Most of the residents of the Sunset Retirement Home were ladies. Real ladies; genteel, refined and used to the finer things in life. Each day was very similar to the one which preceded it except for Sunday when a retired gentleman of the cloth dropped in to speak to them about matters of faith. Father Fogarty was his name. He would move around the tables and chairs dispensing messages from above to his eager listeners.
Imagine if you will a stocky sexagenarian with a pot belly. He sported a few hairs combed across his almost bald cranium which looked like spindly twigs on a marble dome. Always he would be clad in baggy brown cord trousers, and an Oxford check shirt topped with a golden cravat worn under a beige tweed jacket that had seen better days. Not for him Gods uniform. No one ever remembered seeing him sporting the customary white dog collar and a black two piece. The only outward symbol of his calling was a silver cross
in his lapel which more often than not was upside down.
He would sit across the table from groups of four or five 'parishioners' as he liked to call them, wearing a benign smile which linked together his ruddy blue veined cheeks. Before he started talking he would reach into his jacket pocket and pull out his pipe and a tin of tobacco. He would skilfully fill its cavernous bowl with moist brown strands which smelt slightly of cherries, tamp it down with the end of his pipe maintenance devise then flip open the lid of a battered old Zippo which he ignited with a deft flick of his nicotine stained thumb. A few second later after much blowing and sucking blue smoke would curl upwards from the fuming shag and hover in the air above. No one seemed to object to his habit. At least no one ever said anything about it. Sometimes his ladies would produce lace trimmed hankies which smelt of lavender from their sleeves and hold them to their noses, but then they quite often did that during the course of the day anyway.
Then Father Fogarty would begin to speak, drawing on his pipe between short laconic sentences. There was something about the way he delivered his pithy gems. He had a beguiling effect on his audience who would seem to drift away as he uttered a series of short one-liners. Was it the words, or the way he spoke that was so mesmerising? Someone even suggested that there was something in his tobacco that was strangely calming.Whatever it was, the ladies lapped it up, week after week after week.
It was Easter Sunday. He moved around the room visiting several groups of his adoring fans doing exactly what he did every Sunday. He would light up his pipe, speak for a while, and then place his hand on each of the ladies’ hands in turn as he offered a short prayer of thanks for God’s generosity.
But something was a little different on this glorious spring morning. It was after they’d each bid Father Fogarty farewell they all realised that things of theirs had mysteriously disappeared. They were no longer wearing their rings, bracelets or watches.
Needless to say he never came back. He’s not been seen by any of the ladies or the constabulary from that day to this.