The church served breakfast. That was good. I hadn't eaten anything since yesterday morning and that consisted mostly of bitter coffee and stale muffins.
"Do you need anything, my son?"
Over 10 years since a priest spoke to me. Still filled me with strange feelings being referred to as "my son."
"No thank you, uh, father. Just needed a warm meal. I appreciate it."
His hands folded, he nodded kindly, even bowing a bit, then started to walk away.
"Will you be attending service?"
God dammit. "I hadn't considered it. Honestly, it's been a long time since I've even stepped foot in a church."
"You're always welcome. All of God's children are."
I tried not to choke on the dry scrambled eggs. I was, after all, a guest. "I appreciate that, too. Awful busy though."
The priest nodded graciously, but something went out of him. It was the same look salesmen got when they realized they had just wasted thirty minutes of their time talking to someone who wasn't going to return the favor.
"You're an idiot!"
The priest whipped around. Whether or not he expected the screamer to be right on his backside, ready to pounce, I didn't know, but he nearly fell backwards pulling away from phantoms.
I put out my hand and steadied him, which he acknowledged with a smile and a nod. We were even. That made me feel better for turning down his offer.
Across the room a large man, his hair tamped down with flop sweat, argued with a pair of parishioners. They made a nifty dance of it. Trying to calm the man without actually coming into contact with him.
"Excuse me, my..." The priest put his hand out, as if to hold me back while he jumped into the fold. But he was no more eager to get involved than I was. The squat, sweaty man was shouting incoherently, his meaty arms waving around in front of him. He hadn't hit a fever pitch yet, and the church volunteers were throwing every kind of water on that fire to keep it from reaching that point. But spend enough time around people and you start to gain a seventh sense for this kind of thing. When some people want to go crazy, nothing short of a meteor hitting the planet is going to stop them.
The priest stood, still and silent, watching the fracas unfold. For all my insight into the human psyche I couldn't tell if it was fear, anger, or something else holding him back. Whatever it was, it worked on me. I felt sorry for the poor padre.
I cleared my throat. "Want my help?"
"No need." He tried to smile while he said it but it lasted about as long as peace on Earth. After another frozen moment he shuffled closer to me. When he spoke, I wasn't sure if it was to me, himself, or the Almighty. "That poor me." When he didn't say anything else, I assumed it was either me or the Big Guy. One thing misanthropes and God have in common is their resounding silence to moments like this.
"Something wrong with him?"
"He had a terrible accident. Drove a crane. He still holds himself responsible for..."
I hadn't read the story, but got the picture.
"Was he drunk before, or did the accident do it to him?"
This caught his attention. The priest turned to me, an odd expression on his face. I couldn't define it anymore than, disapproving. "We all struggle," was all he said. Then he placed his hand on my shoulder and gestured toward the food. "Please, eat. And if you don't mind, no smoking."
He pointed to the book of matches on the table. The ones from [Nightclub]. I nodded and finally he left me in peace.
I had tailed Professor [Schtup] all night. Kitty's Back Caffe seemed like the place he was most comfortable. Looking at the matches now, it was clearly a classier place than they let on. The gold ink in cursive writing surrounded by rich purple bespoke more of a gentleman's club that what I saw last night. There had to have been a backroom. A real backroom. Not the dimly lit corridor with thin curtains I'd been led to.
A baby cried in its mother's arms. She had the recently-electrocuted look of a single working mom. The priest made his way over, greeting the baby first with a series of goo-goos and ga-ga's before asking the mother "How do you feel?"
She lit up when she looked at him and suddenly her body didn't look like a deflated raft someone had tossed to the curb in the hopes that it was trash day.
I flipped the matchbook between my fingers, trying to look cool. It didn't work. It slipped when it got to my pinky and ring finger and clattered to the floor. I picked it up in a hurry as if anyone cared.
There had to be something about the club. I kept running it through my mind. The lights. The drinks. The women. The professor was the type that seemed wholly out of place there and yet, exactly where you'd expect to find a guy like that.
The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:
Begin Start typing to begin
Event Breakfast is served
Location A church
Words Reach 50 words
Letter Use the letter I
Words Reach 100 words
Words Reach 200 words
Sentence "You're an idiot."
Words Reach 300 words
Event A meteor approaches Earth
Words Reach 400 words
Sentence "No need."
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Character An impressionable crane driver
Prop Include a book of matches
Character A sulky professor
Letter Use the letter Y
Words Reach 700 words
Sentence "How do you feel?"
Event A baby cries
Words Reach 800 words
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