The City Man

The morning had become afternoon an hour ago as the sun’s intense rays pierced through the holes in Jacob’s walls and persisted to assault his face and eyes. Despite his best efforts to ignore the day and sleep it off, it had become too much. He pushed his blanket off his beaten body. Those birds weren’t helping with all of their damned yapping, either. Couldn’t they shut up for just another few moments?

Jacob Mann reeked of whiskey and “the odour of hard workin’ man”, as he liked to put it. Other ranchers in the Chela district had lesser words of Jacob’s scent, and of his work ethic. He planted his bare feet on the wooden planks below his bed and stretched his small frame as far as it would go. Whether he liked it or not, today was another day and there was work to be done.

The work would have to wait a few hours before he could get to it. His head was killing him and it was way too hot to be out in the fields this afternoon. Only a fool would be out breaking their backs in this kind of heat. Not him, though. He wasn’t stupid.

First thing was first, he needed a drink of water. He stumbled to the canteen on the table and squeezed every drop out of the small leather sack. Drops of water clung to his beard and he contorted his tongue to find each and every bead. He patted his pockets to ensure that he hadn’t lost anything to the night before. He thought that he should maybe change his clothes but decided that there was no one here to impress. Besides, the pocket in the shirt he had on had exactly what he had been looking for – his pipe. He plopped himself down on a wooden chair and lit the half-burnt tobacco inside. All he had to do now is have a pipe while he waited out this heat, check on his sheep in the evening, and head over to The Pig’s Head after a day of honest work.

The embers of Jacob’s pipe smoldered out as he did on his wooden chair. His buzz-saw snoring droned on for what seemed like hours. The peace of the first break of his workday was suddenly broken by loud thuds on his door. Jacob’s foot nearly met his chin as he flew off the chair and onto his back.

The knocks on the door were relentless as Jacob pulled himself off of the floor. An aggressive voice pierced through Jacob’s walls.

“Jacob Mann, Mr. Jacob Mann! Open the door this instant! In the name of the Chela District Diplomacy, you will answer the calls of the court or face persecution!”

Jacob stumbled to the door and flung his door open to the unforgiving wrath of the sunlight. After rubbing his eyes, Jacob looked upon the man. The man stood tall, his black hair slicked back diligently and his clothes too pristine for the Chela Plains. He even wore a watch on his belt. The gleam of his shoes shone just as brightly as the sun itself. Jacob knew what kind of man he was dealing with – this was a city man.

“What’re you flappin’ your gums about, son?” Jacob asked as his hand slid up the frame of his now open door.

“You know damn well what I’m ‘flapping my gums about’, Mr. Mann. My name is Sam Braser and I represent the Chela District Diplomacy and we have been waiting for far too long for your Grazing and Ranching Taxes.”

“Go on then, Sam,” Jacob replied.

“Do you think that you are above paying taxes as your fellow ranchers do? Do you feel good about yourself for not paying the mandatory fees?”

Jacob did not have his arm pressed against the door just for balance, he was aware of the Chela District’s laws regarding open doors. So long as the doorway was not open for the city man, he could not enter without a warrant. This was not met with a lack of trying. The ornery man attempted to enter the home and Jacob pushed him back with a palm to the chest.

“Let’s just hold on for a second, son. Are you employed with the Chela District Diplomacy or are you a contractor?”

“I represent the Chela District Diplomacy.”

“You didn’t answer the question. Are ya or ain’t ya?”

“I’ve been contracted by the C.D.D. as a private collector on all outstanding taxes and to find evasive debtors, like yourself, Mr. Mann.”

“Evasive? I’m standing right here, ain’t I, Mr. City Man? Y’all know where to find me. As for these alleged taxes, I sent mine in at least two months ago. I suggest that you go back to the government that’s got your manhood and you tell ’em to bugger off.”

Jacob went to close the door, “Besides, you ain’t got any real authority here.”

Sam clasped the door and struggled to keep it from closing, underestimated the frail-looking rancher’s strength.

“Regardless, Mr. Mann, I have been sent here to do a job. I will not be leaving your side until you pay what you owe. My provisions are with me and I have been instructed to gather the funds by any means necessary within the law. I can be here for a long, long time.”

Jacob relented and rubbed his temporal. He was too tired for this nonsense and just wanted to get back to the work that he was doing.

“Fine. What do you need to get out of here and back into whatever hole you crawled out of?”

“Eleven hundred.”

“Eleven hundred? I can barely clear that in a season. Where in Ariel’s name am I supposed to get that kind of scratch together?”

“That sounds like a “you” problem, Mr. Mann. All I know is that I will not be leaving until the debt is paid.”

Jacob Mann had a plan.

“I can see that you traveled a long way to just to harass me, Mr. Braser. You’re also a very persistent fellow, which is a rare virtue to see on the job these days…”

“Just get to the point,” the man seethed.

“How would you like to get all of the money that you’re owed and then some?”

“And how do you propose that?”

“A Raven’s nest. It is not but a few miles East of here. It will have all kinds of treasures. Enough to settle the debt and more. Might even be enough to buy yourself a new personality.”

Sam snarled but bit his tongue. Based on the rancher’s abode and demeanor, this nest was the best chance to bring at least something back to his employers.

“Show me the way, rancher. But if you try to weasel out this in any way, so help me I will murder you where you stand.”

“I doubt that. What I don’t doubt is that I want you off of my property and I’m guessing that you aren’t too crazy about spending time with me. Let’s get a move on, shall we?”

Sam mounted his horse while Jacob packed the few provisions that they would need for the journey and they rode out. Sam spent most of the journey gritting his teeth and stewing over all of the better things that he could be doing at the moment. Occasionally, this would be interrupted by Jacob’s off-key singing while he strutted on his donkey. Sam could not help but crack a smile at it, he had dealt with many debtors in his day but never any this carefree. He must have been confident in the riches this Raven’s nest and of his abilities as a thief. How else would he be this nonchalant about this ordeal? Sam shuddered to think what the Ravens would do to somebody if they caught them stealing in their nest. Even though Sam was a city man, he knew that a man who stole from Ravens was as good as dead.

The open fields of Jacob’s ranch seemed more-and-more of a distant memory as the embrace of the forest became thicker. Jacob pressed on as if the branches were not a constant nuisance but Sam had difficulty in doing so. At seemingly every moment Sam was spitting out bugs, keeping the wooden whips from slapping his face and feeling the sticky sap invade his clothing. He had wished that his agency had insisted that he wear these fancy clothes at all times, they never did understand how diverse this job could be. He bet that Jacob never had a demeaning boss who never listened or would kick him while he was down at every opportunity. Jacob may be in debt, but Sam figured that the rancher was far more a free man than Sam was.

Sam’s horse had not been as deep in thought as his rider and jerked to a halt. They had made it to a clearing in the center of the forest. The thickets had subsided but the moss was like plush carpeting and the mushrooms of the forest floor were bigger than a large man’s fist. It was the most peaceful place that Sam had seen The absolute silence was a far cry from the bustle of the city and the offices that he was used to. He felt at peace and oddly grateful to Jacob for bringing him here. If only he had met this odd rancher over different circumstances.

“Well, what you lookin’ like a pig pissin’ for?” Jacob said as he pointed to the massive pine nearby, “this is the place, all we gotta do is climb to the top and you’ve earned your payment.”

“I certainly can’t climb a tree in my duds,” Sam said. “It’s your debt, Mr. Mann, if this is the jackpot that you claim it to be, you go retrieve it.”

Jacob gave a shrug that said ‘that’s what I thought’ and began to climb the gargantuan tree. His hands and feet guided him ever upward without so much as a change in his expression. It was obvious to Sam that this man had raided this nest many times before. There had to have been valuables in this nest before to come all of this way for it. Maybe this rancher wasn’t completely full of it?

The rancher reached the foot of the nest and peered down on the dot that was now the taxman. Poor boy in his Sunday best. Now, it was time to find a treasure to get this peon out of his life. Jacob stumbled into the nest and fumbled around in the bed of feathers and branches. Ravens are as jealous as they are greedy. If they have shiny things, they will bury it away from the prying eyes of other murders. Jacob began to frisk the nest: stick, stick, piece of fur, feather, stick. Finally, Jacob felt something man-made, he felt glass. His arm withdrew a half bottle of scotch. The label had been torn off years ago, but the bottle was nice and after a quick taste test Jacob confirmed that it was very fine scotch. That was good enough for him, but not for his friend on the ground. He slipped the bottle into his coat pocket and continued to dig. The search had begun to feel fruitless until Jacob spotted a gleaming piece of steel sticking from a corner of the nest. He snatched the bit of hope up like a hungry dog to scraps only to find a bracelet of bone and brass. These bracelets were usually made by farmwives to be sold at local markets in the region and were as common as a bowl of stew. They were cheaper too, everybody in Chela knew that. However, the ornery sucker on the ground probably didn’t. He slipped the bracelet into his pocket and made his descent.

“Are you ever in luck! I cannot lie, I did not suspect that this nest would much of anything up, but am I ever glad to be wrong.”

Jacob withdrew the bracelet from his pocket and hoisted it above his head like as if it were a prized fish.

“That,” Sam scoffed. “That is the big-time payday that you drug me through this for? This what I ruined my clothing and nearly killed my horse for?”

“Quit yer bellyaching. If you were nearly two-thousand years old you wouldn’t look nearly as good as this fine jewelry.”

“Fine jewelry? That is about as a fine as an old mule. You’re going to have to do better than that, Mr. Mann.”

“I suppose that you are right, Sam. I’m sure that the Ravens don’t steal anything of value, certainly not a warrior bracelet from the First Age. I’ll just hang on to this and work off the debt over the next several months. You are welcome to bunk with me until then.”

“Hold on, debtor,” Sam interjected. “I can accept the bracelet as a beginning payment. I will need it appraised to see if it is worth what you claim.”

Jacob relinquished the bracelet to Sam.

“There’s a jewelry appraiser and pawnbroker just West of Noird. He’s a lowballer but if you tell him that you represent the C. D. D. he’ll be a bit more inclined to give you a fair estimate to get you out of his hair. Doesn’t like the eyes of the law and the government on him too much, that one.”

“Very well, Mr. Mann,” Sam said as he took in one last look on the pristine forest floor. “Let’s get out of this Godless bush.”

The duo returned to Jacob’s ranch home. The afternoon heat had begun to subside as clear blue skies transformed to fantastic shades of violet and crimson. Sam had truly hoped that the bracelet was the First Age relic that Jacob had claimed it to be but another part of him hoped that he had a reason to escape the city and return to the ranch. His training had instructed him to treat every debtor as less than dirt but he had a hard time doing that to Jacob now. He could not help but have a soft spot for the old lush.

Sam bid the rancher a goodbye and rode over the hills. Jacob let out a sigh of relief. For the time being, he could live another day without some snotty city kid breathing down his neck. Now, it was time to get back to work. He plopped back down in the chair that he had flipped off of hours ago and began to rest his eyes.

Jacob found himself flying head over heels again as his house rattled with the force of one thousand earthquakes. The assaults on his home ranged from deafening wing beats, planks flying off his walls and sharp beaks easily piercing the roof. He ran outside to find three Ravens hovering above the now destroyed shack.

“Hey! What’s your trouble, you home-wrecking cretins?”

The leader of the bunch dropped to Jacob’s feet with such a tremendous impact that the dust of the dry land blew into his face. The Raven’s claws burrowed into the dirt with rage. The great bird towered over the rancher, he leaned in to bring his beak nearly to his eyes.

“Our ‘trouble’, little man, is that you have stolen from us. Did you expect us not to notice that our precious treasures were gone? Return them to us, at once!”

Jacob withdrew and lit his pipe, looking upon the Raven with an apathetic expression.

“I don’t know about that one, it’s a bit of a stretch if you ask me. Here’s what happened – you see that fancy boy on your way over here? The clean lookin’ fella with the watch hangin’ off his belt? He came ’round here this morning hootin’ and hollerin’ that everything and everyone on this here land owes taxes. Y’all being the intelligent birds that you are, that includes you, according to him.”

“Taxes?”

“You betchya. I tried to stop him but I’m afraid that the fella was insistent. Didn’t think too highly of y’all, either. I think I heard him call you something along the lines of ‘black disease-bags’.”

“Is that so? I am to believe that you had nothing to do with this? This city man just knew where our nest was?”

The Raven stepped closer and closer to the rancher’s eyes, pushing him back.

“I realize that we’ve had our differences in the past but this isn’t like that. I watched the city man take a worthless bracelet and a quarter bottle of booze. He took it for taxes but what on Earth would I do with that?”

“It isn’t worthless to us. Are your words true, rancher?”

“Of course they are. I’ve been nothing but respectful to the Ravens and have even helped you find treasures before if you care to remember. You find the city man, you find your treasures.”

The Raven signaled the two members of his murder off to scout for the tax collector.

“Listen to me and listen well, rancher. We will find this ‘city man’ and bring him to justice. If we find out that you are lying to us we will be back to you bring justice, as well.”

“You find the right guy and I guarantee that your return here will not be necessary.”

“We will see about that,” the Raven said as his mighty wings slammed one last gust of dirt into Jacob’s face.

Jacob watched the Raven transform from a vengeful giant to a black sliver in the sky. He withdrew the bottle of scotch from his breast pocket and took a swig. Perhaps the Raven and the taxman will be problems that will take care of themselves. Then again, perhaps they won’t be. In the meantime, Jacob watched the sunset and had realized that his workday was done. It was time to go to the Pig’s Head Tavern. With any luck that hunter that he hired every now and then would still be there. The guy is a bit of self-righteous blowhard but he’s in a tough spot, he needs Jacob’s advice now more than anybody. Jacob mounted his donkey and began his journey over to the bar. The rancher’s work was never done.

 

 

Forgive Me, Father

FORGIVE ME, FATHER

by Ben R. Charles

The two teenage boys shifted and stirred uncomfortably in the dated classroom chairs that they had found their asses in. Every slight movement caused the rusted metal legs and the cracked plastic seats to moan and creak. At the moment, every one of these minor infractions of the peace was louder than the last. The boys had been in trouble before, but never quite like this.
Across from them was seated Father Riley, a relatively new priest who had been with the church for a decade even though he was just passed the age of thirty. To Robert and Mitch, he might as well have been in his sixties. To be fair to the boys, he looked the part of a sexagenarian; his genetic lottery had blessed him with a prematurely receding hairline and a salt-n-pepper barrage of greys on the thick black hair that he had left. His stern expression added to his authority as he seemed to have stared into both of the boys’ eyes at once. The only distractions from his gaze in the small church office included the humming of the lights, that distinctive church-smell, and those damned creaky chairs. The fulcrum of the tension in the room was between the boys and the Father; it rested silently on the Father’s desk and was yet stuck out like a sore thumb. It also seemed to be the only thing in the room unaware of the tension, as Vida Guerra’s peppy, smiling face looked up at the church ceiling. Her dark, barely-clothed body was covered only by a black laced thong and her long, brunette hair cloaked the title Playboy.
The Father hummed and slid back into his chair, finding relief in the soft velvet of its lining. He removed his grain-farmer glasses to reveal his crows feet and his tired eyes. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger.
“Your parents have already been called and you’ve already been caught. There’s no point in lying anymore, boys. I’m only going to ask you this one more time: where did you find the magazine?”
“We already told you!” Robert said, his voice quivering from frustration. “It was laying there just behind the church by the crick. Me and Mitch go down there just to fu- mess around and we just found it under some tall grass. It’s the truth! Tell ‘em, Mitch!” Robert glanced over to his friend, his eyes begging for reassurance.
“Yeah,” Mitch said softly. “We was gonna throw it away, I promise. It wasn’t ours, we just picked it up. We knows we shouldn’t have, we wasn’t thinkin’.”
“No, you were not thinking,” Father Riley replied sharply. “What made you believe that reading this filth was acceptable? Did you boys listen to none of my sermons over the past year? Do you not care for your own sanctity? Have you no respect for yourselves?”
“Yes, Father, we do,” Robert replied. “We weren’t gonna keep it. We just wanted to show our friends and have a laugh. You know, we thought it would make us cool. And you gotta admit, she is pretty hot. You woulda picked it up, too. Whoever it belonged to had good taste.” He laughed nervously.
Robert’s explanation did not impress Fr. Riley. It seemed to have annoyed the exhausted priest even more. He leered at the boys. Robert slunk into his chair and began playing with the strings on his sweater.
Father Riley raised his eyebrows and lowered his voice. “You thought it would make you ‘cool’? Tell me, how? How would it make you ‘cool’, my son?” The Father knew that he had to maintain a stern composure, but he could not help himself from chuckling on the inside in anticipation of hearing the fourteen-year old’s explanation.
Robert bit his lip and cleared his throat to no avail, his voice cracked anyway.
“Well. It’s like- um- yeah, I guess it is kind of stupid. Forgive me, Father.”
“It is kind of stupid, and I know that you boys know better,” the Father replied calmly, partially disappointed in the safe response but relieved by it at the same time. “Now, go in peace. We will deal with this further with your parents next Sunday after mass. You two will be staying here all day to help Mrs. Kovach clean the church top-to-bottom. There’s a whole day’s worth of grass cutting and weeding that you will be doing, too. I will be speaking to the bishop about this,  and you better believe that we will find out where this smut came from.”
The boys moaned and sheepishly walked out of the priest’s office, leaving the door slightly open. Fr. Riley could hear the sounds of muffled footsteps and a shushed argument as the boys left the church.
Father Riley dipped his head into hands and ran his palms over his forehead. A pool of sweat gathered from his head and into the heels of his hands. He ritualistically wiped the moisture onto his lycra dress pants as he had done thousands of times since the church moved him from the East and into the dry prairie heat. The heat and his hectic schedule had made him more tired than he usually was. First of all, he had the bishop on his case about ordaining a new deacon. It would not be such a difficult job if the bishop wasn’t such an arrogant, self-serving prick- not that Riley would ever say that out loud. Secondly, Riley had two funerals, a wedding, three confirmations and a baptism booked in this week alone. Every priest expects summertime to be busy but this had just been absurd, especially for a small Saskatchewan town. Riley had much bigger fish to fry than dealing with a couple of kids who had found a magazine in the bushes. Is looking at a few dirty pictures really that bad, anyway? It’s natural for kids that age to start getting curious about that kind of thing. Big deal.
Fr. Riley sighed, and then stood up into a long stretch. He walked over to his office window, he had always enjoyed the birch and the oaks that surrounded the church and crept into the crick, and the way that the birds would sing outside of his window. Even the bishop, as much of a hard case as he is, loved the beauty of the trees at this church and would often go out for hiking and prayer excursions in the small forest nearly every time he visited. Fr. Riley took a moment to soak in the heat of the afternoon and the chattering of the sparrows. He took in a few deep breaths and he smiled.
Upon regaining his tranquility, the priest knew that he was thinking rashly. It was true that, yes, it is natural for boys to become curious. However, the word of God and a mature perspective are necessary to guide these young minds away from the seduction of pornography and into healthy relationships with their partners and families. To normalize pornography and to cheapen love at such a young age is harmful, dangerous even, for a young mind. Too many times the Father had seen good men fall victim to pursuing lust and too many times had he seen those men lead empty, lonely, and hollow lives. The men of tomorrow need guidance to lead richer lives. If that cannot be provided by a man of God, than by whom?
The sunshine parted through the clouds and into the Father’s office. He became blinded by the bright rays and turned himself to escape the irritation. He shifted his gaze away from the sun, down to his desk, and straight to Vida. Her radiant, brown eyes stared right back at him, and her luscious hair draped over her bare back. She may have been just a model on a magazine cover, but she might as well have been right in the room with him, whispering in his ear. The room became quieter than it was just a few moments ago before he began lecturing the boys. Fr. Riley reminded himself that his next meeting was not to start for another two hours, and he had no expected visitors today. He began to think that maybe he should see for himself what it was that he was giving the boys so much trouble over. It might be best to know his enemy if he wants to continue preaching the word of God in the future, after all. The young priest had successfully kept his vow of both poverty and celibacy for over a decade. Surely taking a quick peek at a magazine wouldn’t hurt, right?
The priest sighed and slid into his chair, caressing the wooden armrests and listening intently to anything that could break the silence in the church before he fully relaxed. Once he was convinced the coast was clear he placed his outstretched palm over Vida’s face and pulled the glossy magazine across his desk and into his hands. He slowly picked the magazine up and examined the covers it carefully, as if expecting it to trigger an alarm. He revealed the back cover to himself, which was nothing more than an advertisement featuring an ecstatic golfer, his female caddy, empty promises of male enhancement in a pill, and some bad puns about “club sizes” and “making a hole in one”. He flipped the magazine back into the reading position, cradling the smut under his desk and on his right arm as if holding Vida, herself. He licked his left thumb and began leafing through the slightly soiled pages.
While glancing through the first few pages the priest had thought to himself how easy it would be for someone to mistake this for a lifestyle magazine. There appeared to be nothing except for advertisements for luxury cars and watches, fitness advice, and even some surprisingly well-written editorials. This would not last long, as the priest had found what he was secretly hoping for. Right there in the center of the magazine and now permanently embedded into the holy man’s mind was Vida’s centerfold. Fr. Riley couldn’t remember the last time he had seen something like this or felt something like this. It felt so aggressively wrong, he knew that he had to stop now and put the magazine away. He knew that, but he was powerless to stop staring at Vida’s completely nude body, her dark curves contorting and contrasting over ivory satin sheets. His mouth hung open and his fingers gently traced over the silhouette of the woman. He thought of his high school crush, Becky Wilson, for some strange reason. He felt a flush of ecstasy invade his Garden of Eden; he began adjusting his robes over his lap to hide his rising Moses and the parting of the seams.
“Those robes can be quite an itch to scratch in the summer, can they not, young Father Riley?” A hoarse voice rattled from above.
“Jesu- Jiminy Cricket!” Riley exclaimed as he almost fell completely backward in his chair. “The Most Reverend Joseph Bolen, I was not expecting you for another few hours! Please, have a seat.”
The young priest hurriedly folded his robes back to his sides and placed the magazine face down on the desk.
The old classroom chair released a metallic moan as the bishop lowered his ancient frame into the seat. The bishop crossed his legs much closer together than any man Riley had ever seen, it was almost impressive. The Father was tempted to make a comment on the bishop’s flexibility to break the tension but thought that it was probably for the best not to, considering the circumstances.
The bishop glared knives at Father Riley for what felt like an eternity. He began to question if he had actually died and that this was all some sort of sick Purgatory punishment.
Finally, the bishop spoke. “That is an interesting choice of reading material for a man of the cloth, wouldn’t you agree, young Father Riley?”
The priest immediately lifted his palms towards the bishop and pumped the air twice, as if pushing away the old man’s implications.
“Whoa, whoa. Ok. This is not what it looks like!” Father Riley exclaimed. “Two boys from my parish had found this down behind the church in the trees, I had actually just sent them home. I will be discussing this with their parents and punishing them in a few days. I had just decided to take a brief look at it to see what I am up against. Nothing more, I swear.”
Father Riley had started to sweat heavily, the beads now pouring down his neck and soaking his shirt. Bishop Bolen is not a forgiving man, he had caught Riley red-handed, and he has fired priests for far less. Riley gulped; he knew that this may very well be the end of his priesthood. The magazine advertisement’s dopey grin of Smilin’ John and his ridiculous golf outfit would be the last thing Riley would see as a man of God, he thought to himself.
“What do you take me for, young Father Riley, a fool?” The bishop asked through his teeth. “Do you see me as the blind man from John, 9:1-12?” The bishop became more irate with every word.
Father Riley kept his palms in the air and said, “no, it’s just- I…”
“Shut up,” the bishop snarled. “Close that fly-catcher of yours before you embarrass yourself and The Lord any more. How dare you even think about practicing such a shameful act in The House of The Lord? Have you no shame, young Father Riley, have you no respect?” The saliva and vitriol from the bishop’s mouth were now spraying Riley’s face.
“I do- if you’d just listen…”
“You’re suspended- for three months- without pay. This will be placed on your permanent record, as well. I am being more than merciful, more than fair; I should fire you right now. It’s not like you care about being a priest, anyway.”
Father Riley lowered his face into his hands; he fought back the hot tears welling up in his eyes. This was not right; he had been a devoted priest for ten years. He did care. The bishop had just happened to catch him at the worst possible moment.
As if it were not enough injury the bishop began to berate him some more. “Only you would think that indulging in such perverted acts was even close to acceptable here,” the old man sneered. “It’s bad enough that you brought this… this, harlot into our church, one who does not even have enough dignity than to cover herself with more than a black shoestring.”
Father Riley’s head snapped back up from his hands and his eyes pierced the bishop, no longer sad and defeated, but rather inquisitive and sharp. They flitted down for Riley to see Smilin’ John and his male enhancement advertisement. The magazine was face down.
“What did you just say?” He asked.
“N-nothing!” The bishop stammered. “It hardly matters, you are to be suspended effective immediately. Take your things and get out of my sight. Leave this filth here to be disposed of by a real man of God.”
The priest stood and began to collect his books and knick-knacks from the office. He knew exactly what was going on. He never understood why the bishop needed the hikes and the solitary prayers down by the crick; no other priest, let alone a bishop ever did that. It was all starting to make sense. He collected his items in an office box, taking his time as he lumbered towards the door. He turned to the bishop one last time.
“So, you want me to leave your magazine here, then?”
“Yes.”
The bishop immediately recoiled at what he had just said. He stuttered and bellowed every excuse on God’s green earth. His face became the most violent shade of red that Riley had ever seen. The bishop ceased his fit, he knew that resistance was fruitless. He lowered his head and raised his eyes to Riley’s unconvinced expression.
“No one needs to know about this,” The bishop whispered sheepishly. “Your suspension is lifted, and this little incident will not go on your record. Please, forgive me, Father. Is there anything that I can do to make this right, to make sure that this stays between us?”
Father Riley lowered his box to the ground and smiled.
“You know what? There is. Mrs. Kovach is going to need some help all day next Sunday to give our church a much-needed cleaning and grass cutting. We got weeds growing all around this old building that needs pluckin’, too. And I think that you’re just the right man for the job.”