THE PLANNED SCATTERING
The Reverend Josiah Pyke had been attacked by his Bishop armed only with a silver-topped walking cane and had as a consequence spent three uncomfortable days in hospital where he had learned a great deal about the impermanence of life. People in his ward had actually died, and there's nothing, he decided, more prone to reinforcing the knowledge of your own mortality than lying in bed on the threshold of a dream only to hear a fellow traveller down life's road taking his last breath.
When he arrived back at the Old Rectory in Crickleton it was with a great deal to think about, and it didn't help the process much when he was greeted, on the very doorstep of his sacred home, by three elderly ladies known by those with less charity than faith as the gaggle, and as a measure of that faith it must be remembered that the folks of Crickleton weren't particularly noted for anything resemblant of belief.
The gaggle consisted of Martha Shortarse, Ginny Longbottom and Hilda Buttocks and, between them, knew everything there was to know about absolutely nothing, and to compound that boundless negative knowledge they were three of the most prejudiced people on the planet.
And the Reverend Josiah Pyke hated them. They had recently aborted their weekly visits to his Sunday services (along with everyone else in the village) and for that he had offered a whole range of prayers to his understanding of the Almighty and had even blessed the potted cactus on the kitchen window-sill. And now, with him still feeling weak and with the fear of mortality heavy on his shoulders, here they were on his own garden path.
“Hello ladies,” he said with a stiff bow.
“You're lucky they didn't hang you, Reverend,” smirked Martha, a globule of moisture hanging from her fat nose. It was a cool morning, and the cool always made her nose run.
“Why – what have I done?” he asked, almost shocked.
“You must've done summat, for the Bishop to do what he did,” Ginny told him in that matter of fact voice that women of her ilk are particularly good at.
“The Bishop is as mad as a box of frogs,” growled the Reverend Josiah Pyke, “in fact, I've heard that he's to be taken to a sanatorium for the feeble minded,” he added spitefully. He still, after all, had the lingering remnants of a headache so he felt justified.
“And who took the knickers off that dead woman,” contributed Hilda, needing to say something and enjoying the expression on ecclesiastical faces when the word knickers was used. She was, of course, referring to a recent murder outside the church grounds in which a young woman had been slaughtered by her boyfriend, all of which has been reported in these chronicles elsewhere.
The Reverend Josiah Pyke stared at all three of the gaggle and then decided to be thoroughly nasty for that, he decided there and then, was what they deserved.
“You are three of the most wretched, most satanic and most ignorant women I have ever had the misfortune to meet,” he observed mildly, “and it's not very sensible of you to be the way you are because not one of you is likely to see the year out, so you are approaching the moment of your own personal judgement and really don't want to be found as lacking as you are!”
Then he marched through the front door of the Rectory, and for once everything went right for his petulance. He didn't fumble the key, the lock didn't stick like it sometimes did and the mat with WELCOME on it in faded pink didn't trip him up. He slammed the door and even that was satisfactory. It clanged in a nice, wooden, hollow way, which was good for a door made of plastic.
In order to drive any remnants of anger from his mind he switched on the radio, and as chance would have it the news was being reported in that clipped way the BBC Radio Newsreaders sometimes have.
Although there is a great deal too much space junk in orbit, from decommissioned satellites to bits of old rockets, Sir Dicky Cransome has announced that he intends to start his service offering those with enough financial clout a chance to have their ashes launched at the sun. It'll cost a lot, though. Estimates put the bill, to be paid in full in advance, at around twenty million pounds.
“What a darned good idea,” the Reverend Josiah Pyke whispered to himself. “I wouldn't mind a go at that myself!”
The next item on the radio also interested him.
Coincidentally, there is a double roll-over of the lottery tonight, and the estimated prize is twenty million pounds, said the voice, quite incapable of infusing one smidgen of enthusiasm into the words.
“That's quite enough for me!” cackled the Reverend Josiah Pyke, and he almost ran to the village shop where he bought a single lottery ticket, using numbers he picked at random from his copy of the King James Bible, taking the verses from the Gospel according to Saint Luke because the word Luke is very close indeed in spelling and appearance to the word luck.
And that evening the Reverend Josiah Pyke, shaking like a figleaf, rang Directory Enquiries.
“Can I have the number for Sir Dicky Cransome,” he asked, politely despite his uncontrollable excitement. “I've just won the lottery and I want to book a journey to the sun!”
© Peter Rogerson 23.01.13
I seem to have created another of my odd characters. That's the trouble with me: I set a scene and then want to get my teeth ever deeper into it! So here are links to the previous parts.