by Roger Noons
a glass of communion wine
I looked after Father Alberto during his final months. At seventy four he had retired, moving from the house adjoining the church to a casita in the valley. The lane leading to his dwelling passed through an orange grove. It was quiet compared with the 35 years he had spent in and around the Port, which as well as having a marina, provided the base for eight trawlers, twenty small fishing boats and in summertime, more than two thousand residents and tourists.
As he weakened, he welcomed fewer visitors. The only regular was Don Antonio Colom, who had been Mayor of Porto Llevant for many years. Don Antonio stayed for a few minutes and when he left, he would ask if Father talked about the old days.
My answer was always the same. ‘I am Father Alberto’s nurse, we do not speak of personal matters or what he might have learnt via the confessional.’
Nodding, the former Mayor would hand me an envelope. ’See that he gets everything he needs.’
It was following what proved to be Dr Torres, penultimate visit that the Father asked me to launder his best shirt and under garments. ‘I want to be laid out in my Easter vestments, Maria.’
‘Of course, Father.’
‘Come and sit here, I wish to tell you about the night of the Fiesta de Santa Andrea. We were in the church for the celebration, it was standing room only. Mayor Colom and his family occupied the front pew.’
I smiled. His breathing was laboured, some words indistinct.
‘We were half way through the service when there was a deep, low rumble and the church as well as many other buildings, shook. While I paused, wondering what might have happened, people rushed out, ran towards the harbour. The Mayor and I followed. The sea was boiling; there were fish everywhere. People later told us the harbour wall was layered with mussels and clams. Our people had never seen such a situation, never witnessed such a vast harvest.’
He rested, drank greedily from a tumbler of water.
‘As it was dark, few fish were lost to the gulls and many containers appeared. Boats were launched, men women and children gathered the fish. Grandparents and toddlers, some using pillow cases and knotted sheets were busy on the beach. Happy parishioners came to where I stood with the Mayor.’
‘A miracle Father, Santa Andrea rewarding us for our loyalty.’
‘Before I could speak, the Mayor answered.’
‘Indeed, a true miracle. We are obviously meant to enjoy our good fortune.’
‘As he left, Colom stressed that would be the official explanation. He came to me the following day to confirm that no evidence had been found of an exploding war-time mine, but that might be the likely cause of the eruption.’
‘So there was no miracle, Father?’
‘On the contrary, Maria. Every day that the bomb had not detonated and injured or killed someone, was a miracle.’