Sweat rolled down the back of Justin’s choir robes, creating a momentary trail of relief. The great cathedral‘s dim interior, normally so cool and refreshing, sweltered in the mid July heat wave. The large oaken doors were propped open, inviting in the stagnant stuffy air along with the dark suited men and somberly dressed women, cravats tucked and lacy hats doffed at an angle to suggest fashion aplomb in the soberest of settings.
The polished stone floor shone with the wearing of feet over time, the imperfections rounded and the seams smoothed, creating a unity that did not reflect in the guests, who seated themselves by orientation, rather than by family as was normal pew arrangement.
Still, into the first rows of the left side, the finely clad attendees lined up by social status and pocketbook weight, eager to show their somber faces to a nation held enthralled by the tragic events of the last few hours.
Justin pulled at the tight red collar of his robes as a dribble of perspiration tracked down the side of his face. He tried to not fidget; Father Stanton was quick to smack a stray hand or an unwary backside. Fidgeting tightened the vocal cords and threw off the resonance in the choir chambers.
As his hand dropped to his side and the left side pews filled with mourners, commotion stirred in the silhouette of the door frame. Police pushed back spectators and shadowed forms moved, blocking the brilliant white light of high noon.
A loud rumbling echoed through the open doorway, magnifying and bouncing off the walls and soaring into the lofts above. Abruptly the roaring ceased and as the echoes died away, the light was blocked once again by figures.
Leather clad bikers, in vests that ended at shoulders and arms, so heavily tattooed that the occasional open section so skin gleamed in the refracting light. They entered the cathedral, looking ever so much like supplicants, removing head-gear and taking seats in the last rows of the pews, on the aisle closest to the exit.
Immediately behind them came a group of youths, hoodies pulled up to shadow their face. Low cut jeans and tennis shoes, scribbled with graffiti completed their ensemble. They eyed both the bikers and the high society with equal suspicion. They filed down the length between the pews and took the closest pews to the front, slouching into the stiff backed seating as though made of melting jelly.
Silence descended. A moment or two later, a half-dozen bag pipes appeared in the yawning mouth of the cathedral. With a squeak and a squawk, the bagpipes filled and wheezed the opening strains of Amazing Grace. The haunting music filled the chamber and the bag pipers began a slow procession to the front of the church.
Immediately behind them, a white and pristine coffin appeared, born between pall bearers. Every one was a child. The mournful procession wound its way, on tiny feet toward the bishop’s ambo. They paused in front and putting the casket on the stand, kissed it one last time, before taking reserved seating in the front row, to both sides.
He took a deep breath and sang, his pure tenor voice lifting to the rafters, joy mixed with fear, hope mixed with grief. Tears joined the sweat on his cheeks and a quick glance showed he was not alone. All eyes clung to him, desperate for hope, desperate for reason, desperate for understanding.
The lonely coffin, draped now in a spray of pink roses and delicate babies breath, was suddenly flooded by a rainbow of sunlight, piercing the stained glass window on the western wall.
A shocked silence quivered in the air. Justin shivered, his sweat of seconds ago replaced by a chill. Someone coughed. Knuckles cracked.
English Idiom: “Had the Biscuit”
This phrase was common in Canada when I was growing up. It was well-known to mean that something or someone was broken, or dead, or no longer useful.
One blogger suggests that the idiom can be traced back to the church. Karen Hill writes:
“If someone has “had the biscuit,” they’re definitely done, regardless of the circumstances.
The expression has its origins in a Protestant allusion to the Roman Catholic sacrament of Extreme Unction.
Biscuit is a contemptuous reference to the host, the sacramental wafer used by Catholics during the issuing of the last rites to a dying person.
If he’s “had the biscuit,” it’s all over.
And that’s why we say that someone who’s finished or fired has “had the biscuit”.
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