Monday, November 21, 2011

Fox's Confessor - Chapter Six

When Father Overbee drank he often thought
Of St. Augustine (“To The Burgundy,
Thence I came…”) but refused to think what brought
Him to such a pass: he knew the company
“The Legless Fox” kept was most nights only
“Me, myself and rye.” So he thought it strange
To have someone other than a barfly
Or transient intrude on his solo binge:
Parishioner or not, encounters made him cringe.

Tonight’s visitor in natty long coat
And pin-striped three-piece was holding in hand
And close to vest a fancy leather tote:
That’s where, thought Father, lawyers keep contained
Such secrets convictions that sins defend…
The priest avoided making eye contact
And turned to his drink as the stranger scanned
The room for signs of life. In fact, he attacked
His beer: shall I be shit-faced tonight, or just shellacked?

Before too long, though, half way through the priest’s
Latest coat of liver stain, the stranger spoke –
Not to him – to imaginary guests –
Or so it seemed. Perhaps the priest mistook
The man for his appearance: homeless folk
Have taken to wearing upscale suits
, he thought.
Intrigued, he listened to the stranger talk.
A beer later, the stranger began to shout,
Then looked at – or through – the priest, and quickly ran out.

“There goes the evening’s divertissement…”
The cleric said, and, shrugged to silence, sipped
His glass and munched at a free assortment
Of nuts and snaps at the bar. As he tipped
His glass to drain it, someone lightly tapped
His arm. A fat fellow sat a stool away
And watched the glass the priest held as it dripped
Its final drop into his mouth. “Good day,”
He said. “I’m Lonnie Cash. Are you enjoying your stay?”

“Good day – evening, sir. I’m actually not
A regular guess – I came for the cashews
And stayed for Wilmaukee’s Best. Look at that…
Late fer New Mexico and no excuse.
A bishop-forced vacation – can’t refuse.”
“Are you a priest by name of Father Andy?”
Asked Lonnie barging through the priest’s obtuse
Palaver (Although that’s not quite the way
That he put it later to Peyton: “He was high!”)

“Who needs to know? You can tell Mrs. Conway –“
“Are you a priest?” (Although still dressed in his blacks,
He had his Roman collar stashed away
In his back pocket.) “Whew, this ‘Headless Fox’
Sure’s gotten busy tonight. ‘Matter facks,
I am – or was – or…whaz on your mind, son?”
“We’ve got a guest in Six-sixty-six –
He’s very ill, you see – and a Christian –
And he’d like to have a priest to do confession.”

* * * *
Delirium – dying delirium,
Thought Lytlewood, once more in the lobby.
He pounded on the call-bell like a drum
And Peyton Cash appeared almost instantly
Behind the desk. Or the insanity
Of an old man.
“I’d like to take my suite.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Lytlewood. Here’s your key.
I would suggest you take the stairs tonight
As the elevator is cranky – and it might –“

“You expect me to take six flights of stairs?”
“Of course not, Mr. Lytlewood, go straight
On down the hall and there’s elevators
To left and right, but take the one on the right.”
But Lytlewood shot a severe look at
The man. “You damn well know I’ve been before.
Who’s taking care of baggage this late
At night?” Even Peyton Cash – cool cucumber
Extraordinaire – struggled to keep composure.

“We’ll…We’ll have them sent up A.S.A.P….”
“What kind of place you run–“ Whatever else
The aging thug thought he was going to say
Was lost in vertigo and closing walls –
He gripped the desk to ride out the crippling spells
Of nausea, letting fall to the marble floor
The dossier from Music. When the chills
And shakes subsided, Peyton standing there
Beside him, both saw its contents spilled everywhere.

* * * * *
As Father Overbee replayed the scene,
Bizarre and of a piece with how his night
Was shaping up, his presbyterian
Instincts assumed a sober defense of rite
And sacrament: while he agreed, despite
His clodded judgment, to see the sick man,
He told the thumbless fellow – as he spat
Tobacco juice into a brass spittoon –
“Sish sishty-sish, huh? Good nummers for confection…”

“Well, Padre, spurt it can’t hurt spurt can it?”
“I’ll need a hole and stoly oils – a stoles
For extreme inaction – what? Bah! Emmit fit
To drivel meself and get a couple miles
To walk –“ “Oh, don’t sweat spurt the details
There Padre – just spurt go and do your thing.
The little stuff are just the devil’s
Excuse for spurt to make the ol’ purse strings
Of pig tails – or is it honey spurt for the bee stings?

“Shit, I don’t know – the point is spurt…Well, shit,
What was my point?” “The rask of gitting lust
In detools?” "Ex – spurt – actly! Did I hit
The hammer on the tail?" "– I think I mussed
Your name, Mr….?” “Lonnie Cash, your host…
I’m owner of these here praymises, too.”
And Lonnie, pausing half a second, thrust
His hand at Father Overbee and threw
A look at his piled empty glasses. “Want to play through?”

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