(Simulated group of children; probably on their way to bed, or having just been given ‘out’ at cricket).
By the time the Reverend Petros Batty met Dr Frood at the hospital, the baby was still nowhere to be found. The nursing staff, following Nurse Paula’s suggestion, had decided that, for the sake of ‘keeping the record straight’ at the same time as avoiding the embarrassment the hospital’s board-members would inevitably suffer should the media ever get hold of the story about the missing baby, had decided it would be best to lose all records of the baby too; if anyone asked they could then simply say, “Sorry, we have no record of any such baby!” Such an answer would even, they assured each other, stand up to polygraph examination.
Fortunately, it was not the baby which the Reverend had come to see… and it was only Dr Frood who suffered any embarrassment as he explained to the Reverend the unusual circumstances of its birth and its recent disappearance, as they walked down the long corridor to the psychiatric wing.
“So… you say the mother was always placid and docile when feeding the baby?” he said, wanting to be quite sure of his facts… “Interesting… Tell me, did any of the other hospital staff suffer any of these psychic attacks?”
“No…” Dr Frood replied, somehow even more embarrassed that he appeared to be the only victim of Catherine’s telekinetic attacks. He began to wonder if the demented woman could be harbouring some unknown grudge against him…
Almost as if he was reading the doctor’s mind, the Reverend said, “Don’t worry; and don’t take it personally: in cases such as this, victims of possession often seem to reserve their attacks for what they regard as ‘authority figures’; anyone who tries to control their behaviour being seen as opposed to the chaotic reality the demon wants to create, you see… just as God and ‘Order’ is opposed to the Devil and the chaos he’d like to bring into the world…”
“I see,” the doctor replied, just as they entered the ward, “But doesn’t that mean that you’re likely to be attacked too?” But the priest was unable to answer him, as a stainless steel bedpan struck him with considerable force on the temple, spilling its noisome contents all over him and rendering him immediately unconscious. Dr Frood quickly ducked a number of other flying objects and, grabbing the priest underneath his armpits, swiftly dragged him backwards out of the ward.
***** ******* *****
At first, Warrigal had felt slightly out of place in Swannee and Catherine’s bedrooom, but it was the only logical place for him to stay; all the other bedrooms in the house being full of several children, but as he only had to sleep in it, he soon got used to the idea; after all, as the cricket team’s new ‘legal’ guardian, he was obliged to live with them in order to properly take care of them. John and Mary and Algernon and Vivienne had done a remarkable job, he thought, of taking care of their younger siblings in the absence of their parents, but as Vivienne had explained, “It’s not so difficult really; I mean, we’re used to helping Mum with chores and stuff already… and we pretty well know what needs to be done…”
“Yeah,” John interjected at this point, “it’s really just a matter of sticking to the routine… Well… except for me and Mary having to give up school to go to work…”
“Yeah,” Mary said, taking up John’s line of thought as easily as she might catch a mis-hit ball in the slips, “… the only real problem is that we were hoping to get into the University of South Oz on a cricketing scholarship next year, but that depends on me and John passing the end of year exams… But we’ve missed an awful lot of school now… though we have managed to keep up our cricketing practise, even through the off-season…”
“Season starts next week…” one of the little-uns piped up, with some concern evident in his voice.
“Don’t worry mate,” said John, “I’ve already enrolled us all in the Church’s Cricket League…” then, in an aside to Warrigal, he said, “The school’s run by the Church, you see, and they depend on us, ’cause we’re the parish’s ‘A’ team… This year we won’t even have to find an eleventh member, ’cause the bub can be our eleventh man…” To the rest of the team, he added, “He’ll make a good wicket-keeper for a start, I reckon, until we can find out whether he’s better at batting or bowling… though until he can walk, we’ll have to use a stand-in ‘runner’ for him, under the ‘disability inclusion’ rules… Still, that should be a ton of fun! One of the little-uns can push the stroller between the wickets…”
“Ton of fun! Fun’s ton…” Mary hummed to herself… then to the rest of the family she said, “That should be his name, I reckon… ‘Funston’… We gotta call him something, after all… ‘Can’t just keep calling him ‘the bub’… he’ll resent it later on, if we do… develop a complex or something…”
The team all nodded, automatically in sympathetic agreement, commenting variously, “Yep!”, “’Sright!” and “Good name!” As both a family and a team there was rarely, if ever, any dispute or argument amongst them; they all tended to agree, intuitively working in harmony for the sake of the ‘greater good’; for the sake of the ‘Game’… Warrigal had found it fascinating to watch such smooth cooperation among them; thinking they could probably teach a lot of adults how to behave… He could see now why both the school and the Church should come to depend on such a team; as an example of solidarity and team-work they were second to none…
“So!” Warrigal said, “First of all, John and Mary, you needn’t worry about the schooling you’ve missed; I’ll talk to your teachers and find out what lessons you’ve missed and tutor you personally ’til you’ve caught up; you’re both very bright and work so well it won’t take long at all… So you’ll still get to uni, okay?” The children nodded eagerly, simultaneously saying, “Thanks Wazza!” using the nickname they’d instinctively given their new carer, as the rest of the team cheered. “Now, down to more serious matters… When’s the first match of the season? When will little Funston get his first game?”
“Next Sad’dee!” the little-uns all chimed.
“So…” said Warrigal, “That gives us all a week to practice and get him ready! John and Algae, get the gear… stumps, balls, bats and pads; I reckon it’s time to hit the oval for a bit of a knock-about… ”
“Yaaaaaaay!” The little-uns yelled joyfully as they scrambled to change into their cricketing clothes, feeling better than they had felt for several months, while the older boys fetched the equipment and the older girls prepared a small mountain of sandwiches and several large flasks of tea.
***** ******* *****
“This is Warrigal Mirriyuula…” John said to the priest who organised the Parish Cricket League, by way of an introduction, “He’s our new carer…” Father O’Blivion shook Warrigal’s hand warmly as he replied, “Most pleased to meet you, Warrigal… May I call you Warrigal? Such an awful business about Mr and Mrs Swan…” Warrigal merely nodded, no wanting to say too much about this in front of the kids, who still expected to be reunited with their parents at some stage in the unspecified future… Then to the children, the priest said, “Your first game of the season is against the St Helvi’s Hospital Nurses team… I’m looking forward to a repeat of last year’s victory! Now, there’s someone I want you all to meet…” He looked around the oval until he saw another tall figure wearing a black cassock, “Father Batty!” He called, “Could you come here a moment, please…?” As the other priest joined the group, Father O’Blivion said, “This is Father Petros Batty… he’s come all the way from Rome to join our parish; he’s my new verger and he’s also volunteered to be our umpire this year…” As the children all dutifully shook hands with him, Father O’Blivion continued, “He’s our ‘Holy Roman Umpire’…”
***** ******* *****