The new parish priest of the St Joseph’s church who replaced Unholy Joe was Father Rumbottom. He stuck to his rumname and it stuck to him. He and Father M didn’t get along. Maybe it was because of a name, but they kept up a pretense of cordiality between them. At one time Rumbottom was asked by the head of the diocese to change his name, because it seemed irreverent for a priest to have such a name, but Rumbottom refused pointblank. It was the name he was baptized with and only the good Lord had the right to object to his name, and since the Lord had not raised any objections so far; he being in constant touch with the Lord, there was no need to effect a change.
His Pater had been a J.C.O (Junior Commissioned Officer), a rumlover, getting his Triple X from the military canteen. Triple X was sold at special subsidized rates to the forces. It came in handy during times of war, when drunk soldiers confronted the enemy more fearlessly than sober rationalists.
On the day of Rumbottom’s christening his Pater was overjoyed. It was revealed in his rumbreath. Before the priest poured holy water from the baptismal font over his son’s head, his Pater poured Old Monk into the font and he was baptized with a touch of Old Monk blended with holy water. Pater noticed the changed colour of the holy water. His baby’s bottom and the holy water were the same golden brown and so his son was christened Rumbottom.
Once baptized Rumbottom, always a Rumbottom.
When Rumbottom joined the seminary the same objections were raised, which he silenced with his obstinacy. Only when he dreamed of canonization, did he have doubts about his name. For which seminarian doesn’t have wet dreams about canonization. Then if the Holy See saw to raise objections to his rumname and he lost the chance of being canonized Saint Rumbottom, the first rumsaint of the Jubbulpore cantonment -- but as of now this was all hypothetical and he thought he should be brave and take his rumchances with his rumname.
The Great Day arrived. The Wades were ready with their first communicant. The Divine Heart was ready with its choir. And Rumbottom was ready with his service. The church had been decorated by church orphans. Church orphans were taught many skills that were needed for church celebrations. They learnt to cut fancy crepe paper streamers, make silver bells and cherubs out of cardboard. And they were skilled at making wings for angels and covering the genitals of naked cherubs with gold and silver paper decorations.
On the Great Day the weather did not let them down. The sky was a heavenly lapis lazuli blue and snow white clouds like scrubbed souls floated happily by. The birds perched on the roof chirped a welcoming hymn, as the Wades and the Whites drove into the churchyard, in their respective cars.
Alfie Wade, his son and his son’s son were suited and booted. Maya wore a new dress with pink rosettes. Kathy had on new shoes with a bow to match the bow on her sunny yellow dress. Anna was dressed in satin, with a lace apron and a lace veil held in position on her head, with a tiara. The whiteness of her dress reflected the purity of her soul. What was more important was that she felt her soul had been scrubbed clean and that she had not polka dotted it before the Great Day.
She had gone to confession to Father M. He had whispered to her and she had not heard his whispers properly, but she felt she had done well by maintaining a certain degree of purity. Mum had held Kathy in check, but after the Great Day, Kathy would be let loose on her and then it was going to be difficult staying free of polka dots. The Sawhney fighter cocks were also waiting to pounce on her and settle old scores.
Sweety and Robbie Junior looked very smart and appeared fairly polka dot free. They walked on either side of their parents in an orderly manner. The Whites followed the Wades in their footsteps, as they filed into the wide arched doorway of the old stone church. They sat in the front pews. Anna knelt before the altar, with the other first communicants. Ten little sinless souls full of expectation.
The photographer clicked a divine image he managed to focus into the lens of his camera. Cutie Ruthie, a good bargain hunter got the special churchgoing photographer. He had fixed postcard size rates for postcards and she reduced his rates to thumbnail size, for postcards. She promised him more first communicants where they came from. She could budget any holy ceremony of holy vows to be taken and she promised the photographer, that she had many divine images he could focus into the lens of his camera, at her price.
The church service was too long for Alfie and his son. Ted’s stomach started rumbling and Alfie started feeling drowsy. Ted felt the rumbling in his stomach would grow so loud it would resound through the church. Many sounds had a tendency to be amplified beneath the high arched ceiling of the church. He had come without breakfast, because Maya had wanted to receive holy communion and didn’t get breakfast served up before a service.
Rumbottom had a tendency to bore his parishioners with his long sermons. He got lost in his preaching and didn’t realise it.