"Do be quiet, Willie. I did not travel all this way to listen to your blathering."
"But you can't expect me to --"
"What I expect, Willie, is that you will find a place in your diocese for young Father Thomas here."
I eyed the specimen, who sat perched on the edge of an armchair staring at the wall clock in rapt fascination. I would have said he had unhinged his jaw, the better to concentrate, but he lacked a visible jaw. The overall effect so strongly suggested a daydreaming fish that it was all I could do to refrain from offering him an ant egg.
"He wants some rounding, as I say, and the opportunities do not exist in our diocese. Something musical, perhaps, or the rector of a shrine. You do have shrines here?"
"Oh, rather," I said, my parochial pride a bit stung. "Some jolly fine ones, too. It's just that we're full up with rectors at the mo."
"Well, I'm sure you'll find something suitable." Sr. Agatha rose. "I shall check back in a week. Goodbye, Father Thomas."
"Hm? Ah." Father Thomas unmoored his gaze from the clock and smiled at the room at large.
"I am quite certain you will not disappoint me, Willie. Not this time," Sr. Agatha added, with a look that could make a cardinal deacon feel the sleeves of his rochet were too tight.
Then she left the room, if "left" is the mot juste for someone who moves with the self-possession of a Romanesque abbey.
I sank back into my chair with a sigh. It was too early in the day for a restorative, so there was nothing for it but to survive the after-effects of a visit from Sr. Agatha on my own natural resources.
We Boosters are made of stern stuff, but I was already feeling stretched thin when a disembodied voice, speaking at my elbow, sent me a foot and a half straight into the air.
"I say, old man, I thought she'd never leave."
I pivoted the loaf, and, discovering Father Thomas at the side of my desk, remembered I wasn't alone in the room. He was tossing a commemorative coin the Knights of St. Barnabas had given me in the air and catching it, with a great deal more vim than I had thought him capable of. In place of a daydreaming fish there stood before me a fish ready to spit on his fins and get cracking.
"So tell me, bish, what does a cleric do for fun in these parts?"
My mind, not satisfied with reeling, boggled. "Fun?" I managed to say.
"I always felt I could do great things at a Newman Center. Or maybe one of those specialized ministries." He peered at me through his round spectacles. "Do you have any Gypsies here? Or marriage support groups?"
I shook my head. "While I appreciate your... your enthusiasm, I think perhaps it would be best if --"
A shimmering near the door informed me that Reeves had entered. "Ah, Reeves, just the man I was wanting."
"That is gratifying to hear, your Excellency. The departure of Sr. Agatha did not go unnoticed by the gentlemen whose appointment her arrival delayed. They have requested that I confirm your intent to see them."
"Blast it, Reeves, my mind's on other things right now." I glanced meaningfully toward young Fr. Thos., who had picked up an old copy of the diocesan newspaper and was reading the advertisement on the back page. "Who are these men again?"
"They represent the diocesan chapter of Latine Dictum, your Excellency. They are here to discuss your plans for implementing Summorum Pontificum."
"Or if the cemetery needs a chaplain," Fr. Thomas murmured thoughtfully.
"Do I have plans for implementing Summorum Pontificum, Reeves?"
"You have not revealed any to me, your Excellency."
I am aware that in some quarters it is whispered -- and in other quarters, it is called across the courtyard -- that, while I will do in a pinch for confirmations and consecrating new churches, Monsignor Reeves is the real brains of the diocese.
It's certainly true that I rely on his advice to pilot me around the shoals that threaten our ecclesial ship. Still, I have been known to have an idea of my own once in a while, and the idea I had at that moment was red hot.
"Very well, Reeves, show the Latine Whatsit chaps in. I'm sure they'd love to meet our new, er, Diocesan Extraordinary Use Coordinator." I gestured toward Sr. Agatha's protege, who was nodding his head vigorously at something in the business notices of the newspaper.
To say that Reeves stiffened would not be strictly accurate; he was already as upright as possible. But there was a slight hesitancy before he said, "Very good, your Excellency," that told me the wisdom of my plan was not immediately evident to him.
While he went to fetch the visitors, I turned to young Thos. "So, tell me, young -- er, Father. Any chance you know a spot of Latin?"