Friday, June 17, 2011

Short story: Miracle Shirt (part iv)

While studying in seminary, Father Michael had been involved in a small drama troupe which put on plays at Easter and Christmas. His sense of dramatic flair was revived as he imagined how best to present this miracle shirt. He couldn’t be too flashy or the shirt would be overshadowed. But to drape the shirt over a chair wouldn’t do either. In the end he decided to rig a clothes line pulley behind the altar so that when the time came to unveil the miracle the shirt would glide out of the alcoves, like an angel alighting in their midst.

A week later, after tantalizing the congregation with hints and suggestions for the better part of his service, Father Michael gave a nod to young Bobby Miller in the wings, who began to reel out the line. The shirt jerked into view, swaying and twisting with Bobby’s every tug. It turned on itself so that Father Michael had to go over and straighten it, stretching it out so the burn was clearly visible.

A puzzled hush fell over the church and Murielle could hear wasps buzzing angrily against the window panes, battering themselves against the glass like maddened prisoners. Everyone was waiting. Some wondered if Jesus would appear, wearing this stained shirt. Others wondered if the shirt would turn into a pair of wings. A couple of women hoped it would take itself off the line and fold into a laundry basket - that would be a miracle worth believing in. Old lady Pearl wondered why the priest was showing his dirty laundry in the middle of service.

Seeing blank faces and puzzled eyes, Father Michael realized he must explain. “It’s the image of Christ,” he said, in as much of an authoritative tone as he could muster.

The faces still looked puzzled and Father Michael sensed an undercurrent of anger, like that of petulant children who have been promised a treat that does not materialize. Quickly, fighting to keep the whine of anxiety from his voice, the pale priest explained this was the face of Christ, here on the shirt. There was still no reply, only sceptical silence and the insistent buzzing of wasps.

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