Sunday, October 21, 2012
It wasn't as if he hadn't given Mo's visit any thought. All week, he had planned on straightening things up around the rectory, doing some shopping, and working out the sleeping arrangements. Unfortunately, parish business had gotten in the way. There had been Confirmation interviews, Pre-Cana conferences for three different fall weddings, and a committee meeting with a very raucous discussion on whether Holy Family should offer Sunday afternoon Bingo games. The later had nearly come to blows, and required Fr. Kevin to step in and act as referee. A final decision had been put on hold until next month, and with that problem shelved for a bit, he could finally worry about matters at home.
Times like these, he wished he had the perk of a housekeeper, at least a few times a month. He had gotten spoiled at St. Benedict's in Boston, a large parish that boasted not only a full time cook, but a cleaning lady three days a week, and a secretary Monday through Friday. Normally, he didn't mind taking care of himself. The privacy and quiet that came with living alone was worth the extra work. But with his sister due tomorrow afternoon, the cupboards bare, and the sink full of dirty dishes, he wouldn't have minded an extra pair of hands.
Pulling himself away from an additional cup of coffee, he trudged upstairs to change the sheets on the bed, and give the room an all over dusting. As the shoe box rectory only offered one bedroom, he'd need to offer this space to Maureen, and figure out just where he was going to camp out while she was in town. The original plan had been for him to sleep on the sofa in the parlor. It was long enough to accommodate his six foot frame, and reasonably comfortable. But the arrival of that damn hell hound had made that decision impossible. There was no way he was going to wrestle the dog for that space, especially with his baby sister around to witness and snicker about.
Mulling ideas in his head, he gave some thought to the small attic room. It was well insulated, had a small east window, and was wired for electricity, allowing somewhere to plug in his laptop and TV. Though ridiculously cramped, it would have to do for the short duration of Maureen's visit, and for his favorite sibling, he was willing to make the sacrifice. That problem solved, he plugged his ipod into his ears, and got to work on the mess in the kitchen.
Two hours later, he had made solid progress throughout the house, and was nearly finished tidying up the parlor. The dog, it seemed, was freaked out by the vacuum, and Kevin took a bit of guilty delight in the animal's obvious discomfort. It took every bit of his self control not to tease the shaking Westie by pushing the roaring machine toward the dog in retaliation for the fresh teeth marks on his nose, and he decided an extra rosary was in order for even contemplating the action.
Between the noise from vacuum, the bass of Motley Crew in his ears, and the booming thunder of the storm raging outside, Fr. O'Kenney failed to hear the incessant ringing of his doorbell, and the heavy pounding on wood frame. If not for the dog's scratching and jumping at the front door, he would have remained oblivious to the figure standing on the front porch in the pouring rain. He pulled the ear plugs from his head, and dust rag in hand, went to see who was there, slightly annoyed to be stopped while he was totally in the groove.
The petite red head, hand on hip and sopping wet, looked decidedly pissed. "Nice of you to finally answer the door, Kev! I'm soaked to the skin. Why the hell didn't you meet me at the train like you promised?" A puddle formed around her dripping umbrella, and she pushed the pile of luggage closer under the eaves of the porch to keep it out of the blowing rain."
"Mo? Geez, what're ya doing here today? You're not supposed to be here until the 21st?"
"Today is the 21st, you dumb ass! I just spent two hours in front of the train station, in the pouring rain, waiting for you to come get me. I tried calling your cell about 20 times, but you didn't pick up. I ended up having to take a cab over. Good thing the driver knew where the church was, 'cause I sure as hell didn't."
Kevin reached for the cell phone in the pocket of his jeans, and sheepishly remembered that he had left it in the sacristy when changing after morning Mass. "Oh Maureen, I'm so sorry! Honestly, I thought tomorrow was the 21st. I even made arrangements to borrow a car to pick you, and take you to lunch. I don't know how I screwed this up. Here...let me help you with your bags." He hefted two of the larger ones under his arm, questioning her need for so much luggage for a two week stay, but wisely deciding against commenting on it.
He pushed open the door with his left foot, and ushered his sister through the foyer and into the rectory parlor, where Basil barked and growled at them from his perch on the sofa.
"Is that your new dog? He's adorable, Kev. Here boy..." She bent over, and put her hand out for the Westie to sniff.
"Be careful, Mo. That dog is on the vicious side." As if to make to a liar of him, the dog lept off the sofa and trotted over to his sister, tail wagging and barking ceased. After a few sniffs of her hand, Basil laid in front of her on the floor, belly up, and waiting for a tummy rub.
"What a good puppy you are. Such a cute little doggie...yes you are." She crooned to the dog, who still on his back, let out whimpers of contentment.
Kevin watched in glum silence, deciding once again that he really hated that dog. Turning his attention to his sister he asked "Are you hungry? I planned on going shopping, but didn't get to it yet, so the fridge is pretty bare. But I could call out for a pizza, or Chinese if you'd like."
"Chinese is fine. You know what I like. And I'll take a beer if you got one." She planted herself on the sofa, dog firmly ensconced on her lap, she unconsciously scratching its ears, and the dog completely under the spell of his new mistress.
Fr. Kevin ordered the food, opened two bottles of Guinness, and joined his sister in the parlor, taking care not to sit anywhere near the dog, who eyed him with suspicion from Maureen's lap. For the next two hours, they chatted and laughed about family gossip. Mo came equipped with an iphone loaded with photos of the various nephews and nieces, and he enjoyed catching up on the ones he hardly saw. He asked after his mother, and six brothers, and she dutifully filled in the missing information, carefully avoiding anything having to do with her own life.
When they had their fill, and were all talked out, he asked, "Shall I give you the fifty cent tour?"
They walked from room to room, he commenting on the changes he'd made since his arrival, and she nodding in agreement. This struck him as odd, as Maureen usually had a decisive opinion about anything and everything. Maybe it was the long trip down, or the maybe the stress of being left in the rain. Whatever it might be, his sister seemed out of sorts, and he wondered why that was.
When they arrived at the second floor bedroom, he was pleased that she really seemed to like the room. He had taken great pains to make it as "female" friendly as he could, removing his books, and parish ledgers, and replacing them with copies of her favorites magazines, a decent vanity set he had purchased new, and a box of Godiva chocolates, a favorite passion of his sister.
"It's lovely Kevin. Thank you for going to all this trouble. But if this is the only bedroom, where are you going to sleep?"
"Oh, don't worry about me. I'll be fine. There's a small room on the third floor. I'll fix something up there for myself. It'll work out, you'll see. I can put up with anything for a few weeks for my favorite baby sister." He waited for a hug, and was surprised to see her face fall, but she offered no explanation. "You make yourself at home, Mo. I'm gonna go get the rest of your things, and drag them up here."
It took several trips, but he finally brought up the last suitcase and plopped it next to the dresser.
Trying to coax a laugh from her, he joked, "Geez, Momo, you brought enough stuff to last five months.
How much war paint does a good Catholic girl need?"
She flushed a deep red, and turned away. "I wasn't sure what to bring," she mumbled.
The Maureen he knew would have had a snappy comeback on her tongue, and would most likely have turned around and socked him in the arm. This quiet demeanor was totally out of character, and not for the first time, Kevin wondered just what it was his little sister was not telling him.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus