THE VICAR’S LAPTOP • by Derek McMillan

Well, I don’t know about you but I find I have a lot to do of a Sunday. There is the car to wash, the lawn to mow and those flowerbeds are not going to weed themselves, are they? And of course there is the Church. Well, that is not a problem any more.

Our vicar, the Reverend Green, was tired of all those jokes about Cluedo and anyway he was a modern vicar if you know what I mean. He wanted us all to call him Tony, if you please.

It all happened like this. One evening “Tony” as I suppose I must call him was polishing a homily in the study at the Vicarage. If you don’t know what that is? Perhaps you should go to church more often, though I say it as shouldn’t. It is what is frequently referred to as a sermon. He was, like I said, a modern churchman and a conscientious one. At least he was in those days. He practised his homily, recording it on his laptop and then playing it back to get an idea of how it would sound to his congregation.

Just as he was recording there was a knock at the door. He was momentarily angry and then he tells me he was amused at his own expense because his homily was all about dealing patiently with the trials of everyday life. It was the sacristan, Paul Weaver. Now if you know our Paul you would probably think of him as one of the trials of everyday life. He delights in being the bearer of ill news.

“It’s the organ, Vicar. You’d best come and have a listen.” he said.

So there was nothing for it but to walk through the rain to St Mary’s while Paul gave the Vicar an update on the state of his rheumatism. (Paul for one would sooner eat broken glass than call him “Tony”.)

The organ, when Paul pressed a few keys experimentally, gave out no noise at all, then a thumping sound and finally a noise like somebody with bronchitis inhaling underwater.

A doyen of stating the obvious, our Tony said that sounded awful.

Paul couldn’t resist adding, it sounds quite expensive too. He’s right you know. Those cowboys will even charge a fortune for a call-out. Paul couldn’t resist adding a lengthy commentary on the ills which organs can be subject to and the Machiavellian machinations of organ repair companies.

Tony was already running a fund to repair the roof, one to repair the narthex and one to restore the rather nice North window. Yet another fund was not going to go down well in the village.

Then, if you please, he got a call from Bet Crowder to tell him old Bob was poorly. Tony tells me he considered walking to Bob’s cottage which is on the other side of the village to save on the petrol but then the sheets of falling rain persuaded him to get his ancient Morris out. It wasn’t much of a car but it was more-or-less waterproof.

Doctor Jones doesn’t have much time for vicars. Between you and me, he doesn’t have much time for anybody. Bet told me he was hogging the fire in their living room when Tony arrived.

He said, “Well, if you’ve come to make the funeral arrangements you’d better get a move on,” and he said it in a voice which carried to every corner of the cottage. I have a feeling he was off with toothache when bedside manner was taught at medical college.

Bob was very weak and apologetic about being unable to play the organ that Sunday. Well we know now that that turned out to be be any Sunday. The organist was in a similarly parlous state to the organ, you might say.

Doctor Jones’ cheery prediction of his imminent demise, however, was an exaggeration — but as for old Bob, I am here to tell you he never left his cottage again.

“No organist, no organ,” was the theme running through Tony’s head on the way back to the vicarage. There was nothing for it. He realised he would have to use his laptop to produce the music. He thought the technophobic tendency in the congregation would be outraged but he was wrong.

Neither old Bob nor the old organ had been exactly up to the mark for some years. It was only when we heard the YouTube version that the congregation gained an insight into exactly how much the music in church had gradually declined over the years.

I told Tony that it was excellent. I added, because it was true, that if our singing were up to that standard, what a lovely sound we would have.

Well, Tony obviously listened to me. He started recording Songs of Praise versions of the hymns for the week and playing those to an appreciative congregation.

Then came the sunny Saturday morning when Tony woke up to find he had been stricken with appalling laryngitis. He could scarcely make any sound at all.

There was one possible solution that he could see. He had to play the MP3 of one of his old homilies in Church that Sunday. It went down very well. Certainly a lot better than a lot of laryngitic croaking would have done.

So now I think we have the best of both worlds. There’s a lovely service in the Church every Sunday, so long as old Paul has remembered to turn the laptop on, of course. As for us, well, we don’t actually have time to go to the Church. Last time I popped my head round the door there was just old Paul quietly dozing and the laptop doing the honours.

There is, you must admit, so much to do on a Sunday.

Derek McMillan is the author of Salt Wars which was published on Kindle in December 2013. It is a fantasy inspired by Salzburg and its Prince-Archbishop Wolf-Dietrich von Raitenau. It is also available in German and French. You can “try before you buy” on Kindle so why not have a look? Derek is a retired teacher and his editor is his wife, Angela McMillan.

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Every Day Fiction