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Father Lathaniel Cooper was kneeling by his bed in prayer, a fervent mumble emanating from deep in his chest. He was writhing inside, endlessly reliving the moment of horror, the look on Mary’s face as she burst through the door to Number One. He saw himself through her eyes, collapsed on top of Mrs. Michael, shorts round his ankles, bare ass to the wind. The priest shuddered again, a cold river of embarrassment ran through him and he renewed his prayers, repeated his mortification before his Lord, There was no answering voice tonight. Lathaniel was praying into the black hole of his hypocrisy, his words were sucked away.

The lantern above him flickered as a breeze blew in through the open window. Somewhere outside a dog howled, there was a shout, a whimper and the village returned to the silence of the night. He heard the chattering of voices in the distance. The clear quiet air carried their words far ahead of them. He went cold. It was Mary.

‘He was there, Eunice, he was on top of her and his bottom all stood out, all thin and sticking out. I saw him and he was grunting and sighing and he just lay there all breathing hard and stuck to her back with sweat. I think he was having… you know.’ She couldn’t bring herself to say the word.

‘Fuck.’ said Eunice in a monotone. ‘He was having fuck.’

The priest heard them as they came closer. He edged closer to the window and ducked down.

‘Why does he live in that nice house and we live down there?’ Mary asked, ‘he’s no better than us, Eunice. He’s two-faced, Eunice. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.’

Mary seemed content with this proverb, regardless of its accuracy. She just needed a phrase, a homily to string her thoughts around and she was happy as Larry, spent hours rolling the cliché round in her head, testing its validity in every facet of her otherwise dreadful life – hence her love for religion. It was full of them.

They passed by the preacher’s house and stood silently for a moment at the bottom of the steps looking at the closed door.

‘He’s in there,’ said Mary. ‘I can see the light.’

The preacher could hear every word they were saying and they knew it. Eunice started to shiver.

‘He’s the Devil,’ she said and spat once on the grass, ‘He’s the Devil!’ she shouted at the closed door. Father Lathaniel stayed hidden.

‘I saw his ass,’ said Mary and turned away towards the creek, ‘sticking up in the air.’

Their voices became fainter and Lathaniel breathed a sigh of relief. He got up from his hiding place on the floor and started to unbutton his shirt. His heart was beating fast. He took off the shirt and hung it on the back of the chair then unbuttoned the top button of his shorts and unzipped the fly. Even this gesture was enough to send his brain racing back to Mrs. Michael and the beach bungalow this morning. He slid his shorts down round his ankles and stepped out of them, his penis gently poking out the front of his boxers as they gaped open. It was getting hard again. He eased those boxers off and ran a hand down the shaft of his dick, lifted his fingers up to his nose and took a deep sniff. He could still smell Mrs. Michael, a marvelous stale confection that sent the blood rushing back into that shaft of doom. He reached over and blew out the lantern.


Daniel roared into the village, horn blaring. The jeep screeched to a halt outside the preacher’s hut and Lathaniel heard the door slam as the intruder headed off to find the girls. Eunice and Mary shared a house with their family and seven dogs. The entire brood lived down by the creek, a largely stagnant drain for waste water from the hills. Their house was not much larger than the preacher’s but held nine people crammed together in a nightly symphony of snorts and coughing, sighs and snores. The noise brought neighbors out to see what was happening. Children’s faces poked around bamboo doorways, flickering light from the fires turning their innocence into a malevolent glee, the flames reflecting deep in their eyes, dancing neon demons in the dark.

‘Eunice! Mary!’ he called, waiting respectfully outside. ‘Eunice, Mary, the boss wants you. Big trouble. You come now, girls.’

There was silence from inside. All the occupants had frozen. Daniel never came into the village. He was not welcome here. So they sat and waited, hoping he would go away. He wasn’t going to.

‘Eunice! Mary! Come here now! I’m not going until you do. Do you want me to wake up the whole village?’

He already had, but that was of no concern to Daniel. He was Mr. Michael’s personal messenger. Daniel, at that moment, was Mr. Michael and expected all the deference and obedience that position required. All the onlookers saw was just a puffed up petty official with an inflated sense of his own importance. Even more reason to hate him.

Eunice was pushed out through the open door. It was obvious from the position she chose that Mary was just inside, whispering things to the stupid girl from her hiding place just out of sight.

‘Tell him to buggar off,’ she was hissing. ‘Tell him no.’

Eunice looked directly at Daniel, deep into his eyes. He had never seen her look so serious.

‘Mary and I are staying home. Go away.’

Daniel gasped. Eunice had never spoken to him like that before.

‘Yes,’ said Mary, suddenly appearing in the doorway. ‘Go away.’

He recovered quickly.

‘ You fools,’ he hissed, ‘Silly bloody fools. Stupid girls. All the same. Empty headed..’
But Mary stopped him.

‘You tell Mister Michael that I’m not coming back tonight and if he wants to know why you just tell him to ask the priest,’ and she walked back inside the house. Eunice was left there, still staring.

‘Bugger off, fuck face.’ she said.


Lathaniel blew the lantern out quickly and lay down on his bed. He was wide awake. He heard Mary’s shouted challenge, knew the rest of the village had too. He was cold in the midst of the humidity; the chill in his soul was freezing the sweat. He listened; scarcely breathing, as Daniel stomped away, heard his footsteps come closer, climb the three stairs and stand, hesitant, outside his door. Silence.

Daniel tapped on the door. He wanted to pound it, kick it, wake up this religious fool, but something held him back, some vestige of respect for a priest, he didn’t know.

‘Father Lathaniel, are you there?’ he said in a small voice. ‘Father Lathaniel..?’

No reply. The priest lay paralyzed on the bed. Surely Daniel could hear his heart beating in the silence. Daniel tapped again, louder this time, but he knew it was to no avail. The priest was going to come out or not – there was nothing he could do about it, he thought and prepared to walk away. The priest moved and his bed creaked. Daniel stiffened. Ah, so you are inside, after all. He renewed his knocking.

‘Father? Father, I know you’re there. I need Mary and Eunice up at the resort. Father?’

‘Mmmm? Mmm?’ Father Lathaniel pretended to wake up. ‘Mmm? What? Who is it?’ He was an accomplished actor of the amateur school.

‘It’s Daniel, Father. We need the girls up at the resort. Very important Mister Michael says. Father…?’

Lathaniel’s thoughts raced wildly. What to do? What to say? Mary had him over a barrel.

‘Um, um, go away, Daniel. The girls have to stay here and work for me tonight.’

He knew as he said it that he had fallen into some kind of trap but was powerless to do otherwise. Now he was covering for Mary. They were complicit.

He flushed with embarrassment again.

‘Go away! I’m sleeping!’

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Daniel clumped away, the priest heard the snort of rage, then the slamming of a truck door. The vehicle revved up and spun its back wheels in the dust before it lit up the track with its headlights and roared off into the night. Lathaniel lay there, catching his breath, calming his beating heart.


Eunice stood, rooted to the spot. She watched as Daniel’s tail lights disappeared up the road and tried to calm her beating heart. Even Mary was silent for a moment as the enormity of what they had just done engulfed them. Never once, in all the years they had worked at the resort, had they dared to disobey the boss. The boss was the boss. Like the priest was the priest – two implacable certainties, anchors in a simple life prone to flights of fancy. Both dashed away. The two girls were speechless, stunned at what they had done.

Everything was unraveling around them; the thin fabric of authority was tearing apart, the realities of adult life staring them in the eye. Both pillars of wisdom had crumbled. Mary’s minister, preacher of hellfire and damnation, the scourge of fornicators – a fornicator himself. Mrs. Michael, dominatrix and witch, lying beneath him, humping him to Hell. Mary didn’t know the word ‘hypocrisy’ but in her heart she felt it. A flame of self-righteous anger burst alive within her as she remembered the endless sermons from the preacher, the lectures from the boss’ wife, a twin lifetime of control enforced by people with none. She smarted from the unfairness of it all and some tiny bud of pride blossomed and grew inside her, the beginnings of empowerment. She waited till the red brake lights had disappeared and shouted out loud.

‘Fuck you, Daniel! Fuck you all to hell!’



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