Beneath This Broken Headstone
Father Percival was minding his business when Joss Aitken burst into the church, shouting excitedly.
"I've found a slug. I've found a slug."
Joss was making quite a scene, and much as Father Percival would like to have ignored him, he had little choice but to put down his book and find out what on earth was going on.
"A slug, Joss. Where?"
"Beneath this broke headstone outside sir, come see"
"I can't see what all the fuss is about, we have lots of slugs in the graveyard. It's a rich soil, it attacts all sort of life."
"Not like this slug sir, come see."
Outside, in the cold, dark still of the graveyard, Joss led them to a corner where there did indeed lie a broken headstone, illuminated slightly by streetlight. Joss lifted the headstone, and shone a torch at the soil underneath.
"Yes, it's a slug alright Joss. I still don't understand your excitement."
"Look at it, Father. Have you ever seen a slug like it? It's a golden hue about it. And those tentacles, have you ever seen such sleek tentactles."
"It's a very attractive slug I'll give you that."
"You don't understand sir. There's no such species as that slug there. It's unique to this churchyard."
"That's a bold claim Joss."
"Aye sir, and I'll stake my reputtion as a paid up member of the slug spotters guild that Goldie here is a new species."
"I took the libery of naming her, father."
Joss proved correct. A team of scienties from the Natural Histoy Museum visited the churchyard and confimred that Goldie was a new species of slug. The species was given the name of St Anthony's slug, after the name of the chuch.
"God Gave us Slugs," said the article in the regional paper the next week, with a picture of the slug .
Every time he went into the graveyard he met strangers who were looking for Goldie and at every moment there were press photographers and slug spotters crouching in the churchyard.
This is ridiculous, Father Percival complained to his rector, Boyd Harmisson. Look at this headline, 'Miracle slug babies - Goldie pregnant With No Known Father'. This is basically blasphomy. Undermining the miracle of the virgin birth, you can't compare a bastard slug baby with the miracle of Mary's conception."
"You don't understand the modern church," said the rector. "Headlines like these get the church attention."
"We don't need people's two-second attention spans of twitter users, we want long-term dedication to the faith."
"You need to get people's attention before you can turn them into believers."
"The church doesn't need people who confuse a slug with Jesus," Father Percival said.
The rector sighed.
"Oh well, we'll have to agree to disagree," he said.
In spite of the bother caused by a constant media presence, slug watchers and a constant stream of unwanted visitors, thre were some positives. Church attendences remailed high and Father Percival was pleased that his sermons were finally gaining an audience. He was therefore surprised, out of the blue, when he took another call from Boyd Harmisson.
"Have you ever thought about the coast, Percival."
"There's a vacancy come up in Dorset, not far from the sea. I thought you could do with a change of scene."
"I'm not interested at all", he said. "Not now that the congregation is finally reaching decent numbers."
"Let me rephrase myself Percival. St Anthony's has become an important church, so we need someone that can embrace the media side of things. Father Brad Hackshaw will be taking over from you next week."
"Brad Hackshaw, the politician who was sacked for taking bribes?"
"The former politician who joined the church and became one of our leading figures. The media love him."
"I see. Well, the coast it is then. Maybe I'll discover a new species of seagul."
"Excellent attitude, Percival."
Father Percival packed his belongingings. A few clothes and a few personal items. Then emtying out a large matchbox and piercing holes, he went to the churchyard and carefully lifted up the broken headstone, and scooped up the pregnant slug.
"There'll be some lovely quiet headstones to rest under by the coast," he said to Goldie. "You can raise your babies in peace."