An Important Notice to Readers...
Although this fiction blog is illustrated with photos of dolls, and dollhouse miniatures, the language and content of the storyline is intended for an adult audience. Please be advised.
|Fr. Kevin... aka Fr. Murphy... goes over the parish accounts in the rectory parlor|
Below him on the ground, his sister Maureen stood screaming up at him, she herself in possession of a similar large magnet that she kept waving back and forth. Try as he might, he could not make out the words she was yelling at him above the noise of thunder and howling wind. The next thing he remembered was that horrible man, Littlefield, climbing a ladder up to the roof and demanding he turn over the papers. When he refused to release him, the burly janitor began pummeling him in the stomach, his fists falling over and over again, until Kevin felt too sick to react.
Now awake, he realized that his stomach did in fact, feel awful. Nausea came in rolls, and the cramps in his lower belly made him dive from the warm bed in search of the chamber pot and his wash basin. For several minutes afterward, he lay on the cold floor of his room, trying to feel well enough to stand. Mrs. McBride had attempted to enter the room with his breakfast and clean linen, but he refused her admittance, embarrassed by the mess he had made, and the state he found himself in. Eventually, he forced the energy to stand, and dress himself. He needed to get to the church to say Mass. It was the only chance he'd have to meet with Roxanne.
As Maureen watched the rotund Mr. Belkins polish off his sixth slice of buttered rye toast, she contemplated the absurdity of the moment. She had come over this morning for the specific purpose of spending time with her brother. Of getting answers from him about his strange behavior. Instead, she was now acting as cook and waitress for some pompous jerk from the diocese, while said brother was haggling over the parish accounts in the rectory parlor. This would be the same brother who had flunked high school Algebra not once, but twice, and who had barely passed the business courses required by the seminary. Numbers were not Kevin's forte. Anyone who knew him was aware that he simply did not have a head for math. So what the hell did he think he was going to accomplish in the hour it would take Fatso to fill his expanded gullet?
She had attempted to offer her assistance, but he had rudely ordered her back to the kitchen with instructions to keep the diocese's bulldog busy with breakfast. She watched as he scribbled a list of numbers on a pad of paper, not a calculator or computer in sight, and sighed. This was a disaster in the making, and she considered who she might seek for assistance. A text to both her husband and eldest brother, Patrick, had come back with virtually the same reply. Kevin was Pastor, and Kevin would figure it out. She should mind her own business, and do as he had asked. But this was Kevin we were talking about. Her favorite brother. There had to be something she could do to help him. That's when the idea came to her. If someone in the family suddenly took ill, then of course the meeting with Belkins would have to be postponed. Without further thought, Maureen closed her eyes, and dropped to the floor.
|Maureen's plan to help her brother escape the clutches of Mr. Belkins|
Mass was late in starting, due to its officiant needing to spend additional time in the privy out back. This delay neither surprised or annoyed the handful of faithful in the pews, and when Fr. Kevin made his appearance at the altar, no one seemed shocked by the priests gray pallor, leading him to believe that his host spent many a morning seemingly under the weather. But he had little energy left to worry about the mysterious Fr. Murphy. He, himself, felt wretched.
It took every ounce of self fortitude to get through the liturgy of the Mass in an upright position. There were several moments when he thought he might just throw up where he stood, but by the grace of the Almighty, he was able to give the final blessing without embarrassing himself in front of his flock. He tried peering into the gloom of the church for confirmation that Roxanne was in attendance, but couldn't verify he saw her. And she would not come up to take communion, not in the form she found herself in, so he couldn't be sure she was truly there until Mass was over.
Weak and sweaty, he plopped himself into a chair in the sacristy, and prayed she'd show up. It was risky meeting in the sacristy, but they needed light and space to inspect Webster's documents, and the confessional wouldn't do. He mopped his damp brow with a handkerchief, and gave a shudder. There's was little doubt in his mind why he was ill, the memory of the night before etched in his mind. He went over and over the scene, like a replay button in his head. The moment the loosened stone slipped out, the moment it hit the privy hole, and the exact instant the putrid offerings hit his face. He remembered the smell of it under his nose, and the sour, rancid taste in the corner of his lip. When it had happened, the logical side had taken over. The likelihood of him contracting cholera from that little exposure was unlikely. The weather was cold. Too cold for the bacteria to reproduce. The odds were with him.
But this morning, feeling the way he did, reality was quickly sinking in. He wondered if when he died, would it be his soul returning to the Lord, or Fr. Murphy's? Would he return to his own time, or would Fr. Murphy finish his time on Earth in Kevin's body. He forced himself not to think about his family. About his mother, or his brothers, or Maureen. The thought that he wouldn't see them again until they all met in heaven was, at the moment, too much to bear. He pushed these thoughts away, focusing on ways to help Roxanne get to her own time. If these were to be his last days, then he needed to make them count.
There was the sound of the heavy door creaking open, and repeated footsteps against the wooden
floor. When she came into view, he was surprised that her present appearance no longer startled him. Even when she spoke in that strange, lilting accent, he heard only Roxie's voice, the one that always made his heart beat faster.
"Sorry, I'm late, Kev. I had to wait until the coast was clear. A lot of people seemed bent on hanging around today." She removed the woolen scarf from around her head, and only then looked at him directly. Seeing the sweat on his forehead, and the gray tones of his skin, she blanched. "Holy shit, Kevin! You look awful! What's wrong?" She reached in to feel his forehead, but he pushed her away.
"Don't get too close to me, Rox. I don't remember if you can get this from personal contact. I don't want to risk it."
"Get what? What the hell are you talking about?"
In response to her question, he rushed from the chair, vomiting into a slop bucket in the corner of the room. He heaved until there seemed to be nothing left in his stomach. When he was finished, he sat against the wall exhausted, too weary and sick to offer up any kind of apology or explanation.
Disregarding his warning, Roxie sat down next to him, and pulled him close. "Oh, Kevin. It's cholera, isn't it? Somehow you got infected retrieving those documents, didn't you?"
Her voice was higher than normal, and he knew, if he looked, her eyes would probably be full of tears. So he took the cowards way out, and kept them shut. If he looked at her now, he'd loose any hope he had left of keeping his dignity intact. She used the scarf to wipe his face, and he worked at moving away. "I told you. You shouldn't get near me. I'm not sure if I'm contagious. There's no reason for us both to...to... be ill."
She must have decided, as he did, to keep herself together. When she answered, she was more in control. "That's nonsense. You don't get cholera from person to person contact. I'd have to cover myself in your shit or vomit, and frankly Kev, as much as I like ya, I have no plans to do so. So knock it off, and let me help you."
The blunt statement sounded so much like his Roxie, that he smiled, in spite the fact he felt horrible. "You always did have a way of putting things, Rox." He pointed to his coat, slung across the chair he had occupied moments before. "The papers. Webster's. They're inside the coat pocket."
"Don't worry about Webster. Tell me why you think you have cholera."
He related the story of the night before, leaving out the part where Littlefield threatened him. There was no need to alarm her any further. He doubted the strange papers had anything to do with their time travel, and there was little to be gained in making her nervous.
When he explained about the stone falling in the privy, and the subsequent splash to his face, she went still, and was quiet for several seconds afterward. Then, with what seemed like a new dose of determination, she rose from the floor, and gathered up the papers. She spread them on the floor in front of him, and settled herself right back next to him.
"Did you have a chance to look these over last night?"
"Yes, but honestly, they don't make any sense at all to me. Just a bunch of equations. Strings of numbers with no rhyme or reason. If you recall, I was never very good with science or math."
She smiled, and nodded. "Yeah. I do remember that. Didn't you almost not graduate because you were flunking calculus? Came almost down to the wire, and you slipped by with a D+."
He started to laugh, and then remembered that when he was senior, she had already withdrawn from their school after the arrest of her father. He wondered how she'd known about his Calculus woes, and realized she had still cared about him. Had asked after him. Even after the lousy way he had treated her. The guilt made him feel worse than the physical symptoms of cholera, and he wanted to crawl in a hole and die.
But the memory was obviously not painful for Roxanne, and that shamed him even more. She poured over the papers, her lip bit in in serious concentration. He sat in silence, and watched her mumble to herself. Finally, she sat back down, her attention somewhere far away.
"You're wrong, Kevin. I think these papers hold the key for us. For getting back to our own time."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus
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