The Machineries of Joy
Рэй Дуглас Брэдбери

<< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 17 >>

Father Kelly let forth one sound of laughter.

“Oh, the gentle ironies, the simple fates. Father Brian, here is our Baptist!”

“Baptist?” asked Pastor Sheldon.

“No offense, Pastor, but we were off to find a mediator, and here you are, an Irishman from California, who has known the wintry blows of Illinois so short a time, you’ve still the look of rolled lawns and January sunburn. We, we were born and raised as lumps in Cork and Kilcock, Pastor. Twenty years in Hollywood would not thaw us out. And now, well, they do say, don’t they, that California is much …” here he paused, “like Italy?”

“I see where you’re driving,” mumbled Father Brian.

Pastor Sheldon nodded, his face both warm and gently sad. “My blood is like your own. But the climate I was shaped in is like Rome’s. So you see, Father Brian, when I asked are there any sides, I spoke from my heart.”

“Irish yet not Irish,” mourned Father Brian. “Almost but not quite Italian. Oh, the world’s played tricks with our flesh.”

“Only if we let it, William, Patrick.”

Both men started a bit at the sound of their Christian names.

“You still haven’t answered: Why are you afraid?”

Father Brian watched his hands fumble like two bewildered wrestlers for a moment. “Why, it’s because just when we get things settled on Earth, just when it looks like victory’s in sight, the Church on a good footing, along comes Father Vittorini—”

“Forgive me, Father,” said the pastor. “Along comes reality. Along comes space, time, entropy, progress, along come a million things, always. Father Vittorini didn’t invent space travel.”

“No, but he makes a good thing of it. With him ‘everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.’ Well, no matter. I’ll stash my shillelagh if he’ll put away his rockets.”

“No, let’s leave them out in the open,” replied the pastor. “Best not to hide violence or special forms of travel. Best to work with them. Why don’t we climb in that rocket, Father, and learn from it?”

“Learn what? That most of the things we’ve taught in the past on Earth don’t fit out there on Mars or Venus or wherever in hell Vittorini would push us? Drive Adam and Eve out of some new Garden, on Jupiter, with our very own rocket fires? Or worse, find there’s no Eden, no Adam, no Eve, no damned Apple nor Serpent, no Fall, no Original Sin, no Annunciation, no Birth, no Son, you go on with the list, no nothing at all! on one blasted world tailing another? Is that what we must learn, Pastor?”

“If need be, yes,” said Pastor Sheldon. “It’s the Lord’s space and the Lord’s worlds in space, Father. We must not try to take our cathedrals with us, when all we need is an overnight case. The Church can be packed in a box no larger than is needed for the articles of the Mass, as much as these hands can carry. Allow Father Vittorini this, the people of the southern climes learned long ago to build in wax which melts and takes its shape in harmony with the motion and need of man. William, William, if you insist on building in hard ice, it will shatter when we break the sound barrier or melt and leave you nothing in the fire of the rocket blast.”

“That,” said Father Brian, “is a hard thing to learn at fifty years, Pastor.”

“But learn, I know you will,” said the pastor, touching his shoulder. “I set you a task: to make peace with the Italian priest. Find some way tonight for a meeting of minds. Sweat at it, Father. And, first off, since our library is meager, hunt for and find the space encyclical, so we’ll know what we’re yelling about.”

A moment later the pastor was gone.

Father Brian listened to the dying sound of those swift feet—as if a white ball were flying high in the sweet blue air and the pastor were hurrying in for a fine volley.

“Irish but not Irish,” he said. “Almost but not quite Italian. And now what are we, Patrick?”

“I begin to wonder,” was the reply.

And they went away to a larger library wherein might be hid the grander thoughts of a Pope on a bigger space.

A long while after supper that night, in fact almost at bedtime, Father Kelly, sent on his mission, moved about the rectory tapping on doors and whispering.

Shortly before ten o’clock, Father Vittorini came down the stairs and gasped with surprise.

Father Brian, at the unused fireplace, warming himself at the small gas heater which stood on the hearth, did not turn for a moment.

A space had been cleared and the brute television set moved forward into a circle of four chairs, amongst which stood two small taborettes on which stood two bottles and four glasses. Father Brian had done it all, allowing Kelly to do nothing. Now he turned, for Kelly and Pastor Sheldon were arriving.

The pastor stood in the entryway and surveyed the room. “Splendid.” He paused and added, “I think. Let me see now …” He read the label on one bottle. “Father Vittorini is to sit here.”

“By the Irish Moss?” asked Vittorini.

“The same,” said Father Brian.

Vittorini, much pleased, sat.

“And the rest of us will sit by the Lachryma Christi, I take it?” said the pastor.

“An Italian drink, Pastor.”

“I think I’ve heard of it,” said the pastor, and sat.

“Here.” Father Brian hurried over and, without looking at Vittorini, poured his glass a good way up with the Moss. “An Irish transfusion.”

“Allow me.” Vittorini nodded his thanks and arose, in turn, to pour the others’ drinks. “The tears of Christ and the sunlight of Italy,” he said. “And now, before we drink, I have something to say.”

The others waited, looking at him.

“The papal encyclical on space travel,” he said at last, “does not exist.”

“We discovered that,” said Kelly, “a few hours ago.”

“Forgive me, Fathers,” said Vittorini. “I am like the fisherman on the bank who, seeing fish, throws out more bait. I suspected, all along, there was no encyclical. But every time it was brought up, about town, I heard so many priests from Dublin deny it existed, I came to think it must! They would not go check the item, for they feared it existed. I would not, in my pride, do research, for I feared it did not exist. So Roman pride or Cork pride, it’s all the same. I shall go on retreat soon and be silent for a week, Pastor, and do penance.”

“Good, Father, good.” Pastor Sheldon rose. “Now I’ve a small announcement. A new priest arrives here next month. I’ve thought long on it. The man is Italian, born and raised in Montreal.”

Vittorini closed one eye and tried to picture this man to himself.

“If the Church must be all things to all people,” said the pastor, “I am intrigued with the thought of hot blood raised in a cold climate, as this new Italian was, even as I find it fascinating to consider myself, cold blood raised in California. We’ve needed another Italian here to shake things up, and this Latin looks to be the sort will shake even Father Vittorini. Now will someone offer a toast?”

“May I, Pastor?” Father Vittorini rose again, smiling gently, his eyes darkly aglow, looking at this one and now that of the three. He raised his glass. “Somewhere did Blake not speak of the Machineries of Joy? That is, did not God promote environments, then intimidate those 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, “I take it all back. He never lived in Dublin!”

All laughed together.

Vittorini drank the Irish Moss and was duly speechless.

The others drank the Italian wine and grew mellow, and in his mellowness Father Brian cried softly, “Vittorini, now, will you, unholy as it is, tune on the ghost?”

“Channel Nine?”

“Nine it is!”
<< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 17 >>