Luke McGuff (holyoutlaw) wrote,
Luke McGuff


Joaquin had one job: to climb the outside of the cathedral every Sunday and, when the priest raised the host for consecration, to lift a shade such that a shaft of sunlight fell upon the priest's upraised hands. The priest devised this plan because the faithfulness (and donations) of his flock were diminishing.

The priest chose Joaquin in the hopes it would give purpose to a life otherwise lost to wine and sloth. It did: The few centimes a week were an untold luxury to Joaquin, he never missed a Sunday.

And the plan worked, after a fashion. Sometimes weather meant there was no shaft of sunlight. Frequently the sunlight missed the priest entirely, landing somewhere along the altar. Sometimes it was just next to the priest, and he quickly shifted to the left or right. Sometimes Joaquin was just a little late, and the priest had to repeat the incantation and raise the host again. Maybe twice. Almost never three times.

But twice a year, on the equinoxes, the heavens and earth literally aligned and the shaft of sunlight fell on the priest as he raised the host and even the most skeptical was moved by the beauty.

What the priest never told Joaquin is that this was all completely transparent to the flock. Joaquin's movements across the roof of the cathedral, during the most hushed and reverential portions of the mass, were loud and thudding. His actions were cast upon the windows like a giant shadow puppet, the angle of the sun and the pitch of the roof making all comic. Tension built in the cathedral as all eyes were upon the shadow. Would he be late? Would his mutterings and imprecations, echoing through the pipes of the rain-sluicing gargoyles, reach such a pitch even fishwives covered their ears? The tension was redoubled by the need to suppress any outward reaction: not a single gasp or giggle ever escaped the flock's lips. And the flock grew in attendance, soon filling the cathedral so that latecomers stood. The pews with the best sights of Joaquin's struggles were filled hours before the service began, wealthy townspeople paying the indigent (rather more than the priest payed Joaquin) to reserve them.

These pews, alas, were not those closest to the altar. They were rather back, and to the left. Sometimes the priest looked out at a distant clump of congregants, a few tendrils of parishioners radiating out. But attendance was up and donations were fabulous, so the priest let it all stand.

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