'All a load of sh*t,' shouted the drunk with the bag of beers and the skinny girl swaying after him...'All a load of sh*t' he roared at the elderly priest who looked back at him with gentle surprise. The congregation was shocked when he staggered in, shouting, just after the Communion had started. He staggered up a side aisle and out in front of the altar, dropping his pearl of wisdom all the time, freely, a phrase so perfect it could but be repeated, never bettered. 'Get out', I shouted - another rare gem of syntax. I heard a few other half raised voices that trailed away, leaving me as the only one who thought both sides of this fascinating debate should be audible. 'Get out'. Was I wrong? But he didn't get out and the congregation sat like lamped rabbits. Why? If it was in the cinema the same people would roar 'down in front' without any hesitation.
I nudged my husband. A few other women nudged theirs. About eight men started down the aisles and there was a kerfuffle and then they were gone.
I felt so angry and churned up I couldn't receive the Eucharist. I wouldn't dare with my mind in such an unworthy state. I fumed instead of prayed. Something about the reactions of the congregation made me almost as mad as the drunk, something about my reactions too.
When Mass was over the congregation applauded the priest for his sang froid. He was chuffed. He had kept his cool, but what had the congregation kept? Its head down?
It will take a long time to work out this one.