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Carer of the Bells

A Short Story

By Taylor InmanPublished about a year ago 7 min read

Carer of the Bells

I live in the church tower - in a small room just below the gigantic brass bell that everybody knows. Very few of them know me, but they all know that I exist - I have to, otherwise the bell would never ring. My home has a bed, a table and comfortable, if old chair, an oil lamp, and a few bookshelves. Most of the books are religious, but I do have some learned and nonfiction books. Bound in leather, regularly cleaned of dust and mites, they've been my most steadfast companions since the position of church caretaker was bestowed upon me.

The thing about being the carer of the bell is, after some time, you don't leave the tower much. Almost too many flights of stairs makes it more trouble than its worth with these aging joints. After some more time, people start to forget about you - you become invisible. But, when you're not ringing the bells, the tower is completely silent. The church is halfway to a cathedral, elegant arches and stained windows disappearing into the rafters and bell tower above. With that silence comes the echoes of the church, the steeple, and all the people within.

Every marriage, every communion, each Easter and all the Christmases - until it was time to ring the bell, I heard it all. Nobody knows me - or cares to know me, anyway, living at the top of a seemingly-endless flight of stairs in a shack atop a castle. But I know them.

The Smiths married last Fall, right on the equinox. Three months later they baptized their first child. Progressive folks like myself overlooked the discrepancy, but I could tell the church was emptier than normal when they blessed the young babe. The couple is happy, however, and the baby is healthy - that's all anyone should really be worried about.

The Henkels thought differently, whispering after congregation one day, lingering behind to speak with the Priest about what should have been done, what the Church thought of it. I'm not a religious man myself, but I did rather enjoy the scripture the Priest quoted back to them: "Judge not, lest ye be judged yourselves." They sounded suitably chastised as they left, their footsteps sharp and hurried against the Priest's sedate pace.

The next sermon was on the acceptance of one another and supporting other members of the congregation, regardless of difference of opinions. "We're all sheep of the same flock, even if our wool tints differently or the quality of our pastures vary." I believed that more than the rest of it, allegory and re-translated and mistranslated quotes meant to soothe bruised egos and foster better understanding between people of different origins.

The Priest was as much of a peacemaker as he was a proselytizer; He had always been good at his job. I realized that he looked at it exactly like that, too, late one night after mass when the Priest made his way to my humble abode at the peak of the parish. We talked over a simple dinner of ham, beans, bread and wine, and he confessed to me that, after The War, he stopped being much of a Believer.

The things he saw, he said, were so ungodly that it broke his faith in The Lord entirely. It didn't break his faith in People, though - in war, on either side, he saw people come together and overcome things he could never imagine. Which is why he kept his cloth, maintained his facade, and spoke to his church about real matters just as much as holy matters. He tried to teach them to be better people, Good people, regardless of their faith or the source of their beliefs. He quoted the classics - turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor, thou shalt not murder or steal - and he spoke to them of more complicated matters.

Miss Sophie, a long-time teacher at the school and beloved member of the community, had been assaulted by a man on the street. When the town massed together and brought the man to the church to be "taught the error of his ways," physically and violently, the Priest intervened. He did not speak of forgiveness nor faith that day, but of Justice and Liberty. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's - this man had commited sins against God and Humanity, and while God will judge him when his time comes, let us not usher it closer. Let Caesar judge him too, and let the man's suffering and punishment be twofold for the magnitude of the crime he has committed.

The town loved the speech. The molester, not so much, but better a broken arm and hand and a ride with the constable to prison and sentencing than drawing and quartering at the hands of an angry mob.

The Priest thought so as well, although he confessed to me - once more - that it was he who broke the man's fingers, escorting him out of the church and to the police. Evil men will do evil things until they are taught that such things will lead to consequences, he said. Both God and War taught him such - war just emphasized the necessity for immediacy in those consequences. Just like training dogs, they have to know what they did was wrong as soon as they do it, otherwise the lesson refuses to sink in. It was surprisingly practical for a priest, but given our previous conversations, not much of a surprise at all to me.

Not existing to anyone but a few turns you into something of a holy figure yourself, I suppose. My little bell tower became another place of confession, with time. Generations of Priests, some choir members, and the very rare church-goers occasionally made their pilgrimage to my doorstep. I had long since removed the door - I'd hear them coming long before they ever arrived - and often times I would have tea or coffee ready and waiting by the time they crossed the threshold.

It was the little things that added to the air of divinity and mysticism the church held, and it amused me to no end to foster that feeling and let people come to their own conclusions. I'm a normal man, a simple human - but to them I was always so much more. They gave so much power to a meaningless title, a job I never asked to have, and I never felt like disabusing them of that notion.

Like I said, it's about the little things. When you've lived above the masses your whole life and see how the big things affect them, you can find the little ways to help them along as well.

I'm no priest or scholar, but after listening to people, their problems, their strife and their bliss for decades, I know them. They don't know me, and likely they never will, but I'll always have an open ear or a word of advice if they make their way up the stairs to my demesne. They'll be surprised at first, then grateful, and then they might come back for another cup or two until they've had their fill, and then they'll forget about me.

It's a lonely life sometimes, but I know I'm making a difference somewhere, with someone. No war, no politics, just people and their problems, and a conversation over a warm drink. A solace in the night, a balm to the stresses of life. When the bells aren't ringing, you'll find me at the top of the stairs, maybe a bit weary and getting a little white around the temples, but always happy to have a spot of conversation or just to listen in on whatever ails you. I might have heard it before, but I'll never tell. Just take care not too stay too long, or you may become my replacement. It's not the best job, but I can promise that it's a rewarding one.

Short Story

About the Creator

Taylor Inman

I'm a Computer Engineering major who enjoys reading, writing, fitness, and Crafts, and who occasionally writes stuff that can be published. Most is opinion, some is fact, a good majority is fiction - unless otherwise specified. Enjoy!

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