PETe RICEPUDDING AND HIS BEARD
Ever since public transport was no longer a state enterprise, the bus services went on strike at every moment, even though they had very little to show for after a few years of existence.
The parties interested from Connexxion and Veolia didn't care a bit how the children could get to school or the elderly in the hospital.
As a matter of principle, they demanded eight percent more, at the cost of the tired public if need be. Masters and workers were like a fighting married couple, of which one threatened to beat their
child if the other didn't give in. When will they ever learn?
In these circumstances, it was a big puzzle for Pete Ricepudding to find out how he could at Sunday get in good time from his Maastricht home to the Aachen chapel where Mass was still being celebrated the traditional way. For information, he went on the Internet and in the offices of several public transport enterprises, and in the end he had a plan: he was to take his bicycle in the train to Heerlen, and to bike it from there to Aachen. If there was no delay, he could arrive at the very moment that mass was to begin.
As soon as he got to Heerlen, he asked an old miner to tell him the shortest way to Aachen. "Via Spekholzerheide", said the old gentleman. "At the roundabout, turn to the right.
Go straight ahead until the frontier. You can see windmills over there, but never mind. When you get there, ask again."
But if you don't know the way, everything is difficult. Who ever thought that Heerlerbaan had been torn up? Pete rode between the railings into a kind of trap, and he desperately looked for an exit. Fortunately, a Limburg young lady happened to cycle along, and he followed her through the bumpy sand to a gap in the railings. Meanwhile, another ten minutes of his precious time had been wasted. This way, he could never arrive in good time!
Pete bravely cycled on, but he struggled with every bit of adverse wind and on every upward hill. After he passed the old Richterich custom house, he asked three good houswives with Dobermann dogs how to get to "Aachen Westbahnhof" as soon as possible. He didn't understand what they said, but their gestures told him where to go. Meanwhile, it had become hot. He arrived at the chapel in the Kuehlwetterstrasze, puffing and a quarter of an hour late.
Pete decided to take a breather first, because he could not enter the chapel panting and sweating. Was he presentable anyway? Damn, he nearly forgot! Since a couple of weeks, he had grown his beard,
and now they first were to see him with this beard! Perhaps he was looking so untidy that, during the sermon, the priest would ask him to leave the chapel and to return only after he had neatly shaved.
On the other hand, a Catholic priest could hardly criticize him because of his beard. Didn't Jesus love the poor tramps? Better than that: didn't Jesus have a beard himself? In all picture books of the bible, both for children and adults, they pictured Jesus with a neat brown beard
Pete locked his bike, and bound it with a chain to a lamppost. He laughed. They couldn't send him away because of his beard! The twelve apostles had wild beards, all of them. These beards weren't well-groomed, were they?
Absorbed in thoughts, Pete sang the song of virgin Mary that he liked the most:
"To love virgin Mary is always my taste, - her servant if gladness or sorrow I faced. - My heart, virgin Mary, keeps throbbing for thee, - for thou art in heaven a-pleading for me."
Now he gently opened the door of the chapel. Mass had proceeded to the first lecture. He softly sat down in a pew at the rear end. Nobody had noticed him but the organ player.
He suddenly saw a copper plate on the wood of his pew, on which it said: "Reserved for families with little kids". Pete looked aside, and saw next him a lady who kindly smiled at him. It was a mother with two little kids: a baby in a travelling bag, and a girl of some two years of age.
He graciously smiled at the toddler. She kept staring at him as if he were a ghost. It was as if she was thinking: "This must be that dear Jesus whom they always are speaking about."