Father Jack peered into his empty bottle of whisky. The last remaining drop could not be coaxed out, so Jack gave a sharp spank of his palm on the side of the bottle.
“Feck!” he shouted, when the drop failed to do his bidding.
The empty bottle, tossed at a tea-cart-pushing Mrs. Doyle, shattered on the opposite wall, missing her by a mere inch. Rounding the curve of the recliner, Mrs. Doyle chimed, “Tea, Father?”
“Feck off,” he shouted. “Drink!”
“Of course, Father. Tea is the perfect drink to improve your mood.”
“Drink! Drink! Drink!” Father Jack shouted, shooing away Mrs. Doyle’s tea-infused advances.
Ms. Doyle poured Jack a cup. “A cup’ll do you good, Father. It’s like my aunt used to say. The roses are sweetest when it’s…”
“Damn you woman!” Jack said, rising from his chair grabbing an empty bottle like a cudgel. “Drink!”
Mrs. Doyle raced from the room, taking her tea cart with her.
Father Dougal McGuire entered just then, Jack startling him with a rowdy, “Drink!” and waving the empty bottle threateningly.
“Ah, so you’re at that game, now, are you?” Dougal picked up one of the scattered empty bottles and lobbed it at the wall near the kitchen. A satisfying shattering sound filled the room. Directing his conversation at Father Ted Crilly, seated at the dining table reading the Craggy Island News, Dougal remarked, “Isn’t it lovely how Mrs. Doyle is leaving us empty bottles to throw? How many’s that this week for Jack, Ted? Twelve? Thirteen?”
“Forty-six to your twenty-seven. While you were out, he broke two Glenfiddich, six Jameson, and nine Kilbeggan. You’re not even close.”
Dougal’s countenance fell.
Jack’s however, seemed to lift. Returning victoriously to his chair with an air of uncharacteristic dignity, Jack heaved the bottle he held at the far wall.
From the sound of its shattering, Jack announced, “Glenfiddich! Forty-seven!"
"Dougal," Ted said. "If I were you, I’d give it up.”
Changing the subject abruptly, Dougal said, “Oh, Ted. I almost forgot. Channel Four rang and said Eoin McLove was leaving television for good. Something about a Euro-something or other. I figured he’s going coin collecting or something. Anyway, the station asked if you’d be up for the job of host. They even said Mrs. Doyle could help out with the script writing.”
“Well, I said you were really busy. That you had lots of things to do, like…”
“Dougal! You didn’t!” Ted was incredulous.
“...Like spreading butter on your toast. But then they asked me and I said, ‘God, No. Ted’s your man.’ They said will you take it or leave it? and I said…"
“Oh, God!” Ted shouted.
“…No, Ted. I didn’t say that. What I did say was…”
“Christ!” Ted cringed.
“No, Ted. I didn’t say that either. What I said was, ‘Can I sit in the old lady’s rocking chair.’ And you know what they said? They said…’Yeah, whatever.’ Isn’t that great, Ted? I get to sit in the rocking chair, and you get to be Eoin McLove on television! Only, you’re not, because you’re Ted. So I guess it’ll be the Father Ted Crilly Show…or something. They said Eoin would call later to personally invite you. Isn’t that great?”
The Father Ted Crilly Show. If his humbler self were able to stop God’s calling before, it couldn’t now. God had used Father Dougal to make happen what his humbler self couldn’t bring him to do.
The news took a few moments to register with Ted. An hour later, the phone rang. Ted raced to answer it.
“Craggy Island Parochial House, Father Ted Crilly speaking.”
“Ah, Father Crilly. It’s me. Eoin McLove. You know. From the Eoin McLove Show.”
Ted could barely contain his excitement. “Ah, Eoin. Good to hear from you…again. How are the ratings?”
“Never mind that. I’m leaving television for good. You’re getting my show. My crew is coming to Craggy Island tomorrow morning. They’re setting up a remote location for your television show. They aim to make your house their studio. I said it was OK.”
Ted stumbled backwards. “But…they can’t. The Bishop…the Church…”
“I told your bishop it was OK," Eoin remarked casually. "He’s a big fan. He has my autograph. So does your Pope. And the crew doesn’t want the church. It’s got no place to sleep. Your benches are too hard. There are no mattresses. Your dirty house will do fine. I told 'em so. And, you can't have my jumpers. Or my soft cuddly sheep. Goodbye.”
Father Ted held onto the receiver for a few moments before slowly hanging it up. He was finally going to be a television star! The smile forming on his face quickly left as reality set in. He had not had time to plan. This arrangement was so sudden! What was he going to do?
By bedtime, Ted still had no idea how to put his lifelong dream of being a famous television personality into motion. And his bedtime conversation with Dougal was not showing any further promise.
“But, Dougal. The Ted Crilly Show can’t be the Eoin McLove show.’
“Why not, Ted?” Dougal asked.
“Because, I’m Ted Crilly and he’s Eoin McLove.”
“Oh, yeah,” Dougal agreed. “You could cut…”
“No, Dougal. Don’t even think it!” Ted instinctively shielded his privates.
"What about that thing we do every week, where we put on those robes?"
"What...taking a shower?"
"No...Where we carry in that dead guy on a stick and hold up that big cup of wine and say lots of words?"
"What? You mean...saying Mass? Like what we do every Sunday? You think we ought to say Mass on television? In front of everyone?" Ted was beginning to consider this as a possibility.
Ted stood a moment, contemplating him, Dougal and Father Jack saying Mass on television, being watched by an envious Craggy Island laity, then by an even more jealous Father Dick Byrne. But the image of Bishop Brennan watching them from the front pew brought Ted back to his already unsteady reality.
"It'll never work!" Ted said.
“You could make an album, Ted. Or...you could dance to one of Mrs. Doyle’s poems. ”
Yeah. Except there's one problem, Ted?"
"You can’t sing."
"Yes, I can!"
Ted was about to demonstrate, when Dougal laid his hand on Ted's shoulder. "No, you can't, Ted. And you can’t dance. I've seen you. Father Jack has seen you. Even Mrs. Doyle has seen you." Dougal shook his head in embarrassment for Ted, then suddenly brightened. "Maybe Ronaldo could give you lessons, Ted?"
Ted shook his head. The thought of learning how to dance from Dougal's bicycle-riding pet hamster was not encouraging. "I could always recite my poetry," Ted suggested.
"Yeah. About that, Ted. Didn't Eoin McLove choose Mrs. Doyle's poetry instead?"
"Well, yeah. But..."
"Face it, Ted. You can’t even write decent poetry.”
“That’s OK. Mrs. Doyle will help me out there.”
“Ted? Have you heard Mrs. Doyle sing? Have you seen her dance? Have you read her…”
Ted considered for a moment. “Yeah. You’ve got a point.”
“The variety show is out, Ted."
"You're right. We have to do something that is wholesome, but appeals to our sense of civic pride.”
“What…like smashing bottles against the wall with Father Jack?” Dougal suggested.
Ted rolled over in bed, defeated.
“Good night, Dougal,” Father Ted said, by way of ending the conversation, and turned off the lights.
“Good night, Ted.” Dougal returned.
Ted faded into a restless sleep.
Ted’s flashlight shone at the clock. Three-thirty in the morning. Dougal was snoring. Ted was restless. Never had he considered that taking over a television show would be so difficult. He gingerly removed the blankets from his body and ever so gently placed his feet on the floor. It wouldn’t do to have Dougal wake up in the middle of the night. He needed his beauty sleep. Ted carefully, carefully lifted himself from the bed only to have its bedsprings break the silence of the room. Looking over to Dougal’s slumbering self, and recognizing he had avoided waking him, Ted tiptoed toward the door. As he put his hand on the doorknob, the lights of the room abruptly came on.
“Stop right there!” Dougal was up, his hands held together as if holding a pistol, his fingers acting as the gun itself.
“Dougal, it’s just me,” Ted said. “You’re having one of your nightmares again.”
“Don’t make a move,” Dougal said, not budging from his stance. “You’re under arrest for trespassing, burglary, larceny, involuntary sleep deprivation, and conspiracy to commit tennis racketeering. I’ll have to take you to the nick.”
Dougal grabbed Ted’s wrists forcefully and tried to place invisible handcuffs on his suspect. Ted’s reflexes proved too quick, and Dougal missed his opportunity. Remembering his gun, Officer Dougal McGuire aimed and…fell fast asleep on the floor. Ted chose that moment to escape the room, and the officer pursuing him.
The living room was no better for thinking. Father Jack was fast asleep in his chair, but snoring. Every time Ted had a thought worth pursuing, Jack would mumble something under his breath. It was enough to drive him mad. Not until Ted walked over to Jack to shift his position did Ted realize what Jack was saying. And that gave Ted the inspiration he needed. After another hour’s thinking and planning, Ted went to bed, smiling.
“Wake up, Ted! Wake up! Today’s the day! You’re going to be a star!” Dougal shook Ted awake.
“Let me sleep,” Ted said from his place under the covers.
“It’s five o’clock, Ted. The crew is here, parked in the van outside!”
Though Ted hurriedly got dressed and grabbed his notes from the dining table, the crew remained in their van for most of the morning. Waiting for them to come in was torture. So was drinking the twenty cups of tea Mrs. Doyle all but forced on him. By the time he had relieved his bladder four times, Ted decided to bring a chair next to the window where he could watch the television van. He might have dozed off once or twice before. But when he opened his eyes after the third time, Dougal had his face up against his. Ted fell backwards in his chair, then stood up quickly.
“What are they doing? Aren’t they going to come in?”
“Maybe, we ought to go and invite them in," Dougal suggested. “Are they avoiding Mrs. Doyle’s tea, do you think?”
“Good point,” Ted said. “Maybe I’ll just go out and see what’s keeping them.”
Ted opened the door to the Parochial house, ready to march out to the van. But the five-man crew, standing in front of him, changed his plans.
“Come in. Welcome. Have some tea. Mrs. Doyle! Our guests have arrived.”
“Coming, Father Crilly!” Mrs. Doyle shouted.
The five crew members were laden with gear: cameras, microphones, recording devices, portable lamps, and a host of other television studio paraphernalia.
“Which one’s Father Crilly?” the crew chief asked.
Ted leaped toward him. “I’m Father Crilly,” he said.
Jack, who up to this point had been asleep in his chair, woke with a start and looked all around him, grabbed an empty Jameson bottle, and threw it across the room until it shattered against the wall.
“And that’s Father Jack,” Ted said. “He plays this game of throwing bottles against the wall.”
It took the morning for Ted to coordinate his late-night plans with the crew chief. By late afternoon, the crew had set up its cameras and gear in the small living room and dining area that was the gathering space for the Parochial House.
“OK,” Father Ted began, looking into the camera. “The first segment of our show is Cooking with Mrs. Doyle. Today she will show all of us how to make a proper Irish Catholic cup of tea.”
“Oh, thank you, Father,” Mrs. Doyle said, looking at him in admiration. Unfortunately, Mrs. Doyle’s eyes then went to the camera. She froze.
“So, Mrs. Doyle makes us all cups of tea every day,” Father Ted prompted. “How’s it made the proper Catholic way, Mrs. Doyle?”
Mrs. Doyle continued to stare intently at the camera.
Father Jack, from his chair, cursed: “Feck, Woman! Tea! Tea!”
Without her eyes leaving the camera, Mrs. Doyle rolled the tea cart toward Father Jack, poured him a cup of tea, handed the cup to him, and rolled the cart back into the kitchen.
The crew chief looked at Father Ted, who looked back at the crew chief and shrugged. “Cut,” Father Ted said.
The second segment was at the new library. It had been built right next to the movie theater Bishop Brennan had told them never to attend. The television crew set up their equipment just as the sun was setting. Bright lights shone on both Ted and Dougal, causing both to squint as they tried to read the pre-printed cue cards.
“I’ve sent my colleague, Father Dougal McGuire, to find some new and interesting places on Craggy Island. Places you might go, if you didn’t know they already existed. Father Dougal -- What have you found today?”
“Hey, Ted! I found a movie theater! It has great shows.” Dougal said, rather staccato.
“That’s wonderful, Dougal. What’s new or interesting about it?” Ted’s voice was just as stilted.
Dougal looked at Ted a moment, ignoring the cue card. “Oh, nothing, Ted. It’s still that same old movie we’re not supposed to see because we’re priests, but we see it anyway because it’s a way to get away from Jack’s snoring.”
Ted tried to get Dougal back on track, pointing to the cue cards. “Well, Dougal. Is there anything novel?”
Dougal squinted, taking the hint (to Ted’s relief). “Novel, Ted? Like what they’ve got at the new library?”
“Craggy Island has a library?” Ted feigned surprise.
Dougal, once again, went off script. “Yeah, Ted. Did you know they have gobs of books there? I mean, you can’t turn around without seeing ‘em. I tried playing hide and seek there in the library, except every time I hid, there was a book staring at me. “
“Were you now,” Ted said, going along. The crew looked at each other quizzically, every now and then checking the speeches against the cue cards.
“Sure, Ted. I kept finding them, and they kept finding me. And if you’re ever wanting to play hide and seek with the books in the library, it’s no use. You’re going to lose that game every time. So I said to the lady there…”
“The librarian?” Ted asked, winking at the camera.
“Yeah. And I said, ‘Having books everywhere. That’s novel,' and you know what she said? She said the book I was looking at wasn’t a novel. But she knew where they were, and she got one for me. It’s a thick one, this book.”
Dougal held up a paperback copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “It’s about how to hitchhike through the galaxy. Have you heard anything like that before, Ted? I’ve hitchhiked all over Craggy Island, but certainly not through the galaxy. I wonder what that might be like.”
Ted looked up at Dougal, a cunning smile playing on his face.
“Dougal, do you think Father Jack might like to play hide and seek in the Library? Like you did this morning?”
“I think so, Ted. But if I take him to the library, I wouldn’t expect him to come back.”
“Now, why is that, Dougal?”
“Well, you know how Jack is always running off. I heard someone at the library say that books take you places. I mean, what if Jack gets out and the books trick him and take him to…China or…Perth…or Kilkenney?”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that, Dougal,” Ted winked at the camera. “Father Jack likes to play other games.”
Father Ted signaled the crew chief to stop filming.
The third segment would be filmed back at the Parochial House, while Father Jack was asleep.
As the crew set their cameras and lamps and cables, Father Jack was enjoying bottle after bottle of his favorite alcoholic temptations – thanks in no small part to Ted.
Father Dougal stood watching Jack enjoy himself with his brandy.
“Ted, how did you get Jack to agree to be on television. He hates television.”
As if in response, Father Jack roared: “I hate television!” And then is softer tones, “But, I love brandy.”
“Dougal,” Ted said. “I told Father Jack that if he would recite Shakespeare for the camera, he could have whatever he wanted.”
Dougal nodded his head in understanding, but then stopped suddenly, shocked. Looking at Ted, he said, “Wait. You promised Jack he could have…whatever he wanted?” Dougal was beside himself. “You mean booze and girls and such, right?”
“Well, Dougal, I had meant the booze. He could have as much of the booze as he wanted.”
“Oh, no Ted,” Dougal admonished. “You told Jack he could have whatever he wanted. Not whatever booze he wanted. And you know he’s going to want…”
“…Skirt! Girls!” Jack burst out. “Drink!”
Ted, grabbing another bottle of brandy, gave the full bottle to Jack.
Smiling, Ted said, “Father Jack, you can have all the booze you want. But we’re a bit short of the girls right now. Maybe later.”
As soon as Ted had said this, he cringed. The truth of the matter was that no girls would be coming to the parochial house at all, ever, unless they were nuns. And if they knew what was good for them – and Father Jack – they would stay well away.
“Drink! Girls!” Father Jack shouted all the louder. He grabbed one of the empty bottles of brandy and hurled it at the opposite wall, where it made a tremendous crash.
The television crew, who had been putting the finishing touches on preparations, scrambled to their places. The camera was soon recording the scene.
“Now Father Jack,” Ted said. “You said you would recite some Shakespeare for us.”
“Feck off,” Father Jack shouted.
To the camera, Ted announced, “Father Jack Hackett is actually an expert in Shakespeare, aren’t you?”
“Gobshite!” Jack yelled back.
“…And recites verses of it every night in his sleep.”
“Arse!” Jack interjected.
“In fact,” Ted continued, “He does a pretty good Hamlet.” Quickly crouching next to Jack, Ted whispered. “Drink and girls. Tonight. I promise. Just do your soliloquy.”
Jack’s demeanor changed instantly. He raised himself from his chair to unsteady legs, put his hands to his heart and began.
“To feck, or not to feck! That is the question…” Jack slumped back into his chair and regained his usually whiskey sour disposition. “Drink! Girls! Tonight!”
Whether she had meant to enter at that moment or not, Mrs. Doyle’s appearance with her tea cart was not what Father Jack had been expecting when he had called for drink and girls.
“Feck off, woman! Feck off, tea!”
“Oh now, Father. That’s not becoming of you for the television,” Mrs. Doyle chided. Looking at Father Ted, Mrs. Doyle asked politely, “Shall I ring Sister Assumpta for your Father? She’s sure to straighten Father Jack’s behavior.”
Before Ted could reply, Jack’s eyes widened. “No nuns! No nuns!”
“I think, Mrs. Doyle, that Father Jack probably just needs to get some of his emotional anger out. It’s got nothing to do with you personally, Mrs. Doyle.” Ted whispered. “You see, Mrs. Doyle, I made a promise to Father Jack I just can’t keep at the moment. I’ll have to go to Dougal later for confession, I know, but for now I think another remedy is in order.”
Ted beckoned for Father Dougal to himself. “Why don’t you and Father Jack play that game. The one where you see who can break the most bottles.”
Dougal smiled, lifted an empty bottle, and hurled it at the opposite wall. It shattered rather satisfactorily. Dougal began to gloat and jump up and down, celebrating.
“Did you see that, Father Jack? Did you see that?” Dougal lauded.
Father Jack was not to be outdone. He grabbed a Glenfiddich in one hand and a Jack Daniels in the other. With less than a full flick of his wrists, the drunken priest waved the bottles at Ted – as if to get Ted to be the target of Jack’s hurtling bottles.
“Now, hold on Father Jack,” Ted began. “No need to throw those at me…or Mrs. Doyle.”
“Gobshite! Get on the wall!” Jack ordered.
As if ordered by the Pope himself, Ted complied, however reluctantly. And with cameras rolling, there was nothing more to do than follow Father Jack’s commands.
Once he was in place, Father Jack hurled both bottles just in time to hear a very frightened Ted call: