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The last worshipper.
This was something he would remember with deep regret for the rest of his days. Had he known that this was the end he may have tried to do something better. Something more... real. Did he? I'll let you be the judge.
Father February had clearly realized that the old bird; Tannie Meijie was dead as he approached her, she had been sitting on her regular place, two to three spaces in on the second bench. He quickly noticed that she was not breathing. That and the unsurprising fact that, for the last twenty minutes of the service he had been squinting on her behalf.
As he sat down next to her a sudden intense spiritual pain grabbed him; he realized the enormity of what it meant as he sat down. But what could he do? Or. what should he do?
He started to cry. And in crying a final call to a pray.
A pray for a miracle: for a miracle to come.
“It had to be the last worshipper,” he thought bitterly. The thick, incredible bitter bile that suddenly arose into his mouth reminded him in a unusual way of the India pale ale he had consumed the night before, at the Lamplighter. Skeleton Coast if he recalled. The next question was this: would he accidental return to the Lamplighter? After all there was no real reason to anymore.
“Is there really a reason to continue with this short journey?” he asked slowly, rolling it out of his mouth like a rather obscure sonnet by Shakespeare or, heaven forbid, Joseph Stalin (Not his real surname.)
After sitting for awhile he finally started to feel a little better. Not too much. Just a little better; it was more or less an acceptance that there is nothing a man can do past a certain undefined point. Perhaps a miracle would come. Or not.
“Who really knows the workings of our Father?” he mused.
Despite all his years, he knew for certain, without any reasonable doubt that he didn't. Walking back home he called the police station.
“Good morning,” he began – unknown uncharted territory this was, “I'd like to report a death.”
Upon closer examination later that day he did have to ask himself why he had uttered those exact words.
“I'd like to report a death.”
Who says that?
He had. Strangely.
He had no idea why. These things happened. Or were rather, as he would realise months later beginning to happen.
“I'd like to report a death.”
When the police did eventually arrive, over six hours had passed.
Intelligent questions like, “How did she die?” had been asked. “I'm a priest. Not a doctor,” he replied, purely to keeps things simple. Or so he thought.
“Where were you when this happened?” Sergeant Joseph Barnabas asked.
“I was giving a sermon, while standing there,” he said patiently pointing, as opposed to answering as a lesser man may have said: “Is jy onnosel, jou klien kakhuisdief?”
Fortunately Father February was a man of the cloth and so above such trivial things.
The officer in charge would have thought differently, he would have asked more questions like: What Father February knew about the string of unusual break-ins in their quietly quaint dorpie. Someone... someone was stealing the old wooden toilet seats from outhouses. And 'in' houses.
Sergeant Barnabas was also certain that many cases remained unreported. Why that was happening was another mystery the Sergeant Barnabas could not, more importantly, refused to understand. Surly if something was stolen, you'd like something to be done about it. After all, although it was a minor item it was something disturbingly annoying and unusual to have stolen out of ones home. A rather strange practical joke perhaps?
The body was quietly removed. Seven hours in total had passed. Even Father February couldn't take the smell any more. This of course would take serious cleaning.
“Mmmmmm,” he thought, “Life is after all about how we solve our precious problems.”
Thankfully, it then appeared that all things considered, life for then, was apparently back to normal. If there ever was such a thing.
He then decided to check the toilets. Something he rarely did on account of hired help who also had decided (old age? Who knew) to resign suddenly. In his mind there wouldn't be much to check. After all no-one was using them.
Surprisingly, all of the toilet seats were... gone. Male as well as female.
“What would anyone want with old wooden toilets seats that have been here from the 1920's when the church was originally built?” he had to ask himself.
A few seconds past before he was able to make a decision.
Phone the police. Again. Or call the only local plumber?
This proved to be more difficult decision to make then it first appeared. More of Barnabas or more of Piet?
Several painful moments passed. He then decided to call the plumber. It seemed logical – the church hadn't thought of or even have the hope of affording insurance, for one. And. Well. How to explain that the church toilet seats were stolen? Who steals toilet seats after all? No-one he knew.
“I will pray and ask our heavenly Father for guidance as to who would steal toilet seats from his home.” Father February thought.
After speaking to Piet the Plumber on a decidedly tired land-line, Father February could only but shake his head in complete amazement. According to Piet, there had been many cases of the same theft happening in and around their dorpie.
“Who would have thought,” he said aloud, “Who?”