a glasss of red wine
The Reverend Paul Burroughs looked around the dining room of the hotel and beyond his fellow guests to the River Avon and the cathedral across the meadows where he has been summoned later that afternoon.
He finished his coffee, drained the last drop from his wine glass willing the alcohol to bring him the strength to accept whatever decision the Bishop was about to deliver. He signed the bill the pretty young blonde waitress had left at his side and returned to his room.
Sitting on the edge of his bed he attempted without success to read a passage from his bible, the copy his mother gave him the day he was ordained almost twenty years from this day. But the thoughts of recent events in his parish kept flooding back into his mind and made reading impossible.
He carefully closed the bible, placed it back on the bedside table, stood up and walked towards the window. Once again he looked at the cathedral spire and then to the river now swollen by the early autumnal heavy rains the previous week. The current was fast moving and carrying several bits and pieces of fallen branches.
It would be so easy to circumvent what he knew in his heart of hearts would be the outcome of his meeting with the Bishop by the simple act of quietly slipping into that river unnoticed.
But suicide was never in his DNA so kicking off his shoes he picked up the remote and opened the television to the first channel, stretched out on the bed only to nod off moments later. During the sleep he had a series of strange dreams, culminating in a nightmare scene where he had been condemned to die placed in position like one of the founding bishops lying in the cathedral and told to remain there until he stopped breathing.
The scene caused him to awaken, sweating and alarmed. Looking around the room to gather his whereabouts he was surprised to notice that his travel clock showed he had been asleep for almost two hours. He went to the bathroom, cleaned his teeth, combed his hair and prepared to meet his fate.
Minutes later he was climbing the elevated section of pavement at the end of the street as it curled round and rose to the bridge over the river downstream from the hotel. As he came in full view of the bridge itself he noticed a young girl dressed in a red hoodie, blue jean and strangely, barefoot.
The figure in the red top looked as if she was trying to climb onto the wall then stopped when she saw him coming. He continued walking towards her rehearsing in his mind how to approach the subject that looked as though she was preparing to jump. But his concern was unnecessary for he never got beyond saying, ‘Excuse me.’
The girl whirled around to face him, her face contorted in a white rage as she slapped him hard around his face with such force that his spectacles flew off over the bridge wall into the river below and he fell against the wall painfully grazing the left-hand side of his face on the rough stone-work.
It was over in a flash, the girl fled the scene leaving him dazed, sitting there until moments later he unlaced his shoes, removing them he stood up and silently launched himself over the parapet into the river.
His body was discovered half a mile downstream, caught up on a large branch. A lady nearby had been alerted by the sound of a dog howling who was found, desperately clinging to the branch. It transpired the dog had been reported missing by a guest at the hotel earlier that afternoon.
The vicar’s elderly mother was quoted as saying that her son must have dived in to save the dog as he was passionate about animal welfare. A week later Wiltshire constabulary said they were not treating the death as suspicious.
The unpaid hotel bill was settled by the Bishop’s secretary who said that he had been expected for tea with the Bishop that afternoon and had been concerned when he didn’t arrive. The next day a Polish chambermaid left her employment from the hotel unexpectedly, returned home to her native town of Gdansk and applied to enter a convent.
Three weeks later a funeral service was held in the village of the Reverend Burroughs’ adopted home. The service was officiated by the Bishop and was widely reported on the local news. The local RSPCA inspector read the eulogy. A thirteen-year old Iranian immigrant choirboy fainted during the service. His adoptive mother said he was very upset because it brought back memories of his journey to Europe and he had been very attached to the vicar who was helping him with his plans to become a professional football player.