It was Friday evening, and the faithful were frolicking about the town. All except for the lone priest, who was now busily straightening up the hymnals, polishing the woodwork, and replacing the pencils in the pews. For an arthritic 71-year-old man, it was an enormous task.
The payments for
the magnificent cathedral, built so many years earlier, had as of late tapped nearly all of the resources of the dwindling parishoners. Had it been so long since he started here?
The old priest looked up towards the giant, triangular stained-glass window that he both loved and hated. The mirrors flanking its three sides needed cleaning again. He knew that the window was the church's primary attraction; he had given up competing with it in trying to win the attention of his flock ages ago. But oddly enough, it was his idea. The window was beautiful, to be sure, and always brought something new with every rotation. But it was the most expensive addition to the building, nearly filling the back wall of the sanctuary, and the primary reason he couldn't hire staff. And even with the now-famous window, the town was simply too remote to provide sustainable growth. Jobs were disappearing. The town was dying, and his membership showed it.
Last week's rotation had yielded a rather plain-looking six-sided ring, but with little yellow rays shooting towards the center. He'd seen better. But he'd seen worse, as well. As he worked, he thought back to when they'd first installed it. Back then, they kept it slowly spinning throughout the service, sending colors of all sorts dancing throughout the sanctuary. He'd even hung up prisms and mirrors and glass statues at holidays to enhance the light-show effect. It was the talk of the town, and membership was booming. But it was simply too much of a distraction. The choice was simple, but painful to a young priest. In order to keep the flock focused on the real business at hand, he'd have to do something drastic. He had the brake system installed to stop the window during service. He promised to give it a spin before every mass, but still, the turnout was never the same. That was so many years ago...
After the last smudge was cleaned off, he walked over behind the curtain, and gave the giant brake-release lever a shove. Outside, the giant wheel that dominated one side of the building slowly began to spin and tumble the colored shards about. And then something jammed. The huge wheel groaned and halted. 'That's odd,' thought the priest. 'I'd better go downstairs and have a look-see.' He reset the brake and turned for the basement.
Fumbling for the lone chain-pull light, the old man shuffled towards the machine room. A tooth had chipped from the escapement wheel, and the fragment was now wedged in the gearing. 'No point in even trying to remove that,' he thought, 'me arthritic hands will be completely buggered. They'll just have to settle for whatever we've got for awhile.'
Cursing the light-chain, he tromped back up. 'Why can't that good-for-nothing Roger put in a modern switch at the top of the stairs? One of these days they'll wonder what's happened to the priest, and eventually find me skeleton sprawled out over that loose step--that they will.'
He gave one final glance to the window; the sun was nearly down. And then he saw it. There it was, plain as day. 'There's a figure of a woman in that window, or me eyes are worse than I thought. And what's that she's holding? A baby? Goodness gracious me... they've all gotta see this...' He prayed a quick thank-you, and was so befuddled that he forgot which order to genuflect in.
The priest trotted to the office, his nervous hands fumbling through his contact book. 'Lessee here, who to call? Ah, Father McDougal over in Williamsburg, he's got an eye for these types of things, and a name that'll carry some weight...'