The bird crept into the cathedral in the darkness of night along with so many other lost souls. Tired and cold, it flew up high into the great rafters. There it set about preening and preparing itself for a much needed rest.
Father James saw it in the morning, and didn’t pay much attention. Birds often flew in and flew back out just as quickly.
Sister Constance saw it, however, and paid it quite a bit of attention.
“Father James, you can’t intend to let that bird stay here,” she snapped.
Father James indulged in a quiet prayer for patience before responding. “It’s just a bird, one of God’s creations, Sister. It will fly out of the cathedral by itself.”
“And until it does, the cleaning crew will be scrubbing bird droppings off of the seats and out of the carpet,” Constance replied.
“What do you suggest, Sister?” the father asked.
“Call an exterminator, of course,” she replied. “Father Fairweather never needed anyone to tell him what to do, you know.”
“Yes, thank you for your input,” Father James said, and even managed to muster a warm smile. “Oh, and Sister, you run the choir, right?”
“I do,” Sister Constance said.
“How would you feel about teaching a chorus class for some underprivileged children in the area?”
“About the same as I feel about that filthy bird up in the rafters,” Constance replied. “Those kids are constantly spraying graffiti and dropping cigarette butts on the church steps. I’m not inclined to invite them in.”
And before Father James could reply, Sister Constance had marched off to prepare herself for choir practice.
The sisters had collected in the cathedral on the choir steps behind the pulpit. They talked and giggled among themselves, but as soon as Sister Constance came into view they stopped and stood up tall. Every one of them was younger, with less seniority than Constance, and they knew she tolerated no foolishness.
Constance stood before them, and said, “Let’s warm up with our scales, Sisters. After me; do re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do.” She used her hand to guide them, and sang along, delighting in the music if nothing else.
The bird, hearing the music, flew down and perched on the pulpit. As the sisters went through their scales the bird was charmed. It joined them, chirping in time with them.
The sisters giggled and Constance glared at them. She waved her hand at the bird, saying, “Get out of here, filthy thing.”
The bird hopped away, and tilted its head to look at her.
Constance turned back to the sisters, and said, “Let’s concentrate, please.”
Again they started with their scales, and the bird sang along with them.
Afterwards, no one believed the sisters who were there, but they all said it. Constance cracked a smile.
The bird joined chorus practice all week. It sat at the back of their stand on Sunday, and chirped with them as they sang. Father James, of course, couldn’t help but notice the addition to his congregation. After service he went to Constance, and said, “I called the exterminator. She should be here Tuesday.”
“Oh,” Constance said, waving her hand at the father. “Why waste church resources on that? It’s a bird. It’ll fly out on its own.”
“That’s true,” Father James said, trying not to laugh. “I’ll cancel the exterminator.”
“And about that chorus of yours,” Constance added, “maybe if we give those kids something to do, they won’t wreak up the place. I’ll set it up. If you do it, you’ll just over-complicate things.”
“Good idea,” Father James said.
Above them, the bird swooped through the high cathedral ceiling, singing.
Nicole C. Ford is a fantasy and crime novel writer, flash fiction lover, and maker of the best pasta salad ever.