father. I'd like nothing more than to plant myself over a plate of pasta right now. The morning's been brutal, and I'm swamped all afternoon. Just don't have the time today. I'll take a rain check, though."
"Not even time for a Pepsi, or something?"
"Really, Father. Can't do it today. I'm loaded down with tons of paperwork, and I have a 2:00 PM appointment with Joe Scutney. Something about filing a missing person's report." He shifted the package in his arms, and shuffled his feet. "Actually, I just stopped over to see if you might be willing to do me a huge favor." From the carrier in his arms, there came a low growl, and a high pitched yap.
"Anything, Sheriff. After all that's happened, how could I refuse to lend a hand?"
"I'm glad you said that, because I'm really stuck here." He placed the moving baggage on the porch, and stretched out his back before continuing. " Since the day after the uh..events..at Holy Family, I've been fostering Tessa Pepper's dog. I couldn't see the little guy going to the pound, him being a pampered house pet his whole life. Wouldn't survive among the strays. So I took him home with me, figuring it would only be a few days until the ole' gal could post bond. Well, as you know, the judge denied bond, and she's been sent to the mental hospital outside town. I have no idea when she'll be released, if at all. The trial's not until the end of October, and I just can't keep this dog."
Kevin knew what was coming next. He racked his brain for any excuse that wouldn't be an outright lie. As of late, he and dogs...dogs of any kind...did not get along. He wasn't sure what had changed, but worried that it had something to do with the arrival of Brian in his life, and the last thing he needed was to move one into his home. "Gee, Sheriff. I'm not sure I can uh..um...have a dog in
the rectory. There might be like some kind of um..diocese rule about pets and stuff."
"Oh no, don't worry about that, Father Kevin. I checked with Fr. Wilton over at St. Luke's before I thought about asking you. I wasn't sure what the rules were for you guys, me being a Methodist and all. But he assured me that it would be fine, and in fact, he relayed that the Bishop had several beagles he had given a home to."
"I would love to help you out, Sheriff, but..."
"You'd be doing me a big favor, Father. Tessa's dog and my mutt Maggie just can't seem to live in peace. And now that I have Cassie with me, well...every thing's been a big adjustment. I need to simplify my life a bit." The Sheriff picked up the carrier, and handed it to Kevin. "I'd consider it a personal favor, Father."
Reluctantly, Fr. O'Kenney reached for the handle. "You're sure there's no one else?"
"Positive. I've asked all over town, and couldn't get a single person willing to take him. Everyone was nice enough, but they all had some reason or another that they couldn't take poor Basil. Can't figure it out myself. How much trouble can one little doggy be?"
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus