Mr. Molassess was a steeple chaser; he couldn’t help it; he had been that way all his life. Put a steeple in front of him, and puff he was off in a cloud of dust—which, granted this was Mr. Molassess, was none too cloudy, nor too dusty. He looked up just in time to see a blackbird land on the ledge above him; there were a lot of blackbirds around this winter. Two more landed. It was like in that Hitchcock movie. They seemed to be menacing the old building. This is the church, this is the steeple, open the door and see all the people. It seemed as though birds were taking over the bell tower. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pyre.
Mr. Molasses had promised himself that he would get Father Paul to let him go up into the bell tower and ring the bell. It was the one thing that united all steeple chasers. They all saw their ultimate goal was to ring the bell in the steeple. And it would scare away the birds. Mr. Molasses belonged to a small loosely connected group of steeple chase bell ringers called the Quasimodo Club.
Mr. Molasses was, for one of the few times in his life, in a situation in which he had no experience. He was early. A whole half hour early. He didn’t know what to do with himself. It was only 10:30 in the morning! Mr. Molasses was a virgin waiter, that’s for sure. It was one of the distinct advantages of moving at such a snail’s pace. Take right now. He crawled towards the little cemetery, looking for a distraction. There is nothing like a visit to a cemetery to put time into its proper perspective. Sometimes the epitaphs could be amusing. But at other times they were scary and harrowing, something of a tossup. You wander around like a pinball in a pinball machine until you find a tombstone you can still read. Even though it was still January, it was not cold and Mr. Molasses had on his heavy parker—his nosey parker—so he might just as well nose around in the cemetery some. At the back by a semi-frozen pond, he found an epitaph that he could read. So lonely, alone/a carver of stone/ all dressed up to go home. It was written by one Ebenezer Reed in 1404. Very scary, very harrowing.
Mr. Molasses returned to the front of the church. He still had fifteen minutes; he felt like he was wasting too much time. He read the plaque by the front door. The Church of the Companion, huh? This had to be a hoax. There was no saint who was named Paramour. Go ahead, look it up. Might as well call it The Cathedral of the Courtesan. Or the Coquette’s Chapel. Mr. Molasses looked at the old church with renewed admiration. He wondered if Father Paul could be right. That the church of St. Paramour predated the coming of Christianity to the new world, and that the stone carvings hidden in the mezzanine were pre-Columbian in origin.
Father Paul came across from the rectory, at precisely 11:00, looking tired and distracted. Mr. Molasses, because he knew where to look, could see the Baker Street Irregulars (the BSI) as they carefully closed ranks around Father Paul—’changing the stage’—which in the argot of this wholly original film company—all graduates of Oxford, by the way—was a nice way of saying they were going to film every move you made without your knowing it. Pick your nose, scratch your balls, and it will end up in their archive. Mr. Molasses had gotten the idea from Benedict Cumberbatch. Apparently, it was the latest thing in the continent, Surveillance Cinema, as they called it. Part spying—you were supposed to get the, uh, ‘target’s’ permission, but…that was missing the point. It was also cutting-edge film making. And part revelation. At first Mr. Molasses was caught up in the ethics of it all; you know, it violated pretty seriously a basic right to privacy. Still, there was the consolations of art, the necessities of art: man, Mr. Molasses was sure man was a creative animal and as such had to follow the diamonds of his art, his creative praxis. Hum, the ‘diamond of his art’ Mr. Molasses liked that…so he decided to give the BSI a test. He’d have them follow someone he was sure would have no skeletons in his closet—someone like Father Paul. Mr. Molasses was sure Father Paul was clean, wasn’t he? Sometimes you can be surprised … but yes, he was sure. Anyway, this was just a test. In a couple of days he would rein in the BSI and turn them away from Father Paul. Then he could judge whether or not they were any good for him to use as part of his repertoire. If the BSI did find a red herring in Father Paul’s closet, if the material did get raunchy, he didn’t have to use it. And if Father Paul got wind of what was going on—and this seemed likely, he wasn’t stupid—for how could a whole camera crew disappear into the woodwork? Mr. Molasses would try to make a short video about prayer or something. Something exculpatory. And if it did work out, he would sic the BSI onto the petticoat of James Whale. Mr. Molasses needed something serious on James Whale; for James Whale was trying to steal The Merchant of Vengeance from him. Mr. Molasses was sure of it. And Mr. Molasses was afraid he might succeed, the motion picture industry was not for panty-waists.
Ok here we are in Act 1 Scene 1: The Church of the St. Paramour. Enter stage right, Father Paul. Mr. Molasses dressed in his nosey-parker parka, wearing his deerstalker cap is waiting for him center stage. He felt like he had been waiting for Godot; he was so bored; he was annoyed. The landscape fish eyed around them as they talk quietly before going inside.
On the edge of space, the blackbird or just after.
Father Paul had called him last night, all breathless and excited. Mr. Molasses could barely understand him, something about a new Michelangelo. A third World Michelangelo. It seems there were statues, gargoyles, locked up in a private room in the mezzanine of the church. Father Paul told him to ‘prepare for a lifetime’, whatever that meant. All Mr. Molasses would have to do is scale the walls of the church, climb up into a hidden room—and behold.
All he had to do was scale the high arching wall of St. Paramours…
Let’s take a deep breath and think what Father Paul was asking. This was Mr. Molasses, the famous Mr. Molasses, the one noted for his inability to go uphill (especially in January). Mr. Molasses and Father Paul were in an ancient church that might be hundreds of years old, with warn old stone for walls and old stone statues and old stone crosses. Shards of rock were broken and crumbling. Father Paul must have slipped a cog or something to think that Mr. Molasses would be able to scale a wall like this. Long sheer panels with no hand-holds, and he was in his street clothes, without the proper boots, ropes, carabiners, or anything. This was crazy talk. Father Paul might as well suggest he grow wings and fly up to the nest the blackbirds are building up in the rafters. Talk about bats in his belfry. Father Paul could climb any damn thing he wanted. Mr. Molassess would have to increase his healthcare insurance before he started up that wall. Remember what happened to Pollyanna.
He was about to sneak out on Father Paul—vacate and vamoose—when, as if from the rough rock itself, a figure appeared. It was one of the BSI. Perfectly disguised to blend into the rock. He stood aside and smiled, waited. He looked like a statue of John the Baptist, at least Mr. Molasses thought it was John the Baptist. He was the one whose head ended up on a platter, right? At any rate, he whispered to Mr. Molasses to ‘walk this way’ and disappeared into a pattern in the rock.
Mr. Molasses was surprised. Father Paul looked amazingly agile as he scaled the interior of St. Paramour. Mr. Molasses was reminded of Johnny Weissmuller, swinging through the trees, as Tarzan. He was reminded of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, (the movie version, with Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara), how Esmeralda was about to be hung. Quasimodo climbs around the gargoyles and the other stonework that decorated the steeple—this was the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, that he was hunchback of—and swoops down like a deformed King Kong to snatch Esmeralda away from being tortured and tormented and hung out to dry. He calls out as he returns to the sanctity of the Church, ‘Sanctuary!’ It is one of the great moments of cinema history. When Father Paul got up to the first parable, he looked back, as though he expected to see Mr. Molasses still hesitating. But Mr. Molasses played it cool, he acted like climbing up into a mezzanine is something he did every day. What the heck. It was only a short climb, it wasn’t like it was scaling the north face of Everest, or that he’d jumped over the moon, embalmed and flaking, turning to sugar. Wait until you see him rappelling down from the steeple.
Father Paul lead him down a short passage that looked like it was cut for a pyramid, came to a small cleft in the rock, stuck his head through, drew back, and shouted, ‘Tah-Dah’ and stood dramatically aside to let Mr. Molasses see something truly breathtaking. Mr. Molasses had been to the British Museum, he’d seen the Elgin Marbles, and what was in this old dusty room, buried in the mezzanine of the Church of the Companion, was equal to the bold forms and the dramatic poses to those ‘British’ stone carvings. A miracle of the ancient world. The artistic equivalent of Plato’s Republic. For once in his life Mr. Molasses couldn’t find anything to say; he wanted to show them to Mrs. Molasses, he wanted to show them to Sweetness, he wanted to show them to the whole world. Mr. Molasses thought for a minute to call the BSI out of the rocks, this discovery of an ancient sculpture was more important than a short film about a prayer. It was a good thing he didn’t. The diamonds in his art were about to be returned to charcoal.