41. Bernadette’s Confirmation

41. Bernadette’s Confirmation

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE LIFE OF PYKE - 41

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It was a long job for Jeremiah, recovering from whatever Gypsy had laced his tea with.

Sue reported it to the police following Jeremiah’s midnight intervention by a policeman who had reported the peculiar events he had stumbled on long after dark. She quite rightly told an officer that the Refuge seemed to be deserted and anyone’s children could find their way into its dining area and help themselves to a drop of toxic tea, and that could be really nasty both for the children and their parents. But when a couple of constables turned up to investigate, taking Jeremiah with them so he could show the way and make sure they knew what they were looking for, it had gone. Someone had been and someone had removed that dreadful urn.

Then weeks piled into months and Jeremiah slowly returned to normal without any flashbacks to his time at Gypsy’s Refuge other than an explosion in his passion fot Sue.

Therefore he was completely in his right mind when he was called, as a matter of urgency, to the house of Bernadette Else, one of his more loyal parishioners. Bernadette (known to those who knew her as Bernie) had long been a stalwart supporter of the church and was famed for her white elephant stalls at fairs and garden parties as well as her stall at bring and buy sales held indoors during inclement weather.

But like all born of woman, age had finally caught up with her and she sent a message via a grandson (who had retired from his job on the buses, which indicates how old she was) that she would like to see the reverend, and if he could make it today rather than tomorrow he might find he wasn’t too late.

Being the sort of man he was he made it straight away.

She was lying in her bed, her white head was on a black pillow and the rumbling that was coming from her sounded both sleepy and unhealthy.

Granny Bernie,” said her grandson, “he’s here, the Reverend is. I’ll be going now for your prescription while he’s here keeping you company.”

The head on the pillow barely acknowledged that the man had spoken, then it slowly moved until it was facing Jeremiah, eyes tightly shut, before, with a barely discernible quiver, her eyelids moved.

Oh, Reverend,” she said weakly when she opened her eyes wide enough to see him, “I don’t feel so well...”

The Lord will look after you,” he said predictably.

It’s you I want forgiveness from, not him,” she whispered, “I stole from the church...”

What, he thought, could this dear old lady have stolen that is so troubling to her conscience? And anyway, not much ever goes missing, and when it does I usually find it where I forgot I put it…

Don’t you be worrying yourself over things like that...” he murmured, “I’m sure there’s no need for you to be troubled...”

But I am!” she insisted, raising her voice to the point at which he didn’t have to strain to hear it. “Reverend, you see that cupboard over there, the brown one with the doors and brass handles and doily on it?”

He looked and nodded. It wasn’t difficult to see because she had described it so well.

Just you go and open the right hand door, Reverend,” she said, resorting to a whisper again, “just you open it please...”

The struggled use of the word please made him obey, and he very carefully pulled on a brass handle. It was stiff and he was well aware that ancient artefacts can break if subjected to too much pressure, and he didn’t want to damage her furniture.

I think it’s locked,” he said.

Nah, Reverend, tug it!” she ordered, and he did put a tiny amount of extra pressure on the reluctant handle, and that tiny amount was enough.

The cupboard door sprung open revealing that it was packed as full as it could be with all manner of things, and some of its contents even spilled out.

Oops,” he said.

Them’s all things I’ve pinched from the church,” she said, her voice fading towards silence.

He looked closely at the things that were now haphazardly strewn on the floor. There were books, quite a lot of books, various issues of the prayer book, differently published hymn books, even sheets of order of service for this or that single event.

He picked one up. ‘ORDER OF SERVICE FOR THANKS FOR THE END OF HOSTILITIES, SEPTEMBER 1945’ he read.

What is this stuff?” he couldn’t help asking.

Reverend,” she said in the most feeble voice imaginable so that even when he struggled he could only catch the odd syllable, “I was a child and my ma obliged me to go to church. Every week on Sundays. Twice most weeks. And I collected souvenirs. When I was little, you see, and on to growing older. One of everything new. You know … you can see… and spoons. I collected spoons. Lots of spoons from garden fetes and afternoon teas. And plates. Nice shiny plates… and even last month...”

It had been a marathon speech, and she was exhausted by having to make it.

They’re only things,” he told her in the kind of voice that would even have seduced a squirrel, “the Lord isn’t over bothered about things.”

The eyes fluttered, which was as close as they got to reopening. “But I am,” she whispered, “it takes great evil to rob a church...”

I forgive you,” he told her, quite firmly, sure he was right to say it.

I want you to take them … back,” she whispered, “to the church … then they’re not stolen any more if you take them back… will you do that for me?”

Of course,” he said, speaking as quietly as she was.

Then I will be forgiven … say that I’ll be forgiven?” Her voice had become so feeble that he was hard pressed to pick up a single word, but he nodded anyway.

If there is anything for me to forgive, then I forgive you,” he whispered.

She sighed and smiled, a yellow-toothed little glimmer of a smile as the life went out of her and her eyes closed for one last flickering moment.

Speed you well, and safely,” he whispered, “and may your meeting with our master be joyous...”

I’ve got your prescription, granny!” called the voice of her grandson, breaking into the sombre silence of the room.

He lumbered in, carrying a paper bag. “They say you’ll have to go back tomorrow for one of the things because they’re out of stock.”

Then he looked at her, and sighed.

I guess it will be too late,” he said, sadly, “poor old granny Bernie. But she got her treasures off her chest, then? He pointed to the debris that had fallen out of the cupboard. “You’ll be taking them, vicar? She wanted you to take them...”

He smiled at the man. The deceased’s grandson, yet probably older than him.

I’ll get them back to the church where they belong,” he confirmed, “you’ll need to get the doctor to look at her, You know, make sure...”

Yes.” He frowned. “Did she say anything? About me. For instance?”

She hadn’t, but Jeremiah knew that sometimes a little white lie can do more good than a thousand truths.

She said how you helped her when she most needed it,” he said.

Bernie’s grandson smiles broadly.

That’s her very voice,” he said, “saying that! Thank you, vicar. I wasn’t here when she, you know, when she … went … but you were, so it’s okay, isn’t it?”

Yes,” he replied, and picked up a crumpled and folded sheet of paper that had fallen from the cupboard.

CONFIRMATION OF BERNADETTE ELSE, 1937”, it read in faded print along the top.

Keep this,” he said, “it might be precious.”

© Peter Rogerson, 17.09.20



© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on September 17, 2020
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Tags: dying woman, aged, collection, theft

THE LIFE OF PYKE


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
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