©2011, Randall A. Beeler
Greetings to all those who follow The Catholic Comedy. As many of you know, this site has been less active than normal due to busy-ness in my work and family life. However, in an effort to renew the Comedy, I am trying something different.As Michael Shephard waited for the now-late Jet Blue Flight #J1016 to arrive at Love Field boarding gate 19A, he knew a Bishop was staring at him. From across the row, he saw the pectoral cross, the Roman collar, the spectales, and the whitening hair at the temples. The presbyter stared at Michael like he knew him in some beyond-this-world way, knew him completely.
This installment of the Comedy is part of an original novel I am writing, called The Bishop Tripped: the story of a man, who, disillusioned, seeks to escape his life, only to be mistaken for a bishop--all the way to the miter, crozier, and diocesan bureaucracy.
None of this writing is edited. It is written as it happens, with every post I blog. No premeditation, other than a story trajectory in my imagination and the characters who will take it and run with it.
So, live and as-it-happens, here is the first installment of The Bishop Tripped …
But that was all Michael could remember.
He awoke to a clean-shaven, scrubbed, stethoscoped, mint-fresh breathed man shining a pen-flashlight into his eyes. "Pupils no longer dilated," the doctor said to himself as if a scribe inside his head was marking a case log inside his brain.
"Can you hear me, Your Excellency?" he said in the same monotone to Michael.
Was he talking to his mental note-taker again?
"Bishop Christopher, can you hear me?" The doctor was staring straight at him. Why was that Bishop's name familiar?
"I know you must be able to hear me, Your Excellency, because your eyes are reacting to the sound of my voice."
Michael looked around the room for the Bishop, but only he in his bed and the doctor on his rolling stool occupied the space.
"Bishop Christopher, you are in the Head-Trauma unit of Saint Maria Goretti Hospital. You have suffered what appears to be the results of a blunt-force trauma to the cranium, but we simply cannot find any physical trauma. Your head looks untouched and x-rays, CAT scans, and MRI reveal no internal injury. However, your brain patterns are radically different from the last MRI you had two years ago in Santa Fe."
"Are you talking to me, Doctor?"
"My name is Dr. Barfield--I'm the Chief Neurologist at SMG. The disorientation you're experiencing is certainly not uncommon to those experiencing cranial trauma. In fact, I warn you that you may undergo some significant temporary--or even permanent--personality changes. Do you understand what I'm saying to you, Bishop Christopher?"
The Bishop! The Bishop at the airport--that was where he had heard that name before. "Uh, yes, I am feeling confused, but perhaps there's been some mistake--I'm not a Bishop. I met a Bishop Christopher at Love Field, but I'm the last thing you expect to be a Bishop. I was once in seminary … but that was long ago."
Dr. Barfield's brow furrowed. "I was in seminary, as an undergrad, for a short time. In my Sophomore year, I knew I had to be a doctor. Your confusion should clear up after a bit, for none of the tests demonstrate anything consistent with long-term memory loss. Do you need the Sacrament?"
"The Diocesan Vicar has been waiting here all night. Perhaps talking with him will help you gain your bearings."
Before Michael could stop him, the Doctor was out the door. Michael looked down at himself. He seemed the same--mole on the back of his right hand, childhood scar on the inside of his left forearm, above which an IV pumped some clear fluid into his left arm. But where was his wedding band? He looked around for his personal belongings on the nightstand but there he found only a plastic cup and pitcher of water.
What is Lord's name was going on? Saint Maria Goretti Hospital? Wasn't that in Houston? Had he forgotten an entire plane ride and how he landed in a hospital bed? He felt around for bumps or wounds to his head but found only his usual hair. A taste like iron stuck to the roof of his mouth and he was starting to realize that he needed to go to the bathroom.
The door opened and a soutaned man with a worried expression stepped in, his face lighting up when he looked at Michael.
"Thank God you've come around, Your Excellency! You've been unconscious for nearly 24 hours."
Michael looked searchingly at the man … something was undeniably familiar about his face. He could see it and recognize it but only a man gradually infers the image of a person when looking only at a shadow.
"Bishop Christopher, are you alright? Can I get you some water?"
Michael tried to speak, but he couldn't form the words. He squinted his eyes and made a few abortive attempts to say what was being dredged up from deep memory before the Diocesan Vicar poured some water and placed a cup in his hand.
Almost as if the water carried an electrical current, Michael dropped it tumbling to the floor and at the same moment shouted "Matt! Matt Morelli!"
The man had darted into the bathroom to retrieve some paper towels to mop up the water. When he returned and finally raised his head up from dabbing away the spill, his face was level with Michael's gaze, and Michael was sure--"Matthew Morelli! Son of a--"
"Yes, Bishop. I'm Msgr. Morelli. We met last month, after your appointment to the Arch-Diocese had been officially announced."
"So your the pranskter behind all this!" Michael laughed. "I might've known it would be you. But after all these years--why go to these lengths? I mean, we haven't seen each other since I left during my pastoral year!"
The would-be Monsignor cocked his head and looked at Michael with renewed concern. "Um, Your Excellency, I'm going to talk with Dr. Barfield for a moment. I'll be right back."
To be continued …