This will probably be completely incomprehensible to many people unless you've seen the classic comedy Father Ted, which is about three idiot priests on an island off the coast of Ireland. It has achieved cult status and is one of my favourite shows. This is also a stopgap to make up for the absence of the next chapter of Jedi Harris. This is because my computer is still having brain surgery having gone kablooie last month. Normal service should be restored soon, once I've stopped swearing.
The paper was being pushed through the letterbox as Ted came down the stairs and he paused, frowning. How odd. Then he dashed along the hallway, flung the door open and looked out. There was no-one in sight on the driveway, or the road… or anywhere. He shook his head and then closed the door. It was very odd. They'd never seen the paperboy. Ever. The paper came through the letterbox in the door, but there was never a sign of who delivered it.
Shrugging he picked up the copy of the Craggy Island Times & Post and looked at the front cover. Letting out a 'tsk!' and shaking his head at the main story, he opened the door to the living room and walked in.
"Still no news on who robbed John and Mary," he said to Dougal, who was standing at the window and looking out with a pair of binoculars. "You know, it's all very peculiar. According to Sergeant O'Malley they gave totally different descriptions of the men who did it before beating them up and knocking them both out like that. And why would they steal all those women's clothes from Mary's room and put the tray from the cash register in that suitcase with them?"
Sitting down at the table he looked at the paper again. "Godalmighty, the story's in almost the entire paper! Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…" He paused and then frowned. "Wait a minute… Dougal, you're mentioned in this. In the section marked 'What the Church thinks about sin.' Dougal when did this happen? I mean, all you said was a load of complete… Dougal? Are you listening to me? Dougal!"
The younger priest gave a sudden start and turned around, lowering the binoculars. "Ah Ted, didn't see you there," he said cheerfully, before walking over to the table. "The ants are back Ted. I wonder what they want."
"Probably wondering what's more advanced, them or you," muttered said Ted sourly. "Anyway, never mind that, what about this stuff in the paper?" He leant over it. "According to Father Dougal McGuire, the Church condemns 'Sin and stuff like honouring your mother and her fatted calves and fish on Friday which is mad because we eat fish fingers all the time and madder stuff like not putting out fiery bushes and going for a run with the lads on the sea. Um, I can't think of anything else and it's almost time for Neighbours.'" Ted looked up from the paper and glowered at Dougal. "Well?"
Dougal moved his feet and looked shifty. "Ah. That. Well, they rang when you were taking Jack for his walk and they just said that they wanted me to say something meaningful. But I couldn't think of anything so I just said a load of stuff."
"'Stuff' isn't the phrase that I'd use," muttered Ted. "Well you didn't say anything too bad and thankfully Bishop Brennan is off in America again, so we might just get away with it. Next time call me or if I'm not here tell them to ring me later instead. I mean, we don't want another incident like the Holy Stone of Clonrichert again do we?"
After looking blank for a moment the penny dropped. "No Ted, we certainly don't!" He paused. "Did we ever hear from that bishop fella again? The ex-bishop one."
Ted nodded. "If you mean Bishop O'Neill, the one who became a hippy after hearing your enlightened views on the teachings of the Catholic Church, rather than the one who had a heart attack and died in the driveway, then yes. He sent us that package the other day from Goa. Apparently he owns a shop that sells new age thingies and trinkets and…" he blushed, "Tantric stuff. Don't you remember? I told you about it when it came. He's living with that woman with the tattoos and the…" he paused to gulp and make a wavy vertical motion with his hands, "The bits like the Himalayas?"
Dougal looked blank.
"He's writing a book about meeting the Dalai Lama and traveling through Asia?"
Another blank look.
"He sent you the little drum thing with the red beads?"
Comprehension burst over Dougal's face like the sun appearing in a mud puddle. "Ah, yes, the drum."
"I haven't seen that for a few days, what happened to it?"
"Jack set fire to it."
"Ah," said Ted, looking at the corner of the room where a wild-haired figure sat dozing in a filthy chair. An almost empty bottle of whiskey was clasped in his hands and every now and then a limb twitched.
"Well, that's understandable. You did go a bit mad with that thing, Dougal, banging away on it."
The other priest nodded sadly and then looked at the paper. "Have you finished with that yet Ted?"
Ted flipped through the rest of the paper quickly and then nodded before passing it over. Then he stood up to get the dictionary, which he laid on the table. "There you are Dougal, just in case you have any trouble with words like concertina and Internet again."
"Great, thanks Ted." The young priest opened the paper and then started flipping through it quickly, an action which Ted followed with a morbid interest. After a moment Dougal stopped at the 'Showbizzz' section of the paper and started scanning the pages, his face close to the surface. Every now and then he made encouraging noises, followed by 'Ooohs' of disappointment.
Ted followed all this dispassionately for a while and then pulled out a packet of cigarettes and lit one up. Taking a deep and desperately needed drag and folding his arms he finally said: "Are you looking for something in particular, Dougal?"
"I'm looking for any mention of that filum, Ted. The one we saw being made in California."
The film, thought Ted wryly. Oh feck. He still had nightmares about that. They'd been in that town with the silly name, taking Jack back to his hotel room to make sure that the fridge was stocked up with whiskey before joining Larry Duff for a beer or three, when those figures had appeared out of the darkness. They'd been quite lucky that the Slayer had been around to take care of their attackers, but it had taken a bottle of vodka to calm Jack down afterwards. He'd been very agitated.
Taking another deep drag on his fag, he looked at Dougal. Maybe he was ready.
"Dougal," he started, "They weren't making a filum."
"Ah come on now Ted," said the younger man, looking up excitedly. He had newsprint ink smeared on the end of his nose. "I could tell it was a filum straight away from the special effects!"
"You know, when those fellahs turned to dust and that wee girl flew through the air on wires and then the volcano blew up!" He paused. "Ah, hold on a minute, I might have dreamt that last part last night. Sorry Ted. But the other stuff was brilliant!"
"Dougal, how can I break this… special effects are done by a very brainy bunch of fellahs with computer mouses and clicky things in studios after something's been filmed. They don't do those sort of special effects while something's being filmed."
Dougal looked blank again. "Why's that Ted?"
He winced slightly. "Because until then it doesn't happen. The special effects I mean." Looking at Dougal's glazed expression he took the plunge. "Dougal, those men really did turn to dust. They were…" he glanced nervously at Jack and then lowered his voice. "Vampires."
Dougal's eyes went very wide for a moment and then he laughed. "Ah come on Ted! You must think I'm a complete eejit! Come on now, I mean vampires!"
"No Dougal, I mean it. They were vampires. And keep your voice down when you mention them around Jack, he goes a bit… mad when he hears the "V"-word."
A strange look of stubbornness came over Dougal's face. "No, Ted, I have to stop you, as you've gone a bit mad there. I'm not the one who normally has to rein you in and say things, but enough is enough when it comes to mad things like that. Ted you said that they didn't exist."
"What? When did I say that?" asked a bewildered Ted.
"The other day, when I was talking about Blade and how could he shave if he couldn't see himself in the mirror and why he'd need that big knife of his against those other fellahs."
Groaning quietly to himself Ted leant forwards and shook his head. "No, Dougal, I said that Blade didn't exist as he is a character from a filum. Not that you've seen it, because you saw ten seconds of the trailer and spent the rest of the afternoon hiding behind Mrs O'Leary. She thought that you were the usher trying to sell her some icecream, remember?"
Oh god, thought Ted, this was a mistake. But now that he'd started it off, he had to get this train wreck of a conversation to its natural end.
"Dougal, vampires exist. The church has known about them for, well, ages. Why do you think we have crosses and holy water and stuff?"
Dougal looked blank again. "I don't know Ted, why do we have holy water and crosses?"
Resisting the temptation to throw something, preferably Dougal, through the window, Ted got a grip on himself. "For fighting vampires," he said patiently, "As they don't like them at all. That kind of stuff burns them."
He paused to allow all this to settle into what passed for Dougal's brain. This wasn't easy, as he strongly suspected that all that Dougal had for brains was grey fluff that had blown in one day and been unable to escape. From the way that Dougal started to roll his eyes it had succeeded in getting past the initial stage of denial. Unfortunately that meant that it instantly hotwired Dougal's panic button, because suddenly the young priest was standing and gibbering.
"Oh god Ted, that means that if priests fight vampires then I'll have to fight vampires and I can't even get the blessing right for the holy water after that last lot caught fire by mistake at that christening and I'm going to die aren't I? I mean what if there are vampires on Craggy Island? Tell me Ted, as there are vampires there then there are vampires here and-"
"Dougal, keep your voice down!" hissed Ted, throwing a panicky glance at Jack. But it was too late. With a wordless roar the old priest opened his eyes and glared wildly around. "VAMPIRES! FECK! ARSE! DRINK! GIRLS! FECK!" He made an odd movement with one arm and something shot from his sleeve to embed itself in a picture on the opposite wall. Still glaring he looked around more carefully and then snarled, before swigging the last drops of whiskey from the bottle and throwing that against the wall as well. Then he fell asleep again.
Ted peeked out from under the table where he'd thrown himself the instant that Jack had woken up. "Dougal, don't mention the V-word in front of Jack. He gets very cross when he hears it. And we don't all fight vampires. There's a girl called a Slayer who does a lot of it. She was that wee blonde girl back in Sunnydale. As for Craggy Island, there aren't any here."
He stood up and walked over to the wall, where a wooden stake was still quivering between the eyes of the picture of the Pope on the wall.
"We leave them to Jack."