13. A New Beginning

13. A New Beginning

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN THINGS (13)

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Josiah walked with me as far as All Saints Church, and left me at the door.

I don’t like these places,” he admitted, “empty houses built to glorify a non-existent god.”

They worked hard building them,” I pointed out, “especially when the tools they had wouldn’t stand up to any sort of health and safety examination these days!”

Just you go in and examine the lit candle, the fourth one on the altar, and see if there’s anything remotely familiar in there.” he muttered.

As if there could be,” I growled, “I’ve not been in this place since I was a kid rejoicing that three ships came sailing in when I was ten!”

And that was a long time ago,” he agreed, “but people still do come in. Some every Sunday as if the worms munching on their dead flesh in the graveyard will know all about their devotion, and treat them more kindly.”

Now stop confusing the flesh with the spirit,” I advised him, “are you going to wait and see if I return with a forked tongue and a red tail?”

I’ll be back home if you want me,” was his reply, “it’s just that I promised to get you here.”.

Tell me again how you have this sacred knowledge of a fourth candle?” I asked him.

I told you. It was the chair.” was his only reply.

And you were sitting in it?” I persisted.

Not me. A guest. A friend. Now stop wasting my time and see what you will see!”

What sort of friend?” I ventured.

A good one. Now hop it or else!”

I turned my back on him and walked through the open door into the body of the church. Now let me be clear: like Josiah, I’m not a religious man, not in the sense of being in awe of deities and crowds of angels and all the paraphernalia of Heaven. They’re all part of a nightmare suffered by primitive men in the long ago of the world as they tried to understand the big questions, questions we still can’t answer with any degree of confidence. Like where do I go to when I die? That sort of question.

But there’s something about the inside of a church. Maybe it’s the age of the place or it could be that the building is dwarfed besides a modern cathedral to commerce like this one is, but a kind of mystery suffuses the air. I like to think it doesn’t touch me, but it does.

I didn’t go all the way up to the altar because there was someone in a pew right in front of it, a dark figure hunched in what was probably prayer, and although I’ve not seen any point in praying all my adult life because in my head there’s nobody at the receiving end to answer it, I thought it best not to disturb him or her.

No, it was a her. A woman, Or, to be more precise, a nun.

I sat a couple of rows back and stared at the back of what could only be a nun’s head, veiled as it was in black. I’ve no idea what makes a woman sacrifice the pleasures of life as I perceive them in order to dedicate herself to following what she’s told are the dictates of a bearded bloke above the skies, but then I‘ve no idea what it can be like being a woman.

My experiences, for a man in his seventies, have been almost as sterile as those of the nun muttering to whoever she thought might be listening to her, sitting in the seat not so far away from me. But for the greater part of that life I’ve had my library. The vast collection of words created by generations of geniuses.

If that nun, in her quiet way, was confessing, then it’s time for me to do the same. I’ve had what most people might call an empty life despite the richness of the books all around me, and, in the last years of my working life, the introduction of recorded music. But my home was a solitary place with only me rattling around in it, and had been like that since Katie passed away.

I suppose it might be said that I’ve been a lonely man and that lonely man has been held together by his memories. Now, at my age, all I have to look forward to is a quiet funeral and quieter age in the grave. And it was there, sitting behind a nun in her distinctive uniform, that it crossed my mind that there might not be a huge gulf between that woman and me.

Maybe my memories might be a little richer, but then, so what, memories are the remaining spikes of a nothing past and, in truth, no more.

The nun had been kneeling, because slowly, as if he bones ached, she sat up. The candle in front of her, the fourth one in a row, flickered, and I heard her muttering. Not clearly, not as if she was talking to anyone besides herself.

Then louder.

Her voice became audible to me.

Is he waiting for you?” she asked, “the man who brought you here?”

Who? Me? I mean him? No,” I replied, hoping she wouldn’t think me impertinent if her question hadn’t been directed at me at all but at a spirit, maybe, in her version of the ether. Did nuns have invisible friends, or maybe friends only visible to them? Was that the sum total of their delusion? And was I being an interfering old fool thinking she would find anything about me worth talking to?

Good,” she replied, “I was hoping he’d go back to his … chair.”

That rang the sort of bell I didn’t like hear being rung in my head. Was that a reference to Josiah’s memory chair and if so, what did a nun know about it?

He went,” I sighed, “at least, he said that was what he was doing.”

Good.”

Then she turned round to face me, a smile on her face. She was old like I was old, and was that white line the remnant of an ancient scar on one cheek?

A scar that I almost recognised?

I must go,” I told her, “I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t do churches, not at all really. But … a friend … brought me here. He said there might be something that could help me, and the fool knows I’m not inclined to religion. I don’t know what he meant, but he’s a kind man and I don't think he knew you were here...”

Oh, he knew I was here,” she said, “I told him where I’d be. I told him that I’ve always wanted to get you into church somehow and he thought this might be the best way. After all, I am a nun. Have been since … but you won’t know since when, you were out of touch, so I’d best tell you, since Perry died...”

Perry? The boy from school? The lad I’d been friends with until he married that girl, what was her name? Amanda? When I’d met Katie and we’d had a few rather special months together…

He’s dead?” I asked, “the same Perry?”

What an inane question! What would she make of that?

Of course, the same Perry, and years beyond number ago. And now the time’s come, I think,” she said, “for things to end and new things to begin.”

I was lost. Completely. Was the woman mad? What did she mean? What new things, and how could anything that was new to a nun relate to me?

My brave boy,” she whispered.

With those words there was a blinding light inside my head, a flash so bright it’s a miracle the old church didn’t collapse as it flickered and faded.

Amanda?” I gasped.

She smiled, and nodded.

Let me ask you an old question,” she said quietly, “for a second time, and this time please say yes. Will you be my boyfriend?”

THE END

© Peter Rogerson 21.09.20




© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on June 21, 2020
Last Updated on June 21, 2020
Tags: church, memory, nun, chair


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 77 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..

Writing