02-01-2013, 03:18 PM
Criss was awakened by a small pink nose nudging his ear accompanied by the sound of purring. He turned over, sniffling and snorting, staring groggily at his cat, Hammie, who in turn stared directly into his owner's face. Criss knew from experience that whenever Hammie stared him down like that, it meant feeding time.
Criss rolled over and buried his face in his pillow. "Not now, Hammie," he mumbled drowsily. "I'm too tired."
Again the purring and the nudging in his ear. Criss brushed his cat away and tried to go back to sleep. Hammie refused to be ignored; he was hungry and he wanted to be fed. Since the usual nudging and purring had failed, he tried a more direct approach by positioning himself right next to Criss's ear and giving him a single miaw directly into it.
That did the trick. Criss flinched at the sound of his cat's vocal demand for food. Realizing that he had no choice in the matter, Criss forced himself out of bed and padded to the cupboard where he kept Hammie's supply of cat food, wearing only his CK shorts and a bleary-eyed expression on his face. Hammie trotted alongside him expectantly. Criss grabbed the first can of cat food he found and fumbled around in the utility drawer for the can opener.
"Son of a (bleep)," he cursed under his breath as he sifted through the contents of the drawer. "Where the (bleep) is that (bleeping) can opener?"
Hammie miawed again. "Will you wait just a (bleeping) minute?" Criss snapped irritably. "I'm hurrying as fast as I can!"
The can opener was not in the drawer. In a fit of anger Criss slammed the drawer shut. It was then that he discovered that the can had a pull-top ring to open it. Criss siezed the can and wrenched the top open with one ferocious yank on the ring, then laid the can down in front of Hammie, not even bothering to empty it into a dish. Hammie tucked into his breakfast eagerly, oblivious to his owner's foul mood.
Criss padded back to bed, but no sooner did he step into the bedroom than he felt the overwhelming need to answer Nature's call regarding the three or four drink specials he had consumed at LAX the night before. He stumbled into the bathroom, positioned himself over the toilet and relieved himself. With that bit of personal business completed, he padded back into the bedroom to seek sweet repose once again in the comfort of his king-sized bed. He flopped down onto the mattress with a relieved grunt and tried to go back to sleep.
Then his cell phone rang. With an angry moan Criss siezed the accursed device and flipped it open, wondering irritably who in the world would have the nerve to call him so early on Sunday morning when he was trying to catch up on his sleep. "Hello?" he growled.
"Good morning, Christopher," he heard his mother's voice in his ear. "Did I wake you up?"
"Oh, hi, Mom," he mumbled hoarsly. "No, I...I had to feed Hammie, and...what's up?"
"Well, I am getting ready for Mass at Holy Trinity," Dimitra told him. "You want to come with me? It would be nice if you did."
Yeah, it would be nice if he did if he wasn't so dog-tired, he thought. "Uh, not right now, Mom," he said, forcing himself to be as gracious as he could. "I really need to catch up on my sleep, you know. I had a, uh, busy week."
Dimitra was not buying this lame excuse. "More like a late night at the club again," she retorted.
Criss smiled for the first time that morning; he could fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but he couldn't fool his mother. "Well, unless you want me falling asleep during the service..." he said.
"Never mind," Dimitra said, conceding defeat. "You go back to sleep. I'll meet you for dinner later."
Criss sighed with relief, glad he was off the hook. "Thanks, Mom. Say hi to Father Stefan for me, willya?"
"I will," Dimitra agreed, though Criss could sense that she would have preferred him saying hi to Father Stefan in person.
"I love you, Mom," Criss said.
"I love you, too, honey," Dimitra returned.
"I love you more. 'Bye."
Criss flipped off his phone and flopped back onto the mattress. Soon he was drifting off to sleep again, still clutching the cell phone in his hand.
The Mass had ended, and the congregation was filing out the door. Dimitra, modestly but stylishly dressed in a navy-blue dress suit and wide-brimmed hat, chatted pleasantly with the two other elderly women by her side, a Mrs. Kanakedes, a widow of twelve years, and a Mrs. Christoforos, whose husband was confined to the Desert Springs Nursing Facility not too far from the church.
"So good to have you back here, Dima," said Mrs. Kanakedes. "How long will you be staying here this time?"
"Probably until spring," Dimitra replied with a hint of resignation. "The winters in New York, they're really starting to bother me more than ever. I can't take the cold anymore."
"Nikolos was like that," Mrs. Christoforos told her. "We moved here to the Southwest after he retired because the winters in the Midwest aggravated his arthritis so badly he couldn't even walk. We planned to go to Florida, but it's too expensive down there, not to mention all the hurricanes they've been having."
"So true," Dimitra agreed. "Besides, all three of my sons are here in Las Vegas. Costa just bought himself a new house, a very large one, and very beautiful. My granddaughter goes to school here, so I have my immediate family at least."
"I don't see your family that often," Mrs. Kanakedes said. "You would think at least your son the famous magician would take the time to come to Mass."
"He would, if he wasn't so tired all the time," Dimitra said half-apologetically, half-defensively. "He's been here a few times in the past, so don't worry about him."
"A 'few times' is not sufficent, Dimitra," Mrs. Kanakedes retorted primly. "And you should be worried about him."
"Oh, I worry about him," Dimitra told her. "I worry about him a great deal. If you ever witnessed one of his stunts, you'd understand how much I worry about him."
By now the threesome had approached the vestibule of the church where Father Stefan waited to greet them. The good father greeted each of them in turn, first Mrs. Kanakedes, then Mrs. Christoforos, then Dimitra.
"Welcome back, Dimitra," Father Stefan said warmly.
"Thank you, Father." Dimitra placed a faux kiss on his cheek.
"And how are doing?" Father asked.
"Very well, Father, thank you."
"Are you alone today, or did you bring any of your family members with you?"
"I am afraid I am by myself today, Father," Dimitra sighed. "Maybe next time."
"Well, they'll be in my prayers," Father assured her. "Especially Christopher. He's not planning any more death-defying stunts, is he?"
"No, Father, thank God he's not," Dimitra replied. "He promised me no more dangerous stunts after that building implosion in Florida."
"Good. Tell him I'd like to see him again sometime."
"I'll tell him," Dimitra promised. "As soon as he wakes up, that is. He works so hard he doesn't get much sleep. For him, the Day of Rest is just that--a day of rest."
"Well, may God watch over him," Father said. "And you."
"Thank you, Father."
Dimitra walked out of the vestibule and down the stone steps of the church. Such a wonderful man, Father Stefan, she thought. It was a long drive from the Luxor, but the spiritual comfort she found there, not to mention the cameraderie of people her own age, made the trip worthwhile. She found her rental car and drove back to the hotel, not even minding the slow after-church traffic inching its way up the street. Dimitra had heard that Las Vegas had the highest number of houses of worship per capita in the nation, an ironic distinction for the municipality people referred to as Sin City. Perhaps it was because people needed to seek redemption for gambling too much, she thought, but in reality it was the fact that Vegas was also the elopement capital of the nation due to the easy marriage laws. Whatever. The only thing that mattered was that Holy Trinity was there to serve her and her family's spiritual needs while they resided in Vegas. The stillness of the atmosphere, the icons softly lit with votive candles, the scent of purifying incense, and above all the silence--it was an oasis of peace and comfort, a refuge from the gaudy neon world of casinos, luxury hotels, theaters, clubs, bars and other attractions the fabled Strip offered.
Thank you, Lord, for guiding me to Holy Trinity Church here in Las Vegas, Dimitra prayed gratefully. May it continue to provide spiritual comfort for all Your children for years to come. Bless Father Stefan and help him in his holy work. Amen.
Father Stefan stared at the letter in his hand in total shock and disbelief. Normally he would never deal with mundane business matters on the Sabbath, preferring to leave it for Monday, but as he was clearing his desk of clutter he came across this particular letter. Not remembering from whom or when he received it, he opened it simply out of curiosity. The letter inside stunned him as he read it.
Dear Father Mykolos:
Ten thousand dollars for his church just so some corporate bigwig could build a hotel on it? It was an outrage! Holy Trinity Church was priceless! All the money in the world could not persuade Father Stefan to sell it! And what was this nonsense about "eminent domain laws"? God Himself had "eminent domain" over this church and its surrounding parish for the past seventy-five years! Who was this person to tell him to give it up?
We have contracted with Harlan and Harlan to build the new Grand Imperial Hotel and Resort in North Las Vegas in an effort to revitalize the area and create new employment for hundreds of residents. We have chosen this site because of its prime location to Las Vegas's metropolitan area. We offer you $10,000 for the church property and all title to it. If you refuse, we can claim the property under eminent domain laws.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 579-555-6063
Monique Wesley, CEO,
Oh, he would contact this Monique Wesley, CEO, SilverStar Enterprises all right, and give her a piece of his mind big enough for her to choke on it! If he had to, he would appeal to the Bishop of the diocese, the Archbishop, and even the Metropolitan himself for support. No one, but no one was going to destroy Holy Trinity Church for anything, not for anything!
But, Father realized as his righteous fury simmered down, that would have to wait until tomorrow. Today was still the Sabbath, and no secular business could be conducted on it. This crisis would have to wait; he still had his duties to perform. It would be best to keep quiet about this, he decided; he didn't want to alarm his congregation. For now, this was his problem to deal with alone.
Almighty God, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, he prayed, come to my help and deliver me from this difficulty that besets me. I believe Lord, that all trials of life are under Your care and that all things work for the good of those who love You. Take away from me fear, anxiety and distress. Help me to face and endure my difficulty with faith, courage and wisdom. Grant that this trial may bring me closer to You for You are my rock and refuge, my comfort and hope, my delight and joy. I trust in Your love and compassion. Blessed is Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
He set the letter aside and prepared for the High Mass, confident that this whole ridiculous business would be resolved by tomorrow. Tearing down a church for a luxury hotel would cause such a public outcry that SilverStar Enterprises, whatever that was, would immediatly back off to avoid negative publicity. And Holy Trinity was still an active church; it wasn't like it was in dire financial straits. No, they'd have to build their Tower of Babylon somewhere else. Holy Trinity was here to stay, and no one on earth could change that.