JOSEPH’S BLESSING • by Carla Lancken

Before the two of them had sipped their drinks, the old landline rang in the other room. Father Collins put his mug down. He excused himself and limped away.

While Father was tending to church business, Mrs. Harding reached into the pocket of her bulky sweater. She pulled out the packet of Joseph’s blessing. She had read about this particular remedy in one of her detective novels. And it was perfectly natural. A lame leg must be a terrible burden on an elderly man, she thought. Mrs. Harding sipped her brew knowing that she could end his suffering as she did so many others including her dearly departed husband.

The crystals dissolved instantly in his coffee. In ten minutes Father Collins returned and leveled himself back into his easy chair. Father always answered his phone. He said it looked as if he was consistently available and since the parish was so small it did no good to do otherwise.

“I’m sorry, Mary, but could you freshen my coffee? It looks a little cold.”

“Surely, Father.” Mrs. Harding pushed a grey hair behind her ear and eased out of her straight back chair, picked up his cup and marched to the kitchen. She poured more hot coffee and added more Joseph’s blessing.

“Ah, this is much better,” said Father Collins as he pretended to take a sip. “Thank you. Go ahead and get yourself another cup. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I think I just might.” Mrs. Harding went to the kitchen and prayed that her act of mercy would be over before she returned to the sitting room as she never wanted to see anyone languish in pain. It was hard at first, but it was all for the good. They would soon send another priest, maybe younger and healthier.

While Mrs. Harding was in the kitchen, Father Collins dumped his coffee into the bamboo plant and was desperately trying to think up a plan of action that would not betray the confidentiality of the confessional nor involve committing an extremely grave sin. There were advantages to hearing confessions.

Mrs. Harding returned with her fresh coffee. She raised her eyebrows when she saw that Father Collins was still upright and holding his empty cup.

“My, that was quick, Father. Can I get you a second cup?”

“I think not, Mary. I’m really trying to cut back on the caffeine. I appreciate you coming over here to help out today, but I can manage on my own.”

“Oh, I don’t mind, Father, it’s my pleasure.”

“Well, I prefer my privacy, if that’s alright with you.”

“Certainly, Father Collins, I’ll just clean up before I leave.”

Mrs. Harding headed for the kitchen and cleaned up what there was to clean up. Poor Father, she thought, suffering so. I can’t understand why the Joseph’s blessing didn’t work. Maybe it wasn’t enough.

Before she picked up her purse to leave Mrs. Harding took out the packet from her sweater and poured some crystals into the sugar bowl. She gave it a stir and they disappeared into the sweet abyss. Since Father liked his coffee sweet and light, she opened the refrigerator and poured what was left into the milk.

Carla Lancken writes in New York State, USA.

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