Father Patrick O’Malley slipped the clerical collar from around his neck and into the pocket of his tweed jacket. He pulled his fedora low over his eyes and slipped out the side door of the vestry at “Our Lady” Parish. He hurried through the dark twisting streets, feeling a twinge of guilt and thinking that he should have spent a bit more time with Mrs. Mahoney, but damn; he was late.
He had told her he was tardy and that he could spend more time with her on the morrow but he still felt guilty. Not to be bothered though, there was nothing to be done about it now.
He paused where the alley met the High Street. He peered left and then right, spotting no one he dashed beneath the sign that read “The Claddagh” and ducked through the door.
As the door swung shut behind him he exhaled and then breathed deeply of the smoky air that filled the old pub. He always held his breath for that final 20 feet. That final 20 feet when he was exposed and someone who knew him might see what he was up to. He worried that if his secret got out – the magic would go away.
But inside he was safe. Inside he wasn’t Father O’Malley. Here he was just Patrick, or Pat, that kindly old gentleman who stopped in from time to time. He was happy being Patrick for the evening. Sometimes he needed to escape the expectations of others.
Taking his seat at the end of the bar he waved to the barman, who brought him a pint.
“Cheers Connor,” he said and tipped his glass. He had three beers, found his center, found his peace, and found his chi. He spoke with no one but nodded to all. He emptied his mind and prepared himself for the coming week.
He left some notes on the bar and wove his way through the dark twisting streets back to the rectory where he would sleep.