Cause or Just Impediment

by Chris Cottom

Reverend Weatherall accepts the latest cup of tea in what he sometimes refers to as his million cuppa ministry, before settling himself on the sofa opposite his waif-like parishioner. She’s wearing what has to be a man’s t-shirt, as if it’s a dress. It’s none too clean and has ‘Brazil’ emblazoned above an image of the Football World Cup, with some writing which the good rector imagines is Portuguese and probably boastful.

‘I’ll be reading your banns of marriage on Sunday,’ he says, opening his red register. ‘For the first time of asking. Let me see … Annaliese Kathrin Müller, of the parish of Saxton St Mary  and …’

‘Benício,’ mumbles the bride-to-be.

‘I’m sorry?’


‘Ah yes … Gavin Edward Clarendon Johnson, also of Saxton St Mary.’ He snaps his book shut and beams at her. ‘Not the village’s turn for a service, I’m afraid. Brent Eleigh this week. By the way, you’ll be Saxton’s tenth wedding since the war.’

‘Really?’ Annaliese says, in an accent which sends Reverend Weatherall fumbling through his book of banns again.

‘Um … I think you told me your father is a minister.’

‘A Lutheran pastor, yes.’

‘Of course, you’re …’

‘Austrian. A stranger in a foreign land.’

Reverend Weatherall smiles. ‘The Book of Genesis.’

‘Chapter fifteen.’

‘You … erm … I don’t think we’ve seen you on Sundays.’

‘I go to the New Life Church in Hadleigh. I didn’t go anywhere for ages after my mother died. The cancer had literally eaten her alive and I was very angry with God – I was only thirteen – and I hurt Papa by refusing to go to church.’

Reverend Weatherall has been a man of the cloth for thirty-two years. In the long-ago days of his curacy, the Archdeacon of Ipswich had told him that priests have two ears and one mouth and should apply them in proportion.

‘But in the Easter holidays of my first year at university, I took my, um, my boyfriend home to meet him and my brothers and sister. We went by train all the way and stopped in Germany twice so we could… have proper sleeps in hotels. Benício wanted to go to mass which was a bit of a surprise because we hadn’t really discussed it, with him being a Catholic, and we went to the most extraordinary church I’d ever been to in my life. It’s actually very famous, the Wies Church.’

‘Indeed. One day I hope to see it myself.’

‘It’s rococo and incredibly ornate and completely over the top with a massive high pulpit and statues and marble pillars and gold and swirly bits everywhere and frescoes of clouds and Bible figures all over the walls and ceilings. I hardly understood the service because it was very Roman Catholic with smells and bells and a robed choir and all Venite and Jubilate and goodness knows what. But suddenly I found myself crying and crying … and everyone was so sweet and nobody seemed to mind and I just clung to Benício like I …’

Annaliese sniffs, hoicks up the sleeve of her t-shirt dress, and wipes her nose.

‘… like I was a little girl …’

The kindly cleric has done this before. In the pocket of his dusty black jacket a packet of tissues sits open and ready.

‘… but gradually I understood the Holy Spirit was telling me how God loved Mutti very much, more than I could possibly understand, and He loved me and Papa and Lena and the boys and Benício, and I knew Mutti was happy with Him in heaven, and although she hadn’t been able to walk even a step for her last few months, I could see her there, dancing with Jesus.’

Reverend Weatherall proffers his pastoral tissues to his tearful parishioner, thankful as always for the privilege of shepherding the lost, and hopeful for a second cup of tea.

Chris Cottom lives in the north west of England, and once wrote insurance words for a living. He’s won the Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize, the LoveReading Very Short Story People’s Choice Award, and competitions with Shooter Flash and On The Premises.

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