Thanksgiving is nearing an end, and one of the new actors in The Queen’s Idle Fancy is introduced in this double-sized chapter. What part he plays is up to the mysterious unknown Director. Who is pulling the strings? Where’s Waltzcrop? Camoustra and Frenalto are mentioned once more in passing, and the nanny abandons her church forever . . . until next time. Please feel free to comment on any part of the story. Your likes and dislikes are important to me . . . once I hit the publish-to-blog button, the story is no longer mine; it’s yours!
“We are all demonic!”—QUEEN STORMAG
This painting by my father, George Bogdanovitch, reminds me of stained glass, and since Part 23 takes place in a church, I felt it appropriate. You can find more of my parents’ artwork by visiting www.bogdanovitch.com.
If you want to read A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy) from the very beginning (all 32,200+ words of it), simply click HERE for Part 1. If you want to refresh your memory from the last chapter, simply click HERE to begin reading Part 22.
A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy) — Part 23
Theresa walked with a determined stride and the church came into view just past the Fidalgo Island Theater Ensemble’s headquarters. FITE’s theater was a reclaimed industrial building, a two-story thing in the front with square structures placed upon rectangles, almost three stories in the rear where the stage had been constructed fifty years in the past. The marquee was bare and unlit, and the building had no windows, as if purposefully blinded. If Theresa thought about it more, she’d say the façade didn’t welcome patrons, even though the front was fancied up with a roofline trim, and more town murals of famous residents of the past, a girl skipping, pigtails flying up, a crab boat with fishermen hauling in the catch of the day. This one made Theresa stop a moment before crossing the sidewalk. The mural showed two men lifting something heavy, unseen, beneath the waters of Puget Sound, and Theresa imagined the water spraying as an evil black shape breached the surface to drown the two men, take them straight to the bottom. Was it her imagination? Did the water surrounding the painted mural stir, the acrylic froth bubble? Theresa hurried along holding her breath until the theater was behind her. The church stood on neighboring ground, and Theresa shuddered. There was something more happening in this town. Theresa jumped to conclusions and scolded herself. She saw what she saw and she’d make the priest believe it, she’d seek his counsel, and he’d share holy wisdom.
The front door to the church was always unlocked and Theresa pushed into the foyer. It wasn’t a fancy church, but the rich wood entryway made Theresa think many a blessing was spent on creating a warm and welcoming house of worship. The smell of lemon-scented cleaner grew as she walked into the back of the large hall, pews in two and two and growing until the church filled with enough room for hundreds. Sunday service was full but nowhere close to standing room only. Theresa thought more’s the pity: if only church could be electrified, turned into a multi-colored game, automated with tablets, and far from the ancient tablets of Moses. Today’s generation expected miracles only when stricken by illness, pain, grief, inconsolable despair, and the Lord worked in mysterious ways. People wrote songs about this still. Theresa preferred the hymns of old.
The church was empty. Father Mitchum Kelly was probably invited to an upright family’s Thanksgiving table, smiling his handsome smile, being polite, funny, charismatic. Theresa liked Father Kelly. She didn’t hold his youthful vigor against him, but her husband couldn’t stomach his company. Told her Father Kelly should’ve stuck with a different kind of stage, a less lofty pulpit. Her husband thought Father Kelly was a show-boater, a narcissist (yes, he preened a bit too much up there, but that was preferable to dirge-like sermons as dry as toast), loved to hear himself speak, and there were rumors he’d gone to Hollywood after majoring in drama and theology at a college in Oregon, and that the tough life of a young starlet in the making had become too difficult—that penniless, difficult times in his L.A. past stayed at the rumor stage. More schooling. Seminary. Years. Father Kelly must be almost thirty. Handsome. Theresa became stuck on this word. Attendance at the church had grown, with the old priest set out to pasture and forgotten by most in a few short months.
Theresa moved across the atrium to the far left wall facing the front theater-level mount. The wall’s crème paint took in the flickering light of dozens of votive candles. She quickly lit a candle—to the dead, the entire town, to herself and her husband—and kneeled in prayer, her words a mumbled mess, rapid-fire pleas to God.
The church felt chilly, and the lighting in the space dim with only two golden and six silver chalices reflecting flickering candlelight. Spaced along the walls, antique bronze candlesticks, unlit, added to the gloom within this house of the Lord.
She moved to the alley splitting the pews in the center and approached the front row to sit and wait for Father Kelly. Cupboards behind the altar held communion vessels. Theresa remembered that this cupboard had an official name—the aumbry—used to keep the reserved sacrament. In her amped paranoid state, she wondered what was hiding there and actually stood up and moved to a seat four pews back from the front.
The sound of a door opening reverberated throughout the empty church.
Theresa turned to see Father Kelly moving down the far right side, his lurching shadow flickering against the wall.
“Theresa. It’s late in the day. Is everything all right with Bogdan?”
“He’s holding his own today, but I need to get back to him.”
Father Mitchum Kelly sat down next to Theresa. He stared at the church’s ceiling, his gaze following the beam running along the center, a solid beam that always conveyed strength, something he was always alluding to in his sermons. Be strong. Have an underlying strength. It’s there. Backbones another allusion he loved, beams, melody in the hymns, character, honesty, all making up the physical and the immaterial worlds.
“You seem disturbed, Theresa. What brings you to the church this holiday?”
“I’ve seen something . . . something unexplainable.”
“That doesn’t make my next question a good one. All I can say now is try? You’re shaking. Let me get one of the blankets in the storage closet.”
“No. Please.” Theresa clutched Father Kelly’s forearm as strongly as she could. “You know I’m now nanny to two children.”
“Yes. They’re not members of this congregation.”
“No. I don’t believe they’re religious. Mrs. Ivy says she’s spiritual though, follows a new age mysticism and yoga god that many people worship. I know these Chopra Oprah people. They can’t help how blinded they are. Charlatans in the kingdom. I won’t allow their tomfoolery to undercut the Lord’s message. His voice is strong. But, he was not in the Belloon home tonight. Only evil grows there. I saw it flutter. Blackness. Everyone burning. Even myself. Look!” Theresa pulled back her coat and showed her bare arm to the priest. He saw pale, dry, old skin, spotted a bit, normal aging.
Father Kelly listened and understood. Theresa believed in a stricter version of the Holy Scripture and most people failed in her eyes. She saw sin, sinners, everywhere. He’d had discussions with her when she believed what he was saying wasn’t deep enough, or condescending even. Her judgment was off-putting to several other members of the congregation.
“You told me last week that Martin and Carole Belloon invited the family that employs you over for Thanksgiving. They’re good people.”
“No. They’re not. They deceive.”
“My skin. Really look.”
“Tell me what you see, Theresa, because I just see your arm. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“It’s blackened. My wrist bone is protruding out of the charred mess. It’s as if I’ve been burned alive.”
“Is there pain?”
“What about my hands, my arms?” Father Kelly pulled back his winter coat. He’d pulled his gloves off earlier, and his bad circulation made his fingers pinker in the dim light, the blood staying in his extremities.
He saw Theresa pull away from him. “You’re dead too. What is happening?” Theresa cried then. She wept, her eyes slowly producing tear after tear.
“My arm. You see it burnt to a crisp? Everyone at the Belloon house? Even the children? Burned up?”
“Everyone but Mr. Belloon’s daughter. The yellow butterfly chose her. She will be saved. Or transformed. That’s what butterflies do. It came out of the box of black smoke, flew around the table, and chose Peggy. She’s visiting her father. Maybe she won’t be around when everyone dies.”
“The Belloons attend this church. You know them.”
“I only met them today. They sit up front here. I sit in the back.”
“Yes. Well, they are some of this town’s leaders. They run the theater next door.”
“Mr. Belloon is evil.”
“He’s far from that, Theresa. He’s an upstanding citizen of this community. He wants me to play a part in the new play.”
“That’s what’s happening. He’s playing on your vanity. He knows you have a background in acting—everyone knows your story. I’m sure he’s picked the best part for you and your talents. Maybe you’re the town’s vicar? I’ve heard what this play is about. Everyone on this island has heard rumors. The talk is growing. Don’t you find that a little bit strange?”
“I think you’re the one who’s being uncharitable now. I know it must be difficult for you to share these fears of yours with me. I’m fairly new to this church. We don’t know each other well, but what you’re saying is borderline illusionary.”
“You mean delusionary.”
“I’m not a psychologist. I’m here to help your spiritual side. To guide you.”
“Mrs. Belloon? Her husband is torturing her. Little by little. Nothing people in public would ever notice, but I see it. She flinches at his touch, at his every duplicitous word. She’s afraid of him.”
“How do you know this? Theresa, what you’re saying has no basis in reality.”
“I know this. I see this.”
“I think you should go home to your husband. Take care of him, and forget what you think you saw.”
“I can’t escape.” She shoved her hand in front of the priest’s face. “You won’t escape it either. It’s already too late.”
Theresa stood up and bustled away from Father Kelly.
“Wait. Let me help you, Theresa.”
“It’s too late. I won’t be coming back.” With that final word, the doors to the church closed on Theresa for the last time.
Father Kelly wondered how to help someone as troubled as this parishioner.
This thought didn’t stay long in his head. He’d left Thanksgiving dinner at the Smiley home because he had the nagging thought in the back of his head that he needed to read The Queen’s Idle Fancy one more time, set it to memory.
He’d left his copy in the church’s rear office. There was a small cottage behind the church, and he took the play back to his home. Glancing at the theater building across the block made him smile.
Father Kelly didn’t know what part Mr. Belloon had in mind for him so he needed to memorize every part. The dialogue mesmerized him. He cherished the characters. They were funny to him, going about their business. Maybe he’d like being a merchant, not the vicar, someone else could play the peacock for once. He could sell fruit, and be the first to welcome Camoustra and Frenalto to the village. Be so good at his job that Queen Stormag invited him to the royal court to pin a medal on his breast.
“You supply the queen now, Master Niallon. Will you deliver a message to the blacksmith?”
It was a rich part, a key role, but there were several key roles; maybe he could play one of the queen’s knights, a protector of the realm—they got a ton of stage time. Father Kelly read the play several more times over the holiday weekend. The next Sunday, he sprinkled names from the play throughout his sermon, told a story about faith, trust, and obedience to scripture, and his flock listened to every single word.
Theresa went home that Thanksgiving and wept on her husband’s arm. He was getting weaker. The illness wreaked havoc on his system. She kissed his bare arm, his flesh not burnt and peeling away from the bone, and told him all about her evening.
He listened and said he was hungry.
Theresa put together some leftover chicken in a homemade stock, added parsnips, some lemon grass, and ginger to help her husband’s immune system, and offered him a small bowl.
He took a few spoonfuls and faded into slumber.
At least one of us will be saved, she thought. Death would welcome them both—soon. Theresa would keep watch.
To read the next chapter of A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy), simply click HERE and begin reading Part 24!
Thank you for reading this double-sized chapter of A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy) and sticking with the town and the evil that is spreading through its populace. Where is the white knight? Where are the good people? They’re there.
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