Monday, November 30, 2009

I heard there was a secret chord

Monday, November 30, 2009
I walk down by the side of the church, shivering in my new denim jacket. My granny wouldn't have let me wear it but she was still in the kitchen when I said goodbye and went out, closing the big, heavy door as quietly as I could. I really, really wanted to wear my new denim jacket because I think it looks really good. I brushed my teeth too, which I don't always do, and splashed some of my uncle's man perfume on my neck, like I see him do. He calls it aftershave but he doesn't really shave yet so I call it man perfume and he hates that and gives me a dead arm when I do. It's still really dark.

We always go this way to church anyway, even when we're just going to normal mass, my Granddad and my granny and me and my sister. Not my uncle, he always goes to a different mass. I think maybe he doesn't go to mass, but he always knows who said it because my granny always asks him and he always knows. I think he doesn't really go because once I asked him what the sermon was about and he just mumbled something and my granny said I hope you were listening and he said of course he was listening and they argued a bit and later he gave me a dead arm.

Today I'm going in the side door so even if I lived in Rathmines and I normally came in the front way I'd have to go down the side way. Because I'm serving. It's really, really cold, but I know that it'll be warmer in the vestry because it's always warmer in the vestry and Father Kavanagh will be there today. I take off my glasses before I go in. I'll have to put them on before the mass because I can't really see very well and once I tried to do the mass without them and I knocked over the water and wine thingy by accident and Father Tonge was doing the mass and he called me a clumsy cunt quietly so now I have to wear them in case and anyway Judge Durkin and Mrs Durkin are always at the half seven and if they see me without my glasses they'll tell my granny and she'll be annoyed and not talk to me and maybe even hit me with the spoon because I'm always losing my glasses. But I take them off before I go in anyway. My glasses make me look stupid, because they're all brown and yellow and big. I tried to make them look better by painting them with a gold marker that my Granddad has but my granny made me scrape it off and now they look even more stupid because there's little bits of gold still left.

Father Kavanagh is already there when I get in, even though I'm really early. The door's open but I knock anyway because you always have to knock. Father Kavanagh shouts come in. He looks like he's waiting but he doesn't look very glad to see me. I say good morning, Father, but he just grunts. He's still wearing his normal clothes, he even doesn't have a collar on, just a nice white shirt and black trousers and I think that maybe he's wearing man perfume too, but I'm not sure, maybe it's the incense or just him. He smells good. He's very tall and not fat and he makes me feel like I need to pee, but not exactly like I need to pee.

Mick comes in. He looks like he's just been crying. He always looks like he's been crying, with his leaky face. That's what I call him in my head. Leaky Face. But not in real life. In real life I just call him Mick, but I don't talk to him very much. He doesn't talk very much. Father Kavanagh looks glad to see him though. Father Kavanagh always looks glad to see Mick and he never looks glad to see me. It's still only five to seven, I can see the time on the clock on the wall, but Father Kavanagh tells me to go down and open the big front doors. I say it's only five to seven Father and he says don't argue with me and while you're there put out the leaflets and fill up the holy water, there, there's the bottle and be sure and knock now before you come back in here. I say yes Father.

I walk out onto the altar and genuflect in the middle of the altar before I walk down the big centre aisle. I always do this job, while Mick helps Father Kavanagh get dressed. I love being in the church when it's empty, it's so huge and peaceful and quiet, but really I'd like it more if I was the one helping Father Kavanagh get dressed. I asked Mick to swop one time and he said yes but Father Kavanagh decides and he always picks Mick. I go slowly, carrying the water, because it's a big bottle and it's heavy and I don't want to drop it and I'm carrying the leaflets too and I put the water down and do the leaflets first, put them in the four holder thingies and then I get the water and genuflect again. I like genuflecting. Then I go out and open the big doors and put water in the bowl thingies even though they don't really need any water so I just put in a bit, but really carefully because I can't really see without my glasses and the bottle is really heavy. And then I walk back up the centre aisle and I genuflect again before I go up on the altar and then I go to the vestry door and knock and I hear Father Kavanagh say wait so I wait. I wait for a while and I don't know whether I should knock again, I don't know what time it is because there's no clock but I see an old lady coming in, that old lady who's always at the half seven and always wears black so I knock again and I hear Father Kavanagh say I said wait, louder, so I wait.

And then Father Kavanagh says come in now. And Father Kavanagh and Mick are putting on Father Kavanagh's vestments and Father Kavanagh looks brilliant, tall and strong and smiling. Mick doesn't have his cassock on yet, so I go and take off my denim jacket and put my cassock on and look for my glasses. I can't find them. They're not in my denim jacket. I'm going to be in so much trouble. Mick looks like he's been crying again. He is crying a little bit really. I don't why, he hasn't lost his glasses. Stupid Leaky Face.

24 Johns and Janes for the comment whore:

Twenty Major said...

Appositely excellent.

grimsaburger said...

God almighty, Gimme. Moving. Devastating. Here's me hoping there's a book in you somewhere (if there hasn't been one already).

fatmammycat said...

Loved it. 'Stupid Leaky face'.

Medbh said...

Gut-wrenching, Gimme.

Adie said...

Almost unconsciously I finished reading this excellent post and thought;

"There but for the grace of God..."

It was a reflex, I don't believe in all that, but it's amazing how they still control the mind with all the crap they fed us as kids.

Voodoolady said...

I don't understand how anyone can still blindly follow the CC.

I would have made fun of stupid leaky face too.

NaRocRoc said...

Great stuff Gimme. Truly.

stipes said...

Great stuff Gimme. Lucky poor Mick didn't give you that swap

Dave said...

Hate to ask the obvious, artless question, but did this actually happen?

gimme a minute said...

What, like shit?

Thanks, Grims. I much too lazy for real writing I'm afraid.

I'm glad.

God gave me that line. Praise be.

Thanks. Leg-pulling would have been disappointing.

Though I do enjoy a good 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph' in times of stress.

Well, I didn't do it to his stupid leaky face.

Thank you. Sincerely.

Uh huh. Glad you liked it.

You don't hate to ask enough to not ask though.

Fact and fiction uncomfortably combined.

Manuel said...


shaking after that....

kiki said...

that made me feel sick

picture well painted though (too well)

in hindsight, are you happy father Kavanagh didn't ask you to help him dress?

Twenty Major said...

in hindsight, are you happy father Kavanagh didn't ask you to help him dress?

No, I'm sure he wishes he was the one who the shit raped out of him.

problemchildbride said...

God. That wee terrified boy.

I think you struck the chord, Gimme, pitch perfect, and I'm just guessing, but I bet it wouldn't please the Lord we're taught to believe in.

I don't think a country has been so badly let down by such an evil insidious cancer of an institution as has Ireland and its history with the Catholic Church. Christ, this has been a sickening year. Your chord rings true in a fog of Catholic cant, Gimme. Well done.

Conan Drumm said...

Ah, memories. There was Fr. Tibulous and his 'horseplay' with us altar boys; and Fr. Osculous who brought me up to the Feather Beds in his Morris Minor when I was six or seven. Then there was Fr Biafrous, brought home from the missions, with his favourite pupils.

I escaped, really. They carefully targetted their victims, all of whom were a bit weaker than me. Weaky faces, weaky bodies, weaky families.

gimme a minute said...

Thanks. And thanks for the late night tweet.

I think Twenty got that one. But I would have been much more polite.

I'm pretty separate from it, with a wandering childhood and a fairly apathetic (to Catholicism) mother.

My uncle had a book called 'Help My Unbelief'. Which says quite a bit about what I hope is a transitional generation. Are there thirty year olds at mass any more? I pray not. Ha.

Glad to find you back. And relieved to hear that you mostly escaped.

Sharon said...

Very moving and disturbing and all too possible. 2 of my brothers were alter boys, I was always jealous and once had asked the PP why they didn't have alter girls. He laughed at the very thought of it.
I hope that the hold the catholic church corporation has on the people of this country will diminish soon.

Sharon said...

Blah, I meant altar boy/girl, not what I wrote.

kiki said...

tone Twenty. it was a question. digital communication hampers tone

Postman said...

Move over, McCourt...Kavanagh calling the protagonist a "clumsy cunt" was a nice touch. I'd like to echo the "gut-wrenching" sentiments being expressed.

gimme a minute said...

We live in hopeless hope.

Stupid digits.

I was Begbie was my dad.

Postman said...

Ha! Don't we all! But I'd likely have calluses all over my head if he was my dad. Or shards of beer glass in my scalp.

Au Lapin Blanc said...

This was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

Well deserved nomination m'dear.

I was once an altar girl actually. Thankfully I have only good memories of it

Kro IT Solutions said...

Great post - best of luck tonight at the IBA!

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