The Church (by Carol Jackson)

Here’s an interesting piece of fiction by Patrick’s friend Carol Jackson, using the setting of Patrick’s memorial as the backdrop for a tale about a young boy.

He notices a few of them on the main street of the village.  Some were local extranjeros, walking with a purpose.  He recognized them.  But others circled looking for parking, driving up and down the short main street with a look of grim concentration.  Ordinary tourist’s expressions he had recognized all his young life. There went two of them now, one driving , the passenger looking in a guidebook, an air of anticipation on their faces.  An everyday sight here.

But today there are a number of foreigners parking and getting out of their cars with no expression of eagerness or interest. Just resignation on their faces, and a slow reluctance in their movements.  Something was going on.

His interest heightened, he walks across the street to the parking lot.  Ahead he sees some of the foreign artists and musicians who lived in the village disappearing up the street that wound sinuously upward to the church.  Normally they were always quite vocal, but today they nodded at one another or spoke quietly.  That red-headed one in the Indian tunic had had quite a reputation for scandalizing the village years ago.

But they were not his target.  They would recognize him and his reputation, so he slid in behind a group of chattering Germans in shorts, who were taking photos of every doorway and flowerpot.  He had learned to differentiate the languages and to try a few expressions of friendliness or feigned surprise to get what he wanted.

It is midday and the sun is directly overhead.  The tourists are sweating as they reach the point halfway up to the church.  More foreigners and  Mallorquins not from his village, meet on the road, hug and back pat, shake heads or hands, and continue upwards.

The church and its graveyard have always dominated the village, in terms of both interest and location.  All the visitors would head for it and he had had many clever successes there.

Distracted by the beautiful views and the grave of that famous guy who had made the village well known internationally, they would put down handbags on the tombstones or low walls to take photos.  Or put down their cameras to consult their guidebooks.  Or drop their backpacks, pull out a sandwich, and even sit on the flat gravestones!  No respect.

Avoiding eye contact was important, but if he was noticed he would smile, keep his hands in his pockets, stare at the view, or pull out his dead phone and pretend to be talking.  If confronted, he could still project a wide-eyed look of boyish innocence, while raising his palms upward toward the victim, raising his eyebrows and looking hurt.

There is a crowd today in the small graveyard behind the church.  He is careful to stay away from locals, and steps behind one of the cypresses.  There is talking in many languages.  There’s a man at the far end of the seaside terrace, with a camera on a tripod and one of those big furry microphones.  They point toward a music stand.  A woman is handing out a paper with a photo on it  to everyone, and there is a lot of talking and hugging. Its hot now and some people sit on the walls, and someone goes into the church and returns with a short bench for an elderly couple.

Everyone is murmuring and moving around, newcomers pushing through the crowd to lay flowers by an urn or to embrace a gray-haired man who smiles at everyone and shakes hands.  They don’t seem to know him so they are slightly more formal.  Then the man raises his voice to address the group, and everyone falls silent and pushes in closer to hear him.

There!  Under a cypress, behind the crowd, a woman’s straw bag with a camera half exposed, lies on the ground.  While keeping a look of interest on his face, as if listening with all the others, he moves forward to the back of the group. A slow movement downwards, while watching everyone in front of him, and he has it,  With one hand covering it, he presses it to his side, and ever so slowly backs away.

Breathing fast but moving slow, he exits the churchyard, rounds the side of the church and walks down the hill.

It’s always at this point that he feels he must LOOK different.  Surely the excitement coming off him is visible – tangible?  He keeps his head down to avoid passersby seeing the excitement in his eyes.  This heightening of nerves  is the state he seeks, revels in.  He is too young for sex, so it is still the most intense pleasure he knows.

After passing the halfway point down the hill, he takes a quick glance behind him. Nothing.  He pulls the camera from his jacket pocket – great!  It’s expensive!  He grins at the thought.  Jordi had said he would pay good money if he could score one of these!  He begins to laugh.  Its been a wonderful day!