A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

It's getting to be one disaster after another as Mavis and Simeon get married...


I’m glad you weren’t asked to officiate,” murmured Ophelia to Josiah as they prepared to be guests at the wedding of the Reverend Simeon Crow and Ophelia’s mother, Mavis Jones.

I didn’t expect it,” replied Josiah, “I’m not Simeon’s best friend but he daren’t do anything about me because he thinks I know too much about his private life that he wouldn’t like the Bishop to hear.”

We both do,” murmured Ophelia, “he’s certainly not been a celibate cleric.”

So I believe,” smiled Josiah.

It’s easier on us, though,” smiled Ophelia, “with the wedding being here in our village rather than at the Goosebury church.”

But the downside is it’s my father who’s doing the dirty deed,” murmured Josiah as he adjusted his collar, “and my father never was an example of perfect wedded bliss, not with the way he was when I was a child. I even think it’s possible my mother might have lasted longer with a better husband watching out for her.”

Anyway, let’s go and get it over with, and get back to Tomm’s Playground as quickly as we can.” Tom’s Playground had been renamed Tomm’s Playground with the addition of a fourth mound under which Mildred’s ashes were buried, and a fourth stone bearing her name had been erected at its head, or where its head would be if the mound was a proper grave.

Josiah had bought a car by then, a neat little run-about, and although it was easy walking distance to Henstooth church they opted for Ophelia to drive rather than they walk.

If I drive I won’t be able to drink at the party afterwards, which is fine by me,” said Ophelia as she opened the car door.

I don’t even want to show my head at it,” agreed Josiah.

When they got to the church the first thing that Josiah noticed was the way his father seemed to have aged beyond what he would have expected. The older man had a grey and sallow complexion and even though he was well short of the age most people are when they retire from work, he had the help of a walking stick whenever he moved.

He looks bad,” commented Ophelia.

He does, almost as if he’s planning a trip to his famous Hereafter sooner than we might expect,” murmured Josiah, “but he is my father and I suppose I hope he gets better soon, if it’s just some sudden illness that makes him look as sick he does look.”

You’re too generous and forgiving, my love,” replied Ophelia. He had noticed that she had taken to calling him that, and in all honesty he rather liked it.

When a person’s dead it’s too late to be anything,” he sighed, “not that I think he’s going to die just yet!” he added with the sort of frown that suggested a doubt.

The wedding service was soon over. Years of experience if nothing else had kept Julian Pyke’s stentorian voice going. The interesting moment, when the congregation was asked whether anyone knew of any reason why the two before him shouldn’t be joined in holy matrimony came and went and the small crowd made its way out whilst the register was being signed in a back room.

It was when the happy couple had returned and the photographer was doing his best to make a small crowd look like a host that Julian Pyke, leaning on his walking stick, suddenly gasped and grabbed hold of his chest letting the stick fall to the ground, and in a dramatic slow motion followed it to the concrete ground by the church door.

At first nobody seemed to notice because all eyes were on the photographer who was endeavouring to produce happy smiles out of a vacuum, but that good man, facing that way, saw soon enough.

What’s wrong?” he called, forgetting his camera and leaving it to his assistant to catch whilst making a bee-line for the prostrate cleric. That made everyone turn and produce a chorus of gasps and oohs and ers and as their false smiles dissolved away, and then start, hesitantly at first, to push towards him.

What’s wrong?” asked the newly married Reverend Simeon Crow, too busy trying to push his nerves out of sight.

Is the vicar all right?” asked his brand new wife.

It must be the weather. It;’s very clammy,” suggested a third person.

He’s dead,” said the photographer, who had turned almost as grey as the newly created corpse. “I think,” he added.

Get an ambulance!” urged the photographer’s assistant, a grey-haired woman with a lisp and holding the camera.

The mobile or cellular telephone was a device that was waiting to be invented, but there was a telephone box on the corner, and Josiah ran towards it, followed by Ophelia. It was his own father lying grey and still, a despised father at that, but something told him that he just didn’t want to look at the remnants of a man who had meant only pain and cruelty to him because if he did he might cheer. The Reverend Julian Pyke had reached whatever his Hereafter might be, and Josiah was pretty confident that it was nothing like the Christian view of Heaven, which he believed must exist somewhere in the enormity of eternity and a gigantic hardly-understood Universe.

I’m sorry,” gasped Ophelia when he had phoned the emergency number and asked for an ambulance, giving details of the emergency and then hanging up/

What for?” he asked.

Your father being dead,” she replied, shaking her head, “today of all days,” she added.

He was never a father to me,” said Josiah, “come on, let’s go home. I can’t stand all this.”

But nothing is ever that simple.

Ophelia!” called a voice. It was her mother, Mavis, hobbling towards he on new high-heeled shoes that she probably should have worn in but hadn’t.

Mum,” replied Ophelia, holding Josiah’s hand in a nervously firm grip as they squeezed out of the telephone box.

He’s ruined it!” shouted Mavis, “that blasted god-man! He’s ruined the best day of my life! Fancy dying like that before I left for my honeymoon!”

I don’t think he did it on purpose!” said Ophelia gently, “people don’t die just to ruin someone else’s day. I dared say he didn’t particularly want to die.”

At least he signed the register,” gabbled Mavis, “it would have been too bad it we’d gone to all this trouble and expense and he’d died before he did that small thing!”

Ah, there you are my love,” panted the Reverend Simeon Crow as he puffed up towards them, clearly unfit, “what a turn up for the books,” he added.

Mavis looked at him somewhat fiercely bearing in mind she was a brand new bride taking her first steps into wedded bliss. “It’s typical of what you god-people do!” she snapped, “ruining a girl’s wedding day like that! What have you got to say to that, then?”

I don’t think it was in any way planned...” began Simeon, but the look on his face suggested that he was getting the very first inkling of what sort of life he had that morning let himself in for. “It’s all your fault,” he spat at Josiah in an afterthought that apparently came to him from thin air.

Me?” asked a confused Josiah.

If you were more of a man I’d have asked you to do the honours and marry us but no, you have to go and live in the back of beyond and in sin with this lady’s precious daughter whom she dearly wants at home with her!”

Yes!” shrieked Mavis, “a mother wants her daughter at a time like this!”

Come on,” urged Ophelia to Josiah, “let’s get to my lodgings and your home, sir, we can’t do much else here now, and tomorrow when I’m at work I might ask old Snaggle to update me on the laws of slander and what a girl’s to do if she’s slandered by her mother!”

And with that she pulled Josiah by the hand and the two of them walked towards their car where she’d parked it not far down the road, and they were off just in time as the warning siren from an ambulance told the world that something was not quite as well as it should have been in the world.

© Peter Rogerson 28.03.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 28, 2018
Last Updated on March 28, 2018
Tags: wedding, service, pale, grey, sickly, vicar, photographer, ambulance, collapse, death



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 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..