The devil appeared in the form of Mrs. McKenzie, at least that’s how it appeared to Father Lassiter, as he eyed the goodies on show, and felt his appetite quicken.
“Mrs. McKenzie, may I remind you that we are in the Advent Season, and this should be a time of fasting as we await the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Mrs. McKenzie, as plump and round and as sweet inside as her mince pies, replied ” Save the fasting for Lent, Father, Advent is a time of rejoicing for the babe to be reborn in us all. I will not contemplate the suffering of Christ at Advent, for this is not a season of suffering but joyfulness.”
Mrs. McKenzie had worked as a cook and housekeeper for thirty years, caring for four Carmelite Religious, who in turn cared for a congregation of 2,500. She saw the priests come and go every seven years, each with their own idiosyncracies, and each dealing with spirituality in their own unique way. She was not about to give up her favorite pastime, baking, or her favorite time of year, Christmas, for anything or anyone.
Father Lassiter continued to try and persuade Mrs. McKenzie to curb her penchant for baking and join him in fasting till Christmas Eve. She in turn refused to budge an inch.
” Let me march alongside the Little Drummer Boy to the stable in Bethlehem in my own way, and I would take it kindly if you could march out of my kitchen and beat your drum elsewhere”, regaled Mrs.McKenzie.
At that moment the bell buzzed on the priory door and Mrs.McKenzie hastened to answer. Standing at the door was Billie, pale of face, dark smudges under his eyes, running nose, thin as a twig.
“Hello, Mrs.McKenzie, my mom sent me around to ask if we are on the list for Christmas hampers this year. She said it’s been a hard year, food prices have gone up so much, and she just wanted to double check”
Mrs.McKenzie extended a hand and beckoned Billie inside seating him at the Kitchen table. She absentmindedly snatched a paper napkin and took a swipe at his nose with one hand while pouring milk into a pot with the other. Washing her hands, she placed three shortbread cookies and a mince pie in front of Billie.
“Here, Billie, get that down you while I make some hot chocolate for us”, cooed Mrs.McKenzie. Having made two piping hot mugs of hot chocolate she reached for the bottle of spiced rum, which she was using to flavor the dried fruit spread in a tray on the counter, and poured a liberal portion into her hot chocolate. She then settled down at the kitchen table with Billie.
Father Lassiter, taking in the scene, used that opportunity to secure a mince tart and spirit it away out of sight as he strolled to the door.
Mrs.McKenzie’s, her eyes glinting, missing nothing that happened in her kitchen, smiled contentedly to herself.