A Story by Peter Rogerson

A vicar keeps his faith in a Christmas tree bauble...


Father Donald Farquar kept his faith in a pretty glass bauble left over from a Christmas tree in 1966

Back then, and it was a rather long time ago as you can tell by a close examination of the numbers involved in the year’s name, he was high as a kite on a fascinating mixture of a little yellow tablet and a couple of pints of Guniness. And it was in this state that he met his god after smooching (that was the word for it back then) with Andrea Plumbline, a young (too young, perhaps) angel destined, she told him, to become important in the world one day if her trade became elevated above being illegal. At least, that’s what he believed as he snogged her (another word much in use back then), and told her that he thought he loved her.

Then, his heart singing like young hearts can when passion begins to retreat back into the flaccid world of reality, he went home to his lodgings (or digs as it was called back then) and almost fell over a spherical glass bauble accidentally left on the floor by a caring if not short sighted landlady who had just dressed (as she called it) the Christmas tree.

Because in a few days it would be Christmas.

As you might have guessed from the above biography, Donald Farquar was a student at a college that educated serious and right-minded young men into the ways of the church so that, in the fullness of time, they could convert the many into the ways of the few. He was a devout young man, though strangely fond of little yellow pills as a consequence of his seemingly contrary worship of a popular song by the popular musical combo, The Rolling Stones.

He needed help him on his way through the complexity of all the things he had to learn in order to become a practitioner of the faith and on his journey he had noted that his favourite popular singers recommended little pills of benzodiazepine, that were yellow and which combated the weariness of life for many a mother, apparently, and reacted most favourably with his favourite Irish stout.

Now it was Christmas of the best year the world had ever seen. England had won the football world cup, the Rolling Stones were as great as ever and his favourite girl (Andrea Plumbline) was ever-so available at the most modest of costs.

When he told her he loved her she asked for a five shillings more for her time, which almost upset him, particularly when he thought it sounded very much like prostitution, but he paid up and told her he loved her anyway. Because he did. Deeply, romantically, disturbingly. Andrea Plumbline, to him, was the very loveliest of angels, and anyway his parents could afford increasing his allowance if he asked, which he did every so often.

So when he tripped over the glass bauble when his heart was singing arias of deep uncontrollable passion and little yellow pills, he knew its significance straight away.

He picked it up and cradled it in his hands, admiring its crystalline glow as the street light shone through a gap in the door curtain and made it twinkle. It was, he thought in a particularly light-headed moment, like the little star of Bethlehem, which was a thought that came easily bearing in mind that the bauble was a left-over from his landlady’s Christmas tree.

He took it to his attic bedroom where he spent the dark nights of his student years dreaming of Andrea Plumbline (until he discovered it was she who had donated a particularly virulent infection to his genitals, at which point he prayed long and hard and was told by his deity to have nothing more to do with her until he was old and grey and simple-minded, and anyway thoughts of ladies were always sinful.)

But back to the finding of his orb. The infection would be next year and the curing of it unpleasant, but he knew nothing of that just yet. The glass perfection sang to him. He heard it quite plainly, oh little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie he heard in a crystalline whisper, and he knew with an almost painful certainty that his God and his faith were cosying up together in the little glass ball.

Let the time pass. He finished his fine education and was besotted by theories about his God. He loved the word God. He loved the thought that in the vastness of the Universe there was a power that was so interested in him that it paid full attention to his every prayer, and when those prayers were rarely if ever answered he knew it was for his own good. Life should never be easy, and when it got particularly hard he unwrapped lis bauble from the sheet of pink tissue paper that it was atill wrapped in, that it had always been wrapped in since the night he had almost trod on it with a heart deafened by an inner aria and he had wrapped it in some tissue paper bought specially to wrap a special present for Andrea Plumbline in. Yes, friends, he didn’t break that bauble, but he stole it!

When his studies were over he packed his things and his glass bauble wrapped in pink tissue paper and went back home to his parents before easing his soul from his drug problem and turning to whiskey instead. And then, after a break during which he spent every possible moment praying, at home, on the bus, in every local church for miles around, and there were plenty of those, even in a dark corner of the pub whilst a clone of Andrea Plumbline did things to his trousers, he was ordered away, to establish himself as curate in the Church of Saint Matthew in Cokehampton.

His special glass bauble lived in his underpants drawer, underneath a pair of boxers inscribed with a holy cross and the words feel me which he had mistakenly thought was an invitation to his deity to… well, he hadn’t been sure when he had bought them and still wasn’t.

Every so often he took it out, unwrapped the pink tissue paper and wept because a) it was beautiful and b) it contained the very essence of his faith. Sometimes he wept, sometimes, he merely smiled knowingly, but every time, every single time he looked at its crystalline perfection he prayed.

He remained at that church in Cokehampton for the remainder of his working life, at first as curate and subsequently as vicar. He might have been promoted to somewhere grander but wasn’t, due largely to rumours that persisted in circulating about his good self and a variety of what were euphemistically called tarts. And they did exist, all of them, but not one of them was the equal of Andrea Plumbline.

He knew that, and sporadically searched for one that was, after consulting his faith in its glass prison and failing to find a sufficiently consoling answer, in much the same way as he failed to actually find even the shadow of his first and most powerful love. It was a long journey for him, from being curate to vicar to now...

Now, when he was obliged to retire.

And it was on the very day, this today, now, that he packed his few things in a battered old case and an even more battered old trunk, and stood for one last time at the top of the Vicarage stairs, looking around at the many doors that led to many rooms he’d never even entered. A single man, he only needed the one, and no friends ever came to stay the night, though the odd Plumbline clone did, sharing his single bed and charging him extra for being told how much he loved her, which had always, every time, been a despicable lie.

And it was then, holding the pink tissue and almost weeping that so little or so much had happened in a whole life-time that it tore along a fold and his glass bauble slipped out and rolled down the stairs.

To smash half way down.

And at that very moment, as precise as any coincidence of time can be, he lost his faith. It fluttered away from the broken glass and was gone for good.

His shiny bauble was shattered and too dangerous to be picked up, what with his inflexible back and the tears he was shedding. So he left it where he lay. Could be his life was all but over.

He wept as he went outside and climbed into the passenger seat of the van he’d hired to take him to the family home where his elderly brother still lived

Instead,” said the driver in a wrinkled, ladylike voice, “if you want you can come with me. No charge this time, no terms, just memories...”

And Andrea Plumbline slipped the van into gear and, as old as her passenger, and probably wiser, as well as equally bereft of faith, drove off.

© Peter Rogerson 05.11.17

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 5, 2017
Last Updated on November 5, 2017
Tags: vicar, drugs, alcohol, student, prostitute, bauble


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 75 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..