Finlay Worrallo is a writer living in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. A member of the Northern-based writing mentorship program The Writing Squad, Finlay writes prose and poetry and has work in the upcoming Emma Press anthology, Dragons of the Prime.
How I Took the Vicar’s Virginity
I wasn’t really expecting to, honestly. He just looked so utterly dejected when he began his sermon, stood awkwardly in the pulpit, and looking up realised that I was the only churchgoer who’d bothered to show up at all this week. Then he began to cry. I hadn’t a clue what to do. I wasn’t even at the front — I was in perhaps the fifth or sixth row. Too far away from the doors to beat a hasty retreat, but if I wanted to go up to him and attempt, haltingly, to comfort him (as I did), I’d have to spend a good five seconds walking towards him, an uncomfortable experience in itself. I ended up breaking into a little half-run to get to him quicker.
We sat on the altar steps, alone in that cold, white-walled church, and he rested his head on my shoulder and wept. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do, but figured I’d lose nothing by showing a bit of decency. After a while, he sniffed, shuffled to his feet grabbed the communion wine and took a dispirited gulp, then slumped down again. Bit by bit, his whole life story dripped out of him.
Firstborn to a couple who wanted a daughter, he was tolerated until his little sister popped out two years later, at which point he was ignored. Said sister became a stocky toddler who roundly bullied him. Whenever he tried to play with her and her dolls, she would simply break the dolls over his skull. Their third sibling, another daughter, was easier to live with and let him dress up with her a few times (emphasis on the word dress), until they shipped him off to an austere boarding school aged eleven. There, he was shouted at for forgetting Latin verbs and walloped for peeking at the other boys in the changing rooms.
Writing home to enquire about what to do once he’d finished school, he received a cheque for five hundred pounds and a recommendation that he join the church. His family then moved to a different county before he could return home and forgot to tell him their new address.
He fared little better at the training college, fumbling even more Latin and struggling to think of anything to say to the other students (although he rather enjoyed wearing a cassock). Once ordained, he was dispatched to a remote Cornish village which apparently required a new vicar after their minister of fifty years had passed away. The journey took him four soggy days, mostly by bicycle down sludgy lanes during the wettest autumn in decades. Once there, it transpired that the report of the old vicar’s death had been an exaggeration and there was no need for a new one. A freak snowstorm marooned him in the village for the most awkward winter of his life, as everyone ignored him except the old vicar himself, who gave him a spare room in return for help organising his theological library of some fifteen thousand volumes.
The old vicar’s granddaughter came over for tea after church every week and started shooting the hapless graduate flirtatious looks over the scones. However, when he ended up clumsily kissing her in the pantry one afternoon, he was described as “worse than the butcher’s boy”. The looks stopped and she was engaged to the assistant at the post office by New Year.
At the end of winter he was finally able to leave the village and get his first proper exercise in months, cycling back to the college and only stopping occasionally to stick springtime flowers in his hair.
The second parish he was sent to was my own, but the vicar he replaced was such a popular man — never letting his sermons drag on for more than ten minutes and giving people jars of honey from his beehives when he thought they needed cheering up — that he was met with the frostiness that passes for open hostility in certain parts of England. Although he was happy to have a vicarage all to himself, the vicar’s days and months in my village were plagued with dirty looks, pointed comments about young whippersnappers, and the occasional request for some honey. Attendance dwindled weekly until that fateful Sunday when it was just me. Even the verger bailed.
‘And,’ concluded the vicar with a sob, ‘to top it all off I’m twenty-five and I’m still a virgin!’
He languished on my shoulder, which was becoming steadily wetter beneath him. There was a pause.
‘Well, that I can do something about,’ I pointed out.
We went back to the vicarage for a few hours. It was just the two of us, as even the bees were gone by this point. I hadn’t been with another man in a while and was a little rusty, but we got by. He lay face down on the bed when we were done, the sun streaming in through the window onto his bare behind. I asked him if he was all right, but he made no reply. Eventually, I dressed and let myself out.
I went back on Monday morning to see how he was doing, but the house was quiet and there was a note on the door saying GONE FISHING.
Postscript: We never did see him again. A few months later, a body was recovered from the nearby lake, so chewed by fish and bloated with water that it was impossible even to identify its gender by sight. A few years after that, I was in Vegas headhunting drag queens (long story), where I encountered a dazzling individual using the stage name St. Sizzling, who specialised in Catholic-inspired performances and had Latin phrases tattooed up her arms. Something about her struck me as familiar, but when I spoke to her after the show, she didn’t seem to know me at all.
© 2019 Finlay Worrallo