• Snigdha Agrawal

Father Frederick

“C’mon kiddos, TV time over. Off to bed”, met with the usual groans of protests, followed by pleas, falling on deaf ears. She knew the drill that followed post-dinner while washing the dishes piled up in the kitchen.


Reluctantly, four-year-old Sean and three-year-old Susan tried their luck every evening, should Maria be in a good mood and permit them another hour of watching their favorite channel. With no response forthcoming, they pulled themselves up from the settee, the

brother-sister duo headed up the stairs, with long sullen faces.


“I’ll be there in a few minutes to tuck you in” she yelled to them in assurance. Maria and Patrick took turns to read to the children before they drifted off to slumberland. Tonight, it was Maria’s turn. Kitchen chores over, untying the apron tied to her waist, running her fingers

through her unruly hair, Maria entered their bedroom, to find they had already changed into their nightwear.


“So, kiddos what would you like to hear tonight? Shall I continue reading from “Gulliver’s Travel” or from “Treasure Island”? she asked. “No, Mum, tell us a funny story. Something you remember from your childhood days”, Sean responded and Susan nodded in

agreement. Maria scratched her head trying to recall funny incidents from the past. Ah! Yes. Sunday morning Mass in the Parish Church was the venue for cracking up for all the Parishioners who attended.


She, her friends, and their parents never missed Sunday morning mass and the ensuing entertainment. She went on to narrate the story of Father Frederick, their Parish Priest. “He was a heavyset, plump, jolly man, who always looked as though he was carrying a baby inside his big jelly-like belly, wobbling as he turned to read aloud from the Bible. Instead of joining in the prayers we kids watched his belly, moving keeping rhythm to the choir. There was this one time, his pant button, unable to hold his wide girth, burst open. He heard us giggling and sent disapproval looks in our direction, unaware that his pants were down to his knees, as he went on to explain the ten commandments. Almost a look-alike of Charlie Chaplain. Elders sitting in the front pews kept poker faces, while we girls had a field day, stifling giggles. One of the senior altar boys came to his rescue, gently telling him to pull up his pants. Oblivious of how comical he appeared to the audience, Father Frederick swiftly pulled up his pants, holding them together with one hand, continuing with the sermon. The altar boy untied one of the curtain ropes, winding it around his waist over his cloak, to save face.


Now the story doesn’t end there. Father Frederick had a huge problem with his digestive system. An in-built musical system, creating notes better than Beethoven. Whenever the choir struck up, the music emanating from his end was so loud, it drowned the notes

played by the Church Choir team. Initially, parishioners blamed it on the old organ going off-key, urgently in need of tuning. But the accompanying toxic smell didn’t go down well. Some were concerned there was a gas leak in the Chemical factory, located adjacent to the Church property. Some thought, terrorists had planted a bomb inside the Church. Some feared aliens had arrived. Some believed this was a premonition for the end of the world.


Seeing the looks of concern on their faces, Father Frederick calmed them down. “Pardon me my flock, my tummy is playing rummy. It always gets the better of me on Sunday mornings, after eating a hearty breakfast cooked by wifey”. Parishioners broke into peals of laughter. Father Frederick took a bow and left the podium without an iota of regret. Laced-edged embroidered handkerchiefs came out of purses, pressed near noses, dainty looking Japanese hand fans moved quickly in an attempt to disturb the air, as the sermon ended. The entire congregation rushed outdoors to breathe oxygen.”


Even before the story ended, Sean and Susan were rolling on the bed laughing so much, that tears rolled down their cheeks.

Maria interjected “wait…wait…it’s not over. Just for some more chuckles, we girls followed Father Frederick back home, keeping a safe distance, so that he would not notice our presence. We heard the various notes, soft, whistling, loud explosions. Rabbits sitting on

grassy slopes out from their holes to enjoy the English sun ran back into their burrows frightened. Sleeping sunbathing dogs startled by the noise started barking as Father Frederick passed house fences, and stray cats mewed in distress. The animal world awakened by the rude noises. Nearing his home, and even before unlatching the fence gate,

he started peeling off his robes, the frequency of those smelly notes increasing at different decibels. We hid behind the oak tree, watching him rushing and banging on the knocker, overtaken by the urgency to empty his stomach contents. Reprimanded by our parents for being impolite and nosey, we stopped following the Priest.


Despite this shortcoming, he was no less loved or disrespected by his parishioners. A kindly doctor, insisted he visit a Gastroenterologist for treatment. Father Frederick took umbrage. What a preposterous request! I am fit and fine. Don’t we all leak at times. Why all this fuss

then?” Thereafter, every Sunday morning Mass, saw ladies with rosebuds tucked in broaches and men likewise on their coat lapels. The stained-glass windows were left open to let the toxic smells emanating from his end, waft away.”


Patrick in his study downstairs could hear the kids laughing for the next thirty minutes, well past their bedtime. Maria had to calm them down, tuck them in, and as a parting shot added “You know what? We composed a verse that went like this:

Fat Father Frederik, breaking-wind

Sans any instruments, paper, and pencil

Had us in splits.

Nobody objected.

Jolly, Father Frederick continued

Entertaining his congregation.

Switching off the bedroom lights, Maria left them giggling for the next ten minutes.


Synopsis:

A humorous story of a Parish Priest, Maria narrated to her children,

Susan and Sean during bedtime, in response to their request to hear a

funny true story from Maria’s childhood days. Mother and children

doubled over laughing at the end of the tale.

In a little English village, lived a Priest with his loyal congregation.

Every Sunday morning at Mass, the Choir played hymnal music,

enthralling the audience. Father Frederick contributed his music,

even Beethoven could ever duplicate. Music floated to ears and

nostrils, almost gagging the audience. Respectful of his status,

nobody complained and found a solution.



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