“Father Tom, it’s time to get up,” Jane called, while she happily washed the pans used for cooking breakfast. Soon, Father Tom came thumping down the stairs. He wasn’t cranky, or anything like that, but a man of his size thumped wherever he went.
“Morning Jane,” he said, mid-yawn, enjoying an energetic stretch. He was a great stretcher. He arched his back and stuck out his substantial tummy, before crouching down like a sumo wrestler. Not finished yet, he did a three hundred and sixty degree turn on his way up, sending a box of cornflakes flying off the kitchen table.
“Oh God, Father, what will we do with you!” she scolded, even though she was fifteen years younger than the priest, she often felt like his mother.
“Sorry Jane,” he said, starting to pick up the spilled cereal. Jane shushed him away with a tea towel, cleaning up the mess herself.
“Leave that, Father, God knows what you’ll break next.” In reality, she enjoyed the fact he was a bit clumsy, it made her feel needed. He lowered himself into a chair, scratching his chin through his fluffy black beard. Jane had offered to trim it before, but the only person he would let near him with a scissors was his barber. His hair was starting to get long, nearly reaching his collar, Father Tom would soon be needing his bi-annual visit to Marco.
He poured a cup of tea from the pot and flipped open the newspaper, as Jane dished up sausages and bacon for him. Father Tom mumbled a constant stream of nonsense while he read, “Hum”, “Would you believe it”, “For the love of God”, “Holy Mother”. The stories could be about anything, she could never guess whether they were happy or sad from listening to his noises.
“By the hockey, Jane, will you look at this,” he said, shoving the paper across the table at her. Jane read the article Father Tom was pointing at, ‘An exhibition of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia is going on display in Dublin, including some never before seen photos of her and John F Kennedy’.
“I’d love to go see that,” he said, shovelling sausages into his mouth and washing them down with buckets of sweet tea.
“Why don’t you go? It’s only two weeks away. You can book tickets in that music shop in town,” Jane said.
“Do you know, I just might do that,” he said, with a little smile. “I hope they have that white dress, from the photo.”
“Which dress is that, Father?” she asked.
“You know, the famous one. When she stood on the air vent and the wind blew up her skirt showing her – em,” he said, stopping mid-sentence and going a little red.
“Father Tom, you should be ashamed of yourself,” she chided, making him go even redder. She couldn’t stop the corners of her mouth twitching upwards in a smile.
“Ah! Would you go way out of that,” he said, flapping his hand at her, and going back to read the rest of the paper.
A couple of days later, Father Tom was walking past the music shop and decided on the spur of the moment that he was going to go to the show after all. He entered the shop which was filled with long racks of CDs and video games. The walls were adorned with dozens of wildly coloured posters, and one whole side of the shop was filled with computers and mobile phones. Behind the counter a bored looking girl in her twenties watched him approach. Her hair was bright red, the colour of a traffic cone, and she had a steel hook stuck through her nose.
“God almighty, that looks sore,” he said. “Do you need to see a doctor?”
“Are you trying to be funny?” she sneered.
“Not at all,” he said, unzipping his jacket. When she caught a glimpse of his dog collar, her attitude softened like magic.
“Oh, sorry, Father. It’s only a piercing,” she said, unscrewing the lethal-looking fashion accessory to show him how it fitted together.
“Whatever will you young people think of next?” he asked and shacked his head in disbelief. “I was told I could buy tickets for a show in Dublin here?”
“You sure can, Father. Who were you going to see?” the girl asked while punching keys on a computer mounted under the desk.
“I wanted to see Marilyn Monroe, it’s happening next week,” he said, leaning on the counter, coming very close to knocking over a revolving rack of headphones. The girl searched on the computer for a while before saying, “I can’t see anything by that name, Father, are you sure you have it right?”
“Certain, my dear,” he said.
“The only thing even close, is Marilyn Manson, in the O2 next Friday,” she said.
“That’s the one,” he said thinking they must be using her married name or something. The flame haired girl tapped a few more keys, and looked at the priest with concern. “Father, are you sure this is right? This stuff is a bit sexy.”
“Between you and me,” he said leaning closer, “I always thought so, myself, but what is the harm in it?” She looked shocked, but in a good way.
“All I can say is, fair play to you, Father. What seats do you want?”
“I wasn’t planning on sitting. I thought I’d walk around, and make sure I saw everything,” he said.
“The only standing tickets left are in the mosh pit,” she said.
“Where is the mosh pit?” he asked.
“Right at the front.”
“Sounds like just the spot for me,” he said smiling. The girls eyebrows arched so high, they nearly vanished into her thatch of red hair.
“Do you want two tickets?” she asked.
“Ah no, one will do. I’m sure I’ll meet someone nice to keep me company,” he said. The red haired girl took payment, and handed over his ticket.
“I must say, I admire a priests who’s not afraid to get in touch with modern culture” she said happily and waved him out of the shop.
On the morning of the show, Jane drove him to the train station. From her bag, she pulled a tartan flask of tea and a Tupperware box of ham sandwiches. “Take these with you, Father, the prices on the train are scandalous, and they only use cheap old ham anyway.”
“Jane, what would I do without you,” he said, whisking her up in a massive bear hug, the excitement of the trip making him lose the run of himself. She vanished in his trunk-like arms, like a toddler vanishes in a parents embrace. When he let her go, she was blushing from top to toe. She gave him a playful slap on the chest and said, “Father! Stop it will yea, people will talk.”
He smiled back at her and thought that the blush suited her. It was then that the train pulled into the station. He tucked the containers under his arm and jumped aboard.
He felt like a kid on a school trip. He loved being a priest, but sometimes he missed being just “Tom”. Today was like a holiday back to himself, back in time when he sat as a kid in musty old movie theatres, watching Marilyn on the silver screen. Tom wondered if he’d get to touch something that was actually hers, imagine that. He passed the journey by daydreaming, and remembering more innocent times. It felt like he’d only sat down, when the train pulled into Huston Station. Father Tom wandered out of the station in a crush of commuters and found a row of taxis waiting near the gate. He got into the back seat of the first one he came to.
“Where to,” the driver asked, without looking over his shoulder.
“The O2,” he said with happy authority. At this, the driver turned in his seat and glared.
“I didn’t think that would be your kind of thing, Father. Are you protesting or something?”
“Goodness no, I’m a big fan,” he said. “Do you know about the show?”
“I’ve spent all day bringing people to it, if you can call them that,” the cabbie said, pulling into the late evening traffic. The driver spent the rest of the ride shaking his head, tutting and mumbling. “What is the world coming to?”
The taxi pulled up outside a building on the quay. There were a lot of barriers and the street was strewn with rubbish, it wasn’t quite what he had expected. There were a lot of young people and some were wearing the wildest clothes. It was amazing what passed for fashion these days, he thought remembering the girl with the fish-hook through her nose. He got out of the taxi, and heard music coming from inside the place, it added a lovely party atmosphere to the show he guessed. At the door, several men in bright yellow vests with “Security” across the back, were lounging around, so Father Tom walked up to one of them and presented his ticket.
“You’re a bit late, Father,” said the man, tearing off the stub. They insisted he open the flask of tea and sniffed it, as well as looking in the sandwich box. They were taking this security thing very seriously, perhaps there’d been a bomb threat. The security man studied his ticket with a smirk and said, “The mosh pit, Father? Are you doing research on the other side?”
“I didn’t want to miss anything, and I like being able to walk around,” he said, not liking being subjected to this interrogation one bit. “Which way do I go?”
“I’ll take you down there, the show is about to start,” said the man in the vest.
Father Tom found himself walking down a long aisle, bordered on both sides by thousands of people. There was so many wild costumes, it was like Halloween. He couldn’t get over some of the get-ups. As he was escorted through the crowd, he was smiled at, high fives were given, and they even cheered him at one stage. He had to admit he was feeling a little bit like a celebrity.
“Great idea, man, wish I had thought of it,” said one guy, patting him on the back as he passed. Half the man’s face was black, the other half red, and his hair was spiked. By now, it was occurring to Tom, that something had gone very wrong with his tickets.
“This is your section, Father. Good luck!” shouted the security man, as he opened a crush barrier for him to enter.
Father Tom was surrounded by a solid mass of humanity, dressed in the wildest costumes yet, the ones that were dressed at all. In front of him, on a massive stage, was a huge statue of a woman in white suspenders, bra and knickers, who oddly wore a bunny rabbit’s head, of all things. This was no exhibition of memorabilia and he was on the verge of leaving when a black haired girl crashed into him, knocking him flat on his back. She landed right on top of him, lying with her face only inches from his.
“Oh, hi,” she said. “Great costume.”
“Hi,” said Father Tom. “Why do you all think I’m in fancy dress?” Her eyes widened, cracking her thick black eyeliner.
“Feck off! You are actually a priest,” she said, pushing herself up on her elbows to get a better look.
“Yes I am. My name is Tom, nice to meet you,” he said, holding out his hand. She took it, and shook.
“My name is Sandy, Father, nice to meet you, too.” She got to her feet, helping him to his.
“Are those sandwiches?” she asked, pointing at the box. Father Tom offered to share a sandwich, which she devoured with gusto.
“Cheers, I have the munchies bad,” she said, blowing bread crumbs out of her mouth as she talked. Father Tom took a good look at the girl. She was wearing platform boots, laced all the way up to her thighs. Next came tiny black leather shorts, and her upper body was stuffed into a black and red corset, which could only contain half her bosom. Her pretty little face was painted powder white, with thick black eyeliner, all topped off with a mane of long black hair. He thought she looked rather well, actually.
Just then a thunderous roar came from the crowd, as a band appeared on stage. Sandy grabbed Father Tom’s hand and shouted in his ear, “Come dance with me, Father.” He only hesitated for a second, before disappearing into the moving throng of humanity, hand in hand with a busty stranger.
As luck would have it, the same taxi driver picked him up after the concert. The man smiled in a snide kind of way as Father Tom climbed into the back of the car.
“How was Marilyn, Father?” he asked.
Leaning forward, Father Tom said earnestly, “She’s sure let herself go.”