‘Racine…are you listening to me?’ He stood in the kitchen by the oven and looked up at me defiantly. A tea towel rakishly graced his shoulder and a long starched apron tightly knotted at his not under nourished front enclosed him like body armour. The diminutive and spherical creature, as always wore a snood and a hair net around his chin upon which black, carboniferous lichen grew. A thinly moustached scowl perforated his plump face and a demeanour of advanced insolence completed the picture. I attempted to at least simulate a modicum of calm though my very soul seethed with loathing for this snooded idiot. Rather than look at him directly I gazed out the window at my verdant palace gardens to regain my composure.
‘He is not the Pope, he is not even the holy fucking ghost. He is Cardinal Schnell, an actual mortal or so I have been told. It is not necessary to provide ecclesiastical providores. The oysters will not be flown in from Bethlehem. The lamb will not have to be slaughtered by a virgin. The broccolini is quite happy to be nurtured by our local green grocer and not procured from the consecrated gardens of the Vatican.’
He genuflected violently and toddled to the sink to cruelly scour a baby turnip. With his back to me the dreadful little liturgist spat out the following. ‘Meester Unction you villa be flayed in Hella if I cannota have dese baby turnips blesseda by a brida of Christus. Your very soula villa be scoured and reviled by demone’ he lisped.
‘O for fucks sake.’ I said, wearying of this idiot’s arrant nonsense. ‘Look, I believe that our neighbour’s niece is a novice at the St.Pancrea convent in Dover Heights. Will she do?
‘At a peencha,’ He snotted and he held the juvenile vegetable up to the light as if the holy essence might be spied within. A cruel expression formed on the slit that approximated his mouth. He raised a baby carrot now and spoke to it seemingly oblivious to my presence entirely. ‘You, my leetle one will be with the Cardinale soon. You villa be caresseda by his paramenti my little boy, his tonaca villa enfolda you and you villa be losta in his perfetto love.’
‘Good….right’ I said, leaving the increasingly creepy and singularly demented chef, adjourned to my bathroom for ablutions. If it had not been my customary time for bathing I would have done so anyway just to cleanse myself of the emanations that undulated from the dreadful Italian. I avoid prolonged association with the diminutive devil allowing Trudy to conclude most business with him. For reasons unknown to me they seem to have a rapport.
I dressed today in a tan suit flourished with a lovely cravat I had brought in from Harrods. The shirt was a hand stitched Luigi Borelli that felt like one was wearing a cloud, the fabric was so supple. The shoes were brown Ecco loafers. I descended to the sitting room and found my dear PA Trudy hard at work at the sideboard arranging some silverware I think.
‘Trudy can you get Lady Celia Marchhare on the blower?’ She departed and I wandered out to the pool to find Dympha uncharacteristically robed this morning and seated at the outdoor table writing in her diary. A flute of Krug sat fizzing within arm’s reach. Dympha had kept a diary from the age of twelve and I often wondered what fascinating insights may be purloined from stealing a look within its pages but for some reason I flinched from such an intrusion. Agh look, you have caught me in a lie dear reader, I should reveal that I did but once, sneak a peek early in our relationship and the result of this invasion is the subject of an event in my own memoirs still to come.
‘A bit of a chill in the air my dear?’ I queried.
She looked up from her writing and examined me, her pen poised between her beautiful lips. ‘My, how handsome you look’.
‘I do my best with what little I have.’ I said with false modesty. ‘Did you know, my sweet, that Cardinal Schnell is coming for lunch?’ I had already appraised my better half of this fact the previous afternoon but knew it would have disappeared like a line of cocaine up a junkie’s proboscis by the time her second empty bottle of bubbly had hit the bottom of the recycle bin.
‘O Christ, I’d forgotten. I think I’ll ring Celia and arrange an impromptu shopping expedition, he is the most insufferably overbearing Catholic I have ever met, and that’s saying something, besides we are out of Krug.’ She said.
I must say I anticipated my meeting with Schnell with some apprehension. After all he had presided over decades of criminality of a particularly abhorrent flavour. A clergy that indulged in practices that, how should I say this delicately, offended every moral code known to man.
‘Careful, my dear, your Lutheran is showing.’ I smiled. I anticipated your reaction and have had Trudy ring Celia. I also have a matter to discuss with Celia.’
‘Ah, here is Trudy now.’ I took the phone and engaged in the usual small talk briefly. What follows is my side of the conversation.
‘Celia…aha…yes…no….Ah Celia I believe that you have a young niece who has recently chosen the cloistered life over at St.Pancrea…aha…well I have a blessed but brief ecclesiastical mission for her.’
‘Yes…yes…aha…..quite…Ah I was wondering if she is allowed out sometimes?’
‘….yes…well, I know of him, their dreadful little curate, been caught rooting one of the alter boys I hear……’
aha…right….no….yes……….really fuck!……….. Jesus!…
‘sequestered and she what…cutting herself….hospitalised…O dear…’
‘I am so sorry Celia…. I am sure you are. Look I’ll put Dympha on…yes, she wants to ask you something.’
‘I waved to Dympha from the threshold with Celia on board as she drove the Daimler through the gates and I missed her immediately. She might like her bubbly a little too much but by God I adored her. Speaking of God, not thirty seconds later, his emissary pulled into the driveway in his limousine.
‘Good grief, your grace I had forgotten how tall you were, you’re positively altitudinous. If you have presumptions on the papal crown they may be up for some modifications old chap otherwise you may be up for damage to the chandeliers.’ The great man entered the main hall like a startled lion immediately unsettled by my attempt at buona volontá. At the same time he tried to ignore the particularly degenerate Caravaggio hanging on the wall and then negotiate the Roman priapus at the entrance to the dining room.
‘I must ask a favour, Cardinal. Would you be so kind as to proceed to the kitchen yonder and bless our chef’s turnips…it’s a cultural thing.’
‘Ah, he is Italian is he?’ Said Schnell, clearly at home with the concept and with Trudy leading the way he repaired to the kitchen. A short interval had presented itself to allow me to remove the facsimile of Luther’s ‘Ninety Five Theses’, left lying on the table rather naughtily by Dympha. She never ceases to surprise me. I also took the opportunity to open the voice recorder app on my phone and hit record.
‘He may be Italian, but he is odd, even by their standards.’ Remarked the Cardinal as he re-entered the dining room, another blessing behind him.
‘Tell me about it.’ I said. ‘Please sit and sup with me Cardinal.’ Trudy drew out his chair and once seated placed a napkin on his elaborately cassocked loins. ‘Trudy will you do the honours.’ I pointed to a carafe of wine swaddled in a napkin. ‘I have been informed your victuals are normally of a pedestrian nature so our fare here today will unapologetically ignore this predilection.’
Pointing to the carafe I declared. ‘This, for instance, is a delightful young Claret from the Bishop’s Knob winery in the Hunter. I know you have had some upsetting news from this neck of the woods of late but please put such matters aside. At the very least until you have tasted it.’ Taste it he did.
‘Not bad, Unction’ Taking another swig. ‘Not bad at all, but I can’t help thinking that it has an offensive nose and I fear that your agenda is less than charitable.
‘Not at all Cardinal, wouldn’t dream of it. I mean it could be on the nose but I very much doubt it; my cellar is legendary. Due to your acknowledged plain tastes Racine has assembled a variation on the meat and three veg trope. He may be odd but I can assure you he will surprise you with his culinary cleverness.’
‘So FU, what was it you wanted to see me about? I have a three o’clock with the Council for Liturgical Bewilderment and then must board the papal jet at six for Rome. The boss needs a rundown on the armoured multi-purpose vehicle situation.
‘Well, your new job at Vatican City must be very demanding; what is it now…the Curate of Ordnance and Prince of Church Financial Affairs? But for being pipped at the post by your Irish counterpart for the office of ‘Divine Enabler of Deviant Pulpiteers it would have been in the bag.’
‘Very demanding FU. Actually it’s Divine Regulator of Deviant Pulpiteers.
‘Oops. Anyway you’ve done well for yourself your worthyship. I paused a moment while the Cardinal poured another glass of Bishop’s Knob.
‘Now, there has been some conjecture in regard to the exact age of the planet in your neck of the woods. I believe you hold the conventional view that it is only 6,000 years old?’
‘How do you explain the discovery of manmade artefacts dating back 100,000 years?’
‘ Look FU, has to be Aliens doesn’t it. No brainer from where I stand?’
‘Well, no, not really.’ I said with some hesitation. This was clearly going to be a conversation dominated by an indecipherable absurdity commonly associated with mid twentieth century German playwrights. His claim of Alien intervention certainly brought to mind my collection of Neolithic axe heads carbon dated at ten thousand years. I made a mental note to have them reappraised just in case. As I was reassembling my thoughts the implacably ridiculous Racine entered the dining room followed closely by Trudy, tray in hand on which sat the day’s repast. ‘Ah, Lunch.’ I smiled menacingly at Racine. The follicly clad cuisinier placed an immaculately inscribed card between us as Trudy unburdened herself of our meal. It read….
‘Tower of God’
A Coliseum of Fricasee’d Young Lamb Loin, slightly scorched, surrounded by a mild sauce of the tears collected from the animal’s family.
On a bed of abused Kennebec Potatoes
A selection of baby vegetables with the warmed vinaigrette known as ‘False Regret’
I have to admit that I did actually swoon momentarily. This was indeed a ‘tour de force majeure’. Racine had constructed a meal fit for a King or a Pope to be more approprié. My guest appeared to be in awe as well, although, it was somewhat hard to tell as he started to drool slightly and his nose twitched briefly. He seemed a little tepid and he, unlike our miniature Coliseum, appeared to be on the verge of subsidence.
Racine bowed so low his nose actually collided with the table. No mean feat for a person of his girth. He bowed out of the dining room blood beginning to emerge from his nasty little nose. Trudy retired to the sideboard and repositioned the Ming dynasty vases or something.
‘Could you adjust the air conditioning Trudy?’ I said, in an effort to augment her duties. I speared a microscopic and cardinally blessed turnip, bathed it in the sauce and chewed with relish.
‘My God!’ I shrieked with pleasure and inadvertently activating, with a start, the seemingly inanimate prelate. ‘Eat….eat.’ I said as an indescribable column of masticated lamb made its visceral journey down to my gut. Did I savour the sinuous journey of that first morsel through my internal anatomy as if it was actually a gift from the almighty? Yes I did. I admit, my palate, now excited to delirium, held sway over my obligations as mine host temporarily.
Schnell proceeded to eat but without the relish the dish required. I must say, I was a bit miffed on Racine’s behalf, which is something you will not often hear me say.
‘Not to your liking your eminence’ I purred. ‘Surely this collation is a work of art’
‘It’s fine FU; I have been told I am a bit of a bumpkin when it comes to the table, probably as a result of my formative years in the convent. So forgive me if I am less than enthusiastic. To tell you the truth I don’t understand it.’
‘Pardon?’ I said answering misapprehension with befuddlement.
‘Well, it’s elaborateness, its very existence denies the presence of humility and simplicity. I think it ungodly Unction. I’m talking about art in general here.’
‘Surely it would be a bland old world if there was no art in it? We would be automatons condemned to a dull survival of the most prosaic variety. Our species would die out for want of something to do, surely?’ I complained.
‘The holy father is always dragging us down to the Sistine Chapel to look at the ceiling and then starts banging on about it being the defining artefact in the history of the church. Call me an unschooled peasant but I think this Michelangelo fellow had his head up his butt….to be a tad indelicate. I tell you one thing for free, he couldn’t draw a tit to save his arse. Not to mention that I have had multiple visits to the Vatican Chiropractor as a result of this incessant, pontiff prescribed gazing. He really is a tedious old fart.’ Schnell made these remarks with some passion. He is in a constant state of starry eyed wonderment. If I didn’t know him better I’d say he was in receipt of a more than a necessary hit of hashish.’
I saw my opportunity and leapt on it, hoping to ride it all the way.
‘Do tell Heinrich.’ I applied the familiar to put him at ease but he looked at me with the same expression I saw him use earlier when appraising the baby broccoli. I proceeded with caution.
‘I would be grateful if you could tell me a little of the Pontiff’s habits and inclinations while closeted in his palace. I imagine it is a rare opportunity indeed.’ I said with less enthusiasm.
‘Ha.’ He scoffed, clearly on a roll. It was apparent his boss had not exactly impressed him. ‘FU the man is repellent, a total grub. He grew up in a Favela you know? His bedroom could be likened to that of a particularly chaotic, drug addicted teenager.’
‘The papal housemaid had refused to enter the room until some of the particularly nasty items had been removed. He refused point blank and ordered her and her broom to the scullery. For a devout nun, who has been bred to serve the papacy, coming across a plethora of depravity such as this was too much to bear. She subsequently hung herself in the palace attic. There wasn’t a nun in Christendom who would ingress the papal threshold.’
As you know, dear reader, I am a pagan of the first water. My life of misadventure, as can be viewed on this very website in the form of my memoirs, is a testament to this and so you will assume it would take much to shock me but shocked I now sat finishing another exemplar of the despicable Racine’s genius and awaiting with baited breath for more shocking details of the private life of the current incumbent of the Holy See. I know, I know, that was an inordinately long sentence but it will serve as an indication of my anticipated joy of revelations to come.
Trudy had carafe’d another bottle of Bishop’s Knob and poured us both a glass. His holiness was revealing he may be quietly snagging more than his fair share of the communal wine back at the big house. He was down five to my two and showing signs of intemperance.
‘It was clear we had to investigate and a small group of cardinals including myself were conscripted to look into this unpleasant matter. While the old fart was out somewhere washing the feet of indigents we entered the holy sleeping chamber.’
‘An odour of old socks, incense, tequila and hashish assailed our nostrils as we perused the defiled place. We knew the bed had not been made in months and sheets were stained and rent, even torn in places. The hallowed blanket, an item believed to be in Saint Peters possession at Gethsemane, was moth eaten and fly blown and lay with a stack of dirty plates and silverware at the foot of the bed along with numerous empty Tequila bottles and a loaded Uzi.’
‘Worst of all, Unction, books of all description lay strewn about. Pages were torn out or inscribed on. The walls were a mass of indecipherable babble written in crayon. Lists, blasphemes, pronouncements, whole tracts from Plato’s republic, verses from Homers Odyssey, gibberish from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Alain de Botton, Dawkins and the rest of the heretics. Novels by Baudelaire, Flaubert, Irving, Carey and many others lay about everywhere in disarray. I found ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ by that sodomite Wilde beneath The Pontiffs Ring.’ To see this very sacred item discarded in such a way made me weep. Consoled by Cardinal Luciano I continued on my journey through this corruption.
‘The Quran rested on top of the Holy Bible. The Torah lay open beside them, its margins heavily notated in Spanish. This proved too much for one of our number who fainted.’ The pontiff’s vestments were filthy and were thrown in a pile under the window and a bong had tipped over on them from the window ledge where various implements of drug paraphernalia still stood in the sunlight.’ Schnell stopped here and made the sign of the cross, the sleeve of his cassock scooping up a baby carrot and knocking over his now empty wine glass.
‘O, I’m sorry FU’ He put his head in his hands and wept bitter tears.’ Trudy appeared beside him with a napkin and managed to deftly remove the glass and the offending carrot.
To say I was a little underwhelmed by this story would be to not give full thrust to my disappointment. It seemed to me they had an untidy pope who had a predilection for literature and philosophy and an unhealthy relationship with the bottle. These were innocent peccadilloes that half the population of my neighbourhood alone ascribed to. If he had regaled me with stories of obsessive porn worship or nun deflowering then I might see the point of all this wringing of hands.
‘So he is an aesthete?’ Said I quite miffed really having expected a bit of nun related naughtiness at the very least.
‘I don’t know about an aesthete but he certainly is a bloody ass.’ The grieving prelate responded bitterly. At this point he rummaged about amongst the folds of his Cassock to produce a vibrating cell phone and answered it. ‘Yes, yes…of course…I will say my goodbyes and meet the driver out the front in a few minutes.’
He looked up at me, red-faced and discomfited but still with determination to believe that God was in his heaven and the Dark Lord remained at bay impossible as that clearly is…particularly the last bit.
‘I must excuse myself now FU as I have a room full of the liturgically bewildered awaiting my council.’ He stood heavily, wiped his nose on his napkin and turned to the entrance.
‘It is a pity you must leave your Prominence, particularly as we were getting to some obviously worrying issues for you.’
If you were privy to my actual thoughts on the matter you might be report that, in reality I had just wasted a couple of hours with a risible, pompous and self-regarding twat who, if he had prolonged his visit any longer would have led Trudy to demonstrate the little used perambulate move called ‘encourager departé’ although I would have also encouraged the more defining ‘coup de grâce’ as I felt particularly miffed by the postulates pernickety divulgements.
I am deeply sorry because nobody should be subject to this rubbish but as always FU is curious about your opinions.
It goes without saying this Racine chap is carrying a lot of baggage….I mean what’s his problem? Could he have been brutalized in the convent in which he grew up? Does this shed some light on his insanity.
Dympha’s diary could at some point be quite revealing. She is far more perceptive than her consumption of Champagne may suggest.
Is the Vatican preparing for invasion and why? I for one have not the foggiest.
Comment and let FU know what you really think of him and his preposterous musings.