God's Shoehorn (Chapter III)
It was Friday morning. Paul had never held a fondness for Fridays. They were the point of week at which everyday working folk began to unwind. Not so for priests. Paul was no longer a priest, however. He was beginning to take great satisfaction in the knowledge that he would be giving no Sermons this weekend. He would be justifying no dogma, appeasing no injustices, and spreading no more lies about the so-called 'Grand Plan'. Besides, he wasn't so sure that there even was a plan. The God he'd known had spent an awful lot of time in recent years loafing in physical form on Paul's Sofa, complaining about church schisms and playing Xbox games with Paul's Theology tutees.
Paul idly pinged his shopping through the self-service checkout at his local Tesco metro. He was thinking of the bible, much to his irritation. A parable had popped into his head, as they often did. It was that parable about not wasting your talents. He paused for a moment as he realised that he'd just replaced a 60p box of ibuprofin with a £3 box of neurofen of identical strength and content. This reactionary behavior was difficult to stop. The other day Paul had had an altercation in which his opposition suggested that he 'turn the other cheek'. Paul had only just prevented himself pulling down his trousers to show which other cheek he thought the fellow was worthy of speaking to. He needed to talk to somebody about that.
Paul paid, gathered his bags and made for the sliding doors. He was ambling between the security scanners when the image of a thick, colourfully bound contract and the memory of an approaching deadline popped into his head. The store alarm went off.
"Drop the bags sir!" shouted a suddenly looming security guard with the stubble and eye-shadows of a man with a serious hangover. Paul obediently dropped the bags and stepped forward to get out of someone's way.
"Stop!!" yelled the guard, "You can't escape that easily!!"
"I'm not trying to escape from anything" he protested as the guard rifled through his shopping with vicious abandon. Milk was cast aside angrily, butter hurled with bitterness. A hubub arose from the crowd of concerned citizens who had now gathered to watch the show. This was the most entertainment the shoppers of Tesco Metro, Whitley Bay had seen in weeks. A small group of emo-styled teenagers started to pass around a bag of toffee popcorn.
"Aha!!" cried the sweating security guard triumphantly waving something in the air. Paul squinted in an effort to see what it was. He had no success there.
"ooooooh!" went the crowd.
"What's all this then?" demanded an unoriginal yet nevertheless threatening looking pair of police officers who had appeared with perfect timing at the sliding doors.
"Bollocks to this!" wailed Paul, and ran for it.
Unfortunately for Paul, not only were these coppers unoriginal - they were also not quite up to date on the legal status of tasers as a weapon of use by the constabulary of the uk. Consequently, Paul managed all of three strides before 1000 volts of "screw you!" lifted him off his feet and deposited him at the security guard's feet. The whiskey scented git grinned down into Paul's dilated pupils and sniffed.
"Thieving's wrong, mate" he snarled, and just for good measure, sprayed Paul in the face with a liberal measure of Mace. Paul screamed in agony and writhed on the floor. This earned the guard a smattering of applause from the gathered locals. They were keen on justice being done in these parts. The police officer saw the reaction that the guard's little stunt had got, and went for round three with another pull of the taser trigger. The last thing Paul remembered as the lights went out, was a little voice in the back of his head - just loud enough for him to know exactly who it was.
"Gotcha!" said God maliciously.
"Bastard" said Paul.
Mrs Parsonage roared through the air at speeds not meant for woolens to bear. She gritted her teeth and struck her best superwoman pose. Had anyone been about, they would have witnessed only a brown blur… but it was four in the morning and not even the most die-hard of tight-short-wearing joggers was braving the cold darkness at this hour.
A soft cackle emanated from somewhere below her left boot. Mrs Parsonage stiffened her leg and dropped in both speed and altitude very suddenly. The cackle died off with a thud of leather sole hitting wrinkly cheek. Mrs Parsonage smirked in satisfaction and spared a moment to glance down at the tumbling black smudge before it disappeared into a sudden bank of snow. Mrs Parsonage sucked on her bottom lip thoughtfully for a moment then swung back around. She thought she'd recognised the face of her pursuer for a moment there. She dipped low to the ground, scudding over the snow banks and zipping between the trunks of large pine trees.
Mrs Parsonage righted her stance and planted her feet in the snow firmly. She skidded in an impressive spray of white powdery ice to the foot of the large snow pile where her attacker lay steaming in a witch-shaped hole.
'Margaret?!' gasped Mrs Parsonage in shock as the darkly clothed figure clambered damply from the hole. Steam billowed off her as she dried herself by magical means.
'Yes it's Margaret!' snapped the hook-nosed witch irritably, 'Who the hell did you think it was Penelope Katherine Parsonage?!'
Mrs Parsonage blushed for the first time in years. 'Well, I..... Um...'
'Quite' snapped Margaret. Mrs Parsonage shut her mouth sharply and helped the ancient crone onto easier ground. She was quietly amazed at her old teacher's resilience. She must have fallen fifty feet at high velocity into that snowbank and there wasn't a scratch on her despite her advanced years. Tough as old boots, the older generation of witches were. Mrs Parsonage had idolised Margaret Tumpling when she was in apprenticeship to her.
'Why were you following me?' asked Mrs Parsonage of her old mentor as old Mrs Tumpling fixed her beady black eyes on her former pupil's handbag. She gave a disarming smile.
'I was just in the area and 'eard you whizzin' by' said Margaret Tumpling slipping a hand inside her long coat pocket. 'I fancied a catch up with an old friend, didn't I!'
'Of course' agreed Mrs Parsonage with a small frown. Something wasn't right here. She looked around with narrowed eyes. Shadows moved in the gloom beyond the phosphorus glow of the electric lamps that dotted the edge of the path they were stood on. The path ran right down the centre of the park. Mrs Parsonage looked into her former teacher's wild eyes and noted the growing maniacal grin.
'Are you ok, Mrs Tumpling?' she asked in a steady voice. She stepped back slightly.
'Oh oim ok dearie!' chuckled the crone withdrawing her hand from her pocket. It held a long slim wand in ebony. Yellowish static sparked around the tip. The sodium lamps nearest the witches flickered in sympathy and Mrs Parsonage took a quicker step away from the grinning old lady.
'They do say it happens to us all when we reaches a certain age' carried on the crone. Mrs Parsonage shook her head in denial and horror at Mrs Tumpling's crazed grin. 'Old man death came to take me away a while back now' said Mrs Tumpling, 'But I weren't ready, were oi? So I sez to meself - who do oi know as can sort out little problems loik this'un?' Mrs Tumpling licked her gums and grinned her toothless grin. 'Oi only went and made a deal didn't oi?!" she cackled. Mrs Parsonage shook her head in disgust. She'd expected so much more of the old hag.
'Now, 'and over the parchment wot you stole at Lindesfarne! 'is nibs wants it back.'
'Not bloody likely' snapped Mrs Parsonage. Her old mentor snarled, black gimlet eyes glimmering from sunken wrinkled sockets.
'You've got a nerve, Penelope Parsonage! Oi near raised you moi-self oi ded!!'
Mrs Parsonage dodged a wild spark that leapt from Margaret's wand. It fizzed a hole in the tarmac which bubbled and popped in the spot around the hole.
'In which case,' yelled Mrs Parsonage, 'You should know better than to sell me out to you-know-who!!'
'He 'as a name, Penelope!' said Margaret, 'You're not at bloody 'ogwarts, y'know!"
Mrs Parsonage leapt into the air and furiously zigzagged as the screeching and cursing Mrs Tumpling flew fitfully after her. Sulferous smelling spells whizzed and spat passed Mrs Parsonage on either side. She was barely keeping ahead of the old besum. Mrs Parsonage thought back to the lessons Mrs Tumpling had given her in self defense. She had always argued that if a magical foe is after you - the best thing to defeat them was usually unmagical. Mrs Parsonage zipped above the treeline and risked a glance back. There she was. Fire balls and lightning hurtled from the wrinkled witch's outstretched wand forcing her old pupil to duck and weave at high speed. Mrs Parsonage fumbled inside her handbag for a moment and with a vicious little smile, she pulled out a horseshoe.
Dodging a greenish ball of flame, Mrs Parsonage hefted the horseshoe and hurled it at her pursuer. Mrs Tumpling didn't even see it until it clunked her squarely between the eyes. For the second time that night she tumbled silently from the sky. Mrs Parsonage winced as she saw a tree shudder with impact. Turning her eyes forward, she put on a burst of speed and headed home for Oxford. The weight of the parchment in her bag seemed suddenly much heavier. If He was involved then it was time to call in the help of some friends...
- God's Shoehorn (Chapter IV)
In this fourth chapter of God's Shoehorn, God tries to reason with Paul and Mrs Parsonage gathers her troops.
Previous hubs in this series
- God's Shoehorn (Chapter II)
In this second chapter of God's Shoehorn, Paul has a surprise meeting with the devil in a coffee shop, and Mrs Parsonage goes looking for artifacts of occult significance under Lindesfarne Abbey.
- God's Shoehorn
In this hub inspired by my 'activities to inspire your creative writing hub' (pats self on back in egotistical self-aggrandizement) - Father Paul falls out with God and Mrs Parsonage communes with dark forces. Read on to find out how these things tra