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Three days after Christmas, a lanky youth in torn jeans and unruly dreadlocks
turned up at Padre Pietro’s church. He was in the company of a thoroughly
mixed mongrel that, like the young man seemed in need of fattening. They
found the padre standing  in the churchyard, right where the car park would
have been, if he had a car owning congregation, armed with a slasher and
sweating heavily.

“Priests do not do that,” said the young man. “They make their followers do
all the hard work. But then, you do not have followers, do you?”

“Not yet,” Padre Pietro smiled. “You must be Juda Pesa.”

“Just Juda,” said the young man. “Why are you cutting grass?”

“Baba Pesa and the Chief,” said the priest.

“You will lose a lot of respect doing what those two tell you.”

Like the padre, he was sweating a lot.

“Padre Pietro,” the priest held out his hand.

“I know who you are,” said Juda.

“Is that your dog?” asked Padre Pietro.

“Confucius,” said Juda. The dog lay down by his feet.

“So, you are the new one,” he said. “Angelo was everyone’s friend. We drank
a lot of beer together.”

“So I heard.”

“It was the way he tried to save souls. No one went to his church.”

“Why?”

“I could not understand it either,” Juda admitted. “Except for the Protestant
pastors, who do not like anyone, people liked Angelo. Even those who did not
care for religion liked him. He would have been an even bigger hit, if he had
set up a bar here and served free beer.”

Padre Pietro understood that too well. He was in a land of freeloaders. He
may never recover from the old men’s visits.

“Come inside,” he said.

“No, Leo,” Juda said. “May I call you Leo?”

“I’d prefer Father Pietro.”

“I do not call Baba Pesa father,” Juda informed him. “Why are you looing for
me?”

“Let us talk inside.”

Juda hesitated. He had not entered a church since his mother quit drgging him
by the hand. To do so now could turn out to be a traumatic experience.

“I’d hate for it to become a habit,” he said.

Padre Pietro realised nothing much would be accomplished standing in the tall
grass and weeds. Besides, it was easier to catch a fly with wine than vinegar.

“I have a bottle of wine in the back room,” he said.

“Leo, Leo,” Juda smiled. “You will not fish me that easy.”

Padre Pietro laughed. The dog rose and walked about restlessly then lay  
down again.

“I also have tea,” Padre Pietro said.

“I do not drink tea,” said Juda.

“It is important that I talk to you in my office.”

“Here is fine.”

The dog went to ferret in the bushes.

“What do you want from me?” Juda asked.

It was easy for Padre Pietro to see why the old men had been rluctant to
approach Juda on his behalf.

“Your father is concerned about you,” he said. “About your ways.”

“My ways?”

“The drinking. He thinks you are going astray and should stop drinking.”

“Is that all?”

“More or less.”

“You tell him I’ll stop when he does,” Juda said. “Anything else?”

Padre Pietro hesitated.

“In that case …” Juda started to leave.

“I would like your opinion on another matter,” Padre Pietro said.

“I know nothing about saving souls.”

“Something of a personal nature,” said the padre. “But it is so hot here and
my office is cooler.”

Juda hesitated. Confucius scared up a hare in the gras. They watched the dog
go yelping after the hare.

“Will he catch it?” asked Padre Pietro.

“Not a chance,” said Juda. “He knows it too, but he will try.”

They saw the dog leap over the fence and zigag through the brush.  The chase
went towards the river.

“Like me, Confucius always tries,” said Juda.

“Let us talk inside,” said Padre Pietro, “Over a glass of wine. I promise not to
force you to become a Catholic.”


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HM Books cover of Christmas Without Tusker by Meja Mwangi
CHRISTMAS WITHOUT TUSKER
Copyright © 2016 by Meja Mwangi.com. All rights reserved.
Book Code: CWT   
KSh. 350
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