Popinjay

I have been a monk for thirty five years.

Nothing has prepared me for the situation I find myself in.

I muck out the barn, I shear the sheep, I pray for more faith. I doubt that God is good. The things that are happening in our beloved France test my faith. Churches monasteries burned. For what? To initiate the reign of reason? For liberte equalite fraternite as I have read in the papers from Paris that make it to our remote area of France? The King guillotined – a devilish mechanism to be sure. All the nobles are at risk. I and Monsieur Le Duc both know this. I was summoned to the manor, I alone, the abbot not requested. I asked for guidance from Monsignor and was told these are strange times and I would have his permission to do this unheard of thing. His grace offered me wine and delicate pastries and save me Lord, I ate and drank. Le Duc asked a number of theological questions that I gave the answers as best I knew how always referring his Grace to the Bishop who I’m sure would answer him in better French than I’m able to speak, having spoken Latin among my brethren for many years.

Finally his Grace revealed the reason he summoned me. “You know the peril both the Church and the Nobility face. I have been invited to a masked ball. I find it inconvenient to attend, because I must meet with others of my party to plan the counter revolution. But if I do not attend it raises suspicion, and if France is to ever regain her sanity I must not be present.” At this point his Grace reached over and took my hand. I flushed I am sure, but I did not betray my surprise in my poor French, I trust. “May I speak freely your Grace?” At his nodded assent I continued “What has this to do with me? A poor servant of God?” He told me to stand.

We were the same height. He got out a tool of Satan, a mirror. I had not seen my face for at least twenty years. He said “Now look at me.” His Grace did not need to say any more. He and I were very alike. By now I was consumed by worldly thoughts and nothing kept me from thinking that I was a bastard brother to him! I quickly said a Hail Mary under my breath.

He outlined the plan – his Noble brethren attending the party would be notified his Grace had the grippe and was unable to speak, but very much wanted to attend the masquerade – I would be fitted with mustaches and van dyke made from real hair of le Duc – I would be wearing a mask – a wig of course – Madame Le Duchesse would stay by my side and guide me in all the politesse necessary, even speak for me by pretending to listen to me whisper to her. My God, the devilish preparations his Grace had gone to. I said an Our Father under my breath. Finally I asked “Does the abbot know?” and that son of Satan replied “He will be with me at the plotter’s rendezvous.”

And so I find myself dressed up like a popinjay, with a beautiful woman always at my arm looking out at one scene of sin after another, drinking much more wine than I have ever consumed, just to keep up pagan appearances. Just when I was about to be indisposed to my embarrassment, the revolutionaries broke into the masquerade. I was able to save my soul at the last minute with the words of our Lord “Forgive them for they know not what they do” as the sword entered my body and with hands clasped in prayer, I gave up the ghost.

This entry was posted in flash fiction, prose.

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