Waiting for his luncheon guest, the Reverend Simon Ivery stands in the kitchen of his grace and favour apartment on the fourth floor of a Georgian house in Cathedral Yard. Suffering from severe osteoporosis, he’s a virtual prisoner in his eyrie because of the many stairs. He’s ceased to play an active role in the Anglican Church, seldom attends services and can’t use his choir stall. Through the kitchen window Simon sees a peregrine falcon launch itself from the eastern tower into its two hundred miles per hour hunting stoop. If only I could fly away, he wishes.
He started having guests to lunch because he longed for the company of young people. It was a time before mobile phones and the Internet; even landlines were a rarity – word of mouth was paramount and amusing conversation treasured. One of his small pleasures was to be told a new Cathedral rumour and then see how it had matured by the next time it was retold – with embellishments.
The doorbell rings. Today’s guest is not who he expects.
Reverend Ivery? A man, dressed in a slightly crumpled suit, asks.
Indeed, and you are?
Detective sergeant Lyons.
As in a pride of? Simon laughs.
Different spelling, Sir. May I come in? I have official business.
Of course, forgive my poor sense of humour. Come into the kitchen. How can I help you?
It concerns a new deacon, Peter Pugh. Did you know him?
No, I’ve never met him but I’ve been told about him. He’s apparently abnormally shy. Has something happened to him?
He’s committed suicide. Three nights ago he slashed his wrists in your stall in the choir.
Simon crosses himself. God rest his soul. What brought him to such an end?
We were hoping that you could help us with that, Sir. He left a note in which you’re implicated. We’ve interviewed the people who lunch here and two of them assert that the rumour he was homosexual started here.
Nonsense. As far as I remember, it was an aside; I stupidly suggested his shyness could be a cover for homosexuality. What a fool I was!
His note says he wasn’t homosexual, but the lie stuck. He took his life because he didn’t know how to fight back and was scared because homosexuality is illegal. He would have lost his role as a priest – in fact, lost everything. He blamed you for starting the rumour.
Clearly, I did no such thing. The young people must have taken my remark as fact and misguidedly spread it as a rumour. Then, caught out, they blamed me. I wouldn’t have expected my so-called friends to be so dangerously irresponsible.
Is anyone to be charged?
No. It’s all gossip.
Nevertheless, my careless remark took the life of an innocent young man.
Later, Simon opened the bottom sash of the kitchen window. After a painful struggle, he finally sat on the stone windowsill. As the falcon dived, Simon joined it in its stoop.
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© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.