Sometimes, things just come together with no advanced planning or scheduling. I like to call these moments gifts from the writing gods. And the month of June here on Flash Fiction Fridays is one such gift. Each of these flash pieces harkens back to childhood, whether through old bedtime stories or mythical beasts of imagination.
I hope you enjoy this piece by R. Doug Wicker.
Bob the Bell Ringer
By R. Doug Wicker
After Quasimodo’s unfortunate and rather sad ending, the Archbishop of Paris sent forth throughout the lands a proclamation advertising for a replacement bell ringer for his beloved Notre Dame Cathedral. But the Archbishop was a busy man, so he handed off the task of conducting the job interviews to the least senior priest, Father Barclay “Bat” Belfry.
Unfortunately, the archbishop was notoriously cheap, and the advertised salary did little to attract qualified candidates, so the requirement for an MA in bell ringing had to be waived for the sole applicant for the job, a man known only a Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer. But there was a problem far beyond Bob’s lack of a college degree in bell ringing. He lacked something else even more important, at least in the eyes of Father Bat Belfry.
For, you see, Bob had neither hands nor arms, and how does one pull on the bell ropes without the prerequisite “tools” for the job? To put it bluntly, Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer . . . just wasn’t handy enough for the task. And it was precisely on this point that Father Bat initially declined to hire Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer.
But Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer . . . was both persistent and persuasive in getting Father Bat to test his bell ringing skills. And so it was, with some trepidation, that Father Bat and Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer, made the trek to the belfry of Notre Dame for the audition.
Reaching his favorite architectural feature, the belfry, Father Bat pointed to the main bell and said, “Okay, Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer . . . here’s your chance. Show me what you’ve got.”
So, Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer . . . stepped all the way back to the precipice, lowered his head, and took off at a full run for the bell. He struck the bell full-force directly with his face, and the bell responded with what was perhaps the most pleasing sound Father Bat had ever heard. It was positively beautiful, and far richer than that achieved through the bell’s clapper alone.
Unfortunately, Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer . . . was so stunned by the impact that he stumbled backward and fell to his death in the streets below.
A group of Parisians started gathering around the body. Two of the bystanders, who happened to go by the typical French names of Louis and Crabbe, were looking down at the body and just shaking their heads. Suddenly, Crabbe pointed down at the body and said to Louis, “Hey! Isn’t that . . . isn’t that Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer?”
Louis shrugged and said, “The name’s not familiar, but the face sure rings a bell.”
But wait. That’s not all.
The next day Father Bat was surprised by the early morning visit of a man who looked just like the hapless Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer. And just like Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer . . . this young man also had no college degree, no hands, and no arms.
The stranger explained, “My name is Bill . . . Bill the Bell Ringer. I’m Bob’s . . . Bob the Bell Ringer’s . . . twin brother, and I’m here to restore the family honor by taking up where my brother fell short.”
Father Bat replied, “Your brother Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer . . . did not fall short. He fell all the way to the street.”
“That’s not exactly what I meant,” said Bill . . . Bill the Bell Ringer.
Regardless of what Bill . . . Bill the Bell Ringer . . . meant, Father Bat was adamant that the horrors of the day before would not be repeated. He was already in deep trouble with the Archbishop for being stupid enough to audition Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer.
There was no way he wanted to repeat that error.
But after hours of begging and pleading, Father Bat found himself leading the way back into the belfry with Bill . . . Bill the Bell Ringer . . . in tow. Reaching the top, Bill repeated his brother’s performance by backing up and launching himself full-force and full-face directly into the fabled main bell. And once again the bell let loose with the most beautiful sound Father Bat had ever heard, even more beautiful than that from the day before.
Unfortunately, Bill . . . Bill the Bell Ringer . . . proved no less susceptible to the rigors of ringing a bell with his face than had his brother Bob . . . Bob the Bell Ringer. And so it was with horror that Father Bat watched as the stunned Bill . . . Bill the Bell Ringer . . . took the same path to glory as that of his brother, plunging into the streets below.
Once again, in the streets of Paris, and for the second day in a row, a crowd of Parisians gathered around yet another fallen bell ringer. In the crowd, just as they were before, were the two friends, Crabbe and Louis.
And just like the day before, Crabbe pointed to the lifeless body and said to Louis, “Hey! Isn’t that . . . isn’t that Bill . . . Bill the Bell Ringer?”
Louis rubbed his jaw thoughtfully before replying, “You know, I’m not really sure. But I know one thing.”
“What’s that?” Crabbe asked
“This guy’s a dead ringer for the guy who was here yesterday.”
R. Doug Wicker is the author of two mystery novels, The Globe and Decisions. He is a graduate of Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan. He attended college for two years at Clemson University before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. His stint in the Air Force began a thirty-four-year career as an air traffic controller, serving with both the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration. Today, Wicker lives in El Paso with his lovely wife, Ursula, whom he married in 1978. He enjoys writing, reading, travel, art, photography, gourmet cooking, fine wines, and bridge (the game, not the structure). To learn more about Doug, visit his blog.
Photo courtesy of http://googlegadgetworld.com/Italy/France/.