I was awakened after only a few hours by fighting in the street below, but it turned out to be mere fisticuffs. Comforted, I headed to Ric’s Place to mooch leftovers.
While I was chewing, a priest who was a big LES DIY fan three months ago barged in and demanded in Spanish that an elderly woman who was making pasta leave with him. When she looked down and kept working, I saw that her hands were shaking. Then he started yelling that we were doing the devil’s work. I’ve never seen a priest act so medieval. Everyone was speechless.
The priest’s relative youth, unusual accent, and black clerical costume caused two recent LES DIY recruits—kitchen staffers—to think it was a joke. They hooted and tossed stale rolls at him, which provoked the older woman to scream at them in Spanish. (She belongs to the parish in question.) They thought that was funny, too, till she flung boiling water at them. This accidentally scalded a DIYer who was scrubbing an oven. It was a domino run of sociopolitical catastrophe.
By the time Anna came upstairs to reestablish order, the priest wasn’t interested in listening to a younger woman a third his size. In a voice that grew heartier and louder with each syllable, he denounced the LES DIY’s sinful, sinister ways and its lack of standing with the government. (The LES DIY did, in fact, register with RAISE; because the group was not licensed as a charity, it wasn’t taken seriously and never received a response. This was fine with Anna & Co., who sought neither subsidies nor approval, but left them open to the preposterous charge that they are not authorized to help anyone during a national emergency.)
When the priest ran out of rhetoric and paused for air, Anna told him to get out. I was shocked. She pointed to the door. Lifting his own finger to the heavens, then leveling it at Anna as if she intended to abort the Second Coming, the priest called on the Almighty to crush the LES DIY and anyone who sought the group’s help. He was cursing us all—even the families we feed.
Anna stood her ground. She wasn’t raised Catholic. She said he’d said enough. She was right, but I would never have said that to him. It didn’t turn out well.
A dishwasher headed for the door, followed by the cook who had thrown water. Anna took the women’s hands to thank them for all they had done. The older one was crying, The priest watched, expressionless in victory. He used to enjoy joking with Ric. They drank cognac together at least once. How could this have happened?