Cotton in the Nose

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When I was about ten or eleven, I used to go to church on Sundays and other religious holidays. I had seen some American religious cartoons on TV and that got me hooked.

The parish priest grew to trust me so much that he gave me the keys to the church, to open it in the mornings.

The church was 2 minutes away from my house, so almost every Sunday I would wake up at six in the morning and rush to open the church (although services started at eight).

My job was then to switch on all the lights, including in the altar, which was the most sacred of the sacred. I would then have to take a ladder and light up the oil candle burners hanging over the big icons of the wooden reredos. Sometimes I would clean the candelabra too.

The church was undergoing major repairs: they were re-doing the interior painting and there was scaffolding in some parts. The next-door chapel, designed to keep the deceased before their funeral, was still under construction. So the dead ones had to be kept in the narthex of the church.

One Sunday morning, around the usual six o’clock, I opened the big church door to discover a coffin, most probably brought in on the Saturday evening.

It was dark outside, very dark in the narthex as well, but I did not feel scared. As I turned on the lights, I saw the body of the deceased resting there, on the left hand side of the church entrance.

It was a man, not very old I thought, dressed in a grey-greenish suit and wearing a grey hat. And of course, the yellowish-brown, earth-like colour of the skin.

He had cotton in his nose – both nostrils.

A strange feeling of mutual confidence appeared between the deceased and me. I kept on doing my jobs whilst he kept silent there in the narthex.

The cotton in the nose had become our seal of concord.