Inoperable, Nobody liked the word, but father O'Reilly might like it less than any of them. It was a drawback of being a priest. When the doctor in the Catholic hospital told him there was no hope, what was he to do? It wasn't like he had real insurance, he just didn't have to pay. So long as he went to that clinic. What was he doing in the bank anyway? Nobody in their right mind would give him a loan.
What did he have for collateral? What was he going to put down as the reason for requesting it? Fighting a war against shadowy evil that may or may not have corrupted my only ally? That would go over like, well, a fart in church, he thought. Who knew a brain tumor would give him an appreciation for toilet humor?
He stood in a line filled with the shambling living and the nearly dead. In the middle of the day in a bank downtown, what else would he expect? Geriatric ladies bent over from canes just inches two short. Their male counterparts, twisted at every joint by advance stage arthritis. Mixed in were the working homeless and unwashed unemployed standing one government check from the streets themselves. In the middle of this flock of the faceless lost? One lone priest, marching towards his reward.
Those vacant faces did not stare. They were not too polite, but rather, just the type of skittish sheep, not his kind but the insulting one, who could not meet a man's eyes. They did not want to be seen noticing anyone for too long. They looked though, every one of them probably thinking the father's thin coat was almost warm enough to steal. First Cancer, now this. Father O'Reilly wondered if this was a punishment.
When he reached the front of the line a big chested teenager smiled and popped her gum at him. She was probably fourteen, but if they made fourteen year olds like that when he was young he might have skipped the seminary. Why was he thinking things like this? She asked him to wait while she got a trainee to deal with his application.
Then a clown appeared. Not one of the fun ones from the circus. No, this was a wicked looking clown like only Stephen King or Jay Wilson could come up with. The devil in disguise spoke to the priest.
"Hello," it whispered in tones for conspiracy and corruption, "I'm Captain Jiggles, the new loan officer, and I would be happy to help you."
"I need a loan."
"Not much profit in loaning to priests. What do you need the money for?"
"I... I have cancer and work to do before I die."
"Cancer? Probably a punishment from God for being friends with sodomites. A priest should know that."
O'Reilly blinked, "You're behind the times. Not even the pope believes that anymore. I just got there a few days before him."
The clown laughed from the belly, without increasing his volume. "The pope? We don't care what beaners think. Not around these parts. Now, what do you have for collateral?"
"Nothing." The priest stepped back. "Never mind the loan. I'll figure out something else."
O'Reilly turned and shuffled away from the counter, looking at the forlorn faces around him. Wondering as he did if the clown was really here. Wondering if he was really here. He dropped his jacket at the feet of one particularly homeless looking teen on the way out. As he reached the door the clown called out to him.
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