Perhaps it was the imprudence of human thinking, but when the young priest had tagged his Sunday’s sermon, “The Lord Works in Strange Ways,” he did not have an idea just how strange the ways of the Lord could be.

Undeniably, there’d been nothing strange in the circumstances that brought him here; just a normal transfer. The Bishop had actually called the eager priest to his home to inform him about his new appointment as Parish Priest of St. Jude’s. There was nothing strange in that. The Lord Bishop usually did that to encourage the priests especially when they are posted to difficult places.

He’d come here and was surprised at the relative comfort he could afford. The people were very warm. Girls from the Legion of Mary came to sweep the parsonage every day. Nothing strange in that either. Not even when he stopped seeing the young girl who came with others to sweep the compound after morning mass as just another innocent village girl. Nothing strange when he started seeing the possibilities; the rounded contours, the voluptuous chest.

He was never really the regular priest, nothing strange; just not regular. He was the energetic type. In a few weeks he’d earned himself the title of Father Nwa Boys from the village folks who were used to the conventional brooding priests who did not have any business with anything that wasn’t undoubtedly holy. In the quiet of the night after the day’s work, he retired in his room in the parish house and swayed to the beat of the latest hip hop and afro beat songs from his compact JBL. He liked to do this after a hot bath and in his white robe with a glass of Martini. Sometimes he made do with Sky Vodka mixed with the non alcoholic wines that parishioners always brought as gifts if his prized Martini was out of stock.

Much earlier, in his first few years in the lord’s vineyard, firebrand and with untainted loins, he read Psalm 110, verse 4 and looked forward in awe at the magnificent holy like he was determined to lead forever and ever, Amen. These days he read Paul’s Ephesians chapter 2, verses 16 to 20 and a battle raged on within him.

Nobody really expected him to keep up with that celibacy nonsense. Or did they? Even Mgsr. Odinaka had confided in him that he only needed to play safe. He’d played it quite safe, especially resolving never to do it in the parish house. Yet, somehow, the fruits of just one night of unplanned exertions in the parsonage had stubbornly decided to manifest, like the work of the lord.

He’d probably not been thinking straight, or he would have taken her to a hospital out of town when she stayed behind one morning after morning mass to whisper that her period was missing.  Instead, he gave her the money she demanded. Girls her age could take care of themselves right?

So now, why were things happening so strangely? Or was it not strange, how that woman was trembling all over and swearing the heavens down on his head; his gleaming white soutane and all? And what was it she was saying about a dead daughter? And that look on her husband’s face? But even as he stared at the fire breathing man who had now struck the earth more than twice and called loudly on Chukwuabiama, was it not strange that all he could think to say before he could stop himself was “the Lord works in strange ways”?

But this was getting more than just strange. It had gotten embarrassing. Especially as a car suddenly pulled into the parsonage and a head decked with a violet zucchetto appeared. Was he expecting the Bishop? 

Ugwuanyi, Leonard A. is of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He was the Prose Editor of The Muse 47.