Draft a post with three parts, each unrelated to the other, but create a common thread between them by including the same item– an object, a symbol, a place– in each part.
(Daily prompt courtesy of The Daily Post)
Father Paolo’s body dangled from the balcony above the altar of Saint Cristobol. A cool breeze cut through the acrid air, swaying the corpse like the bell of a clock tower, while chilling the beads that collected on Agent Solano’s brow. It had been an hour. The local captain continued to mumbled amongst his subordinates. Solano caught the gist of what was being said, but translating every word required more effort than the heat would allow. Rumor had it, the dear old padre’s confessionals weren’t so confidential and that the sins of the townsfolk had become leverage, ensuring the collection plates remained full every week. No one was surprised he took his own life. God’s smite was a hug and a kiss compared to the sharks he poked.
Three of the brutes eventually dragged their asses up the stairs. They pulled the knots out the ropes and wrapped them around their knuckles. Father Paolo plummeted to the ground before they could gain a footing. There was shouting– some of it obscene. Only Solano and the dearly departed retained their composure. The force of impact had thrown the Father’s eyes to the back of his head. Even with his head bleeding out on the floor, the twisted lines of his face were indicative of one thing– Father Paolo died in fear.
Not the normal “I don’t want to die”, or the panic that comes from slowly suffocating. Something stopped his heart long before he was strung up and hung out to dry. But that was none of Solano’s concern. This was an open and shut case. A few photos, a stack of paperwork and he’d be on the redeye home. But then, there was ‘the feeling.’ The one he could never shake. The one that always ended in regret, when ignored. Stick to the facts, he told himself. This was a classic case of self asphyxiation.
But then there was the duct tape, sealing Father’s mouth. It could’ve been self applied, to keep his screeches from echoing off the walls. Solano slipped on a pair of gloves. The body was ice cold. He must have been hanging with the windows open all night. Contusions wrapped around his wrists and down his forearms, too soon to be from the fall. Solano lifted the hands. Knuckles were split open and there was blood pooled beneath the nail beds. Damnit. These were defense wounds.
Solano sighed, resting on the heels of his feet. He searched the bundled robe, now matted with clotted blood. His search turned up a crucifix, rosaries, and a small notebook in which it appeared the priest recorded notes regarding upcoming sermons. The last few pages were missing, torn in such a haste as to leave behind a corner of each. Only fragments of words could be seen. Clearly not enough to deem this death suspect. Perhaps the Father merely scraped the pages because they didn’t live up to his expectations. Said explanation did nothing to quell ‘the feeling.’ And the local officials were starting to hover, eager to perform their routine bag and tag. He would let it go, but not before one last look. He peeled the duct tape back, using one hand to keep the Father’s cheek from tearing with it. Foam erupted at the mouth, pouring down his chin and mixing with the red puddles under Solano’s knees. He pulled out a wad of cloth– no, paper– crumpled into a tight ball, now mostly disintegrated. He pulled back the edges with the tips of his fingers, breaking off a few in the process. He managed to unravel three pieces of paper, torn perforations on each. The ink had long since bled, and the paper that had held it, once a rather heavy stock, was reduced to a semi translucent pulp. There was one word however, Solani was able to make out. Not because it was so well preserved. No, he couldn’t be that lucky. It was a name. One he had come to know all too well.
The feeling, now impossible to ignore, lifted Solano’s fingers and shoved them into the Father’s throat. A few of the locals came running over, shouting incoherently. He wiggled around the back of his throat so long, he thought maybe, just this once, he could be wrong. He could write this desecration off as cultural misunderstanding and still make it back home before week’s end. When his fingers grazed the lump at the back of the throat, he resigned to his fate. With one yank, he ripped his hand from the priest’s mouth, uncorking another wave of bloody bile.
The captain stood over him, arms flailing inches from Solano’s face. Solano held up the object that had obstructed the dead man’s throat. Everyone scowled in unison, their faces a mix of dismissal disgust. Solano could only assume that the severed penis dangling from this fingertips didn’t fall very far from its tree. He rolled over Father Paolo flipped up his robe, and sighed.
It appears padre lost more than just his holy spirit.
I didn’t get to meet Mary Margaret until the end of her life, but in our brief time together, I’d like to think I knew the real her. Not the hard ass business owner, or the stern but loving grandmother, but rather, I got know the Egyptian goddess stalking the Orient Express. I backpacked through Siberia with the KGB spy turned CIA operative. We raced monster trucks down a dirt road in Alabama, and we sold out concerts at Carnegie Hall.
Before she lived the life most people knew, Mary Margaret lived a very different one. She travelled the country with an improv group, after dropping out of college– full ride. She managed to keep her parents in the dark for years, until they wondered why they couldn’t get extra tickets, or any for that matter, to their daughter’s graduation. She was a pro at mimicry. She could emulate the accent and inflections of anyone. She might have been the best character actor of her generation.
As I removed her soiled gown, I wondered how her life would have ended if she followed that dream; if she were never dragged back home and put to work at her father’s company. Her skin was thin, delicate. There were bruises on her wrists from the day she insisted on wearing every bracelet in her jewelry box, simply because she couldn’t remember which one was her favorite. I made sure the rag only grazed the surface of her skin. I wish I could have washed away the faded scars that crisscrossed her body, erasing not only their presence, but their memory as well. A life full of manual labor had taken it’s toll on her. But in those moments when the spotlight hit her, I saw a life full of regret melt away.
I put her in the little black dress she wore on stage at the Cabana Club, the red blazer that helped her climb the corporate ladder in the 80s, the boots she wore while running with the bulls in Pamplona. The lipstick– royal flush– a little touch of my own. After months of soiling herself and breathing through a cannula, of waking up in a panic because she had no idea where she was, it seemed only right that dear Mary Margaret left this world the same as she entered it. A queen.
She is late. Lady hates being late.
I trot, never run, down the hall. She leaves her door open for me. I look in, like I always do. She looks happy. Peaceful. But it’s late. She should be frenzied, running back and forth, that tiny brush in her mouth and her hair in big rolls. She should be yelling at me to stop tripping her, and giving me a gentle nudge. There should be music and voices from the television, the squeal of the tea kettle and the smell of bacon burning on the stove. She’s never late, well, not this late.
I walk over to Lady’s bed side. Her arm dangles, as it often does. I lick her fingertips. Cold. Lady doesn’t like being cold. I leap onto the bed. I know I’m not supposed to, but sometimes she doesn’t mind, those times when her face is puffy and her nose wet like mine. But she is none of that now. Her color is gone. Her cheek as cold as her hands. I nudge her with my nose, in that spot on her neck that makes her giggle and twist. She’s silent; still. I want her to get up. Maybe if she was warm…
I curl up in the the nook of her arm. My head lays atop her chest. I can’t feel the thump I usually can, or the up and down when she pants. I miss that. I miss Lady’s funny laugh. I miss her arm brushing the back of my neck. Lady, please, warm up. Lady hates being late.