The Saintly Drop Cafe - Holy Water
Saint Nicholas had arrived home the previous night after a long road trip to recharge his batteries. It was the lead up to the festivities of Christmas and the coffee emporium in the loft already boasted a large Christmas tree. And above the elevator doors there was a new name: The Saintly Drop CafÃ©. The new residents of the Guesthouse for Saints had held a body corporate meeting in the absence of Saint Nicholas, and had decided that the name bestowed by the owner, The Saints' Drop CafÃ©, implied that the loft was a gallows through which any or all of them could be dropped out into the desolate streets. Having tasted the Nirvana of the guesthouse, none wanted a reminder that Hell Street and in Hades awaited anyone who didn't measure up to the capricious whims of Saint Nicholas. Especially during the festive season.
Of course, this showed that none of them had a clue about the character of their benefactor. It also illustrated a determination not to be helpless charity cases â€“ though charity, naturally, was blessed. Just not for them! The saintly ones had been charitable to others, giving unstintingly from the heart. But all at the body corporate meeting were suffering from charity fatigue; which was a dire ailment of the saintly, needing the pampering cure of receiving. The dreaded illness of giving fatigue had driven them one and all to the nurturing warmth of the Guesthouse for Saints. And by God, they weren't going to be dropped through any gallows back into the cold comfort of Charity Lane, even though it was called Hell Street. They would fight it to the very last miracle!
Nevertheless, their strong resolve was weakened at the knees somewhat at having to meet the devil himself, the blessed Saint Nicholas, at a Welcome Back meeting convened by Saint Jude â€“ the patron of lost causes. And such did not auger well for the scheduled mid-morning meeting in The Saintly Drop CafÃ©. Would this black tyrant â€“ this heartless executioner â€“ pull the gallows trapdoor? And on whom?
Saint Nicholas knew nothing about the angst as he rode the elevator from his basement apartment to the revolution subtly proclaimed in the new name above the coffee emporium doors. That this convivial meeting place had been renamed had completely escaped his notice; but it wouldn't have mattered if such had come into his awareness. He was here to meet his new colleagues for the very first time.
When he'd rumbled back home on his black motorcycle the night before, all the new residents had locked themselves in their rooms. With the exception of Saint Jude, who'd previously met their satanic executioner, all of them had fallen to their knees to pray fervently for divine intervention on their behalf. Naturally, God obliged the following morning.
Fourteen expectant and nervously-defiant faces stared up from the cafÃ© tables as Saint Jude casually handed Saint Nicholas a glass of holy water from the fully automated espresso machine.
"I don't know how you take your poison," Saint Jude said with a grin. He wasn't afraid of lost causes. 'Grasp the nettle!' was his motto. "They're all worried about the gallows," he added baldy. "Oh, I almost forgot. Everyone, this is the blessed Saint Nicholas, patron of motorcyclists." His waving hand encompassed all the half-smiling, half-frowning faces as he said to Saint Nicholas, "Let me introduce them."
Saint Nicholas nodded affably.
"This," said Saint Jude, "is the blessed Saint Leo the Great."
Saint Leo rose to his feet and nodded to Saint Nicholas. He cleared his throat nervously. Why hadn't he remembered to iron his toga? He had once bravely faced Attila the Hun and his barbarian hordes at the very gates of Rome. But that heroism was well over 1,500 years ago. And cold Charity Lane does little to reassure the mind.
"Pleased to meet you," said Saint Nicholas to put the other saint at ease.
"De te fabula narratur!" Saint Leo replied in Latin.
"Of thee is the story told!" translated a bald headed man in monk's robes. He rose to his feet as Saint Leo sat down. "I am Saint Bede the Venerable. I am a scholar and published historian, and I am vital to the guesthouse. There are those who deem me to be wise." He didn't believe in being slow to come forward. "And who am I to dispute the wisdom of others?" he added, sitting down.
A thickset, powerful looking man rose to his feet. He was dressed in the magnificent armour and cloak of a captain in the Roman army's Praetorian Guard. He stood grimly to attention, and his right fist thumped his breast plate in salute. His left hand clutched the hilt of his security blanket â€“ a stabbing sword sheathed at his side. For you never knew about non-Roman executioners. He understood the Roman ones, even though he was a Gaul. And it once had been his lot to supply the gall lacking in unappreciative Roman emperors
"This is Saint Sebastian," introduced Saint Jude.
"De mortuis nil nisi bonum!" Saint Sebastian said firmly in Latin.
"Speak nothing but good of the dead" translated Saint Bede the Venerable, and he took a sip of his holy water laced with coffee. "I am teaching them English," he added hurriedly, nodding his head at Saint Sebastian to shut up and sit down.
"We are all pleased to meet you!" said a slim woman in a French accent, rising to her feet. "I am Saint Genevieve, patron saint for disasters."
She looked anything but disastrous in her long, flowing gown and ornate mantle falling from her shoulders. She smiled coyly at Leo the Great. Like him, she had encountered Attila the Hun, and much preferred hot-blooded Italians. And she smiled at Saint Sebastian as well â€“ there was something excitingly forbidden about a man in uniform.
"And I am Joan of Arc," said yet another French woman as she rose to her feet; and she glared at Saint Genevieve to sit down. "I am the patron of soldiers!" she said pointedly. "And I hate the English!"
"I don't want to die!" said a teenage Saint Dymphna, bobbing up, unable to bear one moment more the unspoken threat of the gallows. She was the patron for the mentally ill and asylums, and her thick Irish brogue made her difficult to understand. "Not the rope!" she whimpered.
"I want to die!" said Saint Agnes, in a barley discernible Italian accent. The teenage girl, lacking good sense, jumped to her feet . "Me first!"
Saint Maria, also a dark-haired Italian teenager, rose quickly to her feet and put an arm around whimpering Dymphna. "You men are pigs!" she hissed. She was not only patron for young girls but shared a guesthouse room with Saint Dymphna. Both of them had experienced unmentionable encounters with men who were pigs. As, indeed, had Saint Agnes. "Swine!" she hurled at the startled faces, and sat down with her roommate â€“ with both of them now sobbing at their probable drop through the gallows trapdoor.
Saint Agnes sat beside them, whimpering to be first to stand on the gallows.
"I'm Saint John of God," said a lanky man rising to his feet and hurrying over to comfort the distressed girls. He'd once been interred with barking lunatics, and didn't want to repeat the experience in the Guesthouse for Saints. "I'm the patron of the sick," he said to a totally bemused Saint Nicholas.
'And I am Saint Dominic," said a dark-haired youth, barely understandable because his Italian accent was so thick. "I am a good boy, and patron for juvenile delinquents and the falsely accused. The girls are innocent!" He nodded towards the new name above the elevator doors. "They didn't do it! They're innocent!"
"We're all innocent" blurted Saint Nicholas.
The teenage girls immediately stopped crying at this declaration by He Who Pulls the Trapdoor release lever.
"Every one of us," Saint Nicholas said emphatically, "is innocent!"
"Innocent, innocent!" said young Saint Agnes, leaping to her feet, and she gaily swirled in a dance around the cafÃ©. Not once did she express a word about her dark experiences in a place of sin. "Innocent! I'm innocent!" she sang happily.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, sit down!" growled a heavily bearded man, in a thick Russian accent. He nodded tersely at Saint Nicholas. "I'm Saint Basil the Great!" He glared at Saint Agnes. "You young people need discipline!" and his tone of voice brooked no argument on the matter. "I'm a Doctor of the Church! I know what I'm talking about!"
"Oh, Basil!" interjected Saint Veronica, rising to her feet. "Show some compassion and understanding. She smiled at their benefactor. "I'm patron of towels and holy images. And I think we all got the wrong impression of you. You're not going to throw us out onto the street, are you? Oh, I'm Veronica."
"Throw you out? Heaven forbid!" exclaimed Saint Nicholas. "This is your home as well as mine. The Guesthouse for Saints belongs to all of us. It's not up to me or anyone else to show someone the door."
Saint Romanus rose to his feet. 'I'm the Melodist!" he said to introduce himself to Saint Nicholas. "Why don't we all retire to the music room and have a good old-fashioned sing-along?"
A woman with dark, flashing eyes and of Middle-Eastern appearance, sprang to her feet. "Just call me Martha!" she said to Saint Nicholas. "Hey, everyone, we can drop the saint tag and let our hair down. This is home!" She walked over to Saint Jude and gently shepherded him away from the bells and whistles espresso machine. "I'm the patron of cooks, waiters and bottle washers!" she declared. "And this," she added, slapping the coffee machine, "is my baby! Forget the holy water, and come and get your coffees. Then it's off to the music room for one hell of a welcome back party!"
"You know," Saint Jude said with a smile to Saint Nicholas, "this place isn't such a lost cause after all."
Saint Nicholas grinned. "No, indeed! But I'm appointing you to run things and keep the place from becoming a basket case. This blessed lot is going to take some getting used to. Now, let's fill our cups and head down to the music room. May the good times roll!"
Tales from the Divine Drop Cafes