Friday, September 25, 1964
The next day I went through the motions during class. I was talking about diagramming sentences in one class and Mark Twain in another, but I was thinking about tonight's memorial service for Jimmy Parker and whether I should attend Jimmy Parker’s funeral in Chicago.
By lunchtime, we got the word that the coroner had ruled Jimmy's death a suicide, that his body had been released to the family, and that plans for a Monday funeral were going forward.
The plans for the memorial service had been worked out, knowing that only the seminarians from St. Joe Hall knew him and those not very well. It was to be just a mass, with a homily by Father Perry, and a simple gathering afterward. The Friday night soiree at Moreau was legendary because beer was served, the better to oil the relationship between the seminarians from Moreau and St. Joe Hall. It was the main way they got to know each other. On this night, in deference to the occasion and the fact that the seniors from Holy Cross were invited, beer was not in order. Hank suggested to the faculty that we attend if we were available, both out of respect and to keep an eye on the seniors—and, for my part, Bernie Fox.
The funeral in Chicago was another matter. Jimmy's parents had asked Bernie Fox to give a eulogy at the wake—and I wanted to see how that went. However, no one else from HCS was going, and I didn’t know Jimmy from Adam. My appearance there would have raised questions in some quarters.
After the sems broke for recreation in the afternoon, I buttonholed Hank in the faculty lounge to talk it over.
“Don’t go,” Hank said. “People—Bernie to name the most important—will wonder why the hell you showed up.”
“Frankly, that’s a relief,” I said, “but we can use some eyes and ears in the church. I’d like to know what he says in the homily and how he behaves.”
“Joe Perry is going. I’ll tell him to wear his strongest antenna, and we’ll grill him when he gets back.”
“Sounds good,” I said, hoping Father Perry’s antennae were as sensitive as his taste in tobacco.
“Anything new to report?” Hank asked.
I told him what Sean O'Hara had to say about the collage on Bernie's door.
“Hmm, so we’ve got a tale-bearing problem,” he said. “Is the tale true—or is it just a tale? That’s what you’re here to find out.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I’ve got nothing solid to go on. And the problem is—if the tale isn’t true, we’ll never have anything solid to go on.”
“I can’t believe I understood that,” said Hank, getting up to pour himself another scotch. “I must need another drink.”
“What’s the next step?”
“Oh, keep your ears on and your eyes open,” Hank said, taking a good swallow. “See if you can find something solid. In the meantime, I’ll hope you don’t.”
“Which will leave us in the dark. Did you study this kind of moral quagmire in Rome?”
“Probably, but I mostly remember the food and drink. Got anything else to tell me.”
"Before one of my classes, I overheard one of the sophomores referring to one of their teachers as 'BJ.' "
He stopped. "Okay BJ? Gotta be ..."
"Bernard J. Fox," I said.
I looked at him. "BJ—think about it."
Another pause. "Oh, Christ. If this gets around ..."
"And it will."
"Do what you can to keep a lid on it."
"Sure, right. One more thing. A more entertaining tidbit for you. I went down to the locker room yesterday and found one of the freshman parading around in white cassock.”
"So ... he fancies himself as a missionary?"
"More like the pope," I said.
Hank laughed. "Ambitious little bugger. Usually you don’t see guys in that kind of getup until theology school.”
“Not only that, one of the sophomores was following him around in a monsignori cassock and lace surplice.”
“Okay, that may be a red flag,” Hank said with a straight face. “Keep your eyes open. If the monsignor starts walking around in a Gypsy Rose Lee outfit, let me know.”
“And the pope … ?”
“Never mess with the pope.”