Vinny makes a big splash on Holy Communion Day
Good deed backfires when the burly bus driver steps forward to aid an old pal in a sudden crisis
As an attentive godfather, Vinny Fitzpatrick felt his duties on Holy Communion Day were akin to those of the best man at a wedding.
It explained why he was on schedule, and dressed smartly – in his only suit – when he arrived at Brennie’s gaffe in Seafield Avenue at ten bells, armed with a card and a crisp €50 note for young Master Benjamin, aged eight and a half.
Vinny felt Communion Day was like Christmas for nippers, only better in some ways. For starters, the weather was warmer, and the gifts came in enticing envelopes, rather than layers of fancy wrapping.
Vinny didn’t agree with cash donations as he heard it led to bragging rights in school over who got the most lolly, but as ‘the godfather’, he was damned if anyone was to trump his contribution. So, a nifty-fifty it was.
Anyway Benny was a smart and polite kid, whose only failing was an unhealthy allegiance to Manchester United. For that, he could blame his father.
The mood in Brennie’s home was sunny, a refreshing change after that messy business in the bank a few years back where Brennie salted away a secret stash to fuel a spiralling gambling habit. He’d almost lost his job, his wife and his liberty but somehow he’d clawed his way back from the brink.
After a quick cuppa and a toasted white pudding sarnie, it was time for the short walk to St Gabriel’s for Communion Mass. Predictably, the place was jammers as teachers from Belgrove NS did their best to shepherd the kids into their assigned pews.
Vinny was squeezing his bulky frame into the row behind Benny when he felt a tug on his arm. He looked around to see Fr Leo Lavelle, the parish priest. He went way back with Leo, to their days in St Joey’s in Fairview.
“Alright, Leo, what’s the story,” he said.
“Our only altar boy, I mean server, has cried off at short notice. Could you spare us an hour, Vinny?” pleaded Leo
“Yep, Leo, no probs. Gives me an excuse to take off this bloody jacket,” said Vinny .
It was 40 years since Vinny last served in St Gabriel’s but the instincts hammered into him, quite literally, in the late 1960s by the priests of the time, stood to his stead.
With steady hands, he made sure the microphones were at the right height for the readers and the offertory gifts were in place.
At the Eucharistic Prayer, he dinged the bell, loud and clear – so much so that Leo stole a glance at him over his glasses. Undeterred, for he was enjoying himself, Vinny gave it another dong before the Communion ritual.
Then the script went awry. Vinny opened the tabernacle and withdrew a shiny chalice full of hosts about to be presented to 180 expectant kids for the first time.
As he turned towards a waiting Leo Lavelle, and a covey of ministers of the Eucharist, Vinny missed the first step by the altar. Instinctively, he threw out a hand to safe himself from falling. As he did, the hosts rocketed skywards.
There was a gasp from the congregation as the slender wafers fluttered high before gravity drew them back to terra firma.
Like snowflakes, they dropped softly to the altar and the surrounding steps. One landed in a cruet, another on Leo Lavelle’s baldy bonce.
As a red-faced Vinny scrambled to his feet and began to scoop up the hosts, Fr Leo raised a hand. “Vinny, not now. There are spares in the tabernacle, if you don’t mind.” As Vinny sheepishly left the snowy altar, giggles broke out. The kids at least had seen the funny side.
Later, over sugary tea, fresh sandwiches and cakes in the parish hall, there was much mirth over Vinny’s host howler. “Sure, it could happen to a bishop,” cracked Brennie.
His wife, Geraldine said she’d hadn’t laughed as much in ages. ‘When that host landed on Leo Lavelle’s head, I just cracked up.”
While the good-natured reaction eased Vinny’s embarrassment, the burly bus driver vowed there would be no more screw-ups, not when he was on godfather call.
For the Communion party back in Brennie’s gaffe, Vinny was in redemption mode. He worked non-stop as buffet co-ordinator and official topper-up of glasses.
When the adults snuck inside for the FA Cup final, Vinny oversaw a game of ‘O’Grady Says’ in the garden and even went in goal for a penalty shoot-out, which Benny won.
Mostly, the kids got stuck into the bouncy castle, a green and yellow affair. It was strictly for the young ’uns, who removed their shoes before springing up and down like epileptic pogo sticks.
How they didn’t smack heads off one another was beyond Vinny.
By half seven, the FA Cup was back in Arsenal’s hands, parents had rounded up the bairns and Benny was on his ipad. The garden was quiet, save for the hum of the bouncy castle.
A few late callers had arrived, Macker, Fran, Charlie Vernon and Two-Mile Boris, armed with cans of stout. “Sure, I couldn’t let the day pass without the lads raising a glass to Benny,’ quipped Brennie as he heaped nuts and crisps on a table.
Vinny didn’t need a second invitation for he was drained after a long day and gasping for a reviver. He was about to plonk down on a garden chair when a childish thought seized him. Quickly, he slipped off his shiny shoes and padded out on to the grass.
There, he marked out a ten-yard run before bolting into the bouncy castle. As 16 stones of prime Clontarf beef landed backside-first into the pumped up canvas, there was a squeal of joy from Vinny – quickly followed by a sudden hiss of air escaping.
Within seconds, the castle walls, ramparts and towers had shrunk inwards. All that could be seen were two fat trotters sticking out from under the deflated covers.
“Look, he’s like the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz ,’ said Macker.
As the lads doubled up, a strangled cry could be heard from within. “Would youse munchkins ever shift gear and gerr us outta here!”