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Green Hills Press Nashville, Tennessee www.greenhillspress.com
© 2010 James T. Baker
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Cataloging-In-Publication Data Baker, James T. Prior Knowledge Scribd Edition ISBN: 9780966131727 1. Fiction 2. Crime 3. Murder 4. Benedictine 5. Mississippi Published with the services of Grave Distractions Publications www.gravedistractions.com Cover and Interior Layout: Brian Kannard Edited by: Cheryl Reels Cover Model: John Kannard Scribd Edition Notes: Formatting may differ from the print version of this text due to conversion to Scribd files. Electronic versions of this text are available. For more information visit: www.greenhillspress.com or www.gravedistractions.com
Also by James T. Baker
Thomas Merton: Social Critic, 1971 Faith for a Dark Saturday, 1973 Under the Sign of the Waterbearer (a play), 1976 A Southern Baptist in the White House, 1977 Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, 1978 Eric Hoffer, 1982 Ayn Rand, 1987 Brooks Hays, 1989 Study Guide for Jackson Spielvogel’s Western Civilization,1991 Studs Terkel, 1992 Nat Turner: Cry Freedom in America, 1997 Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady, 1998 Abraham Lincoln: The Man and the Myth, 1999 Andrew Carnegie: Robber Baron as American Hero, 2002 Holidays with Sundae: Conversations with my Cat, 2002 Instructor’s Manual for Cannistraro and Reich’s The Western Perspective, 2003 Dogs To Men, 2005 Quest, 2007 Documents in American Religious History, 2005 Peter Peacock Passes, 2010 Sex Bondage in Three Colors, 2010 Faith for a Dark Saturday 2nd Edition 2010 White Dogs, 2010
For more information about James T. Baker's other works, visit www.greenhillspress.com
Table of Contents
A murder, bloody, foul, unholy, has been committed in a Benedictine Priory. Father Superior must solve the mystery to save the foundation; but he must depend on more than faith, logic, or luck. The solution must come by way of Prior Knowledge. A mystery in three parts.
Part I: God's Fool
Part II: The Saint Jean Cross
Part III The Prior Knows
For Brian and Cheryl, who helped bring Father Prior into the world
At long last the story can be told, all of it, all of it that I can remember. The story about the Priory in Mississippi, the murder there, the justice that followed. My memory is not perfect, as the younger men here continue to remind me, for I am an old, old man now. But I am the only one who can tell the story because I am the only one involved in it who knew all the details, who is still alive, and who is free to talk. You might say I have Prior Knowledge. I am now 82. Think of it, Father Columba is 82. My own father died at 40, when I was only 12, the age of Jesus among the elders. It‟s an impressionable age, 12, and I came to believe that I would die young too. “Like father, like son.” Some boys upon losing their fathers and assuming that they would die young as well might have given themselves up to lasciviousness: to “eating, drinking, and making merry” for tomorrow they would die. But I have always been perverse. I knew that was what God expected of me, so I decided to fool Him and do exactly the opposite. I was mad at Him for taking my dad away.
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So I went down to Lake Michigan, walked along where the big brown boulders border the shore on the south side of Chicago, and I said, “Hey there, God, I‟ve decided to be a monk. How d‟ya like them apples?” He said absolutely nothing. I think I stunned Him with my announcement. I have ever since that day loved surprising Him. “I say--I‟m gonna be a monk.” Still He was silent. He was being coy. I have never, ever entertained the least doubt that there is a God. I know there is, I just know. That‟s because He has always talked with me, just like a real person, back and forth. But not that day. That day I had surprised Him, and He doesn‟t like to be surprised. “No objections, huh?” I said, with a shrug. “Then I‟ll be a Benedictine.” I knew the Benedictines because they ran the school I attended on Ellis Avenue. Those were the days when Ellis was Catholic and a little bit Jewish, before it turned black and mostly Pentecostal. Then the Black Monks were the only thing black on the street. The Monday morning after I shocked God I went to see Brother Zack. “So you wants to be a monk?” Brother Zack said, his lips smiling, his eyes glazed, his forehead wrinkled. “But why, Bobby?” “I want to get ready for heaven. And I want to do what God doesn‟t expect of me.” “Oh,” he said. He was from Germany, and he always said he never understood the Irish. “You‟re, what now, 13, Bobby?” “Twelve, Brother Zack.” “Ya got alota years aheada ya, Bobby?” “I got 28 years.”
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“I see,” he said and scratched his stubbly chin. “Alla 28 years, y‟say? And ya ready to give up the world, is that it, Bobby? Ya willin‟ t‟forego a fine career, a good woman, cars, alla them things?” He peered at me over his tiny round glasses. “Because that‟s what it means t‟be a monk, doncha know, Bobby?” “Well, Brother,” I said, trying to be honest, “I think the Benedictines have it pretty good. You brothers are all fat and happy. You drink Cokes and watch television. Yet you are still going to heaven, without all the sacrifices of the Trappists or all the schooling of the Jesuits. I want to save my soul the Benedictine way...and save my soul to boot.” Brother Zack‟s mouth fell open slightly, and he started to speak, but then he stopped and just eyed me suspiciously, a bit of a smile on his face, the way a man looks when he thinks he might be the victim of a prank. “Tell me then, Bobby,” he said slowly. “Do you have a vocation to the monastic life?” “A...vocation?” I said. I wasn‟t sure what he meant. To tell you the truth, I‟m even less sure today than I was then. “A... a calling,” he explained. “The approval of our Heavenly Father?” “Yes,” I nodded. “Oh? And what makes you sure?” “Because He didn‟t say no.” That may well have been the best answer I have ever given to that question. I have tried for better ones, but I may have had beginner‟s luck. “He didn‟t say no? Did you ask him?” “No, Brother Zack. I told him.” “Told him? You...told...God?”
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“Yes, Brother. Took Him by surprise. I told him I was gonna be a monk, and when He didn‟t say no, I told him I was gonna be a Benedictine.” Brother Zack leaned toward me. “And what did God say to that part?” He seemed genuinely intrigued by what I was saying. “Nothing.” “Nothing?” “That‟s right. That‟s how I know it‟s all right. See, with my dad, I would always tell him what I wanted to do, and if he didn‟t want me to do it, he would say no. He almost never said yes, but if it was all right with him, if he didn‟t care one way or another, he wouldn‟t say anything. That‟s the way with God too. I told Him, and He didn‟t say anything, so it‟s all right.” Then I added, just to be honest, “Of course, he may have been struck dumb by the shock.” Brother Zack sat back in his chair. It had a tall, straight back, and he brought his own back straight to match it. “Oh but Bobby,” he groped for words, “your father, he was...but God, He‟s...it‟s not the same at all.” “Why not, Brother Zack? Despite his ample frame and generous paunch, Brother Zach sank down in his chair and seemed to grow smaller. His forehead looked like a dried prune. “I...well...it‟s...” He took a white handkerchief from his sleeve pocket and began polishing his glasses. “Bobby,” he said, stopping in mid-polish, “does God, that is, has God... ever said anything to you?” “Oh yes, Brother.” “Really?” “Yes, we talk all the time.” “You do? About...what?” “All kinds of things. Baseball. Algebra. Girls.”
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“And...when you talk to Him, ya say God talks back to you?” “Yes. Except today, He didn‟t say a word.” “Why d‟ya think is that?” “He‟s pissed at me.” Brother Zack dropped his glasses into his lap, and they bounced out onto the floor. Fortunately they were lightweight and fell on the rug without breaking. I helped him retrieve them, and he put them back on. “He‟s...angry, do you say?” he was finally able to say. His lips were loose, his words mushy. His brow was even more furrowed. “Yes, Brother. Not Jesus, he‟s kind and understanding, like my Uncle Ed. Not the Blessed Virgin, she always loves me whatever I do, like my Mom does. It‟s the Old Man who gets pissed. He gets pissed at me a lot.” I thought I had better tell the whole story. “See, I like to get His goat. He likes to get mine too, so I don‟t feel bad about it. He really got my goat when He let my dad die, so I don‟t feel bad when I get revenge. Instead of crying and shouting at Him in anger this time, which is what I felt like doing and what He wanted me to do, instead of going out and sinning so I would have to come crawling to Him for forgiveness, I sprang this monk thing on him. He was shocked, and then He was pissed, so He tried to ignore me; but I got in the last laugh because since He didn‟t say no, the answer is yes.” When Brother Zack had me repeat my story to the other monks, I came close to being expelled from school. I was finally allowed to stay, with the proviso that I would never, under any circumstances, talk with any of my classmates about God. So I stayed and kept quiet and obeyed my Mom and by the time I reached 18 the monks who were still alive had forgotten the
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business about God. By then I had read enough lives of saints to concoct a story about my vocation, something that wouldn‟t offend anyone, and I was convincing enough to get myself accepted into the Order. Maturity is simply learning to hide the truth, especially about yourself. They gave me the name Columba, because I‟m Irish, because they wanted me to emulate the great monk who took Christianity from Ireland to Scotland and founded the great monastery on Iona. It was a heavy responsibility when I was so young to carry that name; but as I grew older, larger in the waist, when I was ordained, when I finished my Ph.D. in history at Notre Dame, it got easier to bear. Slowly I forgot that I had ever been Bobby McManus, and after my Mom and Uncle Ed died no one ever called me that again. Even my brother used Columba when he wrote to me, his last letter reaching me a day after his wife called to say he too had died. Now I‟m 82, 64 years a monk; and I can see now that I was the one tricked, not God. God let me believe I would die at 40, and I have doubled that. I have given a long lifetime to the Church, damn it. I have aged, but He hasn‟t. He was always old, the gray bearded, leather faced old dictator Michelangelo painted. He and I still talk, as we have for seventy years, and we disagree most of the time, and He usually wins, but I still get his goat sometimes. Actually I am writing this story to piss him off. When He finds out that I have told the world what went on at Saint Luke‟s, He will have a fit. He prefers that the public, even the Catholic public, not know what really goes on in monasteries. He wants people to think monks are pure and holy. He‟s too busy right now to know what I‟m doing, and He probably thinks I‟m too old to do any more harm; but when He finds out, there will be hell to pay. The element of risk is absolutely delicious. I‟m not really worried.
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I‟ve put in my years. I have my place in heaven. All He could do is set me back farther from the throne, and with my bladder condition that would only make it easier for me to get to the men‟s room. *** So on to my story. It began in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in August, 1961. The first Catholic President had just moved into the White House. At the monastery and the college it runs the summer was cool and quiet, and we were all optimistic about the future. It was before the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy‟s death, the War in Vietnam. It was sunny but mild, the grass grew lush and green and the gentle breezes rippled the leaves on the old trees. Latrobe is Arnold Palmer country, perfect for golf. We had no summer school at the college then; and by August the place seemed almost medieval. Black-clad monks roamed the hillsides, the thick woods, the green lawns. Saint Vincent‟s was the perfect place for my retirement. I was happy to be there rather than at some of the places I could have been sent. At 65 I had gone through enough eternal summers of the Bahamas, eternal snowstorms of northern Minnesota, eternal duststorms of west Texas. At Saint V‟s there were four distinct seasons, all lovely, none strong enough to savage or bore me. I was assigned to teach just one small class, Freshman American History, a snap for me after years of full time teaching; and the rest of the time I could take short naps and long walks and carry on my dialogue with the Old Bastard Upstairs. I‟m not talking about the Father Abbot. He‟s actually a nice guy. I was taking a pleasant after-dinner walk that cool August, when a young brother came running briskly across the lawn toward me. I knew he wanted me because when he got about 50 yards away he slowed to a reverent lope and at 20 began mincing, like a dog approaching a man he feared. I‟m aware that frighten the
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younger monks. They cower and whine when they approach me. I suppose it‟s partly my age, partly my white beard, partly that I stand 6'3" and weigh 245 pounds. I‟m told that when I walk down a path I look like a ship sailing on a canal. I also like my solitude, and I tend to bark when I‟m disturbed. I‟m told that I can be sarcastic when I sense someone is being false with me. And then there‟s the persistent story that I believe I talk directly with God, and not always in the friendliest of terms. I‟m either a mystic or a heretic, both dangerous to the conventionally religious. One monk even told me that he was afraid to stand too near me in choir because he expected sooner or later that God would strike me down with lightning. The young brother came up to me and stopped and hung his head. I looked down on his fresh tonsure. “Yes?” I said. “F-f-f-father C-c-c-columba,” he stuttered. “A m-m-mmessage from Father S-s-s-superior.” I could tell from his accent that he came from the West Coast. He sounded like Mickey Rooney. “What does Father Superior want?” I tried to put him at ease, but I know I sounded gruff. He quailed before me. “In...in...his s-s-s-study, please.” He swallowed. “A-t-t-t-t once, p-p-p-p-lease.” I watched him turn tail and run from my presence. It was such a pleasant evening, much too nice to go inside. I should have told the boy to ask Father Abbot to come out and walk with me. But I was no longer a Master, I was in a sense a guest there, and I was indebted to Father Superior for giving me such a pleasant place to retire. So I turned and with a sigh headed toward his office. “What‟s this all about, You Old Coot?” I said. “YOU‟LL SEE.” “I know I‟ll see. But I‟d like to know now.”
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“YOU‟LL SEE.” “I don‟t like surprises.” THAT MAKES TWO OF US. I cut through the chapel. Shaved heads floated over the pews. I stopped at the altar and said a short prayer to the Blessed Virgin. She was the one I called on when I felt insecure. She had become extremely important to me after my Mom died. I went out and down the hallway and knocked on the familiar door. “Come in, Columba,” a voice from inside said. I entered with due reverence. “Come, come,” the tiny man behind the huge desk said, motioning me toward a chair near him. “Sit, sit.” Father Superior was always moving, a tiny bundle of cosmic, monastic energy. He smoked one cigarette after another, from the time he awakened in the morning until he fell asleep, usually with one burning in his ash tray, at night. He even kept one burning beside his plate as he ate his meals. At that moment he had two going at once, one on the ash tray shaped like a grotto, one between his twitching fingers. His eyebrows constantly moved up and down; and he could hardly contain what he had to tell me long enough for me to make my way to the chair and sit down. I took my time just to torment the poor wretch. Father Superior was a wonder. Born the son of a Polish father and a Hungarian mother, he learned to speak three languages as he grew up in Cleveland. In college he astounded his teachers by learning to speak Chinese fluently in one year. The Benedictines sent him to Chung-king in 1935, and there he served as interpreter to a string of ambassadors Roosevelt and Truman sent to “save” China. He was a guest at Chiang Kai-shek‟s V.J. Day banquet in 1945. In 1949, when the old generalissimo knew he had to get out of mainland China, he put Father in charge of transporting every piece of Chinese art small enough to carry off to Formosa. There
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he supervised the building of a museum with a store room in a mountain to guard against Mao‟s bombs. He settled down on Formosa to serve as Abbot of our mission house there, teaching Catechism at the seminary and Chemistry at the college, until he was called back in 1960 to run the Archabbey in Latrobe. “What was it you wanted, Father?” I said to the man who was half my size and fifteen years younger than I was. “Columba...” He had an awful habit of calling your name, fixing you with his piercing eyes, and then letting his voice trail away as he searched your face. I could see his mind working, a machine with rapidly whirring cogs. I nodded and waited him out. At last he took a long draw from his menthol cigarette and spoke hurriedly through the thick screen of smoke he emitted. “What do you think of when I say...Saint Luke‟s? I held my tongue, feeling a trap. Saint Luke‟s was one of our mission priories, too young, not yet large and mature enough to be an abbey. It was somewhere down south, likely Mississippi. What did I think of? “Negro people on front porches singing. Hot summer days. Kudzu on telephone polls. William Faulkner. “It‟s our smallest mission priory,” Father said, turning his head in that queer way of his, looking at me through the corners of his eyes. “Yes, Father,” I nodded. “Yes, I know about Saint Luke‟s.” “You know its history.” This was beginning to sound like an oral examination. “It was founded...I don‟t know the exact year...1936, I‟m guessing. To demonstrate to the people in the south how racial integration could work there.” “Right,” Father said, puffing, filling the room with white smoke that smelled like the kind of tablet you would suck for a sore throat.
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I went on. “We sent ten black and ten white brothers down there to live together in Christian harmony, as an example. They settled into buildings once owned by a Quaker group that practiced celibacy.” “Shaker actually,” Father corrected me. “The Shakers were a communist millenialist group that forbade sexual intercourse.” “Like us.” He smiled indulgently. “Yes, in a manner of speaking. Though they had both male and female members.” “That must have made things hard,” I quipped. He failed to respond to my pathetic stab at humor, so I cleared my throat and went on. “I can imagine some archeologist, a thousand years from now, digging that place up. Catholic monks all mixed up with millenialist elders.” He stared at me with his beady black eyes. I felt desperate to make his smile. “Do the locals still call the black brothers Luke‟s Spooks?” I said lamely. “Probably,” Father said, his eyebrows twitching. He had been in China too long. He had no sense of humor. He was a machine. “There actually aren‟t many black brothers left. Only three, I believe. The present Prior is black, but he‟s leaving, coming here in fact.” I should have known right then. The way he said it, the way he stared at me. But I felt so secure, after all my years of service, having been permitted to settle down here for my retirement, that I didn‟t suspect a thing. This was Eden, and I had earned it, and no one would dare take it away from me. He hit me right between the eyes. “You‟re taking his place.” I sat stunned, speechless, immobilized. I couldn‟t feel my legs. I gulped and gargled. “But...I... I...can‟t...
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“You are to be the new Prior of Saint Luke‟s,” Father said slowly, pronouncing each word precisely, as if to press the idea into my brain. “I...I...” “Remember your vows, Columba,” he warned me, as if I could forget them. Poverty, Obedience, Chastity, Stability. I had repeated them every five years of my monastic life. I would never renounce them and go to hell so God could get his revenge on me, the Old Bastard. Father was watching me the way a hawk watches a crippled sparrow. I shrugged. “I‟m...retired,” I murmured. “Columba,” Father smiled indulgently. “A monk...never retires.” “But I‟ve already been a Prior, for five years once, when they pulled me out of the classroom. I was even an acting abbot for part of a year.” “So much the better. You have experience.” “But I wasn‟t good at it. I didn‟t enjoy it.” “Enjoy? Hah. We monks don‟t enjoy things, Columba, you know that. God seems to think you‟re good at it.” “God? What do you mean? “He gave you all the qualities for it. Look at yourself. You have the size, the bearing, the voice, the wisdom, all the things I wish He‟d given me.” “He did it to spite me.” “What?” “He gave me size, yes, but none of the others. And He didn‟t give me your energy, Father...or your brains.” Father liked that remark. He was proud of his mind, his gift for languages, for theology, for chemistry. He smiled and sat back in his chair. His teeth were yellow and crooked, and they were about all I could see as he disappeared into the leather luxury of his
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seat. “You‟re just what they need, Columba. They are. . having troubles.” “Oh, no,” I sighed. “Financial mostly. They recently took on a new mission project, a seminary for belated vocations, for men a bit older, men without the education to go to a regular seminary, second career men, you know the kind. There were 10 or so the first two years. They have 12 of them returning next month.” “Oh no.” “Oh, yes. And there‟s been constant grumbling about the Prior.” “Oh no.” “Yes. I don‟t know if color has anything to do with it. Mississippi has been to hell and back for the past few years, all because of the integration order in „54. But something is wrong at Saint Luke‟s, and with the seminarians coming in, well, we need a man of authority, a man of heft, a no-nonsense prior, at least for a while.” “But Father,” I said. “People who know me say I‟m more nonsense than no-nonsense.” He nodded. “You‟re humble, Columba, you have a healthy self disdain, and that‟s good.” He eyed me curiously, a smile playing around his mouth. “I know your little tricks, the way you act old so that people will think you‟re over the hill.” “But Father...” He stood up suddenly. “You leave in two weeks.” He was through talking. He was now loading Chiang‟s boats. I struggled to my feet. “Prior James, the black man, has been given a Sabbatical leave. He will come here, you will go there. Take charge, Prior Columba. Sniff out the trouble, do a complete analysis, write me a report.” His smile was gone. He fixed me with his eyes. “Tell you
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what. You get things back to normal, reestablish some order, and this time next year I‟ll do what I can to get you back here.” I didn‟t know whether to laugh or cry. I didn‟t know whether I wanted to hug him or strangle him. A year, a whole year. I was so confused that I just sat there and mumbled, “Yes, Father, all right.” “We have the highest confidence in you.” We? That‟s when I knew God was behind this. “God bless,” he said, confirming it. I found myself out on the deep, damp, green lawn. It was dark. Lights blinked from the cloister. I desperately needed to pee. It was so pressing that I knew I wouldn‟t make it back to my room. I looked around to make sure I was alone, turned toward the garden wall, raised my cassock, unzipped my Bermuda shorts, and let fly. “You did this, didn‟t You?” I said as I relieved myself. “ME?” “Another one of Your plots to make me make a fool of myself.” “THAT‟S THE OTHER GUY. SATAN.” “No, it‟s You.” Chills ran up my spine as I forced out the last few squirts. I shook the last drops away. “Tell me why. Why me?” “WHY NOT YOU?” I zipped up and let my robe fall. “Good question,” I admitted “GOOD ANSWER.” I walked toward the cloister. “You play dirty tricks.” “I ARRANGE THINGS.” “But why?” “ASK NOT WHAT YOUR ORDER CAN DO FOR YOU. ASK WHAT YOU...”
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“Oh, please. Is that where Kennedy got that line? From You?” “NO. THEODORE SORENSEN. I SENT IT TO HIM. I HELP PROTESTANTS OCCASIONALLY, IF THEY‟RE WORKING FOR CATHOLICS.” I sighed. “Saint Luke‟s. Mississippi. Oh, Saint William Faulkner, pray for me.” There was a crash of thunder, and lightning played across the sky. Big raindrops began to fall. I bounced like a beach ball across the grass toward the cloister and my protective cell. As I ran, I heard Him laugh.
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I left Saint Vincent‟s for Dixie early on a September morning. I left early because I knew it was a long trip and I can‟t drive as far now in one sitting as I once could. Then too, I hate goodbyes. Whether fake or genuine, I hate tears, so I tend to sneak away from places. Not that anyone at Saint V‟s would truly miss me; I hadn‟t been there long enough to make many real friends, and we monks are forbidden “particular” friendships. Which is probably why so many of us come unstrung and go half crazy at some point or other. Even in a Community, it‟s a lonely life, purposely so, in order to spend a lot of time with God, heaven help us. Alone with God: another reason to go insane. I had tried to reason with Father Superior a couple more times, persuade him to change his mind about sending me down there, but it had been a waste of my breath. He was as stubborn as a rock, and his years in China had given him the Buddha‟s face. You could never tell what he was thinking, just that he was thinking all the time and that he was one jump ahead of you. Poor Father Superior, he died three years later, only 52, of a massive coronary thrombosis. The doctor blamed it on chain smoking of tobacco and hypertension, but my guess was that he just held in his true feelings until they burst. I left before morning prayers, just as the September sun was setting the dewy grass alive with color. I circled Pittsburgh on my way, made it to Columbus for lunch, and there turned south. There are several Americas, and Dixie is one of them. You begin to sense it as you near Cincinnati. You know you have crossed a cultural if not a national boundary when you cross the Ohio River. The land
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changes color, from brown to red, the people speak from farther back in their throats, and the atmosphere grows denser. I have made a lot of trips, to a lot of places, using different modes of transportation, all of course for the Order. I have been to California by train, Alaska by car, Rome by plane, and Dixie by Greyhound bus. The bus ride through Dixie that I remember most clearly was one from Florida to Texas, when I went out to serve a three month duty as interim Abbot of Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast. I had been Prior of St. Leo‟s, down among the orange groves in Central Florida; and I was too young to know what being an abbot would require. Bright faced, hopeful, I caught the bus in Sarasota. I was somewhere in deepest Louisiana when I had the most bizarre experience of my long priesthood. The bus was crowded, and I was into my second long night of travel. It was during the Second World War, all of the buses were packed, and black people still rode in the back seats. I didn‟t know enough about the south to keep near the front with the other whites, so I was back there among the blacks, standing in the aisle because there were no seats left, holding to the back of a seat, dozing off from time to time and coming awake with starts. Finally I heard a woman‟s voice, as rich as chocolate syrup: “Are you a priest?” she said. I guess the clerical collar gave me away. I peered across the aisle and down to a seat into a pair of brown eyes. “Uh, yes, Miss, I am,” I said. She stood up. “Please sit down, then,” she said. She was at least six inches taller than I was, and I stand 6 feet three inches barefooted. She looked destined to produce a houseful of basketball players. “No, keep your seat, I‟m fine this way,” I lied. “But I insist,” she said. “I need to stand and stretch anyway.”
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Nothing would satisfy her but that I take her seat, and so with a sheepish grin of gratitude I sat down. After a few minutes darkness and fatigue enveloped me, and I fell fast asleep. I woke up slowly, after I don‟t know how long, to the sound of heavy breathing, to the feeling of something rubbing gently against my shoulder. I instinctively began to move away when I heard the woman‟s voice. “Yes, yes, dear Jesus, yes.” She was moaning, sighing. “Yes, yes, yes.” Slowly, carefully, I turned my head and looked up at her. She was so tall that her crotch reached my shoulder, which she was massaging gently. Her hands on the back of the seat held her in place, her eyes were closed, and her lips were pursed in a look of absolute bliss. She continued to sigh and call on Jesus and rub against me, and I hadn‟t the faintest idea what to do. I suppose most priests would have stood up, full of righteous indignation, and preached her a sermon on the sanctity of ordination and sexuality and made her kneel and ask for forgiveness. But I didn‟t want to embarrass the woman, and no one else was awake, so I just sat there. At last she sighed deeply, went taut, then went limp, and finally slid down to sit softly on the arm of my seat. “Thank you, Father,” she said. “That was a blessing.” “It was?” “Isn‟t Jesus wonderful?” “Uh, yes. He is.” She sat down on the floor beside me, her head against my knee. I dozed off again, and when I woke she was gone. People were filing off the bus for a breakfast stop. I went into the station, chose to eat in the COLORED dining room, but I didn‟t see her again. I wonder if Jesus were ever paid a nicer compliment. Now I was inching southward again, toward Saint Luke‟s. Louisville, Bowling Green, Nashville, where I had a flat tire and
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decided to spend the night. Nashville is a river town, once the haven of southern aristocrats, by 1961 the hometown of poor white hillbilly music. There I found that the most ridiculous of southern courtesies survived side-by-side with the rawest of southern crudities. Some people there ask your pardon for coughing, while others pass wind in your presence without a word. One of our novices at Corpus Christi in Texas, a boy from Nashville, told me the story about his aunt, a Lady of the Nashville Aristocracy, searching for the “rest” room in a downtown movie theater. She and another elderly Lady, visiting from Mobile, Alabama, happened into the men‟s room by mistake, and there, sitting on a john, was one of the city‟s most prominent businessmen, a frequent guest at her sumptuous dinner parties. Not wanting to be impolite, she proceeded to introduce her out of town friend to the man. “Glad to meet you,” the man said. “Please pardon me for not standing.” The next morning, full of bacon and grits, I made my way on farther south. I decided to turn at Jackson, Tennessee, instead of going through Memphis. I wasn‟t anxious to cross into Mississippi, but I wanted to cut my trip as short as possible. I stopped at Jackson for gas, and while a black kid pumped my car full of ethyl, I pointed to a highway that turned off to the left and asked him, “That the road into Mississippi?” He eyed me curiously, taking in my black suit and collar, my beard, everything that smacked of a Yankee civil rights activist. “Yes,” he drawled. “You gonna go down there?” “Thought I might.” I handed him the money for the gas. “Well, good luck,” he said with a grin. “You gonna need it.”
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He probably spoke from experience. I had heard the story of how Martin Luther King prayed, “Lord, you promised wherever I went for you, you would go with me.” “I will,” the Lord said. “Well, Lord, I‟m going down to Mississippi.” “I‟ll go with as far as Memphis,” the Lord said. I breached the Magnolia Curtain about noon and guided my Chevy down the road through gathering dampness and heat until just before three. I passed through Oxford, where Bill Faulkner tried to explain the south to us all, and a few minutes later saw a large sign THE OLD SHAKER VILLAGE with a smaller one below it: Saint Luke‟s Priory. I turned off the state highway and followed a winding driveway with shade trees on either side to my new home. It was a temporary refuge, I hoped. The south is medieval without any help from us Catholics; and when we plant a monastery down in the middle of it, we make it even more so. I took the place in as I eased along the narrow blacktop drive. Scattered among wildly luxuriant gardens sat three buildings. Two of them, apparently residences, were built in Shaker-Georgian style and dated back to the early nineteenth century. One displayed a keystone with year 1803 carved in it. Both buildings were newly renovated, and they looked sturdier than most modern buildings. The third building, much newer than the others but older in design, built to form a triangle with the two Shaker buildings, was copied from patterns laid out in France: a miniature medieval abbey, shaped like a Latin cross, one transept serving as a Chapter House, the other a kitchen and dining hall. The nave was the chapel and monastic offices. Sitting between the two Shaker buildings, looked so inappropriate that I had to laugh.
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I put on my brakes, such as they were, and coasted into the parking lot. Two cars were already there, the “maiden aunt” kind of cars that maiden aunts will to monasteries when they die. I parked near them, shut off my engine, and sat there sweating for a time, trying to get my bearings, before anyone noticed me. Several monks were visible, some standing talking under trees, some strolling in the gardens. They were Benedictines all right, decked out in black robes despite the heat. They looked more European than American. One was very old, and he stood under a tree alone just looking up. At what? The sky, a bird, God? His lips moved, as if he were talking with whatever it was he saw. He had a large nose and a small mouth, a distinctively French look. Under another tree, this one in the rose garden, a younger monk with a fresh haircut sat on a stone bench, writing on a pad. He seemed to be writing with meticulous care, treating each letter like a work of art. He looked right out of a scriptorium. Again there was a strong scent of the medieval. He was fair haired, obviously Teutonic. Across the grass walked a monk with such an odd appearance that I actually jumped when I saw his face and had to force myself to be calm. He was neither a white man nor a black man but something in between. He was as tall and thin as a scarecrow, and his black robe hung loosely on his bony frame. He walked with his hands together, as in prayer, and his hands looked almost translucent. A smile of beatific satisfaction masked his gaunt face, and I half expected him to burst into praise or unknown tongues. At last, sweating from every pore, I decided it was time to make my grand entrance, so I opened the car door and struggled out, pulling my lone suitcase with me. I have always traveled light. I prefer to own no more than I can lift with one arm. That never
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included books, which I always had shipped to me, but now that I had given most of them to the college, I was truly without weighty possessions. All I had in my suitcase was a change of clothes, a few religious items, and a toothbrush. A pair of scissors but not a razor since I had no intentions of shaving. Before I could shut the car door, a skinny arm clothed in a ragged Tee-shirt took my bag. I looked up into the face of a smiling jackal. “Father?” he said in a high, hoarse, squeaky voice. Despite the way I describe it, it wasn‟t an unpleasant voice because the man himself was so charming. “You‟re Father Columba.” He wore faded jeans and tennis shoes. Only his smile was without holes. “Yes, I am,” I said, straightening up to find myself a full foot taller than he was. “I‟m Andrew, keeper of the buildings. I‟ve been assigned to introduce you to people and places, until you learn your own way around,” he said, shaking my right hand with his left, since he had my bag in his right one. It was a light bag, but it seemed to weigh his right side down. Still he turned and carried it with determination up the sidewalk toward the chapel. “We were wondering when you would get here,” he rasped, turning to face me as he walked. “Glad it‟s before supper. You can join us.” Supper in Dixie was what we called dinner in the north. The evening meal in a Benedictine abbey could be called whatever the local dialect demanded, so long as a chapter of the Rule was read after it. Andrew led me to the far end of the building and through a screen door. The door slammed so hard behind me that I jumped. Two fat people, a white man dressed in white clothes and a black woman dressed in blue, came toward us smiling. “Father Columba,” Andrew hooted. “This is Brother Peter. He‟s our dietician.”
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“Just Peter,” Peter said, nodding, smiling, pumping my hand. “Dietician is a fancy word for kitchen help. Sorry about that door, Father. It needs a new spring, and our carpenters are on strike.” He laughed and grinned and nodded to show me he was joking. There were of course no strikes in monasteries. “And this is Ophelia, she‟s our cook,” Andrew gestured toward the woman. She was very large, probably 200 pounds. “Father,” she curtsied. I cannot describe to you how a 200 pound woman curtsies, but it bears a certain resemblance to an elephant balancing on a ball. I told Peter and Ophelia that I appreciated good food, as they could tell from my ample girth, and they laughed and displayed their own stomachs and assured me that here I would eat like a king. “I‟m from a German family,” Peter said, “and of course Ophelia is black. So we represent the two best cuisines in the world, certainly the most fattening, and when you put them together you have paradise.” “It‟s good eating here, all right, Father,” Andrew rasped. “Good,” I said. “That‟s very reassuring.” “This way, Father,” Andrew interrupted my thoughts of the evening meal ahead. I smiled goodbye to Peter and Ophelia and followed Andrew as he struggled through the dining room and into a dark hallway. At the end of it he opened a door and showed me into an office. “This is for you, Father,” he said. It was beautiful. A thick, crimson rug covered the floor. The furniture was made of heavy carved wood. A liquor cabinet was well stocked. A nice large window looked out on a green meadow, another on the other side of the room looked into the darkened chapel. Both had curtains that could be pulled. Books filled every shelf, expensive volumes, many of them leather bound. I had never seen a study this plush, not even in large abbeys. The
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less significant the Community, apparently, the more felicitous the furnishings. “Come along, then, Father,” Andrew said as he crossed the office and opened a door. I followed him through it into a luxurious bedroom, with an extra-long king-sized bed, a private bathroom, more carpeting, more curtains. “I don‟t live in the residences with the other monks?” I asked him. I hoped he would say no because even though theoretically I believe a Father Superior should live like the other monks, I secretly wanted this to be mine. “Oh no, Father,” Andrew said. “You sleep here, next to your study, so you can get up and read when you want to, and next to the chapel, so you can pray at will.” “I see,” I said somberly. So I would be living here. “But what about Prior James?” I said, remembering that it was probably he who had designed this arrangement for himself. “Has he gone already?” “From his room, yes, but I believe he‟s still here, at Saint Luke‟s. I was told he is leaving tomorrow morning.” I nodded, not fully satisfied but aware that a lowly brother like Andrew wouldn‟t know the details of the Prior‟s departure. James was going to Saint V‟s. We were sort of changing jobs. He had probably waited until I arrived to leave. I hoped we could talk. “Vespers at 5:30,” Andrew squeaked, penetrating my thoughts. “Then supper at 6:00. I‟ll knock for you, if you want, at 5:15.” “Yes, please do, Brother,” I said. I looked around to thank him for his hospitality, but he was already gone. I stood looking at the room for a long time. Then I sat on the bed and found it just the right balance of soft and firm. I went into the bathroom and tried all the faucets to make sure they worked and didn‟t leak. I found the chair at my desk comfortable.
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The apartment was cool and comfortable despite the heat and humidity just outside the windows. “Nice. Very nice,” I said aloud. “YES IT IS. GOOD FOR YOU.” His voice brought me up short. I felt a sudden premonition of hard times to come. “Tell me, why are you doing this?” I said cynically. “ME? DOING WHAT?” He sounded genuinely puzzled, genuinely innocent. Quite the Old Actor, Him. “Why so good to me? There‟s got to be a catch. Ha!” I found myself pacing the floor, something I tend to do when I‟m worried. “Uneasy rests the head that wears the crown. I‟m stepping into a puddle of trouble. You‟ve set me up.” “YOU‟LL SEE SOON ENOUGH.” “I‟ll bet,” I said, sitting on my new bed, my heart pounding, my forehead damp with sweat despite the air conditioning. Good bed, good plumbing, good food. Yes, I was in for it, all right. “I‟ll just bet.” I could not have bet enough, however, on what it turned out to be. What it turned out to be was far worse than I could then imagine.
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At precisely 5:15, on the dot, Andrew tapped at my door. I opened it and was surprised to see how different he looked in a cassock. The feathers make the bird. He looked like a professional cleric. I invited him to come in, but he smiled self-consciously and said he would wait for me. I was plenty ready to eat, so I picked up my breviary and followed him down the dark hallway, through a door into an even darker passageway, and when he stopped abruptly I bumped into him. “Sorry, Brother,” I apologized. “Oh no, it‟s my fault, Father,” he rasped. “I forgot to tell you, we always pause here, Father James and I, for a small prayer, before we go into the chapel.” “Oh, I see,” I said, even though I didn‟t. Having grown up in Chicago, I never stopped in a dark place at any time, to pray or anything else, and I didn‟t plan to start now. But monasteries are by their nature conservative institutions, slow to change, and if Brother Andrew stopped here in the dark with Father James, I would have to wean him from it slowly. We stood there, lost in the darkness, for rather a long time. I could hear Brother Andrew praying. I felt a tingle of panic. I have always hated close spaces, and in the darkness I had no idea how much space this place had. As I waited for him to finish, I could hear an organ playing from one side and could smell bread baking from the other. I longed for both. Anything to get me out of this dark hole. At last he said “amen” and immediately opened a door. There was light, space, freedom. I wiped the sweat from my brow as we entered the chapel. It looked even better than I remembered
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from looking at it through my window. The walls were light blue, the carpet dark blue, all to make it cool and cheerful. It was empty of people, but soft music came softly from an unknown source. “Brother Andrew,” I said as he led me up a side aisle to the altar, “is there some other way for me to come, so I don‟t have to go through that hallway?” Andrew looked back at me, walking sideways, assuming an exaggerated limp, a look of sadness on his face. “You don‟t like the maze?” he said. “Maze?” “The passageway. That‟s what we call it.” “Well, you see, I‟m just a tad claustrophobic...” “Oh. Oh my...” I could tell from the look on his face that he didn‟t know the meaning of the word. As usual, ignorance caused alarm. “I‟m so sorry, Father. Father James liked to come that way. But you can come through the main hallway, if you wish, the way the other monks come.” He gestured toward the rear of the chapel. A low murmur of voices came from that direction. The monks were lining up for their procession. “Would you prefer that?” “Yes,” I said. “Oh.” It was obvious Father James did not want to be a monk among other monks. He lived in an apartment separated from them, and he entered the chapel through his own private passageway, materializing like a visiting spirit. I wondered if this had anything to do with the dissatisfaction here. “Here, Father,” Andrew indicated the Bishop‟s Seat, a slab of marble protruding from the altar‟s wall. “You sit here.” “But...”
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The seat was, as its name implies, the place for the bishop to sit when he came for his visitation. When he was not there, it was supposed to remain empty. “I‟m afraid I can‟t do that, Brother. It isn‟t proper.” “Father James always uses it.” Andrew looked hurt. “I‟ll make it right with Father James right after the service.” “He‟s...not coming.” “Not coming to Vespers?” “Or to supper. He leaves early tomorrow morning, and he has sent word that he will not be in attendance this evening. So I‟ve been told.” “Oh,” I said. “Yes, well, I‟ll just sit here.” I took a seat on the front pew, and Andrew reluctantly went to the back door to join his brothers for their entrance. I promised myself that from now on, as long as I was prior, the Bishop‟s Seat would be only for the bishop, whose name I could not recall. I hated those seats anyway. They usually froze your butt off and made you look like a pompous ass. They were all straight backed, which made you sit bolt upright, knees as high as your waist, hands on your thighs. It made mass a miserable experience. I twiddled my thumbs. I spotted the source of the music. A small, grey man wearing large turtle shell bifocals sat inside a mahogany box and squeezed music out of a small electric organ. He looked up at me furtively, smiled sadly, and went quickly back to his work. After another few bars, during which he made innumerable mistakes, the back door opened, and the monks began their processional. Two by two they came up the aisle singing aggressively, smiling angelically as if to welcome me. They took their places on either side of the altar, and we started the brief service. The old man I had seen outside, looking upward at Something, led the liturgy. It was of course the prior‟s
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job to do this, but James wasn‟t coming and I had just arrived, so it fell to the oldest member of the community to do it. Since I had no role to fill this time around, I spent the time taking stock of the men I would soon be leading. Father Superior at Saint V‟s had given me profiles of them, but none of the folders had provided a photograph, none but that of Prior James. I had to guess which was which, and I was proud later to learn that I had misidentified only two of them, mixing those two up. The one at the organ, who was easy to identify because of his role in the service, was Roderick. Of Irish parentage, from Boston originally, he seemed genuinely to love the tones and rhythms of the music, although he was inept at performance. He smiled often, but his smile was Irish, which means wistful. I grew up among people like him. I found during the next few months that he cared little about theology. He once told me that people got to heaven not by what they believed but by what they sang. Despite missing so many notes, he was the least squeaky wheel at the monastery; and since squeaky wheels get all the attention, he will likely be neglected in my story from this point on. The husky one who led the choir was Benjamin. Alaskan by birth, built like a lumberjack, his voice was damp, as if it came from a wet place in his head. But he sang with zest, zeal, enthusiasm, and he kept everyone going strong throughout the half hour. He was handsome, with a full head of black hair and balanced features, the kind of man women love, the kind you wonder how escaped the women to be a monk. There are a surprisingly large number of monks like Benjamin, and I sometimes think they became monks to escape being hunted down like game animals. Side by side, helping each other when they got lost in the liturgy, were Andrew and the young monk I saw sitting under the tree with his pad. The pad now lay next to his breviary on his
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lectern, and twice I saw him pause in his singing to jot something down. Each time he turned to Andrew to find his place. I was sure he was Martin. Father Superior had told me there was one monk who had offered a manuscript of poems to be published, a matter under review. I made a mental note then, and underlined it now, neither to interfere with his writing nor to make any judgments about its merits. The older man leading the liturgy I was sure was Alexis, onetime prior here, now retired to a less strenuous life, pushing 80. Next to him was Peter from the kitchen, the heavy man. I noticed now that he had a tiny mustache, something I had missed earlier, so small in fact that it might well have been hair from the one large wart on his upper lip. Next to him were three young monks, making a lot of mistakes, punching each other from time to time, giggling---John, Robert, and Edward---who had taken names not from saints but from the Kennedy brothers. All three seemed to have too much energy and too few brains; and all three showed signs of effeminacy. Their profiles said they kept the grounds and garden in perfect condition; and I had no interest in their personal proclivities. I was not there to instigate an inquisition. There were two black monks, the last remnants of the eight who had come south as examples. Call it prejudice if you will, but I never got their names straight. I often called Eric Bartholomew and Bartholomew Eric. But it was not, as some white people say, because all blacks look alike. Bartholomew was a large man, Eric was small. I think the reason I confused them was that their profiles said Brother Bartholomew had once been a hair dresser and Brother Eric had once been a semiprofessional boxer. Naturally I assumed the big, muscular one had boxed and the small thin one had curled hair. But in reality Bartholomew had worked on lady‟s
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hair in a spacious Miami studio and Eric had been a bantam weight pugilist. That left just one monk. By process of elimination I declared him to be Marjon. He was the one who frightened me in the parking lot. Was he black or white? Were his hands really translucent? Was the shine on his head an incipient corona? Why did he do everything double? He said two amens when others said only one. He bowed twice when others bowed once. He stared out into the space of the chapel with a look of rapture on his face as if receiving a private vision. Had he requested the name Marjon, joining the names Mark and John, so that he would bear the names of two apostles and have one on either side of him as he made his way toward sainthood? I made a mental note to keep two eyes on him. The service ended, and each of the monks briefly knelt at the altar before retiring down the aisle and through the back door. Marjon departed last, kneeling twice. I remained in my seat until Roderick finished and stood up. “Hungry, Father?” he said with a sad smile. “Yes,” I said, standing, smiling back at him. “I‟m hungry for some healthy food. I‟ve been eating hamburgers and hot dogs for the past two days.” “Follow me.” He walked on tiny feet that seemed hardly to touch the blue carpet. Out in the hallway the monks had lined up to greet me. They were all smiles and all wished me well. After introductions and embraces all around, they swept me to the dining room. There several small tables were pushed together so that we could sit as a family. I suspected by the way they awkwardly found their places that this was not the usual arrangement, that on most nights they divided into compatible groups at the small tables; and I was right.
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That was the last night of communal dining, and it was for my benefit. I also guessed that the meal was unusual, better than they were accustomed to having, by the way they ate, and that proved right also. We had breasts of chicken covered with a French sauce, fresh green salad, asparagus, jam cake, coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on it; and with it all as much wine as we wanted. The monks lapped up the wine as if they had not had it for a while and might not get it again for another while. Of course it went to their heads. They began toasting each other: Peter for the great meal; Ophelia, who had left after she finished her cake, for carrying out Peter‟s plans so perfectly; John, Robert, and Edward for the roses on the table; Roderick and Benjamin for the music; Alexis for the way he read the liturgy; even Bartholomew for their haircuts. They toasted my arrival several times. Then without warning Peter, more than slightly tipsy, stood and raised his glass to Prior James...that he have a wonderful new life. There was dead silence, at first shocked, then malevolently cold. Even Peter realized his mistake, grinned sheepishly, and sat down. The party went on for a time, but it never returned to its high level. The only one not toasting and not being toasted was Marjon. He sat slightly back from the table, drinking coffee cup after cup, smiling sickly, now and then raising his eyebrows and looking heavenward. During supper he had refused the chicken and the vegetables, twice going into the kitchen and returning with an orange soup. Into each bowl he had dropped a dollop of peanut butter, scooped from a jar on the table, and eaten the concoction with his eyes closed in meditation. He did take jam cake, but he spread peanut butter over it too. I watched to see if he put it in his coffee, and thank heaven he did not.
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“I was ordained in the Year of Our Lord 1910,” Alexis was telling us, his words distinctly slurred. “I was still in Germany then. My grandparents were able to come. My grandparents, they were born in the 1830s.” “My, my,” several people said. “1910. Before the Great War. The year I finished seminary in Bavaria.” He turned to me. His bloodshot eyes were like those of a kindly but tired dog. “So last year, on my fiftieth anniversary, we had a big celebration here at Saint Luke‟s.” I smiled and nodded because the story was for me. The others were present for the ceremonies. “My grandparents came. They were born in the 1830s, doncha know?” There was a silence. Everyone knew something was wrong, but the wine slowed their thought patterns. “No. Wait,” Alexis said. “They came to my ordination. They didn‟t come last year. My God, they would have been over a hundred and twenty years old.” He laughed suddenly, and we all shared the laugh with him. “Father Alexis is to be commended,” a sober voice cut through the intoxicated atmosphere. We all looked to Marjon, who sat perfectly still, completely composed. “Fifty years. Fifty years he has given to God. Let us all praise the Lord.” “Praise the (hic) Lord,” we all said as we raised our glasses to praise the Heavenly Father. Why not? We had toasted everyone else, except Marjon. “He has chosen to lead a life Unnatural by this world‟s standards,” Marjon went on. “It is the life we all have chosen to lead, knowing as we do that the more Unnatural we are the more Godly , the more like our Maker, we are.” “To Unnaturalness,” someone said, and we all drank to Unnaturalness and Godliness. I could do that in good conscience
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because I knew it was true, but I knew my interpretation of the two words was different from theirs. This of course got us all laughing, and poor Brother Marjon, smiling weakly, gave up all efforts to redeem the party. At long last we struggled to our feet. The monks wouldn‟t let me help them clear the table. They all offered to help me to my room, but I assured them that one man would do, and Eric volunteered. “I‟m surprised,” I said as Brother Eric and I went down still another hallway. “You men seem to get along so well. I heard there were conflicts, but I don‟t sense...” “Prior James is gone, Father,” Eric said simply. “We don‟t have no conflicts anymore, know what I mean?” I looked at him, and he laughed. I nodded and laughed too. We came to a corner, and he pointed me toward my digs. “There on the left. Bless you, Father,” he said. “And you,” I murmured. I watched as he wandered back toward the dining room. It occurred to me that Prior James might be staying somewhere close by and might have heard what Eric said. I hoped not. I started toward my place, but I stopped dead in my tracks. The wine had gone right through my stomach and into my bowels. I had not just a mild discomfort, I was in real pain. I had gone two days, all the way from Pennsylvania, without a crap; and I was about to make up for lost time. I might not even make it to my apartment. I might even fill my pants. Some impression that would make on my first day at Saint Luke‟s. My eyes made out in the dim light two words: WASH ROOM. I pushed the door, and it opened. I frantically felt along the wall and found the light switch. Holy Mother, a shiny new clean toilet. In one motion I threw up my cassock, downed my shorts, and sat down. Not a moment too soon. There was a loud
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clap of thunder, a mighty rush of sound, and then blissful peace and contentment. After a few minutes, after I had flushed, sitting there on the cold rim because I hadn‟t had time to lower the seat, my mind began to clear. The sign on the wall in front of me read: THIS IS A PLACE FOR MONKS AND SEMINARIANS. IF YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THE TWO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? “That‟s what I wish someone would tell me,” I said to myself as I started searching for toilet paper. “WHAT‟S THAT?” He was in here. He was everywhere, especially when I didn‟t want or need Him. He could be very annoying. “Why I‟m here,” I said. “ON THE POT?” “No. At Saint Luke‟s. Tell me. And while you‟re at it, tell where the toilet paper is.” “I‟M NOT READY TO TELL YOU THAT, NOT YET. AND ON THE OTHER QUESTION, THERE IS NO PAPER.” “When then?” “TOMORROW MORNING, WHEN A BROTHER COMES AROUND TO CLEAN UP. HE WILL BRING A NEW ROLL.” “No, I mean, when will I know why I‟m here?” “NOT TOMORROW MORNING.” “Damn it all.” “ARE YOU MAD ABOUT THE PAPER OR ABOUT NOT KNOWING?” “Both.” I stood up and pulled up my shorts, but not tightly. I held my robe away from my bottom as I eased out of the WASH ROOM and down the hall to my digs. “I really have an urge to kill right now.”
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“KILL WHO?” “Whom,” I corrected Him. “Youm.” “OH BUT YOU CAN‟T. THAT‟S THE GREAT THING ABOUT BEING GOD.” “Spare me,” I said. He said no more. In five minutes, using my wonderful bathroom, I was cleaned up, in my bed, and sound asleep. One thing about our conversations, they cleared my head.
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just as he did. So the bells were just above me. I could only surmise that he was a bit deaf. with all its luxury. I had dreamed that I was leading 12 monks. and they almost shook me out of bed. stopped before my closed eyes. not spite. and I struggled to recover the skein of my dreams. and I supposed they had to be loud to summons the monks from their residence hall across the garden and parking lot. But I knew instinctively that the laughter was connected to the bells. just as Jesus had 12 disciples. I sat there for a time. It all came floating back to me in the wake of the bell‟s cessation.Page 37 . They were right above me. Nine times. and I knew one of them was a traitor. and by the time they finally stopped. more the laughter of an idiot.IV I woke to bells. Malicious? No. wondering whether my apartment was as pleasant a place as I had thought. I had been trying to solve a mystery of some kind. I was wide awake from the moment they started. someone without the intelligence to be malicious. and with the headache I had from the wine the night before I felt hostility for the laugher. One-two-three. I was sitting on the side of the bed. the sound drifting away like exploding soap bubbles. looking out my window onto the garden. I found it odd that Prior James had built his cozy nest. a total of 27 strokes. and perhaps small priories need big bells. In the silence that followed I heard laughter. right under them. I sat Prior Knowledge . One-two-three. waiting for my head to clear. the Blessed Trinity squared. Then they started again and squared the Trinity three times. One-twothree. Maybe the bells were all part of his scheme. Whoever laughed did it out of glee. my feet on the floor. Small priories need plush rooms for their priors. and slowly solidified. I had been dreaming.
and Eric already at the altar. And three were mysteries: Martin the writer (completely self-absorbed). One of the twelve was a traitor. Andrew the porter (far too anxious to worm his way into my life). I wondered if Prior James skipped the early services. Bartholomew. I shook myself and got up. It was just a dream. analyzing their character. Benjamin.Page 38 . Why should anyone want to betray me? How would they do it? What difference would it make if they did? When I parted my curtain and looked into the chapel. praying. and especially Marjon the whatever he was (self-righteous and probably a megalomaniac). and watched as they ate fish and bread and drank wine. Three of them were simple creatures. Three were mischievous but probably harmless: the Rose triplets John. Three were open and honest. At 7:30 Andrew knocked at my door and when I opened it told me he was supposed to take me on an inspection tour of the buildings and grounds. something I found most protective in the Mississippi sunlight. obviously without guile: Peter.with them around a fire. When I got back to my digs. by the seaside. interested only in the liturgy: Alexis. I pulled on my cassock and went the long way around to the back door of the sanctuary. Prior Knowledge . “Will I see Prior James?” I asked him as we went out the kitchen door into the garden. They seemed surprised also when I shared their silent breakfast in the dining room. Eric. The monks already there looked surprised to see me. Robert. This was insane. Prior James apparently ate breakfast alone---and had room service. No one was a traitor. He handed me a straw hat. I saw Alexis. I found coffee and rolls on a tray sitting outside my door. observing them. Bartholomew. Roderick. and Edward.
” Andrew said. Already. Prior James.m. I wondered if after all this time they still made it and if I could find it in Oxford. the earliest near the door. smiling serenely.wouldn‟t. “This is where we sleep. The first four were made with black and white film.. Prior Knowledge . true to form. “The other building is for the seminarians. the sun was bright and hot. I knew. not much past 8:00 a. “I.” Andrew rasped. Father. They were large pictures.” Andrew rasped. that I would soon have a rash. three by two feet.. balance the score racially. Three of the faces were white. four were black. the more recent ones down the wall. both Georgian brick structures. and I was pleased to find it air-conditioned.” “How did he go?” I asked. H-E-E-T.know. There was a touch of hostility in it. Father. I tried to remember that wonderful miracle powder I had used in Florida and Texas. “He left during the night.“No. Sweat rolled down my neck.” Andrew said. There were seven. so it was easy to read the faces. We crossed the central garden. wildly alive with the Rose Triplets‟ work. both still sturdy and ready to last a second century.. and approached one of the Shaker buildings being used as a monastic dormitory..” I went through both of them with him. if ever mounted. including the last one. noting that the same two priory cars I had noted when I arrived still stood in the parking lot next to mine. a touch of fear.Page 39 . I looked them over. Mine would. his smile not nearly as simple as his words.. pointing with a bony finger to a line of photographs on the wall of the vestibule. His voice sounded even worse in the morning than the day before. They were approximately the same size. both pleasant to the eye. “These are our priors. We first went into the Monkery. I seemed to recall.
Father.” “Yes.” “Where was he staying after that?” Prior Knowledge . wearing horn rimmed glasses.. As we moved away from the pictures. Father.Page 40 .” “Why do you think he left this morning without meeting me?” “Perhaps he found it embarrassing.” “Yes. more like an African archbishop than prior of an humble Mississippi House of Benedict.. His name was Jacques until he was given James.. “Yes. I wouldn‟t know.Louisiana. about going to Pennsylvania?” “Oh. “Why are the photos here? Did the prior once live in this building?” “Oh yes. I believe. his chin raised in a regal bearing.. When did he vacate my. some days ago. I looked closely at James. did he seem unhappy about giving up his work here.” I said. Father?” Andrew‟s eyes switched from side to side. All of them did until Prior James.” “Yes.the last three done in sepia. We had plenty of time to freshen up for you. Father?” he said. He speaks fluent French. the dates already fixed.” “Tell me about Prior James. “Shall I show you our cells now. The legend said he had been prior from 1941 to 1950.” I agreed. the way a cow‟s tail swats flies. perhaps. Father. “Tell me. I found Alexis. I guess I lingered longer over his picture than Andrew wanted me to. prior from 1955 to 1961.” I nodded. He sat erect and proud for his photograph. He was the one who had the apartment put in over by the chapel. I said. Baton Rouge. “What.the apartment?” “Oh. Jacques Boulanger. I suppose he would. He had aged precipitously in ten or so years since then. “What do you want to know?” “He is from.
No one told me. There‟s also a small prayer room. I‟ve always believed that you don‟t need rules other than the Rule.” “We must go upstairs. using different stairwells. seeing how each monk lived. it matters. I must admit I don‟t like persnickety rules.” We peeked into each room. “We use the right one for going up.” He looked uneasy. It was quite a revelation.“I‟m not really sure. “Ora. show me the monks‟ cells. We have removed the partition that kept them apart. “No.” “Does it matter?” I asked.Page 41 . “Now. You see. as a family you see. They lived in the same house. But then he often took meals in his rooms. It‟s no great thing.” I said as I started toward the stairway on the left.” The monks were apparently all out doing monastic chores. Brother.” “Did he continue to eat with you?” “No. Father. They never allowed men and women to share stairs. Father. See what you can find out.” Andrew quickly stopped me. Bartholomew has his barber shop in there and through that way is our laundry. Father. Maybe there.” “I see. “Praise and Work.” “Well. ask around about these matters. Andrew seemed not the least embarrassed about opening doors to let me see them. “Yes. but they kept to different sides. and I winked at him. but to honor them we still consider the stairs different. adding to what I had read in the files and what I had already observed. Father. The left one is for coming down.” he explained as he led me to the center of the large vestibule. Father.” I said. Prior Knowledge . I‟m just curious. Lavora. “The Shakers used this first level for cooking and eating. “Just a nosy old man. There is a guest room in the seminarians‟ dormitory. We go up on the right and down on the left.” Benedictines say. it‟s to pay our respects to the Shakers.” “Yes.
notes. competed for space under the edge of his unmade bed. for example. Prior Knowledge . some of family members long dead. but you don‟t lap it up. you accept it as part of your work. the quality of burlap. always riding ponies. Several pairs of old shoes. It all made me want to cry. turned in odd directions. Not a book. not a picture. but it does warn you not to breathe too deeply.Alexis. The whole building had the smell of men. never growing up into a heterosexual world. most of them frayed at the cuffs. turned back at the top to show that there were no sheets. His book shelves were cluttered with books. would probably look like this one day. all of them down at the heels. It was the room of an old man. The rooms of the Rose Boys were as daintily and tastefully decorated as ones you would see at Saint Mary‟s School for Rich Little Catholic Girls.Page 42 . His closet was stuffed with an equal measure of work clothes and robes. some religious. The smell is not particularly offensive. all eventually coming to look and sound and even smell alike. all yellowed with age. always working out in the gym. Martin‟s room was crammed with paperback books and a snowfall of papers. not a single spare set of clothing. Peter‟s large empty pajamas lay like a discarded carcass across his bed. Monks are at heart eternal boys. A single crucifix hung above his bed. living together in the atmosphere of a summer camp. It‟s like the smell of a stable or a gymnasium. wherever I ended up. You recognize it. Marjon‟s room was entirely different. It was virtually bare. and papers. The man obviously wanted to live as an ascetic---and he wanted others to know it. The bed was covered with a brown quilt. His walls were covered with pictures. I have often wondered whether women who live their whole lives with other women know the smell of women the way I know the smell of men. My last room. a familiar smell to me. like a sword about to fall.
” I said. “You‟re joking. The monks don‟t have to deal with it. “Ghosts?” I said. Father. and surveyed the rooms.” Andrew said seriously. “It looks like you‟ve done everything to make the newcomers comfortable.” “No. We climbed the right stairs. There was a laundry room. “What ghosts?” “Shakers. “The seminarians live over here.” he rasped as we descended the women‟s stairs. is that it?” I joked “Yes. The ghosts have accepted us. fresh towels and washcloths lying on each one. the men‟s stairway. but here instead of a barber shop and prayer room there were a book shop and library. “Twelve of them will be here this year. They were all immaculately clean.” I complimented him. laughing lightly as we went out. At each end of the hallway a bathroom sparkled. We‟ve been here a long time. out through the vestibule. The Prior Knowledge .” “One for each monk to keep watch over. Some have left because of them.” he said shyly. “Commendable. “Who oversees all this cleaning?” “I do. We went inside and found the same arrangement as in the other building. Father. and across a small expanse of grass to the other residence hall.” Andrew explained as we climbed the steps to the main level.” “All that is possible. “They can be quite a headache for the students.Page 43 . there‟s nothing we can do about the ghosts.At last we went down the women‟s stairway. clean sheets on the carefully made beds.” Andrew said seriously. “Of course.” I stopped and looked at him. with freshly painted walls. “Excellent work.
Just then the bells for the 11:00 a. and these he kept only to store hay. but within days after they arrive they‟re complaining about it. and we make the returning ones promise not to mention it.” “Graveyard? Shaker graveyard?” “Yes. I looked toward the bell tower and saw a lone figure pulling the rope. If we lost our seminarians.” He gave a slight shiver at the thought. Father.” “Yes.” he rasped. He looked like he was making love to the bells.Page 44 . We would have to close up and go to other places. and a lot of seminarians. The farmer who bought up all this property when the Shakers left. We just hope the word doesn‟t get out.seminarians are transients. the bells were loud. “Pith?” Prior Knowledge .” “Oh. he tore down all but these two buildings. but we know where it was by the strange sounds and lights at night. we couldn‟t pay the bills. Father. Even outside. He took off all the gravestones and planted crops on the grave sites. “That‟s Pith. but some of the monks have. where the graveyard used to be. Lights and moans and sometimes what sounds like singing and dancing. and he was laughing with glee. and when he stopped after the 27th ring he gave one more ejaculatory whoop and disappeared down into the tower‟s cavity.m. He was as thin as a scarecrow and dressed in tattered black robes. “Who on earth is that?” I asked Andrew. You only hear sounds and see things in this building---and up there. some distance away from them. service of Nones began to peal. Even at that distance he look on his face made my heart beat faster. We never tell the new ones. I‟ve never seen or heard it myself.
are we? Is that what You think of us?” “THAT‟S WHAT THE WORLD THINKS. As I sniffed the pleasant fragrances. and he can count perfectly.” I said. I heard the mad laughter again. in a manner of speaking.” “Is he a monk?” “Oh no. “You go along. “He rings the bells for us. We give him food and old robes to wear and let him sleep in the barn.” “So we‟re fools.” “Yes. He‟s got no family. I look all around. He can‟t read. and I turned to the roses.” Prior Knowledge . but I could not long see the idiot. I just want to smell the flowers. He lives here with us. it seems. “He rings the bells on time. he‟s an imbecile. each different according to the color.“Pithecarius. He pointed to the open field where cows grazed. His name is fitting because it‟s similar to what‟s in his head. He can barely make himself understood when he speaks. “Amazing. Near the woods stood a forlorn building which they used as a barn. He comes to the kitchen door for his meals. Father.” “Of course. But he has a perfect sense of time. I have to get ready.Page 45 . DON‟T YOU THINK?” “Fitting? What‟s fitting?” “A FOOL TO RING THE BELLS FOR A COMMUNITY OF FOOLS. and the gives the right number of rings. “Now if you will excuse me. It‟s odd. I‟ll be there in a minute. They are beautiful.” He trotted away. THEY CALL YOU GOD‟S FOOLS.” “Oh yes. “FITTING.
black people. as if it were slime. “What do you want?” I said.. and I nearly jumped out of my skin. the bony arms outlined under the shiny gabardine.” I said to the bush.” the voice said.” Prior Knowledge . it‟s what I want.. “What is it then?” I said as I began walking toward the chapel.” I let the flattery slide down and off of me.” “What about?” “I know we are called to suffer.“Father..” He sobbed suddenly. coming from behind a patch of flowering bushes. if you will. Father. which of course it was.” It was a different voice. the transparent hands clasped in prayerful reverence.in church now?” “Oh. I‟m an orphan. Father Prior.” I stopped and faced him.. wonderful. I never knew my real parents. you must believe me. you see. “Just to talk with you a moment.. “Startled? You nearly scared me to death. The adoption agency place me with. Fine..” He said it as though the world would wait for him. Father. Brother?” I said impatiently. “What is it... “But this kind of suffering. “Well.. hoping he would either not follow me or that I could cut the conversation short as we arrived at the service. none too compassionately. “Father? Sorry if I startled you. “I‟m worried.Page 46 . what I seek. “Shouldn‟t you be.. to glean a bit of wisdom from your many years of experience in the work of God.” He sighed.colored. Marjon came slowly out into the open and stood there like a devotee to the Sacred Heart: the sickly smile. “But I‟m not... there‟s ample time.I‟m not! Father.
Father.” “Yes. I was not suffering enough.” I looked around to see that other monks were also moving slowly across the landscape toward the chapel. in order to give up everything for God. trying to do something to snap him back into reality. “I did it gladly. appearing not to have heard my little witticism. and he Prior Knowledge . I wanted nothing more to do with that false religion. when I entered the Church. “I found it hard to give up all hope of marriage.” “Peanut butter. “Those people were Baptists.” he finished his sentence. all hope of a nice home and earthly possessions. an African look. I found it hard to understand his anguish.” “Yes. to my admittedly unprofessional eye. That‟s why I became a monk. I suffered for the true faith.Page 47 . and there was something about his eyes that had. but as a monk I found consolations: the Blessed Virgin.” I didn‟t know where this was leading. Father. Having never been uncertain about my own race..” “I understand. but his hair had tight curls.” Out of habit I sounded like we were sitting in a confessional booth rather than walking toward the chapel in open view.. that sad race. I needed to suffer more. He was fair skinned.. “When I was. not compared with the saints... I lived all alone for many months. the Liturgy.” he said with contempt. “.converted. but I felt uneasy. “Then I realized that just being a Catholic wasn‟t enough. Their proximity made me feel slightly safer. Father. I left those people.I nodded..” I said. descended from fair people from the bogs of western Ireland.the Word of God. Then his eyes cleared.
” “Oh yes. He has given me a burden that I could not possibly bear without him. Father.” He stared at me. hoping he wouldn‟t follow me.” I murmured. that I cannot and will not take. Maybe God has given it to you as a blessing. Father.” Prior Knowledge . but for this there is none.” “I will pray that he gives you many more. “What a fool. “I see it now.stared at me with a ferocious look of defiance.Page 48 .” I said. I commend him to You. “Brother Marjon. “YOU OR HIM?” “Both of us.” I said. It‟s God‟s gift: to suffer false accusations. lots of luck. “Thank you. He took my hand. and I think he would have kissed it had I not taken it back. the lies they tell. and I felt safe.” he said. “But what they say about me.” “YOU PROMISED TO PRAY FOR HIM. “Don‟t you see? That is the very suffering you have always sought. “Thank you.” I left him standing in a pool of sunlight and hurried through the chapel door.” We were at the chapel door. shivering with delight. You have consolation for all the other suffering. And as they say. His frown slowly melted. overcoming the natural curiosity that would have made me ask what exactly he meant by their lies.
even if it meant being a prior. I was feeling guilty. the wild laughter from the rooftop. I felt steady on my feet and comfortable with my responsibilities. I felt I was pretty well in sync with life there. Now for some reason I was happy once again to be needed. It wasn‟t as bad as I had anticipated. I felt relieved. and I begged off it when I could. Saint Luke‟s. human nature. for a year. in a way. But after ten or so days on the job. and they seemed to like and respect me. with its 103 monks. Funny thing. a lumbering buffalo. All those years when I was young and had no doubts about my worth or skills I had despised administration.V By my second Monday at Saint Luke‟s. I liked most of the men and tolerated the others. was a scampering rabbit compared to Saint Vincent‟s. and I ate with them and served as their confessor. I called it administrivia. Saint Luke‟s pulse was lighter. I followed the bells. more or less adjusted to the peculiarities of the monks.Page 49 . to prove to myself and others that at 65 I could still be efficient and useful to the Order. after several short tours of administrative duty. and led the services from my stall in the choir. more erratic than that of a large one. It was gratifying. the volume of the bells. that I had so dreaded the assignment. but I felt now that I could stand being in Mississippi. in fact. more erratic that the pulse at Saint Vincent‟s: the way a small animal‟s is lighter. doing this job. which were always precisely on time. when at age 60 I was allowed to “retire” to teaching history at Saint V‟s. Not that I wouldn‟t gladly have packed and gone back to Pennsylvania. quicker. quicker. a week and a half into its routine. with its dozen monks. Prior Knowledge .
well. but I thanked him and told him to stay where he was. “Columba. after Morning Prayer and breakfast--even the coffee at Saint Luke‟s was good. at Saint V‟s?” “No. on a somewhat delicate matter.. his usual forced bark. I never saw him.he‟s not still there?” “No.we just wondered if you knew.. I may gain weight having Ophelia. “And you?” “Yes. “do you mean he‟s not there with you.. “I should have found myself a black woman to cook for me years ago..On my eleventh morning there... It concerns Prior Father James.” I shook my head. Are you learning the ropes at Saint Luke‟s? Finding life in the Delta acceptable. Father. “How are you?” His voice sounded like it was coming over an iron wire. Up a ladder giving a physical examination to a fruit tree..” He laughed. He didn‟t meet me. He then went straight to business. I wanted to be alone. yes. “Do you know where he is?” The question threw me for a moment. “I‟m well.” I said. is that you?” Father Superior said. I needed to think about the call that had come through from Saint Vincent‟s the night before.” I said. and the monks seemed to believe that he left the morning after I arrived.Page 50 . “No. thank you. “I‟m calling. Andrew called out to offer his guidance. You two didn‟t confer?” “No. thanks to Ophelia‟s skill---she had grown up close enough to Louisiana to know about chicory---I set out for a long walk. “No major problems. the way news reports from abroad sounded during the war.” Prior Knowledge . He hasn‟t arrived. are you?” I could hear him take in a breath of smoke and release it.” “Oh? I‟ve been wondering how he‟s..” “You say he didn‟t meet you.
They had been here at this place for 109 years. he seemed reconciled to my will. I thought we had it all settled. at first he said he wouldn‟t go. Neither the meadow beyond the barbed wire fence nor the woods was priory land. But when a week passed and he didn‟t show up here I called his home. I assumed he wanted to visit his mother and grandmother in Louisiana. Then he seemed to accept my orders. I said he could if he relinquished his priorship and became a simple monk. I never thought he would just. but that he refused to do. “Very concerned.“Yes. He literally begged me to let him stay. despite years of corn production. from 1813 to 1922.. an extensive stand of woods crept over a hill. Later he changed from rebellion to petition. It belonged to someone who lived through the woods. in books for the monastic library. I could see. I had been reading. about the Shakers. He wasn‟t happy leaving Saint Luke‟s. wouldn‟t come here. odd.” “Yes.Page 51 . I looked around the square plot for a time and then circled back toward the priory. and they must have buried quite a number of people during that time.” I was now trudging up the grassy knoll to which Brother Andrew had told me the Shakers buried their dead. Beyond the open field.” Father went on. let me know if he shows up or calls. beyond the hill. on the other road.” “Sure will.. anyway.” Prior Knowledge . It‟s not that far on down from Saint Luke‟s to Lafayette. Well. which was bisected by a barbed wire fence. climbing a stile and stepping into a meadow.disappear. the vague square outline of the cemetery. “He asked for a couple of days off. well I‟m concerned. In fact.” “Odd. where there were reports of noises and eerie lights at night. He hasn‟t been there.
It always helps to tell Claire. to be stripped of his tiny kingdom. feeling the warm breeze on my neck. What else could he do? How could he feed himself? He surely didn‟t have much money saved. I am sad. since he was 18. and I stopped there and stood looking into its milky water. if any. I felt better. Poor guy. mellow odor of cow flop. I share his pain. when I did a report on her for my art history class. Please give me the grace and knowledge to handle my own insecurities and if possible to help Father James overcome his. where he was the great authority. I began talking with her when I was in Catholic school.There was a pond in the middle of the meadow.” When I feel burdened I always say a prayer to Claire. smelling the rich. “I‟m sure he is hurt. where he was able to take his meals in his private apartments so plushly apportioned. I see her as a mature young woman. I felt sorry for Father James. She became more important to me after my Mom died. I surmised that as a black man in the deep south. it must have been a blow. A cloud passed before the Prior Knowledge . “Although I do not feel guilty because I am not the cause of James‟ wandering. worldly wise but sensitive. But as quickly as my spirits rose they fell again. “Santa Clara. he needed to prove his worth and that to be “demoted” was an affront to his dignity. She is the kind of woman who would bake fresh bread and have lots of babies. uncertain. green eyes. all girls. Saint Francis‟ girlfriend is my closest confidant.” I said softly. He probably would not come to me for help because he feels I am his supplanter.. Where would he go? What would he do? According to his file he had been a monk all his adult life. and all his education had been for the priesthood and monastic life. with light brown hair. But to disappear.” There. fearful of the future..Page 52 . I really hate it when someone holds a grudge against me.
under one of the trees. I had the feeling He grinned and winked. so beautiful. It lay on its side.Page 53 . Frost.. toes drawn up into knots. Big red ants swarmed over it. From TEXAS.” I sighed. call it God Winks. From KANSAS it would be. As I walked toward the chapel a Greyhound bus stopped out on the highway.. The number of cars in the parking lot had doubled since I had left an hour earlier. every muscle taut.. I‟ve always thought I should write a book on Divine Unconcern.. I Prior Knowledge . letting nature take its course. trying not to act too curious. a black Buick with plastic horns on the hood from TEXAS. From CALIFORNIA. a small Chevy sedan from CALIFORNIA.. Hanks..Griffey.” “You know do You? Then why don‟t You keep it from happening?” He didn‟t reply. The start of classes was a week away. “I KNOW. YOU REMEMBER. so melodic. Cows grazed on the hillside to my right. Now there were six. “Oh my. Hawks. Was this a warning from Santa Clara? Was something wrong with James? Had he come to grief? I left the pond and walked blindly toward the row of trees along the far fence. three new ones. They were early birds. so free. I walked among them. and finding a dead one makes me sad. I SEE THE FALL OF EVERY SPARROW. I tried to recall the names of the seminarians that would fit each car. Tags said they were from different states: a Ford pickup from KANSAS. and followed the fence until it crossed back into priory land. no. But along the fence.sun. eyes open. I thought I would take this walk every morning. and a chubby kid carrying a small bag crossed the road. and my mind grew dark with worry. It was an idyllic scene. I came across a dead Bluebird. I left the bird to be devoured by the ants. Birds are my favorite creatures.
Page 54 . from Indiana. and while I bathed the bells for Sext began to ring. too young really to be in this seminary for belated vocations. His chin looked like it had only recently been scrubbed clean of tobacco juice. he had been a mortician for fourteen years.guessed that was Lucas. every hour. because he was the only one coming who weighed over 200 pounds. for nineteen years.well yes. The seminarians did not attend Sext. I seemed to excite the most interest. He was only 26. The policy. sizing up the monks. Griffey was 38. As they looked at me and made their comments. Just looking at him gave me the willies. glancing furtively about them. Lucas was the fat kid. and he looked it. Tall and thin. I went to my room for a quick shower. since Andrew was also missing. with tiny beady eyes and a somewhat misshapen head. But all four of them were at lunch. Hanks was 41. looking new and a bit frightened. the whole building would collapse. He walked up the lane as if he knew where he was and went without a pause through the front door of the seminarian‟s hall. the place we all thought we knew from watching Gunsmoke on Saturday nights. I assumed they were still moving into their rooms. quietly talking to each other. He hailed from Dodge City. a cowboy his file said. stocky. I was looking at the files I had brought with me. so I moved on as quickly as possible.. but I pretended not to notice. was that monks and seminarians were to sit separately at meals. and chewed like.. They shook the plumbing. The four sat at one of the three tables reserved for them. I had been told. I calculated that if the idiot continued to ring them that way. had graying blond hair. He was not a second Prior Knowledge . sitting together. a cow. He looked like he had just emerged from a CREEP magazine. He was short.
unless you counted being a physical trainer for the Notre Dame football team a career. The gray haired man was Frost. it was better to be safe than sorry. unless the rules were changed. all three daughters were out of college and on their own. but neither James before me nor I was willing to tell him he couldn‟t study with us. They presented widely different problems and challenges. I can do this with some accuracy because I taped each interview. After lunch I met each one in my study. Prior Knowledge . the father of three daughters. 47. Likely he would end up being a Lay Reader. omitting every third one. since they had not passed any real ecclesiastical scrutiny. Divorced. His wife had remarried.Page 55 . Still. He was here because his adviser at Notre Dame thought he wasn‟t smart enough to go to a normal seminary--and because his uncle was a bishop. Griffey sat down and hooked one booted leg across the arm of his chair. He would have to appeal to Rome. using only enough sounds to communicate---for the most part. According to his file. No bishop would ordain him either. I was willing to bet.career man. He had spoken for many years mainly to horses and cows. thus his knowledge of the buildings and grounds. His uncle had brought him down personally during the summer to assure his acceptance. where a priest was dealing with unusual people who might misrepresent what had been said and done. he would never be a priest. but the practice had proven beneficial in other times and places. I didn‟t tell them I was doing this. he was paying his own way because no bishop would sponsor him. Until I got to know these men better. and I didn‟t think they would be. He spoke in monosyllables. and I will only reproduce snatches of their conversations. and Rome was and is extremely slow. a former animal doctor from California.
” “Do you have any family?” “Mama.God.. He left my office still heee-hawww-ing.fall.. and he shook his head. He had a B.college.all....then... I could see I wouldn‟t get an answer.. He was also hostile...A. Prior Knowledge .....har read.n‟er..serus..” “You were never married?” “Hooooohawwwww!” I don‟t know how to reproduce the sound he made..” “Well.bapt.Page 56 .life..felt.me......... shaking his red face... It was a bit frustrating.....” “A mother? Who takes care of her?” “Sist.. but I couldn‟t help but like the old boy...know else..jun.. hawww..three year. so think. “Hooooohawwww!” It was an embarrassed no..... go... It was a man‟s own business why he had not married. until the fall put him on his back so he would have to look up---why would a normal heterosexual man not marry? Sometimes the answers were revealing.. I assumed it was a rancher‟s laugh.. To me it sounded like a mule braying.Cath. “. If not for religion---and Griffey said until recently he had not been particularly religious... His face turned red...” Griffey laughed....hope...‟til.....V... “Heee. Frost was another matter altogether. from New York Binghamton.took..12.good. D.” “. from California State at Fullerton.was. hawww.M.grades. hawww.here. But it was a required question.Christin..laid up.do. “Why not?” I hated to ask that question...twobit. He was obvious bright.“.” “You were a rancher?” I said.on back..look up...made. from his letter I see the Bishop of Kansas City thinks you have a lot of potential....do it....
. Father. He frowned and took another drag. “Was it eighteen years?” “If that‟s what it says. “I‟ve never been married. I went on. “I don‟t consider myself married. “About your wife. I can speak Spanish.not in Mexico. You had three children.” “I don‟t have a wife. I think they‟ll take me.” “You don‟t have a bishop.“You were a veterinarian for. There was no annulment. Father.” He blew a billow of smoke at me. Father? I‟m working on beating the habit.” “I tried. They‟re so hard up. “You really don‟t think they will object to the fact that you are still married in the eyes of the Church?” I felt it was my duty to caution him.Page 57 .” “But you were married for.. really I did.. We are Universal. She did too.how long?” I began. and now it‟s over... but so far I haven‟t been able to. especially in the mountains.” He nodded and lit up. but I have heard it does.” Prior Knowledge .” he said.” “Nope. That‟s why we are the Catholic Church.” “Ever try chewing?” I said..” He laughed cynically. I try not to think too much about it. The sacraments hold all over the world. I guess. I try not to think about that either. Father. But it was a mistake.” “But the Church does. Especially if I agree to do some animal work on the side. “No.” “But you were married in the Church. She‟s someone else‟s nightmare now. by the way. though. Does it work?” “I don‟t know personally..fifteen years?” “Too long. “Too long. Mind if I smoke. down in Mexico.. in her own irritating way. “I have connections.
He told me that he had a strong sense of sin and felt guilty about his transgressions and that he thought a life of service to God would compensate for all the unmerited grace he had received. He look completely innocent. “Okay.. I need to know. I just want to pay some of my debt. far better than I deserve.He looked me over carefully.” After Frost.” he interrupted. It has to do with a death. bashful boy. got me that job as first assistant to the team doctor. “I felt guilty about so many good things coming my way. yes. squinting against the smoke from his cigarette.” I said. swallowing anger. He gave me good parents. I only brought one change of clothing.” he nodded. “God has been so good to me. I would have to put it in his file. I need to know if it‟s an impediment.” He leaned toward me. I want to sacrifice. and I had a sneaking suspicion the guilt had a lot to do with masturbation. “You mustn‟t repeat it. I‟ve never told a soul about this.” I told him that if he waited and told me in the confessional I would certainly keep it a secret.Page 58 . got me into Notre Dame when my grades didn‟t justify it.” I suspected it was more his uncle the bishop than God who got him these things. I want to be ordained and work in the slums. in an interview. But it could be an impediment. He was essentially just a big. not the divorce. “I‟ll hold it. Lucas was easy. Father. “It‟s not the marriage.” Prior Knowledge . okay.” “He has been good to you?” “Oh. Father. If he told me now. but I will tell you because I need your opinion.. So I turned down the car my folks wanted to buy me if I would forget about the priesthood. Father. I‟m most worried about. “This unmerited grace. “Far too good. I came here on the Greyhound. I was involved. I want to suffer.
I sold m‟part to m‟brother. “Well. I was glad I saved him for last because if he had come earlier. I indulge my. “For eleven years. all of my appetites. All I needed was another suffering saint.Page 59 . He looked at me as if I were going to be difficult to embalm. well.” he drawled. “I killt a man.. Father. His eyes were big and brown. Bishop Hastridge. who is he.” I said with some hesitation.” I said..” “What?” Prior Knowledge .. sheep eyes. “You were a mortician?” I said. Father. I eat too much.” “Does your bishop down there. does he have plans for you?” “I dearly hope so. I thought. “Uh. awright?” “Yes. I wouldn‟t have made it through the others. “Father. another Marjon.” he said earnestly.” A shop? “Do you still.” he smiled. Big time. so I‟m overweight. but especially me. “You feel you are unworthy of your good fortune. Finally came Hanks.own it?” “Oh no.. He sat through the interview watching me with tiny blue eyes as if he were measuring me for a casket. Now his biggest boy is in with „im. I burned all m‟bridges. Lucas. is that it?” I asked “We are all unworthy.. Father. we had a shop in Arlington. “Why you especially?” “Because I‟m. “Do you think you can make it through this fall without a television set.” A masturbator all right. yes.Oh my God.” A dark shadow crossed his face.undisciplined.. I need t‟tell you somethin‟. Father. without watching the Irish play?” “I didn‟t even bring a radio. Me „n‟ m‟brother.
. We got into this fight. I asked if there Prior Knowledge . He seems.“When I was in the army.” “Oh. yes.nervous to talk about it..” Before I went to Vespers I called Father Superior at Saint V‟s.” “He hasn‟t made a ruling? “No. In San Diego. he thinks it might be an impediment. He had foisted him off on us. I reached into the drawer and flipped the switch.” I said.Page 60 . I forgot about the time difference.. “BEFORE YOU MET THE HUMAN RACE. just this morning. You made them.” “Oh. It‟s Your fault. holding up a hand... What You‟ve sent me are a breed all to themselves.. Bishop Hastridge. I need. y‟know? Said t‟come on down here „n‟ we‟d see how things worked out. I see. ever‟body knows about it..” It was obvious to me that the bishop was nervous to be in the same room with this mortician who had killed a man in a bar. and a voice from the catacombs told me he had already gone to dinner. in the military.” “Oh God. Bishop Hastridge does.” I said. Father.” “Is this your little surprise for me?” “YOU‟VE ONLY MET THE FIRST FOUR. I dismissed him and sat in my chair staring into space until the tape ran out and began slapping against the side of the desk drawer. Father.” “I HAD HELP.” “I‟ve worked with humans all my life. “Is this a confession? If it is.” “No...I don‟t know.. “I felt so good.” “He does? Then I‟m sure it‟s all right.” “Not in a war.” “Wait. Well. In a bar.
The prior from Mississippi? Yes.was any word about Father James. nothing. No.Page 61 . Prior Knowledge . I hung up and shook my head.
Griffey was middle-aged. What I did see of them etched them a bit deeper in my mind. There were only the four seminarians. They moved out of his line of vision only to find themselves back in it. argumentative. about the grounds. It began to disturb both the monks and the other seminarians. seems to linger about him. They were odd bedfellows--no double entendre intended--but who can account for human preference? Lucas was young and tender and as naive as a child. Hanks stood around staring at people. If so. I let them do their own adjusting. and Griffey was barely able to communicate. Monks need routine. as though he was unaware of staring. as if measuring them for a coffin. became good friends after a day or two. and they were scattered over the floor of their dormitory widely enough not to bother each other. Maybe Lucas needed someone to help him push back from the table and Griffey needed someone to help him with his diction. neither was helping the other very much. wily. A man‟s profession. I wondered if he would be Prior Knowledge . and dyspeptic. they grow dull. The monks busied themselves with routine. Maybe Lucas needed a father and Griffey needed a son. but I didn‟t talk with them. Without enough work to do. strangely it seemed to me.Page 62 . unaware that he made people nervous. Hanks still bore the scent of formaldehyde. in chapel. Lucas ate second and third helpings at every meal. When someone moved away from him he followed them.VI Tuesday was quiet. but my first impressions proved more or less accurate. even when he changes it. tough as a leather belt. I saw the four seminarians occasionally: at meals. much of it having to do with the arrival of the other seminarians. the early birds. Lucas and Griffey.
I was on my way to another quiet walk by the pond in the meadow that morning when Brother Peter caught up with me. breathing heavily from sprinting across the parking lot. but I made a mental note to watch him closely. Frost seemed to be doing all right. He was favoring his right leg. both at work and at home. as if being humble. keeping a tight rein on urges he was afraid to let loose. He had for many years been his own boss. “I‟m Prior Knowledge .” he said with a wheeze. His expressions reminded me of a young monk I had known many years before who eventually committed suicide. too set in his ways to become a good priest. but now he seemed willing to live under someone else‟s roof in harmony with others. I noted an occasional tightness around his mouth. and that pleased me. He had respected the rule not to yell and disturb the morning calm.able to read the mass.Page 63 . and one day the wire snapped. in table conversations he seemed pleasant and receptive. toward the monks he seemed respectful and solicitous. pleasant. I thought at first that he was too cocky. That young man had been a coiled wire. I doubted seriously if he would be able to preach. By the end of the first week he seemed to have quit smoking and carried a big wad of chewing tobacco in his jaw at all times. Yet in chapel he seemed sincerely humble. “Father Columba. too rebellious. I still worried that the strain of conforming to this new way of life might get to him. and he spoke only when I stopped and turned to him. regularly looking for a place to spit. The one I had possibly partially misjudged was Frost. congenial sometimes proved a real strain for him. I guess I look for the worst in people because I have so often seen it emerge. I felt he had taken my hint seriously. Maybe there was a chance he would indeed go off to Mexico and birth calves between assisting at masses.
“We have been missing food. Ophelia stood by the enormous gas cooking range. for soups. I should think so. “Yes.” “Why didn‟t you tell me earlier?” “We. but enough to be noticed.” She ticked off things on her fingers. “I would know that. unable to mask my disappointment at being stopped.” I said. “Roas‟ beef. mind you.” “It‟s not whether to buy peas or carrots?” “Oh no.” Peter said.. Father.” Peter said good naturedly. but would you please come to the kitchen with me?” “I suppose. Always leftovers. but it‟s a matter I thought you should address. It seemed to me a little below the calling of a prior to solve kitchen problems.. Father. cake. stroking the air in front of him as if calming troubled seas. I explained. taters. stuff we leave out in covered dishes.” Prior Knowledge . “Always at night.” “Yes. “Somebody‟s stealin‟ food. looking partly concerned and partly angry. enough to matter to us. Father.” We rounded the corner of the building and pushed through the flapping kitchen door. does this theft take place?” “Night. but enough to use for the next day. “When. “When?” I said.” Ophelia blurted out. both of them facing me. for side dishes.” Peter said. “I‟m really sorry about this. hands on hips.” Peter began and then stalled. When they looked puzzled. even pickles. I sighed and followed him back toward the kitchen side of the main building. “Father.sorry to interrupt your meditations. It‟s been going on for several days now.. Peter went and stood with her. you know. what time of day.Page 64 .we wanted to be absolutely sure.” Ophelia said.. Not a great deal.
Forget it. Father. “It ain‟t him.... “No sir. “Who? How?” “We have our. I wondered why it was so easy to watch Marjon and not the kitchen itself. I was not a detective. weren‟t you. often sneak food and lie to themselves about it.and means..” “You‟ve had someone watch him. “Everyone is afraid to stay in here and watch.” Ophelia backed him up. “Not even.” Peter reassured me. “But we‟ve had.. “Who. I nodded.” “You were thinking of Marjon.” It made me uneasy to think of spying in the priory.” he explained. “What about.Pith. he‟s got a holler leg. I have found. “I didn‟t mean to...“You‟ve never seen anyone hanging around..ways. Father?” Peter said with a smile.someone.all night?” “His door.” Prior Knowledge .” I was struggling to make myself useful here.. She had a title for everyone. Peter read my thoughts... yes.Page 65 .” “Watch him?” I said..” “It‟s all right..” Ophelia said..watch him. “It‟s natural for you to think of him. Father. “The Peanut Butter Kid.” I stopped myself. He doesn‟t eat properly. His ample girth showed why he was interested. we all know that..” Peter said.the idiot boy?” “The Bell Ringer?” Ophelia said. “No one. Father?” “No. Father.. People like that. If it‟s him. I feed that boy three big meals a day..” Brother Peter was quite sophisticated about people‟s eating habits..
Did he stand? Did he sit on the steps? “Well then.” “Oh.Page 66 .” “Why not? You believe in law and order.” “But you won‟t say.. “Maybe. “That‟s not a bad idea. BUT HE ASKED ME NOT TO TELL.” “Yes.” “Oh. I see. don‟t you?” “Yes. “He won‟t come in.” “All right. stopping occasionally to pick up a pebble and skim it across the peaceful water.” he said with a twinkle in his eye. Father. I excused myself and quickly departed to get in my walk before None.” she said.let him have it?” “Well. You know who it is. on one of the tables.” I said as I walked beside the pond.” “OF COURSE NOT. Father. Father.” Peter smiled slyly. Before she could say more. “When? Where? He‟s never in the dining room.“You feed him?” I said.” “No. Let‟s do this. It has to be one of the monks. But Ophelia looked doubtful.” Prior Knowledge . “Ophelia gives him food at the back door. he gets it anyway. “OF COURSE.” I tried to imagine him eating.” Peter said.” “Then it has to be someone with a key. on a plate. Sometimes stealing gives a person a jolt of pleasure. so let‟s take away the thrill of theft. not when the rest of us are there.” “YES. Leave some food each night. Maybe with that gone he will lose his incentive. “Of course. You lock this area when you leave. I don‟t know. So you two are on good terms..” “Just.
” “FREE WILL. whispering. One was from NEW MEXICO. On my way back to chapel there were two new cars in the parking lot.” “It‟s a problem when a monk steals food.. even when it leads people to do things I don‟t like them to do. The new four sat at a table together. one from QUEBEC.” “Free will indeed.” read the Quebecois tag. WHICH I GAVE HIM. At lunch there were four new ones. QUEBEC. I had little use for theology.” “COME OFF IT. Lichtenstein seemed to me an odd name for someone from French America. THERE‟S ALWAYS HOPE FOR A THIEF. “La Belle Province. One was obviously Hispanic. thus Diaz: thick black hair combed into a pompadour. HE‟S NOT AN EVIL SINNER.” “GOTCHA!” Our little debates always helped me clear my head. “YOU PREFER PUPPETS?” “Well. That one made me realize that I do prefer free will.” “So are rapists. the way the first four had done when they first arrived. especially when he has plenty to eat at meals.Page 67 . REMEMBER THE ONE ON THE CROSS. COLUMBA. No one goes down farther. and comes up dryer than a theologian.“YES. a complexion too fair for his hair Prior Knowledge . NEW MEXICO.” I snorted. glancing around them. Better to do theology my way: by debating God. that would be Diaz. stays down longer. All their grand summas seem to me to be just extended personal prejudices. that would be Lichtenstein. HE‟S JUST SATISFYING NATURAL DESIRES. I deduced that two did not have cars. THIEVES HAVE A WAY OF REPENTING..
Another had a full gray beard and wore an eye patch. they certainly made the place look nice. One was a stocky Native American. which had pictures. jumping from one to another of the dried ones. “Please sit down. a full blooded Sioux. Priests will have to handle a lot of them in their career. One was Lichtenstein from Quebec. At four o‟clock. He bounced along. I couldn‟t decide which was which. and one was Kopec from Oregon. squat. the Indian. although in his photograph he flashed a set of shiny falsies. zigzagging to miss the ripe ones. I carried two folding lawn chairs out to the meadow and set them down under a tree. I told Andrew to send them to me out on the meadow side of the enclosure wall. a figure approached me: short.and eyes. I had by this time learned to negotiate the cow patties fairly well. I thought it would be interesting to see how each reacted to negotiating cow flop. Whatever their shortcomings as monks.Page 68 . which I could observe as I sat down. I opened my files and tried to familiarize myself with the new men. As I read about them. but he took the cow clods with zest and skill. Prior Knowledge . I tried a different method of interviewing these four. the Rose Triplets were busy pruning. and nice surroundings make for contemplation. but I did have my note pad. Kopec was the toothless one. I couldn‟t tape the interviews out there. You can tell a lot about what kind of a priest a man will make by watching how he handles rather undesirable substances. Back at the priory. and he had to be Candlemas: from South Dakota. Lichtenstein was the one with the eye patch. but since I didn‟t have my files.” I said to Candlemas. He was Candlemas. and the fourth had a wild head of gray hair and no teeth. as the heat began to recede somewhat. not young.
.. Hosea Candlemas. but yep.” He made a dribbling motion with his right hand. the boy who rings the bell.” “And you‟re.. Never made enough at either place to save a dime. He was not your stereotypical stoic Indian.” He laughed again. I tried to think who might be up in the woods at this hour.retired?” “I am.slow. “What makes you think it‟s one of us?” I asked him. the man who owns.Page 69 . I turned and looked. the way we say it.” I said. then at Sacred Heart in Valentine for another 20...” “Looked like a monk to me.” “Well.” “Yes. “I was with the reservation school for 20 years. named me for the time of year when I was baptized. fending off a guard with his left. they gave it to me when I converted. He‟s sort of. “Say.” he said as he took the other chair.. but I saw nothing. I‟m the only one. he can. Monks at Sacred Heart.” “Retired from teaching?” “Coaching really. Kinda ragged but monkish. I am Sioux. “It‟s probably Pith. he can really ring that thing.” he said. thanks very much.” I looked down at his file.“Thanks. Basketball. “You come from a Catholic family?” “No. Prior Knowledge . oh hell no. Man. “Who do you mean?” I said. “Looked like he had black on. up there?” He pointed behind me.” He gave out a belly laugh. Seen him and heard him. Have you seen him?” “Yeah. sitting so near its edge that I thought for a moment he might tip over forward.” “Oh. That‟s why I have this name. “You‟re a Sioux. a hundred percent. “There‟s a farmer. I just turned 65. who is that up in the woods.
we were God‟s Fools. and sat down on the chair across from me with a mincing grunt. Father. dribbled some more as we talked. “Right. I wouldn‟t be here.” Prior Knowledge . I‟m not gonna end up like that nut case up in the tower. Thought I was a good risk. But I‟m not about to let this white man‟s religion make me crazy. “You‟re Larry. “Sure. I immediately spotted the tone. Sincere but not serious. I‟m gonna take it all with a grain of salt. so I went to the Jesuits and they said they‟d pay to send me. I guess if I make it.” he said.” Again the laugh.“You‟re just beginning to study for the priesthood. After all. “Hosea. but I‟m sincere. He grinned. Understand?” I nodded. No sooner was he out of sight than Diaz came around the wall toward me. a look of distaste on his face. had nothing to do. “I may not be serious. I have known a lot of gay priests and monks. New Mexico. He stared at me pensively. right?” I said.Page 70 . What he said made a lot of sense. Maybe we should all take things less seriously. the way it has a lot of the Jesuits. Lawrence Diaz.” “You‟re a college graduate. He picked his way through the field carefully. but he was the kind of gay who might find it hard to stay on the wagon. An eye twitched. and when we were finished went tripping back through the cow chips. laughed again. Santa Fe.” he said. I retired.” This was a place for belated vocations. Diaz would likely have problems with that. and I don‟t mind them at all so long as they remain celibate. but 65 was more belated than most.” I said. Not only was he gay. avoiding all the clods. “If I wasn‟t sincere. “I hate cows. not a bad slogan. I‟ll be a chief. Said I‟d be a good example for the other braves. “Are you sure you‟re taking this seriously?” His smile faded.
bad joke. one day I knew I wanted to be a priest. me. he said yes. class of ‟49. much of which I have saved. bang. my father 62. my parents were for years and years childless. You obviously mean.Page 71 . it cleared up and I turned as fair as you see me now.” “It‟s a mystery. and since I‟m well past 30. “Which one?” “A veterinarian actually. sorry. and I made good money. then bang. he thought I would do better here than at the seminary in Phoenix. Larry.” “Tell me.” “One of your fellow seminarians is a doctor. what made you come here?” “My bishop. University of New Mexico. “Also I was born with this bad complexion.” He shook his head in wonder.” “Oh?” he said suspiciously. but at the age of 16. “My whole life is a mystery. I guess I‟m a rare bird among your seminarians. “I worked for many years as a receptionist at a hotel.” He touched his face. “No. Since I had been out of school so long. why do I want to be a priest?” “Yes. not in logical terms. “I use a touch of powder to protect me from the sun. I felt a sense of foreboding settle over me. my skin is so sensitive. very dark.” I looked closely. Father. but I took a chance and went to see him and.” “How so?” “Well. My mother was 45.” Prior Knowledge . His face was milky white.” he said and laughed. For most of them a degree is out of the question.” He giggled.“Right. though. his lips and cheeks pink.” “Oh. I never dreamed the bishop would approve. but isn‟t our faith itself so? No one can explain his vocation. bang. but then. bang.
defensive tone. He was wearing his teeth. but that‟s what his file said. that a variety of life experiences would serve him well in the priesthood. He was as quick as a cat.Page 72 . Next came Kopec.” Kopec grunted.We talked longer. bang. I shook my head at God‟s. under a hundred pounds. but he answered all of my questions with the same terse. “Yep. stepping right into the pies. I tried several lines of conversation. but I didn‟t take notes from that point on. I decided I wasn‟t going to get much from him. both physically and mentally. although secretly I wondered how long a ministry he would have. mysteries. first name Sinatra. I would never have guessed that he was 70. “Kill?” I said. and when he sat down and crossed his lets I could see that he had punctured several fresh ones.” Prior Knowledge .” I was shocked. I later learned that he took them out only to eat.” “Farmer. barely five feet. I watched as he walked across the field without regard to the chips.” “So?” I assured him that I was not being critical. almost feverish blue eyes kept me from asking him about his age. and so I tried just one more question. what would you do if someone told you at some point along the way that you couldn‟t become a priest?” “I‟d kill „im.” I said. “You‟ve held a lot of different jobs. Truck driver. “Naw. At last he went mincing back across the meadow. Night watchman. “Yeah. He just let his feet fall where they would. “Tell me.” I started. Sinatra. The way he looked at me with burning. “You don‟t seem bothered that my office is in a feed lot. He was a tiny man.
” “There‟s a move underway to change the slogan on our tags. His eye patch disturbed me. but I tried not to show it.. I was not sorry to see him slopping through the flop on his way back to the priory. but I couldn‟t tell where it came from. Quebecois. had been a teacher in a Catholic boy‟s school. The last to come was Charles Lichtenstein. “Against having a car? Here? No.I searched his face for a sign of humor but found none. Some people want to have: J‟me Souviens. the man from Quebec. or better.” “I see.” “Tell me. I couldn‟t see anyone close enough for me to hear them. having a Quebec tag. or so I thought. “Canadian?” “No. Most recently he had run a religious house for delinquent children. how did you get the name Lichtenstein?” I Prior Knowledge . “I saw your car in the lot. I will not forget.” “Oh.” I began.” I said.” I said.” “Is there a law against it?” he said mildly. It comes from a poem. and although I looked all around me. I thought I heard laughter. but I don‟t. He meant it.‟ What it means to many of us is how we have been treated by the Anglo-Saxons. Sorry.” “I will remember. changing the topic.” “Oh yes I do.” I said.Page 73 .” “Not at all. written by a French speaking Quebecois.. “If you‟re French.” “Oh.” I said with some heat. “I doubt it. “I noticed the tag.” he said evenly.” “I mean. He was 47. “I‟m Irish. „I will not forget that I was born under the lily but shall die under the rose. I loosened my collar.
belongs to a local farmer.” I said. be sure you don‟t disturb anything. of course.” “It would be better.” I said.” It sounded a bit pagan to me.” “In Quebec. Beyond the fence there. I‟m a born walker. I‟m Quebecois. as in Etienne Gilson the theologian. I was about to dismiss him when he said. after classes.Page 74 . My mother was a Gilson. the woods. “Just be careful. Back home. in Quebec. and so he petitioned at war‟s end to stay in paradise.” “Can I go into the woods?” “They‟re not ours. I walk three hours a day. “First of all. “I disturb things everywhere I go. I‟m not French.” he said. but I didn‟t argue. there‟s no law against it. “As you wish. the rest of the meadow. “If you go up there. for my spiritual well-being.” “Well. the woods belong to everyone. shipped over to Canada to do slave labor.pronounced it with all the Teutonic guttural resonance my German teacher in college had taught me. in the field.” I guess he saw the look of dismay on my face because he went on Prior Knowledge . Except that our land is somewhat limited. “May I walk?” “Walk?” “Here. about his eye patch. but I could tell he was already agitated and I didn‟t want to anger him further. with the delinquents. if you don‟t discuss politics at the seminary. But my father was a prisoner of war.” I wanted to ask about his work at the boys school. but he fell in love with the area around Lac Saint Jean.” “Father. He grimaced but answered coolly. in the afternoon. We say there that God dwells in the woods.
“So that‟s what free will brings.quickly.” he said cryptically. “But I know what you mean.” I watched him go.Page 75 . “HE‟S A WALKING REVOLUTION.” “KEEP YOU YOUNG. J‟me souviens. “Only justice is enough. but I didn‟t see him step on one.” Prior Knowledge . He seemed not to heed the cow clods.” “Just what I need.” “Fair enough. I won‟t bother a thing. not even a leaf.” “Fair is never enough.” I said. Father.” “Make me old.
Only the three of us were in the dining room. Father. and especially Catholic monks. “You wont us to keep on puttin‟ it out?” she asked me with her head cocked to one side. After the trouble. After talking with Peter and Ophelia. Prior Knowledge . I guess we‟ll keep on leaving it out. It was a pleasant sound. We were in trouble. I was always the last to finish because I read the morning paper over my third cup of coffee. “not since we started leaving the plate on the table. Catholics. she was lost to us. Peter told me that he and Ophelia had put food out on the table for the past two nights and that the thief had “licked the platter clean. and all the confusion that followed it. “Has he taken any other food from the kitchen?” I asked.” Ophelia was looking at me curiously.” “Licked it?” I said.” “Hee-hee. “I picked it up from Ophelia.” “Well then. It just means every mouthful of the food was gone.” Peter laughed.Page 76 . She had been working at the priory less than a year. all at the same time. and this way he‟s not stealing it. He‟s going to take it anyway. “No. During that awful time I was ripe for conversion to Baptist.” Peter said. I had not heard it before. “You monks pay off the devil „n‟ save his soul.VII Friday morning Brother Peter and Ophelia stopped me as I got up from the breakfast table. intrigued her. I think that before the trouble came on us later that fall she was a good candidate for conversion.” Ophelia‟s laugh surprised me.” Ophelia was a Baptist. “Like a dog?” “That‟s just a southern expression. like the tinkle of a silver bell. I went to my office and went over Saint Luke‟s financial accounts.
with his one good eye. It looked like he had run the place like a potentate. he was as healthy as a horse. Then there was Diaz. estimating strengths and weaknesses. I observed the newest seminarians. he was once the equal of Jim Thorpe. and I thought the Jesuits were making a good investment. I saw him bridle a time or two at things people said and did. At lunch and dinner. He appeared at every service and meal freshly coifed and thickly made up. He was carrying around a powerful peeve. He picked on everyone. Candlemas was a delight to watch. He loved being the center Prior Knowledge . on expensive new vestments for himself. His manner gave me the willies.Without help from our Mother Abbey in Latrobe we would have closed down several years before. He regaled us all about the boys national basketball championship his Indian school had won when he was in high school. deciding who to trust and who not to trust. He bounced everywhere. He dribbled in front of people and played keep away with his invisible ball. including the Bishop of Jackson and the Mississippi Attorney General. without being too obvious about it. Lichtenstein watched silently. Prior James had spent a small fortune on renovating his apartment. down hallways. Andrew reported to me that Kopec had dressed Griffey down for not flushing a toilet and bawled Diaz out when Diaz complained that Kopec left his teeth to soak in a glass on the wash basin. but with such a light hearted manner than no one.Page 77 . He would tap someone on a shoulder and then jump to the other side. Despite all the red ink. took offense. every movement in the room. on big feeds for visitors. He seemed to be committing everyone and everything to memory. across the dining room floor. Kopec stayed to himself as much as possible. Despite his age. over the grass in the garden. not even Kopec. To hear him tell it.
newspapers. I said. who lived in Florida. One tag said CONNECTICUT. my unseen but very real. then shut it all down. It looked unkempt. There must be thousands of them. I glanced out the window at the parking lot and saw that it was fuller. and books lay scattered about. in the order of writing. I also asked that someone else come to do the shutting. and a sad smile always played around his red lips. and one Prior Knowledge . I finished the letter by recommending that we give Saint Luke‟s one more year. Cigarette and a few cigar butts littered the ash trays. Writing her did me far more good than going to confession. My guess. and if things didn‟t improve. I wrote a long report to Father Superior about my first few days as prior. By the second day he was there everyone had heard about the way his complexion had miraculously cleared up and his miraculous call to the priesthood. and I suggested that he send out a bulletin to have him paged. living saint. But it was Friday. He was a sweet little saint. I keep them. one ALBERTA. He flirted with everyone but Ophelia. There were three new ones.of attention.Page 78 . give the seminary that one more chance. I went outside and walked among the cars. mentioning the way money had been spent during the past couple of years. I wrote to a plumber asking him to return and complete the work he had started. I asked him to notify me the minute he heard from Prior James. My last letter was to Claire. Someday I will read all those letters. my Uncle Ed‟s widow. His big brown eyes were always melancholy. I paid bills for car and roof repairs. in a large wooden box. Around eleven I made a reconnaissance of the recreation room. I spent the afternoon on correspondence. I shared my deepest feelings with her. although I suspected he already knew about it. and tomorrow was housecleaning day. I wrote to my only living relative. Magazines. was that he was holed up in a Benedictine House someplace.
who came from Ireland by way of Saint Paul. where someone in the past had erected cement Stations of the Cross. First off was Mario Terminus. Classes began in two days. was O‟Day from Alberta. He was almost as old as Kopec.. The old guy was tall and gaunt and wore a spade-shaped goatee. I watched each man who approached me to gauge his reaction to them. From a distance these Stations were monstrous. is that right?” I said. which he turned out to be. But this was such an unusual group that I am sure my memory served me well when I described them for my journal. I took each seminarian on a walk around the Stations.68.” “I am. He looked like an affable grandfather. from Connecticut.which was hard to read because it was so dirty looked like LOUISIANA. and at close range they were worse. “Yes. Fathah. who had a steel-gray crew cut and sat bolt upright. out on the south lawn. I instructed Andrew to have them meet me. The next morning there were four new men. He had that deep fried shrimp Creole accent common to south Louisiana.. praise the Lawd. The young man with blond curly hair was Lamb. ramrod straight. One of the new ones was old and gray.” “You‟re a grandfather. and two were fairly young. and so I did not take notes until I was back in my office. Minnesota. “You‟re. one at a time during the morning. “You look healthy. one was middle-aged.” he answered. The middleaged one.” Prior Knowledge . The younger one with red hair was Muldoon. and by glancing at his file I saw that he was the one from Louisiana. so now all three of the tables reserved for seminarians were full. A priest must have some aesthetic sense. Fathah. Terminus.Page 79 .
praise the Lord.“Oh yes. first time in eight..” He squeezed my arm so hard it hurt. In the Gospel. it‟s changed my whole life. dangerous. I had them. I‟ve been so blessed. fathah. made me know why I‟d quit way back there. By the way. He was what they later came to call a charismatic. every deed you do. she died three years ago. Pentecostal.quite a lot. but it was dull. the Lawd Jesus.” I commented. thank his Holy Name. Fathah.. “Fathah.. with every breath you take.” “Yes. Fathah. “Yes. I had read in this file that he liked to lay stress on his experience of grace. I have three wonnerful chil‟ren an‟ ten beautiful gran‟babies. It seemed terribly Protestant to me. I distrusted that kind of thing. each with a scene from the last moments of the life of Jesus. See my wife. praise Gawd.‟” “I see. but there was a space I couldn‟t fill.” “Oh. “You. I have received all seven Gifts of the Spirit. But as I was sayin‟.Page 80 . That‟s good. Fathah. nine years. I jus‟ this las‟ summah received the gift a tongues. My chil‟ren. St.” “We are?” We passed the stations of the cross like so many grave markers.” He reached over and gripped my arm. praise Gawd. Lizards and ants swarmed over them all. real dull. “Who taught us that?” “Why. Fathah. We‟re taught to. Suger there in Baton Rouge. Prior Knowledge .. So I went back t‟Church. what do you think of these Stations?” “Lovely.” The Holy Joe stuff got on my nerves quickly. gran‟chil‟ren. „Praise the Lawd in every word „n‟ deed.” “Tongues?” “The tongues a Jesus. and I had nothin‟ t‟live for.
He was a walking time bomb. “one question. “That‟s right. I groaned deep in my spirit. but we had t‟meet sort of in secret. coming back into civilian life. I‟m still in God‟s service. He showed no awareness of the ugly stones or of the lovely flowers in the garden or of the blue sky. we received the Gifts of the Spirit. Father. What about people who don‟t know these Gifts? How do you feel about them?” “I pity „em.” I thanked him for his time and sent him merrily on his way to save the Church and then the World. Now going to Calvary. “Army?” I asked. Fathah.” I said.” “Oh no. I know. This was the kind of madness that led the Papacy to instigate the Inquisition. Father. on a Tuesday night. but it‟s such a temptation. He had used the line many times. Fathah. We talked. we prayed. This was Protestant all right. I know.” “Must be an adjustment. Twenty-five solid years. Right out of an Oral Roberts tent revival meeting. “You come from Alberta?” I said. when I got the Gifts of the Spirit. as if crossing a parade ground to meet a commanding officer. Major Sean O‟Day. the priest didden forbid it. Next came.Page 81 .” Prior Knowledge .“Then I went to this meetin‟ down in the basement. I wondered if the Church could ever take a chance on such a man. Born in Calgary. Like Jesus. It was in the Catholic Church. we drank chicory coffee. “Tha‟s when I knew I had t‟be a priest. I shouldn‟t make fun of people like him.” “Mario. Just retired three months ago. I knew I had t‟go out „n‟ spread the Holy Spirit throughout the Church.” He gave out a nervous bark of a laugh. “Actually the Royal Canadian Air Force.” I pulled free of his grip.
” he nodded sincerely. so that I would be ready to begin seminary. and we arranged for me to start my reading. after your Church History class. every day. in anticipation of being mustered out. “It‟s the only way to get things done.. To plan ahead is to get ahead.” he said. So I talked with the chaplain. Father Prior.” I said. He pulled out a pocket book with a pen in its side slot.” “It‟s like life in a barracks. yes indeed. “Every hour.. before I have to dress for Vespers. “but you may find life in a dormitory at time trying if you are. I was never married. don‟t you?” “Well.“Yes. You do it too.” “Discipline is next to Godliness. Who did them?” “I. “Let‟s see. I made my transition.Page 82 .” “I think I‟ll come out here each day to do my prayers.... more or less. I had no impediments..don‟t know. “You seem to have things planned. After all.” he said. Inside he had a day calendar. What talent.” he said. I‟ll come then. I‟m ready for my next tour of duty. “They‟re the best Stations of the Cross I‟ve ever seen. this one for God. I have between four-thirty and five.” He made himself a note. “My. “I‟m used to that. Who created Time?” “Yes.” “You think so?” “Yes. I always say.” I said as I sneaked a look at his pages. Controlling your time is controlling your destiny. I have a stereo set with ear phones. When there‟s Prior Knowledge . of every day.” “A year or more ago I knew I wanted to be a priest. my adjustment while I was still in ranks. but these are beautiful.” He slowed his pace and looked at the stone. cutting me off. My parents were dead.
I can just turn on my Guy Lombardo and drift into another world. I know the truth.” “I hope you two. He replaced the notebook and smiled at me serenely. Wants to destroy our great country. a disgusting creature.” “Oh. a world with God. so no one will be in my way. He has a beard. Father.. I don‟t want trouble. He‟s no Canadian.” “Well. “Is there anything else then?” “Not presently. there won‟t be any trouble.” “Do you?” Prior Knowledge .Page 83 . I‟ll set the pace for the others. The one from Quebec? Yes. I wondered if he made a note to avoid the Quebecker. He smells like a goat. an eye patch. “Other Canadian?” he said. “You may see me tomorrow afternoon about your class schedule. Father.. Lichtenstein.. We were at the end of the oval of Stations. they hate Canada. I‟m holding a planning session then.can get along. to have my bowel movement and take my shower. “I already have my schedule.disturbance. “I‟ll be first up in the morning.” “Trouble? Oh.” “No?” “No.” He looked up at the sky. Typically French. We real Canadians think they worship false gods. He‟s far too dumb to argue with me. Quebeckers. and I won‟t be in anybody else‟s. walk softly.” “Schedule?” He looked puzzled. I know my history..” “Of course.the other Canadian?” I asked.” This kind of talk was making me tired. “Have you met. “There‟s another one? Here?” “Yes.” I said.” He jerked out his notebook and jotted something down. He‟s a separatist.
Fortunately he was followed by his mirror opposite. turned to a page near the end.” He spoke with a clipped New England accent. “No. Father. Barry?” I found myself calling his name more than I did when I talked with others.“Yes. Barry Lamb.” I nodded grimly and let him go. Father. and showed me a carefully crafted diagram of his week. I just looked at what was being offered and arranged it just right. “Yes. so meek and mild. is that right. whose syrupy words stuck to everything and hung in the air for long minutes. very much. I was so surprised by his complete innocence that I forgot to get his opinion of them. that I didn‟t know whether to hug him or slap him on the head and tell him to wake up. I believe. Did my duty. to please me. For four years. I did. all done. For ten years. his words disappearing the moment he spoke them. Prior Knowledge . Barry?” He frowned. Barry?” I asked him at one point.” He whipped out the little book again. He was so intent on watching my every move.Page 84 . Well named. What a holy pain in the ass. He was just the opposite of Terminus. Father. “Do you know what classes you want to take. He was trying to think of something to ask. At last he gave up and sighed in resignation. “Whatever you say. so unopinionated. I was used to working with stubborn people. “No.” “Is there anything you would like to ask me.” I said. Father. and Barry was utterly compliant. waiting on my every instruction. listening to my every word.” “Do you like your room. “Yes.” “Then you worked in a drug store. Barry?” “Yes. I made it up before I got here. that he didn‟t notice the Stations. “You were in the army. Lamb. “See. observing my every facial expressing. so unprepared.” he assured me.
He still had his brogue and all his blarney. As Thomas Aquinas would say.Father. the conviction grew: This will be my place. through all those states.” he ejaculated as he shook. and the lion entered.” “Hideous. It only seems so. And after I arrived. “Yes. Randy Muldoon came last but not least.” “A quick assessment.. and he went off as meekly as he had come. that is only the appearance. I knew immediately that I had a real specimen on my hands. He had been in the states for two years.” Then he brightened up. it was peanut butter. all right?” He smiled.. “Father. mess?” “Mess? Oh. t‟meetcha. Father. not quick. but he was still as Irish as Paddy‟s Pig. Father.Page 85 . you mean these stones? Stations of the Cross.. the place for me to learn my craft as a priest. the first to do that. Father. and I knew the specimen well. You see. “I have searched for many years for my place on earth. looked around him. The lamb departed.” he said in apparent confusion. there is something.” He flung his arms. and when I got here I knew this was it.” Prior Knowledge . at lunch? Was that peanut butter he was putting on his red Jell-O?” I nodded.originals here. y‟don‟t know how happy I am to be here.” I bade him farewell. Barry.. not the essence. Just don‟t pay him any mind. “what is this. I grew up among his kind in Chicago. He puts it in vegetable soup too. He‟s one of our. “Father. “Quick? No. That monk. I came here by bus. “Oh yes. living in Minnesota.” I said. from Saint Paul to Saint Luke. and all the way. “Yes. I knew for sure: This is my place. then kissed my hand. then slowly dropped them.
‟ I could see the people leanin‟ out the windows of the bus with their Kodaks to get pictures of me. after school I lived in France.” “Good for you. Randy. “But I wasn‟t a good Catholic in those days. A priest needed a good sense of humor. how lucky you are to have come on our tour today. Saw Pope John XXIII once.” I had never been to Rome.” Prior Knowledge . had never seen a pope in the flesh. Father. I did a lot of bad things.” “Yes. He smiled. I liked a seminarian who could laugh. so one day a man gave me a green suit and a shoe repair kit. I know how to adopt the old way of speaking.Page 86 . Italy. I grew up on the auld sod. „Ladies and gentlemen. He drove me out to a field by the road near my village and paid me two pounds a day just to sit out there and wait for the tour buses and then begin to hammer. I still haven‟t. and I would hear the guide over the speaker system.” “Still is. “I allowed. We just happen to be comin‟ by as one of the little people is repairin‟ shoes.” I said. Despite the blarney. to date. When I was six.“Yes. “Go on. Saw Pope Pius XII twice.” “Yes. Come to think of it. will you?” I was beginning to sound Irish. Me first job was as a Leprechaun. and I laughed with him. Father. “Tell me about your life.” “Not like those lilies in the residence hall. Father. The buses would slow down.” “What?” “Yes. is for the fair sex. then in Switzerland. I had this read hair. “Well.” He laughed gaily. workin‟ all over. it‟s been eventful. the kid had taste. when I‟m in the presence of an Irishman. My great weakness. “Life? My life? Well.
Just so you‟ll know. Prior Knowledge . Irish candor. so long as I kept him in line. “I‟ve worked in law enforcement---for the secret service.” “What? Ol‟ Andrew?” He chuckled. Father?” he said.” “Well. I had a headache. We exchanged a few more opinions. and then I sent Muldoon on back. As he was leaving he swept his arm over the Stations and held his nose. clearing my throat. In all those places in Europe.. “He‟s a clown.” I didn‟t like to hear that. I went back to my room without a conversation with You Know Who.“What? Lilies?” “Fairies. and I was in no mood to spar with the Old Divine. I thought. I‟m johnny on the spot. even though no one was within earshot.” “If I can help you. report to me. I was a spy. Father. Father. I don‟t think we need any other spies. He might be able to help me. but it was probably true. “We have our own law enforcement. Oh Father.” I said. How much he would help me I had no way of knowing then.Page 87 . we‟re ripe with „em. I nodded and smiled.” He lowered his voice.” “It‟s his job to watch out for things.” “Between us..” “Oh. see that there is order. “Andrew don‟t know his arse from his elbow.
anticipation of the next visit from the Spirit. starved for diversion. vegetables only. he was surrounded by a clump of followers. and everyone sought his company. He kept to a strict and unwavering diet: two pieces of unbuttered toast with half-coffee-half-milk for breakfast. his eyes bright and fixed on the crucifix above the altar. eat. a born entertainer. Night after night at the table. He arrived precisely on time for chapel services. day after day in the garden. smiling to himself. though I got wind that he was inviting seminarians to his room for nightcaps of charismatic mumbo jumbo. all on cue. his jaw jutted out as if to dare Satan to contradict him. he rigidly followed his schedule: sleep. bread. I considered cautioning him about it. and he sang loudly and with fervor. and sweets for dinner. it‟s best not to fight it. lapping up his barely believable tales of European adventure. even take a crap.Page 88 . Muldoon proved to be the life of the party. or conjectures of his heavenly home. but then I decided to follow the wisdom of Acts: if it is not of God. He told jokes and stories. if it is.VIII The four new men melted quickly into the crazy-quilt pattern of Saint Luke‟s population. no desert. He made no real trouble. True to his word. But then he must have begun to Prior Knowledge . O‟Day seemed oblivious to everyone and everything. it will die out. Terminus sat alone most of the time. And yes. At first this made him popular. every afternoon at precisely four-thirty he appeared out among the Stations of the Cross and spent exactly thirty minutes walking around them. pray. study. he recited each prayer exactly as it was printed. for lunch. only meat. and then headed back to the dormitory to prepare for Vespers. reading each stone. lost either in memories of his family.
He pumped up his confidence when he felt discouraged. virtually captive audiences.repeat himself. Diaz like a lover. but Lichtenstein he sought and kept as his best friend. Barry seemed able to take or leave the others.” but I said nothing. Hanks constantly measured him for his coffin. less willing. Lucas like a brother. sat next to him in the dining room. the monks like a lord. He protected him if another seminarian became too possessive. He continued to hold forth on occasion but to much reduced. Prior Knowledge . if anything younger and more naive. and he was more and more alone. his most dependable guardian. They seemed to want to protect him. Surprisingly it was Lichtenstein who placed the strongest claim on Barry--and had the most success doing so. or maybe after the term got fully underway everyone was too busy to listen. He tried to drum up audiences but with little success. His big blue eyes. share their strength with him. Barry Lamb grew sweeter. I wondered about the “particular friendship. Griffey treated him like a pet pony. If the other men didn‟t exactly avoid him. Overall things were going well.Page 89 . I found it all rather reassuring. The seminarians treated me like a seer. succor him. He advised him on everything from his school work to his devotional life. as the days passed. Candlemas was his only firm friend. or perhaps guardians would be a better word. trembling chin all brought out the strongest instincts in the other men. Lichtenstein became Barry‟s patron. He had no trouble finding companions. they did not pursue him as they had once done. woolly white hair. The first two weeks of the term went by with minimal distractions. and walked next to him in the garden. Frost like a son. He was old Mario‟s first convert to the Spiritual Seances. They loved swapping yarns and didn‟t seem to mind hearing reruns. He sat next to him in classes.
Page 90 . I. my dear?” I called into the darkness. The room spun.. I found the lock and snapped it back threw open the heavy barrier.” I blinked and tried to clear my eyes and head. The men loved it.. and I swept the ladies with giant steps from one end of the room to the other. “It‟s Randy. So on Friday night I went to bed at 8:45. “Father?” he said.” I fought the blanket and rolled out onto the floor and groped my way to the door. “Father!” “Hmmmm? What is it. dear?” “Father! Please! Help me!” “What?” I woke with a start and sat up in bed. “You know.” Prior Knowledge . a flashlight in his hand.” He stared at me. the truth. “Where are you. luxuriating in the thought that I would have more than 9 hours to sleep before I woke at 6:00 instead of the usual 5:00. and so did I. “Father Columba!” Someone was beating at the door. “Slowly the present. You‟ve got to help me. when we should have all been able to relax a bit.Randy Muldoon. Father. his red hair standing on end. Everything was set back sixty minutes: the wake up call. I was thin and graceful. Other dancers stopped and stood to the sides to watch us. please.. and I thought they needed another hour of rest. I fell asleep almost immediately and dreamed I was dancing in an immense ballroom with a series of beautiful ladies.. We had to do the cleaning that day. that things began to go wrong. breakfast. reality dawned on me. the prayers. I had introduced the plan of letting the monks sleep an extra hour on Saturday mornings.It was not until the second Saturday. “Open the door. I rarely got more than 7. wideeyed. “Muldoon?” “Yes.
what time is it anyway?” “It‟s. and I know how suggestible they are. you have been looking through those books.” “Did it cross your mind. no one in particular. It‟s. “I came to tell you.... “My boy. Father..“What are you doing here.” “And did your ghost look like anyone you saw there? “No.. I.. both in our pajamas.. Father. so I had to keep calm. Not a mustache. Father.” “What?” I thundered.uh. the ones Andrew left open in the library... The Shakers.. You see. He had on a white shirt. but I was Prior.” “There‟s a what? Where?” “A ghost.Page 91 .” I said. that maybe you recalled those pictures while you slept? That you dreamed your ghost?” Prior Knowledge . Father. just the fringe around the chin. I know the Irish. As I have said. yes. “Randy.. I‟m one of them. They show the people who once lived here. and a black hat. I also had to assume he was serious. Father. It was so transparent I wanted to scream.a beard. well. I waved him into my room.please. the ghost did look like a Shaker. Randy?” “He had. then righted himself. Come with me.” I stared at him for a long moment. with loose sort of sleeves. I looked through the books. and we sat down. Randy?” I said. “What did this ghost look like. In my room. “It‟s.. that there‟s a. Now that I think of it.. Just in general..” He turned his flashlight on his arm.” He was of course describing a Shaker. “It‟s 2:30. exasperation rising. my boy. He jumped back in shock.” “Yes. there‟s a ghost in my room. like Abraham Lincoln.
Father.” “But Father. after all. and he doesn‟t howl.” “No. But I felt that you should know. “Father. “did he..” I was getting nowhere. he was trying to protect you.“Dreamed him.he would come again. I‟m.” “The Irish know the difference between dreams and visions..” “Maybe he meant trouble if you woke your prior at. all of the time. it wasn‟t a dream. He won‟t hurt you.” “This one‟s not little.speak to you?” “Oh yes.” “When? “He didn‟t say. it‟s all right. He said I should be careful because there was going to be trouble. yes.” “Precisely. My boy. You go back and get some sleep.. “I know the difference between a dream and a vision. I know this must be a major imposition on you.” “He said. I‟m.. if anything.. t‟be frank... from Ireland.” “Come on.” I said. Go on then. “All right. Randy. We have them both. “Oh.. Father.scared.almost 3:00 in the morning. Father. he talks. No.Page 92 . It sounds like. could I ask a big favor? Could I sleep here?” Prior Knowledge . Father.” His eyes were still wide. I‟m so sorry.” I sighed..” He leaned closer to me. Maybe by the morning light. Father? Oh no. Father. “you can rest assured he won‟t come back tonight. He said he was guardian of the building where I lived..” “Well. we Irish know how to get along with the little people and the banshee.” He stopped and reddened.” He leaned toward me..” “Yes. “Father..
“It appears you woke some people..Page 93 .” I bridled. on the floor. to see the Virgin‟s picture right away. and he followed charily. I have to be able. “Absolutely not.” It was all I needed. A dim light burned. at 3:00 a. help me check out my room?” So it was that I found myself. and I know there were some because as we entered the hallway where the seminarians slept several doors closed quietly. on the bed. if I wake during the night. “Did you make a lot of noise when you saw the ghost?” I asked Muldoon. for people to find out one of the young seminarians had slept in my room. He had left his door wide open. Father. early morning. Prior Knowledge . We probably looked like an Old Testament prophet and his young protégé. It looked like the room of a teenager. on a late September early. walking in my robe and slippers through the Rose Garden to Randy Muldoon‟s room.” We waddled down the hallway to his room. you know. something like a young Sophia Loren.” He gestured toward the wall at the foot of his bed. on chairs. Her ample breasts were close to being bare. There was a woman with a halo. every place but hangers in the closet. I went in first.. obviously Italian. with long black hair and big brown eyes. “Then.” “You can‟t sleep in the dark?” “No. “Always.. “Some. “You always sleep with that on?” I said. a night light. It must have been quite a sight for anyone watching.m. Father.would you just walk over with me. maybe.“No. one of those plug-ins. I wasn‟t born yesterday. His clothes lay scattered everywhere. shaped like a four-leaf clover. Randy was barefoot and wore only short legged pajamas.” he admitted.
“See.” Randy said. It would recapture his audience. that no one is here. if you did.” “That‟s.. Again doors closed discretely.. A saint.” I left him and walked back up the hallway.Only the nipples were covered. I would let Randy tell the story of the ghost in the morning.. Father.” I sighed. Father. I stared at it for a long time. but then I couldn‟t think of anything to say.Page 94 . now. to justify my presence. THEY‟RE STILL AROUND.” “THE SHAKERS DON‟T HAVE AS FAR TO COME.” he said seriously. that your ghost is gone?” “Yes.icon? Your Virgin?” “Yes.” Prior Knowledge . DON‟T YOU THINK I WOULD HAVE A GOOD REASON.. GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU TO MISS A BIT OF SLEEP?” “Of all ghosts to send. then who did?” “GOOD QUESTION. SAY I DID. a Shaker?” “WHO ELSE?” “Anyone. Father. I started to clear my throat and make a loud announcement of some kind. I knew I wouldn‟t get back to sleep. “there she is. THEY STILL PARTIALLY OWN THE PLACE.” “So you won‟t wake me again?” “No. A Catholic.” I said. “Another night down the drain. something he would relish doing. “ARE YOU BLAMING ME? DO YOU THINK I SENT THE GHOST?” “If not you. I made my way through the Rose Garden. This from a man who found the concrete Stations of the Cross in bad taste. “Are you satisfied.your. finally taking my eyes off her. “All right.
where he easily jumped the fence that divided our land from the farm beyond and headed toward the trees on the hill. “Hello!” The figure froze. “Pith?” I called out. I wanted to know which one. I gave chase. So it was a monk. clad in black. I supposed the Shakers had the right to return after a few decades. I hoped he would recognize me because of my girth. but he sometimes grinned and nodded my way when I waved to him. I stumbled across the grass and got to the wall. He was our phantom prowler. no easy task for me. a man of 65 who weighted around 275 pounds. in my robe and loose slippers. I threw my arms up and grabbed the top and pulled myself up. and prior possession could still count. I had never met our bell ringer. respond to my call. I was confused. and dropped down out of sight on the other side. As I emerged from the garden and started toward the main building. our midnight snacker. The figure ran through the rose garden and reached the enclosure wall.Page 95 .He was right. This person was heavier. Insanely I suppose. The Jews had returned after 1900 years and reclaimed Palestine. moved out across the lawn toward the enclosure fence. scaled it easily. I looked over and saw him running through the meadow. I started to shout. Or maybe they never left. A shadowy figure. the one who “licked the plate clean” each night. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. something caught my eye. then broke for the fence. near the kitchen wall. The figure slowed for a moment but then resumed his run. then called. but my Prior Knowledge . I knew it wasn‟t Pith. older than our loveable idiot boy. He had come out of the kitchen door. I hesitated. Why should the boy run from me? When he ran free of the building‟s shadows. the dead ones anyway.
” I sat up and leaned back against the fence and let the pain from my ankle drift up toward my hip. now I‟ve done it. They had never held up so much weight. Leave me to my misery.” “I‟M HERE IF YOU WANT ME. Prior Knowledge . After a long time. not from You.shoulders were crying out in pain. Involuntarily I let loose and slipped precipitously down the rough side of the wall. scratching my arms and legs. I began to yell for help.” I said. “NEED SOME HELP?” “Yes.” “Just go away. when I could stand it no long. but from the monks. I hit the ground and felt my left ankle give and heard a pop as I fell into a heap in the grass “Oh boy.Page 96 .
while he worked at his beauty parlor. I had to yell another several minutes before they found me and gathered around me and hovered over me.” “Wouldn‟t it be better to use the best?” I said. but either way we should go in and see Dr. “OH!” I said with more emphasis. was our practical nurse.” he asked. in addition to being our barber. He let it down gently to the floor. “Is he good?” I asked. He had trained in Biloxi. robes. he told me when I asked. he couldn‟t be sure.” Bartholomew said with an air of insider information. with gratitude. a few in their underwear. “Bad. one Jew. Several Protestants.all right. Bartholomew. He came out with his little first aid kit and a big bag of equipment.” I said softly.. “I want the best doctor. Maglie.” I said. “Oh.IX A lot happened during the next three hours. Prior Knowledge . Heads emerged from windows. Marjon came fully dressed in his cassock. “He‟s. I spent the first five minutes of it on my butt yelling for help.” he told me. It was either a break or a very bad sprain. and picked up my injured foot. and men swarmed out in pajamas. “Oh!” I said loudly. was the monks‟ doctor. “the only Catholic doctor in Mississippi. Then lights began popping on. “But don‟t you want a doctor of the true faith. He moved it in a circular motion. I also suspected that he wore a hair shirt under it. I can do my own praying. debating excitedly what to do.Page 97 . “There are better. which confirmed my suspicion that he never took it off. Only after what seemed an eternity did they get me to my feet and transport me to the vestibule of the chapel. knelt elaborately before me.” he explained.. first in the seminary residence hall and then in the monkery. Maglie.
If He does not. I always do my own driving. “Pith! It‟s okay! We‟re all awake!” someone called to him. and it was dreadful. lopsided grin on his long. even if your life is in danger. I had forgotten to get word to him that we would sleep another hour that morning. as if I spoke a foreign tongue. They think that because they have committed their lives to God. since my foolish attempt to scale the wall had put an end to that happy prospect. Bartholomew went ahead and did as he thought best: he went off to call Dr.Page 98 . It didn‟t matter anyway. angular face. Maglie. and the bell went still. the chapel bell began to ring wildly. A doctor driving a pickup! I wondered if he might be a veterinarian. Monks are the most impossible drivers on earth. He came over to the edge of the tower to watch the solemn procession. right in the middle of our progression. I never ride with another monk. Let me warn you. It must have been quite a sight: a huge man in pajamas. moving slowly across a wet early morning lawn to an ancient Ford: a mideastern potentate being ferried to a wedding feast. hoisted by six skinny monks in their skivvies. of course. never. He stopped pulling. A half hour later he came back and said the doctor would meet us at his office. I would have been just as well off Prior Knowledge . a curious. so much the better. so much the quicker they will get to heaven. He will take care of them and keep them from harm. We all looked up to see Pith pulling away at the rope. just in time to wake us at the 5:00 appointed time. Then came the mad rush to town. because to do so is to put your life in more danger.They all just stared at me. if they die. To make it all the more dramatic. If so. We waited in front of Dr. but of course this time I couldn‟t. My ankle was so swollen I had to be carried to a car. Maglie‟s office a full hour before his pickup truck arrived. ever let a monk drive you anywhere.
I began brooding about Prior James. and you‟ll have to stay in bed for a good while. He bathed my ankle and foot and bound it with elastic. maybe because I had learned that he avoided physical labor. For the next few days I exempted myself from the Priory‟s work detail. Father. He got out and came over to the Ford. I was carried once again. I called Saint Vincent‟s on Tuesday. I told them that I would return to do my share when I could. It occurred to me. as we drove wildly back to the Priory. The men happily did my chores for me. James had never done manual labor. his collar open. this time into his examining room. “It‟s just a sprain. Having so much free time was no blessing. He found a pair of crutches in a closet. his eyes bleary.” he said at last. I couldn‟t afford to spend time in bed. servants rulers. and they had still heard nothing Prior Knowledge . that throughout the whole ordeal no one had asked me how I happened to be climbing the enclosure wall in the middle of the night. they told me.Page 99 . I guess they assumed I would not be doing anything foolish. They were totally unaware that at that very moment in Rome the Vatican Council was turning the Church upside down. There was too much for me to do. But I‟ll have to wrap it. where he moved my foot around and made me shout out with pain again. I was in on the ground floor of the revolution. just the way Jesus had intended it to be from the first. Rulers would be servants.” I said. I hobbled out to the car with the monks gaggling around me like geese.calling Frost out. so they felt comfortable having a Prior who did not dirty his hands.” “Better make it crutches. Or else you‟ll need a pair of crutches. and I wished they had called a Puritan Protestant or an Orthodox Jew. to report my accident. “You‟re lucky. He looked like he had been drinking. and although they were 6 inches too short for me. His hair was disheveled. For some reason.
and I would laugh at my suspicions. This is crazy. It would be impossible for James to “hide out” this long within the Order. in good shape. I went over every monk.” “AND WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THAT?” “You are.from him. No one could even say how long before my arrival he dropped out of sight. I said a quick goodbye and hung up. V‟s. His All Points Bulletin had provoked no response. No one admitted seeing him leave the next morning. every face. Had he been the victim of foul play? Had he pushed a monk. As a black man. Sooner or later he would turn up. but I couldn‟t stop. But then I took up where he left off. Father Superior sounded worried. Father Superior gave me a cache of letters he had received over the past year. He said they helped him make up his mind to make a Prior Knowledge . What if James never left Saint Luke‟s? What if something happened to him right here? No one seemed to know--or no one was willing to say---where he spent his last night here. too far and been “offed” before I arrived? Was he buried somewhere out behind the barn. in the woods? Stop it. and anything could happen to one of them on his own. “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?” “Because that‟s how I‟m made. considering whether he could do someone harm.” Before leaving St. Monks were innocent men. I told myself. he could be mistaken for a Freedom Rider and lynched. or more than one monk.Page 100 . all complaining about Prior James. Still I kept thinking about it. he said. I was ashamed of myself. There had to be a logical explanation. and I shivered. He could be killed by someone he stopped to help. He was beginning to entertain the idea of foul play. A cold shadow moved over me.
He was from Alaska. There were no letters from him in the file. A friendly sheepdog. impossible. But no. Old men were not violent. let alone violence. Who could tell what bloody designs he might harbor? Stop it! Roderick. Sweetness personified. He had a strange look in his eyes. He seemed incapable of anger. He lived in a dream world of liturgical music. James might have snubbed him. skilled. Had James talked to him about changing the liturgy? Had James upbraided him for his poor playing? Had he threatened to replace him? Stop it! Andrew. Was Alexis capable of masterminding a conspiracy to rid the Priory and the Order of a man he despised? Stop it! Benjamin. I remembered them as I thought what might have happened to the long lost Benedictine. he explained that he killed them because of the way they butchered Mozart. But had he been concerned about the way James lived and spent money. but young men can be insecure too. L‟s. My only doubt came from the way he Prior Knowledge . Not likely. kidded him about his occasional mental lapses. a frontiersman. No. I recalled several letters from him. afraid he might get the place closed down. So long as that was not threatened. On the other hand. When confronted with his crime. Yet I remembered a story I had read about a Church organist in Colorado who killed three of his students. trained to live where it‟s dog eat dog. and I assumed he served James in the same unquestioning way. belittled him. too nice. Alexis might have resented the man who took his job.change at St. Musicians can be odd birds. one a year. all reporting on James‟ regal pretensions. strong.Page 101 . Alexis. He obeyed without question every order I gave. an eye for an eye. afraid he would lose his security? Benjamin was still a young man. he would never wake up. He had buried them in remote locations. spaced out so that he was not suspected in their disappearance.
the Church itself? Was he being blackmailed to keep quiet about something he knew. so that he could whisper thoughts that came to him while he took walks and that Prior James refused to let him have one. yet he said he didn‟t know where James spent his last night or when or how he left.” What if James had warned him that his writing was prideful and that he might order him not to write if he were not more humble and obedient? What if James pushed him too far? What if Martin used his creative powers to plan a killing? Stop it! Prior Knowledge . even if he didn‟t help do it? Stop it! Peter.Page 102 . He was in charge of the buildings. The letter referred to James as a “black Attila the Hun. what if his conscience bothered him so much that he confronted the Prior about his extravagance? What if in reply the Prior dressed him down and threatened him with banishment? What if Peter just happened at that moment to have a butcher knife in his hand? Stop it! Martin. While Peter might have enjoyed preparing gourmet meals for honored guests. the hardest for me to understand.acted whenever I asked about James. the police. Was he hiding something? Was he part of a conspiracy? Did he have a secret that he had to keep hidden? Had he abandoned a wife and children to run off and be a monk? Was he wanted by the government. saying it was vanity. There were two or three letters in the file from him complaining about the way Prior James spent money on steak for a few well positioned guests when he should have been spending it on beans and cornbread for the monks. He was by far the most obscure of the monks. complaining that he had requested a tape recorder. but what if Prior James had dressed him down about keeping his light on past hours and about shirking his work in order to jot down his thoughts in that little notebook? There was a letter in the file from Martin.
The Rose Triplets. most of history‟s assassins were of the same race as their victims. before the nation adopted that term. religiously just. They were black. Madness hovered over him like a flock of vampire bats. going to prune the garden. it was killing. The look in his eyes grew wilder by the day. Would they harm a brother? As a matter of fact. Was James more than a man to them? Was he a symbol. Oh. although I knew that this was because of their race. Had James told him to take a Prior Knowledge . I remembered. hand in hand. and three were enough to carry out a conspiracy. Assassination was not murder. other than in the confessional. they all were. which could not be good for his mental or physical well being. and usually for a cause the assassin thought just.Page 103 . to separate them and send them to different abbeys? Was there a body buried in the garden? Was that one reason their roses were so healthy and red? Stop it! Eric and Bartholomew. probably to Prior James as well. They talked to no one but each other. to me they certainly were. Lord yes. a religious symbol. then not a sin. If one were involved in foul play. They had not said ten words to me all the time I had been there. If religiously just. I saved him for last because he demanded the most thought. from four weeks of observation. never changed that one cassock. On the other hand. He lived on peanut butter. a symbol of evil? Did Eric use his lethal fists? Did Bartholomew use his strength to carry off a body? Stop it! Marjon. I still thought of them as a pair. I was convinced. had he confronted them about their sexuality? Had he threatened. and so was Prior James. He was now tripling instead of just doubling each holy gesture. apparently bent on developing a case of holy lice. They crossed my mind the way they crossed the grounds. Marjon. But why? They seemed oblivious to others. for the sake of appearances. He never bathed. Our flower children. that Marjon was at least partially insane. Politically just.
Same old same old. The men dozed through class and nodded in appreciation as they left. and his advice to any question about morals was “Just don‟t do it. There was no proof at all that Prior James was really missing. The seminarians came over to the dining room to meet me for my class because I couldn‟t go over to their building. following precepts formulated in fifth century Egypt. and as had been the case through my entire career I got few compliments and few complaints. sounding as sage as if he had been physically present as each doctrine and creed was formulated. who taught Ethics. even if it didn‟t help them much. and most certainly none that someone at Saint Luke‟s had harmed him. more than my gloomy thoughts about the fate of Prior James. and to my surprise he proved to be the most popular teacher on the staff. Roderick taught Liturgy and tried his best.Page 104 . to keep steady rhythm. to do it all with dignity. Sitting around this way was making me daffy. Alexis taught Theology. Our poet Martin taught Scripture. The least popular of the teaching staff was Marjon. the most pressing Prior Knowledge . as I knew I would have to do sooner or later? Did Marjon‟s pathology about his race lead him to hate a black Prior with such intensity that he would do him harm? Stop it! I told myself that I was being paranoid. It was good that I could still teach my classes because that occupied my mind at least part of each day.” More than the continuing pain in my ankle. to train unpromising voices to sing and chant. demonstrating in the classroom a sense of humor he never showed in his monastic life. despite his own limitations. I taught Church History.shower and straighten up? Had he told him to tone down his religious fervor? Had he threatened to call in a psychiatrist. But keeping busy helped me a lot. certainly none that he was the victim of foul play. His interpretations were all rigid.
He had cornered Eric and Bartholomew and told them about blacks in Quebec.concern during October.” he said to them. and spirit is the essence of Catholicism. He raises my blood to the boiling point. makes you lazy. so uppity?” Bartholomew said he had tried to tease him. when your steps are hurried along by cool temperatures. Most of the complaints came from seminarians.” Roderick turned red. “It gives the music more spirit. in the Gallican tradition. we play them faster.Page 105 . Eric finished the story: Charles went right on with his commentary. Almost every time I looked up from my work someone was standing before me with a complaint about him.” he said.” Peter huffed. his name came up again and again. makes you take offense so easily. “Those people work hard.” Charles had criticized Roderick for playing the hymns too slowly. He‟d better learn to respect the way Prior Knowledge . was what to do about Charles Lichtenstein. and Peter was livid. because they were closest to him. “He says he knows he doesn‟t expect food here to be as good as it is in Quebec. So why are the Negroes down here so lazy. “You people can be as productive and congenial as whites when conditions are right. “but that I could at least buy fresher vegetables and add more spices to the meat.” he said. “In Quebec. Maybe it‟s this heat that holds you back. as if he hadn‟t heard what Bartholomew said. “He has no sense of solemnity or dignity. “I wonder if it‟s the weather. which came that year on October 20.” Eric concluded: “I wanted to punch his good eye out. 1961. “and they treat whites with courtesy. At our monthly chapter meeting in which we aired our concerns. “Maybe it‟s because you-all give your darkies plenty a straw to make their bricks with. but he managed to alienate some of the monks as well.” Charles had criticized the food.” Roderick quoted him.
” Martin said.” he said. “That he does.” I said. So I called Charles in and related some of the criticism to him. “Amen. English isn‟t even that prig‟s first tongue. they were offended. „Thanks for nothing. What gall!” He had fire in his eyes. I guess I‟m in the habit of doing that. Even the Rose Triplets were fuming at that. I was just trying to help them.we do things. “the truth was. “I took it out.” Both men were seething. it‟s best if you ease off. It‟s good for us.” Charles had also said something to the effect---I didn‟t get the exact quote---that monks were brainless automatons. Andrew said he had joked that if the Prior told one of the monks to water a stick they would do it.” and he called Marjon “Pepe le Peu.” Roderick piped.” Charles had also begun to give people nicknames. “At our home for wayward boys.” I tried to smooth things over. and all it said was. It keeps us humble. “But somebody needs t‟tell him Quebec‟s not the whole of Christendom.” Prior Knowledge . Charles had borrowed a manuscript of Martin‟s poems and returned it after two days with a note inside it..” “Well. I could see that I had a real problem on my hands.. I believe we should tell each other the truth. “He just comes from a different tradition. and for everyone‟s sake. “expecting a compliment.or I‟ll fail his ass in Liturgy. “He hasn‟t heard the last of this. one that needed my immediate attention. He acted genuinely surprised that he had offended people.Page 106 . He referred to Alexis as “Old Father Time. I didn‟t realize the monks would take offense.” I said as gently as I could. “we have regular staff sessions where we criticize each other and are in turn criticized. or at least comments on the text. It‟s healthy.‟ Why.” Several monks said. shows us where we need improvement.
“Why are there no snakes in Ireland?” he asked him one day.” I said. and he could put him down with ease.Page 107 . Again he said he was trying to help people improve themselves.” He imitated Griffey‟s abbreviated speech. to Charles he represented the oppressive Anglican establishment of Canada. He seemed to have a vendetta against Sean O‟Day. “I meant no disrespect. He once asked Diaz. Although O‟Day was Irish and Catholic. “Because they all emigrated to America. “Hi ho. Sergeant Preston. and cried out for joy. He was lucky to escape the room in one piece.” The Brothers were only half the problem. “and we Prior Knowledge . if he had been raised by a fairy godfather.” he said. and when Randy started to answer. then proceeded to compare what he saw to the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries and ended up calling it “Black Magic. moaned.” He even asked Mario where he kept his dolls and pins. He went to one of Mario‟s charisma sessions and sat for an hour watching the men as they prayed. and again I told him he should ease off. “I‟ll be careful with the Brothers. Charles was more clever than Sean.” I noticed his French accent grew more pronounced when he felt uncomfortable. shook.” At dinner one night he made Lucas cry about his appetite and weight problem. There were complaints from the seminarians too. how‟s the Mountie today?” He greeted Candlemas. “We‟re a small community.“Sure. he said.” I had another talk with him about his relations with the seminarians. the way I earlier talked with him about relations with the monks. and he referred to Kopec as “Pops. “How. during an Ethics class. trying to appeal to his common sense. and another night he moved a waste can to a table and told Frost to spit his tobacco there before he tried to eat. He never let up on Randy Muldoon about the ghost or about how backward Ireland was. He regularly greeted him.” He called Hanks “Digger. Father. Heap Big Chief.
“Just think before you speak.” “OH NO. We need to get along with as few distractions as possible. Prior Knowledge . He was a square peg in a field of round holes.” I groaned. “THINK YOU CAN HANDLE HIM?” “You tell me. but with his gray beard and his eye patch he looked much older. NOT YET.live in cramped quarters. Father.” “I realize that. After he left I sat there brooding. Father.” he nodded. He was only 47. Charles Lichtenstein had given me a three aspirin headache.” he said seriously. too old in fact for me to be reprimanding the way I would a teenage boy.Page 108 . I didn‟t know how we would be able to make him fit.” “I know. “It‟s a good habit for a priest to develop.” I said.
” he said. and he came rather too boldly into my office. anticipating trouble. as I said. from Prior Knowledge . I took a deep breath.Page 109 . a confession. A meeting. Because I know already. I thought. “Good. whatever the situation called for. that I‟m not exactly the most popular person in this place. from what you have told me. after supper one night.” I said. “Will you promise me that?” “Well. “Father. he emphasized. If I can.” I could tell from his tone about “this place” that this place was not a particularly happy place for him. I gathered he could turn it off and on at will. “this is not. mostly from monks about to drop their vows. not a confession. But I would like to ask you to keep what I say in strictest confidence. yes.” His French accent was stronger than usual. I had heard the tone before.I I had listened to so many people who had beefs against Charles Lichtenstein and had worried so much over what to do with him that I was annoyed when it was he who requested a third meeting with me. I reluctantly set a time.
“Several items. that someone would steal a holy book. “True. “to tell the truth.” “Better spill it. He had asked for this match. and I would never leave the door unlocked for that long a time.Page 110 .” he said. but I‟m certain of it. when I run down to the pissiary. you know...” “A breviary. from husbands about to drop their wives. Father.” I shook my head. I‟ve been missing things. like anyone.students about to drop their classes.” He paused. It‟s leather bound. but it still made me angry.from my room. He had to make the first move. At first it was just pens and pencils.” “Breviary? Are you sure?” “Yes. It was nothing new. But then two days ago somebody took my breviary. I could have lost them. I didn‟t elaborate. It was the most cowardly of crimes.. It cost me $93 Canadian.” “Do you lock your room?” “Yes. I have this cross that cost. intrigued by what he might say. I had encountered it many times. “I know it seems impossible. when I was away. even in the monasteries where I had lived.” “What things?” Theft always irritated me. nothing big. very expensive. and I certainly don‟t want anyone to think I accused them. and I couldn‟t be absolutely sure they were stolen.. especially in a seminary. “Well. Father. “I don‟t want anyone to know that I came to you about this.” I agreed with him. I might occasionally forget. Father.” I said. I mean. as if to let me Prior Knowledge . irked by his delays. but this happened during the day. I would never have left it anyplace but my room. I‟m just glad I keep my jewelry box locked in my trunk.
somewhat ameliorated. you know that. I don‟t loan things. I have looked everywhere. quick to defend my monks.” I said. Absolutely not. Father. As I ranted. his whole demeanor changed. were stolen.” I looked at him sharply.” I almost hit the ceiling. I hoped.. “Charles. “Yes. no intent to harm anyone. I warned him that he had better not be hatching some scheme to get someone he didn‟t approve of kicked out. I told him that it wasn‟t for him to say who should and should not be there. especially the breviary.catch up..” Prior Knowledge . you‟d be much better off without them.” “Yes. When I paused. someone with a key. Father. Father.” “Or someone who can pick a lock. he began begging my forgiveness for having made such a thoughtless remark. So is falsely reporting theft. but I motioned him on. Father.Page 111 . if true. chin lifted. He assured me that there was no plot. this is very serious.. “It can‟t be just. then. ever again presume to judge any other seminarian‟s worth.” His eyes were full of sincerity. not a monk. it was a seminarian.” “I am telling the truth.” He smiled. “All right. sitting upright in the chair. Charles.. I stood up on my painful ankle and read him the riot act. sitting back down. “I‟ll look into the matter.” “Theft is grounds for expulsion. He would never. I hadn‟t thought of that.” I said.” “You didn‟t loan it to anyone?” “I wouldn‟t do that. “It‟s got to be. You are certain those items. now he shrank and assumed the humble pose of a peasant.misplaced? Somewhere in your room? Perhaps in the chapel?” “No. “Some of these jokers. He had earlier assumed a regal pose.
he was Irish. if they exist. A priest should not believe in ghosts: ghosts are born of superstition. they are un-Catholic. his self-confidence returning. that I do now.” He thanked me and left my office.I.” “Certainly not!” I huffed. One minute he was an humble cleric. “A search? Of rooms?” “Yes. and the Irish are susceptible to incorporeal phenomena. I didn‟t believe it at first myself. the next a C. I know. “I‟ll leave it in your hands. agent. I know. we were living on Shaker soil. “I do want my breviary back. poker-faced. I had been told that there had been other appearances. he needed catching. Besides. I was no Sherlock Holmes. they are of Satan. Only I hadn‟t the faintest notion how to catch him. I fumed. But if there was a thief. all these years later.” He nodded. Why to Randy Muldoon? Well. “I will not conduct a witch hunt.” I puffed. But why not? Why are they those things? We are supposed to believe in life beyond the grave. The devil take his leather-bound breviary that cost $93 Canadian. If people live beyond this life. I‟m not altogether sure. before my time. Father. why a Shaker? Well.” “You‟re damned right you will.Page 112 . and sighed. I couldn‟t believe this man. why is it impossible that they would want to be able to communicate with us? Are the dead in some kind of heavenly stockade? On the other hand.“You‟ll do a search?” he asked. Fortunately---I suppose it was fortunate---I got help from an unexpected source: Randy Muldoon‟s intrusive Shaker Spirit.A. Prior Knowledge .” “I know that.
. old-fashioned accent. “It‟s Randy. English.friend. careful not to put weight on my ankle. he came to visit me again.it doesn‟t make any sense.. Father. his curly red hair was combed.. “How did you keep from waking the place?” “I didn‟t cry out this time.. “Ricky!” I gasped. Father.?” “I was waitin‟ for you to wake up. but to me. Father.” He smiled proudly..what on earth.. So I just kept still. that he was sort of protecting me.. he said.” “Did your. “Randy then. facing me as I opened my door. covered with cow. „The book. knowing I was about to miss Morning Prayer and likely my breakfast as well. about 3:00. “Yes. leaning back against the wall. I said it didn‟t make.. He has this strange.... I think he must have grown up in Britain..Randy was waiting for me the very next morning when I emerged from my digs at 5:15. I slowly sat down in my chair.well. Well. “He said. “I remembered that you said he meant me no harm. hobbling my way to Morning Prayer.” He nodded.speak?” “Yes. The first Shakers came over with Mother Ann Lee from there.Page 113 . He stood there.. my friend.” “Waiting? What‟s wrong? Don‟t tell me. Father.‟ See. “Come in..” Randy was not in a panic this time.” That was possible. I nearly jumped out of my skin..” “Tell me anyway.” he said evenly. He was fully dressed.. Prior Knowledge .” I said. his eyes were clear. and Randy sat opposite me.. I felt a sharp pain run through my ankle as I put weight on it from the jump. resides with the man from the land of the cows.not again. What.” “Okay.. I can repeat it.
“Listen.” “I won‟t. Father. serious matter..” “Come with me. passing the chapel where we could hear the prayers going strong. you mean what my ghost said.“Wait. “Number. We crossed the garden. before the trail got cold. an important. understand? No one. where it was still dark.” “Yes. He wasn‟t likely to invite more. “Our resident cowboy. “It might indeed.6. not about the land of the cows.” I said as I fished my pass key out of my pocket.” He followed me as I hobbled down the dark hallway. Father. He had taken a lot of teasing about his ghost. I see.” I said. I always carry it with me. not about the man.” He looked puzzled.Page 114 .” “I understand. The seminarians would be in chapel. “Griffey?” Randy said. Not a word.” he grinned.. The man from the land of the cows. not about the ghost.” Prior Knowledge . “Where are we going?” “Just come along. Randy took my arm and helped me climb the stairs. seeing the name BERNIE GRIFFEY on the door with a large number 6 above it. Father. Does it mean something to you?” “It might. now don‟t mention this to another soul.” I said. I‟m sure my eyes were wide. “He said those exact words? Are you sure. “This is a sensitive matter. “Land of the cows?” Then his eyes widened. Who else could he have been talking about?” “Oh yes. not about the book. “Oh. Randy. and went into the seminarians‟ dormitory.” I leaned toward him. I wanted to act right now. Randy? Are you sure?” “Yes.” I said softly.
looking on the desk. Father?” “I thought „the man from the land of cows‟ would be Griffey.I knocked softly at the door. carefully closing and locking the door after us.” Randy mused. and we went in. oh. It looked like someone had been fighting in it. Lichtenstein‟s has been stolen.” “Yes. I didn‟t see a breviary. “Wrong. Not Kansas but Texas. when they think of cows. I see. Debris covered the desk. who was still standing at the door. “Yes. The room was immaculate. think of Texas.. unlocked the door. I was surprised that an old cowboy would be so neat. don‟t they. The bed was unmade. I guess not. in drawers. in the closet. “Most people. cow hide. Father?” “Yes. Father?” Of course.help you. I knocked. It was as bad a mess as Randy‟s room. Father?” Randy said. The one your Shaker mentioned. No answer.. waited.” “Like Lichtenstein‟s?” “It is Lichtenstein‟s.? Oh.” “A breviary. I went down the hallway until I found the one assigned to RONALD HANKS. I went about the well kept space. and we eased into the room. “Guess I was wrong.” “My. number 9.” Prior Knowledge . I turned to Randy. chairs. I nodded and led Randy out of the room... I used the pass key. looking puzzled.” “Land of cows.” I said. I even looked under the bed. and floor. I began going through the collected rubble.. the door swung open. just to make sure Griffey hadn‟t slept through Morning Prayer. At least Hanks had no bare breasted Virgin on his wall.. he was talking about a breviary when he said book? One covered with. “Can I. Look for a breviary.Page 115 . a leather-bound breviary.
“No.” I told him. bring Hosea with you. In a corner. “Not a word about this.” he said... understand?” “Hanks stole it?” “He must have. And that‟s..” “Meet me in my study at 8:30 tonight.” I said when Hosea went on off dribbling.Page 116 . Randy smiled tolerantly. here it is. but then I turned. right where you found it.” I started toward the chapel.. He returned it to the shelf.” Randy‟s green eyes widened. not for a while anyway. Hosea Candlemas came up. I took it with trembling hands and opened it. “Well. “On second thought. “It‟s been gone a week. I handed it back to Randy. and teased Randy that he looked like he had seen a ghost. QUEBEC. APRIL 1961. it said $93CAN. I was getting ready to leave when he yelped “Hey” and pointed to Hanks‟ closet. “That‟s my belt. retrieving it from the nail on the closet door. Inside the front cover. the one with the pope‟s picture. He whistled.” I said. and he helped me down the stairs. He‟s been blaming everyone in the dorm for taking it. “And here‟s Mario‟s coffee mug. but I don‟t want anyone to know we know it‟s here. it read CHARLES LICHTENSTEIN.that‟s the same issue of Playboy I saw in Lucas‟ room” “You can bring your belt. not erased.” Prior Knowledge .” he said.” “I know whose it is.” I led him down the hallway.” He picked it up from a crowded shelf and held it out to me. “but leave the rest. dribbling. “But it belongs. Father.“Oh. We went to the garden and pretended to be talking as the seminarians drifted out for a breath of fresh air before breakfast.” He looked all around. “Put it back.
. I had hoped he might. he might say all of you left those items in his room and get out of it. to catch wolves. and that night the four of us met in my office. Charles. Everyone would know they came to see me. I looked at him.. Maybe we can use his Native American wiles. “What advice do you need.” “There won‟t be any hanging.” “Father. “We had one in school.” I said. I have an idea. Father?” Charles said. I related the entire story of what had happened. Unless we do. “But I‟d rather catch him in the act. in such a small community.“Candlemas?” “Yes. He was a wise old owl who had taught and coached high school boys for thirty years. of gossip spreading. I get them now and then. Sure enough.” Hosea said.” Randy said.and then watch... He was also an Indian. We ran the risk. I knew I was taking a risk that Charles would ridicule the Shaker ghost story. take us all down to Hanks‟ room and identify the stolen goods. I ended by saying I was asking them for their advice. Wolves are thieves. and hang him from the nearest tree.” “Bait. “We could do what my people used to do. I told them first of all that they were to say I had appointed them to a committee to prepare a Halloween party. But swear him to secrecy. How many Hoseas do we have? Fill him in on what we‟ve learned.put out bait. He wasn‟t dribbling. back in Ireland. Prior Knowledge . but you can catch „em if you. shocked at the imagery. he smiled when I told it. I‟ve got a hunch.Page 117 . but then he sobered up when I told him how it had led us to find his breviary. and he was so sneaky we never did catch „im.” I mused. “Just call everyone out.” I got word to Charles Lichtenstein too.” “It‟s almost impossible to catch a thief.
. Hosea and Randy would comment on it. As soon as Charles sat down at the table.. and Randy Muldoon came right behind them. a real attractive holy thing. He wore jeans and a sweat shirt as though he had just come in from his usual afternoon walk in the meadow. Next came Charles. with Hanks eyeing them with bemusement. “With wolves it‟s meat. He headed Hanks to one of the tables. Put something out. to draw attention it it. Then we put our heads together.” I heard him say as they passed my table. “Well.“Right. late as usual. We had discussed every detail in our strategy meeting. jewel-encrusted cross. It looked outlandish with the clothes he wore. The three of them sat together. a glimmer of admiration in his eyes. as Randy tipped the fourth chair over so no one else could take it. something that‟ll attract him. the one I supposed he had told me he kept locked in his trunk. taking their measurements. A couple of nights later Hosea came to dinner with Hanks by the arm.” “What sort of thing would it be?” Charles said. little Indian kid. talking a blue streak. and Charles would say it had just arrived in the mail. hung a magnificent. While Hosea and Randy Prior Knowledge . nab „im. Randy and Hosea made a big thing of the cross. like that leather covered book of yours. on a gold chain. and when he goes for it. Around his neck. Randy and Hosea rambled on and on as they began to eat. Then we began to nod and grin. So something holy. he must not of been more. With a man like Hanks it‟s what glitters. Finally we were all laughing.” We all thought about it for a moment.Page 118 . we know he doesn‟t hesitate to steal religious stuff.” he said. Charles held it up for them all to see and explained how it had just arrived. but that was the whole idea. “We had this little forward.
” they all said. It might create a battalion of thieves. worth about the same amount.fingered it. and now here it is.” Randy said.” I said. “It‟s the Saint Jean‟s Cross. it‟s a monetary gift. Prior Knowledge . pointing to the gaudy piece of jewelry.. for my work with the wayward boys. Hanks simply stared at it. Everyone was admiring it. who looked it over.000 Canadian. named in honor of our patron Saint Jean. I watched them for a time. everyone except Sean O‟Day. When they awarded it to me last year. and hobbled over to their table.” “St.” Charles said. He had missed being the center of affairs here. “It‟s a prize awarded every year at Saint Jean‟s festival in June to the Quebecois who has made the greatest contribution to ethnic consciousness. Whew!” I thought they were overdoing it a bit. The story sounded farfetched. I asked them to display it at Notre Dame in Montreal for the first year.” Hosea whistled.000. and went out of the room. We drew a crowd. That probably explained his caustic wit. all the way to Mississippi. you said. John‟s Cross. “worth $5. it‟s this cross. a gleam in his eye.. “Yes. men. snorted. Charles was not that famous.from afar. then got up as if to leave. usually about $5. It ended its display last week. “Look what Charles got.” Randy prompted him.” I said. the way he was back in Quebec. the epitome of Father Superior slumming with the peasants. if the person is a cleric.Page 119 . and Charles enjoyed the attention. Was something probably only gold plated really worth that much? Its purported value and prestige might scare our thief off. Something that valuable would not have been sent through the mails. “Father. “I saw it. If the person is a layman. “Good evening.
which would be shown in the recreation room of the main building. I went into their laundry room. just to keep it safe. I tried to keep count. and when all of the seminarians were inside the dormitory. turned off the light. After a time they started coming back down the stairs. I waited for a long time and heard no more.do you need. His eyes followed Charles out.” “What?” “Get outta here.Page 120 . not even out of love for Billie Holliday. I won‟t wear it to a movie. “Go quickly.. I got up and started up the stairs.. “Better hide it. “I‟m taking out a lock box in town tomorrow. It was overdone. preparing to leave for the movie.” “Right. but it was hard to do.” I hissed.. won‟t you Charles?” “I doubt it. then a figure on the other stairs. staring across at me as if I were some apparition. “Are you. taking my time going through the garden. “I don‟t want to take any chances with it.” I hissed. our little act. “Shhhhh.” “Go. I eased into their vestibule. but Hanks looked ready to burst. three at a time. then footsteps..” Born Yesterday was our flick of the week. and any thief in his right mind would have caught on to it. I could hear them above me.” Larry Diaz said. Randy spoke: “You‟ll wear it to the movie tonight. Then he got up and trailed him out.” Charles said. one. Go see the movie!” Prior Knowledge . a new experience for me. “Father.” Charles said as he left for his digs.” Hosea said sagely. I followed them at a distance. I thought I counted 11.As we began to break up the assembly. measuring each step he took. but I couldn‟t be sure. and sat down near the door. alone with my crutches. hoping no one planned to do a washing instead of seeing the film. “And lock your room. two. Suddenly there was a loud creak.
he knew he had an hour and a half. so the cross would be overwhelmingly tempting to him. and I might have to sit here almost that long. He had left a light burning low. Doubtless he was coming. Father. If the thief were coming. doubtless he was still in the building.” he said. he might be scared away by its purported worth. easy pickings. I listened for movement above me and heard nothing. rather unlikely I thought. who just wanted to possess things.“Yes. I waited for what seemed an eternity. maybe this was a wild goose chase. But what if the projector crashed. Maybe they had all gone. went inside. I told myself. He had rigged up a two bed sheets as a curtain on a clothes rack for me to use as a hideout. such as the breviary. I knew the movie had started. as well as things like belts. opened Charles‟s unlocked door. glanced at me once from the foyer. the papal cup. I edged down the hall. and I saw the cross hanging. sat down. On the other hand. Charles‟s room was the first one on the right. If Hanks were a mere sneak thief. if he were one of those thieves who stole just for the pleasure of it. and hurried through the front door.Page 121 . He went on down the stairs. The ones who were going were already there. Something that expensive would be hard to hock. I bumbled my way up. He was definitely someone who stole religious items. If he Prior Knowledge . and behind it I found a chair. as it had done once already since I arrived? What if they all came trouping back and found me here? I peeped through the sheets and looked at the cross. Hanks‟ was farther down on the left. he would have no intention of hocking the cross. I felt both daring and ridiculous. too easy pickings for an experienced thief. from he headboard of his bed. I leaned my crutches against the wall. and locked it behind me. and arranged myself so I could see through a narrow slit between the sheets. shocked by my anger.
“Why.” “But Father. I perked up.Page 122 .but it was so easy. His eyes turned to saucers.. Rings. No one knew..” I said. money. leaning forward on my crutches toward him..” “No. Ronald?” I said. Slowly the knob turned. and called his name. I stood up. “Ronald. He moaned and nodded. illuminating the cross. spied the cross. It was easy to remove things from bodies. no one cared. “Why do you do things like this? Tell me.. I‟ve tried to explain it to myself. I‟ll have to let you go.. it‟s my first offense. But then I got to taking things from the living. rocking to and fro. When he had lifted it from the headboard and had gone back toward the hallway.had failed to show up for the movie. and Hanks was sitting in a chair. “I.don‟t. My brother found out.” Prior Knowledge . He jumped six inches. He dropped the cross to the floor and ran. Randy Muldoon was to come and tell me. then came the scratching sound of a wire in the keyhole. it‟s at least a fourth offense. pushed back the curtain.know. That‟s why he bought my part in the parlor. The door rattled. I waited as long as my racing heart let me. I carefully picked up the cross and took my time getting to his door. Can‟t you. We found other items in your room. and went for it.” He sighed again. Ronald.. before he shut the door. crying. Light from the hallway flooded the bed. I saw him disappear into his room.. watches.. “I guess you know what this means.” He nodded and sighed deeply. It was open. I got my crutches and made my way to the hall. Hanks looked furtively from side to side. I guess it started when I was in business. No one knew. I knew it was wrong. I never thought it hurt anyone. I heard a sound.
” I paused. “Will you need help?” “No.. Father.Page 123 .” “Just let me pack my stuff...” “Why did you do it?” “To cover up this problem I have. “You can.” He nodded sadly. he..” I shook my head.. There‟s too much missing. “But I never killed no one. you‟d better go now. Get a change of clothing and your toiletries.. “Ronald. about killing a man. “Lichtenstein‟s in on this. Before the men get back.” When I said his name.” “I can‟t do that. “That story you told me.I can. “No.” I said. I‟d rather nobody knew.“So you decided to quit undertaking and become a priest? A kleptomaniacal priest. I‟ll leave during the night. “Ronald.” he said fiercely..other. Ronald. was that true?” He shook his head sadly. I waited for the sobs to subside.” He looked up at me... I‟ll have the men come in and look around.” I was afraid he might start a fight with Charles. ain‟t he. You wouldn‟t want to be here when they‟re looking around.faults.” “He set this trap. and I‟ll have Brother Andrew ship the rest to you. not he alone. His body shook.” “You‟d rather I thought you killed a man than to think you were a thief?” “I figgered it would divert your attention from my.” I said. didden he?” “Well.. it wasn‟t. I‟ll be sure Prior Knowledge . “So you are both a thief and a liar... .” “I hate that son of a bitch.. he began to cry again. Father?” “Well... claim anything that they can prove is theirs. you‟ll have to pack. father.” “Ronald.
What if the world lasts another few hundred years? I‟ll be nothing then. He sighed. COMPLAIN. almost sideswiping a couple of cars. a bit of bone.. and surrendered his will to mine. He got in and cranked up. I jumped back and almost fell off my crutches. I really hate that. I watched until he hit the road toward Oxford.” I grumbled to myself. “. I heard laughter from the rec room. He got a shaving kit but didn‟t bother with clothes. for the last time measuring me for my coffin. The movie was still going.” There came a roar.” “YOU CAN‟T BE. He looked up at me..” He started to argue but then seemed to sink into a slough of despair. “I hate this job. his eyes clear and narrow.. Father.. “COMPLAIN.” I decided to correct myself. Why not become nothing now?” “RULES. I‟ve seen those bodies in the catacombs in Rome. “That Charles Lichtenstein.” “THE GRAVE IS PEACEFUL.” “I‟ve decided to be cremated.. and the car lurched forward. and sped up the lane toward the highway.” “Come on.” “This job will be the death of me. Hanks backed up rapidly and squealed away. anything that you brought here with you. I‟ll bury him.” Prior Knowledge .” he said. “He‟s the devil himself..” “Ronald. YOU HAVE TO BE INTACT AT THE RESURRECTION..no one takes anything that‟s yours.Page 124 . A bit of hair.” “I‟ll see him dead.. When the headlights came on so did a light in the cow horns on the hoods. nodded. I walked with him down the stairs and out to his car with the TEXAS tags.
Rules.Page 125 .” Prior Knowledge .“Right. I hate this job.
II Happily on October 16 Dr. I have even dreamed that on a safari in deepest Africa I am separated from my party and lost. I wondered how much of what we were sending him had been stolen from people before he got to Saint Luke‟s. As I watched the postman takes them away. While things are never as simple as she tended to make them. After she got over her initial reservations about me. and we start a new race. things are never as complicated as I tended to make them. if I were careful. she offered me her deepest friendship. more or less like a normal human being. He assured me that I could walk around. I think. I am taken in by a bush woman with narrow hips and large breasts. I promised him that I wouldn‟t chase any more nocturnal prowlers. Prior Knowledge . I needed what she had to offer. and they collected 38 items belonging to ten of the eleven. She was wise to the world. a boss. a Catholic. and that freed her of lingering malice. Even in such dark hours the good Ophelia knew how to cheer me up. Maglie took the bandages off my ankle. The rest of it Andrew packed into two suitcases we found in Hanks‟ closet and a big box we begged from a liquor store and shipped them off to his home address in Texas. had I been free to marry. and was able to leave those blasted crutches at his office. a Yankee. a white man. I also wondered whether some of our men took things that weren‟t really theirs. but she was also loving. But I heaved a sigh of relief that at least the whole smelly ordeal was over.Page 126 . I would have chosen a black rather than a white wife. Andrew let the men go through Hanks‟ room.
flesh and blood human beings. and through her words I saw them in a fresher. she saw them as men. Sean O‟Day‟s rigid schedule (“that crazy clock watcher”). While I saw them as candidates for the priesthood. “He‟s jus‟ like a girl. but someday she said she would. I saw them dressed in black robes and clerical collars. like a girl. Jealous too. not about the low wages we paid her. Randy Muldoon‟s tall tales (she took them as entertainment and repeated them verbatim---she loved the word “blarney” that I taught her). Prior Knowledge . She often talked with me about the new seminarians. and she had never had a good chance to fulfill her dream. She confided in me her inner dream of someday being a hair dresser. Life had been hard on her. her only real vice. “Uses makeup.” with which she sympathized). Lucas‟s appetite (his “weakness for goodies.Page 127 . about Hanks‟s kleptomania (“his thievin‟” she called it). Frost‟s chewing tobacco (his “nasty spittin‟ all over the place.” “He really seems to have Barry Lamb in his sights. the love-andprotector triangle developing between Larry Diaz. while she saw them naked. owning her own beauty parlor. She never really complained.” she said of Diaz.” she allowed). about Mario Terminus‟s charismatic excesses (his “tongue-speakin‟”).”). We talked. and Charles Lichtenstein (“stuff that ain‟t right. “I‟ll say. clearer way. She sympathized with my swollen ankle. Barry Lamb.Ophelia always kept back from the tables some home baked cookies for me to take to my room and eat at night. and the slowly evolving problem that perplexed and disturbed her most. She knew more about the psychological construct of the men she fed than I would ever hope to know.” she hooted. not about all the things the monks and seminarians put her through.” I said. after he left. prisses all „round the place. but she did like to gossip.
“I would be too.” I said. acidic. I wouldn‟t cozy up to that man for all the money you could tote in here. “you still have your nighttime visitor?” “Cat Burgler? Yep. “but he‟s warm to Charles Lichtenstein. Ophelia. not sure how to finish. Charles was many things. But if he had his claws in me. narcissistic. we still got „im. I‟ll say that. but I had never thought of him as frightening. “If it starts costing too much. the way he do that poor little Lamb. arrogant.she paused. I wouldn‟t do nothin‟ to rile „im.” I told her. You wont me t‟keep on feedin‟ „im? He eats a lot. I looked closely to get her reaction when I continued. He says Barry is afraid of warm blooded Latin personalities. from someone. holding a sack full of more cookies “Oh. favoring my sore ankle. I think some outsider got a key somewhere. we can take it out of the fund for the poor.” she said.” “Maybe not. He says he‟s a cold blooded Yankee.Page 128 .” I smiled and polished off the cookie and coffee she had given me and started off.” “Let‟s do.” “Hooo hooo. “That‟s got nothin‟ t‟do with it. “That ole evil eye is bad news. and he knows a good thing when he finds it. turning back at the door. scared.. You‟re a good cook.” “He‟s ascared t‟say no to ole cyclops. Prior Knowledge .” “Scared of Charles?” I was surprised to hear that..” “He says he can‟t understand why Barry doesn‟t reciprocate his feelings.” “A Yankee?” Ophelia said disdainfully. Lamb jus‟ don‟t wanta get a reputation. S-c-a. hoping she would find it humorous.” I said.“He says he just wants to be friends. “Yet bet.” I grinned at her. Comes ever‟ night.” She smiled and looked embarrassed. “I‟m beginning to think it‟s no one from here.
and on my walk I turned him over in my mind. At meals. he would get up. During his confession one morning. The story about winning it for his service to Quebec grew. “I just can‟t help it. “What‟s the secret?” “Add water. and I had gained ten pounds. Charles had taken to wearing the Saint Jean Cross every day. noisily dump out his tray. but I really hate that man. as if after helping us catch Hanks it was a symbol of law and order. and leave the room.“We black folks knows how t‟stretch the food. Only Sean O‟Day was contemptuous. Randy Muldoon seemed impressed and was probably planning to recycle it to future audiences. replacing the character Charles in the tale with Randy Muldoon. as I always did after talking with her. Ophelia‟s comments about Charles Lichtenstein did bother me some. While on the crutches I hadn‟t done much exercising. When Charles appeared on the scene.” Prior Knowledge . and I left feeling better. Father. In classes he sat as far from Charles as possible. I thought I could afford to give our thief some of my food. had appeared on television and in newspaper articles for his largesse. if Charles talked about the Cross. he told me how he felt. Sean walked away. “I know it‟s not Christian. As I made my way along.” she grinned back.” We shared a laugh over that one. had personally handed it to the Archbishop of Montreal to be placed in the foyer for public viewing. had addressed the Quebec National Assembly.” he hummed. He literally nauseates me. He would have won the Saint Patrick Cross. He had gone to Quebec City to accept it. Most of the men tolerated the story.Page 129 .
He never. “Yes. Even Prior Knowledge . stood. until precisely ten minutes before he had to leave for Morning Prayer. and left me. He ate. thirty minutes before anyone else. I no more believed in tests of faith than I believed in a flat earth. stiffened his back and neck. across the grounds and sitting down in chapel just as the last note of the monks‟ processional died away. wearing only sandals and a red towel. the more religiously he devoted himself to it. He made a bee-line to the toilet and got back to his room at precisely the same tick every morning. He nodded thoughtfully.” He nodded. “Pray that I pass.” “I‟ll pray that you not only pass but make an A.” I said.” Sean agreed. By that time Sean‟s rigid schedule was legendary. He rose at precisely the same tick of his clock each morning. ever deviated from it. slept. until everyone else had wandered off so as to have plenty of time to dawdle along the way. The more demanding his school work became. Father. and was out the door.” he said with a wistful smile. “Maybe. prayed. He did his private prayers. Every event of his day he precisely planned and minutely controlled.Page 130 . but I felt I had to help him lance his boil somehow.” “Yes. went back to his room where his clothes had been laid out the night before. dressed in ninety seconds flat.“Maybe he was put here to test your faith. studied. At precisely twenty minutes after the hour he walked from his room to the shower. the picture of a well oiled military officer. “Pray for me. showered for precisely three minutes. the more the other seminarians teased him. I guess that might be it: he might be my test. set his chin.” I lied. aloud I was told. dried off for precisely thirty seconds. relieved himself---at exactly the same time. What I said insincerely he took seriously.
Then one night after Compline. Father. a fake withdrawal of support from someone‟s bishop. all of which ended when I came near them. “Are you sure it‟s for the best. he kept to a schedule. Just you wait „n‟ see. I saw more than the usual whispered conversations. this thing?” I was thinking of smoke bombs. that sort of thing. really I can‟t. told jokes about it. tomorrow‟ll be a lovely day. both seminarians and monks. I knew something was about to happen. You would be Prior Knowledge . a nervous tizzy.” he said. “I can‟t tell you. I say “they” because almost everyone knew it was going to happen. Randy. I passed Randy Muldoon at the mail boxes. Father. I knew his behavior bothered the others. punctuated with grins. but in reality Charles Lichtenstein was the mastermind.” Then I caught on. But I didn‟t know how deeply their resentment ran until they pulled off their trick. and as he spoke to me. positive. but it‟s hilarious. Does this hilarious thing have anything to do with all the whispering I‟ve seen going on lately?” “Might.” It had been raining. pepper in the lemonade. He regained his balance only when he got back to his tight regimen. When on rare occasions something interfered with his routine. he either went into a blind rage. “Wait a minute.Saturdays and Sundays.” he laughed. “Are you sure of that?” I said. and the prediction said more of the same was to come. when he didn‟t have classes. “Randy?” I said. and it won‟t hurt anyone.Page 131 . he couldn‟t contain his laughter. “What‟s going on?” “Oh. They griped about it. All I‟ll say is. or deep depression. teased him about it. several took part in it. “Oh yes.
there won‟t be. but several Prior Knowledge . At least this time he wasn‟t late.” “Not to worry.Page 132 . “Trust me. That would really put his schedule off. I had to be alert and keep us all together. and sat down in the pews. I signaled for Roderick to begin. I shrugged. who looked about furtively before he took his seat. so I mindlessly counted as each one entered. I had almost forgotten about the conversation the next morning as I made my way to the vestibule of the chapel. “But it‟ll be okay. In choir I watched as the seminarians came in and took their places. Part of my job. Except for Charles Lichtenstein. and Sean had not entered. “Sorry.” “Oh.. at the first major pause and silence. avoiding tardiness by a split second. Maybe he was sick. The last in was Charles Lichtenstein.” Randy assured me. who was often late.” he said.” He patted me on the arm. I‟ve always hated to be patted. was to keep attendance records. so I thought nothing of it when they all arrived and he was nowhere in sight. But after a few minutes. his green eyes dancing. it‟s only natural to get a little stir crazy. Sean O‟Day was always last to arrive. I glanced over the top of my breviary and searched the faces in the pews. dipped his fingers in holy water. I couldn‟t tell who made the sound. I heard a snicker.” He winked. Father. Father. “I know after a bit of time here. made the sign of the cross. I drew back. where we chanted until time to enter the chapel for Morning Prayer. the part I liked the least.surprised at how much of that goes on in seminaries. “We don‟t want a.” He clicked his heels together and went on. My watch said it was time to begin.. but for well over a month I had taken my cue from Sean‟s entrance. At certain times he did look like a leprechaun.disturbance. At first I was too preoccupied with the liturgy to notice anything unusual.
and they stared back at me blankly.” “You‟re probably right. Prior Knowledge . He‟s not here. He might have overslept. fixed expressions. It was well before 7:00 when we finished. which wasn‟t easy with the seminarians sputtering. He seemed unconcerned. So why the laughter? I finished the Prayers. I considered leaving the service to go and check on Sean. He had to be dead. were shaking with laughter. I beckoned him over to me.” He shook his head. I peeped back into the chapel and saw the others. The tradition. He never overslept. “But my guess is. I looked at Andrew. I looked back at my book. with the exceptions of Diaz and Terminus. as quickly as possible. with the monks distracted. It was a chilly morning. I gathered my robes and headed for the door.Page 133 . talking.faces showed the signs of stress associated with the suppression of laughter: red faces. gathered in a clump. faces in hands. was to turn it on the first of November. I made a mental note to have Andrew turn on the heat. He might be sick. laughing. half of the seminarians. All Saints Day. He came with raised eyebrows. as I read it in the minutes. it has something to do with Sean O‟Day. and he would be here even if he were sick. I looked around at the monks. All of the seminarians now. and those avoided my eyes. “No. All sorts of images flooded my head. The rising sun set tiny diamonds on the fields. Father. ready to initiate the next phase of the worship. He might be dead. both of whom appeared to be lost in thought. I led the recessional and waited in the foyer for the seminarians to come by me. Charles said something. and they collapsed into hysteria. When I looked up. were close to rolling in the aisle.” I agreed. “Do you know what this is all about?” I whispered. The dew on the grass looked ready to turn to frost. but then I heard a wheeze. Charles Lichtenstein in the middle. Only half of them did. dancing eyes.
“Ooooohhhhhhh. I always turn the lock off so I can get back in without my key.wasn‟t there. I began to think of excuses to give for my trip. that I locked myself out. it. I guess I forgot. “Sean?” I said as I came closer. but at least Sean seemed not to be in pain. but this time. naked. but it was a meadow sound. yet more a groan of sorrow than a call for help. “It appears. It came again. I pulled up my hood as I made my way to the dormitory.” he said pitifully. Instead.” I went up the steps as fast as my bum ankle would take me. I don‟t understand it. It came from up the stairs. no cries. his face wet with tears. There‟s no need. I‟m so glad to see you. “Sean?” I reached down and touched his naked shoulder.Page 134 ..but I believe in using thermometers instead of calendars. “Father. hands over his face. And I always wear my towel..” He was shivering. Father..” He rocked forward and back.” He took a deep breath. I stopped and stared and then approached him. Sean sat on the hallway floor at the door to his room.. to suffer needlessly. He continued to moan.” Prior Knowledge .. He reminded me of an Indian guru chanting for enlightenment. He looked up and stared at me wildly. But this morning when I reached for it. for. in the twentieth century. Maybe I was being foolish. His eyes were red. like a cow in distress.. Besides.. Maybe he wasn‟t here. So you‟ve been out here wet. He was wearing only a gold chain with a tiny crucifix.” “Sean.. what happened?” “I. Then I heard a soft lowing. I came into the hallway and saw him. I entered the vestibule and stopped to listen. he dropped his hands to cover his genitals. He jumped as if hit with a cattle prod. seminarians were not monks: they didn‟t consider discomfort a piety. “Ooooooohhhhhhhh. “Father. then “Father!” as he jumped to his feet and came close to saluting me. No moans. It was chilly in there.
Father. I see. eh?” He clicked his door lock to hold and headed for the shower. after Hanks. I could stand to lose three pounds too.” Andrew rasped.” he said. Sean grabbed it up and put it around him.Page 135 . The only thing that did not fit was a red towel. The bed was made. “It was Charles. Right? Right. Been needing to cut back anyway. wasn‟t it?” I said as we walked. spic „n‟ span. Thank you. Pants a bit tight. Prior Knowledge . Andrew and I glanced at each other. Father. barely suppressing a smile. I didn‟t feel in the mood for breakfast. Brother. looking about the room.” “Yes. I don‟t know. “Prior. Get a warm shower. I was afraid..” Just then Andrew appeared and came haltingly toward us. then dress for class. Sean. His clothes were all either hung in the closet or lying ready for him to put them on.“.. three plus thirty. lose three pounds. Father. was in perfect order. He seemed to be regaining his confidence. with each corner tucked in. “Bad start to the day. He took out his pass key and let us in. pulling one end of the towel up to wipe his face.. but I‟ve had „em before. Can‟t let it get me down. “I‟ll just miss breakfast. I‟ll be ready. “Start over. okay. “Thank you. “I‟m sure it was. Thanks again. “Yes. then went down the stairs and out into the garden. “Certainly. “Will you please open Sean‟s door?” I said.” Andrew rasped.” He stood straighter.. military style. for my first class. Sean‟s room.” he said.” he said sharply. “Where are you going?” I said.” He disappeared through the door to the showers. thrown hastily across the bed. good.” “Weren‟t any of the other rooms open?” “Well. as I expected.a long time.
even if it happened to be because he no longer thought I could do the job. After the walk. “Columba?” Father Superior‟s voice and then his face came into my consciousness. “I‟m not sure.. and I wondered whether to apologize.” I said in a neutral tone.Page 136 . “Good I found you at home.” “Yes. “It‟s good to hear your voice.” he said.” I realized he had tried to get me before. I would have loved nothing better than to leave all Saint Luke‟s problems behind me. I wondered fleetingly if I were about to be summoned home. It had to be important. I heard the telephone ringing. Remember my All Points Bulletin to the abbeys?” Prior Knowledge . Father. “You do?” “Nothing certain. “No. I made it across the room as fast as I could go and got there before it stopped. but I think I know where Father James is. I decided against it because I figured he would think my absence meant I was busily doing the work of the Lord around the Priory. “I‟ve got some news. people got confused. blowing off a lung full of tobacco smoke..at last. just Charles.” I agreed. as I fumbled to open the door to my study. but me may be on his way to California. Father?” I said.” he said.” I swore. That would make me deliriously happy. He wasn‟t a man to make a friendly call to chat about the weather and such.” “California?” “Yes. “Yes. My heart jumped.” I said in the formal way I had learned to identify myself.“God. If I merely said “hello” or “Columba” the way I was accustomed to doing. “Prior Columba.
“Has any other Abbey or Priory sent you any report?” “No. I suppose. and stayed in his room the rest of the evening.” “Well. Well. I‟ll call him.“Yes. up in the mountains there but near Route..I. very polished. Just that one place. thanks for letting me know. left over from his days with the C. ate dinner.” “It sounds like that might have been James. A black man. Father. you know the one. and he went on his way the next day. in Los Angeles. He wasn‟t in uniform. but I knew that wouldn‟t be appropriate.” I agreed. But as of now he seems again to have vanished into thin air.what is that highway? The one that goes all the way to the Pacific Coast?” “Sixty-six.” I said. they say they think he may have stayed the night there last week. that‟s right. I‟ll be in touch. As soon as I get that man‟s number.A. came to the entryway on foot and asked to stay the night. He went to mass. He was wearing jeans and a corduroy jacket. but they took him to be a priest. Prior Knowledge . No one else has seen him. I felt better about Father James but not about myself. He may be going there. leaving money to cover the cost of his room and meals on his study desk. Father would not live to see the television series. very knowledgeable about the faith. so I let him hang up. Father Superior loved to use government terminology.. “Well. near Flagstaff. I have been able to learn from other sources that he has a brother. halfbrother I think it is. I received a call from our sister Abbey in Arizona.” I had an urge to beg him to relieve me of my job. “Right-o. “Yes.” I said helpfully. No one questioned him.Page 137 .” I said.
if the job were to be only 9 months long. I was 65. weeks. three as tenths. almost 1/4. For me time was of the essence. I‟ve always been a time counter. months. take it easy. and I do it in percentages. I count hours. to leaving Saint Luke‟s. I think of weeks as fourths and days as thirtieths. as Father Superior promised. after all. I was now almost 2/9 finished. I think of each day as 1/7 of the total. that I no longer wanted to manage anything or anyone.Page 138 . The seminarians jumped at the chance to join in. would be 3/4. you‟ll jump at anything. Leading chants at daybreak. days. March 1 would be half. Monks are. I hoped. Just the thought of those numbers made me feel better. and as each day passed I crossed it off my calendar. finding seminarians sitting naked in hallways. All I wanted now was to take long walks in the evenings. these things just confirmed to me that I was over the hill. May 31. when there is no television to watch and no one but other seminarians to see day after day. Every passing day meant I was closer. At Christmas I would be 1/3 of the way. Or Father might relieve me then. and the end of school. Mississippi. the end of October meant 2 of 12 months. two days as fifteenths. and if so. teach a class or two. chasing phantoms through the night. I guess when you‟re ten miles from the nearest town and that town is Oxford. October in a Benedictine priory always ends with a Halloween party. 1/6 of the way there. If it‟s a month. If I am doing a week‟s work. Prior Knowledge .III October was drawing to a close. years. I had long since purged myself of any ambition I had ever harbored of being a Benedictine Big-Wig. just grown up kids. oh blissful thought. If my job at Saint Luke‟s was to be just a year.
which had been cleared for the party. and come as a Bohemian artist. but I finally decided to don jeans and a sweat shirt.We formed a committee. I got a big cheer as I went in. Oh what a night it was! What a wild bunch of boys we were! Among the monks‟ costumes there was a baseball player. comic. two seminarians. a smock and beret. to no one‟s surprise. Lucas and Frost the seminarians. so I assumed they were planning something good. I was ready. Some of the guys don‟t have much to work with. and they organized the bash. when the spirits of dead saints are supposed to rise and walk about the earth. and they always ended them with laughter. Frost. again without much effort. with more money to spend and more contacts in the outside world. so just do as you wish. I was being a good sport. What kind?” we asked. They got together in secret sessions several times. spooky. went far beyond us poor Brothers.” It took me awhile to come up with my wish. Do you want historical. a ghost. the night before All Saints Day. “Anything you want. Immediately after supper I hurried to my room and dressed. We were all told to wear costumes. It took me some time to round up all the necessary stuff. Andrew and Benjamin were the monks chosen. if only for the night. and they appreciated it. a witch. When Halloween arrived. “Give us an idea. came as a cowboy. which didn‟t require much costuming. Griffey. Prior Knowledge . what?” “That would limit you too much.” they laughed. two monks. one of the boys. I took the back door and went around by the wall and succeeded in not being seen until I got to the rec room.Page 139 . and a Martian complete with antennae. The seminarians.
He seemed embarrassed. Larry Diaz and Barry Lamb came dressed in the all-white habits of Passionist nuns. and with it he dressed in a black suit and homburg hat that made him look like a chief on his way to Washington to meet the Great White Father at the White House. It was so tightly wound around him that he looked like a hotdog in English cellophane. I‟m just glad that Canada adopted the Maple Leaf flag later. I found myself looking closely to see if the figure of Christ hung upside down. and I noticed that Charles Lichtenstein was visibly angry to learn that Larry had stolen Barry from him. still then the flag of Canada. the works.” At the Prior Knowledge . Lichtenstein came as a pirate. loudly enough for Barry to hear. and he had blackened his beard and hair. Sean O‟Day.came as a doctor. He heard what people were saying about it. or he would doubtless have been wrapped in red. That and his eye patch made him look evil. I heard him say. in green hat and knee britches. Hosea Candlemas wore every piece of jewelry the South Dakota Indians make. to show his patriotism. was of course a leprechaun. Larry announced that they were Sisters Laurentia and Barentia of Our Lady of Masculine Flatulence. He had procured the costumes from one of his old elementary school teachers. “A pair of pussies. As I shook his hand.Page 140 . He looked absolutely Satanic. black leather suit. at least for the night. and that would have looked like ketchup. He worse a tight. but he took the kidding as evidence that he was doing the right thing. particularly the Francophonic Lichtenstein. Barry said that he had ordered a lamb‟s skin costume but that he didn‟t come on time and that Larry had the extra. They made quite a splash.” came wrapped in a Union Jack flag. “the Mountie. Muldoon. now retired. black bag. white suit. despite the fact that he wore his Saint Jean Cross around his neck.
After we had disposed of the rum punch and tootsie rolls. Prior Knowledge . We teased Ophelia that her face was red. currently tipping the scales at 305. I followed them. I never learned how the fuss began that night. and Larry began to sulk. So did my year. The cake was the last moment of joy I had that night and the last the Priory was to have for the next few months. Men moved toward the center of the rec room where Charles and Sean stood chin to chin. dressed like a fancy restaurant‟s chef. and at the party it boiled over. and they won. although they were a couple of months early. did turn pink under his white hat. Mario Terminus teamed up with Lucas to be Old Year and New Year. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw them come in. We all applauded them liberally. wore a diaper and carried a giant candy cane. The party came to a standstill while they accepted the award and had their picture made with various other costumers. Lucas. So did my life. Mario wore a sheet.first chance he got. It was shaped like a witch flying on a broom stick and was colored orange with black stripes to match the witch. After it was carved up and only its iced carcass was left. I only heard and then saw a commotion. walked with a stoop. things went quickly downhill. and they acknowledged our cheers shyly. First came the fuss between Lichtenstein and O‟Day. Their pot had been brewing for weeks.Page 141 . Peter and Ophelia came walking in with the biggest cake I have ever seen. Barry parted ways with Larry. I soon learned that I was not 1/6 of the way through anything. and Peter. There was a tie for “Best Costume” and the ten dollar prize that went with it. and carried a scythe. who actually fired the first shot or spoke the first word that provoked the shot or made the gesture that evoked the word. By the time I got there they were at it.
There was a dead silence.” Charles said and laughed derisively.” “Boys.. break it up. Sean raised his fists. making it clear that Sean‟s humiliation was not accidental. “Why don‟t you just. “After he told me what he thought of mine... “Father.after you sat out in the hall naked for an hour. he. “Father. he insulted my cross..” “About as stiff as your back. I served Canada and the British Empire for 20 years.” “I didn‟t say anything until you bragged about it. I wondered if the sugar in the cake had gone to their brains.” Sean‟s face was tomato red. his Gallic accent strong. and everyone but Charles seemed to realize it..” Sean said like a child. but now it was clear. he insulted my flag and therefore my nation. “I might be!” “Do it!” They sounded like little boys.” Charles said. at a party where we were supposed to have fun.” I grunted. the reward for service to my country.insulted me. Charles raised his. Sean‟s eyes went wide.Page 142 . No one had mentioned Sean‟s humiliation in public before. I can‟t sit back and let someone do that. I stepped between them like a friendly Irish cop. was in bad taste. “I just said it was heavy enough to bend his neck. fellows. “Father..“Then why don‟t you just shut up?” Sean snapped..” Sean turned to me. first with shock. Sean Prior Knowledge . defending himself the way an accused child would. He had apparently not been sure whether his locked door was an accident.. Bringing the subject up.. “Okay. “You‟re big enough to make me?” Charles growled. even as stiff as it is.” I said wearily. then with realization. “I just told him what I thought of his costume.” Charles lifted his Saint Jean Cross..
caught himself. a bony finger pointing at us like a messenger of death. I hadn‟t seen him arrive and had no idea how long he had been standing there watching the drama. Brother Andrew whistled to get our attention. He had never attending the weekly movies. But playing darts was not gambling. and we both jumped at the sound.started to speak. We knew he wouldn‟t return. I was surprised to see him there. Every head in the room turned. more than usual for a Church party. It was Marjon. and stamped away. covered with brightly colored balloons. He said he had no time for mindless frivolities. We were certainly not saints. wearing his cassock. He turned slowly to face all of us. “I knew this would happen. The voice was as loud and clear as the chapel bell and almost as piercing. There is perversion. dying if not dead. You are fighting among yourselves like babies. “There‟s a prize for the winner. Sin! You are all sinners!” I had to agree with some of what he said. “That‟s gambling!” he screamed. “I said that you were bringing sin into this place. I warned you. no costume. There is alcohol in that punch. sniffed loudly.” “No!” I was standing beside Andrew. He plunged through the crowd and out the door. Now you are about to gamble. his tall thin body stiff. The whites of Marjon‟s big eyes were lined with deep red. it Prior Knowledge .Page 143 . The party was wounded. men dressed as women. The punch was indeed spiked.” he accused. “Would anyone like to play darts?” he rasped. and he had rebuffed the invitation to come to the party. pointing to a board attached to the wall. standing near the door. men half naked. I gave Charles a reproving look and turned away. and our costumes were not exactly proper attire for arrival at the Pearly Gates.
and I concluded by looking at his face that Marjon was not a prophet but a madman.” I said. lick it. “No one wants to hurt or be hurt. finding my voice... His eyes were hot coals. and I saw he had the cake knife. He had slipped a cog. are we?” he sneered.. His voice was soft and soothing but firm. Take it. trying to cajole him. You have to live for tomorrow and let today slip away.” “Yes it is!” With one swift. “Marjon. a voice came from the crowd. This whole place is on its way to a devil‟s hell! You‟re violating God‟s law. “Brother. and wink: just joking. “this is not holy ground.” “Come on!” Marjon snapped. the blade white and sharp and I could see that Prior Knowledge . you know this isn‟t good for you.. and you are making it a pagan altar!” “Not the rec room.” Peter said.” He put out his hand. But instead there was a glint of steel. “Come on!” Suddenly he flipped the knife in his hand. He turned and faced us and switched it from side to side.Page 144 . boys.until I say something. It was my job to get control of him. This is supposed to be holy ground. “Brother. The handle was curved and handsomely carved. I cleared my throat. “So! Not such a bold bunch of sinners after all.” Peter said. I half expected him to scrape up a finger of filling.” I began.. Naturally we fell back with an “Ohhhh” and he grinned. You‟re not supposed to get excited. “I won‟t stop. Take it!” he yelled..” “No!” Marjon shouted. I looked at the knife. held it by the blade. “Brother.was a game. and offered the handle to me. and he moved toward Marjon. “Come on now. Brother. graceful motion Marjon was at the table. daring us to come near him. God‟s will. Before I could reach out or think of anything else to say. For one crazy moment I expected him to reach for the decimated cake. We won‟t come near you. “Here.
Brother. Father? Why not? You‟ve wanted to do it for a long time. but a scream struck me in the back. but in spirit. throwing blood everywhere. I knew you from the start. “No?” Marjon said with mock astonishment. holding the knife Marjon had dropped. not in title. grinning idiotically. I am God‟s viceroy here. His eyes closed. but he kept me in sight. “Eeeee. without asking for directions. I continued to shake my head and disavow any desire to harm him. no. So go ahead! Do it!” He shook the knife at me.it was drawing blood from Marjon‟s hand as he gripped it. and his mouth fell open. I couldn‟t tell if he understood.” I said. Prior Knowledge . don‟t deny it. I know you. Each of them took one of his arms and stood him up. and saliva streamed down his chin. By the cake table. and I wheeled to see what was happening. Well. and I did everything I could to hold his attention. I was dazed. no. and after what seemed like an eternity Eric and Bartholomew were on him like spiders on a fly. was Pithecarius. slashing the air. At least with Marjon I felt I was dealing with an intelligent being---if a sick one. but he went limp. knew you were here to kill the king and sit on his throne.” he moaned.” he screamed. They brought him down. and the knife went flying across the floor. I assumed they would take him to the cloister. squatting like an Indian warrior. sensing that something tragic was about to happen. “No. “No. The blood oozed out and mingled with the icing. you killed the wrong man. “No. and blood gushed from his hand. dragged him from the room.Page 145 . eeeeiiiii. I am the real king. I took a deep breath and looked around to see if everyone was all right. but I shook my head. not in honor. That‟s why you now have to kill me. “Eeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” He scared me far worse than Marjon had. Blood dripped from his hand. I know. I saw Eric and Bartholomew edging toward him from two sides. Eric and Bartholomew. Oh yes.
An Abbey in Italy sent it to us. “Lemme out now!” she screamed again. and Pith went sailing by them and out the door.” someone said. The only person who moved was Charles Lichtenstein. with all them crazy fools runnin‟ „roun‟ loose?” Then she just collapsed. “Go where?” she screeched. “It‟s. Barry put his face on Charles‟s shoulder and sobbed.Pith seemed hardly to have a mind at all. I looked around the room to assess the damage. standing on her tiptoes as if a bloody tide were sweeping the floor. Several of the men knelt to comfort her.” “Lemme outa here! Lemme outa here!” It was Ophelia. I heard him let out another whoop as he hit the outer door and another from somewhere outside. He caught my eye as he went over to embrace Barry Lamb. I reached out to him. “Go then..Page 146 . “No. onto the floor. He was pure. stood jealously watching the Prior Knowledge . He took my arm. and he was imitating it without knowing why. the sister nun. slashed at me. It‟s one of a kind. Larry Diaz. She was standing in a far corner. It‟s maybe three hundred years old.” “Do you want to go after it?” I said. let out that shriek again. in a loose lump of shivers and tears. “Out there. He had seen Marjon‟s act. “Look out!” I yelled.. and made for the door.priceless.” Peter said. but he shied away. “Father. neither do I. who was crying convulsively: a pirate comforting a nun.” “Well. hands to her face. They looked like they had witnessed a skirmish in a war. Half a dozen men dived for cover. I decided not to talk but to act. that knife. irrational emotion. Most of the men seemed more stunned than frightened. We can‟t let it be lost. brute.
“I don‟t need a drink. I thanked him. Larry Diaz took a chair and glared at them..” “Would you like some rum punch?” “No.cigars.scene. and I went on alone.” “Do you?” “Uh. looking puzzled. “I. and he fished again. “SOME NIGHT.” Andrew stopped abruptly and turned back toward the building. I knew he did by the way he talked and by the smell he carried with him.. and lit it for me. “Oh. you don‟t smoke. We resumed our walk.” Andrew apologized. I took a deep draw. Father...” “NEED TO TALK?” “No. When Barry stopped crying. “I‟m.” I said as we went out into the cool night air. not now.” I said. Charles took him by the arm and led him away to a corner. where they began to talk.” “Yes. I‟m sorry.” He dug one out of an inner pocket and handed it to me. “No.. “Then give me a cigarette. I think I‟ll go out on the porch and get some air. I was talking to God. Father?” Andrew said.” he rasped. Prior Knowledge . I‟m sorry. “I wasn‟t talking to you. I need a smoke. Andrew touched me on the shoulder. sometimes. “Good God!” I said before I could stop myself.” I started out. and I nearly jumped out of my skin.” “What. “But Father.” I said. Brother.nervous.” “Then give me one. and he followed me.only have. some night..Page 147 . well. came out with a match.
and we are the actors. All for Your amusement. It‟s a comedy. skits.” “You enjoyed watching that business tonight. One of my monks goes ape shit and takes a knife to the community. I‟d say it was touch and go.” Prior Knowledge . I started to get up. I sat still. The cigar was tasty but harsh. I puffed deeply at the cigar.IV There were three aluminum-and-plastic armchairs sitting out near the edge of the grass. Then you send in Pith to send us over the edge. “SOME NIGHT. and You watch while he goes crazy over a group of horny men trying to blow off a little steam.” I said. “YOU HANDLED IT WELL. You make a man like Marjon.” Himself repeated. White smoke billowed out into the dim yellow porch light and disappeared into the darkness of the garden. You‟re a Voyeur.” “GOOD ONE. I sat waiting to be dropped flat on my bottom on the hard Shaker stone pavement.” “SKITS?” “Yes. You bring us all together. shake us up. “I‟d say so. puffing harder. and watch the explosion. He offered me the handle. GET IT? HANDLED?” I shook my head ruefully. You create little skits.Page 148 . too weary. “Got it. I fell heavily into one of them and heard a crack. but nothing more happened. isn‟t it? And You are the Audience. THAT‟S A GOOD ONE TOO. didn‟t you?” “ENJOYED IT? ME? WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?” “I know who You are and what You are. too wary to move. I had given up tobacco years before. and You enjoy watching us be what You made us. right? Yes. You made us the way we are. but it cracked again.
. It was Randy Muldoon. Father. and cleaned up.” “Father?” I jumped and twisted in the chair. See.. COLUMBA. YOU COULD HAVE BEEN A THEOLOGIAN. I had been so absorbed with God and my cigar that I hadn‟t heard him coming.. Plural?” “Yes.” “No. He shrank down an inch of two. visitations... and said to me in a small voice: “Father. if I‟d been born later.. which cracked again. another Wednesday. As a theologian I would tell the truth about You.. I could have invented a few catchy phrases.” He came around me and leaned against a stone pillar of the enclosure wall.“YOU KNOW. grew smaller. like that prissy Bishop. and then the good Catholics of America would have sent me money week after week. my Shaker.” he said. Father.” “Yep. then one Sunday night.” “We‟re all a bit unnerved. I‟m scared. “This kind of thing. “What? Oh.” “YOU THINK SO. smiled them to the camera. you know. “You were talkin‟ to yourself. and I would end up in a heresy trial..” Prior Knowledge .” “No. Oh yes.Page 149 .” “You say visitations. Odd night. No.” “You didn‟t tell me. is a television priest. friend?” “Yes. what I should have been.” “From your. All I would have needed is a few bucks to buy some air time. Three. I‟ve had more of my.” “Since when?” “One last Friday.” I said. it‟s more than what happened at the party.
murder.Father.. had a kind of Sixth Sense. but he did tell us where t‟find the stolen goods. might not have understood it at the time. night after night. “at least you don‟t come knocking at my door in the middle of the night anymore. and even after he leaves I keep layin‟ there. Father.” “A. I thought of Bridey Murphy. I wasn‟t completely sure either Marjon or Pith was still alive. to go and check Prior Knowledge . I reached back and gave it a toss into the bushes.used to „em by now. Or maybe Randy.” “Well. Tonight was frightful. It was that somethin‟ bad is about t‟happen.” “I see. but as an angel.” “No. I‟m kinda... “You‟re sure? There was a death involved. Father.” My cigar suddenly didn‟t taste so good. while he talks. I know it‟s not good Catholicism.. Randy might have seen Hanks stealing. I started to get up.” I shuddered. yes. They‟re more like dreams.” He raised a hand. “Well. unable to move. What the Shaker kept sayin‟ had to do with a death. like many of the Irish. But there could be a logical explanation.” I said. pardon me if this is sacrilegious. Father.“No.Page 150 . hypnotized. then informed himself of it in a dream. but nobody got killed.” “They‟re not dreams. I don‟t think so.” “I‟ve come to think of him as. I never thought I would be. giving him a smile. right?” He had indeed. “What was the message this time?” I asked noncommittally.” “Well. but he kept sayin‟ it. but I just lie there.. Remember that first time? But now I don‟t let them bother me so much.. “I know. I know that. might have analyzed it subconsciously. paralyzed. it was vague. maybe that was it tonight.
made as I am in the image of God. two figures emerged from the garden. I remained in the shadows. “Before that.on everyone. We looked at it in amazement.” “Not until you began to study Catholic theology?” Alexis said. Besides. We don‟t think much about sin. where to go first.” “Really?” Prior Knowledge . by the column. but I was intrigued by what they were saying. I guess I‟m a bit of a voyeur myself. “Father?” “Let‟s not mention this to anyone. and I was afraid if they knew I was there they would stop. They were in the middle of an intense conversation. “See.” “Right.” Hosea said. About your visitor. “not until I came here. They stopped where Randy Muldoon had stood. Father. but the chair cracked again. this was not a formal confession. trying to decide what to do. all right?” “About the chair?” “No. and I hesitated to speak. turning to him. and the other was short and round. Randy was quick enough to grab and pull me free before it collapsed into a heap. One was tall and thin and stooped. “It never bothered me. he had delivered it to me. Whatever happens. As I stood there. I went to the edge of the pavement and spat the bitter cigar taste into the grass. about death. we say it‟s meant to be. “Randy?” I said. It looked like it had been run over by a car. Alexis I soon saw. Hosea Candlemas. you never considered it a sin. then snapped. whatever we do.Page 151 . The burden was off his back.” His voice played like a dirge out into the night. I knew I should make myself known. us Indians. we see thing in a different light.” He left me and went back apparently to drink the dregs of the party.
hard-on?” Alexis continued to stare at him. Father...” “You mean. Otherwise God wouldn‟t be in control.” He stopped and waited for Alexis to reply. You start tellin‟ „em this is wrong. you talk about. they overheard white teams teasin‟ about it. has sex.Page 152 . a cloistered monk for 50 years. So we say when a person eats. the one with Marjon. drinks. He‟s made me. in my Morals class. Born in Germany..an erection. like you got t‟eat. it‟s natural. a. He uses other words.“Yeah... you bein‟ a priest so long. “See. I thought you might could tell me. “So see. but Alexis just stared at him. but it‟s kind of in the air. educated in Bavaria and Rome. Still do.. “A hard-on.. you know. callin‟ it sinful... and it can‟t be wrong. what do you do when you get a. about somethin‟ I used to think we normal.. the ball team. I did it myself. My boys.. you got t‟do it.masturbation?” “Not in so many words. Father..” Prior Knowledge . but when they asked me. I never felt it was wrong. “A. the Catholics say somethin‟ else. Father. he‟s satisfying a God-given need. that is wrong. They think you‟re crazy.” “I see. got t‟sleep.” Hhhhmmmmm.. You know.what?” he said pitifully. “That‟s why y‟get so few Indians t‟be Catholics. in your class. I‟d say. but I could tell from his tone that he did not. naw.” Alexis said.embarrassed. he was puzzled by Native American religious thought. natural. no.” Alexis allowed. but you can tell by the way he raises his eyebrows what he means.. and it don‟t make sense.whatchacallit. But here at the seminary.
“I have something to tell you. “Good. the textbook was thorough. I wanted to go to bed. The reader had circled words.. was on sexuality and particularly the pages on masturbation. I wondered now if the book belonged to Hosea. They moved on to walk some more. “The party‟s over. left in the classroom where Marjon taught Ethics. my son.since I had a. I was just thinking.I decided not to go looking for Pith or inquire about Marjon.” Charles said. He had explained it all the best way he knew. “Yes. Anyway. bracketed whole paragraphs. Eric and Bartholomew could take care of them. Yes. war. I made a mental note to find a replacement for Marjon or just have the men do papers for the rest of the term. Yet the only chapter the owner had spent much time reading. I was trying to remember..Page 153 .. It could have belonged to any one of the seminarians. still dressed as a nun. Hosea sucked on his lower lip.” “Uh? Yes.how long it‟s been. The whole affair had depleted my energy and concern for others. I thought of the textbook I had found the week before. social justice.hard-on. The tension broke. made notes to himself. and Hosea giggled. I met up with Charles Lichtenstein.” I nodded. and with him. covering all the major ethical issues: race relations. was Barry Lamb.. “Father.” He smiled. As I reached the steps. Finally he reached out toward Alexis. the only one where there was underlining. still dressed in his pirate‟s costume. the place where the book opened when I picked it up.” “Yes?” Prior Knowledge . our Child of Nature being corrupted by a Jansenist. on their way to solving one of life‟s great mysteries. I‟m still here.... I had forgotten about Ophelia.” Alexis shook himself..Alexis said nothing. marriage.
With dyed hair he looked much younger than usual. I think you quit your serious work on Friday. up through the meadow. but I can go one better.” “Bring it? I can‟t. I was too tired for this ridiculous conversation.. It was too much like talking to myself. Prior Knowledge . hard week‟s work. something important. I headed for my den.” “You made man after a long. I LIKE THAT. “You made man on the sixth day. not gay in the way Larry Diaz was. I think you got a bottle and started drinking.“I can‟t talk about it right now. You know that I take a long walk each day. YES.late. He let himself be led away. after five days....” “Very well. I was not a psychologist.” He tilted his head toward Barry. “But it‟s important. Barry looked confused.” I said.as you say. “After supper.. They went out the door.Page 154 . I‟ll tell you tomorrow. Charles was not gay.” “CUTE. after supper.” “Bring it to me tomorrow. It‟s. I think when you made man you were either still drunk or had a terrible hangover. into the woods.” He nodded and smiled. I‟ve found something..” “Yes.” “EVEN CUTER THAN TWAIN. BUT MARK TWAIN SAID THAT FIRST. a bit frightened. I wondered about them. much more virile. He took Barry‟s arm. Well... right?” “SO THEY SAY.” He hesitated.information.” I shook my head and signed off. Was Barry? Or was he just live bait? Why had Charles taken Barry away from Larry? Did he want him for himself? Was he just being a Big Brother? It was all too deep for me.
dressed only in a loincloth and feathered headdress. In another dream an Indian. and my stomach was in a mess. then Muldoon. the way I have heard naked women emerge from cakes at stag parties. The worst dream featured a babbling idiot wrapped in an American flag. but he called back in perfect English that he was doing what came naturally. Prior Knowledge . I was so stunned that I could not speak. Lamb. I forced myself to get up. There was a full moon. vowing to stay up the rest of the night to avoid having another one. In one dream a bloody hand holding a knife emerged from a cake. In still another dream a nun met me as I walked in the meadow. the cake. and each time through sheer fatigue I lay back and fell asleep and repeated the ordeal with a worse scene. stood on a rock high above a wagon train and urinated on a Mormon elder with a long white beard as he passed below. who used a life-size crucifix to hammer a black woman into a hole in the rose garden. it all conspired to put me on edge. made a cup of black coffee. the episode.Page 155 . The punch. and made for my stomach. and raised her skirts to show me a penis as big as the ones in Aubrey Beardsley prints. After each of these horrors. I woke up struggling to catch my breath. It must have risen late because I remembered the sky was black when I went in about 11:00. forced myself to drink it. I yelled at him that he was doing a terrible thing. smiled angelically. Lichtenstein. the cigar. and wandered out of the Priory into the night. After the third one. I fled from it and fell off the edge of a porch into a bed of snakes. Between runs to the porcelain facility I had nightmares. Candlemas.V It was a bad night. I was up four or five times to use the toilet.
hoping it might be in a foreign tongue. I think I dozed because suddenly I felt chilly. I tried to tell myself that nature was responding to the arrival of autumn. then shifted directions and came back. then fell back into a deep sleep. to changes that it feared. just before dawn. that I got up from bed and wrote it down. Flocks of birds flew low. Oh. over the graveyard. but moonlight kept this one bright. and took it out to sit in the rose garden to the side of the chapel steps. The next morning I read it: THER CLOBS IN BLUFF OV NIGERATOR SAK---ENK PRODS ALTEGRATHEM SUPHIS SUM.Page 156 . The cows out near the pond would suddenly run several yards and stop to look behind them. sure that I had captured The Truth for all time. the fields out to the pond and up to the woods and out to the cemetery were all alive with sound and movement. back and forth. A light popped on in the seminarians‟ residence hall. Over at the seminarians‟ residence several windows were alight. the lawn. one that looked sturdy. I once had a dream so vivid. I Prior Knowledge . but and he told me it was gibberish. They were beautiful. I showed it to a linguist. Rabbits flitted toward the woods. Even we humans. Life is like that. I waxed eloquent while I sat there. and I wondered who was awake so early. The garden. It is usually also the darkest hour. disturbed by the same emotions that made cows and rabbits run and birds fly. in our climate controlled bedrooms were having nightmares.I picked up a chair. But I didn‟t get up because I knew from experience that they wouldn‟t sound so great in the light of day. those thoughts of mine. The moonlight made it seem almost morning. I even thought about going back for paper and pen to capture what I composed in my head. almost poetic. It was that time just before dawn when the temperature drops to its nadir. I drew my robe closer around me. so full of philosophical significance. It was just colder. a wooden one this time.
Brother. When the two men spotted each other. He said he expected to be the one chosen to deliver the trumpet blast on Judgment Day. “I was just. Prior Knowledge . I knew the monk was Roderick.” I explained.remembered that when I first sat down several minutes before. I waited for Roderick to reach the steps before I spoke: “Morning. He told me that not once in 15 years as Organ Master had he overslept. “Who. and Roderick came on toward the chapel while the one in the sweater went to one of the cars.. You‟re punctual as usual. isn‟t it?” “Yes. several lights were burning over there. The seminarian who walked parallel to Roderick but for a time seemed oblivious to him was chunky and wore a white sweater..” Roderick said.Page 157 . first to the chapel. then embraced. I debated who he was. they moved toward each other and stopped to talk in the parking lot. He carried a valise.” He jumped.. Even before I could see his face. “Father Prior... the front door of the cloister and that of the seminarians‟ hall. looking about him as if he hadn‟t noticed.” he said needlessly. He was always the first person up. questions. and now this was the only one.” He had not seen me until I spoke. Two doors opened almost simultaneously.” “I couldn‟t sleep..going to the chapel. Why had men been awake that early? Were there other insomniacs like me? And why were they all but one asleep now? Who was now the first to rise for the day‟s work? Questions. anyway not well. anxious to arrange the music for Morning Prayers. They talked for a time. getting stiffly to my feet. “Beautiful night. these were just the first of a torrent of questions that would threaten to drown me that day.
“Gethsemani. It made a Benedictine place look like Vanity Fair. I wondered what he had done with the knife? I went out into the grass. “Well.” “Yes. He says for a.” “Is he?” “He looks bad. Brother?” “Larry Diaz. Father.. feeling the dew penetrate my sandals and moisten my socks.“I assumed so.” I said. he‟s very upset. I assumed it was Pith. is he?” “Well. huh?” “Yes.. Just as he did.” I knew Gethsemani.” “Is he? Not for good. Looks like he‟s been crying.” “Over what happened at the party?” “Yes. up near Bardstown. There came the sound of an engine rousing. and we both looked toward the parking lot. I had felt absolutely liberated when I got to leave it. I remembered it from an Easter retreat I had myself taken there once.Page 158 . No one else did the ringing.” I knew it was what happened at the party. It was a Trappist place where the monks took vows of silence along with their other vows. well. Roderick jumped as if touching the door shocked him. “I usually get inside before he starts that jangle. Eyes all swollen. Brother. he‟s not sure. It appeared that Pith was still on the job in spite of the night he had spent.leaving. Cold as a morgue and quiet as a tomb.retreat.” I said.” he said and went to the door. good morning. After last night. but I knew it was not just the violence. He‟s.” He hurried on in.. the bells above us began to clang.. “Who was that you were talking with. Father. For the present he‟s just going away for the weekend. He looked at me and smiled sheepishly. Prior Knowledge . good morning. He‟s going to Gethsemani.
seemingly recovered from her fright the night before. I‟m better. frightening the livestock. he let go of the rope and watched the bells come to rest. Barry looking embarrassed. I half expected him to beat his chest. There were only 11 of us monks. and drowned the whole plate with maple syrup. but the pancakes smelled so good I couldn‟t resist. shaking the building. “You feelin‟ better?” she said sternly. Out of habit I counted both the monks and the seminarians at Morning Prayer. Marjon was missing. Sean angry. It was Pith all right. When the service began.Page 159 . Barry Lamb and Sean O‟Day came in late. I had promised myself that with the condition of my stomach I would try to fast most of the day. He looked out over the priory grounds. “Better?” “You looked turrible las‟ night.” “Oh. Ophelia. At the end of the twenty-seventh pull.” “Me?” “The way you reacted to that knife. Instead he stopped and squinted. It was you I was worried about. She handed me a plate still warm from being sterilized with hot water.and looked toward the bell tower. That made nine. there were only 7 seminarians. “Yes.” Prior Knowledge . The way you fainted. There was no sign of Charles Lichtenstein. put on them an ice cream sized scoop of butter to melt. When I looked back up. served us pancakes for breakfast. “I did not faint. His condition and where he was being kept I didn‟t know. ringing with all his might.” She looked embarrassed. He waved and gave me a big smile and disappeared. Pith was looking at me.” I said. I followed his gaze to the place where Larry Diaz‟s car pulled out onto the highway. filled it with five plump cakes.
” “Talk „bout sign. took my class. came to me for confession. but this morning I went over to the table where Randy Muldoon. “Really?” “Wha‟ Muldoo. I guess you are convinced now that Catholics are weird. and yet they looked panic stricken when I sat next to them at a small table to eat. “I had trouble sleeping. “What were you men discussing. half alarmed at my presence. knelt before me at the altar.Page 160 . Aquarius..” Randy said. “Yes. “Spare a poor Benedictine a seat with you?” I said lightly.” Prior Knowledge . trying to make them relax. stay.” Randy clarified.” “Oh. “Sign?” “Signs. They all began to scrape and try to stand.” I smiled. Don‟t let me interrupt. Libra. half flattered.“Oh.” I looked around and saw that several chairs around the seminarians‟ tables were empty. You know.” I knew next to nothing about such things. These men passed me ten times a day.” “It‟s alright.” Griffey cackled.” Griffey said.” I said. and Barry Lamb sat munching their cakes with varying degrees of enthusiasm. chewing.” I said. with that knife and all. he say. Leo. Baptists is worse. Lamb glanced up furtively and nodded just the least bit. “You men get over the party?” I said pleasantly. but I feigned interest. Father. “Sit. “Mazin‟ tell me like. Griffey nodded and grinned. There was no response. Ronald Griffey. “Signs of the Zodiac. They squatted back into their chairs. he born un‟. I usually sat at the head of the monks‟ large table..
I was glad he was there. “What year were you born?” Randy said. not a cop on the beat. Aquarius.” “Ah then. So your year. The lunar year.. we‟re both monkeys. hee.?” “How does 1896 strike you?” “1896?” He looked surprised.February.” he said at last.. “No. the one they use in China. you might have been a cop. hee. Father. Did you say 1896?” “Yes. “Hee.” I told him. A detective. Father. as if no one still alive could have been born then. “You‟re also a peacemaker.. I had no idea what Griffey meant.” Randy said.” “Hee. or could if you wanted to.” I sniffed. Father?” Randy asked. “Why?” “Nothing. And if you hadn‟t become a priest. “Maybe you write poetry or paint. “Good sign.” “That‟s the Irish in me.” I could see the wheels turning in his head. it tells you a lot about yourself too. I must have given him a dirty look because he hurried on.. I‟m just calculating what it would be. It has a twelve year cycle.” Randy smiled.” “We are?” “Yeah. very Aquarian.” “Is that good?” Prior Knowledge .Page 161 .” “What does that tell you about me?” I asked him. You and I are the same. “Uh.” “No. his eyes lighting up.” Griffey chimed in.“What‟s your birthday. A sleuth. “Hey.” Griffey laughed. You‟re right in the middle of it too. “What day?” “The fifth. No. I‟m asking for a reason. “You are creative.
and I went over there. you know. You love peace. not music. “Ron. “Charles Lichtenstein. “Father. Charles didn‟t come this morning. human. I followed Andrew to a corner. just buzzing. You are creative. It means skillful.” he wheezed. Aquarius and a monkey.” I said to Griffey. competent.” “Why is that?” “You know I always go by to check on the ones who do not make it to Morning Prayer.” I said.” “Yes?” “Well. crossword. so that I couldn‟t use the pass key. Excusing myself from the table.” His eyes widened. People can depend on us to carry things out to the end. “And you‟re. but before I could speak Brother Andrew approached the table and leaned over to whisper in my ear.” I started to deflate him by telling him that I hate all puzzles.Page 162 . I listened and his alarm is on. and I think there‟s something badly wrong.” Prior Knowledge . and you‟re good at solving them. and every eye was on us. The door was locked from the inside. “Sure. our skill.” he whispered. jigsaw. his voice more ragged than usual. hey. “would you go with Brother Andrew? He might need your help.” I looked around the room.“Oh yes. what a combination. “I‟m worried about one of the seminarians. not a radio. I went back to the table where my pancakes were slowly oxidizing. running away. It‟s so loud a person couldn‟t sleep through it---and couldn‟t do much in that room with it going. You like puzzles. They can depend on our energy. “Why?” “I knocked and there was no answer. may I speak with you?” he rasped.
. I was surprised to hear him speak..” “What?” I shouted.dea‟. “Wait!” I yelled. I looked at him encouragingly.Page 163 .” The two of them left. “Tell me something. his grin gone. but he threw his napkin on the table and looked at Andrew. “Well. “tell me about this monkey business. “Who‟s dead?” “Lic‟sty dea‟. “He. but I had never been asked why we believed in it.” His voice sounded far away. Monks and seminarians were boiling up all around us. and he went on.” I said. and a golden foam gurgled out toward the cakes.” Griffey got up and nodded agreeably. and I sat back down and tried to eat.need to?” He didn‟t get an answer because I didn‟t have one and because at that moment Brother Andrew and Ronald Griffey burst through the dining room door. After a long time. Deadern do‟ nob.. It did Prior Knowledge . “You know. “Lea‟ way..or do we just. searching for my feet.. Men were making for the door. Griffey ran across the floor to me. I‟ve wondered about this for a long time.” I heard a crash.because it‟s true...” “Father?” Barry Lamb broke in. “Randy. A vat of maple syrup overturned as she swooned.. I felt tension in the air. He had emerged from a slough of despond. and when I looked I saw Ophelia standing at the kitchen door.” “What?” Randy said. Andrew stopped and gripped the door post as if he might faint. Bro An‟.. I had been asked about the resurrection.” “Do we believe in it.“Sho. how I‟m a monkey. “Why do we believe in the resurrection?” “Why?” I said. She had dropped an iron plate of food. Pancakes slid across the polished floor.. He was still chewing. Stab bou‟ mil‟ time. I tried to resurrect our delayed conversation.
Page 164 . I limped along behind them.no good. They didn‟t bother with the sidewalk and went directly across the grass to the hall.” “SURPRISE!” Prior Knowledge . “You knew something like this would happen.” “YES. and they were on their way to the residence hall. They were a herd.” “And You didn‟t bother to tell me.
they were all standing around staring at each other. Maybe he put fake blood on his shirt. The first wave stood aside for the second wave and the second wave stood aside for the third. The oblique windows looked out at the odd horde heading toward the building like startled eyes. for heaven‟s sake. I felt my flesh crawl. huffing and puffing.” “Father.Page 165 .VI The seminarians‟ residence hall. Maybe he lay perfectly still as Andrew and Griffey slammed against the door until it came crashing in and then as they took in the carnage. plotting to feast off the anxieties of last night. “Go on. Go inside. He had made a fool of Sean O‟Day and several others. Prior Knowledge . Maybe he stayed behind this morning. No one wanted to enter the building first. we would indeed have a murder on our hands. The front door atop the stone porch looked like a mouth open to scream. I would kill him with my bare hands. and so when I got there on my gimpy leg. “What‟s wrong?” I said. despite its quiet appearance of peaceful slumber. The men ahead of me slowed to a stop as they came to the porch. ready to laugh his head off when we got there. Charles Lichtenstein was dead? For sure? Not just in a deep sleep? Not just unconscious? Stabbed about a million times? Not a prank? Charles was a practical joker. Maybe he was even now watching us stampede toward him. Maybe he got up and watched from his window as they went tearing down the stairs and across the lawn to announce his murder. If what I suspected were true.” someone said. Maybe he put in ear plugs and turned on the alarm. terrified me. As we approached the place. look.
having a big laugh at our expense.” They all just stared at me. Charles probably kept the joke to himself. They were a light shade of red. “Did anyone see that. helping Ophelia clean up. He had been attentive to detail. Charles had told the little scamp about his trick. helpless. I looked into the crowd. that was the source of Barry Lamb‟s question.. It was silly to go on like this. “Don‟t anybody touch that.” I said. I had to hand it to old Charles.. I looked for Muldoon. his eyes like saucers.. Barry Lamb knew. and he wasn‟t there. Besides.” I called on the two monks who looked least afraid. They probably didn‟t know anything. simple as swans.. “Kopec.” I said. “you‟d better come clean right this minute. “Benjamin. He would know.I looked where he pointed. of course.” I said. They all looked back at me like a bunch of choir boys: innocent.” They stirred but didn‟t move. A few shook their heads. He stood far back in the crowd. then..” I stopped. telling her about it. I realized they needn‟t all go in. Prior Knowledge . Rise from the dead.Page 166 . “All right. trying to look menacing. Bartholomew. “Come on. at the place where someone might have held the door to close it softly. the same way he looked the night the Shaker Ghost first appeared. . it would curtail Charles‟s fun if only a few got to see him rise from the dead on All Saints Day. dried.” I picked the bravest looking seminarian. We‟d better find out what‟s going on.. or there will be hell to pay. you‟d better. “If anyone here is playing a joke. but no one spoke. They were frightened.when you came out earlier?” No one had. about a trick. and he was back at the dining room. “If you know something. if anyone would. “You three come with me. We‟ll go up and check. There were red splotches on the door frame. They would get in my way. stain.
and I looked down the hallway. We went down the hallway. careful not to touch the spots of “blood.Page 167 . passing closed door after closed door. I gave the others a look of scorn and pulled the front door open. spilling pools of orange light along the dark passage.” He had neglected to put in his teeth that morning or he had taken them out and put them in his shirt pocket. I went down the hallway. “Watch these steps.” I said. Father. “Yes. The Shakers must have had tiny feet to negotiate them. but it was empty. and the men followed. It was an Prior Knowledge . Climbing without my crutches was about as hard as doing it with them. iths the lasth room. Here all we had was a banister that seemed to me none too solid. It grew steadily louder. I half expected to see Charles standing down there grinning at me. the way he did when he ate. proud to be among the chosen few.” Kopec said without hesitation. men. “On the righth. I had to walk sort of sideways to fit my big feet onto them. “Which one is his?” I asked Kopec. There the Mexican government had installed chains to hold as you ascended and descended. The stairs seemed steeper and higher and the steps smaller than I remembered them from my earlier visits.” My three aids followed me inside. They reminded me of the steps on those Mayan pyramids in Mexico.” they said in unison. The three stepped forward willingly. As we approached the last door I could hear a buzzing. I closed the door. We came to the head of the stairs.Everyone else. The morning sun shone through the transoms. leaving the others outside to squirm. “Number 12. pointing.” I knew they would obey that command. We moved across the vestibule and went slowly up the stairs. The foyer had a sweet odor of decay. stay right where you are.
The men behind me were gasping. It stood ajar. My mind was whirling with ideas. making another buzzing sound.” Kopec said. Behind me Benjamin whistled. It had a beard. “Turn on the light. would be fooled.not the very old kind that clanged like a bell but not the new kind with a warm sound that turned off after five minutes.Page 168 . The curtains were drawn tightly. and Kopec reached out. I pushed the door.” Kopec said. “That‟s his alarm. and they were heavy enough to keep out the sunlight. the jamb broken when the two men broke in. A door slightly ajar is far more terrifying than one either fully closed or fully open. The overhead light blinked twice and came on. Dark stains were everywhere. The buzz grew louder until he was unbearable. Enough. Doors are like clothes: neither being fully clothed or being totally nude is as sexy as being partially clothed. men less skeptical than I. We approached the door. Charles had either turned it back on for effect. The room was dimly lighted. “Holy Mother.” Bartholomew moaned. “Good God in heaven. or it had been going since Andrew and Griffey were here before. I saw the body on the bed. “Yes. Pictures of partially clothed dead bodies sold a lot of paperback mystery novels. I told myself. with a lamp on a stand in the far corner.” Prior Knowledge . go in.. “Take it easy now. and they did look like blood. and hit it. We‟d better not. How did doors that swung inward pass the fire inspection? I would have to look into this.” I said. Charles definitely had ear plugs.” I nodded..” I said. It looked ominous. and it opened inward. I could see how Andrew and Griffey. They seemed to come from the man‟s head.older alarm.jump to conclusions. but they were all over the sheets and the floor around the bed. knowing where the switch would be. “Fellows.
“But you never know. His cassock was unbuttoned and parted.” Kopec said. Father?” Benjamin said.” I allowed. Prior Knowledge .” Benjamin said.Page 169 . but then he shook his head too. They would all have to be burned.” Three pairs of eyes moved from Charles to me. “I know how it looks. or socks. apparently real. “Not me.” “Make sure? How?” Bartholomew moaned. using it as a loose house coat. “It does look that way. It appeared he had undressed. put on his cassock but not buttoned it.“He‟s dead. shaking his head. His eyepatch lay on his desk at the foot of his bed.” Bartholomew said. I reached out close enough to the body to put a forefinger on the knob atop the clock. The silence was deafening. I made a mental note to charge the replacements to Charles‟s bill. and the blankets at the foot of the bed. No one was about to touch that body. shorts. “Why not?” I asked them. Father.” I said. arms by his sides. legs spread apart. Charles lay on his back.” “A trick? A trick. Bartholomew groaned but stood his ground. and lain down to rest.” I ordered. not wanting to be disobedient. “Take his pulse. “Well. I might just as well have told them to fly to the moon. I saw how silly it sounded. “It could be a trick. all over the sheets. There was blood. both neatly arranged next to the alarm clock. beside his wristwatch. He wore no undershirt. the pillow. “but we‟d better make sure. and the buzz stopped. “Someone take his pulse. just look at „im. Benjamin hesitated. He wouldn‟t do it either.
This was not a trick. It had to be a real eye because fake ones were painted to look real. It looked so ragged that I imagined a person stabbing and then twisting the blade. “And his chest.I also had to admit that if this was a trick. It was a either a stunning makeup job--or we had a raving maniac on our hands. Maybe I didn‟t want to see it. he had done a masterful makeup job. and that‟s when for the first time I knew this was real.” Strangely I had noted the eye in detail but hadn‟t seen the tongue. At last I admitted the truth: Charles was dead. hanging to its roots only by a tiny band. as if it has been pulled. The other eye. The tongue was the most appalling part of the murder. good enough to win an award. Oddly. Mother of God. the good one. there was less blood down there than around the eye. I looked away from the face. it was a brutal murder. yet it was the most brutal of the wounds. and looked like a white marble. I knew the body stored a lot of blood in the genitals. Someone had all but cut it off. it was not makeup.Page 170 . split into two roughly equal parts.” Benjamin sighed.” Kopec said. The one he kept covered with a patch had no cornea. with a gash from base to tip. At the glans the ripper had apparently found it rough going and had sawed it the rest of the way. It gave Charles the look of an idiot. His eyes were open. no pupil. had been stabbed. It looked like someone had stabbed it near the pelvic bone and ripped it right down to the end. His tongue hung out of his mouth. Dried blood covered the socket and the whole side of the face and matted the beard on that side as well as the pillow. Prior Knowledge . Again as with the penis there was little blood from the tongue. and my eye caught a glimpse of his penis. The penis was mutilated. and I wondered why the penis had not bled more. far out. “Look at his tongue.
Prior Knowledge . I felt my heart stop. so soaked that they were both still damp. “We don‟t need to take his pulse. “What? When? Where?” “Me „n‟ Eric. and I felt cold. “He‟s asleep. The sheet on both sides was soaked. At the point of the interception there was a hole. as were his arms.” “He threw it away. although the attack seemed several hours old.I had seen the chest wound. “He‟s been dead to the world since midnight. “Look there.Page 171 .” “Pith then. then start to pound intensely.” Bartholomew said. Just below the elbow I saw a gold spot. from last night. but I swallowed solemnly and reached out and lifted the arm.” Bartholomew said. and the spot sparkled. I leaned closer. and from it had apparently come the most blood.” I said. A gift from Italy. I hated to touch him. Whoever formed the cross had finished the job with a mighty thrust to the chest. “It‟s the cake knife. “Father. So did the men around me. “We gave him a pill. One of a kind.” he went on.” Benjamin said. at the party?” It certainly was. I rubbed my sticky fingers together.” I said. The skin was cold. From just under the chin to the navel ran a deep gash. “He ran off with the knife. but now I looked closer. the arm was stiff. we took Marjon home. damp blood stick to my fingers.” Bartholomew said. I let the arm fall back over it. an‟ as we went along toward the cloister we saw Pith runnin‟ out of the building.” He pointed to the arm nearest the wall. But under the arm I saw what it was. “Where‟s Marjon?” I said to the two men who had carried him away from the party. “You know. a stab wound. Another like it ran from nipple to nipple. Together they formed a Latin Cross. y‟know.
” “THIS IS EVIL. Prior Knowledge . The way You made it.” They didn‟t argue.” I sighed. What‟s left of him.” An indulgent chuckle. They got out of there as fast as they could. And call the police. Keep them outside. You made everything. As their footsteps died out. but we saw him throw it in the Rose Garden „n‟ run off. I looked down at the body.He had that knife all right.” I said. chest. Stabbed in the eye. Someone had a lot of anger in him to do this. with Charles.” “ME?” “You made it. COLUMBA. “All right. Charles seemed to leer at me with that empty eye and loose tongue. which shouldn‟t be that hard. “Bloody in tooth and claw. “Nature. penis. “YOU GOT ME THERE. tongue.” I sighed. I‟ll stay..” “The trail leads back to You.Page 172 . I looked at each wound.” I do love to “get” Him. “you men go on. Human nature too. I DIDN‟T MAKE EVIL. I see this as your crowning achievement.. Tell the others as little as possible.
I went down the hall.that Charles is dead. “Men. The Three Roses stared at Prior Knowledge . and Kopec. mutilated body was something new and frightening to me.. pulled the door as nearly closed as the broken jamb would permit. I hurried down the stairs as fast as my bum ankle would allow me and across the vestibule. I cleared my throat.” Bartholomew reminded me.) “. the way a child runs from things in the dark. Everyone outside knew. It would appear. “Benjamin?” I said. “He went to call the police. Nothing looks as ridiculous as a corpulent monk rushing through a door. I kept expecting the mutilated body to sit up and say. Benjamin.” They stirred under the impact of the word “killed” but showed no signs of grief or even regret.” but of course it didn‟t. I counted them.Page 173 . yes. every emotion but sorrow.. I had conducted a hundred funerals and sat up at even more wakes. presenting a calm appearance. “Oh. so I eased out of the room. especially when people think he is running from a corpse. In fact.. it appears we have had a tragedy. disbelief.VII I found I had no stomach for watching a corpse. picking up speed as I went. but a murdered. Father. then stopped and opened the front door slowly. the seminarians. and Ophelia stood out under the big Shaker Magnolia tree that grew at the edge of the Rose Garden. While I was forcing it together. I tucked up my robe and descended the porch steps and crossed the grass to them. that he has been killed. “Booo.” (I was still leery.. fear. close enough to get the latest report---from me. In one glance I saw in their faces confusion.” I said. far enough from the building to escape the horror they had heard about from Bartholomew. The monks.
who knew. Barry looked about angrily. When did you see him last?” “Well. the way they would have reacted to a shipment of spoiled meat. who had seen him last? We didn‟t even know when he died.. “All right. I know I seen „im.me blankly. until we worked out a time scheme. Barry Lamb was near tears.” I said. so I never know the time. “Barry. “We know nothing yet. “I‟m not sure. Ophelia and Peter shook their heads.. I know that for sure. “that puts him in his room at midnight..with Charles. Mario Terminus looked toward heaven. I know that now. It was in the shower room. Furthermore. “It wasn‟t after twelve.think it was. he certainly wasn‟t going to speak up. He coughed into a fist. God forbid. his voice threatening to break. really. but what time it was. and if.” There were a few grins and chuckles. my watch is broken.” he said with some heat. But I need to ask a question or two. but see. What roles we Priors have to play. “Who saw Charles last?” It was a dumb question. “We won‟t disturb the body until the officials come. his lips moving. “I said goodbye to him at his door.” Barry began. Once more I cleared my throat. and he fought them successfully. Anyone see him after that?” “I may have. but they were not tears of sorrow.” “Why aren‟t you sure?” “Well. I meant.Page 174 .” Prior Knowledge . I don‟t know. Alexis nodded his acceptance. at the end of the party.” I went on.” Hosea Candlemas said. “I.. Of course..” I chose not to notice the smiles and chuckles. the murderer were among us. Sean O‟Day looked grim but not sad. you were.about twelve. taking this as everything else in stride. the murderer had seen him last.. I tried to cover my stupidity by calling on poor Barry Lamb.” I sounded like a cop. Father. for a while at least.
He probably couldn‟t track deer either. from that New Orleans station.” I admonished. “Hey.” Mario said dreamily. he was in the shower too. “Frost left first. Father. Ophelia went with them. “Anyone see him after. “I saw him.” he said.” He thought about it. but that hall light bothered me. “He came in about the time I was leaving. I shrugged.” Hosea said. then. I need to talk with the monks for a minute.” Frost nodded. all that dye was gone from „is beard.” Frost put in. “All right. “Stay in sight. please. I got back to my room at 12:30. say. “I didn‟t look. I felt like Casey Stengel when he commented about Elston Howard: “I finally got a Negro.” “Nouveau Orleans. But Charles was down close to the switch „n‟ I ast him t‟do it an‟ he did.” They began to move away. Benjamin came trotting across the lawn. and I followed him out after a few minutes. As the monks gathered around me.” “Okay. 12:45?” No one answered. “Yeah.” Hosea said. “It was 12:30. He was on his way to „is room. you wait over by the chapel. so I got up „n‟ went out t‟shut it off. passing the seminarians.Page 175 . The news was coming on.” “What time?” I said.” We had an Indian with no sense of time. “What was their reaction when you called?” I asked Prior Knowledge .” I nodded. seminarians.Some Indian he was. I‟d laid down. “Police on the way. “Frost there. and Charles was still in there. Just had on a towel.” Kopec said. yeah. “Must a been when he come outa the shower. and he can‟t run. All he knew how to do was dribble an imaginary basketball.
” I turned to the group. which I seriously doubted. raspy voice went dead as his lips finished the sentence “. as manager of the seminarians‟ residence hall. “This is a serious matter. “John...” I corrected him.at a monastery.. waited until he was Prior Knowledge ..” “No. and he said.. “Men. Edward.you know. saw and heard more than the other monks. for each of you.Page 176 . They were in a world of their own. for the priory.” I called on the Rose Triplets. Just said it might take a little time.” His thin. I know most of you were asleep long before midnight.until this morning. “Unless it‟s at a Priory. Father. and I didn‟t see him again. I gave Marjon the sedative. They‟ve got trouble at the university. “I saw Charles leave with Barry Lamb.” Bartholomew was next.. but think about it. Andrew stood next to them. “but did you see or hear anything during the night?” Andrew.” he said.” “I guess to them one dead man‟s like any other.. Integration. before the police arrive. even if they knew something. “I didn‟t see him after me „n‟ Eric took Marjon out. to depose you myself.. I‟ve already asked the seminarians. you know. “That‟s what we‟re on right now. Why? Supposed t‟be some reaction?” “Well.” He dropped his eyes. Fortunately.” Benjamin said.“None that I could hear. “Yes. Did you see or more likely hear anything unusual in the night?” I went from right to left. Father. I knew I would never get anything out of them. I have time. I looked at him with raised eyebrows. a possible murder.” I said. You will each be questioned. Robert. “Nothing. They all gave me their typical blank expression and shook their heads collectively.
under.” Bartholomew confirmed it. After that.” Eric said. “You Prior Knowledge .run out of the building.” He pointed toward the garden. But I thought I should stay with „im..” They nodded. Ooops. Didn‟t hear or see a thing.Page 177 . “Benjamin?” I said.. “However.” “That‟s right. Father. “How do you know it was a knife?” “The light was on.” Then he hesitated and raised a weak forefinger. Barth gave „im the pills „n‟ he went out like a light.” “How else would we know it was a knife he threw?” Bartholomew said. there is one peculiar thing.” I would have to ask others. “Peter?” “No. “Both of you? You too. Still out so far as I know.” he shook his head with certainty.” Eric nodded. a sweet smile on his face. I sleep like a rock. “We had to of seen it. I didn‟t see or hear anything.” “That‟s right.. Father. “You saw him throw that knife away. his lips forming a silent “no..” “Marjon didn‟t wake up at all?” “Nope. From 10:00 last night until 5:00 this morning I was dead to the world. “Okay. Eric did. Father. He come arunnin‟ out like a scared chicken „n‟ when he got to the roses he chucked it out into the bushes there. “No. so I brought an easy chair in and set by all night by Marjon‟s bed. “It was a knife. You two saw Pith.” Good question: they were not at the party when Pith picked it up and ran out with it. in his room?” “No.” I waited.” He grinned and covered his mouth.” “So you didn‟t stay with Marjon. Eric?” “Sure did. I sleep sound. I turned to Alexis. then went on to my own room. it was curtains for me. He shook his head.
” I waited.” “In the seminarian‟s dorm?” “Yes. and then I have trouble getting back to sleep.. and he quailed. Last night I had a bit of punch. It always happens if I drink alcohol. “Well. father. Father. His food was still out on the table this morning. it had to be in that vicinity.. and I woke up in the Shaker Cemetery. He avoided my eyes. I wake up in odd places. I didn‟t hear anything. Knowing I would have trouble sleeping. maybe. It was during that time that I saw the lights.well... at different times.” “What rooms?” “I couldn‟t say.between two and three. Father. I just sat out there for an hour.. last night he didn‟t come.” Prior Knowledge . before I came back to my bed.. “I don‟t remember.” he said finally. “Well.” “Maybe the party scared him off.” I said.know our mystery guest? The one we feed each night? Well. I get up and take a walk in my sleep.” “You were looking out the window between two and three o‟clock in the morning?” “No. Strange. “yes.. “I. you see I sleepwalk. in different rooms. “Yes. I looked at my watch and it said 2:15. several of them. off and on. maybe more.” “What was the general time?” He hesitated.” “Martin?” Martin flashed me a shy. almost guilty look. I. Off and on. I saw a couple of the monks exchange smiles.Page 178 .saw.lights. but I saw.. Father.” His eyes pleaded with me not to pursue it.
.how come you heard him when no one else did?” “I‟m a light sleeper. “I saw the lights..” “What time?” “That I don‟t know.” Martin insisted. He woke me.” “Where? In your building?” “Oh no.” “How. He nodded eagerly when I looked at him. but I did hear something. Sometimes a poem comes to me. “I didn‟t see anything. Later I can remember things.Page 179 . I say so.” I sighed. when I returned to the cloister.” “Even in cold weather?” Prior Knowledge .” Mixed up indeed. Laughing. Father. It was something I should know about. I‟m pretty dopey when I wake up like that. “So between 2:15 and 3:15 something must have disturbed several seminarians because they turned on their lights. Father. it was dark and quiet. But an hour later. I went back to sleep. Funny none of them said so. outside somewhere.” “You don‟t know what rooms?” “No. “So you usually stay out where you awaken? What do you do?” “I just think. I recognized his laugh. Father.” “What?” “Pith.I wondered why there was nothing in Martin‟s file about sleepwalking. “And I sleep with my window open.” “All right. I didn‟t look at the clock.” “Well.” he said confidently. Roderick was last.” “I see. but they‟re all mixed up.” “Did one come last night?” “Nothing worth preserving. I assumed from the sound that he on top of one of the buildings.
. you know about that. I went over toward the seminarians. I may be an Indian.” “You went to the john?” Prior Knowledge .” “Yes. You don‟t have the buffer the monks do. and they gathered in a semicircle around me.. “Fellows. “I did too.” “I see. but I don‟t go out the window. You can be called to testify. keep thinking. It could hurt us all. Father.” I said. I didn‟t mean that.” They broke up. humid. “I turned mine on. if we have to close down. Just stay close. It could cost you a year of study. come and tell me. “Why?” “I had to. tell me. Whose were they? Hosea Candlemas held up a finger. I can‟t intervene for you. If you think of anything else. If anyone knows anything. “Brother Martin says he saw lights in your building between 2:00 and 3:00.” I studied their faces. So we need to solve this thing right now. “All right men. “Father.” he said. cold. But you turned on the light in the toilet as well as the one in your room. I like my throat to feel the true atmosphere.” “Oh.” “No.Page 180 . spreading out in different directions.” Lucas raised a fat paw. dry. Hot.pee.” “You went down to the toilet?” “Yes. We talked. and the one in the hall. we‟ve got ourselves a whale of a problem. except that I saw Larry Diaz leaving as I went to chapel.“All year. Go about your usual work. But that‟s right. You can be charged with obstruction if you know something and don‟t tell me and the police.” I moaned. is that right?” “Yes. anything at all that will help us. Is that all?” “Yes.
“We‟. there was people in the hall.” He accepted it on faith. I didn‟t mean it to be funny. but he had not.” Mario spoke up. all three. “I was just wonderin‟ if anybody‟s seen Larry Diaz. “Oh boy. do you remember?” “Fathah.. I di‟ hear ol‟ Pith. wished to high heaven he had heard something.” I sighed. without questioning. “I do remember. At Gethsemani. “Did anyone hear anything?” I pressed. up „n‟ down.no. “Okay. Randy Muldoon. but after you‟ve had a chance to think about it. He‟s on retreat. “You had to go too?” “Why. hear anything after midnight? I know I‟ve asked before..” “Oh. Candlemas shrugged and Prior Knowledge .” Hosea said. now that I was faced with a murder investigation. did anyone see anything. so he kept quiet. but the men laughed. Griffey slowly raised his big ham of a hand. seemed like quite a few times.. I found this kind of blind trust maddening. There went my clue. Father. woke me up.” “And turned on all three lights?” “Yes. Father.he laugh‟ big.Page 181 . The tension had grown so high that they needed to release some pressure. and he knew this was a dangerous time to make up a Blarney story.. Three incontinent men. Up t‟tower.” “He left this morning.“Right. in Kentucky. forget the lights.” he said. “Fa‟?” I nodded encouragement.” Frost said.” “Now you mention it. I could tell.” “Me too.” “People on runs to the john?” I said.
. You can‟t go back to your rooms.” I said. He said he didn‟t know when or who or where they were going. And I do remember. find me and tell me immediately.. Lucas.coughing. his face pink with laughter. “You know. “go about your business.” He tried to imitate the sound he remembered. Out in the all.” “Your room is. Still I thanked him..” “So. And I can‟t be sure the coughing and sneeze were at the same time. “People in the hall” didn‟t help much. coughing and a sneeze. Father.. I did hear. Should I have?” “Not necessarily. If anything else comes to mind. Their shoes squeaked. A look of enlightenment crossed Frost face.. like. No squeaky shoes.” he admitted. no laughter?” “No.Page 182 . It‟s that time of year.grinned. “You know the time?” “No. but it didn‟t sound like any shoe I had ever heard. I‟m down there. I remember I made a mental note to buy some cold medicine. You know how things get jumbled when you‟re half asleep and half awake.” “Right next to Charles.” “Squeaked?” “Yes.and a sneeze..” Prior Knowledge . his head nodding slightly. Be handy in case they need to talk with you. not until the police have been here.” I did think that if he heard coughing and a sneeze in the hall he should have heard the sounds from that terrible scene that took place just through the wall from him. volunteered: “Father. “Okay.. you know.. I woke up once when someone came past my door.” “You didn‟t hear anything from inside Charles‟s room?” “No. sometime in the night. close to Charles‟s room.
” Prior Knowledge . “YOU‟RE THE BEST MAN FOR THE JOB. “I don‟t have the credentials to conduct an investigation. With Hanks and Diaz gone and Charles dead.Page 183 .” “CREPE SOLED SANDALS ARE CLOSE.” I protested.” “DON‟T MENTION IT.They dispersed. For all I knew I was looking at eight future priests and one killer. Unless we solved the crime there might be nine future priests and one killer. and I watched them go.” “I‟m not a gumshoe.” “But. why me?” I moaned. there were only nine.” “YOU‟RE A MONKEY. Thanks a lot. “Why me. YOU‟RE CURIOUS. I went wearily over and sat down in the swing under the big Magnolia tree.” “You‟re the one who made a monkey out of me.
” “I‟m not a man. I took a seat and pushed with my good leg and felt myself glide back and forth.” She looked startled. The attempt of a young black man to register at the university just ten miles from where I sat had set off two weeks of rioting. two of them side by side.” came a creamy female voice. I had seen the men sit in it. but this was my first go. had been brutally murdered in his bed. then I smiled. I thought. sit down.” I said. Mississippi would be a perfect place to live. An autumn breeze came in from the woods. “I‟m a priest.Page 184 . William Faulkner must have had a swing like this.” I said.” “Why not?” “We don‟ do that. were it not for the perpetual stream of violence that ran through it. and swing. bringing the first sharp tang of winter. I thought. then shook her head. “Come. It was Ophelia. or he couldn‟t have lived in this part of the country and remained sane. A seminarian from Quebec.” “Don‟t do what?” “Black lady don‟ go settin‟ down in a swing with no white man. It felt nice. but it felt like the last of September in Pennsylvania. “Hello.VIII The rose garden swing was one of those box-like contraptions you once saw on many front porches. dear. glanced from side to side. slowing the swing. back and forth. “Can‟t. “Father. I opened my eyes. irritated at being disturbed.” Prior Knowledge . I shut my eyes and let the swing take me away. studying for the Catholic priesthood. It was November. If indeed he were sane. not down here.
Someone we don‟t even know. Ophelia. I think it was an outsider. “I hope.. I was leery of being played the fool. “No. who done it?” It was too precious to be true. but Ophelia‟s fear took hold of me and loosened my tongue.” she said and shook her head like a willful horse.” she warned me.” “Which one?” Prior Knowledge . it was one of us.” she said.. on the other hand. Or at you.right here?” “Well. Ophelia. “I‟m serious. Odd how a Churchman gets to feeling invincible. I guess. “I jus‟ come t‟ast you. “I‟m sceered t‟death. Someone from off the road. He wouldn‟t likely have carved a cross in his chest.” She was.Page 185 . I had to chuckle. I had never actually heard anyone in real life say “who done it” before. I was as easy to stab as the next man. one who hated Charles..somebody..She didn‟t get the humor. Ophelia. “Don‟ laugh.. Someone from the outside would not have been able to get into the building and into Charles‟s room and would not have picked as his victim the very man almost everyone in the place had reason to hate. easier maybe. and maybe he‟s right. I was unnerved by staying in the room with a corpse.” Even as I said it. No. but I hadn‟t thought to be afraid of the killer. a Catholic.” “To tell you God‟s honest truth. “I may not stay here if I don‟ find out who done it. and probably someone with a---pardon the expression--with a vocation. “Could it be. I don‟t have any idea who done it. had probably never read it on the cover of a book. And to tell you God‟s honest truth. yes..” I had not thought to be afraid.” “I‟m not laughing at the crime. I knew it wasn‟t true. since I was a bigger target. The pope probably doesn‟t think anyone could harm him.
He was up on the building laughing last night. She wasn‟t a member of the Community. to sort them out. “Fishy.” I changed the subject.Page 186 . “One of „em eat a lotta peanut butter?” she said. He may have thought Charles plotted to catch him.” “Well. “Do you know Larry Diaz is gone?” “Yes. “What do you know about Brother Martin?” “Martin? The Scribbler?” Prior Knowledge . It doesn‟t quite fit.” “The Grave Digger?” “He stole Charles‟s breviary. I didn‟t have time to write to my Santa Clara. “And I wonder. “I don‟t think so. and I felt like talking with a woman.” I had assumed she would trust their word. But I don‟t know. to bring my jumbled thoughts out into the open. her eyes wide. “he‟s crazy anyhow. as though he had nothing to hide.” “Who say?” “Eric. ain‟t it?” “Yes. She grinned devilishly. “I said. “Them two. But I felt the need to talk. Wouldn‟t know he‟s done nothin‟ wrong. wasn‟t even a Catholic. Bartholomew. “There are several possibilities. “Possibly. if Hanks got home.” I looked at her sharply. They say he slept all night. her head cocked sideways. “Pith then?” So far her list was the same as mine had been.” she said knowingly. but then he also rang the bell this morning. but I could tell she held them in rather low esteem. too.” she said.” she said.” I confessed. wasn‟t a seminarian. since they were black.I knew I probably shouldn‟t be talking with Ophelia about this.” “Pwwwt.
precise technical language. made notes. They were all business. We watched the big limousine roll serenely into the parking lot. said it was a vanity. „way from the lab.” She shook her head. her mouth still open. even though we were yards from a human ear. She knew nothing about that.” He pointed to the big hole in the chest. and Ophelia melted away into the bushes. not an easy feat for a big woman. They had t‟pull „im off. Prior James tol‟ „im t‟git out t‟work. They examined the body.” I said. at the juncture of the two lines. but my guess is. consulted. They showed no shock at the scene.“Yes. Her mouth grew small. I met the coroner and his two male assistants and led them into the dorm and up the stairs to the body. all in language that combined thick-asmolasses drawls with crisp. “Can‟t be sure out here. and she dropped her voice to a whisper. I scrambled to get up.Page 187 .” “Really? Martin?” “Sure did. and then they turned to me. this wound here did it. I just learned he walks in his sleep. Martin picked up a crucifis from the altar „n‟ took in after Prior James. Ophelia stopped in mid-sentence. but we were interrupted by the approach up the driveway of a big white ambulance. where in a church built in the shape of Prior Knowledge . “All‟s I know about him is.” the coroner said as if this might be a challenge to my authority and he didn‟t want to offend me. Well. said he spent too much time writin‟. One time Prior James did. he‟s mean. “We gonna hafta take „im in. Father.” “Mean?” “Jus‟ don‟ cross „im „bout the stuff he writes.” She would gladly have gone on. and Martin took after him with a crucifis. “Of course.
“Like t‟tawk t‟Mr. But Alexis took my arm and Prior Knowledge . through the door. He wore his brown trousers stuffed unevenly into a pair of pink cowboy boots.” the coroner said.” Alexis said with the formality we reserve to impress outsiders. His shirt was open at the neck. I was Prior here. sir.” We shook hands.” He shook his head. maybe sev‟ral times like that.” He looked seriously at the body. A holster stuffed with a large firearm hung from a belt that circled his thin hips. but he wore a big white hat. a lot after. “The cross lines. Kinda funny. that‟s even later. The penis. had another fit.” Alexis said and turned to go. and over to the bed. “Ya‟ll excuse us?” Lemon said to Alexis and me. and I looked out the door to see Father Alexis making his way down the hall with a man who was bound to be the sheriff. “this is Sheriff Lemon. this is the Father Prior of Saint Luke‟s. attacked again. as if the children should depart so the adults could talk. “Glad „to know ye?” Lemon said. “He musta got mad. A badge several times too heavy for his shirt drooped down from his chest like a weary heart. and the tongue is the last. After all. He and the sheriff obviously knew each other well. “This th‟ body?” “The one „n‟ only.a Latin Cross the altar and dome would be. not as late as the cross marks but later.” Alexis acted like he knew the man well. “Yes.Page 188 . they‟s an afterthought. we heard voices. it looks like t‟me. As we mused over the wounds. offended at what I took to be a dismissal. and this “body” was in my care at the moment. that‟s later too. “Sheriff Lemon. killed „im. then waited a long time. I held back. since they began the conversation without introduction. “Father Prior Columba. This eye wound. Brakeen alone?” The man seemed to talk in questions. He went on past me.
The sky had grown darker. got into a fight.gently pulled me out of the room. but since he was the only one alive. He‟s really not cut out for his job. and shot each other dead. So he threw his hat into the ring last time. It looked like rain. “Pinky?” I said. He was a distant third in most people‟s reckoning. for a half hour before the sheriff and the medical men emerged from the hall with their gruesome burden. Through it all Pinky looked away. a good one. “Sheriff Lemon.” Mississippi! No wonder William Faulkner won a Nobel Prize for Literature. “Bad. Pinky still came in third.” he said. I described what happened at the party the night before. “I guess you‟ll want to know what I‟ve been able to piece together. real bad. You have to go along with him.” “How so?” “He was a deputy. He hardly had to use his imagination at all to create bizarre plots. or he gets defensive. I told him that Charles had angered virtually everyone in the Community. the suspects. out toward the Prior Knowledge . some valuable: the lights. “Pinky‟s a peculiar man.” he explained to me as we went down the stairs and outside. Then the night before the election the other two candidates met at the county fair.” I said. some of it probably worthless. he was declared the winner. He got it by default. The three took Charles to the ambulance as Pinky came over to us. the alibis. the sky growing ever darker. but he wanted to be top dog.Page 189 . Alexis and I stood by the ambulance and police car. No one gave him much of a chance of winning. tucking a small camera into a leather pouch. “I guess?” I went over the information I had gathered. the sounds.
the bell for Sext began to toll. He turned toward us. Big drops of rain began to fall.. up into the trees. “Whur‟s Oscar?” Pinky said.” “Yep?” Pinky watched Pith with beady black eyes. “Git „im down? Now?” “But how can you be sure.” Alexis explained to me.. “I said. Pith‟s black robe flapped in the rising wind from the coming rainstorm. “What?” I called out over the claps of the bell and the claps of thunder.. “There he is. His white elbows flashed silver against the darkening sky. I couldn‟t tell whether it was a question or a command. Sheriff?” I said. “Oscar?” “Whur‟s Oscar?” Pinky said to Alexis. “You git „im down?” he said. dropped the bell rope. I hoped it was his way of concentrating on what I was saying and not his way of showing that he really wasn‟t listening.Page 190 . “He. and we waited for a response: a question. that‟s our killer?” Pinky shouted. a point of clarification.” Just as Pinky and I turned to look. and squatted.” He looked toward the bell tower. “He means Pithecarius. “You think Pith did that. The bell went dead as the storm grew louder. Even at that distance I could see terror in his eyes. “I know this place?” he said. He blinked away the rainwater. a congratulations. Pinky said something. “I know these people? I know Oscar?” Prior Knowledge . He stood. The notes from the bell came in a regular beat. You sure. hands on hips. Alexis confirmed what I had said.?” He turned on me as if I were a pesky dog. It seemed almost that Pith heard him.graveyard... back toward the highway.. there. When I finished. wet clothes clinging to his thin frame. “I guess we can.
...” I said. I saw Ophelia standing in the doorway. I forgot. at the Priory after that?” “Father James agreed to keep him here. still red hot. “Pithecarius!” No answer. The sheriff should never have given such a charge to a Priory.” Until now. “Pith! It‟s Father Columba!” Prior Knowledge .” “I tuck „im in after what he done t‟them cows?” “Cows?” I said. I should have been told... We were the only ones who knew. “He knows. black robed scarecrow on the roof. I stopped and called up to him. Father. “That‟s right.” Alexis nodded. A sick. Pith crouched lower as I approached. Nothing more had happened. he simply said. “I‟ll get him down. “Okay? Git „im down?” “All right then. I was fit to be tied. helpless feeling formed in my stomach. When I wound down.Father James and I. And when you came. we kept it from the others. Father James promised the judge that we would see to him. The thick ring of fuzz that formed a halo around his bald spot was plastered flat. “What cows?” “Mut‟lation? Carved crosses in they sides?” I looked at Alexis for confirmation. making him look like Giotto‟s Saint Francis in the Assisi murals..“He does.” I started across the yard toward the main building. for fear he would be.” “But.well. keep him out of trouble. Alexis nodded..Page 191 . The Archabbey should have been told. Alexis looked downcast.. drenched.” Alexis explained.why is he here.” “Why wasn‟t I told? Why wasn‟t any of this in the records?” “Well. Pinky looked away to the crouching. but they didn‟t want him to go to jail. I ranted and raved at poor Alexis and at the sheriff. “His parents didn‟t know what to do with him.abused there. His head was soaked.
The rain. “I‟m. he took a step backward and stared at me in wonder. with no more than the usual Mississippi slur. “Scared? Of me?” “Of the sheriff!” I looked around. you try to make me come down. “Come on down! I need to talk to you!” “No!” He moved suddenly to his right. She stood in the doorway. “Father!” Pith called. Father!” It was Ophelia. “Don‟t do that!” I called.. from what people said. “Stay up there if you want to. blinded me as I looked up. “It will be all right!” I called to Pith. but I couldn‟t order him away. Pith had it. I‟m gonna jump!” I realized I was not conversing with an idiot. frightened. that Pith was mentally retarded. ast „im if he wonts some a my jam cake. heavier now.“I know who you are!” came a soft.. I‟m here. He knew to fear Pinky Lemon. and when he did I saw Charles‟s Saint Jean Cross handing from his neck. “Help me!” “Father? Pssst. frightened voice. from what I observed. and Pinky was standing behind me. I had assumed. and I‟ll see you‟re safe and secure!” “No! You come any closer. That made me furious. to find better shelter. It was the voice of a young boy: innocent. and I couldn‟t see him clearly.” “Father?” Pinky started to correct me. “He won‟t hurt you. He rang the bells precisely on time. I realized I had never heard him speak before. He was smart enough to feign idiocy to escape jail. “Father.scared!” he called.Page 192 .” Prior Knowledge . He spoke perfect English. I had not noted that the cross was gone from the room. sad. Surprised at my temerity. He wasn‟t. “Shut up! I snapped as I turned to face Pinky.
His tongue. I had to resist an urge to break free of him and run. I could be his next victim. The rain began to abate. “Ophelia asks. I patted his thin back and tried to comfort him. trying to lure a boy scared out of his wits down from a bell tower with cake. really I didn‟t. “I didn‟t do it. got the shackles on Pith‟s arms. “Father?” he pleaded.” Pith!” I called up. We three got to the car at the same time.” “No. “Yes. all right?” I watched in amazement as he got up from his perch. I would. I waited at the bottom of the ladder. He got the back door open and pushed Pith Prior Knowledge .” His voice was terribly sad. but Pinky was agile and outmaneuvered me. Well. a priest..” Pith moaned..” he sobbed.if you would like to have a piece of her jam cake?” I felt like a fool. “Sheriff!” I bellowed.Page 193 . Pinky had him by the shoulders and was trying to wrestle him into a pair of handcuffs. He‟s confused „n‟ when he‟s confused my cake makes „im better. I was vaguely aware that monks and seminarians were watching from the distance. “Stop this!” I yelled. come on down. the Cross swinging like spun gold in the rainfall.“What?” “My jam cake. I couldn‟t do that to a man. If he had a knife on him.. splashing through the sodden grass. a grown man. He loves it. Pinky ignored me. his dick. He knew all about it. “Oh. and started marching him toward the squad car. and made his way across the roof to the ladder that hung down the side of the chapel like a single strand of ivy. Jus‟ ast „im. Then I felt him pulling away from me. I gave chase. and when Pith stepped down onto the soggy earth he fell into my arms and began to weep.to the kitchen. Father. “It‟s all right.. Pith cried out in terror. hardly believing what I was saying.
searched frantically for door handles that weren‟t there. Finally he lay down on the seat in a fetal position and began to cry. I felt so bad for him. He took the plate. Seminarians and monks came closer as he backed up and pulled away. I took it from her and gave it to Pinky. The Saint Jean Cross hung down to the floorboard. Pith sat stunned for a moment. He had to play the odds. As he moved up the lane toward the highway.. “I know what it is! But what if this man didn‟t do it?” “Look. slapped it against his leg. “See he gets it.” I said. Still this was wrong. I looked up to see Ophelia standing beside me with a large slice of jam cake on a plate. “Sheriff. got into the car. but he turned on his wipers. you unnerstan‟? What if this boy killed somebody else?” He was right. He was the law. we could see Prior Knowledge . I ain‟t go time t‟pussyfoot aroun‟ with a killin‟. and sometime in the past he had carved crosses on cows.” “He‟s our man?” I looked through the car window. Pith lay on the seat sobbing. Father?” Pinky said.” “No. but he had been in the murder room.inside and slammed the door. The rain was now just a sprinkle. Father?” Pinky removed his white hat. all this nigger bidness.. and threw water on me. “Do you have to do this?” I demanded. “We got ourselves a mess at Ole Miss.Page 194 . “Keep it simple?” “But.. and rattled the steel chain fence that separated the back from the front seat. and cranked up. then realized where he was. I‟ve got two or three others I think are more likely.. People‟s after me t‟keep the peace. “This here‟s a murder?” Pinky said.
two eyes peeping over the back seat at us. Prior Knowledge .Page 195 . It appeared that Pith had rung his bell for the last time.
IX We had a hard time returning to what we generally called normal after the murder. nor did the Italian I had learned the year I studied in Rome. Finally I remembered that Mario spoke some French.Page 196 . but they were still on the line when I returned with him and put him on. The afternoon of the morning we found Charles and watched Pith carted off. Monks and seminarians walked around nervous and bewildered. I spoke with a woman. all of us in a fog. I couldn‟t tell whether he blamed me for the complications. The second call went to Quebec. No one at the number Charles had given us as his “home” address spoke English. and then another woman and never made myself fully understood. I don‟t know if they understood. then a man. the bells that signaled Hours rang irregularly. so I said attenda un momento per favore into the receiver and went out looking for him. I made two difficult telephone calls. With Andrew trying to fill Pith‟s shoes. discovering how far the French of Canada had Prior Knowledge . but even I had to admit that the Priory seemed to be disintegrating---under my command---on my watch. and he didn‟t try to hide his displeasure. and that was even a greater trial. I used my Italian hoping it was close to the French. both about the body and about the possible involvement of seminarians. I watched and listened as he bumbled through. He was terribly upset by what I told him. First I called Father Superior at Saint V‟s to tell him the awful news. I knew French was a Romance language. his class met spasmodically under various teachers. but my Church Latin didn‟t help a lot. It was a difficult conversation. substituting different words for those they did not understand. With Marjon keeping to his bed.
so I took the receiver and listened to several minutes of unintelligible instruction. The Saint Jean Cross should go back to his family. from confusion to shock to grief. since trying to sell it would require papers. The only time he showed signs of hearing me was when at the second visit I told him that Brother Andrew overslept that morning and didn‟t Prior Knowledge . I went to visit Pith on Saturday and again on Monday. I only hoped I would be gone before the present registration was up. his face reflecting the moods on the other end. and after a few ouis and mercis. I told Mario to ask if they wanted the Saint Jean Cross. They wanted the body shipped back to Quebec. we hung up. but they told us to keep all his personal effects. At last Mario said they wanted to speak with me. as though he didn‟t hear me. but since they knew nothing about it. even his car. Both times he came down the long jailhouse hallway dressed in a blue jumpsuit and sat down at a table across from me.diverged from the French of Louisiana. I decided.Page 197 . and he reported that they didn‟t know what that was. and I was afraid if it proved too expensive to insure we might have to store it in a lock box. but so of course would trying to register it. which I hoped they had already told him. I knew it was going to be complicated. but it would need to be appraised to be insured. I didn‟t hear him say a word that sounded anything like “murder” or “stabbing” and I assumed he didn‟t describe the cause of death. Death always is. He never spoke a word either time. but he looked weak and vulnerable. I decided it could go in a case somewhere. but he just stared into space as though he were alone. I would have to wait until the authorities were finished with the body before I could ship it. and that meant it would have to be kept frozen and embalmed before it left for Quebec. We would just keep his car for the use of the Order. His face bore a bemused expression. and I talked to him.
I was about to go on when he finally responded. “He was here. He was immediately told of the murder. The Trappists look down on the lesser Orders like mine. apparently referring to a book.ring the bell on time and put us all 30 minutes late. He looked sleepy and shopworn. but then from the depths of a cistern I heard a faint ring. a voice made for a funeral parlor. The telephone line was clear when I talked with the operator in Bardstown.” he corrected me. He avoided me. then went back into his vacuum. nodded slightly. but the seminarians said he showed little surprise or shock. I told him who I was and what I represented and asked to speak with the Guest Master. I thought I would hang up and try again for a better connection. Larry Diaz returned on the Tuesday after the murder. but when she snapped me into the Gethsemani line all I could hear was a sputtering buzz. His name is Larry Diaz. They consider us frivolous. Late on Wednesday afternoon I called Gethsemani. They do not have murders. six. I might as well have been connected to Pakistan or some such place overseas. which is how most retreatants to Gethsemani looked for several days after they returned. a voice of Judgment Day.” the voice said.” a voice cut through the static.” “It‟s Brother. a voice from the Catacombs. Father. “Yes. Brother. right. “This is the Guest Master. Lawrence Diaz. “I‟m calling about one of our seminarians.Page 198 . Trappists do not have Halloween parties.” There was a long silence. “Gethsemani. It came quivering to me five. At that he glanced at me. this last weekend. I believe. seven times. I heard contempt in his voice. He resumed classes and services as if he had not been gone. and from what I could tell he showed little interest in anyone else either. for a retreat. He was with you. Prior Knowledge .
shall we say peculiar about his behavior. But after a day or so he was more at peace. “Well.. the most peculiar breed of monk on the face of the earth.. did he. He walked the floor.” He made it sound like Larry had died. he was quite tense. Father. moving the receiver away from my ear but keeping the other end close to my mouth.yes. “Hallo!” a large female voice bellowed in my ear. would you say?” “Peculiar?” he said.. I know that. Brother. He smoked constantly.. “Are you Mrs. He didn‟t eat. That is when he left us. “Yes. What a person to ask about peculiar: a Trappist. At first he did. Brother. drawing out each syllable.” I sat smoldering for a few minutes. Trappists to the rescue.did he seem.” His selfrighteousness positively dripped.was there anything. Brother.Page 199 .. it would be confidential.” Damn him! “Yes. they prefer to remain simple brothers.” “I don‟t actually believe he did. I just wondered.” I said. Hanks?” Prior Knowledge ..nervous... tell me.from Friday evening until Tuesday morning. That is how Gethsemani affects people. “was he. thank you..” The Trappists think the rest of us are pigs for striving so hard to be priests. God bless.agitated?” “Why yes.. “The Hanks!” “Yes. “His nerves returned only when he started to leave. “I think his studies for the priesthood are making him sick. handling the word as if it stank. Texas. then looked at my books and had our local operator to put through a call to Arlington.” “Not at all.. Father Prior. Like most of our retreatants.” “Well. “I forged on..” “Did he make a confession while he was there?” “If he did. trying to think how to explain.
” “Oh!” She took a deep draw..Ronald‟s mother?” “Yaaasss! I said. “I was calling to ask about Ronald... Now I’m losin’ yew. “What do yew wont?” she said....” “Yeah? Whata yew care?” “May I talk with him?” “No!” “He‟s not there?” “No!” “Could you tell me where he is?” “I could. Hanks.where Ronald.. I had just spent a pile of money on telephone calls and had learned very little. a cigarette dangling from his lip. I pictured her tending bar. the Prior Knowledge . “Mrs.. went down t‟work with „is uncle.. said yew kicked „im out. this is Father Columba. who‟s this?” I could hear country music---Born to Lose---wailing behind her. went off the nex‟ day.” “No!” The line went dead. I still had reason to suspect both Larry and Ronald.“Yaass.I mean.Page 200 . Who‟s this?” “Are you.from Saint Luke‟s...” “Will you?” “Mexico. One was unaccounted for when he was killed. They both hated Charles.” “In Mexico? How long has he been. when did he go there?” “Come back home. I swallowed and hung up.” “Does he have a telephone..” “Who?” “Father Columba.
thin legs crossed. The judge sat with a withered hand cupped behind his ear through most of what followed. He didn‟t notice me. Prior Knowledge . “He‟s known f‟usin‟ a knife. Pinky nodded to her. The courtroom was upstairs in the same ancient building with the jail. On November 10 the county judge held a “hearing” for Pithecarius. Pinky called and told me when and where to come.” At precisely 1:00 an officer in uniform brought Pith in. and she smiled back at him.Page 201 . He‟s teched in the head. Just my luck. After a couple of minutes a Chinese girl entered and sat down near the door. What a headache.” he told me. The attorney came over to me. and told me this was his first case. We took our places in a semicircle around the judge‟s big desk. who looked to be about 95. introduced himself. who looked to be about 80. I was later told he was at the University of Virginia. I climbed the rickety stairs and met Pinky in the hallway.” “Oh. Then came the judge. The reporter took copious notes on a yellow pad. who looked to be about 15. He looked dazed. hoping to catch a glimpse of him. a couple of times.other was right on the scene and then promptly departed it. “O‟Shay?” “Reporter. Rowan Oak. His crisply appointed young stenographer took everything down for him. one of the buildings that appeared in the Faulkner novels.” the prosecutor moaned. but it always looked deserted. “That‟s Miss O‟Shay. Then the prosecutor. He led me into the judge‟s chambers. we b‟lieve this boy‟s guilty. I felt sick. I had driven by Faulkner‟s home. “Yo honor. Pinky sat placidly chewing his cud of tobacco. Then Pith‟s county appointed defense attorney. and we sat down in two of the several chairs provided for guests.
.. “Onliest prints on it b‟long t‟Oscar here. “It‟s the one we used at the party the night before. “That knife should have a lot of prints on it.” I yelled at him. Pith was guilty.Page 202 . Darlene?” he yelled at his stenographer. “Our Halloween Prior Knowledge .” I looked up at the judge and raised my hand.” “Why?‟ “The party. He signaled the prosecutor to stop.” I said. Pinky hadn‟t told anyone--if Pinky himself knew.. “Yew gittin‟ this all down. they just called me in for this case las‟ night. so I waved. Pith‟s prints were on that knife..” “Whaat?” he wailed.This is the knife he used in the murder. He didn‟t see it. Charles was killed with a knife.” I whispered. “Yaas?” he said. “That‟s odd. I don‟t know much.. “What is?” he whispered back. It made me shudder.” He surely didn‟t. He cupped his hand behind his ear more firmly and leaned toward me.” the blond lisped. “Whaat is it?” he said to me.” “Whaaat?” “The knife.” “Paarty? Whaat Paarty?” He didn‟t know anything either. “What is it?” “Judge..” “What party?” He saw I was shocked.” I elbowed the kid who was defending Pith. “I‟m just wondering. case closed.” He picked up a bundle from the judge‟s desk and took the cake knife from a folded cloth. “Yeth thir. “It just seems. I glanced down at his note pad. and all it said was “Oscar Petersen. “See.
. moved his wad of tobacco to the other cheek. Bessinger?” “Yes. a gift from Italy. uncrossed his legs..” the prosecutor said. We know what he done t‟them cows. looking it over. he stole it. “Whata yew know about all this?” the judge demanded of the prosecutor. “What cross? The prosecutor leaned over the judge‟s desk and picked up another cloth bundle.” he explained. his eyebrows raised. Slowly he uncovered the cross and put it down before the judge. waiting to continue. I‟ve talked t‟Oscar?” Prior Knowledge . “Nothin‟ atall. “You got all that?” the judge asked Dharlene. Plus when arrested he was wearin‟ that cross b‟longed to the deceased. yo honor.” I said. The handle was bone. “All in all it must have been handled by a dozen people.” I yelled. “It b‟longed to the dead man. the blade steel. “Yeth thir. slightly curved.party. your honor. who stood with his mouth open. Had it on when Pinky took „im in.” “Oh. “Oscar here. “You sure it‟s the knife you used at the party?” “Yes.” “Cross?” the judge wheezed. We know he loves knives.Page 203 . He turned to Pinky. He turned to the prosecutor.” The judge‟s face changed from confusion to perplexity. “Alls I know‟s they dusted it „n‟ all the prints on it was Oscar‟s. “Well.” the prosecutor said. “It‟s unique. “There weren‟t no other prints?” he demanded of him. “No other prints?” Pinky shook his head. “You done then.” All eyes fell on the knife in the prosecutor‟s hand.” “Lemons?” Pinky stirred. He turned back to me. The prosecutor just stared. his head pink.” the judge grunted.
. I felt completely helpless.” I wanted to choke him. “Oh.. well. you wont a jury?” The boy jumped to attention.Page 204 . He was about to let his client be sent to his death without a defense. “Pith. “Homer. ever stab.” “Father.” “Yeth thir.” Five years! The judge would be a hundred by then. southern justice. how it looked. remind me t‟review the case in about five year. I went over to him. It was medieval. who was drawing turkeys on his pad. I put my arms around him. and finally I let go. The officer moved him toward the door. I watched him go. officer tapped Pith on the shoulder. clearing his throat.” he smiled. “Father Prior?” I turned and saw the Chinese girl. and he stood. His eyes fell on the young defense attorney. The judge struggled to his feet. Le‟s jus‟ say he broke „is parole. I stared at Prior Knowledge . deeply depressed. The case would never be reviewed. As people left the room. and I was seeing it firsthand. to a tee. but he just stood there. Tears came to my eyes. “I‟m not agonna bring „im to trial for the murder. “He kin tell ye „bout that dead body. Dharlene. they‟ll keep an eye on „im there. “I think whatever you say about it is fine.” I said.” Her face was friendly. It was a done deal.” The judge surveyed the room. no sir.” he said. stole a knife. He had just given Pith a life sentence. “Uh. “Yes?” “Could you give me a statement? I work for the Eagle. We‟ll send „im up to the state farm.“He talked to you?” I said. I had heard about southern court. like a statue. but there was no hint of a smile. “Yeah? Couple times?” I found that hard to believe.
Father? After all. She was short with a petite figure. “A statement..” I said.” I was seething. A Chinese named O‟Shay.” He either couldn‟t think of the word or decided not to use it in my clerical presence. you got you‟se‟f a temper?” He gave me a tobacco stained grin. and we walked out into the Prior Knowledge . and when I took it I found it warm. we might‟ve had another murder on our hands?” “I‟m sorry. We were the only two left there. and with the other he waved Miss Faye O‟Shay away. She looked Chinese. He showed me the door....Page 205 .. “Boy. “Why.her for a moment. she‟s a real.” “Aaaahhhhrrrr.. the penis..little. She offered me her hand. but she spoke flawless English with a southern accent. “That woman. He put one hand on my chest to keep me in place. People do that a lot. “Miss. “Good thang I‟s here. “Or do you believe he is innocent? Do you plan to raise a fuss about this decrepit old Baptist judge sending a Catholic boy off to the looney bin for God knows how many years?” I wanted to shake her. “Yeah.. you.” Pinky was between us in a flash. She protested.” “What part did homosexuality play in the murder. Father. Is this a common occurrence in monasteries? Do Catholics have a lot of Murders in the Cathedral?” She laughed. realizing I had made a fool of myself. “How do you cope with having one of your monks found guilty of this brutal murder of another monk?” “How do I feel.... Her coal black hair was cut close..” she said when I didn‟t reply. “Name‟s Faye O‟Shay. Was it her married name? I saw no ring.. please.. but she finally backed up and left the room.” He nodded..” “Yes. She wore a blue suit..” she prompted.
The day was cold.” I said. Pinky nodded. I wondered if Pith was warm in his cell. but that other time? When he done that to them cows? Well.chilly hallway. I backed off the curb and drove across the graveled parking lot. The reporter was gone. In my rear view mirror I saw Pinky standing spraddle-legged. I got in and rolled down the window.” “What is it?” “Well. When I pulled out into the street I saw the Chinese woman watching me from a little cherry red Corvair..Page 206 . “Yep?” I could see anguish in his eyes. or how he knew all about the attack. arms crossed over his thin chest. bareheaded. I know Oscar done it. I cranked up.” “I hope so. but. but he just shook his head and waved me away. I waited for him to say more. “How will he be treated there?” I asked Pinky. but I looked away. dust from my tires settling over him. he said. “At the funny farm? He‟ll be okay. also with a question mark. He let the door go and moved back.. or that gold cross he had b‟longed to the victim. He put his hand on the door. “Father?” “Yes?” “One thing still bothers me? I mean. he never lied about it? Frum the first. Prior Knowledge . Pinky walked me down to my car. my tires making tiny popping noises as they crunched. refusing to acknowledge her existence. yeah I done it?” “But he denied killing Lichtenstein?” I finished his statement. I can‟t argee with fingerprints.
I had seen Charles‟s body Prior Knowledge . I hoped he knew this was of his own choosing. take care then?” He touched his white Stetson.Page 207 . and roared away up the lane toward the road. got „is suit. got „is room. Pinky reached through his car window and pulled something out. I hoped he would find some peace. “Well. “Thank you. I had written a complete report to Father Superior. guess he‟s better off‟n he was here? Least he‟ll sleep inside. “I‟m returnin‟ this?” It was the Saint Jean Cross. outta the weather?” I guessed Pith had told him that he slept in our barn. I hoped we had heard the last of this whole bloody mess. got into the squad car. I stood looking after him as he turned left and headed for Oxford.I Pinky came by on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week to tell me he had just returned from taking Pith to the “funny farm. Poor Pith.” “How is he?” “Right well? Went right in.” I said.
which might be a bit entertaining.” “Sins? What sins?” “Mostly sins of the flesh.” I smiled. “Their sins. On the other hand. It bumped gently against my chest as I walked away. “How they gonna sin? They don‟ never go nowhere.” She began to laugh. The confessions were all humdrum. and she went on until her stomach shook. I have never had the privilege of listening to the confessions of Hollywood actors or Washington politicians. but for the most part it‟s repetitious and boring. “They‟re coming to confess. Thanksgiving Day and Friday were school holidays. “Come on. She looked at me with a conspiratorial expression. “This bunch?” she said. “I can‟t do that.” I shook my head. Mississippi. I put the chain over my head and let the Cross hang down over my vestments. were altogether pedestrian. The rest of that day and on Wednesday. Let it be.safely embalmed and on a small commuter plane that would fly it to Memphis and from there to Montreal by way of Newark. People probably think it‟s exciting to listen to confession.” “Confess? Confess what?” she said. the confessions of monks and seminarians living ten miles outside Oxford.” “Why not?” Prior Knowledge . No one confessed to the murder or to having any information about it they had not already divulged. so they wanted to do their confessions early. I heard everyone‟s confession.Page 208 . Friday was the usual day for confessions. her eyes widening. tell me what they say. and I told her. Father. but not this week. and the seminarians would be scattering for the long week-end. Ophelia had asked me the week before why all the men came to see me every Friday.
. Just when I thought I was home free... his mouth tight. If I told anyone what a person said to me in confession.. Frost came in. Father. he had said something about. “An abortion. “.” “Oh.” she said. And I knew it when I did it....a woman.. All the confessions that week went pretty much according to design except the last one on Wednesday..” He nodded raggedly. Father. She nodded sagely. deep trouble.” “Then. “I know that.” “With who?” I raised an eyebrow.well. I counseled someone. walked off. but I wasn‟t surprised. I have met people throughout my life who knew something was wrong and went ahead and did it.” I felt a chill pass over me. I could get into deep.“Confession is made in complete confidence.. It‟s about a death.” I felt my temperature rise. I had to wait for him to get up his nerve and start. and I agree fully. that first day. “I... Yes. Prior Knowledge . to have an abortion. I was still thinking of our murder.an impediment? Is that what you said?” “Yes.remember when I first came? I mentioned. I could tell he was wrestling with a problem. I might as well come right out and say it. I know it‟s murder.” “The Church considers it murder. “It‟s about.Page 209 . Father. Remember?” Vaguely I recalled. I know.. But of course this couldn‟t be about Charles. Frost had mentioned it two months before.why?” I was curious. His brow was furrowed....” “Yes. that is a problem. and never brought the subject up again. “With God.
she needed help doing almost everything. I couldn‟t absolve him.her father. innocent. until late into the night. I am her father. He even joked---I think he was joking---that he would change his name. Father.” “You were the father?” “Yes. they do anyway.” he said. Father.“She was young. and how I loved the extra forty winks. We lolled around all day.” And in my own way. blissful sleep. In the end he told me he would probably leave at Christmas. learn Spanish. his voice husky. I did. I couldn‟t give him much hope that he would ever be ordained---for this and other reasons. and since I felt responsible. I gave him my blessing. I was. “You got her pregnant. Oh lovely. I told them we could eat leftovers for a week to make up Prior Knowledge . work as a vet. and apply for the priesthood as a new man. We talked on and on. He thought he would indeed go to Mexico.Page 210 . She came to me with it. Fortunately I could sleep late the next morning. I see. I mean. High Mass was at 11:30. I sleep until I‟m called.. get himself re-baptized. Thanksgiving morning I had decreed that Morning Prayer would be at 8:00. I told Brother Peter and Ophelia not to spare cost.. Not me. so to speak. which was all I had to give. completely ignorant of the world‟s ways. I fasted all morning and said the Mass cold turkey. I did sleep late the next morning. It all added up to too much. no... This was in part a religious devotion and in part to save room for the feast I had decreed for 1:00 in the afternoon. The place needed a feast to help us back to health.” “No! No. Some monks get so accustomed to rising at 2:30 or 4:00 that even when they don‟t have to wake up then.” “Oh. go to a seminary down there.
I ate slowly. pumpkin pie.Page 211 . Oh. I called.for spending all they needed to make it festive and memorable.” “James. cranberry sauce. angry.. It was. We haven‟t heard a word from or about him. Nor is the Order.. I waited through ten rings before there came an answer. only one shadow hung in my sky.. What is it?” The voice sounded completely unlike the funeral parlor voice at Gethsemani. The meal had reminded me of Prior James. Why.” “Oh. It‟s a holiday.” “Scratched him?” “I‟m no longer looking. “Father Superior. and slices of ham. This one was business like. and I wondered where he had eaten Thanksgiving dinner. I said to make it a meal par excellence. “Yes. wondering.did you have to answer?” “Everyone‟s asleep. They did. I‟ve scratched him.” said a disgruntled voice. as if trying to remember. They bought and smoked an enormous turkey. yes. how are you?” “Did I disturb you?” “Yes. absorbing the voices around me. What do you want?” “I was just thinking. is that you?” “Yes. Was he at home with his mother? Was he at some greasy California diner? Had he possibly reached Saint Vincent‟s? When I got to my room.about Father James. I was taking a nap. James.. broccoli with hollandaise sauce. Columba.” he said. I‟m so sorry.” Prior Knowledge . garnished it with sweet potatoes. sharp. As I excused myself after a couple of hours and ambled toward my room. We had fruit jell-o.. savoring every bite. Who. “Oh.. We consider he‟s gone for good. stuffed it with creamy dressing. “Is this Saint Vincent‟s?” “Yes. feeling that the healing was starting. coffee with ice cream.
To be like that. Sheriff Lemon tells me that I made a royal anal orifice of myself the other day. you did. finished college and law school in five years. “Father. I still wanted to hang up.. but she said. That‟s hardened me some.” No sooner had I hung up with Father Superior than my telephone rang. Father.. please.” I said. “Homer?” she said with a laugh. “It‟s all right. “Right. I mumbled.to apologize. “See.” “Hi. but she was good at seduction. Prior Knowledge . The Benedictines were writing James off as a bad bet. He‟s a smart kid. I wanted to say.” Yes.” I said. and I wanted to use the Anglo-Saxon translation of her very descriptive words. Been at the Eagle only three months. It gave me a sense of dread. I called. I‟m new on the job.I felt a lump in my stomach. I‟m really sorry.I‟m calling. I raised the receiver warily. Been covering the Ole Miss Mess most of the time. “Homer‟s my age. but I‟m still green. “Sorry to wake you. It sounded vaguely familiar..” “Oh yes.” It was the Chinese woman reporter. I just graduated last May. “This is Columba. A southern accent.” It was a woman‟s voice. I thought of the decaying old man behind the mahogany desk. like a good Catholic. Father?” I started to hang up.” “Good.. Instead. This is Faye O‟Shay.” she said brightly.” I said. Anger welled up in me.. He‟ll be a judge someday.” “Like that young lawyer.” “Clever. “Are you still there.Page 212 .. “Yes?” “Father Columba. I hope you will talk with me.” “What a wonderful thing to look forward to.” What a surprise! “We were in school together.
” I said.” “Well.” “Bou hau itza. I‟d like to show you. which sounded like Shay. will retire soon. you saw three generations in that room: Jerome. before I went off to get my journalism training in the big city of Memphis.” I could hardly believe I was such soft putty in her hands. I know every spot in this county where he got his ideas for the novels. her funny little laugh. I‟m Chinese. wouldn‟t you know? Prior Knowledge . “It‟s Chinese.” I was feeling more at ease. “Don‟t ask how I found that out. My father and mother came over from Taiwan just before I was born and opened a restaurant. “Anyway. It means something like „how embarrassing. “If you‟ll answer two questions. Outside my window the sky was a deep red. who will take over from him.. isn‟t it?” “My exact sentiment. how on earth did you get a name like O‟Shay?” “Oh that. I know you like William Faulkner. being seduced.” She spelled it and then pronounced it the Chinese way. it‟s my job to dig out information.” “Please?” “Maybe.She laughed. I majored in literature at Ole Miss. what was that you said? Boo something. and I know my Bill Faulkner. Well. the prosecutor. who will take over from Virgil some day. It wasn‟t a bad experience.” she said. Depressing. Don‟t say no until I‟ve explained. “In fact. Second.” she laughed. “Our name is really Hsieh.” she laughed again. My dinner was beginning to digest again. “I wonder if I can compensate for my little bou hau itza by taking you for a ride.‟” “Fair enough. then Virgil..” “First.Page 213 . the old judge.” She laughed again. Please say yes. if you‟re Chinese. although you might not be able to tell. “Shoot. I liked Miss O‟Shay‟s voice. and then Homer.
One fairly modest collision or flip into a ditch would have crumpled that little car and made mincemeat of me. At the age of 65. “I hope so. “Ready for this. right? People had trouble with the name on the window. even teeth she had. so far as I could see.” “Pick you up in twenty minutes. he was an Irishman named O‟Shay.” She gunned the engine. I hadn‟t noticed. See. Prior Knowledge .” “I suppose so. There were no seat belts back then. so you have to go with me.” I said.so do I in a way. Father Prior Columba had just accepted his first date. I have the whole day off. as I crawled into the cramped cab and on the second attempt got the door closed on my ample girth. don‟t you agree. back in the court room.Either that or a laundry.. No one was looking.Page 214 . Faye goes well with it. this was in Greenville. Father?” she smiled broadly. the landlord.” “Well.” The line went dead. what white.” “Good. so he told them just to call him Shay. It was agreeable. That was before Ralph Nader exposed the dangers of that cute little thing. “Now I‟ve answered your questions. her face as round as a beach ball. Twenty minutes later I was waiting in the parking lot as she drove up in her little cherry red Corvair. so my father officially changed all of us children to O‟Shays.. circled the parking lot. When?” “How about right now? Please. and went racing out to the highway. please say yes. Father?” “Yes. Perhaps that was because back there she had not smiled. but I was so densely packed that I didn‟t really need one. By coincidence. I sat there in stunned disbelief.
before that to visit Pith.” I said. “For the hearing. We rounded the square and headed north.” I said.” Her face relaxed. where Faulkner was doubtless inspired to write about old Frenchman‟s Bend. that‟s our famous monument.” “A ghost?” she said. There was even a Snopes. He once wrote---but you probably know this---that the old boy faces south because he‟s looking to see where his men ran off to. “Well.” she said as we slowed down at the town square.. talking a blue streak all the way. as the sun slowly sank away to the west.She drove nearly 80 miles an hour all the way back to Oxford. it wasn‟t really a ghost. “Oh. where the court house lay lonely and solemn in the waning holiday sunlight. Prior Knowledge .. the Confederate soldier. and again she flashed the big smile. “Well. “Let‟s just look at a few of the more important Faulkner spots. but the first time was to see Doctor Maglie. There were Compsons.a little runin out at the Priory with a ghost. I tried to follow her spiel--she told me all about the trouble at Ole Miss---but mostly I just prayed we would stay on the road and not leave it for either shoulder or take flight. Bunches. She slowed down and crept past the home where Faulkner‟s bootlegger lived. We stopped at a once graceful antebellum mansion.” For the next two hours. “You‟ve been here before. the one Faulkner speaks of so often. now falling down. led by an expert.Page 215 . I got the royal tour. We passed the rural grocery stores that inspired scenes in Sanctuary and Intruder in the Dust. “A few times. She took me to the graveyard where headstones bore the names---or names close to the names---of characters in Faulkner‟s novels. and Caulfields. Groveses. I had. She was incredulous.” She laughed. but she looked interested.
My reputation. and killed her engine. with the master away. I was sitting next to a remarkably sexy young Chinese woman. Miss O‟Shay pulled up to the edge of the hill. We went by Rowan Oak and drove up through the trees lining the gravel driveway to the house where Faulkner lived half the year. It was dark now. the way I always feel when I‟m in a car with its engine off too far from a town.Page 216 . the only thing newspapers are good for is wrapping fish. “if you have good eyesight. The sun was taking its plunge toward the other side of the world when we arrived at the crest of a hill.” Finally she took me by Ole Miss. I was impressed. once the maker of illegal booze. I thought she longed much more to be a novelist herself than a reporter. On the other hand. I felt jittery. and I wondered whether the stories she wrote for the newspaper were factually true or highly fictionalized. you can see the Priory. all the tear gas dissipated. and showed me the street where she had walked with James Meredith as he integrated that bastion of white supremacy. “Father. but Faye showed me the cabin out back where “Dilsey” lived and served the “Compsons” and even the drainpipe along the side of the house where “Quentin” escaped her uncle “Jason. what difference did it make? As George Bernard Shaw once wrote. however creatively altered. To make it worse. It‟s down to the right. She gave me the plot of each novel she mentioned. She quoted long passages from works I knew and works I didn‟t know. a bit too close to the edge for my comfort. into Faulkner‟s books. In a candy apple red Corvair. She told me how each of the places where we stopped found its way. now a breeder of mules. For the whole two hours she never stopped talking.now retired. Below us as far as I could see without my glasses lay miles of pine trees and winding streams.” Prior Knowledge .” Miss O‟Shay said. looking deceptively tranquil in the twilight.
They‟re a lot better than glasses. your woods. “Anyway.” I assured her.” “In the bend of that creek. “Father.” “Faye..” She opened her purse and fished out a pack of Chesterfields.” I said.” she said. Faye. “No.well.” “Good. okay? But now I‟m onto something else.. “I hope you‟ve enjoyed our little frolic. no thanks.” “Right..“I‟m afraid I don‟t.. Miss O‟Shay. noncommittally.” “No?” I said cautiously. no. Something was coming.. but it rhymes with itch. Please?” “Very well... in front of that hill with the trees.” “Now. I was a real.” I sighed. “You have better eyes than I have... But I think you know I cannot. How dumb.” “Contact lenses. Father?” “What? Uh. I can even see the lights of the Priory. I‟m really and truly puzzled. She lit up and lowered a window. “I wanted to talk with you about the murder.educational. turning to me. your hill. “You should get a pair.. I didn‟t take you around today for purely altruistic reasons.” She pinched an imaginary scrap of tobacco off the tip of her tongue. I won‟t use the word. And you‟re right. That‟s your creek.” Frolic? “Yes. “Would you like a cigarette. “I know what you must think.” I imagined someone seeing me sitting in this red car with this Chinese girl smoking a cigarette. can‟t you?” “No. I want to understand. Prior Knowledge . Her smoke rushed through the opening and quickly mixed with the fog that was drifting over us.” She held up her hands in surrender.” she said. “Very.Page 217 .” “I see.
I don‟t.. “I guess I‟m using you as a sounding board. But what I am now thinking about. He likes knives. although that is truly weird. was not being purposely offensive. maybe Oscar. but I know that by the standards of her day. “He‟s a deeply troubled.” “The killer I mean.. that could have been done by anyone. It was the Year of Our Lord 1961. mixed up kid. no. after I talked with Pinky. especially by the standards of Oxford. even weird.of myself. whatever Oscar may be..well. reading my expression. but it still shocked me for a woman to talk openly about penises. “Sorry.” “My... I realized. That was queer.” I was deeply embarrassed by this whole conversation.it rhymes with lass.or you.” She took another draw off her weed. Father. He hurt some cows.Page 218 .. a real loony... that I had made a real. “Just as well. The chest wound.” I admitted. Did you see my piece on Oscar... I just don‟t think that poor bastard could have done it. She stubbed her cigarette out in an ashtray that hung out of the dashboard like a dirty tongue.want to hurt the Priory. Your killer is. well anyone crazy. by the way?” “No.. But not the penis business. blew the smoke out the window. That‟s not fair. a Catholic obviously. The tongue too. I didn‟t know exactly what she meant. Not your own personal killer. and stared at me.” she said. possibly. It was pretty bland. I swept a lot of dirty thoughts under the carpet. “As I see it. But he‟s not queer.” she said frankly.” Prior Knowledge . strange... I know that. I didn‟t.” I was struck dumb by her use of the word.. he‟s not queer. and Oscar‟s not queer. what I want to ask you about. The cross. Mississippi.This is not for a story.
carrying a murder charge around on his back---even if it never came to trial and couldn‟t stand up against an even modestly competent defense attorney. and I think he is. still not satisfied myself. give it some thought.“No.” she scoffed. but I think you and I should. She reached over and twisted her key. If he‟s innocent. “Besides.you know.. I would find the real killer. Before I knew it we were back Prior Knowledge ... discuss our findings. It was dark. But I wonder if it would be wise. you ever think about that?” “Yes. I‟m still puzzled.. on the sly.” I said..Page 219 . I stared into her eyes. “I agree with what you say. “Happy in a loony bin? Come on. Father. He might do it again.. I know what I would get from it. it‟s not just Oscar. or a man hunt.” She backed hurriedly away from the edge of the hill and raced away down the opposite side. Father? A Pulitzer Prize. and the Corvair came to life. Pith.” “Pinky Lemon? He‟s full of it.. half truthfully. I would get Pith free. “Let‟s say we do look into this.. “What would I get. It should all be done low key.. two deep wells of oriental fire. you‟ve still got a killer out there..look into it more. I have.” I looked at her.” She cocked a reprimanding eye.to reopen the case.. let‟s say we find something.” “Reopen the case?” “Yes. keep our eyes open. “Yes. What would you get?” She stared at me for a long moment.. He can‟t be happy in an insane asylum. but her eyes were bright. Oscar‟s an intelligent person.. “Faye.” I was surprised she said that about Homer.” She nodded.” “I don‟t suggest a witch hunt.” “Who says?” “The sheriff. “Miss O‟Shay. Then she smiled...Oscar. it‟s all right..” I admitted.they say he‟s happy.
” “What? Oh. “NOT BAD. Yin and yang.” Prior Knowledge . all worried about Oscar. “Thank you. and in fifteen minutes we were in the Priory parking lot.” “Shut up. In the light from the dashboard and the overhead light I noted again how white her teeth were. ADAM AND EVE. “Thanks.on the blacktop road. “Let‟s just find our killer. panting for a journalism prize. an Asian woman.” “She may be Eve.” She winked. I wondered how she kept them that way. but I‟m no Adam. so I‟m both of those things at the same time.Page 220 .” I said as I looked back at her through the open door. “You‟re a riddle. the next you sound terribly mercenary.” I said “How‟s that?” “One moment you sound like a humanitarian. haven‟t you figured it out yet? I‟m a woman.” “SO WERE MY FIRST TWO.” she smiled. It‟s just a business arrangement. There was probably some new miracle cleaner that took away tobacco stains. Which are you?” “Father. A walking contradiction. “NOT YET. Father. She sped away. I opened my door and got painfully out.” I nodded and shut the door.
He hobbled like a man with broken legs. and his eyes were bloodshot. but then I mislaid it.forgot my confession. I wrote myself a little message even.. It was a part of the crime.” “You came. I sighed. this bein‟ the usual day for confession. He had not taught his classes.” Prior Knowledge . It hung from my desk lamp. He was as pale as death. remembered to come. I knew the case wasn‟t closed. I was afraid the real killer would strike again.. Outside in the semidarkness stood Randy Muldoon. Father. In my room I sat looking at the Saint Jean Cross. dropped it someplace. despite the contention that he was under sedation that night.. and poor Pith could have stumbled across it.. I knew I should have sent it to Quebec. got up. I knew she was right. I met Marjon in the vestibule of the chapel.” I consulted the chart on my door to find his name.Tuesday?” “I was supposed to. He barely lifted his head to nod to me. “I‟m sorry. and I just now. “Yes. I.. In my book. That placed him in Charles‟s room---or did it? He had stolen or found the Cross. and he had taken his meals in his room. I felt sure Pith wasn‟t the killer..Page 221 . “...II I couldn‟t shake Faye‟s words. since the night of the party. The next evening as I headed for my digs after dinner. A tap on my door. Marjon was still a suspect. but it was not necessarily in the murder room. Pith was wearing it when he was arrested. even though Charles‟s family said to keep all his personal effects. but I couldn‟t give it up. Someone could have taken the Cross. He never answered questions about it.you were supposed to come. Randy?” “Father. and opened it.
Father. however. He rattled off the usual collection of small indiscretions. encouraging me with her applause.” Randy said as he followed me inside. “Thanks. she must have been quite a treat. all but wagging his tail. or he believed he had. few opportunities for daydreaming. come on in. a young Marxist. things he had done.” “Sit.” I said as charitably as I could.Page 222 . finished in Prior Knowledge . At times I got so lost in those daydreams that I didn‟t realize Randy had finished with his confession and sat waiting for absolution. He met her in Florence. there were few digressions. It was. and he always got off his confession to talk about places he had been. Ernestina. Father. Ernestina at the steps of the platform. I mean that literally. This night. There was one girl he mentioned a lot. the beginning of Advent. his political escapades in Italy. From what he said. and quite a trip. Stay. Father. his love affairs in France. His descriptions of what they did let me dream of being a radical young priest preaching to a multitude of dark-eyed young idealists. time to forgive offenses. his drinking sprees in Greece. like an Irish spaniel.I put aside the temptation to preach one of several sermons on responsibility. He came right out of an old Saturday movie matinee travelogue.” “No. I mean yes. after all. In three months I had learned about his boyhood in Ireland. Randy seemed to be in a hurry.” To tell the truth I really didn‟t mind hearing Randy‟s confession on a dull Friday. his school days in Switzerland. I‟m making an exception. He always entertained me. He had either lived quite a life. “All right then. “Don‟t mention it. Italy. waiting for me to finish so we could drive away in her sports car to a quiet bar for vino and comfort.
I was disappointed. “Do you have more to say?” “Well.huh?” he said. it came to me. “Is there anything more?” I asked him. Father.no. and as I say there. “It‟s not something I wanted to tell you. and this time he sat down. You know.” Prior Knowledge . after all that rich food I couldn‟t sleep.” “Let me get this straight.he didn‟t give Larry‟s name. and he has been..he hardly woke me this time.. “Uh. shaking himself. accepted absolution.” I said. hypnotized by its golden glow.” “Well. he jumped to reassure me.” “Yes. and it was over.from your Shaker. Anyway. it.” “What does?” “He told me to think about it. he said he wanted me t‟keep lookin‟ for the killer..” When I groaned. Still he made no effort to leave.. Guess I‟m gettin‟ used to „im.. and he talked about the murder. about Charles.” “Yes.. he came in.about ten minutes. “I think he thinks it was Larry Diaz.” “Not another visit... and he had not provided it. and last night as I lay in bed. but it adds up. Father. He said he would guide my thoughts.. So for the past three days I have been. there in the chair by my bed. yes..” “Spill it.” “What? He told you that?” “Well. not at first. there is more.. no. actually now you mention it. I do..” “Well. He just sat there looking at the Cross hanging from my lamp.” He leaned toward me. but the more. I needed some diversion. “Your Shaker doesn‟t think Pith killed Charles?” “I guess not. leaning toward him.Page 223 .
Father. „Everyone holdin‟ up under the strain?‟ and I said yes. and he was booked in advance. early that morning Charles died. The Shaker told me to dig deeper. That faggy sound. to think more. you know. and I told him I had seen Barry go out. killed Charles. to Gethsemani. Larry ran away. that. At first he didn‟t identify himself. and I said. while flight is a sign of guilt. See. and staying is a sign of innocence. and then thought it was safe to return. but I recognized his voice. The telephone in the hallway rang as I was passin‟ and I answered it. My Shaker helped me see that the guilty man ran.” “Maybe he just meant the usual.” “He planned it ahead of time. he knew.“What came?” “That I knew. you know. and that he would guide my thoughts. “When? How?” “Sunday morning.” “How could he know about Pith? They don‟t have radios or newspapers at Gethsemani. “But I called Gethsemani. First he asked for Barry Lamb.I told him. yes.Page 224 .. Everyone else stayed.” Prior Knowledge . It was as plain as the nose on my face.. He asked who with. „Larry? That you?‟ He admitted it was. He called. and he was there all weekend.” “You did?” I was excited.” “He left. “Sunday morning?” “Yes.. Father. before mass. Then he said. and he returned here directly when his retreat was over.” I said.” “That‟s where I realized I knew something I didn‟t know I knew. schoolwork. and then I realized Larry knew about Pith because. So I did.. he couldn‟t completely disguise it. He booked the retreat. waited up there until Pith was arrested.
Immediately after the murder Larry left. I‟ve stayed at Trappist abbeys. Father. Father.” Yes. no. Maybe he went out for a break.” “Not likely. Once you go through that front gate. He was either innocent or the most cold blooded killer I had ever heard about. Plus...” “No. that had been true of my visit to Gethsemani.“No. you‟re in there until you say you‟re leavin‟ for good. Larry hated Charles for several reasons. Larry didn‟t sound the least bit shocked... I told „im yes.” It added up. because then he asked if they had already said a mass for Charles.” “I see.” He leaned toward me again. He knew Charles was dead..on his car radio. and immediately after he learned someone had been arrested for it he returned.that‟s when his tone changed.or seen it in a newspaper outside the Abbey. The only reason I had for doubting his guilt was that in his confessions since the murder he had never mentioned feeling guilty about anything more than the usual small sins.and he said he would be back soon.. “They don‟t like to disturb their guests on retreat..” I felt cold chills up and down my spine. “But one of the monks there could have heard about it and since they knew Larry went to school here he might have told him.. “He could have heard about it. we had done a mass for Charles.” Randy shook his head decisively. “And that‟s when he said. primarily because he came between him and Barry Lamb.Page 225 . that Pith was in jail.” Randy‟s eyes were bright with certainty.. He talked like it was somethin‟ he had known about for some time. Prior Knowledge . Father..he sounded relieved. “Anyway. The way Charles took Barry away from him at the party was only the last of many such territorial claims.
YOU LIKE INTERESTING CONFESSIONS. WELL. “Just need to look at your records. The shelves were stocked with patent medicines. JUST INTERESTING. THEY ADD SPICE.” “You‟ve written a murder mystery. “Shhhh.“Okay. It was such a small room that with us two big men inside it there was hardly room to turn around. From its top he pulled a large black Prior Knowledge .” “I WRITE A LOT OF MYSTERIES.” I said.” “You can say that again.” He nodded and went down the hallway.” At breakfast the next morning I whispered to Bartholomew to meet me at the medicine closet in a half hour. looking around the dining room to make sure no one heard. “INTERESTING. “I‟ll look into it. okay. Prior?” he blurted.” “Oh.” he nodded seriously. his eyes begging for reassurance. Just keep quiet and be there. maybe not.” I said. “You sick. Now You‟ve made me a sleuth. “Nothing. THE CATHOLIC FAITH IS FULL OF THEM.” “Interesting!” I snorted.” “COMPLICATED? NO.” “MONKEYS: CURIOUS BY NATURE. I thought I was a priest. “What‟s wrong with you.Page 226 . He got up reluctantly. Randy. THIS IS AN INTERESTING SITUATION. “Maybe.” I promised as I ushered him out the door. and we went inside. Bartholomew opened it with his key.” he said. thank you. “You really like to complicate things. “Keep it to yourself--and your Shaker. dismissing him. Father?” Bartholomew asked.” I cautioned. We met at the door of the closet.” “Sure. then turned to the refrigerator that hummed softly in a corner.
“Father Prior. warning him against jumping to conclusions. at least on this one subject. looked intently at the notes. directly beneath the one dim light.” he whispered. He had the right to question even me when it came to medicine. “What is it you want to know?” “The week of the. Then I realized that he was the one person who did have the right to question me. just possibly.. Father Prior?” “Who had a cold?” “A cold?” “Who came to you for the kind of stuff to treat a cold. What is it you need to know. flipped one more.. “it was testified that someone heard sneezes in the hall outside Charles‟s room the night he was killed. I‟m just checking all the angles.. and ran his large black finger down the page.” “And it might get ol‟ Pith out?” “Possibly.” “Yes. and his records were confidential.the kind where you sneeze.. “So you think maybe somebody with a head cold was the killer.” “Yes.notebook and took it to the middle of the tiny space.” I was about to reprimand him for questioning my authority. that sort of thing. I was his Prior. All right.” He flipped a couple of pages.the week Charles died. The Infirmary Master was licensed by the county.” I said in a whisper.a head cold.Page 227 .” Prior Knowledge . and he could buy drugs and dispense them. and not Pith?” I held up my hands.... his eyes widening. why you wonta know this?” “Bartholomew.” He looked down the page.. He was approved by the Red Cross. “You remember. found what he was looking for. “Possibly.. I don‟t really know. It‟s all guesswork at this stage. “October 27 through November 3. and I didn‟t have to give my reasons for anything I did.. and then looked slowly at me.
the only keepsake of him I had. There‟s only one person it could be. „Less the sneezer had „is own medicine or wasn‟t takin‟ any. there‟s just the one person it could be. It smelled the way I remembered him smelling. Prior Knowledge . Father?” he said.” Instead. Bartholomew had written the name in neat letters and the “sneezer” had signed his signature: Lawrence Diaz.” “Better tell me.” I warned Bartholomew. Larry was one of the handful of seminarians who stayed at the Priory over the Thanksgiving holidays. Larry. his skin was light. Every gesture gave away his sexual orientation. If I didn‟t act quickly. “Yes. and only the slant of his eyes made him look Latin. Beside the two check outs. He was in my office fifteen minutes after I called for him. he held the book around for me to see for myself. sooner apparently than the gossip could spread to him. with thick straight black hair.” I was so nervous that I took up the pipe I kept on my desk but never smoked and began chewing on the stem. stockily built. I knew monasteries. Larry was an inch or two below average in height.Page 228 . I didn‟t even wait for Bartholomew to lock the medicine closet door before I hurried away down the hall. It gave me comfort when I felt insecure. “Don‟t mention this to anyone. It had belonged to my father.” I said as pleasantly as I could. But I knew I had little time to waste. “Okay. obviously powdered. it would be all over the place. “You wanted to see me. He nodded sagely. “Yes?” he said. He got eight aspirins on the thirtieth and again the thirty-first. “Sit down. As I have said.He grinned.
“You grew up in. I thought maybe.” “Lovely..personally. but I pressed on..” “Isn‟t everyone?” he said sadly. Peter‟s.. Blue suits. Yet I really don‟t know you or any of the men really. I lived at home. You will have to come there someday. The ends justify.. Father.Page 229 . You see.. Prior Knowledge . so I can introduce you to its charms.and all that jazz.” “Yes.” I said. We wore suits and ties every day. gold neck ties.“Larry. St. Larry? Other students?” “Oh. Our colors were blue and gold...” “Albuquerque. Best looking bunch of boys in the Southwest. I didn‟t board.” I could see that he was uneasy.. during this holiday.” he said. but I knew of no other way to do this.New Mexico. Can‟t get much more Catholic than that.” “I‟m sure.” “Nice city.” Liar! He relaxed. some. it was hard. smiled engagingly. “You attended Catholic schools. I‟m your confessor while you‟re here. “You were lonely. when things are a bit relaxed.” “Yes.” “Boy‟s school?” “Oh yes. and I am empowered by God to give you absolution. some. “I‟d love to.yes. Did you have a lot of. I felt guilty taking him along this way.” I said wryly.” His voice lost its edge of excitement. and crossed his legs.. absolutely lovely.” “Brothers? Sisters?” “I‟m an only. “You tell me your sins.close friends. white shirts. tempting him with a promise of intimacy. we could remedy that. “Of course. feeling my way along..
I waited a moment. “We are closer than Anglos.” He smiled wistfully. “Some.Page 230 . for the sadness to sink an inch or two deeper. that‟s for sure. are close.” He brightened a shade.I knew I had him. “Sure know how to show our love better than most of the people in this place.” “Are you lonely here?” He hesitated. “Very. Then: “Latin families.” The brightness dimmed.” Prior Knowledge . Latin people generally. which it obviously did.
” He looked at me sharply. But he..” “I thought everyone knew.the Northeasterners.. put my ego on the line. But the „Yankees‟ are just icicles... the one who doesn‟t know if he‟s black or white. gentlemanly in a distant sort of way. “Yes. The black guys are a bit warmer.. “Not everyone. He returned the smile.rejected. courteous anyway.. “Anglos are..” Prior Knowledge .” “I‟m a Yankee.” “People like Barry Lamb?” His eyes sparked fire. I really went out of my way. except of course that Brother Marjon. taking me into his confidence in a way he had never done when I was his confessor. stuck my neck way out.” I said with a smile. Father.. uncrossing his legs.” “No. dear Father.” he said.. I tried to be his friend.” he finished for me. And one or two of the men from the deep south are pleasant enough. I don‟t mean you.about our little.” “Well.Page 231 . “I liked Barry.” He shivered. I liked him a lot. Protestant it is. I still do for that matter.. It‟s that Yankee Puritan heritage.. “Oh.” “Exactly. Like Barry Lamb. He even made light of my offers of brotherly love.. “I guess you know about Barry and me. I mean the. for all he cares.” “Cold..” he pouted.“You find the men here. but I know he‟s black.frozen inside.” “He‟s from Boston. coming from my background. “All of them? All of the men here?” “More or less. It‟s been hard for me to take.thing. “No. from the way he hurt me.my offers to be his friend.. Remember my trip to Gethsemani? That was mostly to get away from Barry.
” he said.” “Then who?” He sighed.not..Barry.” “You‟re sure? It wasn‟t Barry?” “It‟s.” “That‟s why I went. “But he arrested Pith.” “Of course. perhaps his best friend.” “I don‟t know.” Prior Knowledge . Why would he think.” I lied.” His glazed eyes focused.” I said.” I chewed hard on my pipe. shook his head.. alarmed.. “You think. I‟m only telling you because you are his friend. It‟s about Charles. batting him back into his chair. He‟s got the wrong man.killed Charles?” His voice was dreamy.. the sheriff is wrong. Larry?” I said. “Father. “Okay.me.” he said with conviction..Page 232 ...... It was time for my biggest lie.” he moaned. “he‟s wrong. but he seems certain. leaning toward him as if to introduce a conspiracy.” “Arrest?” He came to his feet.“I wondered about that. They searched the room until they found me..” The words hit him like hammer blows... “Barry Lamb?” “The sheriff does. Larry. “It was. “Barry is a major concern of mine just now. “Are you all right. “I guess it‟s over.” “How so. “Why? What did he do?” “It‟s serious. “Barry will soon be placed under arrest. Father?” He was all eyes and ears. “You must promise to keep it confidential. and dropped his eyes.Barry. and you may have to.. “Strange we should be talking about Barry.
then he went on.” he spoke with a clear voice. I‟ll say it in public. Big. and then I went into his room and found.I watched him closely. So far as I could tell. you can‟t take them back.” he said.. “I took that knife. God help me. “you know how serious this is. Then he stiffened. The way he humiliated me at the party. “I killed the bastard. He bullied them. He humiliated them. and he deserved what he got. momentarily confused.Page 233 . arrogant prick! I waited until everyone was asleep.. “You killed Charles. tough.” “Larry.” Prior Knowledge . If you say these things in public. I‟ll say it a thousand times. to see if he were lying. “That arrogant prick! He walked all over people.” He buried his face in his hands and began to sob.” He hesitated.” “I want to say them. “Please. he was telling the truth. He was a prick. So God help me. Larry?” “Yes. to protect his particular friend. and I used it where it would hurt him the most.” I said kindly.
then turned back. and told him to wait there for me. It occurred to me that more people in that building knew more than they had let on. scratching his hairy stomach. Don‟t bother him unless he tries to leave.” “Sho‟. Griffey stood there. “Fa‟ Pri‟. “Just be discrete.” Prior Knowledge .” “Sho‟. a puzzled look on his face. I knocked. just keep an eye on him. “How did you. if you will. taking his arm a couple of times when he stumbled.” I started to go.” “„E kill Li‟stein?” I stared at him.” “Thanks.Page 234 . “Don‟t let him know you‟re doing it.” he grinned. but vigilant. It crossed my mind that of all the seminarians his was the least likely door to hear a knock. As I went back down the hallway toward the stairs.” “Lasso „im „e do‟?” “Yes. “Wha‟ yo‟ do‟ here?” “I‟d like to ask a favor. forming a circle. He‟s dealing with a pretty big problem.III I walked a crushed Larry Diaz back to his room. that maybe I was the last to know. and the door opened.” He grinned and nodded knowingly. There came a rustling from within. Would you just keep a tight rein on him for me? Just for a few minutes. I happened to see the name “Griffey” on one of the doors.” “Kay.” “Larry Diaz is in his room. “Do..” He held up a hand and brought the thumb and forefinger together. wearing just his shorts..
“I‟m. but she had hung up. “What is it?” he said as he slithered out of his car. On the way back to my room I composed my message to the sheriff.. but when I raised the receiver I found myself dialing the newspaper. He just now told me. to be honest. I was there less than ten minutes when Pinky drove up.I made my way down the stairs. No one had ever called me their papa.” “Hey. See ya. “How‟s my favorite papa?” I was at a loss for words. I was glad he beat Faye. “You got here quickly.” “Which one was it? “His name is Lawrence Diaz.” “This is Father Columba. After a couple of transfers. The fact that it was a young woman hit me doubly hard. I went outside and waited in the parking lot. Lemon was at home.” I started to warn her to wait at least until Pinky was here.” she cheered. In my mind I pictured her running for her little cherry red Corvair and heading out to see her. Be out in a jiffy.” “Oh boy! You got our killer?” “It seems so. Father.. Papa is what the Italians call the pope. I didn‟t recognize the tone. a lady told me.. but coming from Faye O‟Shay it had no religious tone. I got a new dial tone and called the sheriff‟s office. He‟s from New Mexico.well. That‟s good news. I‟m about to call the sheriff.” I said.” “Right you are.. His home must have been on our side of town.” “Just over the hill?” Prior Knowledge .you‟d like to know.. not so good. I‟ve just received a confession here. “A confession..papa. I heard Faye say. “O‟Shay here. but she would radio him.Page 235 . I thought.
sheriff. Down by Larry‟s door. “What on earth are you doing?” I scolded.” he said as we approached him. then grinned. sitting in a chair. sat Griffey. Faye looked impressed.“Your home?” “Home? No? Oh.” “How long have you had a shotgun?” “Sin‟ I‟s fo‟tee. and the three of us made our way to the residence hall. dressed in jeans. Larry Diaz did. boots. “Guard‟ „im.” “Aw hell. Pinky did not. “How‟d she fin‟ out?” Pinky said accusingly. yeah.” “Confession y‟say? What about?” “The murder. Along the way I told them how I had led Larry to tell me.. “Why‟d you go pokin‟ „roun‟ in that pile.” “Shhiii-iiitttttt?” Pinky said. and a checkered shirt.. Boy from New Mexico. This was indeed Mississippi.Page 236 . He seemed to prefer a miscarriage of justice to the trouble he would have rectifying it.” “You‟ve got yourself an innocent man. Prior? We done got ourselves a killer. Pith didn‟t do it after all.” Pinky started to answer as Faye O‟Shay pulled into the lot. Larry Diaz. You said yourself it was fishy. He looked puzzled. that‟s the code? No. pad flopping. “I. Father?” He said no more as she joined us. She hurried toward us.” “Did.” Prior Knowledge . door opening. I‟s lookin‟ fer moonshine?” “Oh.” he said shyly. He just admitted to me that he killed Charles Lichtenstein. a shotgun across his lap. “Howdee.called her. “I said keep an eye open.
“Yes sir. and it‟s important that she get the story right. she‟s from the paper. but he held his tongue. “Okay.” I fought dizziness. picked up his chair in his free hand.” a subdued voice came from within. Three holy pictures. Have you had that awful looking thing here in the dormitory since you got here?” “Uh hu‟. He sat in an easy chair dressed in a black suit and clerical collar. I opened it. Larry‟s room was as neat as Muldoon‟s was messy. where the door stood open. Pinky motioned for me to sit on the spare chair. shaking my head. If Larry bolted.“No. and his books were evenly spaced on his bookcase shelves.” His big brown eyes searched Pinky‟s face. “Come in. “Kay.” I said softly. I waited for him to go in.” “Her too?” he said sharply. Larry didn‟t offer to rise as we entered. That brought color to Larry‟s face.” “You done killed Charles Lichtenstein?” Pinky said. and ambled down to his room. he might shoot him. seemed designed for the room. We‟ll take over now.Page 237 . Sheriff. his pajamas were carefully folded and placed on his pillow. then mine. and the three of us went inside. I mean here.” “Why‟d you do it?” Prior Knowledge . Larry looked up at him. “That‟s all. “You may go back to your room. then knocked on Larry‟s door. one on each wall.” I said.” Pinky cleared his throat. Faye flounced down on the bed. The bed was neatly made. “Larry.” I didn‟t want him to be there when we tried to take Larry in. “Miss O‟Shay? Yes. “I did it. “Tell the sheriff here what you told me. She‟ll take careful notes.” He got up.
I remembered how he had looked at me..I think you would agree. and at the end of it he sobbed. “Why‟d you do s‟much to „im?” Larry seemed to be gathering his thoughts. cruel. the tongue.me. I‟m sorry I took a human life. We three intruders didn‟t know what to do.” “What‟d he do t‟you?” “He..well. the penis..humiliated. “Just take my word for it. He would never look at me or any other good person like that again.. So we waited.. “Yes.the eye.Page 238 . “I killed him. “Was it in a fit of anger?” I prompted him. his good eye. feel low.” he said.” I said to Pinky and Faye.he was a terrible. He would go no farther. I know that was wrong.” he sighed. Then I was seized with this terrible impulse. so I struck out at him.. “And to carve a cross.” Larry looked at the sheriff defiantly... hateful man. Slowly his sobbing subsided.” “What?” Larry said. “To kill a man is one thing but to mutilate him... He deserved to die. but I had to do it. “It had to be.” “How?” “A lot of ways. at his eye. how he had made me feel ashamed.. hoping to get the idea into the sheriff‟s head and into Faye‟s pages.” “A cross?” Prior Knowledge . hoping we might put in a brief for a verdict of innocent by reason of insanity. like a worm. He was dead..“Because... and he wiped his eyes with a black silk handkerchief with lace at the fringes and a red print of the Sacred Heart at the center...” His voice shook through the speech. I know it‟s a sin.
he‟s happy there. Instead he rose slowly.I saw confusion in Larry‟s eyes. bouncing up off the bed. Oscar. “You got a buncha crazy sum-bitch monks out here. He and Pinky were staring each other down.” Pinky said. “Nuff fer me.” I said. “Yes. “Got it?” “Yep. Prior Knowledge . “Will they let Oscar go now?” Faye said. He looked frightened and disappeared into his room. “now it all comes back.” “Okay. Sheriff.” he said. Larry sat primly.” Faye said. I ducked in front of Pinky and made an angry gesture at Griffey.” I told her. looking straight ahead. “Yes I do. shaking his small head in dismay. I jus‟ carry out orders.” “Come on. “Yes he does. Again Larry looked troubled by her presence.” she said. he nodded deliberately. He started to speak but held himself.” I said. I turned to Pinky. “Hey. “Think so. and led us out into the hallway.” Faye concurred. Sheriff?” He opened his door. Don‟ know though. “since he did it with such emotion. and as I came through the door I heard Pinky let out a howl.” I said. “Maybe. “Sorry. but he said nothing.” He glanced at Faye. you? Pit it down?” I looked out and saw Griffey standing there with his shotgun. already packed I assumed. Sheriff. Prior?” Pinky said.Page 239 . After a moment more of hesitation.” “It had to be an irrational act. I was last out. in the same back seat where Pith fell into his fetal position. Pinky put Larry in the squad car. picked up a suitcase. “I hope so.
” I said instead. “You‟ll go as easy on him as you can. one from Memphis and one from New Orleans. “a truck come in the grounds down at the farm. I tapped on the glass where Larry sat. but the old judge made them stay out in the yard. but so far Father Superior had been subdued in his reactions. Each time I called to make a report.” she smiled back at me.” she said. and bit off a plug. I have a story to write.” I promised him.” “Oh. He fished in his shirt pocket for his tobacco.” “One cup.” “Sorry. he‟s there in the yard „n‟ the driver. He made no response. There were even a couple of television crews. but I was afraid she might think I didn‟t like it and stop. Prior Knowledge . had attracted regional attention. Pinky cranked up and drove him away. I hope. he just said. “I just thought. „Turn „em loose?‟ The man thought he was a janitor „n‟ done it? Took „em six hours t‟catch „em all?” He crawled into his car. “How about some coffee.. Papa. I had clipped out each one and sent them along in weekly reports to Father Superior at Saint Vincent‟s. „What‟ll I do with these chickens?‟ Oscar.Page 240 . found it. I knew our seminary for belated vocations was about to be terminated. *** This time there was a real trial with a jury and spectators and a lot of newspaper people. All right. he said. I wanted to ask her why she called me that.” “Sure. “I‟ll be in tonight to see you. “Our Brother Peter makes a good cup.” I smiled. done with as much restraint as she could muster under the circumstances. “Las‟ week” he said as he began to chew. Faye‟s stories.. I turned to Faye. he said.” I was trying. “Try to keep a lid on it. Yes. truck full a live chickens? Ol‟ Oscar.Pinky looked down at her tolerantly. Columba.
making it as bloody as possible. Homer told us that Larry confessed to the murder but would contend that he had been temporarily insane when he did it. Faye and I exchanged occasional comments as the jury. looking angry rather than embarrassed. Horace. Pinky met me at the door and took me up the stairs to the courtroom. described the deed. He showed no sign of emotion as I told the court about the sneeze. On the second day Larry took the stand. he eyes watering. Mid-1850s. mostly farmers on winter holiday. as Pinky Lemon described the way Charles was murdered and mutilated. waiting for justice. Faye explained southern justice to me. it appeared to me. who was near the table where Larry sat. dressed in an orange jail suit. some anti-Jewish for no reason that I could imagine: all in all a circus atmosphere. kept in line by the lispy little Darlene. some anti-Black. Mississippi was demonstrating once again its Know Nothing heritage. when I called her. Larry‟s mother. Judge Ambrose Potter on the bench: his face red. but I think my explanation went over the heads of the Baptist jury. I explained the difference between a confession and a Confession. It was to be the same team that handled---I use the term loosely---Pith‟s case: Homer for the defense. I came in my civvies so no one would know me.Page 241 .I made my way into the courthouse through a wilderness of protestors. I could tell by their expressions that no one on the jury had the vaguest notion what that meant. the way Larry confessed to me. Larry sat impassively. and I explained monastic and theological jargon to her. all with signs: some anti-Catholic. He took me over and seated me beside Faye. Horace to prosecute. head down. He didn‟t mention the fact that he had earlier sent an innocent man to a mental institution for doing it. was chosen and sworn in. the aspirin. said she would send Larry‟s cousin to be with Prior Knowledge .
I don‟t know. and how what transpired at the Halloween party led him to go to Charles‟s room to set things straight. no. and he was there. He had it in order. in elaborate detail. His otherwise smooth countenance coarsened by a black mustache. And as he testified I became more and more certain that Homer doubted what Larry was saying. “What?” “Did you knock?” “No.him. It was Larry‟s decision to go forward. Prior Knowledge . all the things Charles had done to humiliate him. dispassionately. Larry described how he had come to hate Charles.” “How did you get in?” Homer asked him. the mutilation. That really angered me. then determined. then frightened.” Faye whispered to me. since he said he was in a daze all the time he was in the room. Carlos sat beside Larry at the defense table as we waited for Larry to be called.” “Did you have a key?” “Why..” Larry looked confused.” Then Larry described. the penis.. The eye. I liked her a lot. but I found this unforgivable.. “Once I went through that door... except that I know I found Charles Lichtenstein asleep and killed him. I don‟t really remember what happened.Page 242 .it wasn‟t locked. then sat and stared darkly at him while he testified.” “Then how did you get into his room. Amazing so. the stabbing. Homer advised him not to. “I‟ve got my Pulitzer.” he said firmly. the tongue. “It was unlocked that night.. “It. “Did Charles generally leave his door unlocked?” “I. if as you say you found him sleeping?” “I.” He took a breath.
” Homer said. Prior Knowledge .” Homer prodded.in the bushes.” “Why not?” Larry looked relieved. “The Saint John Cross.. How should I know that?” “You didn‟t take it out of Charles‟s room?” “No.. Yes.“The knife.. How did you get it?” “It was. “which you say you used to kill and mutilate Charles Lichtenstein in a fit of blind passion. Larry was lying. What I did in there was a complete blank until it came back to me three weeks later.” “You found it there?” “Yes. I did.. Oscar Petersen was arrested wearing it the next day. I had no idea why. “Cross?” “This one.there..” “Where?” “There. but his confusion confirmed it.” Very neat. “I don‟t know. How did Oscar get it?” Larry shook his head.just. we‟ve been told it was thrown out into the rose bushes. displaying it for the court to see. Oscar Petersen threw it there. I didn‟t. Now I remember.” Homer said. I thought. It was only when Father Prior made me face the truth that I remembered. “How about the Cross?” Homer said. “how did you get it?” Again Larry was momentarily puzzled. it‟s as I‟ve said before. We‟ve been told that it belonged to Charles. holding it up to show the court.. In his. “This knife..Page 243 . I don‟t really remember much about what happened after I walked through that door. “Well sir.” “Did you see it there?” “No..” That‟s when it dawned on me. the murder weapon. He shook his head.
” He pounded the gavel. I guess not. only that I saw Charles lying there and I used the knife I found in the garden to do those things to him. Faye and I went into a side room to drink coffee. late on the second day. it was over.” the judge barked. “I. “Awright. told us that Larry Diaz was guilty of murder in the first degree.” “Good. “That‟s all the reason we had a trial. sir. “Insane?” the little man said. or it was innocence due to temporary insanity. You could tell by his tone that he thought the second verdict was ridiculous. The red faced old judge made his instructions to the jury as simple as he could: it was either first degree murder.“I still don‟t remember much about the room. All he was askin‟ y‟all t‟say was whether he was crazy. boy. Larry was led off in shackles. Larry knew it. I‟ll see the press in my chambers. You plan to appeal?” Homer scrambled to his feet. In less than an hour came a knock.well.” he howled. Prior Knowledge . “He admitted he done it. “I‟ll give „im 99 years in Killhaven. At long last.. The jury. He looked at Larry. if they ain‟t too many of „em. your honor. who avoided his eyes. looking worried. I knew it.” “Oh. looking confused.Page 244 . Guilty it is. “Wooden do no good no how. That‟s it. Why should we?” The judge turned a deeper shade of scarlet.” It was a lie. we all filed back into the courtroom. “Y‟all don‟ b‟lieve he was insane?” the judge barked at the man. and the foreman of the jury. “Crazy!” “Crazy? No. a plump little man in overalls. wandered out of the room. all of it.. Homer knew it.” The judge shook his hoary white head and turned to Homer. not in this state. Sorry. Can‟t send a preacher boy to the chair.
” I told him.” Faye said.” He came close to me and whispered. following Pinky Lemon. giving me warning of what might happen... “He‟s either lying. not happy. he tried to embrace me.” Pinky led him away. well Father. The cousin. “You will forget. his angry scowl softened just a bit by what Larry said.you know what. what you said before.” he said.” Larry said.” He looked deeply into my eyes. back to a room where Larry Diaz. about my particular friend. “That Barry might be implicated..” he smiled.or he‟s a real psychopath. “I understand. “Cool cucumber.. you know.. Larry introduced us.” “I will. “Happy to.” I bumbled. His cousin stood guard at his side. and the cousin grudgingly shook my hand.” “Oh.” “What?” “. you‟re a saint. “I knew I had to when you told me. it‟s over as far as I‟m concerned. followed him out. “Yes. my own sin.” she continued.. but glad.” Larry said to me. “Telling me that. “It was my own crime. Larry. waited to be taken to prison.Page 245 .” I just hoped to heaven I was doing the right thing.. “Either way. Despite the shackles. Larry.” I sighed.” “That‟s what you‟re going to write?” Prior Knowledge .” “What?” I whispered back.well. I was shrouded in doubt. and I‟m glad finally to set the record straight. “Yes.. “Father. this thing has all the elements of a first class farce. “Good.” I said. “Thank you for all you kindness.Faye and I pushed our way. “please pray for me... still impassive.
and I didn‟t go out to meet him. “Your boys are into sheep. no.“Not in the story. it‟s just that Larry got upset when the farmer told him he was going to slaughter. “What‟s this business about a lamb?” “Lamb? You heard that?” “I‟ve trained my ears. He mentioned a lamb. Even with its smell of death and decay.” “So!” she said with a twinkle.” “Who. “SOME GIRL. to make sure the extreme read end of my anatomy is covered.Page 246 . Faye? She‟s not a girl.for the moment. She‟s a reporter. It would soon be Christmas. no. I watched from my window as he drove away to the west. I don‟t know what I like and don‟t like. there‟s a lamb... that Prior Knowledge .. and I know you aren‟t going to tell me..” “Bovine feces. “No. He didn‟t pay me a visit.. Right now I‟ve got enough to write about..” “GIRL REPORTER THEN. Papa.” “Right now.” “Oh.” I held up my hands as she laughed.” “One of those lambs was special to Larry.” “Oh. But I‟ll do an editorial. Saint Luke‟s was my refuge. I understood why the early monks all headed for the desert. Papa.” she said with a devilish grin. AND YOU LIKE THE GIRL PART. no. “I know you know something I don‟t know. On the way back He spoke up.” She looked at her notes. huh?” “No. I prayed for Larry Diaz.” I was glad when I reached the car and started for the Priory.” I said. “On the farm there by the Priory. I‟ll let you off.” “GIVE YOURSELF TIME.” Larry‟s cousin came out the next day to collect his things and drive his car home.
That night I drank half a bottle of scotch and got my first full night‟s sleep in weeks. Still I remembered the words: I come not to bring peace to the earth.Page 247 . but a sword.he would find peace. Prior Knowledge .
Page 248 . mercifully quiet. sleep late on Christmas morning. Larry had told me she was in bad health.. I wanted to take a nap and then meditate Prior Knowledge . We had no work details and an abbreviated worship schedule. but I felt the need to write her a few words of comfort.m. just not for as long a time. unless they chose to do so. break our fast with a light meal at midnight. when I was licking and sealing the envelop. to fast. and I had to write it four times before it came out more or less the way I wanted it. It was one of the hardest letters I had ever written. to celebrate the Lord‟s birth. At 3:00 in the afternoon.IV Christmas Eve was wonderfully. Muldoon and Frost were too far from home to go. Peter told me that Ophelia was none too happy having to work all day Christmas. so I gave her a $100 holiday bonus. My only advantage was that I felt almost as bad about it as she did. We would have mass at 11:00 p. as I was feeling bold pangs of hunger. my telephone rang. and to keep to our rooms. I spent most of Christmas Eve composing a letter to Larry Diaz‟s mother. Imagine trying to console a woman who one day has a son preparing for the priesthood and the next day learns that he is a murderer. I was sure the cousin had told her the story of the trial. They had access to the larder. during the day. Only three seminarians. each alone. of our dwindling group. The monastic Community decided to observe silence. stayed for the holidays. since in a sense he was my son too. so I knew they weren‟t having to fast with the monks. I saw them out walking. and Barry Lamb had no family. At first I let it ring. and we heard no more complaints. and have a real feast at noon.
Just a little joke.” “Greenville. And you?” “Great. We‟re the Oriental Jews. I was just being sacrilegious. I didn‟t want a call from distant family members or a message that would require urgent attention.” I started to tell her she had succeeded. On the good ole Mississippi. “Noooo. She laughed again. she still has a distinctively oriental laugh. Where all us darkies be livin‟. Papa. not matter how acculturated she may be. got all the scraps swept up.before mass. But what we celebrate most is that you white folks eat a lot of Chinese food on the holidays. She laughed. Papa. I‟m finally through here. huh?” “Yep. I think it‟s in September. On the tenth ring. and I‟m about to leave for Greenville. I picked up.” “Oh! Confucius was born around Christmas?” I asked naively.” “Yes. and we makee de monee. I could picture her on the phone. in Greenville.” I smiled in spite of myself. her face a round ball of pleasure under the short hair. haven‟t you heard?” Prior Knowledge . Just great. “Papa? It‟s Faye.Page 249 .” I said.” “How ya doin‟?” “I‟m well. “I was just calling to wish you a Happy Confucius‟s Day. Home sweet home. I found it charming. Methodists are Christians.” “Come on. trying to be cute. “Does your family. and I was after all a responsible person. No matter how Americanized an Asian woman is. but I thought better of it. celebrate Christmas?” “Of course. Still it might be important. I had to admit I liked being called “Papa.
“Larry Diaz was lying when he said he found it. “God?” “Go on. I think Lichtenstein was already dead. certainly not with the verdict. “I‟ll go farther. “A couple of things.” I heard her take a draw from a cigarette. I wasn‟t sure whether I was asking about her problem with the murder case or her problem with men. Not being able to think of a proper response. she had so far avoided all of those maladies. I think someone else took that knife to Lichtenstein‟s room.. Pity the poor man I marry. but give the weed time. I had observed the effects of “that foul weed” on women: yellow teeth. She was still at it. He actually found it in the room.” My rising spirits drooped.I was shocked into silence. either dead or dying. Papa. I realized it when I went back over my notes. I‟m hard to satisfy. So I believe there was someone there before him. wrinkled skin. I see him more as a carver than a striker. the tongue. an acrid smell. “But the real reason I called is to tell you that I‟m still not satisfied with this murder of yours. that‟s assuming I ever get the nerve or get desperate enough to get married. She went on. “You‟re. tsk” sound.not?” “Nope. Course.. the cock.Page 250 .” “What‟s the problem?” I asked.” Prior Knowledge . I just chuckled tolerantly and made a “tsk. I can see him on the eye. That knife keeps gnawing at me.” “God. She was such a lovely little jewel.” I sighed. at least when he said he found it out in the garden. when old Larry did his mutilation. please. already stabbed anyway.” I said. As young as she was. I hated to see that ruined with tobacco. cutting through my thoughts.
Papa. Sorry also to Prior Knowledge .Page 251 .boyfriend?” “A boyfriend?” I carefully weighed my words.” But of course I was remembering how when I threatened him with Barry Lamb‟s arrest he instantly confessed and how after the trial he asked me to look after Barry. as I said. I knew of course that modern women spoke bluntly and used words the girls of my own generation hardly knew. “Well. “Yes. then did some carving. it‟s still not clear to me. “Am I still making sense?” “Yes. Papa. Her voice had a waver of uncertainty to it. You‟d know that better than I would. I have no idea who he would be willing to go to prison---for all he knew to his death---to protect. maybe to chew him out. He‟s protecting someone. “If so. Then after he found out about the other things he confessed to the whole kit „n‟ caboodle. Oops. Which leads me to my second suspicion.” she resumed. “You hate this.” She sighed. “then I would say he is not the killer. You never grow younger.. found him stabbed. but I had swatted it away. “I moaned. the real killer. Remember all he first mentioned was the eye.” “The only thing is.I blushed. I felt sick. sorry about the phrase.” I mumbled. I think somebody else killed Charles Lichtenstein. I was glad she couldn‟t see me. It did make sense. Still I was shocked. Maybe not all of it. speaking more slowly. Tell me. For me this is a stab in the dark. don‟t you?” “I do. “I wouldn‟t know about that.. She was less sure of herself than she said. “Does what I‟m saying make any sense to you?” she asked. Some of it had been floating around in my own head. I think Larry Diaz came along. only older. Papa. did he have a.
I needed a nap.. though. when the bread is the body and wine the blood of Christ. I was thinking of her chest. Candles are impressive. huddled in the sanctuary.disturb you on a Holy Day.Page 252 . she was rather richly endowed. Chinese food for every meal. I tried not to think of such things.. Papa. and you‟re my Papa Confessor. dripping down the sides of the altar. We are taught that if one of those falls on the ground we are to pop it in our mouth and eat it. and I suddenly felt very lonely. The wafers wouldn‟t be a loss.” “You too.. I‟m always scared I‟ll stumble over something in the darkness and fall on my face and spill the wine and wafers. our remaining seminarians. watching carefully where I stepped. I took my place beside the altar and watched the monks file to their places in the Prior Knowledge . as I led the monks into the darkened chapel.” “Good bye. It occurred to me that I had not written a letter to Santa Clara since I met Faye O‟Shay. I felt I needed to get it. All those American vitamins. and dandruff floated quietly down before my eyes. but they frighten me.” “Don‟t worry. I‟m especially scared of this after the host has been consecrated. I needed to wash my hair.off my chest. but I was disturbed.” I reassured her. The wine. I scratched my head vigorously. Three figures. *** We used candles at the midnight mass. “I‟m glad you called. I needed a shower. well I just would hate to see blood spattered over a part of the carpet. I had noticed. still am.” “Oh. I needed time to think.” She was gone.so to speak. For an Asian girl. Faye. I will. appearing as tiny spots on my spectacles. to force the whole idea of blood out of my mind. “Have a nice Confucius Day..
The only fly in the ointment was that Randy Muldoon was obviously stalking me. but I chose to trust Eric and Bartholomew. Peter had taken his meals to his room. Doubts about him still lingered in my mind. As he passed me. I thought of the homeless people and considered myself one of the fortunate. holding his arms lightly. As far as I knew. who vowed he could not have committed the murder because he was sedated that evening. chanting. Andrew and Martin came next.choir. and it made us feel comfortable. for almost two months. and that made things brighter going out. We all lighted our small candles from the large one on the altar. There was a wood fire in the hearth. but I restrained myself. making sure he didn‟t stumble. The Rose Triplets came by me as fat and pink as little cherubs in a Rubens painting. It took him a good half hour. he gave me a baleful look. Each time I caught a glimpse of him I frowned and turned my back. He walked with a limp. For some perverse reason I wanted to laugh. We marched out. “Not now. Randy. Bartholomew and Eric went by me singing.” Prior Knowledge . but finally he made it to my side. he had not been out. He called my name. “Father. Alexis had taken the host to him. his eyes always on me. He called it again. except for the time I saw him by the mailboxes.. and following them at a distance was Marjon. This was the first mass Marjon had attended since Halloween..Page 253 . and gathered in the lounge for breaking the fast. trying to raise the courage to approach me. their white teeth reflecting candle light. Benjamin and Peter walked on either side of Alexis. Bartholomew his medicine. I ignored him. I got through the mass without mishap. I need. their ebony faces lost in the darkness. Marjon was as thin as a rake.” I said. He followed me as I circulated among the monks.” “Later.
pecan pie.. I‟ll be taking a walk about 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. You have to promise me that.” *** The noon feast on Christmas Day lived up to its name. Despite the chill on the meadows outside. “All right.” “When?” I wanted to tell him never.I hope not. and we gave them a standing ovation. coffee with ice cream in it. “You promise not to spoil what‟s left of my Christmas. but he looked like a wounded dog. then. Later. But different. I didn‟t want to hear it. Randy..” he said..“It‟s about. we luxuriated in the peace that followed the storm.” “I know what it‟s about. and we sat around yakking for almost an hour after we finished eating. and his anxious expression quickened my pulse. Now and then I looked Prior Knowledge . forget it. “Randy. Three o‟clock. so they enjoy food. Father.. so I relented.don‟t. By popular demand Peter and Ophelia came into the dining room as we were finishing.” “Yes.” “I..” I said. The wine served with the main course loosened our tongues. The roast beef and potatoes. After what we had endured.Page 254 . Monks must forego sex. Not before.” “Another tip?” “Sort of. Now and then I caught a glimpse of Randy Muldoon.friend. it all made me glad I was a Benedictine and not a Cistercian.” I sighed.. Father. it felt like springtime in that room.” “So late. “this is about your. disappointed.” “First thing in the morning?” “No..” “Me too.. kind of. salad tossed with every kind of green vegetable.
SURE. but he was waiting for me in the Rose Garden. „You know.” At 2:45 I wrapped up and went out for my walk. “The murder.‟ and when I asked him where to go. and his sad expression gave me pause. and I thought of the shoes.” “The murder.” He gave me a knowing look. “That‟s what this is all about. going early.” The sun seemed to die away.‟ and when I said I didn‟t. Father. I told myself.” he said. He seems to be trustin‟ me to my own devices. I know more about it than I think I do. Randy looked almost as sad as they.” “Oh?” “Yes. Just think. All the bushes were bare in the Christmas breeze. Maybe it was all over. “but not like before.Page 255 . he said. “Yes.” I said evenly. „You know far more than you think you do. “Yes. “So have you gone on?” I asked him as we neared the pond.” “He says I should go on. Father. done with. you do. rubbing his arms to keep warm. He caught up with me as I headed for the meadow. A dark cloud came over us. more and more. „Yes. hoping to avoid Randy.” Prior Knowledge .” he said eagerly. IF THAT‟S WHAT YOU WANT TO BELIEVE. “is over.toward Barry Lamb. “So you have a new message?” I hummed. But I tried to tell myself that maybe Randy‟s Shaker was onto something entirely new and that maybe Faye was barking up the wrong lotus blossom. y‟know. „Go on.‟” “You know more than you think you know about what?” He looked surprised. This time he said. Think more.‟ he said.” “Not now. “SURE. of course. “I started thinkin‟. he said. Father.
do you.” “Okay. He complained about the noise. those orthopedic ones.. and I didn‟t trust my tired old eyes. I don‟t remember who said it.” I said as I knelt to pick up a rock..” Just then a movement. “It‟s. y‟know? They squeaked. “Are you sure it‟s a man?” “Yes.” Randy said. I started to call him back.. only a lot slower..“Shoes?” “The squeaky shoes. I looked up that way and squinted. but he said they felt so good it didn‟t matter.” He stopped me from picking up another rock by taking my arm. and he ran toward the woods. so I just followed along behind him. y‟know..” I said. remember?” “I remember. “There. I got to thinkin‟. but I knew it would be as useless as calling back an excited dog. The day was darkening. But Father. and I remembered that there was one person who had a pair of new shoes. and it sank with a hollow sound.” I said.he hasn‟t worn those shoes since the night Charles Lichtenstein was killed. near the trees. in the hallway that night.. caught my eye. from up near the woods. remember? A man in squeaky shoes...” Randy squinted with me. he topped the fence and reached the edge of the woods before I got half way there.” “Could be just a shadow. With his youthful dexterity and energy..Page 256 . “Well. I threw it into the pond. but someone said they heard squeaky footsteps. “So whose. “No. alarmed. “.” I looked into the ominous darkness of the woods. “What is it?” Randy asked. just as excited as he was.. But I think it was a man. “Want to go in looking?” Prior Knowledge .a man. not really. “See what it was?” I asked as I reached him. He stopped and waited for me.
what Barry Lamb had said that morning we found Charles dead. Below a certain level of ash. I wandered around the Priory grounds until darkness fell. the threat of an attack clawing at our coats. heartbroken. I raked out the Prior Knowledge . Orthopedic Oxfords. Among the things from near the bottom. “tell me more. and he asked me about..” I said when we were safely back near he pond. finding.” “Neither do I. I tried to recall. “Of course. “Well.” We were both afraid. but I had always dismissed my suspicions because Barry was as gentle as. then I was out behind the seminary residence hall. well. He looked crushed. We turned and walked back toward the Priory. The next I knew I was in my room. A strange question: Why do we believe in it. resurrection.” I sighed.Page 257 . Someone had done a burn recently. Resurrection. *** After I had sent Randy off to his room with the assignment to spend four hours in prayerful meditation. Even in winter Mississippi days were long. I found a stick and separated the paper and plastic and metal. as I walked.” he said. poking through the detritus of the burn barrel. “Barry Lamb. Why was death on his mind? Did he know Charles was dead? Did he want reassurance that Charles would live again? Barry‟s name had come to mind several times as I pondered the murder. but I wanted to hear it from him. something like that. emptying out. discarded items were still intact. a lamb. but the fire had reached only halfway down before it went out. although sodden and rotting. rummaging for my flashlight. but no longer wears them?” I knew the answer. Who had a pair of squeaky shoes. overturning.“No..
They were made for people who spent most of the day on their feet. “Miss O‟Shay.Page 258 .” I apologized profusely and told him who I was.” came the voice of a man with a Chinese accent. without having bothered to clean up the mess I had made at the dump site. “Lo?” “Faye? This is Columba.soles and upper scraps of what had been a pair of leather shoes.” Prior Knowledge . I dialed the Greenville number. I dialed the number Faye had given me. and saw a stamp: HERBSCH. buddy. flipped it over.” “Jusah minit. please. I heard voices but no English.” Background noise and music grew louder. When I was finally done with him.” he chuckled.” “She ain‟t here.” “Who is this?” I said. where you oughta be yourself. I thanked him. Back in my room again. I knew that was a speciality brand of orthopedic shoes. “Is Faye there?” “Whoooo? Faye?” “Yes. I could hear glasses clinking and trays of food sliding. he gave me a telephone number in Greenville. “House a Shay. “Night watchman?” “You might say that. “Eagle. people such as Barry Lamb. and I told him I would like that. Someone answered on the first ring.” he piped. such as people who worked in drug stores. Donchu know it‟s Christmas? She‟s at home. “Editor. After several apologies and acceptances. he invited me to drop by for a drink sometime. It rang twenty times before I heard a click and a man‟s voice. and then he apologized to me. I shone my flashlight onto one of the soles.
And I have a couple more reasons. no. I just planted a seed so you‟d think about it. and the noise declined. “That‟s great. Can you hear me?” “Wait!” I heard a door slam shut. other than his connection to Larry Diaz.” “Yes. Papa. We gonna take over the world by havin‟ babbbiiiiiieeeees. and to you too.Page 259 ....at the restaurant?” “Restaurant? Heck no.” I admonished.. We‟re Christians too. “I‟m. I lied to you. “Okay now.” I was looking at the pair of charred soles on my desk. Each one curled up like a dirty smile. Faye. I know. I have a confession to make.” “Oh. I knew you‟d think about it and call me.. I figured you knew more than you admitted.” “I thought so. thank you. to suspect him.” Prior Knowledge . I‟ll come over.” I said uneasily. remember?” “You must have a large family. maybe more than you knew you knew. So who is it?” “One of the seminarians. I did know someone Larry Diaz might be protecting.not sure we should go any further with this. well. “Well. you know us Chinese. I‟m at home.” “You did?” “Yeah.” “No.” “Are you.” “It won‟t be over „til it‟s over. The restaurant closed at five tonight.“Papa! Hi! Melly Clistmas. Papa.” “Well. We‟ve had about all the trauma we can stand.” “You? A confession? Of all people!” “Yes.” “Yes.working..
” She was gone. And I‟m a very sexy chick.” “No!” I blurted.” “Night. Papa. Papa. right?” “You‟re probably right.for confession.Page 260 .. I wondered if I would ever sleep much again.. and once more I felt alone. And not tonight. Wait until I talk with him. You know I said you called me because you knew I wouldn‟t let you rest until we got to the truth? Well. Melly Clistmas. not now. down deep inside. promise?” “Yes. I knew I wouldn‟t sleep much.. I wouldn‟t stop until I got to the bottom of it. that if you got me in on this. You knew. Prior Knowledge ... Tomorrow morning.” “I‟ll leave right now.he‟s on my list.“That‟s why you called me. “Okay.” “And the other reason?” “Because monks sleep alone. not on Christmas. “No.” She laughed. “Great. and I joined her when I realized what I had said. but you meet me in the parking lot at 11:00 tomorrow morning. that was one reason you called me.” “Melly Clistmas..” “Uh.” I said. Faye.
” “Me?” I said innocently. and I was scheming to trap the poor kid into admitting to a hideous crime. full of stories about her little son‟s Christmas. He had not cracked.Page 261 . but not that morning. whatever it was he knew. In doing so I might also free an innocent man. her hands on her broad hips. I felt guilty. It bothered me that a murderer had soiled the wedding dress of the Bride of Christ. I went straight from Morning Prayer to my digs. Yet I was also protecting Mother Church. “What is it?” I said to her. and any other time I would have delighted in listening to tales about a part of life forbidden to me. my calendar said “Barry Lamb.V Beside the 10:00 a. I sneaked down to the kitchen and let Ophelia make me a cup of coffee. skipping breakfast. I needed time to get my thoughts together. his Priest. unappealing as it was. She sensed that something was wrong. his Confessor. as I was more and more convinced Larry Diaz was. but at last she stopped and stood looking at me. to plot my strategy. I grew more and more nervous. slot for December 26. “Tha‟s whut I meant t‟ax you. and that was good. As 10:00 approached. and I would not find it easy to crack him now. It was my duty. Prior Knowledge . and that made her try all the harder to entertain me. He had held his peace all these weeks.” There were no names or notations before that hour.m. I was Barry‟s Prior. She was in a talkative mood. to find the culprit. Barry had a stronger constitution than met the eye. someone he trusted.
son. I know it‟s not quite 10:00.ill?” Prior Knowledge . He looked at his wristwatch. do you?” “Uh huh. waiting for me at my door. “are you.” “Coffee‟s cheap.” “I guess so. realizing for the first time that Ophelia served as my Mother Confessor.” I mumbled. What‟s a matter? You miss y‟breakfas‟.” she said with a laugh. I handed her my cup.. and opened the door..” I waved to her and left.” She laughed again.” I sighed. “You don‟t listen to gossip. “Lots of worries. I was having coffee in the kitchen.” I countered. swallowed hard. You got somethin‟ on your mind. He was milky white. “Come in. Barry was early. Barry looked about the way I felt. and her stomach rolled from side to side. “Thanks a million.” “Well.” “Thanks for the talk too.” I fumbled for my key. “I been hearin‟ „bout that cute little gal from the Eagle.“You. “Can it?” she added suspiciously. ho.” “Now that‟ll cost you. and his face was lined. “Barry. “it can‟t be a woman.” she spouted. Father. “I‟m sorry.” We stumbled around the chairs and desk and at last fell into the proper places.Page 262 . I definitely felt better. He looked alarmed. found it.” “Ho.” I said. and said in a strained voice. “Maybe. you come in here like a man‟s loss „is las‟ friend.” she laughed. feigning pain. He was easily thrown off track. “Maybe not. “Barry.” “Ophelia!” I said.” “No problem.
” He always mumbled. After a few minutes of this.. but I didn‟t worry too much about that. Sometimes in class I had to ask him to repeat himself. and I assumed He could hear. “No. He was not ultimately confessing to me. in fact a bit of illusion. enough to satisfy his need to confess. my way of giving the men a bit of privacy. He repeated the usual dull litany of minor transgressions.” “What?” “You called me Larry. inhibited. But it‟s not because I‟m sick. He made the sign of the cross raggedly. Why?” “You‟ve lost weight. In confession I was not always sure what he said.for I have sinned.” “It‟s Barry.” he was beginning. All I could remember was that they were hesitant. tell me something.. Father. “What sins have you committed?” I said as I turned the side of my face to him. I tried to remember if he had been like that at the beginning of the school term. he was confessing to God.. I crossed my legs and without looking directly at him said in a bland voice: “Larry. I tried to recall his most recent confessions. “.. his eyes haunted by things he did not or could not tell me. I don‟t think so.Page 263 .” “I know it. His forehead and upper lip were usually sweaty.He looked away shyly. father. He wove aimlessly from one side to the other of a very narrow track. I‟ve just not had much appetite. abstracted.” Prior Knowledge .
Father.homosexuals. his big blue eyes wide.. but I mean what‟s likely to happen to him in prison. “Yes. I don‟t remember. “When?” Prior Knowledge .” He didn‟t answer. As I recall it.” “Yes. Father.Larry Diaz. I seem to recall that you had a problem sometime back.” “I feel sorry for Larry. “What.” I waited. “. I waited.” “You have overcome your doubts?” “I guess so. and he looked whiter still. you were concerned about the doctrine of the resurrection.. you know. Father?” I stole a look at him. Then he controlled himself.Page 264 . Father. After a long time he said with a shaky voice.” I shifted my weight and turned toward him.” “I don‟t just mean that he has lost his freedom forever at such a young age.. there are. Sorry.. A real Freudian slip. Father?” “In prison. you were a close friend. as if he had touched an electric wire. Barry? Before you came here. of course. “I don‟t remember that I ever did..I had.” A vein in his temple began to throb.” “Yes... Barry. tell me something.a theological question.” “Why would you have doubts about the resurrection?” “I don‟t!” he blurted. “Have you ever had dealings with people like that. “Yes. I mean?” “Yes.” “I see. with.” “I did.. “Barry.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see him jump. I know I believe in it now. “I‟m sorry. not just that he will never be a priest.” Barry‟s eyes went blank. I believe. Father. I cleared my throat.
some inaccurately used.. Like Larry.life. “Barry.. “Well.” “What. he didn‟t understand it.Page 265 .. he hated them. you know that I grew up in Chicago in the 1920s. Suddenly he was speaking with a cascade of words. He didn‟t invite it.. some hardly intelligible. in prison. these two university students. but he was always a target. He hated it.will. Everyone expected them to be executed.. “Well. “. In the papers for weeks.“All. Father. Of course they got caught. criminology majors of all things.might happen to him?” I looked him in the eyes. but they seemed to unblock a river of memories. you know. in the army. But they were rich. I sighed. here: people always had approached him. and he performed a miracle by getting them life in prison instead of death..” I knew the younger generation was ignorant. Clarence Darrow.” Barry‟s eyes roamed the room. It caused a real sensation. but I couldn‟t tell whether he was frightened or merely intrigued by the tale. he hated the pain they had caused him.. some illogically linked. Prior Knowledge . and they hired the best lawyer in America. he was drained. they decided to kill a young boy.. Did you ever hear of Leopold and Loeb?” “No.. When he finally stopped talking.” The words came hard. in business. At 21 they went up for life terms. when I was drenched with his invective..” I tried to read Barry‟s eyes. almost lifeless.” I said. to kill and get away cleanly.my. “that‟s why I worry about Larry. While I was in school there was a murder. limp. and he didn‟t know why. but all spoken with terrible urgency. just to test out their theory that it was possible to commit the perfect crime. At school.
“In fact. He blinked. you are no long in Confession. and I know who that person was.“Loeb was a homosexual. then stopped. his jaw set. to go and work in a laboratory in Puerto Rico.” I said. worked hard. But he confessed to a crime he didn‟t commit. I blessed him.” Barry tried to speak. His eyes were misty. I stood up. “Yes. but then he nodded. I‟m no longer your Father Confessor. in spite of his personal wishes.” Barry swallowed hard. I had set him Prior Knowledge .” Barry nodded. the person he loved.” “Wait!” I said in a panic. and they ran down his cheeks.Page 266 . “The worst part of it. just a few years ago. “Now. his tears wetting my shoulder. I know he was. Father. doing. “Father. Barry. the way Larry may find himself.” he mumbled. because I led him to believe that if he didn‟t confess. Do you still want to tell me something?” For a moment I thought he had changed his mind.” Big tear drops suddenly appeared in Barry‟s eyes. “I felt all along that he was making a false confession. and he rushed into my arms. He looked confused. But one night in the 1930s someone slit Loeb‟s throat in the shower. Barry. Now I‟m not bound to keep secret what you say. is that I‟m not so sure Larry should even be in prison. I would turn that person in to the police. to protect the person he thought did it. I felt he was protecting someone.” Barry shook his head. “I absolve you of all you have freely confessed. I eased him back from me. read books.” he wailed. that he really didn‟t kill Charles. He started to speak. the person I threatened to accuse. while Loeb got involved with men. Leopold was not. “I was using that person‟s name just to get Larry to tell the truth about what he knew. In prison Leopold kept to himself. Leopold lived and after 30 years was released. “I have to make a confession. Barry.
the devil.own me. Out near the old Shaker graveyard Barry told me he had killed Charles Lichtenstein. “I‟d taken him up to here.like I watched myself do it. He wanted to. “He took me under his wing. Father.” He spat the words out. what happened? “That‟s when I knew I had to do something.” He looked away.from Larry by humiliating him.my soul. but later I sneaked out and went to his. and I felt cheap. he was after.” he said. but I knew better.” I coached him. He didn‟t do it out of love. but he was harmless.. and it was like I was outside myself.. “Let‟s take a walk. The way he protected me. he did it so he could be my guardian. Charles was. but I couldn‟t stop myself. I watched myself take that knife. take away my soul. “I just couldn‟t take it anymore. Larry was silly.up. preparing for still another trial.” he indicated a place just below his chin..” “You couldn‟t stop yourself. I went to my own room.Page 267 . Father.. I watched myself go down the hall and go into his room. like those others. he said he wanted to help me.” “What did you watch yourself do?” “I watched myself leave my room. I saw Randy and Frost in the distance. the way I had set Larry up. “That night.” I said... I knew I had to destroy him or he would destroy me.. Father. Father. my master.. “What did he do?” “He wasn‟t after my body. I watched myself pick up that bloody knife. and I knew I had to act fast. Prior Knowledge .” he readily agreed. out by the edge of the woods.. when you left the party with Charles..” We walked past the cemetery and toward the pond. “I called out to myself.. “He was evil.. “No.
but then he rushed on. Larry may likely end badly someday anyway.” “You‟re sure?” “Yes.” He sounded momentarily uncertain. not a soul. you could just say I‟m a big bag of wind.found it.” “All right.. It was funny that he found what I later used on him.” he said. “what will they do? Will they let Larry out? I mean. can they?” “No.” “Father. “He should be released. Pith carried it away from the party. but I knew Barry needed to believe he was doing the right thing. Go back to your room and pack what you want to take with you. “Charles and me.” He nodded and started to go. “Tell me.” I remembered Faye‟s question about Larry and the knife. we found it while we walked.” he turned to me. That is.” “Yes.. They can‟t keep him now.” I agreed.” “Yes. someone out to get you. “Father.. Eric and Bartholomew saw him throw it away. if you go public with this.. Barry?” Prior Knowledge . He kicked something in the grass and I picked it up. I don‟t know that I would even tell what you have said. How did you come to have it?” “I... for me. I was the one that did it.Page 268 ... Don‟t talk to anyone. Barry. You could keep quiet about it. “You‟re absolutely sure. I didn‟t know what would happen. how did you come to have that knife?” “Knife. The Priory has suffered enough. funny. he lied. “call the law. Remember. All you have to say to me is that you will drop out of the priesthood.we. Even if I told someone.” Barry held up a hand to stop me.and I watched myself make sure he would never steal anyone‟s soul again. into the rose garden.
” “MAYBE NOT INDEED.” I mumbled. Randy raised his hand. I heard voices and saw Muldoon and Frost coming toward me. and he carried himself with a dignity I had not seen in him before. and hurried back toward the Priory. “I‟m guilty. Prior Knowledge . I heard them calling me. Tragically he would never be a priest. As I climbed through the barbed wire fence. but I kept going. A petite figure popped out.Page 269 . pretending not to see. The sun peeked through the clouds. I snagged my cassock and heard a rip. maybe not. He was a strikingly handsome man. “Oh God. It‟s only right. things suddenly seemed not quite so dark and lost. IS IT?” “When did I ever have a day?” “MAYBE THE WORST IS OVER.” “Thanks a lot. just a tad. Larry‟s not.” Faye‟s cherry red Corvair came rapidly up the driveway.” “Maybe.” He walked away toward the dormitory.” he said. but I looked away. Despite the burden I carried.“Yes. when he had some desirable qualities. “Another tear. and a round Chinese face smiled happily.” “NOT YOUR DAY.
” “Diaz didden do it?” “Seems not. Barry Lamb.VI I asked Faye to wait while I went inside and called Pinky.. but he said he would come right out. “I think he‟s had time to think. While we waited for him. We think he took the blame so Lamb could go free. you might say. Padre? Got another killer?” “It looks that way. “See.Page 270 .in love with one another?” Prior Knowledge . When I finished.” I admitted.. is the real one.” Faye put in.. she flipped her pad closed.crush. He sounded weary and leery. Pinky wheeled down into the parking lot and came to a sudden stop.” she said.and now he wants Diaz to go free.” There was a muffled roar.. I thought he had gained weight. he was as thin as ever.” “You mean he‟s. “I just hope I‟ve done the right thing. “What?” He had been joking. I told Faye the story.” “Well.. Pinky. how come this Lam‟ come clean?” I cleared my throat. “You have. a bean pole.. When he opened it so that he could assume his characteristic pose. A cool December breeze ruffled her short black hair.” she smiled. hands on hips. “What is it. She took notes as I talked. looking out his window at me with one eyebrow cocked. As he got out. now he was disturbed. and I looked up to see the squad car coming. Diaz had this. Sheriff. but then I realized I had never seen him in a coat before.they‟re. “Mean they‟s two of „em?” “No.” I said... “This one. on Lamb. “Got it.
to accept her Pulitzer Prize. It was obvious that he was in far over his head.wait... while all the rest was vague. Diaz was alyin‟ „bout all that?” “Apparently. saw what was done. killed him. „bout cutin‟ „im up. but also saw that one good eye staring at him.. I thought Faye was onto something. Let‟s say Diaz happened in. “Right. saw Charles was dead. “It‟s possible. desecrating a dead body. her eyes bright. It just came to me. got spooked. I think he may have stabbed him in the eye.” Faye broke in. “Right. but when Oscar was arrested he kept quiet. Maybe he was really guilty only of. especially how he found the knife..Page 271 . maybe Diaz did do what he said.. As he thought about it. Let‟s say he thought all along Lamb did it.” Faye said. stabbed it out.” I said. “I nodded. He described that in detail.” “Oh my God?” Pinky said. you know.” “No.” Faye said. Only when he thought Lamb was about to be charged did he admit to the killing.” “Yes. She seemed to be thinking aloud. and rolled it into a ball. “So all that hooray. he dug in his ear. stabbed the man in the chest. came out with a big wad of wax. stayed around long enough to make sure he was dead.” “Yeah?” Pinky said.“In a manner of speaking yes. but I felt we had to get the facts straight before we went Prior Knowledge . “But we‟re „bout to release ol‟ Oscar? Now we gotta let this. shaking his head. warming to her thoughts. and I hated to muddy her water. carved him up pretty badly. “Let‟s say Lamb came in. the eye part. I could see her going up to the stage. “Maybe not all Diaz said was a lie.” “So you‟re sayin‟ Diaz was in on it?” Pinky asked her. then left..
penis.” we both agreed. even if it were done later. I wondered if the judicial system of Mississippi and Saint Luke‟s Priory could survive another conviction and release. “So even if the eye came last.” She seemed oblivious to our embarrassment. you know.if „is penis was. eye...Page 272 .” she said.” Faye said. Prior Knowledge . He had the Cross.crime. Did Barry Lamb return and do the rest after Larry left? Or did Larry Diaz do all of the butchering?” Faye thought about it. “Could the coroner be wrong?” “Wrong?” “Because. and cross on the chest. “No. open mouthed.. “But there‟s another thing. feeling my way through the morass. trying to steer away from tongues and penises.. For example.back to court. hard?” “It wouldn‟t have been. Pinky frowned. Pinky just stood there. “Yes. “Only thing is.” “Yes. His fingerprints were on the knife. arguing over some trivial point. would an eye bleed more than a penis?” She was looking for a real juicy story..” I said. “if he were already dead.” I said. “What about Oscar? He was there sometime. the eye might bleed more than the penis and the tongue and certainly more than that superficial cross cut. his were the only ones in fact.” Faye and I sounded like an old married couple. tongue. Faye turned to Pinky.was chest wound.” “Tha‟s why he‟s still up at the state home?” Pinky said.. He said he did. see. “Diaz did it all. “the coroner said the order of the. it might have produced more blood than the penis---and especially more than the tongue---and appeared to be an earlier wound because it bled more. “Guess it depends. but he said he killed the man. Ha!” She had her story.
He would be the kind to remember fingerprints and wipe them off. Oscar saw the mess.” “But Oscar.“He. heard a sound.Page 273 .” Faye agreed. showing some irritation. then Diaz. I don‟t. but then I thought it would be best for them to come.saw a light. searching for inspiration. Diaz did that. hid it under the body. Lamb. “they was three of „em in there. “. you‟re sayin‟. He started to Prior Knowledge . “Let‟s talk with Barry Lamb. “No. had gone. His blue eyes were milky. At first I told them to wait for me. stole the Cross.” Faye said. one at a time?” He flicked the ball of wax into the grass. it was all over.” She looked pleased with herself for the third time.” Faye stared into space. then realized he would be implicated. Barry was sitting on his bed.. “No. wiped the knife. he‟s a known carver?” “I know that. That‟s why the only prints were Oscar‟s..” Faye said. “So. “Let‟s.” Pinky fought his way to the surface of the ocean of theory. “Oscar didden do nothin‟ but steal the Cross?” “And hid the knife under the arm. so he wiped the knife before he left. He saw the mess..” she said. which they did readily.” I said. then we will have t‟let Oscar out? Might even have t‟let that Diaz out?” He shook his head. he came in. No. “You could be right. I remembered how neat his room had been. Barry‟s door was ajar. “Right.” I admitted.. poked the eye. and I pushed it open... “If this new guy done it. a small suitcase on his lap.” “You think Pith would have known to wipe other prints off?” I said.” “He didden do no carvin‟?” “No.
.” Barry turned to Pinky.the mutilations..” he said earnestly. tell me.. I said I did..” “Why?” Pinky said. but I waved him down.” His eyes pleaded with me to believe him.” “But Larry said. when Charles kicked it.” He put his hand to his forehead. It was like a dream. “He was laying there in his cassock. He seemed not to see Faye. I cut him up.. “Barry.” “Tell me. putting my arm around him..” “How did you do it?” “With that knife. but he recognized Pinky by his uniform.... You killed him. Father. “I went into Charles‟s room.evil.” “And. “I. I told you.” “It‟s all right.for me. Only me.did you do it all?” “Father.” I said.” I said softly. “before we go... “You stabbed Charles Lichtenstein in the chest. I found it in the grass. “Because.he was.” “I did.. but I saw myself do it. “But I want the sheriff to hear it. “You don‟t have to.. do it all.” “Larry lied.. “I‟m ready.be sure about this.get up. why are you doing this? Why are you admitting that you killed Charles Lichtenstein?” “„Cause it‟s the true. you know. tell us. The one from the cake. „Cause I did. Barry.” Prior Knowledge .” I said. He didn‟t do nothing.. his voice firmer than it had been before. Me. “Yes. Barry. are you sure you did this?” “Yes... sitting down beside him on the bed. now. I stabbed him. I know you did..Page 274 .” he said.” he said.
“At least from that awful prison.” I said. “So are you. because of what you‟re doing. “Father.” he said. Pith should be able to come home too. and Barry rolled down his window. Faye walked with me toward the Priory. won‟t they?” “I think so. they will let Larry go now. “You‟re doing the right thing. aren‟t they?” “Yes. and looked straight ahead as he was driven away.” I said. opening my office door..Page 275 . Larry lied. huh?” she said. When the car was out of sight. Pinky started to protest it.” “We Chinese know the method. startled to hear her use that name for me.“Let him talk.” He smiled sadly. “Blue. All three of us looked at her.” “I know.” It was a word my mother often used. beginning to rub. but I silenced him with a look. leading her inside. “Because it‟s the truth.” she warned. “I thought so. These men are your little boys.” Faye said. No more of my men were going to jail in a cage. waved. “I know. though..” The four of us walked together to the squad car. Papa.for me. Clumps of monks and seminarians watched from some distances away.” “It‟s enough.” “Good.” she said. leading her down the hall to my digs. “Feelin‟ bad. She came over and stood behind me. I sat heavily in my chair. “I‟ve got to get this story written.” Prior Knowledge . That feels good.” I said. opening the door. “We need to get it iron clad. Papa. “It‟s finished.” I smiled. I closed the door. I helped Barry into the front seat. hands on my shoulders.
but the roads were hazardous for us good guys too.Page 276 . “Saint V‟s.on the lips. I think it might be right for Larry Diaz. Prior Knowledge . *** Mississippi had its first ice storm in a decade that February..” She gave my tight muscles a few more pushes. She sat next to me through the proceedings. glassy streets all four days. She giggled at my confusion. She patted my neck.” she smiled as she came around in front of me. impulsively. “Gotta go.“I just hope there‟s someone left at the seminary when I get through turning people in for murder. just at the time of Barry Lamb‟s trial. I braved the icy. Her hands were surprisingly strong. living just two blocks from the courthouse. and was near Barry throughout his ordeal.” “Gotta clear out the dead wood.” “Yes.” I said. then I touched my lips.” “I‟ve got to get on the phone. He took it well.” She hurried out. and she was always first to arrive and last to leave. passing cars in ditches. and kissed me. Amazing.” “Still lookin‟ out for your boys. I sat there for a long time.” “Don‟t use the word dead.” “Mexico?” “An Abbey way up in the mountains. I hope there are a few Catholics left. It served to hold down the crowds of curious locals and news hounds. “Take care.. I was startled.” She leaned over suddenly. “Take care. Faye had it good. A place in Mexico. A good place to disappear for several decades. using my Yankee savvy.
Horace the prosecutor grew more confused and uncertain as the facts unfolded. This Diaz.” he rasped in an angry voice. the old judge questioned him. He didn‟t know whether Oscar came in later.. “You say you killed this man. His testimony was impressive. “Uh. he said he done it. touched the knife. Diaz. his color rising higher.. and it grew more crimson by the hour and day. but he allowed that it was possible. He told us about finding the knife as he walked with Charles.” Barry agreed.” “You? He lied fer you? He went t‟jail fer you? Is that the way Cath‟lics act?” “Yes.” “That other‟n though. stole the Cross. “Yeah. but I had the feeling he had rehearsed it in his cell. “Larry Diaz.. sir.” “The Mescan!” the old man roared. sir. wiping the blade. sir. “Why‟d he lie?” “For me.” “I know that. Barry helped us all out by making a convincing confession. that he had confessed just to protect a friend. but Homer the defense attorney seemed to grow more sure of himself. “Yes sir.what‟s „s name?” He turned to Horace. He started this trial a face even redder than the one he showed in the previous one.Page 277 . When Homer was through with him.” Prior Knowledge .Old Judge Jerome Potter was obviously irate to be returning to the case. He said adamantly that Larry Diaz had nothing to do with it.. mutilating the body. sir. about stabbing Charles in the chest.” Homer offered.
.” “You.” Larry said. He dressed him in a blue suit and tie. He looked more like a Baptist. pushing him gently away. “Barry. “I did it. It‟s to make sure we‟re right. what‟s going on?” In his prison uniform he looked smaller than I remembered him. The jury took 20 minutes. and me to the familiar waiting room. They listened to Homer‟s plea that they go easy on a preacher boy and gave him 25 years. and there we found Larry Diaz watched over by a prison guard. “Give Homer credit too.” “No.” Larry broke into tears and pulled away from his guard to embrace Barry Lamb.. The jury just said so. “Confessed? To what?” “To killing Charles. moving back.Barry‟s simplicity won the day---and cost him his freedom.” “That may be.” I told her. He made him into a „preacher boy.” Barry said. but.. to find him guilty.” she smoldered.. not in the clerical garb Larry wore.” Faye hissed as we stood up for the judge to exit. “Catholics are getting better press.” Barry said. “I have a surprise for Barry.” I said. most of it drinking coffee. “He‟s whiter than Larry. the way I had arranged it with Pinky.” “What is it?” she said.but why?” “It was the right thing to do.. “What. “They gave Larry Diaz life. “Just wait. puzzled.‟ not a candidate for the priesthood. “You didn‟t have to do that. I‟m guilty enough for us both..Page 278 . Faye.” “Hold on... “I just confessed. Barry.” Prior Knowledge .” Pinky took Barry.
go.” He was gone.. He smiled. Sheriff?” “In about a week. It‟s in Mexico. but take it. Now just shut up. “Strange kind of love. fishing for a Kleenex. Parle espanol.” “They say you can join them. no questions asked. but you still do. I know that now. Just like Christ.” “Larry. “I don‟t know.“You pretended. There he turned back.” Larry looked distressed.” “Si. but Barry held up a hand and moved out of reach. “Larry. I think. given all that‟s happened. “Larry. I doubt I still can.” “You can be my replacement. don‟t give up. You carry on. He moved to embrace Barry again. just to protect me.” she said.” Pinky said. and I noticed she was crying. Pinky took Barry‟s arm and led him to the door. don‟t quit. “Damn it. all I can say to you is. “Yes.” Larry looked into his eyes..” He hesitated. “Pray for me. in the mountains. “I‟ve talked with a monastery.” Barry turned to Pinky. Faye and I left him with his guard and walked together down a long. You tried to sacrifice yourself for me. Prior Knowledge . “Do you cry for all love stories?” I asked her. It may be hard to start.” “Tears stood in Larry‟s eyes. Barry turned to Larry. “I no longer have the vocation. Now you‟re free to follow it.” Barry said.. I‟ll go to jail. Larry buried his face in his hands. but it should get you to Mexico. if you want to. it would be a wise choice. my car‟s at the seminary. It‟s not much. You‟ve got a vocation. Your brother took yours.” she said. You be a priest for me. very remote.” Barry said.” I shouldered in.” “Go. You did all you could. musty hallway.Page 279 . After all. All right. pero. “Is he free to go now. “Larry..
MARTIN LUTHER COON. I opened my arms. “You okay.” “Catch you later. Papa?” “Sure. “Somebody‟ll see us. “You finished?” “Yes. Prior Knowledge .” “Me too.” I can tell the whole story now. You?” “Yes.” It took me the rest of the afternoon to find the right offices and sign petitions for the release into my care of Larry Diaz and Oscar Petersen. I saw Faye coming toward me. Three cold protestors stood across the street holding hand lettered signs: IMPEACH EARL WARREN. “It‟s closer---and more private. Your place or mine?” “Mine. and she came into them. That afternoon a 65 year old latent heterosexual came out of the closet.Page 280 . I need a drink.” “I‟ve got a story to write. Faye and I killed a fifth of scotch and sacrificed a virgin.” she said. Maybe two. They seemed not to care either way. It was nearly dark when I emerged from the overheated court house into frosty air. KEEP AMERICA CHRISTIAN AND THE POPE IN ROME. I explained to the officials that Larry would be leaving for the west and that Oscar would return to live at the Priory.“What kind isn‟t?” She wiped her round little face and looked at me sharply.” I said. “Let „em.” she whispered.
I did not mention Pith because he did not show up on any Priory records. and I had my class to teach. The seminary. spring had arrived in Mississippi.Page 281 . more emotional and physical than spiritual. Griffey the cowboy and Candlemas the Prior Knowledge . if he had heard from Father James. although severely crippled. It was. which I assumed being in love felt like. over two-thirds if I were lucky enough to be relieved at the beginning instead of at the end of the summer. in a telephone conversation. and an old Catholic monk. I hadn‟t seen Faye since the night the trial ended. We had shocked each other and ourselves so much by what happened that we stayed kept our distance. all due to the stress we had known for so long. and with me. I missed her terribly. I had to answer more questions from the prison about Larry and more from the asylum about Pith. and I was sure it was for the best. limped along. Trees came out in bloom. a Methodist who smoked cigarettes. Resurrection.VII By early March. patently ridiculous: a 23 year old Chinese American career girl. I asked him once. Wildflowers poked up amid dark green grasses in the meadow by the pond. when I was over half-way through my year. but I got the distinct impression the seminary would close for good in May. and I hoped she missed me too. Father seemed satisfied with my story. There was more than the usual number of student problems. after all. I had sent a complete report to Father Superior. I felt I had put Charles Lichtenstein to rest at last. and he just snorted. but neither of us called the other. There was fortunately plenty to do to keep my mind occupied. recounting Barry‟s confession and Larry‟s imminent release. Life boldly reasserted itself.
“Those eyes.” he said over and over.” Tears came to his eyes. Father. I didn‟t know what to do.” I said with all the wisdom of bachelorhood. looking up at the ceiling with big brown eyes of his own. She was only 16. Magnolia scented southland. “It‟s not much good being a Catholic if you haven‟t been to church for a decade. and you promise to do it. I have to agree to do it?” “That‟s right. shaking his head. Occasionally as he talked he would lift his peanut butter jar and spit tobacco. Poor Barry Lamb. Either let me tell you what to do.” He spat. “You mean. I‟m finished counseling you. so he had to take care of it. “She was flesh of my flesh. If you don‟t. “I guess I‟m not worthy to be a priest.” He looked stunned. I said to him: “Let me give you a choice. Worse still. the little girl I taught to walk and ride a bike. Still I want the priesthood. to go over and over the sin of taking his daughter to get an abortion. or don‟t come back to me again. I so much want it. they kept asking me what to do. to Kansas and South Dakota. to see what attractions the prairie offered. he can‟t ever be a priest because of what he did. regardless of whether you want to or not. he explained. “Those big brown eyes. I promised myself that someday I would go out that way.Indian were always homesick for the flatlands. I didn‟t know what not to do. You can go find another ear. even if I can get a dispensation for the divorce.” Prior Knowledge . Their trips home for Christmas had only deepened their aversion to the humid.” Realizing finally that he would forever go in a circle.” “You were in a tough position. and the boy wouldn‟t marry her. but I helped take a human life too. Frost came to see me time and again. She wouldn‟t go to her mother.Page 282 . before you tell me.
You promised to do what I said. I packed up Barry Lamb‟s personal effects in three boxes.” he said. so you must do it.” “Yes.” He looked at me. Save a hundred lives for the one you sacrificed.” “You will never resolve this as long as you keep going over and over it. authoritatively. but I thought it was Frost‟s only hope. Don‟t mention it ever again to anyone. *** I kept to a strict diet during Lent and lost ten pounds. after dinner.get. if in the future there were still a Priory and still a seminary. but he was unconvinced.Page 283 .. “Yes. Prior Knowledge . That‟s my final word. We have all sinned. The only solution is to put yourself completely in my hands and do exactly what I say. The trick is to compensate.” “What?” “Remember your promise. I said you are to forget about it. “For. “Agree?” “All right..” he finally said. I spoke slowly. wrote his name on them.. I took a breath. “Forget it ever happened. Then for the first time since he arrived. “Father Columba?” The voice was familiar. a knock came on my door. Father. he smiled. even though they‟re wrong. Irritated at being interrupted during what I called my golden hour.. with daylight now holding on until nearly 6:45. Work like hell to make up for it. the way people think God speaks. He raised his jar and spat. and stored them in a closet. hoping my gruff voice would actually scare him away..” I had never played God before.“But. I growled for him to come in. I hoped a future Prior would give them to a needy seminarian.” he said.. The last day of March.it. There‟s nothing you can do about it now.
” he said.” I said when he came into view.” I said.” I cranked my car and put it nose to nose with Barry‟s. I remember.Page 284 .“Larry. “How are you. Prior Knowledge .” “Do you have jumper cables?” “I‟m a Yankee. Beside it sat a single suitcase. We arranged the cables.. Larry. I got up. threw them in my trunk.” I made him sit down. “Just to visit my mother.. Where I‟m from they‟re as important to a priest as his prayer book and robe. “Thanks. and then eased off to an uneasy purr. I came on the bus. May be hard to start.for Barry‟s car. “Of course I have cables. He looked more 25 than 35. Larry Diaz came to me and embraced me.” he said.when were you released?” “Just today. “I‟m all right. When did you. and we walked out across the grass as the evening cooled and the car warmed. “I came..” he said.” “Yes.” We went down the corridor and out into the twilight. “He sent me these.” He wore sports clothes. his face coloring. It‟s in the lot.” “I saw it.. and on Larry‟s first try he got it started. He held up a set of keys.. Father?” he said sincerely. I took the cables off. “I‟ll only be home for a few days. and I got off my bunions.” I told him. well.” “That‟s good. “I sent the rest of your things home with your cousin..” I teased. “I know. I‟m due in Saltillo the first week in May. let it gain its head. I had never seen him dressed so informally.” “Yes. Barry‟s car was covered with dust.” “It hasn‟t been cranked. Remember he said for me to take it. “You look splendid. He gave it a lot of gas.
He had to force it to move.” “You could stay the night. Father.” “Vaya con Dios. Barry is telling the truth. “No. It‟s a long way. but I know why he did.” “But he did do it. “I‟ll run through a carwash. Oddly.” I stumbled.. though I couldn‟t see anyone. “I mean. I wish to God he hadn‟t done it. Larry impulsively reached out and embraced me. and I felt my stomach turn over. yes.” “No. I did it for him. Well.“Thank you for everything. Father?” “Oh. he said he did. and I would do it again.” “Barry wrote me. except by confessing he has so ennobled himself that I could never take that away from him. at one time. In my eyes he is a saint.” “She said you did. so did you. In spite of myself.” “I guess not. thanks. “I lied. I glanced around to see if anyone were looking.Page 285 .” he said. Larry climbed into the car and shifted into gear. I would never have taken the blame for anyone but him. On the other hand.” “But I didn‟t. didn‟t he?” He looked at me sharply. “You‟re not sure.” He nodded.” “You saved my life. “Better go. I felt eyes on me. Father.” “No. I would love nothing more than to spend my life serving him..” “I wrote your mother.. I did of course take the blame. Father.” We were back to Barry‟s car. He said you explained how you thought he took the blame for me and how you saw he needed to confess.” Prior Knowledge .. Thank you for that too.” he said with a shudder.
It was just enough of a fast to make me feel that I was suffering like Christ. I had mine.He pulled away. It wasn‟t a total fast. “Oh. It rang ten times before I cut it off. I considered my future.when? While Larry and I talked. I went down and found the back door open. I searched around but found no cause for it. God. I examined my conscience. It got stronger as I went into my room. Except for regular services. and slowly it dawned on me.. I sat staring ahead. She was out on a story. She had her life. I made my way back to the Priory. and I had seen it. “Will it never end?” “NOT YET. and slowly it began to wane.” I sighed. I kept to my room. Though I had promised myself I wouldn‟t do it. His taillights lingered on the highway for a long time after his car disappeared into the darkness. I saw no one on Saturday.. had taken the Cross. and I felt a draft. Something was missing. I remembered distinctly. As I walked down the hallway toward my digs. had been in my office. I ate crackers and drank orange juice off and on during the next day. I smelled an acrid odor. feeling eyes still on me.” “Why not?” “YOU HAVE MORE TO LEARN. Someone had been here. like some kind of green vegetable burning. Saint Jean Cross was gone.Page 286 . The odor was stronger in the hall. She was out with a young man.” “I think I‟ve learned enough for one lifetime. I got so hungry fasting and so depressed thinking about how little I had to look forward to that I finally went Prior Knowledge . I jumped to my feet and rushed to the door. I picked up the telephone and dialed Faye‟s number. Let it be. It had been hanging from my lamp for weeks.” *** I began my “fast” on Good Friday night after a light dinner.
for all their shortcomings as monks. of Barry and Charles coming along arm in arm and finding it. the hill. No. and by 3:00. as Barry indicated? If so. without a weapon? Had he gone there for some other reason and just happened on impulse. we sang hymns and recited prayers. I felt a sense of unease. I turned in at 8:00 because I had to rise at 4:00 to lead the sunrise march up the hill by the old Shaker graveyard. It was a glorious morning in Mississippi. now in full bloom. with all the dew. Had Charles really taken the knife to his room. still hungry. sweet air. and five seminarians who had not gone away for the Easter break. Barry never was asked to describe exactly where he and Charles found it. did make the grounds pleasant. had Barry gone to Charles‟s room. too high to walk comfortably after sunset. bells sounded. all of the monks. The Rose Triplets.. and birds. blooming trees. Why were Charles and Barry walking over there? That way led only to the meadow.. Christ rose in our hearts for the Prior Knowledge . the woods.out for a late walk and only made myself hungrier and more depressed.Page 287 . bent on revenge. the way Eric and Bartholomew indicated. We all chanted as we ascended the hill. Had they been to the woods? Possibly. rabbits. Involuntarily I thought of Pith coming out this way and throwing that knife out into the darkness. he said he went there to put an end to evil. even Marjon. Something about the story still didn‟t make sense. I had trouble falling asleep. Logically it would have been over beyond the bushes. and the men came slowly filing out to join me. as the sun rose. Just before 4:00. The sun rose over a valley filled with flowers. Barry indicated something had happened between them that night. I was up. and breathed in the fresh. I went out into the Rose Garden. but the grass over that way was always high. At the top.
.you know.. and it was hard going through the high grass. I hated myself because I knew I wanted to listen. I started down the hill ahead of the men. I picked at the French toast.” I said under my breath. but he kept up with me. I recognized both the voice and the tone. He spoiled my breakfast. far ahead of the others. One by one. his mouth open... At that moment I really hated the kid. I was right. What is it?” I kept walking.the murder. My Easter cheer was gone. I glanced back as I entered the dining room and saw him following me.nineteen hundred and twenty-ninth time. “But.” “But it‟s important.. rounding up stray Prior Knowledge . no. may I talk with you?” “I. Several times I glanced over at Randy.” “No...” “After.” I stopped and looked at him. When I was alone---even Randy had gone out. no. Randy?” “Father.. the men left the dining room. “Oh God. I refused to talk with anyone. It‟s about.suppose.” “No!” I said sharply.. “After my breakfast. Each time he quailed under my gaze but kept looking at me. My heart full. “No. while I sat sipping coffee.breakfast!” I left him. “Father Columba?” I knew before I turned who it was.. two by two. no.my. and hurried on down the hill. presumably to waylay me in the hall---Ophelia floated in. I hated him because of what he wanted to discuss with me. Father... How appropriate that Easter comes in April. step for step. and looked away. “It‟s about.Page 288 . Oh no.” I said. my stomach empty but anticipating a nice big breakfast. scowled.” “Your friend. “Yes.
where indeed he waited.” “About what?” “Charles Lichtenstein.” “What‟s got you so balled up. “I‟m dead.” I said when he was seated. came over to my table and flopped down in a chair. “Bet you think you‟ tongue is jus‟ fer preachin‟ sermons. and she got up and hurried away. “All I know is French toast and French kiss. and took him to my office.Page 289 . It‟s been a long time. All I „member „bout him.” This sent her into a laughing frenzy. and it‟s been growing. I‟ve been thinking.” I gathered by the look she gave me that there was something naughty about it.” “What‟s a French kiss?” She looked at me in amazement.” she said. “So.” She laughed.” Her smile faded. “it‟s not about the Shaker. Her stomach kept her a good yard away from the table‟s edge. He planted a seed.” “Don‟t use that word. but it‟s all right. I doubt I‟ll see him again. Father?” “Just thinking. he usta say French things. I shook myself.” “No.” “What kind of things?” “How I know? I don‟ speak French. “You mean you don‟ know „bout French kissin‟?” “No. as nervous as a cat. I don‟t think I need him now. please. “Whhooooeeee. “Oh.” “Yes. got up and went out into the hallway.” Prior Knowledge .” “Too bad. Father.” “Yes. “You Cath‟lics.dishes.!” She said as she left the room. him.
I‟ve admitted I‟ve been snoopin‟ y‟know.” “You what?” I almost came unglued. Especially in his room. to acknowledge his unworthiness.. He even cries.. Those days just before the Prior Knowledge . Father.” His Gaelic accent was stronger. but when he thinks nobody‟s lookin‟ he lets down.” I had been busy with the murder case and then so busy with Lent that I had not really noticed Sean for a long time. his eyes bright. I snoop. He mumbles to himself.” I said acidly... “And. at services. what you need to know is.. Father. how regimented he‟s always been: the way he did everything right on time and in perfect order.” He rushed on before I could comment.” “I thought it had been solved. “Father.?” I said to Randy.I‟ve read his diary. it‟s all broken down. He holds up in public. Father. He does nothing on time now. I‟ve been given this case. “I do it because I believe..” He bowed his head. He misses meals.Sean O‟Day. Sometimes he pounds his fists together. I think Sean‟s somehow mixed up in it. but then it popped back up. I make it a point.. services. “Randy! How awful!” “I know.Page 290 .” “Where does he do these things?” “Always when he thinks no one can see or hear.. somehow or other. I know. he‟s fallin‟ apart. this murder. “Well.“I keep my eyes and ears open. to solve. I keep notes on what I see and hear. Father. You know how organized. his hair redder than usual.well.. It‟s something you wouldn‟t notice. I took the liberty. Well.. he even forgets to shower.” “Is your room near his?” “No. “I found out a lot though. “I don‟t think so. I realized he had been almost invisible. Now that I thought of it. his journal. in classes.
He nodded curtly. deliberately.” His mouth shrank in size. and now he‟s obsessed with the people accused of the crime. he was obsessed by Charles.” “I don‟t think so.murder.” I said slowly. the man‟s a wreck. “All right. one he can hardly bear. He believed Charles was Evil Incarnate. and he talked of nothing else until Larry was arrested and then about nothing else until Barry was arrested and since it‟s been only about Barry Lamb. he spoke of „treason‟ and wrote that the man had to die. I‟ll talk with him. He says he‟s carryin‟ a heavy burden. In fact. “Then right after the party. was thrown into total confusion by the murder. “we were all thrown into confusion by the murder. We‟re all concerned about the guilty party. so jumbled I could hardly read it. He didn‟t say what was wrong. Father. when Charles humiliated him. He‟s somehow involved. Father. I think he‟s drivin‟ himself crazy on account of guilt. Father.Page 291 .” Prior Knowledge .” “Randy. and when he began to write again it was a total muddle.” “But we haven‟t all gone to pieces.” He stopped and waited for me to speak. wanted him dead.” I drummed my fingers on the desk.” “It can keep. It‟s all he wrote about.” “It can keep until the Holy Day is over. “Don‟t you see. He literally cursed him. Sean was obsessed with Charles Lichtenstein. But the entry that night broke off in the middle. then and for the next several days. day after day.” I gulped. Then there was one about Pith. “You‟re the Prior. I didn‟t. Father. but I know it had to do with the way Charles always made a fool of „im.” “I think it‟s urgent. It was what Barry Lamb had said.
I dialed the number in Greenville. I hate it. yes.” “This poking around in other people‟s lives.” “COMES WITH THE JOB.” “I will. I tried to imagine that voice coming out of a Chinese face.” “Some job.” “Hi. except during Lent.” “Except doctors get paid. I‟m Kaye.. a Gaye. I wondered if there were a Maye.. “Well.” “Is this Papa Columba?” I was floored. looking hurt. Faye O‟Shay‟s sister. “I don‟t like this.” “EXACTLY. a Jaye.” I picked up the telephone and flipped my book to O. “Uh.. is. Prior Knowledge .” “Yes.yes. I don‟t like it one bit.” “Faye? No. “Hello?” She had a southern accent. a little girl answered. All I get are three meals a day.” “DOCTORS AND PRIESTS. a Raye. I was glad to see the last of him.. It‟s not important. How are you.” He backed out the door. I knew she wouldn‟t be at work. All right.Miss O‟Shay there?” “My Mama?” “Faye.” “Who is this?” “Me? I‟m just a friend. nor probably would she be at her Oxford place. Kaye?” Kaye O‟Shay.” “Just remember what I said. Papa. I thought only doctors did that. she‟s at Oxford.“I am. I assumed Methodists observed Easter.Page 292 .” “Oh. On the third ring.
Sheriff?” “Can‟t say on the phone.” Hell. “I was jus‟ „bout t‟call you?” “You were?” “Yeah. Without it we feel naked. I had called Faye to clear my mind. I thought.“I‟m jus‟ fine. his voice odd.” “Please do. Prior Knowledge . Be out in a ha‟f hour. and now it was more cluttered than ever.” “Bye. “Well. I was about to call Faye. I dialed another number. and I sat listening to the dial tone. Papa. Prior?” Pinky said.Page 293 . “Sheriff? You‟re working on Easter. I was surprised when Pinky himself answered the phone.” “Yeah. Without hanging up. hell. hell. The O‟Shay family all knew me. hell.” She hung up. and I‟ll tell her to call you. of course. Could I come out there? Know it‟s a hollyday?” My brain reeled. This is Columba. Did they know about Faye and me? Celibacy to a priest is like clothing. Why? What is it.
Pinky looked with me.” Then something caught my eye. I could tell he was driving more slowly than he usually did. Prior Knowledge .” I said. “What is it?” I said. “Guess so. His clothes were askew. toward the Rose Garden.” “They‟s a big cross carved on “is chest. Sean O‟Day stood on the steps. like Lickensteen?” I felt blood drain from my head. staring wildly at us.. like a spring caterpillar. His hand was cold and clammy. I needed to sit down. I‟m „fraid?” We walked across the lot. “Stay away from me!” “Sean!” I called to him. but I needed to talk some more. His crew cut had grown out. “It‟s about Oscar? Oscar Petersen?” “Yes. and his blond head looked woolly.. “So it‟s over. something he had never done before. He did. He shook my hand. He rolled out of his car and came up to me. “No!” he shouted at us.” “Dead? How? When?” “At the home? „Bout noon? Hung „isse‟f?” “But.VIII The Priory grounds were so quiet that I could hear the whine of Pinky‟s tires out on the highway long before I saw his black and white car turn up our drive. “Not good.Page 294 . He held to the porch rail as though he might fall to his death four feet below. I felt faint. I guessed he brought bad news. I looked toward the seminarians‟ dormitory. When I did see it. What?” “He dead.
In a moment he was on the roof of the chapel. Randy Muldoon. took chase. Sean was quicker. “Sean! Settle down! We‟ll talk!” I called. You didn‟t answer the phone.” I called. seminarians. Tell that man to go away!” The sight of a uniformed officer had apparently unhinged him.” Prior Knowledge . looking at the broken body. “You saw what happened? “I saw it. “Randy. They went dashing across the lawn and through the apple trees. sickening thud of his landing brought life back to our legs and sent us scampering toward him. and Faye O‟Shay.Page 295 . First there were three of us around him. and reached the ladder that led to the bell tower well before Randy did. Ophelia. like a dog after a rabbit. “You‟re here. All I could think was that Sean thought it was his turn. but my voice seemed only to quicken their pace.“Stop! I didn‟t do it. despite his age. Randy of course started up the ladder. Pinky and I stopped where we were and watched Sean fall through the air and land flat on his back on the stone walkway that circled the chapel. go back!” I yelled. “No!” Suddenly he wheeled around. “Stay away. Each time Pinky had appeared someone had been hauled away. He had no more than cleared the first two steps when Sean O‟Day screamed and threw himself out into open space. Sean tore down the stone steps and hit the ground sprinting. get back. at the door. Only the hollow. Behind him. “Kaye called. But it was too late.” I said when I finally realized who it was. “No. and then there were a dozen of us: monks. Muldoon!” Sean screamed. “Randy. no!” I called.” she said. stood Randy Muldoon. He was close to hysteria.
“Yes. It wasn‟t Barry. It was me. Barry just. “Forget what you‟re thinking. I felt he was reading my mind. I did it. I did it. “See. openmouthed. but it caused him pain. I mean..I think I might. “Father?” he said.” The group around us groaned.. well.. spring him from prison. tragic Pieta.” Prior Knowledge .. and there was more blood. as I stooped down and knelt on one knee beside him. to protect me..” He opened his eyes. but mainly me.. Sean‟s eyes blinked open. “How can we be sure of this?” I thought that if he knew he were dying he might be trying to absolve Barry. Sean?? “I killed Charles Lichtenstein.” He coughed and blood ran down his chin. “You?” “Yes. a black Madonna. a blond Christ.. He saw me.die. The rest of us made a circle around them. As we all stared.Ophelia sat down and took Sean‟s head into her lap. “But Sean. “Then Barry lied?” “Yes. as beautiful as the one by Michelangelo. “Yes?” I said. he loved me.” He coughed again. “I wanted you to know. He closed his eyes. I wanted to confess.” He tried to smile. and looked directly into mine.” “You? Not Larry?” “Maybe Larry too. “Father. and let it end.” “Just rest.coming out of the room that night.... Barry was.” I sighed. I was amazed that he was still alive.. It was a beautiful. give him a chance to live.” “No..” I almost swallowed my tongue. “Let Barry go.” he said with great effort..” His voice was weak.Page 296 .. searching for me.
” Homer concurred.” Pinky said. and his mouth fell open slightly.” I turned to Faye. and finally stood up. There was no jury this time. “Yes. “I b‟lieve we did. “You heard?” “Yeah. *** Pinky picked me up and drove me to the courthouse the next Friday. and she let out a frantic cry. twict?” “Yes sir. Dharlene?” “Yeth thir. “You too?” “Got it. “we sent the wrong man up. “You gittin‟ this down. your honor. I looked at Pinky. At last Faye spoke: “How do you explain a man like Sean O‟Day? He runs from the law. “You mean t‟tell me.Page 297 .His eyes closed again. The old judge‟s face was redder than ever.” he rasped. patted his chest.” I said. I made the sign of the cross over Sean.” Prior Knowledge . What do you call all this nonsense?” “You call it love. Pinky radioed for an ambulance.” Her face was stony. no cameras.” Horace agreed. letting the blood run freely. Ophelia felt his life leaving him. no protestors. He takes his own life. The men around us bowed their heads and began to pray. He confesses to a crime to clear a brother. We stood in shocked silence as Easter began to wane. no spectators. Faye had held off reporting the final chapter in our drama until the hearing was over. telling the man on duty there was no rush. The three of us walked toward the parking lot without speaking while the monks and seminarians watched over the body.
He wanted this case over. “Tell me. That part wouldn‟t take him much time in purgatory. Murder would. O‟Day was the man who killed Charles Lichtenstein. The judge had told Homer that he would ask it.” Again I played on his ignorance. looking for a sign of uncertainty. I think he should retire from public life.” I stood up. your honor.” He turned to the stenographer. “Yes. then consulted his notes. Lamb and that Mr.” The judge set his jaw. keep him there. Diaz released and to protect Mr. But I played on Protestant ignorance. “Send out all the paper. Lamb lied to get Mr. They have agreed to take him. eh?” He eyed me. stricter in its regimen. “Awright.Page 298 . I believe that Mr.“Prior. O‟Day was the murderer. Let „im out. “You thought the other two‟s guilty too. Dharlene. we let Lamb go. given what‟s happened. What makes you think O‟Day didn‟t lie?” “Maybe he did. “Yes. The other two knew they would have time and opportunity to make amends. sir. “We have a place in Alaska. his face beet-red.” “You do. only more remote.” I said.” I didn‟t add that as a good Catholic Sean O‟Day expected to have ample time beyond the grave to repent a lie. “It‟s a monastery like this one. he was facing his Maker when he made his confession.” “So?” the judge gargled. what‟ll you do with „im?” I was prepared for the question.” the judge pointed a bony finger my way. I think. Diaz lied to protect Mr. But remember. you tell us the whole story. “Alaska. your honor. “It seems Mr. Lemons. I let him think a monastery could act as a prison. perhaps twenty years. “I honestly believe Mr. O‟Day. huh?” To a Mississippian.” Prior Knowledge . Alaska was like the moon.
Page 299 .” Prior Knowledge . She headed out of town toward the Priory.” “Right. but once we were beyond the last row of antebellum houses. I got that pain ag‟in. “Git outa here. She parked at the crest of the same hill again. Finally she turned to me: “Well.” I agreed. For a long time neither of us spoke.” “I know.” Since I didn‟t have my car---Pinky had brought me---Faye insisted on driving me home.” Faye leaned toward me and whispered: “The biggest pain the judge has isn‟t in his heart.” “You mean. and you weight 98 soaking wet?” “What?” she said.“Yeth thir.” “Yes.” “Gimme one of „em. And us? What about you „n‟ me? Is that over too?” “What do you think?” “I think you think it is. it‟s over. This time it was daylight.” “Why?” she said defiantly. she turned off the main highway and drove up into the hills. and away we went in that death trap. you-all are a pain in the ass?” The judge saw us giggling and pounded his gavel. where back in the fall we parked and looked across the darkening valley.” I said. all a ye. you mean. “I do not weigh 98 pounds.” “You got them heart pills?” “Yeth thir. and it was springtime. “The case.” “I guess so. “Because I‟m not „white‟? Because I‟m only 23? Because I‟m not a Catholic?” “Because I weigh 300 pounds. “It‟s the Catholics. and we got out to walk. Reluctantly I squeezed into her cherry red Corvair. and the valley was bright and green.
“Yes. very old. you‟re doing the same thing to those boys.” she pouted.” We walked back to her car.” “Yes.” “This is how you want it?” “Yes.Page 300 . If we stayed together. “So. you can always remember me as the dear Papa you loved when you were a girl. she said thoughtfully. a cool breeze blowing our hair and clothes. We stood like that for a long time.” “Boys?” Prior Knowledge . and I hugged her. just for a while.” “Tell me why.” she smiled. survived it. I can always remember you as my only real. and never changed. how horrible. “It‟s not. And for the better.” I said. As you grow famous.” “No. We will have memories without grief. and I would be saddled with an angry wife.” “That makes no sense. I would have to give up my vocation. and one day you would be saddled with a decrepit old man. We once lived through a war. Papa. Before she cranked up to go. it does. As I grow old.” “Oh my. you would have to curtail your dreams.” “So we can always love each other. 95?” “I weigh one hundred and five. It will always be beautiful. “But couldn‟t we be lovers... “You know. okay. Slowly we released each other and stood apart.” “No.” I opened my arms.my way. flesh and blood love. “Yes.“Oh.” she said. loved each other.” “Okay. Listen. she moved close. very famous. It‟s over.
“You‟d better come with us.” “I‟m sure that‟s sinful.Page 301 . “That‟s what Sheila Graham called Scott Fitzgerald. Like you and me. “I‟ll do that. we have found Prior James. rubbing his small boxer‟s hands.” “Beloved infidel. “Bartholomew agreed. say. “Name it. and then she smiled. I walked toward my place.“Diaz.” We kissed. trying to read the expressions on their faces.” She looked puzzled. when you‟re tired of that young man you married. when you‟re.. Lamb.” “I guess so.” “On in life.” “All the better.what is it?” “Father. Father.” “Yes. In fact. “I like it.” “I know. It beats a Scarlet A. 45.” I said.” I said. close your eyes and pretend it‟s me. Papa. Bartholomew.” Prior Knowledge . Father. They‟ll be separated. I‟m not sure.. I was almost to them before I realized they were there. Papa. I‟ll pretend it‟s you from the start. you‟ve just told me how to have a normal life. “You look. You‟re sending one off to Mexico. passing the spot where Sean O‟Day died. “You see. and I watched her go out of my life forever.” I whispered. “Eric. I was so preoccupied that I didn‟t see the two black faces waiting at the door for me.” she said... the other off to Alaska. All the more tantalizing.” She dropped me in the parking lot. as you do your duty and make love to him.” “Cagey old devil you are. “One request. and they‟ll always remember each other at their best.” Eric said.
Hosea Candlemas.” Bartholomew said. Up in the meadow.” I said. Found him there. he had taken the Cross. the words hit me like a kick in the groin. beginning to feel more irritated than dumbfounded. the Indian. He went into the woods. not so good.” Eric said. that is. But he looks like death. At first I couldn‟t see him clearly because Hosea Candlemas stood between him and the door and Ophelia was ministering to him with coffee and jam cake.” “Where is he?” “In his. burning vegetables. what I had smelled in the hallway and in my office the night Larry Diaz came by to get Barry Lamb‟s car. When they realized I was there. When I saw James.” I smelled him before I saw him. “Not so good. in your room. everything fell into place: he had been in my office that night. “When was this? Where?” “About noon. I know Hosea. on the hill. “He was on a walk. the night someone stole the Saint Jean Cross.” “Is he alive?” “Oh. You better come and see for yourself. “Hosea did. “You know.IX WE HAVE FOUND PRIOR JAMES.” Eric said. “He‟s alive all right.Page 302 . yes. Father. “You have?” I said stupidly. It was that rank odor.” “Let‟s go. they Prior Knowledge .” “What‟s his condition?” Bartholomew shook his head sadly.” “Yes. As they might say in a pulp fiction short story.
One eye was swollen closed. know he was up there?” “No. Father. and as he did this his ragged robe came open.” Eric said. suspiciously so. suspicion welling up. He was a fair skinned black man.talked with anyone?” I asked. “Just a few words. “Has he. “Father James. trying not to breathe too deeply. “I said softly. and I saw him fully. “Ophelia. but he didn‟t look up at me. his features more European than African. His eyes avoided mine. and I had to fight against retching. His black robe and shoes were torn. His odor almost overwhelmed me.” “Not me. “Me neither. He slouched in his chair.” “You didn‟t know?” “No. Father. “Father James. an El Greco figure.Page 303 .. that‟s what he said. buttonless. laceless. “Did any of you men know about this. tears in her eyes.” they said in unison.” I turned to Eric and Bartholomew. His eyes flickered.” She smiled tenderly. Prior. “I guess so.” I turned to her.” “Since he left here. the kind of person you see in the New Orleans area. his thin arms and legs dangling loosely from his emaciated body. “Because I had a feeling when I arrived that someone knew something.” Hosea said. their eyes big and innocent. and his beard was long and wild.” Bartholomew vowed. I Prior Knowledge . He was caked with dirt.” I said. He turned his head from me. Guess we kept him alive.” I knelt down in front of him. since I came?” “Yes. muddy.moved away. “What did he say?” “Said he‟d been up in the woods there all winter. “I guess this is your prowler..
You were only the instrument. rusty from long disuse.” I couldn‟t think of a response. my home.. amid the muddy gray hairs on his chest. but certain. “This Cross.Page 304 .” “But I didn‟t.” I stopped them.of my humiliation. Around his neck was a gold chain.. “I suppose.” “I. “What is it?” Bartholomew said as he knelt beside me..” I said. Now you will take that as well. The Order. but then it wasn‟t yours. let‟s get him bathed and put to bed.. Finally I stood up.it... My title. I tried to speak: “You.” It felt like a bomb had gone off. “I took it from you because you took everything from me.” “Not you personally.. “I killed the one eyed man. But before they touched him he spoke again.almost sat back onto the floor.. “When you came.. dead. “How did he.” Eric and Bartholomew agreed with me and moved to help him. “What first time?” “The night in his room.took. Everyone in the room jumped back from him and stared in disbelief.. I could have taken it the first time.. was the Saint Jean Cross. He saw it and whistled..my emasculation.” Prior Knowledge .” “You were in his room?” “I killed him. my men. you took everything but my freedom.” His voice was low and breathy.” “Whose room?” “The man with one eye..” His voice came flat. He looked into my eyes. and hanging from it. You plural. “My God. like a man awakened from a long sleep.” He looked away again and refused to respond to further questions..
“But why?” “He saw me. You saw me. but he asked me who I was. just the fear he would tell on you.Page 305 .” “You were there?” “I was in the shadows..” “Four?” “Pithecarius was the first. He carved a cross on the man‟s chest. hung himself. One day in the woods. you killed the man?” “I did. I saw him do it.” The day with Randy Muldoon.” “What?” “Yes.” “I‟m not surprised.” I remembered that they said he carved a cross on his own chest before he committed suicide.” I held up a finger. Prior Knowledge . You met him on the steps..over that. “Then once there were two of you. It was a form of confession. and I knew it was only a matter of time before he told you. how many people have suffered because of you? Four other men.” I blurted.” “When was that?” “As he left the party.” I was seized with a sudden fury. “He was sent to an asylum. You chased after me. you know. “But. I‟ve heard a lot of things. and he came on me. Then I heard him say he had something important to tell you. “Do you know. and now he‟s dead. He wasn‟t a fool. He was going to tell you what you should have known. Sacrilege. I‟ve been in a lot of shadows. He smiled slightly. I started to run. He probably suffered pangs of conscience.” I remembered. then he guessed I was the Prior.” I said. I was asleep. I guess he was finally overcome with guilt. “My ankle still hurts.
“How do you know this?” I whispered. It took only a minute. thinking I would take it to the woods with me.” I held up three fingers.” “But then you watched. I just. stabbed him. Everyone in the room stared wide eyed at this emaciated prophet..” I looked around me.” “Yes. “He never struggled. I picked it up from the grass. So I waited for the dormitory to go quiet.. He knew about me. Pith almost hit me with that knife when he threw it away.here. “I was there. his eye patch and the Cross on a night stand next to him.” He touched his chest. the Latin boy?” “He stabbed him in the eye. “He took his turn too. and he was about to tell. I watched from the closet.” Prior Knowledge . “The Keys to the Kingdom.Page 306 . behind the curtain.” I sighed.. But I killed him before any of them came in. I held him in place until he died.. “I went in and found him asleep. “He jumped from the roof.. “He almost took the man‟s tongue out.” “How did you get in?” I said. Was that because he felt guilty too?” “The soldier. He was clearly insane.. “And Larry Diaz. He smiled and dug deeply into his robe and pulled out a set of pass keys. Then I heard what the one eyed man said to you.” he said and he handed them to me. He smiled at me.” I held up two fingers. It was so easy. with just the night light on.” “Lamb?” “His privates.” James said calmly. and I went to his room.“Sean O‟Day also died because of you.
He may have seen the blond boy leave. He stood there for a long time. and he stayed there. He seemed to know the door was open. and each played his part.” I said.“It was like a stage play.. „Charles?‟ he said. and I hid in the closet. and then he reached down and pulled the knife free and stabbed the man‟s good eye. His shoes squeaked. Another knock. “I could tell by the way each one acted that he was doing it spontaneously. a turn of the knob. It was the boy. I had little more than turned loose of the man when I heard footsteps. with great feeling.” Ophelia moaned. right at the door. He was the one who didn‟t knock. When there was no answer. “And O‟Day?” I prompted.” “Oooohhhhh. Then someone sneezed.” “He was. the knife still in the chest. a strange smile on his face. and then he picked up the knife and went for the man‟s private parts. He must have been a very hated man. he tried to knob.Diaz?” “Yes.” “Yes. One by one they came in. Again no one came. He stared at the body. and the fair boy came in. “He dropped the knife on the bed and got out. and of course it opened. and he let out a cry.” He grew quiet and looked away.” “Diaz knocked. He came right in. I realized this was the first time she had been told any of the details of the murder..Page 307 . “Barry Lamb. Then he saw the body. “That was the sickest one of all. I waited a long time. He cried out too. but oddly no one came. and I was just about to come out and leave when I heard someone else coming. He was stunned by what he Prior Knowledge . sucking his lower lip. I thought someone would hear him and come and I would be caught. as if transfixed.
” James looked at me with cool detachment. then a rattle of the knob.” “And Pith?” “He came last.” I felt angry. “Hosea?” I said. Father. and Ophelia rushed to hold him. over an hour after I came in. “Finally. That‟s why I‟ve given myself up.” He sighed. Then he lifted the man‟s arm.” He laughed gently. “Two men have died.” Tears came to his eyes. He grabbed the knife. He looked the scene over carefully.” I said. “Did anyone suffer who did not deserve it?” “Yes. I was about to go. and left the room. thinking surely no one else would come. rubbed the knife down. dropped it on the bed beside the man. I just wanted to come in and set the record straight before I have to meet God. two others have lost their freedom. put the knife under it. I gave myself up. After he was done. then picked up the knife and carved the cross on the man‟s chest. I got to leave myself. and Pith came in.Page 308 . and got out. “Don‟t you think it‟s appropriate.” “He deserved it. he picked up the corner of the sheet. I‟m dying. He laid his head on her big breasts and sobbed. that I surrendered to an Indian scout?” “You surrendered? He didn‟t capture you?” “Him?” James looked at Hosea and laughed. O‟Day was the most calculating one. “Charles Lichtenstein. Now so do I. I have medical training enough to know the signs. their vocation. The door opened. and butchered the tongue. when I heard a soft rustling at the door. “No. Spending the winter outdoors only aggravated a long standing illness. you see. forced open the man‟s mouth. “You let them all take blame for what you did?” I said. Prior Knowledge .saw but not for long.
” “What about the reporter lady?” I looked to see if he were mocking me. just as Faye had predicted. and we did not speak. “Yes. Pinky Lemon stood for reelection in June that year.” He started to pick up my telephone. coming to my side. Judge Ambrose Potter got so irritated during the next phase of our legal escapade that during a tirade about “all this Catholic folderol” he keeled over with a heart attack. I didn‟t know how much the men knew.” I said. and I respected her freedom.” “Yes. but I guess we better put in another call to Sheriff Lemon. *** Prior James took one more life before he was removed to a Catholic sanitarium in Florida for an “indefinite” stay. Soon I heard that she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was taking a job with the big paper in New Orleans. His opponent got traction out of accusing him of mishandling the “Ole Miss Mess” and of spending taxpayers‟ money on false arrests and unnecessary trials. I didn‟t know until I read it in the Eagle that Horace was Potter‟s son in law and Homer was Horace‟s son in law. He was not mocking. Although no one said so publicly. “I hate to do this. Horace took his place and Homer took Horace‟s job as prosecutor. She had come to respect my vocation. In 1967 Prior Knowledge . 1962. “And an ambulance?” “I think so. Father?” he said. it was also believed that he had caused Judge Potter‟s death and that he was too cozy with the Catholics.“Yes. A week after his burial. and the good people of Oxford in their wisdom turned him out of office. I saw Faye only from a distance at the hearing for Father James. Father.Page 309 .
military base near Haiphong. as I knew he would. the Italian knife. where she sent back front page stories that led to Lyndon Johnson‟s decision not to seek another term as president. I told him to stay put in Alaska for twenty years before he made any move. The message I had longed to receive came in July. “What‟s this?” I said.Page 310 . and Pinky got out. but he was still sheriff until November. I could come home to Saint V‟s.the New York Times sent her to Vietnam.S. The seminary would be closed. Muldoon. He grinned sheepishly as he handed me a box. and I advised against it. As I was packing the old Chevy to leave. the familiar squad car pulled up beside me. Lucas. and the Saint Jean Cross. standing by the mailboxes. we don‟t know who it b‟longs to?” Prior Knowledge . Candlemas. Bad choice of words. He took my advice good naturedly.” one of them said. where she died covering an attack on a U. “Open it?” I raised the top. Terminus. Kopec. “They‟s yores?” he said. Inside were the murder weapon. and Frost were to be reassigned to a small school in North Carolina. He asked me whether he should still try to be ordained some day. that some of the brothers came running. Barry Lamb stopped by the Priory on his way to Alaska. “Mine? “Yeah? Horace says we don‟t need t‟keep the knife „n‟ I don‟t think it oughta be left here? That Cross. “We thought you had been murdered. A new Prior would arrive August first. I let out such a whoop when I read it. and went off on the Greyhound toward the snows of the last frontier. He was a lame duck.
” “Yes. I drove northward slowly and arrived at Saint V‟s on the third day. So much for my walk.Page 311 .” he said. sit down. I turned in my car keys. “Thank you. But no sooner had I dried off than my buzzer sounded and I had to throw on a robe and go down the hall to the telephone. leaving Mississippi behind me forever. “Sit down.. and drove away. but you solved a murder.” Prior Knowledge .. cranked up. He wanted to see me at 7:00. It was only when I got to the highway and looked back to see them still standing in the parking lot that I cried. So I guess it should go back to the government in Quebec. I got there early. make yourself comfortable.” “Yes.” I smiled. Cigar?” I declined.” he said. I longed to take a walk on the freshly watered lawn at sunset.” I stiffened. wearing the Saint Jean Cross. What more could there be? “I am going to ask you to accept another assignment.” “Not only did you get them through their roughest year. got my room assignment. “Which is why I wanted to see you. It was Father Superior. “Marvelous job at Saint Luke‟s. I crossed the border into Tennessee. so I made it as quick as possible. but he was waiting for me.” “Nope? I called up to Kweebek? They never heard of if neither?” The next morning the monks and Ophelia filed past me and wished me well. Columba. “Columba. About noontime. I saw Oxford and the places Faye had shown me through tears.“The Lichtensteins say they don‟t want it.in another place. hot bath. I‟ve always hated farewells. and took a long.” he nodded seriously. please come in. “I solved it five times.
“Do you remember. “He was Korean.“Oh Father. Korean. “He is back home now.” “Yes. Father. a man named Soon Yu-suk?” “Soon I what?” “Father Soon Yu-suk.” David Soon. Father Superior.. at a Priory near Seoul.. “You‟re not going to ask me. I remembered him.. wasn‟t he?” “Yes.Page 312 .” “They need your help. some time back.” He raised an eyebrow. no.” I knew where this was heading.” He smiled again.” Prior Knowledge . Yes.. Small man with perfectly waved black hair. “Who?” He picked up a letter lying on his desk. and he writes that he has a problem. and David‟s letter says that there has been a death at his Priory.” “Actually I am. No.” he said with a tight smile. to go to. You are now a holy sleuth.. no.” Father Superior smiled devilishly. “I just got home. no. Christian name David. I don‟t. feeling blood rush to my face. “A mysterious death.” I said. He was our guest lecturer on Asian religions.” “Oh.” he said simply. “No. “Your success in Mississippi has given you a new expertise.Korea..
He has delivered addresses and papers in the United States. James directs the Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Commonweal. He often appears in a one person show-presentation of industrialistphilanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He is a graduate of Baylor and Florida State Universities and has for many years taught at Western Kentucky University. His creative talents and his unique points of view and insights have also made him a highly sought after speaker. Prior Knowledge . His articles have appeared in such places as Christian Century. In addition to his teaching duties. authoring 22 books and over 60 articles. Throughout his career he has been a prolific writer. and The American Benedictine Review. and other Asian countries. China.About the Author James Baker developed his passion for history and religion while in high school. Italy. Korea.Page 313 . Taiwan. during his days as a Bulldog.
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