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Underbelly

UNDERBELLY
Father Rossi declining for them both. He took off his outer robes to make himself
more comfortable, revealing humbler black attire, a sharp contrast to the
ostentatious coat. Reverend Stuart and Father Rossi took turns at taking the lead
in the conversation, with Father Sciali happy to stay quiet, occasionally drawn
into the conversation by Father Rossi. His Italian accent was much stronger than
Father Rossi‟s was and almost indecipherable to Reverend Stuart who had to
keep asking him to repeat himself and he still couldn‟t understand him, Father
Rossi translating for him in the end. Reverend Stuart apologised at his inability to
understand him.
“There‟s no need for apologies,” Father Rossi said. “This is Umberto‟s first time
abroad and he‟s only had a year to learn English. He‟ll improve. I wasn‟t as good
as him after a year.”
“No, he‟s good, it‟s just the accent I find hard to understand. You‟re probably
finding it hard to understand my Scottish accent,” he said to Father Sciali, whose
stupefied expression proved him correct (though in truth his Scottish accent was
very slight).
“I can understand you fine, Reverend,” Father Rossi said.
After forty minutes of relaxed talk, during which the conversation flowed, very
little had been said. Father Rossi had talked about the challenges that faced the
Christian churches as a whole, whatever the denomination, about how the world
and its people needed to be healed, about the state of Rome now and how things
had been during the war. Reverend Stuart talked a little of himself, how
Ravensbeck was his first appointment and perfect for him, only an hour‟s
travelling time from his home city of Aberdeen. Reverend Stuart was interested
as to the purpose of their visit, two Catholic priests from Rome visiting his small
church seemingly just to see him, a Protestant minister. Feeling that they were
now reasonably acquainted, Father Rossi asked him about his parishioners, and
when Reverend Stuart described them collectively he stopped him and asked him
for details about everyone in the community. Reverend Stuart told him that there
were over 150 people living in the village and on nearby farms, a large figure that
he felt would put off Father Rossi from hearing about them. He was undeterred
and asked for details of them all and Reverend Stuart obliged, giving basic
descriptions of each (whether they were churchgoers, their profession and
relationship to others in the community). The name Father Rossi was looking for
was not on the list and he decided it was time to reveal more of his quest, still
taking things slowly so as not to disturb the poor young minister.
“What about Laura Spencer?”
“Yes, she lives a couple of miles out of the village. I‟ve probably missed a lot of
others out too, Father. I didn‟t mention the Egberts either. They‟re just down the
road from her, two brothers in their 60s, Thomas and Ross.”
“And what do the three of them do?”
“They were farmers and beekeepers too. They still keep hens and sell eggs.
Laura – I don‟t think she works. She‟s not part of my congregation and I‟ve hardly
met her to be honest. You could probably tell me more about her than I could tell
you,” Reverend Stuart said, realising that Father Rossi was likely an
acquaintance of hers as he had supplied her name. It made sense to him – Laura
had been away from her home for most of the war and it explained her non-
attendance at the church if she was a Catholic. Then he thought about Father
Rossi‟s second question about her – if he knew her why was he asking what her
profession was?
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