"Yes, the introduction of the map marked the point at which things went south." I took a healthy sip of bourbon and s. "Until that chap with the moustache pulled out his map, I thought young Thos. was going to pull it off."
"Did you indeed, your Excellency?"
I waved a defeated hand. "Yes, yes, Reeves. I know you were never under any such illusion yourself."
"It did seem, your Excellency, that you had lined yourself with hope. I have long been of a mind that, in a theme so bloody-faced as this, conjecture, expectation and surmise of aids incertain should not be admitted."
"'Bloody-faced' may be a bit strong, Reeves, but the lads of Latine Dictum sure meant business."
"Their interests are of a singularly focused nature, your Excellency."
I stood up to pace. "Still, I insist that we were ahead on points until that bally map came out. Young Thos. seemed to grasp what was required of him from the opening bell."
"Fr. Connaughton has proven himself quite adaptable, your Excellency."
"His suggestion of a Latin Mass aimed at circus and carnival workers caught us all by surprise, I think it's fair to say, but once they got their heads around it the Latine lads were all for it."
"It did hint, your Excellency, at a revision of scope in their planning."
I nodded. "Planning they certainly had. In spades. All those lists and petitions and documents. And then there was the map, which pushed our blasted extraordinary use coordinator over the edge."
"He did appear visibly stimulated, your Excellency."
"And well he might be. Color-coded parish boundaries, population distributions, and who knows what else. To someone as scatterbrained and excitable as young Thos., waving around that much information was like waving a red flag in front of a bull."
"An apt simile, your Excellency. There was a note of the taurine in Fr. Connaughton's rush to examine the positioning of the high altar at St. Aldhelm's."
"Twenty-seven. That was what they agreed upon, was it not? Twenty-seven Sunday Masses according to the 1962 Missal."
"That was the last figure spoken of before they departed, your Excellency."
"And that questionnaire you mentioned you'd sent around. How many priests do we have who said they feel qualified for it?"
"Four, your Excellency. Additionally, a few of the younger priests expressed an interest or willingness to learn."
"So on a good day, we might be able to manage perhaps a third of the Masses my diocesan coordinator has pledged."
"That is an optimistic estimate, your Excellency. In addition to the priests, we require --"
The telephone interrupted the litany of unmet requirements, and I thanked God for this small favor. Reeves answered the phone, listened for a moment, then said, "Good evening, your Eminence. Yes, Bishop Booster is available. One moment, please, while I transer you."
He pressed the hold button and handed me the receiver. "Cardinal Fratricidelli would like to speak with you, your Excellency."
I started like a guilty thing upon a fearful summons. The cardinal had been the papal nuncio for years, in which role he became convinced that I was a barking looney. It was an understandable mistake, under the circs., but it did not make for warmly fraternal conversation between us. Nor did the fact that, at his cheeriest, he has the demeanor of a man whose thoughts are never far from his hobby of ripping apart iron girders with his hands.
"But he's not the nuncio any more!" I yipped. "He's been recalled to Rome for something or other. Why would he want to speak with me?"
"His Eminence did not confide in me, your Excellency."
"What exactly is his new job in the Eternal City?"
"Cardinal Fratricidelli is the president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, your Excellency."
"Ecclesia Dei? Wasn't I just talking about that commission with someone recently?"
"Yes, your Excellency. It was mentioned several times in this morning's meeting. Its responsibilities include overseeing the implementation of Summorum Pontificum."
I gaped. "You don't think... young Thos. couldn't have... not so quickly...."
"The timing is certainly remarkable, your Excellency."
"Advise me, Reeves!"
"I should take Cardinal Fratricidelli off hold as soon as possible, your Excellency. Though it is difficult to judge for certain after such a brief exchange, his Eminence sounded like a man wrestling with strong emotions."