John McCarter cast an eye over the simple Christmas tree and returned to his books.
Year’s income: $780. $300 out in cash to Ignacz for salary: his other $100 advanced by Mrs McCarter. Minus: electric (lighting); printer’s bills; travel; hall rental, tithes. Minus: postage and stationery for reports to the church; blankets; towels and soap. Then his salary for his own family: rent; food; clothing; coal; taxes; garden tools and seeds; the thatching.
He couldn’t make this.
Ignacz sat before him, Sunday night. Before he could get the words out, McCarter was in tears.
“Tell me what is wrong,” said Ignacz.
“I have decided to retire. It is the only decision. I shall be make a gift of the Mission to the Church, under your care.”
“But Reverend McCarter, John, surely there’s a way. The Church—“
“—Made you their only donation. Forgive me. Oh, but I have had a good innings; forty years in service to God. I leave under a magnificent year, yes?”
“Let me talk to them again. Perhaps they will see reason.”
“You can try. I will be recommending to the board you take my place here,” said McCarter.
“They have obstructed us at every turn. I must try,” said Ignacz. “if the Mission is to live.”
Margarethe watched his entry, shoulders slouched, briefcase in halfway dangling down.
“Welcome home. Oh, dear. The job is still not what you expected.”
She put a hand on her belly as she got up from the couch. His face was inscrutable.
“Look Ignacz! Julius is learning to walk!”
The Presbyterians didn’t care. Maybe he could talk to Scrimger. He couldn’t rely on them. Up the ladder; write to the Diocese. Let them see who is abandoned here, and the hope. McVicar at the college: no, take it to the Archbishop.
His thoughts ran as fast as the toddler underfoot. Julius hit the ground on his chest. Ignacz finally noticed him and said nothing. The child howled. He lifted him without love, and looked to the hall and noticed Margarethe at his side. He pushed the boy into her hands, toddler’s trousers pissing. Ignacz frowned. He hadn’t let go of his briefcase and so slapped it up upon the dining table.
“I don’t want to hear him. Go.” He clapped his hands. “GO.”
Image attribution: The Feast of John Scrimger, Neatnik 2009
Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.