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“Somewhere,” said Father Vittorini, “did Blake not speak of the Machineries of Joy? That is, did not God promote environments, then intimidate these Natures by provoking the existence of flesh, toy men and women, such as are we all? And thus happily sent forth, at our best, with good grace and fine wit, on calm noons, in fair climes. are we not God’s Machineries of Joy?”
“If Blake said that,” said Father Brian, “he never lived in Dublin.”
The Machineries of Joy (#ulink_b811bcbf-2f8c-5819-a8bb-a1415a09a984)
Father Brian delayed going below to breakfast because he thought he heard Father Vittorini down there, laughing. Vittorini, as usual, was dining alone. So who was there to laugh with, or at?
Us, thought Father Brian, that’s who.
He listened again.
Across the hall Father Kelly too was hiding, or meditating, rather, in his room.
They never let Vittorini finish breakfast, no, they always managed to join him as he chewed his last bit of toast. Otherwise they could not have borne their guilt through the day.
Still, that was laughter, was it not, belowstairs? Father Vittorini had ferreted out something in the morning Times. Or, worse, had he stayed up half the night with the unholy ghost, that television set which stood in the entry like an unwelcome guest, one foot in whimsy, the other in the doldrums? And, his mind bleached by the electronic beast, was Vittorini now planning some bright fine new devilment, the cogs wheeling in his soundless mind, seated and deliberately fasting, hoping to lure them down curious at the sound of his Italian humors?
“Ah, God.” Father Brian sighed and fingered the envelope he had prepared the previous night. He had tucked it in his coat as a protective measure should he decide to hand it to Pastor Sheldon. Would Father Vittorini detect it through the cloth with his quick dark X-ray vision?
Father Brian pressed his hand firmly along his lapel to squash any merest outline of his request for transferral to another parish.
And, breathing a prayer, Father Brian went downstairs.
“Ah, Father Brian!”
Vittorini looked up from his still full cereal bowl. The brute had not even so much as sugared his corn flakes yet.
Father Brian felt as if he had stepped into an empty elevator shaft.
Impulsively he put out a hand to save himself. It touched the top of the television set. The set was warm. He could not help saying, “Did you have a seance here last night?”
“I sat up with the set, yes.”
“Sat up is right!” snorted Father Brian. “One does sit up, doesn’t one, with the sick, or the dead? I used to be handy with the ouija board myself. There was more brains in that.” He turned from the electrical moron to survey Vittorini. “And did you hear far cries and banshee wails from, what is it? Canaveral?”
“They called off the shot at three A.M.”
“And you here now, looking daisy-fresh.” Father Brian advanced, shaking his head. “What’s true is not always what’s fair.”
Vittorini now vigorously doused his flakes with milk. “But you, Father Brian, you look as if you made the grand tour of Hell during the night.”
Fortunately, at this point Father Kelly entered. He froze when he too saw how little along Vittorini was with his fortifiers. He muttered to both priests, seated himself, and glanced over at the perturbed Father Brian.
“True, William, you look half gone. Insomnia?”
Father Kelly eyed both men, his head to one side. “What goes on here? Did something happen while I was out last night?”
“We had a small discussion,” said Father Brian, toying with the dread flakes of corn.
“Small discussion!” said Father Vittorini. He might have laughed, but caught himself and said simply, “The Irish priest is worried by the Italian Pope.”
“Now, Father Vittorini,” said Kelly.
“Let him run on,” said Father Brian.
“Thank you for your permission,” said Vittorini, very politely and with a friendly nod. “Il Papa is a constant source of reverent irritation to at least some if not all of the Irish clergy. Why not a pope named Nolan? Why not a green instead of a red hat? Why not, for that matter, move Saint Peter’s Cathedral to Cork or Dublin, come the twenty-fifth century?”