6 Jan


Cley Churchyard Pictures, Images and Photos

On his way from the old rectory to his church the Reverend Josiah Pyke passed Mildred Downder, an old woman holding an almost empty methylated spirits bottle and with a hungry, greedy look in her eyes.

“Hello Reverend, sir,” she wheezed.

“Bog off, you drunken old sot!” growled the Reverend Josiah Pyke, “and make sure you come nowhere near my church and its sweet-smelling congregation. I get complaints when you seek shelter from the weather with regular folk. They say you smell, and you do: I can smell you from here. And last week old Tommy Fletcher caught fleas off you!”

“Yes sir, sorry sir, what about a few coppers for me ‘ealth, sir?” wheezed the sad old woman.

“You’d only spend them on more rot-gut to melt your brains,” he snarled. “Look at you, you pathetic creature! Instead of lurking in the gutters, get away and clean yourself up! Now out of my way. I’ve a sermon to preach!”

“Yes sir, sorry sir…” mumbled the old woman, and she sauntered off, taking her smell with her.

“That’s dealt with that,” whispered the Reverend Josiah Pyke to himself, and he continued on his way to his church. It wasn’t far: the old Rectory shared the same plot of land as the church that it serviced and a slightly overgrown path wound its way between an orchard of ancient, crumbling gravestones that surrounded the medieval structure.

Once in the church the Reverend Josiah Pyke felt more at ease and he began to regret some of the harsh things he’d sneered at the old alcoholic. But only some of them: most of what he said he heartily approved of. He merely wished he hadn’t told her to bog off. Maybe that had been a bit harsh. Bugger off would, he thought, have been more appropriate.

The sermon he’d planned for that day was a good one. It was one of those that had come easily to him when he’d sat at his desk with his whisky and cheese biscuits and he’d drafted it in minutes.

A prominent member of Government had died in suspicious circumstances and it had been all over the news, and he was going to use that as the basis of his argument.

He surveyed his congregation. There had been a time when it had been bigger with more souls seeking salvation, but as time had passed he had convinced himself that one good Christian attending to his sermons was more likely to appeal to his Lord than would a thousand wretched atheists with their non-belief. And scattered in front of him sat more than one good Christian: there were four.

He cleared his throat.

“We hear that Sir Everard Twitch has passed away,” he began.

Sir Everard Twitch was the late lamented prominent member of Government who had been all over the news.

“He may not have been a perfect man, he may have been only as mortal and strong or weak as us, but he did great things,” pontificated the Reverent Josiah Pyke.

“Such as?” breathed one of his congregation, audibly enough for the good Reverend to hear.

He winced. His preparation had been minimal because it had all seemed so easy, writing the brief notes that he knew he would be able to expand from the pulpit with the authority bestowed on him by his dog collar.

“During the war against the infidels in the East,” he said, “he provided our army with the most destructive of weaponry, his splinter bombs that successfully maimed and killed thousands of their ill-equipped foe! That saved lives, the lives of our countrymen, the young men protecting us from a vicious foe! Now he has gone we must all mourn, for his greatness was one of defending us against wild men, unbelievers and not men of God, who would overrun our proud nation and bring it to its knees…”

He was right there, he knew that.

He cleared his throat, and continued.

“I know that he died in a state of undress, surrounded by a veritable army of naked women doing appalling things to his flesh, and that it is reported he had goodness-knows how many strange chemicals jostling his blood for space in his veins, but he was a man with the frailties of all men everywhere, a good man….”

“Shame…” came a hiss from the four.

“The evil in all of us condemns us in our own eyes, but underneath it all he was great and we will miss him, for his weakness was our strength…”

The huge oak door at the back of the church opened with a crash.

“The old woman … Old mother Downder … she’s dead on the step of the church!” came a voice. “Help!”

For a moment the Reverend Josiah Pyke was lost for words, then, “Poor woman,” he rumbled, “but she’s no loss. At least the air around her will be less … putrid,” he added with a nudge and a wink.

By your words are you judged, he seemed to hear actually coming from an image on the church wall, badly painted, of a young woman holding a baby with a spooky ring encircling its head.

And he was.

Next week his congregation numbered less than one.

He sighed. They’ll be back when they realise who made the smell, he told himself. But they did realise that much, with the consequence that nobody returned.

© Peter Rogerson 06.01.13



  1. pambrittain April 8, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    I finally found you. I think I’ve read this story three times and enjoyed it every time.

  2. Peter Rogerson April 29, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    Thanks Pam. I’ll try to add to the limited stuff on this site and maybe doing that will help me get my head round it!!!

    • pambrittain April 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

      Well, I have you linked and receive notifications of your new posts and comments. Yee-haw. At least I can stay caught up with your stories. BTW, do you have the ‘follow’ button checked for your main page to follow yourself?

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