'A Clergyman’s Return' by Fiona Shillito
LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection, Flash Fiction, 'A Clergyman’s Return' by Fiona Shillito
'A Clergyman’s Return'
He’d been eighteen, a boy who studied, a boy who thought. Thought of others, thought of doing good in the world, left home and returned at intervals, but not for a long time.
Now, he’s here, an old man, walking through his home town small city, tasting the sweet dusty scent of surrounding fields. He sees, as never when young, small gardens billowing with valerian and tall irises in elegant shades of maiden-aunt marron glace, vivid indigo, palest yellow, their tiger eyed centres glorious against beloved mellow grey stones.
Tears well, but he’s brisk, along old familiar back street routes until Cathedral Green. Here his old heart bounces, his mouth’s agape. He’d forgotten, how could he, the cathedral’s mass, its gold and grey against cerulean sky.
Resting on a paint peeled bench, he hears young voices’ echoing rebound, like clattering sea-rolled pebbles, school-children picnicking, enjoying freedoms he once knew, whilst overhead a helicopter’s heavy drone makes him wonder, ‘Are they looking for me yet?’
No, that will come later, after the discovery of the missing chalice, the silver cross, and the ancient relic.
The cathedral clock strikes the hour, the flattened reverberation sinking through him, familiar as his own breath, his own unsteady heart. It won’t be long.
As the school party sets up a chant, a childish game, ‘It wasn’t me. Clap hands. It wasn’t me – ,’ he sees how crows are gathering, solemn like his colleagues walking side by side, folded wings behind their backs, long nosed beaks thrust forward, intent on discussion of his recent theft, and here he is sitting beside himself, a crow with a slice of stolen tomato beneath its hooked claw. Perched on the wall beside him, staring him out.
Here amongst the scents of home, he’ll sit and wait his fate.