THE BLASTED DESERT Chapter Thirteen

21 Feb

13 FATHER BROWN

Mother!” called Novitiate Bertie as he pushed the front door open from the garlanded porch and paused on the threshhold.

Is that you, sweetie-pie?” came a ladylike voice from somewhere inside the cottage, and after a rustling and footsteppy set of sounds Mother appeared at the end of a short passage and stood there, smiling broadly.

Imageous just had to gasp. He’d never seen anyone quite like this person, not in all of his life. Despite being in her fifties she looked a great deal younger, possibly as a consequence of the almost nothing that she was wearing over a splendidly shapely body and the subtle but skilfully applied make-up on her pretty face. For that face would have been pretty even without the help of lipstick and blusher. But more than the make-up and the mini-things that she was wearing she exuded a sense of health and well-being. There could be no doubt about it: Mother looked after herself in all the right ways.

You look radiant, Mother,” almost cooed Bertie, and Imageous looked at him as if he was looking at a total stranger. Bertie was changed. He was no longer the humble novitiate but a member of the normal world.

Why, hello darling,” smiled Mother, “I wasn’t expecting you today!”

Our Lord and Master has burnt the Monastery down,” explained Bertie, “though I rather suspect it was lightning from the storm rather than any divinity.”

Was there a storm, sweetie-pie? I thought I heard something as I lay luxuriating in bed with Alphonse,” cooed Mother. “It must have been that that woke me up.

Alphonse is her current boyfriend,” explained Bertie to Imageous. “Sometimes I struggle to keep up, but he’s been with her for the best part of a year, and I like him.”

And who’s the man in gorgeous pink with the most delicious boa I’ve seen in ages?” asked Alphonse’s girlfriend, smiling warmly.

This is Brother Imageous, and the two of us escaped with out lives,” explained Bertie. “I’m afraid we’ll have to stay here until we get something more permanent sorted.”

That’s perfectly all right! But the two of you will have to share a room,” cooed Mother. “I hope your gorgeous friend doesn’t mind.”

I was rather hoping we would share,” grinned Bertie. “You know me, Mother.”

You and your naughty little ways,” giggled Mother, adjusting a curl of blond hair with a carefully practised hand. “Come on in and have some tea and we’ll sort out something a little less spectacular for your friend to wear … what did you call him, Imageous?”

And the two visitors were swept into a tidy and well-equipped kitchen. Alphonse (for it was he) was sitting at one end with a huge pile of fried food on a plate in front of him. Imageous looked at him curiously, for he’d never seen anyone quite like him before. He had a well-manicured moustache like an almost oversized handlebar if his nose was looked at as the bicycle that it steered ,and the thinnest but most profuse beard that dangled frugally down from the point of his chin for the best part of twelve inches. He was wearing a dressing gown in green and yellow, and he shovelled the more than adequate breakfast into his mouth as if eating might actually be going to go out of fashion.

Hi, fellas,” he said, spitting a tiny cocktail of bacon and egg wrapped in spittle towards them.

Manners, Alphonse,” reproved Mother, or Enid as Imageous knew he’d have to call her if he ever dared address her directly.

This is Bertie’s little friend,” cooed Mother, “so be nice to him. They’ve just escaped a conflagration.”

Then with no more of an explanation than that, she escorted the two refugees from the ashes of a Monastery to a spare room, taking them up a rickety staircase and along a short passageway.

You’ll share this room, darlings,” she said, and then, directly to Imageous, “I can see you’ve been treated for something or other by all the bits of bandage hanging off you. When you’re bathed you must send for Alphonse to patch you up. He’s a doctor.”

We’re in luck. She likes you,” grinned Bertie when she had left them and they’d heard her steps on the staircase. “She suggested you must bathe, and when she suggests things like that it’s as good as an order that must not be disobeyed. When you’re sorted I’ll show you where the bathroom is.”

Imageous looked around. He’d never been in a room like this. It was decorated mostly in pink, which matched his dressing gown perfectly, though he had the feeling he wouldn’t be wearing it for much longer. The bed, which was large enough to hold an army of Brothers, he thought, occupied most of the space and would be gloriously comfortable come nightfall. There was a double wardrobe and a dressing table which sported a huge mirror, and that was about that. Everything looked both tasteful and feminine.

Bertie opened the wardrobe and brought out a few clothes for Imageous. Apparently he kept several changes of trousers and shirts at his mother’s home, things that he never would be allowed to wear at the Monastery.

These fit me, so they should fit you,” he said, “what do you prefer as undies?”

Imageous had no idea what undies might be and Bertie saw his confusion and produced a new packet of three pairs of blue boxer shorts. Imageous nodded, confused beyond speech at the way things were going.

The bathroom’s through here,” said Bertie when he thought enough had been sorted to keep the bedazzled Brother from indecent exposure in public. “Come and have a bath. I’ll help you if you like because spending a lifetime in the monastery means you won’t know much about baths!”

I don’t like…” began Imageous, and then paused. He didn’t like baths because he’d only had one in his entire life, and that had been supervised by nurses who had spent the entire time tut-tutting about the condition of his skin. There is, he thought, nothing worse than being tut-tutted at to make a fellow feel inadequate.

Before he was immersed in hot water in the bath Bertie, seeing what lay under the pink dressing-gown, called anxiously for Alphonse.

He’s in a bad way,” he told the facially over-adorned medic, “and I think he needs treatment of one kind or another.

I’ll take a peek,” Alphonse assured him, and even he expressed horror at what he saw, his absurd beard swishing about like a confused tassel, which didn’t do much for Imageous’s confidence.

In the end a great deal of toxic-smelling cream was gently rubbed into most of the Brother’s upper body and even part of his lower. But it did soothe him almost instantly, and when he was almost covered in bandages he felt as if they might be preparing him for the grave.

Once he was dried he was taken back down the stairs where he was introduced to the biggest shock to his understanding, in his more recent years, of the Universe and everything in it.

He was shown a large flat-screened television and told it was almost time for Father Brown….*

TO BE CONTINUED….

* A recent BBC series based on the novels by G.K.Chesterton and starring Mark Williams as the eponymous Roman Catholic priest who has a penchant for solving murders.

© Peter Rogerson 06.02.17

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