nd so it was that the two companions sallied forth through the winding streets that bright evening in May. With joy in their hearts and a song on their lips, they made their way to the stone building perched on the hill.
But wait! What is that sound? A lilting voice serenades them.
"We're closed, unless you've come to worship.
We're closed, unless you've come to worship.
We're closed, unless you've come to worship."
As our voyagers round the corner into a flood of evening sunlight, they see the source of the greeting: a merry, paunchy little apparition robed in black.
"Have yis come to worship, or haven't yis? Cuz if not, we're closed, and if so, then yis are nearly late!"
"No, uh, we were just having a look at the building. The history of it, and the architecture..."
"Architecture is it? Ho-ho-ho-HO!!!!"
He starts to jiggle with enthusiasm, and fists the air with little downward punches.
"Well," his eyes sparkle, "this building was built before the age of the flying buttress. So it nearly fell apart down the middle. BUT!" his eyes widen, "Now she has the buttresses, she could hold up three or four aircraft carriers!"
Our friends are taken aback at this piece of information. They look at each other in wonder. During which war, rebellion or rising were aircraft carriers put on the roof?
But the spark in the verger's eye grows brighter still.
"I'll tell you another good cathedral though! There's a one in America," his voice takes on a hushed reverence, "the Crystal Cathedral. An' it's all glass! It's all glass, an' you can see through it! And ye'd even sometimes think that the pipe organ and the angels playin' the pipes were floating in the air, cuz it's all glass and crystal! There's a wee man in it with no arms and no legs, and he shimmies up and down the table. He's a fantastic preacher an' teacher. Wild fella, he is. Just like our priest. He's a great practical joker, our priest is. Oooooh, he's a wild fella. Great practical joker!"
The companions nod demurely. He's now in his flow, and they doubt their ability to hold back the tide as walls, dykes and flying buttresses crumble before it.
"But I don't mind – I've spent time as a soldier, and an engineer, and a truck driver, and I even spent forty years as an atheist! Ye see, we're a very liberal religion. If yer not of our faith ye can come in, look around, pray...ye can wear yer hat or take it off, if that's yer tradition, if yer a Rastafarian... If ever you see a job as a verger in a cathedral, JUMP on it!"
"Wonderful job! Very fulfillin'! Ye can be oilin' bodies one minute, an' changin' light bulbs the next! ...Sorry, the cathedral's closed now, unless you've come for evening prayers..."
"But it can be a very daaaaaangerous job, too! Ye can even be thumped! Now I'm lucky. I'm not the kind of person people want to thump. But the other fella - Oh! He's the kind makes people want to thump him. He was thumped twice by angry tourists, when I'd traded him shifts!"
His shoulders heave in guilty mirth.
"But one time I nearly got thumped. There was a carload of [swarthy ladies and gentlemen presumably from the east] parked over there. Probably had to spend the day in court. So I clamped them! And humbly asked them to donate to a good cause. And it was a good cause – you see, we have our staff party at Easter, down in the crypt, not at Christmas. And we were still missing the money for the wine!"
His shoulders shake liberally in a fit of laughter. Our companions look at each other. They wonder how long this will continue, and one lights a cigarette to sustain him.
"But what's worse than that is the French - infidels they are, infidels! They don't know how to behave in a spiritual place..."
The companions walk off in a daze, looking for coffee, food, and an understanding of the word 'liberal'.