Thursday, 7 June 2018

A Difficult Discernment

"Penelope. You wanted to see me?"

Jack was older than she remembered him, of course. It had been four years. Four years in which their marriage - ten years, two children, three Newfoundlands and an orphaned squirrel - had seemed to withdraw like the tide from the shore. She looked at the man she had loved, and realised she felt something more like pity than hatred now.

"If it's about the child support, I'm up to date aren't I?"

"Oh yes. You're utterly reliable. Utterly predictable. As ever."

A frown moved across his face. He was not unintelligent. He had just never really understood her.

"Jack, I'm being considered to be a priest."

"Well, that's lovely. And how does that go? Do you have to be interviewed"

"Well, there's all sorts. Interviews. And meetings and reflections. And then a BAP."

"A what?"

"Don't ask. It's just terrible. But before I complete the process, they want to look into how we broke up."

"And you think your behaviour may cause... problems?"

"Yes. They seem to think that if one is to be a priest, then one must avoid the possibility of scandal. And it is true that I was unfaithful to you, and then left with Tony."

"Yes. Yes. All forgiven now on my part, of course. I can see the long hours and... "

"You've not changed."

"OK. And are the kids here?

"At my mother's."

"And Tony around?"

"No. He's away in London. Cup of tea?"

She poured.

"Tea pot? Not a bag in the cup these days?" he asked.

"A proper tea set. And a decent gin. You want to be in the Church of England, you fit in."

"Oh yes. Earl Grey. Nice."

They sipped their tea for a moment.

"You see the thing is, Jack, I need you to do something for me."

"Well, if I can. What is it?"

"I need you to die."

"I'm sorry?"

"Look it's very simple. I need to marry Tony. And if I'm a divorcee when I marry, then they will be checking. Finding out what went wrong. They're terrible."

"No-one expects the Anglican Inquisition?"

"Is that one of those Monty Python jokes?"

"Sorry. I was nervous. You said something about me needing to die."

"That's right. If I'm a widow when I marry Tony, it's just one of those things. He comforted me in my hour of need. That sort of thing. But I can't keep pretending he's not living here much longer. The DDO has spies all over the place."

"But I can't just die, Penelope. It doesn't work like that."

"I know. That's why I put the poison in your tea."

"You what? I don't believe you. How... why?"

"Look it's very simple, Jack. I want to be a vicar and tell everyone that God loves them and go around loving everybody and being in a servant ministry. And the only way I can do that is if I kill you. I'm sorry. You're only boring. That's not a sin. I suppose it is I that have the black heart. But you're an obstacle in my path to a mitre. So I've no choice. Goodbye, Jack."

He slumped in his chair. She swiftly texted. Five minutes later, in came Jeb, the church warden and part-time grave-digger.

"Terrible accident in his car, Miss Penny?"

"Yes please, Jeb. And make sure it goes on fire."

"Not a problem, Miss Penny. And, Miss Penny?"

"Yes Jeb?"

"You'll make a great vicar."

"Thank you Jeb."

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1 comment :

  1. The faculty inquisition is hard to take, but not sure that such extreme measures are needed to avoid it.

    It's hard and painful, poring over the old wounds of broken relationships, particularly over 20 years in the past. Know it, have got the T Shirt. But I was never tempted to put my Ex out of their misery to avoid it.


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