On Groundhog day when Robespierre, my Maine Coon cat, jumped from his place on the window seat, one thought popped into my head. Company. Who? After following him to the kitchen, I watched him push his bulky, brown and black body through the hinged opening at the bottom of the door. Moments later I peered down the dimly lit stairwell. Robespierre had sprawled in the center of the third step and blocked my visitor’s progress.
“Good grief, Katherine, I hope he’s not planning to bite me again.” Edward Potter, pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, glared at the cat. His voice had risen to a high pitch. “Whatever do you feed him? He’s ever so much bigger than Bitsy.”
The temptation to say my pet fed on pastors was strong. I refrained and fought to control a grin that threatened to blossom. Teasing Edward usually results in a lecture delivered in an indignant voice.
With an air of disdain, Robiesperre stretched. His back rippled in a way I envy. Then he slithered around Edward.
When Edward reached the top of the steps, he turned and peered at the cat. “He’s becoming more brazen.”
“Only toward selected guests. He ignores most people.” I turned my head and Edward brushed my cheek with his lips.
Edward is a dapper little man with an ear for gossip and a penchant for turning even the slightest event into a fiesta or a disaster. He’s astute about church politics. The coffers at St. Stephen’s are filled through his ability to cosset and cajole the elderly population of the church, mainly wealthy women. I partially fit the category, being over sixty-five, and while not rich, I’m at least comfortable.
When he entered the sunlit kitchen, the expression on
his face announced a problem. He walked
into the living room. Unlike most of my
guests, he considered chats at the kitchen table for commoners. In the living room, he perched on the edge of
a Queen Anne chair, purchased years ago before antiques became the rage. In the past twenty years, stores selling
every manner of old things have spread plague-like in the business district of
“You’re tense. How about a cup of mint tea?”
“Not all the tranquilizers in the world will calm me. It’s a disaster, a complete and utter tragedy.” His hands fluttered. The words rolled out like a sermon promising hell and damnation. “How will we maintain the quality of the services? Easter will be a disaster.”
My forehead wrinkled. What in the world had stirred him into this state? The last time had been when one of the altar boys had spilled the communion wine. Had there been a fire at the church? A flood? A plague? The strident fire whistles had been silent for days. What had occurred? Knowing a full and dramatic scene would develop, I wanted mint tea.
“I’ll heat the water. Then you can tell me about this tragedy.” Mint tea is my all-purpose remedy, calming nerves and stimulating the mind, bringing alertness or sleep.
I retreated to the kitchen, filled the kettle and stuffed a silver ball with an assortment of dried mint leaves. While the water boiled, I assembled the pottery mugs, sugar and spoons on a wooden tray.
“Why will Easter be a problem?” I set the tray on a Duncan Phyfe table.
“We may have to cancel the season.” He patted his thinning light brown hair.
I swallowed a laugh. “How can we cancel one of the main reasons for St. Stephen’s existence?”
“Are you making fun of me?” His voice rose in pitch. “I’m absolutely serious.” He accepted a mug. “Mary’s husband has been transferred. It’s a disaster.”
I mentally sorted through all the Marys in the congregation and tried to decide which one’s leaving would cause Edward to fall apart. Who had triggered the word of the day? On another level, the need to giggle soared. Perched on the edge of the chair and holding a tea cup with both hands, Edward looked like a child.
“There are about twenty Marys at St. Stephen’s. Which one do you mean?”
“Mary Hensen, our organist. What will our services be like without the organ and the choir? Katherine, you have to help us until we find a replacement.”
Twenty years ago I resigned my position as organist at St. Stephen’s. My husband’s sudden death had left me with a son to raise and enough money to cover three years of expenses. Once I finished my nursing course, my Sunday schedule had passed out of my control.