plural

…more than one     

As has been said before – maybes and mights could not be tolerated. Next there would be perhapses and possibles, which led to doubts and alternatives, then another theory, and there wouldn’t just be one, there’d be theories, as many theories as there are grains of sand on the beach.

How many grains of sand are there on a beach?

Well that depends. It depends on whether the sandstone from which the sand is formed had metamorphosed or not before it was eroded. The strength of the waves hitting the beach could not be factored into the equation – tides change. Also sand could be formed on beaches hundreds or even thousands of miles away. And two grains of sand sitting side by side on the beach could have been formed centuries, even millennia apart. Calculating the area of the beach, its length multiplied by its depth, multiplied by the average depth of the sand, giving the beach’s probable volume, would barely begin to answer this question.

Therefore, there was only one way of looking at it – the man had to be stopped. Not that Smith knew what he was doing – that man. Not precisely anyway. But that he was doing something could not be denied. And he was hiding it, whatever he was doing. He was running away. So he had something to hide. And he had run away three times now, once from the final meeting of the Cumulonimbus Society and twice after Smith had spotted him on the streets. And he had seen him in prison – his hand at least. All of this added up to something. You couldn’t discount that. Whatever else, that had to be counted.

Now, maybe, just maybe, that devious, pernicious, insane bastard could be looked at another way. Maybe there was more to it than that. Maybe much more. Maybe less. Maybe nothing. But looking at things one way or another didn’t change the nature of what you’re looking at. So you may as well look at it this way or that way as any other way. You’re still looking at the same devious, pernicious, insane bastard either way – that man had to be found; once found the bastard had to be wrestled to the ground, his pernicious plans foiled, his devious schemes unwound and his insanity rendered sane by the rigors of logic, common sense and science.

Smith almost fell into the church. He had decided to get some moral support from the one true god. One god. There was only one god. Smith derived great comfort from these words, even though he didn’t believe in god. Not this god. Not any god. Not one, two or three or a whole panoply of gods. But the words “there is only one god” were a great comfort to him. Many ideas were a great comfort to Smith. In fact, most were. If not all. For what ideas couldn’t fit into his view of the world, find a place, be assigned a number, queue up and point in the same direction? It all made sense after all. The world made sense. What other choice was there? He had to be stopped.

Even though it was Sunday, there were very few people in the church. It was a catholic church. They were stricter about things like the number of gods, the colours of saint’s cloaks, the number of leaves on a shamrock and the substantiality of bodies and blood. And they had history on their side, the Catholics, in that they had one, an extensive one, of holy wars, holy executions, as well as the usual miracles, plagues and such like. No surprises. They didn’t like surprises. Not like that pharaoh who got one hell of a surprise. And that guy who got that stone flung at his head. They delivered a few surprises, but weren’t subject to the irregularities and inconsistencies of the real world. No vicissitudes. Everything made sense. Fitted. Had its place. Page. Psalm. Line number.

Smith tripped over the edge of a seat and almost fell into the confessional box. He was almost falling all day. When he managed to right himself, he carefully entered, sitting himself comfortably on the red velvet of the seat, and closed the door after him. He couldn’t see the seat, but he knew it was red velvet – you knew where you stood with the Catholic Church. It was red velvet. Or maybe purple. But plain. Or it could have had a yellow trim. Rubbed smooth having been sat on so many times.

“Get out!” The door opened just as these words were being spoken.

Father Jupiter stood in the sombre light of the church, his black clothes melted into the dullness, his white collar shining brightly beneath his face.

“Bless me father,” Smith said. “It’s been eleven days since my last confusion.”

“Get out.”

“I’ve lost my way father. I can’t find the greengrocers and the stars keep moving in circles.”

Father Jupiter turned around and walked away, turning to walk back up the nave of the church.

“Father, bless me Father,” Smith continued to spit out harsh whispers. “Any chance of a coffee, Father? Maybe a biscuit Father?” He followed Father Jupiter up the nave of the church, past the few people scattered about, kneeling over their prayers.

In the sacristy, Father Jupiter switched on the kettle and put the biscuit jar on the table. Smith sat down in the window seat, looking out at the car park through the net curtain.

“Do you have any hobnobs?”

“I’m not in the mood for debating the finer points of religion today, if you really don’t mind. I’ve got more than enough worries to fill my head without pouring your profanities over them.”

“Another spoon of coffee father, I’m falling apart.”

“Two sugars?”

“Better make it three.”

The steam form the kettle filled the little room for a moment, as though the Holy Sprit himself had chosen this moment to descend to earth and offer guidance. Father Jupiter looked for a moment to have been inspired – he had found a chocolate hobnob. Smith seemed to have been influenced also, acquiring an odd look on his face, a look which strongly suggested serenity, knowledge, insight, tranquillity, understanding, awareness, contentment, inspiration and the rapid movement of his tongue over the front of his teeth behind his closed lips.

When the Holy Spirit had subsided, Father Jupiter was chewing a hobnob and slowly dribbling milk out of the carton. A large chunk of hobnob fell into his tea – “Jesus Christ!” He now occupied himself with fishing it out with a teaspoon.

“Father?” Smith asked, leaving a lengthy pause stretch between beginning and finishing the question. “…do you ever get to thinking that maybe you’ve got it wrong? That maybe someone else is right?”

“If you didn’t think you’re right you wouldn’t think it,” Father Jupiter said absentmindedly, flicking the sodden piece of hobnob towards the bin and missing. Taking a bite out of another hobnob, a plain hobnob this time, he added, spitting crumbs onto the table, that it wasn’t like Smith to doubt himself.

Smith nodded.

Father Jupiter then started a long parable about a man who went to Oslo to find true love; however, it turned out not to be a parable at all, and ended with the man drowning in an outdoor Jacuzzi. 

Smith was about to nod, but couldn’t.

Father Jupiter next told Smith about a time when Jesus was plagued with self-doubt – the son of god himself. How could that be, Father Jupiter asked. If the one true son of god could doubt himself, and because the son of god cannot, by definition be wrong, then doubt was by no means an indication of the falsity of your opinions, the fallaciousness of your arguments, or the vacuity of your point of view. With doubt cast aside, what else have we to taint our opinions? We are, because of the love of the one true god, and the sacrifice of his only son, freed from doubt. There is one god and there is one world, no matter what way you look at it, and of that there can be no doubt.

Smith nodded.

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