Part 1: A Life In Pieces (click here) Part 2 Another Life In Pieces, part 3 A Life in Anguished Pieces, Part 4 A Life in Mobile Words, Part 5 A Life in Coffee Part 6 A Life in Loneliness, Part 7 A Life In Rags, Part 8, A Life in Confusion, Part 9, A Life In Families Part 10, A Life in Memories, Part 11 A Life in Contemplation, Part 12 A life in church and Part 13 A Life in Lasagne
A LIFE IN CHAOS
Rusty shook his head, disbelievingly.
“I thought I said...” he began, but couldn't continue.
Agatha looked dreadful. She was dressed in her bed clothes, her hair was all over the place and her face was pale. In the darkness of early evening she looked more like a ghost than a human being.
There was a subtle cough from just behind her.
“Excuse me,” came a nervous male voice, “are you responsible for this woman?”
The figure that stepped into view from the shadows behind Agatha was that of an elderly man dressed after the manner of clergymen the world over, sporting a dog-collar and a nervous smile.
“Who are you?” almost yelped Rusty, surprised because he hadn't expected anyone to be there.
“I'm sorry...” began the cleric, but Agatha gave a huge sigh and began crumpling in extreme slow-motion, sliding and slipping in a downwards direction, towards the ground.
“Quick!” gasped the vicar, “help me!”
Between them the two men managed to support Agatha before she had completed her descent.
“Bring her in here,” gasped Rusty. Agatha was by no means a heavy woman, but she was a dead weight that seemed to be dragged remorselessly towards the ground by double gravity. But between themselves the two men half dragged, half carried her into the room where Izzy and Saphie were sitting at the dining table in front of a tray of lasagne.
The unconscious woman was laid on a settee against one wall, and she started spluttering and moving in feeble jerks.
“Agatha,” explained Rusty to the other two women, though they had heard the name already. “I'm truly sorry,” he added.
“And you are?” asked Izzy of the cleric.
“The Reverend Josiah Pike,” exclaimed Saphie. “This is the vicar I was telling you about...”
“My goodness me!” said the vicar, “I find this hard to believe! I hadn't seen you in my life before this morning, and now … twice in one day! Unbelievable, or something like that!”
“What on Earth...?” asked Saphie.
“I'd better explain,” almost boomed the Reverend Pike, “I had been to the little shop on the corner for a bottle of my favourite red … I usually have it delivered, but I was running short as you do when you've been entertaining...” he glanced at Saphie, and winked, then continued. “Anyway, I almost bumped into this lady here. She was all over the place, staggering here and there, and at first I thought she must be helplessly drunk, or something like that... and when I asked if I could help she got me to bring her here...”
“She must have run away from the nursing home!” said Rusty. “The silly woman! She's been in a coma until recently! She can't be fit for anything!”
“I... I...” spluttered Agatha, trying to sit up and falling back again.
“Well, well, well,” sighed the Reverend Pike.
“Now what am I going to do?” asked Rusty weakly. “She left here! I told her to go, and in a temper … she was always in a temper of one kind or another … she ran out into the street and into a horse and cart, and got kicked on the head for her sins. Now it seems she's found her way here.”
“What are you going to do about her?” asked Izzy. “Haven't I got the room she used to have?”
“You have, and blood is thicker than Agatha,” he replied, almost viciously. “She's not coming back here, not after the dance she led me, cursing me, insulting my late wife, who was an angel in every sense of the word, doing her damnedest – sorry for the language, father...”
“I'm not of the Roman persuasion...” the Reverend Pike interrupted. “Vicar will do, if you have to be formal,” he added, “though I prefer being called Joe – short for Josiah.”
“Well, she spent her time living under my roof doing her damnedest (sorry Joe) to make me miserable, and it had to end, and it did.”
He looked at Agatha. Her eyes were open and he could tell by the expression on her face that she was not only listening but understanding every word that he was saying. Was there regret there? Any sign of an apology? He rather thought not.
“That's what you were like,” he said to her. “And you know it!”
“I'm not … going back … there...” she forced out weakly.
“What? The nursing home where they cared for you during your weeks of unconsciousness? Where they would have kept you until your death, if that was to happen before you woke up! Where they wiped your bum? That's gratitude for you!”
“I'm still … not … going back...”
“They ought to be told she's here,” suggested Saphie, “or they could be out looking for her, alerting the police, causing all sorts of trouble.”
“I'll ring them,” said Rusty, and he went into the passageway where the land-line phone was kept. He closed the door behind him. They heard his voice mumbling indistinctly followed by a little dinging sound as he hung up.
“She discharged herself,” he told them. “The silly bitch! I don't know how they let her, but I got the impression she was returning to the old spiteful Agatha and said a few things they shouldn't have had to put up with. Anyway, they knew she'd gone. She wasn't a prisoner or sectioned or anything like that, and being a free agent they couldn't stop her.”
He turned to Agatha, and for a brief moment the expression on his face showed his feelings. It was one that bordered on unadulterated loathing.
“This is chaos,” sighed Saphie.
“I might be able to help,” put in the Reverend Josiah Pike. “It's just an idea, mind you, but if I were to employ her at the Vicarage as a housekeeper with a room of her own … you must all know the vicarage, a stupidly large house for a single gentleman like myself. The last incumbent had six kids – he reckoned ours was the sort of parish that left him with too much time on his hands and a need to obey the Good Book by providing his quiver with many arrows, or something like that...” He grinned. “But I'm not in that league and even if the Bishop had an unexpected turn and popped round we wouldn't be in a position to fletch a single arrow...”
“But look at her,” pointed Saphie, “she's in no state to housekeep.”
“Not straight away, certainly not, but she may well be fit and full of verve in a week or so! Until then, bed rest and the odd glass of red, or something like that, is what I prescribe!”
“It might do her good to be surrounded by the word of God,” mused Rusty.
“Oh, she won't get many of those from me!” grinned the Reverend, “I might wear a dog collar and I may try to guide my parishioners to live good and helpful lives, I may even visit the sick and try to comfort the dying, but I lost any true faith years ago!”
“You're welcome to her,” Rusty told him, “but I warn you: she's got a vicious tongue on her when she's in the mood.”
“Ah, but there's a difference between me being a live-in partner and me being an employer,” Pike told him. “You see, I can always give her the sack! And I would, you know, if she crossed me. I may be a sad old gay vicar, but I'm nobody's fool.”
Saphie looked at him, and nodded. “You're not,” she told him. “When can you take her?”
Joe smiled broadly. “There's no time like the present,” he said airily. “I've always got a spare room or three made up for guests, not that I get many, so if you help me,” he said to Rusty, “I can have her off your hands before that lasagne gets cold!”
© Peter Rogerson 20.03.14