In the Place de l'Eglise the July sun was already baking the tarmac on which were parked one old grey Peugeot and one brilliant white new Renault Clio. Père Benoît stood by the side doors to the scrubbed sandstone church and watched with arms folded and a frown as four immaculately dressed women got out of a Citroën, disappeared into the Boulangerie-Patisserie and came out with three or four baguettes each. Chattering, they returned to their car and left without even a glance in the direction of the church.
Père Benoît glowered at the Boulangerie. The fat woman owner appeared in the doorway, and, seeing him, waved cheerfully. Le Père forced himself to nod and smile, then turned away. Madame Ségale seemed to delight in misdirecting any visitors, telling them the Messe was at 0930 instead of 0945. Sometimes those who would have joined his flock gave up waiting and went to Baud or St. Nicolas instead.
Praying for release from frustration, Père Benoît went inside his cool church, genuflected in front of the sanctuary and pressed the switch for the carillon. The sound of bells at once began to fill the air. The priest took a last look outside the church. Five white-haired dames in navy blazers and floral cotton skirts were greeting one another at the main door. They were the staples of his congregation, especially Madame Céline Kerhuel, whose cracked and entirely unmusical voice could always be heard tirelessly leading the singing.
A mustard-coloured wreck with a Belgian number plate pulled into the Place and stopped. Its occupants got out and moved uncertainly toward the main church door.Visitors, the Père thought.
A bright red Alfa Romeo shot into the car-parking space next to the Belgian car and braked hard, raising Père Benoît's hopes until he saw it had a GB plate. English, from the gîte on the St. Mathiau road no doubt, on their way to buy croissants from Madame Ségale. As usual, she would be crowing that she had many more patrons than he that Sunday. Père Benoît shrugged. It was nearly ten minutes before the hour. He went in to change into his robe.
Part of this work was submitted as the Dissertation for the MA in Writing
Last amended on 18th May 1998 / copyright H. M. Whitehead