Canto for a Gypsy
St. Patrick’s lay below them, sanctuary bounded by ambulatory and communion rail, pews like an endless repetition, faith overwhelmed by stone.
The priest had viewed the sacristy and all twenty chapels and he was happy to relax in the cool of the high gallery above the business of worship. His tour guide, an usher with enamel American flag in his lapel, uttered judgment.
“The women are the worst.”
The priest raised his eyebrows in mock outrage.
“Sure,” the usher went on. “They come in, sit down behind some other woman who’s praying and switch purses. We have to put chains through the candlesticks or they’d walk off with those.”
“A regular hotbed of crime, you’d say. But you were telling me about the funeral services for Senator Kennedy.”
“That’s right. There were Secret Service men where we are and on the other galleries and in the organ loft. They took over our room for their headquarters,” he said with reminiscent irritation. “They knew this place inside out.”
The priest mused, watching a fish school of Japanese tourists following their guide with cameras and notebooks.
“Wouldn’t an assassin be able to do that, too?” he wondered. “Get the building plans?”
“Nooo. To get a copy from the City Building Department you got to have a written letter of permission from the cathedral administrator.”
“Ah.” The priest straightened up. He was middle-aged but fit and his mustache raised suspicions in the usher that he might have a hippy parish. The priest had earlier remarked that the maintenance men all seemed to be black or Spanish. “Well, thank you for the tour, Mr. Grimm. By the way, did they have handguns or rifles?”
The usher was taken aback.
“Up here? Rifles. It was like a military operation.”
“Of course it was.”
The priest used a side door to reach the adjacent administration building. The administrator was not in and the ladies at the reception desk told the priest he would need an appointment to see the monsignor when he returned.
“I just saw him,” the priest said. “He told me to wait in his office.”
“Really, Father, the monsignor is impossible. What’s the point of having a secretary?”
He walked into the administrator’s office.
The office window was above the eye level of pedestrians on Madison Avenue. In the outer office a typewriter carriage snapped sideways with exasperated force.
He pulled the desk drawer open and removed stationery, envelopes and a personal note with a good sample of the monsignor’s signature.