The lane behind the church was secluded as it led only to Father LeFevre´s house, through a pair of wrought iron gates that squealed loudly when opening. He rarely had cause to use them preferring the church’s direct side door access from his home.. It was only for the use of his car that the high pitched screech of the hinges was heard, and recognised immediately by neighbours. Ears pricked up and the interest caused comment. The ancient car didn’t come out often…
Most of the modest padre´s work was based in and around the village. The Father was out daily, speaking with parishioners, taking a coffee at the sleepy cafe across the square, and generally being proactive among the sick and needy. His door was always open and services were well attended by his appreciative flock. It was an ordered life in the main.
The feast of Corpus Christi in early June fell midweek this year, so celebration was minimal. The weather was also unkind; strong winds haranguing the meagre congregation and intense rain kept up a deluge fit to impress Noah. A bruised sky barely registered daylight and the crashing of thunder echoed over the deserted village square. Work in surrounding fields was abandoned, shopkeepers and restaurants suffered, as everyone stayed indoors, and travel was disrupted as roadside ditches filled with water and flooded local thoroughfares.
Then over the din of the storm came the screaming sound of protesting hinges. Father LeFevre was going out in his car ! Country communications can be unreliable. In the teeth of a gale more so – yet a message had come through that old Madame Savanier had had a stroke and may not live until medics could arrive from town.. The Padre´s comfort was needed, and he would come. Shortly after the hinges, listeners heard an engine sputtering to life, with occasional backfirings of an exhaust. The old Citroen was not enjoying this outing.
Emerging tentatively from the alley behind the church she started circumventing the square, windscreen wipers battling the rainfall. The cassocked figure of Father LeFevre hunched over the steering wheel, trying to see his way. Eyes from surrounding windows watched his progress… In truth, he did not get far. The fords outside the village were too deep and his car was soon stranded – yet all was not lost. The word was soon out – the Padre needed help. Despite savage conditions, almost every family volunteered menfolk out on the road ready to push the Citroen from the water. Farmer Bessier brought his tractor and trailer. Before towing the car, he offered the Padre a speedier ride to the Savanier house. Two village women took a box of donated provisions and warm blankets, and accompanied the Father, offering nursing care. The whole community united, to aid the Padre and Madame Savanier…
It was touch and go through the night, but by early next morning, old Monsieur Savanier was informed by the hospital his wife would be fine. Father LeFevre, blessed him and took his leave, hitching a ride with neighbours back into the village. The pale blue sky, now washed and clear held a radiant sun to warm his tired body, for which he gave thanks.. Back in the square, parked at the mouth of the alley behind the church, was his old maroon Citroen, waiting to return to her quarters, behind the wrought iron gates.