06. March 2020 · Comments Off on The Chapel – A Excerpt from The Next Luna City · Categories: Luna City Short Stories

“So, have they sorted out what to do with that benighted bloody reliquary?” Richard demanded on a Monday in mid-January, when frost had rendered the dead grass on the verges to the consistency and crunchiness of corn flakes. Kate had come to share an evening in the caravan, as the sun set in layers of orange and bronze, behind the black-pen strokes of the veil of trees to the west. The old Airstream was a cozy cocoon of light and warmth, in the deserted caravan park which was the Age of Aquarius Campground (and Goat Farm) for most of the calendar year, natural disasters along the coast notwithstanding.

Kate reclined against the banquette, having kicked off her sensible low-heeled pumps with a slight groan; an odalisque lounging along the comfortable length of the padded sofa-bench at the kitchen/dining area of the Airstream. She had brought some extra-strong fresh catnip for Ozzie, who was now stoned out of his tiny cat-mind, blissed out on the hand-hooked rug in the bedroom end of the tiny metal-clad caravan. Richard couldn’t imagine what Ozzie might be dreaming of. World domination and three-story-tall granite statues of noble cats in the Egyptian style, lined up in ranks in front of a temple precinct, in which an Ozzie-priest of high cat-rank, clad in cloth of gold and notable jewelry presided over a ritual sacrifice of mice, brought on catnip-adorned trays of silver and gold by devotees to the shrine …

Richard wrenched his mind away from that mental vision, and back to the bouillabaisse under the final stages of preparation. Supper for Kate, his cherished Kate! demanded his complete attention as well as her reply.

“It’s the treasure of our family … a fill-up, please? I’m wiped.”

“Minx,” Richard reached across the tiny table and topped up her wine glass with another hit of Sefton’s peerless white local vintage. “Are you hoping to seduce me, if I get you drunk?”

“You can never get me drunk,” Kate’s amazing, beryl-blue/green eyes twinkled at him. “I have the hardest head in Karnes County. I grew up drinking Poppa Fritz’s home-brewed ale. Thinned with sparking water, early on. Consider me inoculated… no, what is happening with the Gonzaga Reliquary, or what there is left of it after a couple of centuries of hard use and the family treating it as a kind of portable checking account… is that Great Uncle Jaime is going to fund a small chapel on the home ranch to house it. He says that it is the treasure of the family, so it’s going to stay with the family. Although Father Bernardo did make a pitch for adding it to the sanctuary at St. Antony and Margaret. But Great Uncle Jaime is stubborn that way. Family stuff stays with the family, end of discussion. So, he’s talked to Uncle Jesus at the garage, and Roman about building a small chapel at the rancho. Father Bernardo says that he will ask the auxiliary bishop if he would come for the consecration. And Araceli’s brother Berto is going to design it as part of his senior engineering project…”

“I hope he isn’t going to go all tinfoil and odd shapes,” Richard turned his attention to the preparation of the richly garlicky rouille to go with. “I’m not strictly a person of religion, but it just doesn’t put one into the proper frame of mind, sitting in one of those modern monstrosities, with clear glass windows and a minimalist altar-piece and pulpit …just all right angles and no ritual, bells, smells and stained glass parables. If it’s theater, it has to put one in the proper mood…”

“You’re a traditionalist, sweetie,” Kate grinned at him. “An agnostic religious traditionalist. No, Berto is already champing at the bit – especially as he can repurpose a lot of salvage from a deconsecrated convent in Beeville, which Uncle Roman thoughtfully set aside for something like this project. It gives Berto extra points on the sustainability scale for his class. He reckons that he can get an A for this project, and all props for reuse, recycle, and repurposing,” Kate added with an air of conspicuous virtue. “Uncle Roman is going to pour the foundation at the end of the month. And … you’ll be amused no end by this part. When it’s completed and consecrated, Cousin Mindy wants to marry her dearest Xavie, at the chapel, before the Reliquary which brought them together…”

“Good God!” Richard had just taken a sip from his own glass of Sefton’s peerless mustang grape elixir – the white, to go with the fish. It went down the wrong way, and he coughed. “Oh, Christ, Katie – you might have warned me. Has your cousin entirely lost her mind? Oh, a career academic – mad is the operating assumption … but really? Marrying that tosser Gunnison-Penn, the mad treasure-hunting enthusiast? It will not turn out well,” Richard prophesied balefully. “Mark my words; it will not turn out well!”

“Relax, lover – she has tenure, and a generous retirement plan,” Kate replied, comfortably assured. “Gosh, it must be nice! And she loves him. Which is curious, since everyone has assumed for years that she is a lesbian. No, she just adores looking for odd bits of history. And he does, too. Isn’t it always said that a successful marriage is founded on mutual enthusiasms? They both adore looking for treasure. And the Reliquary is the one thing that they have found together…”

“It’s the only thing they have found together,” Richard observed, sourly. “It’s a demonstrated and inarguable fact that Gunnison-Penn has never – ever found anything, of all those treasures that he has gone in search of … in a long, long list of treasures that he has gone after, and fallen flat-footed, after every damn one of them.”

“But Mindy loves him,” Kate answered, serenely assured. “And honestly, I think she will keep him from his madder ventures. Speaking of relationships and mutual enthusiasms – which one do we have in common? Besides that you love to cook and I love to eat what you prepare?”

“We have Ozzie,” Richard answered, considerably rattled by that question. Yes, what did he and Kate have in common, as regards enthusiasms? “We have… well, we have Luna City in common. My quest to bring an appreciation for the finer elements of classical French cuisine. We have friends….”

“Yes, we do,” Kate twinkled at him, completely assured and confident.

Comments closed.