Mary O’Shea blundered into the house and kicked off her shoes. Her husband, the constable, was sitting in his relaxing chair in the front room and staring out the window while he sipped on a glass with three fingers of Jameson Whiskey inside it. “Where have you been?” he called out without even glancing over at her as she stood in the mysterious shadows.
“Working,” she huffed.
“Working hard?” Harley scoffed.
“I always do,” she replied.
“I bet you do.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she said, stepping further into the room.
He finally turned to look at her. “How’s Lloyd?”
She shifted nervously. “Lloyd?”
“Lloyd the bartender from The Village Fig. I paid him a visit today.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because he’s up to no good, that’s why. And so are you.” Harley O’Shea sat his glass down on a side table and got up out of his chair. He sauntered over to where she stood and looked her up and down. He sniffed at her. “I can smell him on you,” he said. “You smell like his place. I have a nose like a bloodhound.”
She backed away from him. “And a face like one, too.”
Harley roughly grabbed her by the arm and ran his nose all over her, inhaling her like a vacuum would a dirty carpet.
“What on Earth are you doing!?”
“Inspecting my wife,” he answered. “You do remember you’re my wife, right?”
“I need to shower,” she said, and she started to walk away, but Harley clamped a hand on her shoulder to stop her.
“Wait. Get undressed right here,” he ordered.
Mary protested. “What!? No. I will not.”
He jerked on her arm. “Strip.”
“Harley, you’re hurting me.”
“And I’ll hurt you a lot more if you don’t strip right now… And then I’ll arrest you.”
“For what?” she seethed.
“For adultery,” Harley told her, and he was dead serious.
But she just laughed at him and tore away from his grip. He quickly grabbed her by the back of the neck, but she countered with a quick, hard knee to the groin. Harley stumbled back, clutching his precious jewels. “You bitch,” he hissed.
“Don’t ever put your hands on me again,” Mary said, a stiff finger in the air. “Ever!” She turned away from him and went to take a shower.
It was Lloyd the bartender’s day off and he had decided that what he needed was a good walkabout in the woods. But first, he decided, he wanted to stop off at the church on the edge of town to see if he could get a few minutes of Father Oban’s time.
The church was a small stone relic from another time and that gave Lloyd some peace in his guts for he has always had an appreciation for the warm aesthetics of divine architecture. He pushed on the red door, and it creaked. He was greeted by the scent of burning candles and old stone and old wood and the remnants of funeral incense.
There was a large figure kneeling in one of the front pews and they were looking up at the big cross with ripped up Jesus on it. A head turned when the figure sensed Lloyd’s presence. He motioned at Lloyd to come forward.
Lloyd walked forward and shuffled into the pew and sat down next to Father Oban. “Hello, Father,” he said. “I was hoping I could speak with you.”
Father Oban moved up into a sitting position. “Absolutely,” he said, and he turned to look all around at the empty church. “As you can see, I’m not very busy… Is something troubling you?”
Lloyd took a deep breath and came right out with it. “I think I’m having an affair with a married woman.”
“You think you are?”
“I mean… We’ve been flirtatious. She’s been to my apartment.”
“I think you know exactly what I’m going to say… Do not tread on another man’s land, Lloyd. You must resist temptation.”
“But she’s unhappy with him. I’m sure he’s awful to her,” Lloyd said.
“Lloyd, my advice would be to step back from this situation. They need to resolve it their problems, not you. The outcome, no matter what it is, must be facilitated by them. If I were you, I’d keep my distance… For now, at least.”
“But I’m lonely, Father.”
Father Oban, who was a large man with a golden color, clamped a hand onto Lloyd’s thigh. “I know loneliness as well, Lloyd. We all do at some point in our lives. It’s a constant in the human condition, I’m afraid. But you cannot allow loneliness to be a catalyst for sin. You must find ways to cultivate this loneliness so that something new and green and positive begins to grow.”
Lloyd looked at him as if he didn’t understand anything he just said. “You mean… Like a hobby?”
“Sure, a hobby,” Father Oban replied.
“I have a stamp collection I haven’t touched in years. Maybe I could get back into that.”
“Stamp collecting, huh? Seems like a noble pursuit,” the priest said, and he moved his hand higher up on Lloyd’s thigh.
Lloyd glanced down at it for a moment. He found it to be a strange sensation. “May I ask what you’re doing?”
“Your hand. It seems to be creeping up to somewhere it probably shouldn’t be.”
Father Oban pulled his hand away and embarrassingly smiled. “I’m sorry, Lloyd. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“It must be hard not to be able to be intimate with others.”
Father Oban sighed. “It’s part of my oath, my commitment to God. But yes, it is a struggle.”
Lloyd then reached out and took the priest’s hand and placed it on his thigh like it was before. “It’s okay if you want to,” Lloyd said, and he moved closer to Father Oban and they sat like that together in the empty, quiet church for a long time.
TO BE CONTNUED