Story postcard – in search of the priest (2)

Rudd is relieved to find the shower room is empty. He strips off, turns the tap to cold, then steps on to the wet tiles to let the water drench over him. The shock washes the stress of the morning out of his mind, and pins him back to life, each cold thread drawing him to the surface. He dries, wraps the towel around his waist, and moves to the wide basin and mirror.

Did good work when they refurbed this room. Worth the money for that shower. Like these taps.

He reaches for his razor and begins to shave with swift, precise strokes. Job done, he pats his face dry with the hand towel, and then, with it lowered to just beneath his chin, he leans forward over the basin edge, tipping his head to one side to catch the light. His eyes stare back at him. He looks away. They know. He knows they know the storm is coming. They saw the thickness of the morning light. They felt the stillness, and that nothing was quite right. Even the razor knew. Each time it sliced up through the foam, or rinsed and tapped, it too repeated that the storm would come.

He takes a step back, and buries his face in the towel, desperate for his brain to take over, to calm his imagination. Slowly it begins to persuade him, telling him that any threat mentioned only suggests that what is coming will be worse than normal. He holds the thought, and then makes it bigger.

It’s just a forecast, a prediction. Since when has any storm ever caused serious damage up here? By the lodge?

Since never, his brain says, as he rubs the towel up and across his hair. Never. Just repeating the word brings him hope. Hope that his eyes are wrong. Hope that his gut is wrong. Hope that the reports are wrong. Hope that Tonderai and the chief, are wrong. Hope that all the fear will turn out to be nothing but fret. Slowly he convinces himself, and, persuaded at last he steps back to the basin, and glares at his eyes.

We can’t close the lodge over some forecast. Since when has any manager of this lodge ever done that? It’d be mad. The lodge would suffer. No tips for the staff. No party for Hansie. No way. I’m not saying anything. Just got to keep going. If the storm wants to come, let it come.

He rubs his hair once more with the towel, then throws it into the wicker basket beneath the basin. It lands with a damp thud, and he turns his attention to his hair, arranging it with his fingers until satisfied that it is in some kind of order. Then he reaches for a fresh uniform.

Dressed and clean, confidence high, Rudd opens the door. The smell of breakfast cooking sizzles from the kitchen. Encouraged, he drops his belongings into the medical room and is en route to the office when he meets Tonderai. They discuss the latest regarding the search for a new celebrant, before each hurrying on. Neither mentions the weather.

Above them the sky looks down, its grey-blue opaque as a baby’s muslin.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Story postcard – in search of the priest (1)

Rudd sees the mission truck down below, and slaps the steering wheel with relief.

“Yesss. I think he’s there.”

“The priest?”

“Well that’s the truck he was in last time I saw him.”

The vehicle is parked against the edge of the tea factory. It is one of the few inside the security fence. Rudd points out the flash of its red roof to Katania as they lurch down the bumpy track to the estate offices. She adjusts her sunglasses.

“I hope you’re right and that he’s actually here. And that he’s presentable.”

“And free,” Rudd mutters, as he stops beside the entrance barrier.

The guard greets them with a broad smile and confirms that the priest is on the premises. “Perhaps he meets the workers … perhaps the manager.”

Rudd parks, and decides they should try the office first. He leads the way under the huge corrugated iron roof, and on down past the shaking dust and noise of the conveyor belts, to the corridor of offices that run along the far end. The first door they come to has a small sign saying ‘Manager’. Rudd knocks, while Katania pats the dust off her trousers. 

“Come in,” a voice shouts.

Rudd pushes the door wide, and Katania steps past him into the room. He follows, and as soon as he enters he feels confident that he is close to finding a solution to her problem. There, already on his feet, is the tall, composed man Rudd recognises as Father Norman. Beyond him, and still behind his desk, the manager is not so quick to stand. By the time he is on his feet, and sending a questioning look at Rudd, the priest is already shaking Katania’s hand, his smile polite beneath brown, swept back hair.

Rudd crosses the room to speak to the manager. He knows him well, for he usually leads the tea tours offered to lodge guests. They exchange greetings, and Rudd explains the interruption, then turns back to Katania, but sees in an instant that no help is required, for Katania and the priest appear to be close to an agreement. Within minutes it is arranged that Father Norman will come up to the lodge as soon as his business in the factory is finished.

And that is it. With little more than a brief nod to the manager, Katania exists the office and Rudd, irritated, hurries after her.

“Good. That’s done,” is her only comment as they bounce back up the hill, past the village, and then down again to the lodge.

Rudd drops Katania by the front door, and then decides on an impulse to park the truck in the garage. Just in case, he thinks, without wanting to think any more about why.

Back in the medical room he shuts the door with relief, and leans against it. He wants to start the day again, to bring a sense of order back to his plans, and to forget Katania’s arrogance. Agitated, he rolls up his sleeping-bag, and collects his shaving kit.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Story postcard – Katania is not happy (3)

“Makes sense now,” says Rudd. “By the way, I’ve just met your other brother. Steve?”

Katania waves her hand dismissivley. “He’s never liked me. Feeling’s mutual. Anyway, this is about Mick. I don’t understand why he can’t come. He promised he would.”

 “Didn’t he say why?”

“No. Just something ridiculous about the weather. I mean … that kind of thing never stops him.”

 “Okay,” Rudd ushers Katania towards the nearest chairs. “Why don’t we sit down? Wait for Tim – he’s on the bird walk.”

“Typical,” says Katania, settling herself on the sofa. “And Jen’s still asleep. But Mick? He always makes a plan. Why, when it really matters, does he give up? Just like that.” Katania snaps her fingers.

As if summoned, the doors push open, and Innocence appears carrying a tray full of mugs from the birdwalkers’ tea. He nods at them and rattles onwards, towards the kitchen.

Suddenly Katania’s eyes stab into Rudd. “I know. You could take the service for us.”


 “Yes!” She leans towards him. “Yes, you Rudd. You’d be completely inoffensive.”

Rudd stares at her.

“Inoffensive …” The word whispers down to his shoes.

“Yes …” says Katania studying him. “Although …”

Rudd cuts her off, his face flushed. “No. No … I mean … there’s no way. I’m too busy.”

Her eyes scan over him again.

“Too busy?” she raises an eyebrow. “More like too young … and no gravitas. No style even. Never mind. It’s for the best. So who then?”

Rudd’s heart thumps. He stares at the view. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Katania’s fingers drumming on the table, and knows he needs to find an answer quickly. He retraces the guest list, putting names to faces, looking for professors, professionals, priests. Then suddenly it comes to him.

Of course. At the tea factory. That priest, from England. Maybe he can … Norman. Father Norman.

Rudd is excited now. “There is a visiting priest who might be able to help?”

Katania’s fingers stop drumming. “A priest? They are already married you know. This is a celebration. Not a service.”

“Well … unless you want Simi?”

“Simi? In those kaftans? I can’t stand the way she dresses. No, I do not want her. A kaftan? Leading the service? Can you imagine the photographs?” Katania pauses. “Who is this priest anyway?”

“Father Norman. I’ve only met him once. I think he must be from that cathedral twinned with our local church.”

Katania frowns. “I don’t want the day ruined Rudd. This might be Jen’s only wedding. We’re launching a brand here. You understand? Part of her forever portfolio.” Katania twists the large diamond ring on her finger, her eyes focused somewhere beyond Rudd’s shoulder. Then they flash back towards him. “Any chance I can meet this priest?”

“He might be at the tea factory?”

“Well, let’s go,” says Katania standing, while Rudd scrambles to his feet.


“Why not?”

“Well. I’ve got …” Rudd hesitates, running a hand across his chin.

 “Excellent. I’ll fetch my sunglasses, and be out front in two minutes.”

 Rudd stares after her, as she willows into the distance.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023