Freedom Lane: Father McKraken
“This is my blood,” Father Bob said, holding the the cup of wine above his head. “Which shall be shed for many.”
“He should’ve shed some rum!” a voice called out. Father Bob knew the voice well. It belonged to one of his regular churchgoers and Bingo fanatic, Helen Masters. There was a hush from someone near her followed by a few murmurs.
“Shutup before I climb over this pew,” Helen said. “You’ll be eating the body of Christ through a straw!”
The murmurs grew louder as Father Bob’s churchgoers grew nervous. He put the cup down. “It’s quite alright,” he said. “Someone just got into the blood of our Lord a little earlier than the rest of us.”
There were some laughs from pews, and he knew he diffused another situation with his charm and wit. It was what made him such a popular priest.
“What did that boy diddler just say?!” Helen exclaimed. “Did he just call me a drunk?!”
“Oh Lord,” Father Bob said, putting his head in his hand. It was going to be a long service.
Season 5, Episode 4: Father McKraken
Paulie watched from behind the counter of Pauile’s Pizza on State Street as Tony said goodbye to his newest girlfriend before coming inside to start work. Tony’s girlfriend wore an all-black burka that covered up every inch of her, except her eyes. “Oh,” Paulie said. “You don’t want to introduce me to your girl? Who was that?”
“Her name is Aabidah,” Tony said proudly. “She’s here from Iran, and we’re in love.”
Paulie chuckled. “Congrats,” he said. “Be careful with those types, though. Before you know it she’ll have you converting to Muslim.”
“I am a Muslim now,” Tony said. “I converted last week.”
“What?!” Paulie exclaimed. “What would your mother say?!”
“Nothing,” Tony said. “I ain’t telling her about this.”
“Why are you still wearing your crucifix if you’re a Muslim now?” Paulie asked.
“It’s not a crucifix,” Tony replied. “It’s a ‘t’. For Tony.”
“Why’s it lower case then?” Paulie asked.
“Enough with the twenty questions!” Tony said, buttoning his shirt to hide the crucifix. “I’m gonna eat before the lunch crowd gets here. I’ve been dying for a sausage and pepper grinder all day.”
“Muslims don’t eat pork, you stunad,” Paulie said.
“You’re thinking of the Jews,” Tony said. “Who’s the stunad now?”
Father Bob stood outside Helen and Rose Masters’ home on Freedom Lane, too nervous to knock. He knew he was overstepping his role as pastor, but Helen’s latest disruption of his Sunday mass was the straw that broke the preverbal camel’s back. The weekly complaints he received from those who sat around Helen needed to come to an end. His resolve was set, and he knocked on the door.
“Who the hell is that?!” Helen shouted, loud enough for him to hear her from outside.
“I don’t know,” Rose called back, moving through the house.
“Tell them we already have a religion if it’s some pius jerk-off!” Helen shouted.
The door opened and Father Bob was looking at Rose. “I hope I’m not the pius jerk-off she’s talking about,” he said, smiling.
Rose gave him a little laugh. “Father Bob,” she said. “Can we help you with anything?”
“I was actually hoping to talk to you,” Father Bob said. “May I?”
“Go around through the back gate,” Rose whispered. “Sit at the round table in the backyard. I’ll be out in a couple of minutes.” Rose shut the door, leaving a bewildered Father Bob standing there.
“Who the hell was that?!” Helen shouted.
“Girl Scouts,” Rose replied.
“Greddy cookie-pushing brats!” Helen snapped. “Tell them to come back when their tits come in!”
Father Bob didn’t have to wait long for Rose to join him at the table. “I’m sorry about that,” Rose said. “Helen is having a day.”
“It’s quite alright,” Father Bob said. “That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You must have the patience of a saint to be able to get her to come to church with you every week.”
Rose looked away for a moment. “It’s probably not a good idea to lie to a priest, right?” she asked.
“What is it?” Father Bob asked.
“Well,” Rose said. “I’ve never really been too religious myself. Helen’s the one that drags me every Sunday.”
Father Bob looked visibly surprised, so he decided not to try and cover it up. “I’m shocked,” he said. “She’s always shown so much disdain during mass.”
“Don’t take it personally,” Rose said. “Her family was always so religious. She’s been cranky like that ever since they got rid of Father Martinez. She loved him.”
“She does know that they removed him for a reason, right?” Father Bob asked.
“Oh yes,” Rose said. “But she says he was never the type to be diddling boys.”
“Diddling boys?” Father Bob asked.
“Diddling boys?” Helen echoed, entering the backyard. “I find you sneaking back here to talk Father McKraken, and I’m not surprised in the slightest that the term ‘diddling boys’ came out of his mouth.”
“Helen!” Rose said getting up. “It’s not what it looks like!”
“It is!” Helen said. “Father Boy-Diddler wants me out of the church I’ve been going to since I was a baby. Isn’t that right, Father?”
“I just wanted Rose to hear the options,” Father Bob said, standing up and facing Helen. “There’s very good services at Villa Bella that will suit a woman of your disposition much better than mine.”
“Villa Bella?!” Helen said, approaching Father Bob. “That storage facility for old people who can’t remember how to spell their own names? How dare you!”
“They’ll let outsiders join mass with no issue,” Father Bob said, backing away from the slowly approaching Helen.
“You’ll have me drooling on myself in a rocking chair next,” Helen said, scowling. “You better start running.”
“And who is this?” Father Bob said with a huge smile, hoping to distract Helen from her imminent attack.
“This is my son,” Helen said. “If you touch his boy-bits, you’ll lose the hand.”
“My boy-bits?” Da’Quarius asked. “You let a child molester in da yard?!”
“I was just showing Father Bob to his car,” Rose said, opening the gate. “Come on, Father Bob.”
“Thank you for hearing me out,” Father Bob said, giving slight nod to Helen before rushing out of the gate.
“That did not go how I would have hoped,” Father Bob said, walking next to Rose. She was looking over her shoulder.
“I know Helen can come off badly,” Rose said. “But you shouldn’t worry about her. I’ll have a chat with her about how she acts in church.”
“I’m more worried about the boy now,” Father Bob said. “Did she say that was her son?”
“Da’Quarius is adopted,” Rose said. “He’s our son in the eyes of the law, father.”
“I’m not insinuating anything,” Father Bob said. “I’ve just never seen him in church with you. Maybe it’s time he came. Our church has excellent Sunday School classes for boys of his age too.”
“I’ll talk to Helen,” Rose said. “Thank you for stopping by. I should really get back to my family now.”
Paulie left the men’s room of his pizzeria with a newspaper tucked under his arm. He saw Tony eating his lunch. “Oh!” he said. “What’s with the sausage pie? You’re still a Muslim, right?”
“Again with that pork shit,” Tony said through a mouthful of pizza. “I know you’re busting my balls. I’m Muslim now, and you have to deal,with it.”
“I figured you’d at least do a little research before you jump into a religion,” Paulie said. “Hey. Do you have to throw down the mat and pray to the east at a specific time every day?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Tony asked.
“I need to get you back to church,” Paulie said. “Do you even know what this broad looks like under those black sheets.”
“It’s called a toga,” Tony said. “And I’ll find out soon enough.”
The door opened, and Aabidah walked in. “Good afternoon, Tony,” she said in a thick accent. “I have decided to come visit you on this glorious day that Allah has given us.”
“Cool, babe,” Tony said. “Praise Allah and stuff.”
“I also wished for you to join me in prayer,” Aabidah said, rolling her mat in the floor of Paulie’s.
“Oh,” Tony said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I misplaced my rug.”
“I brought a spare prayer mat,” Aabidah said, unrolling a second mat next to her own. “Kneel with me, facing the east.”
“OK,” Tony said, giving Paulie a nervous glance as he knelt. Aabidah began bowing towards the ground over and over, shouting her incoherent prayers as she did so. Tony did his best to imitate his girlfriend, while Paulie did his best not to fall over from laughing.
“Oh shit!” Da’Quarius said, looking at his phone screen. “You guys gotta see this pic Paulie sent me of Tony…”
“No phone at the dinner table!” Helen snapped.
“Have you given any thought to anything Father McKraken said?” Rose asked.
“Only about Da’Quarius,” Helen replied.
“What about me?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Father McKraken wants you to start attending Sunday School,” Rose replied.
“School on Sunday?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed through a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “Fuck dat!”
“We don’t even know what religion Da’Quarius is,” Helen said. “I don’t even know which religion the coloreds fall into.”
“Don’t call them coloreds,” Rose said. “And they can be whatever religion they want.”
“Except jews,” Helen said. “I’ve never seen a black jew in my long life.”
“I’m right here you know,” Da’Quarius said. “You can always just ask me.”
“OK,” Helen said, turning towards Da’Quarius. “What religion are you.”
“I dunno,” Da’Quarius said shrugging. “Not Jewish? Aren’t blacks Baptists?”
“You’re an awful big help,” Helen said. “That settles it. I’m taking you to church with us on Sunday.”
“Wit dat boy toucher dat was in our backyard yesterday?!” Da’Quarius exclaimed.
“Father McKraken does not touch boys,” Rose said.
“That you know of,” Helen said. “In any case, I have a lead on Father Martinez. Turns out he never left the area.”
“Father Martinez?” Rose asked. “Didn’t they take away his priesthood?”
“They did, but he never touched a boy in his life,” Helen said.
“That you know of,” Da’Quarius said under his breath.
“Father Martinez will come back if I ask him,” Helen said. “Also, I’m leaving to go see him right now. Goodbye.”
Helen got up and walked to the front door, put her shoes on, and walked outside.
“Did she really just leave in da middle of dinner to go find a priest on foot?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Yes,” Rose said with a sigh. “She did.”
Helen walked into Canner’s bar on Orange Street, right around the corner from her house. She looked around for a bit, squinting through her glasses. She finally found the man she was looking for. He had gotten older and heavier since the last time he performed mass at the East Rock Catholic Church, but she would never forget his warm face. He had dark tan skin, and a mop of curly hair that hadn’t turned all the way gray from its original blackness.
“Can I buy you your next drink?” Helen said, sitting down on the stool next to him. “Blood of our Lord perhaps?”
“Helen Masters?” Father Martinez said, turning. “Wow! I never thought I’d see you again.”
“We need to talk, Father,” Helen said.
“Don’t call me father,” Martinez said, turning back to his glass of bourbon. “Carlos is fine.”
“Listen, Carlos,” Helen said. “The East Rock church needs you back. This new guy is nerding up the place good. Nobody delivered a sermon like you. My son needs to start going to church, and I don’t want that McKraken guy being the one to teach him of our Lord and Savior.”
“Your son?” Carlos asked. “You mean Paulie? I used to see him there all the time. Has he lost his way?”
“Shit,” Helen said. “I forgot I confessed to you about that. I have a new son. He’s adopted. Long story. Poor kid doesn’t even know what religion he is. I figured we can rope him in before he turns to voodoo or joins some cult. The church can use more blacks too. Place looks like a Partridge Family concert.”
“I’d love to come back,” Carlos said. “But my hands are tied. They stripped me of my priesthood, and they were right to do so.”
“That was years ago,” Helen said. “I’m sure they’ll forgive you. They’re priests after all. They pretty much have to.”
Carlos laughed. “I do miss it,” he said. “I tell you what, Helen, make a few phone calls and write some letters on my behalf. I’ll see if I can talk to the higher-ups and see if they’ll take me back.”
“You got it,” Helen said, smiling. “I just have one more thing to ask. If you don’t mind telling me; what did you do that got you kicked out of the church? You weren’t touching kids, were you?”
“No,” Carlos said. “I was not touching kids.”
“Good,” Helen said, getting up. “These barstools hurt my damn hip. I’ll hope to see you in mass soon, Father Martinez.”
Two Sundays later, Father Matinez was back in the cloth. They hadn’t given him a full priesthood position, but he was working alongside Father McKraken. The outcry for his reinstatement was overwhelming, and it couldn’t be ignored. Father McKraken was finally happy that his new assistant knew Helen Masters well. He was also happy to see that her and Rose had brought their son.
“So that’s Helen’s son,” Father Martinez whispered to Father McKraken before mass began. “I’m glad they have him coming to church as well.”
“I know,” Father McKraken said. “We can always use more blacks in here.”
Paulie walked down the isles, looking for the pew with his sister Helen. Along the way, he spotted Tony sitting next to his mother. Paulie smiled and sat behind him. He tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned suddenly. “What’s this I see?” he said. “Back to church?”
“I’m here with my ma,” Tony said. “Get lost.”
“Oh,” Paulie said. “Real nice. After I catch you giving lip service to your mother during mass and everything!”
Tony stood up suddenly, causing everyone around to look. “Don’t you dare accuse me of doing that to my own mother,” he said, balling his hands into fists. “And in the house of our Lord!”
“Calm down,” Paulie said. “It’s an expression. I only say it because you were claiming to be Muslim while you were dating Abracadabra.”
“Not any more,” Tony said. “I couldn’t even get to second base with that chick. Besides, she showed me what was under the burka, and I ran the hell out.”
Paulie laughed. “Well, as a catholic; it’s good to have you back,” he said.
“I’m so happy that Father Martinez is back,” Helen said, a few sections over from Paulie and Tony. “Look at him up there. It’s as if he never left.”
“And you’re OK with him sharing the spotlight with Father McKraken?” Rose asked.
Helen laughed. “It’s only a matter of time before they catch McKraken diddling an altar boy,” she said. “The Irish ones always do.”
“Oh Helen,” Rose said, shaking her head in her hand.
“Besides,” Helen said, putting a hand on Da’Quarius’ shoulder. “I have an inside man now to make sure it happens.”
“Wait a second,” Da’Quarius said. “You want me to try and get touched by dat guy?”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Helen said. “Just get him on film trying to unzip your fly, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
“You fucked up, biddy,” Da’Quarius said.
“Don’t use that language in the Lord’s house!” Helen said, loud enough for nintey percent of the churchgoers to hear. “I’ll beat you upside the head with my book of hymns!”
Father McKraken turned to look over at Helen threatening her son. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” he said, smiling.
“I’ll take care of it,” Father Martinez said. “She’ll be alright. You just need to know how to talk to her. I knew the whole family when I was new here.”
“Thank you,” Father McKraken said. “It’s about that time. Do you want to get this going since this is your first mass back in the robes?”
“Sure thing,” Father Martinez said, stepping up to the altar as the organ music began to wane so he could speak. “All rise,” he said.
“All rishe, huh?!” a female voice called out. A woman was rapidly walking towards the altar dragging a boy with her. “You think you can just waltz back in here after what you’ve done?! You haven’t even given your son so much as a birthday card in nine years!”
Father Martinez swallowed hard and began to sweat.
“What you about your daughter?!” another called out walking towards him. “You told me The Lord will see us through our troubles, but we’re still on welfare with no child support from you, you bastard!”
“What about our son?!” another called out from the back. “You promised to come to his baseball games!”
“Whoa!” Tony said, laughing. “You were right about this church stuff, Paulie. I’m glad I didn’t miss this!”
“So that’s what he did,” Helen said, staring from her own pew. “Still not as bad as diddling boys. I don’t even see why they kicked him out.”