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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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Whoever laughed did it out of glee. I found it odd that Prior James had built his cozy nest. and with the headache I had from the wine the night before I felt hostility for the laugher. just as Jesus had 12 disciples. and they almost shook me out of bed. and slowly solidified. One-twothree. looking out my window onto the garden. In the silence that followed I heard laughter. So the bells were just above me. wondering whether my apartment was as pleasant a place as I had thought. and I supposed they had to be loud to summons the monks from their residence hall across the garden and parking lot. I had dreamed that I was leading 12 monks. I was wide awake from the moment they started. I was sitting on the side of the bed. more the laughter of an idiot. stopped before my closed eyes. I had been trying to solve a mystery of some kind. and I knew one of them was a traitor. Malicious? No.Page 37 . They were right above me. and by the time they finally stopped. I had been dreaming. Nine times. Maybe the bells were all part of his scheme. and perhaps small priories need big bells. I could only surmise that he was a bit deaf. my feet on the floor. Then they started again and squared the Trinity three times. Small priories need plush rooms for their priors. right under them. and I struggled to recover the skein of my dreams.IV I woke to bells. a total of 27 strokes. not spite. It all came floating back to me in the wake of the bell‟s cessation. the sound drifting away like exploding soap bubbles. just as he did. someone without the intelligence to be malicious. One-two-three. with all its luxury. One-two-three. waiting for my head to clear. But I knew instinctively that the laughter was connected to the bells. I sat Prior Knowledge . the Blessed Trinity squared. I sat there for a time.
Page 38 . “Will I see Prior James?” I asked him as we went out the kitchen door into the garden. obviously without guile: Peter. Andrew the porter (far too anxious to worm his way into my life). observing them. I pulled on my cassock and went the long way around to the back door of the sanctuary. 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. interested only in the liturgy: Alexis. and Eric already at the altar. Eric. Three were mischievous but probably harmless: the Rose triplets John. Roderick. Bartholomew. Benjamin. and Edward. I shook myself and got up. The monks already there looked surprised to see me. praying. and especially Marjon the whatever he was (self-righteous and probably a megalomaniac). They seemed surprised also when I shared their silent breakfast in the dining room. When I got back to my digs. I found coffee and rolls on a tray sitting outside my door. And three were mysteries: Martin the writer (completely self-absorbed). He handed me a straw hat. One of the twelve was a traitor. Prior James apparently ate breakfast alone---and had room service. I wondered if Prior James skipped the early services. No one was a traitor. by the seaside. analyzing their character. something I found most protective in the Mississippi sunlight. Three of them were simple creatures.with them around a fire. This was insane. It was just a dream. I saw Alexis. Bartholomew. Prior Knowledge . Robert. Three were open and honest. and watched as they ate fish and bread and drank wine. 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.
“I. both pleasant to the eye. smiling serenely. H-E-E-T. a touch of fear. “This is where we sleep. I tried to remember that wonderful miracle powder I had used in Florida and Texas. including the last one.” Andrew rasped.” Andrew said. true to form.wouldn‟t. if ever mounted. There was a touch of hostility in it. I knew.. Father. Father. “These are our priors. I wondered if after all this time they still made it and if I could find it in Oxford..m. We crossed the central garden. not much past 8:00 a. both Georgian brick structures. wildly alive with the Rose Triplets‟ work. the sun was bright and hot. and I was pleased to find it air-conditioned.know. Sweat rolled down my neck. They were large pictures. We first went into the Monkery. The first four were made with black and white film.. “He left during the night. Three of the faces were white.. that I would soon have a rash. Prior Knowledge . so it was easy to read the faces. I looked them over. the earliest near the door.” Andrew said. balance the score racially. Mine would. noting that the same two priory cars I had noted when I arrived still stood in the parking lot next to mine. four were black.. Already. both still sturdy and ready to last a second century. They were approximately the same size. pointing with a bony finger to a line of photographs on the wall of the vestibule. the more recent ones down the wall.” Andrew rasped. three by two feet. His voice sounded even worse in the morning than the day before. “The other building is for the seminarians.“No. and approached one of the Shaker buildings being used as a monastic dormitory.Page 39 . There were seven.” “How did he go?” I asked. his smile not nearly as simple as his words.” I went through both of them with him. I seemed to recall. Prior James.
He speaks fluent French. Father. his chin raised in a regal bearing. some days ago.Louisiana. I found Alexis. I said. wearing horn rimmed glasses. Father. “Yes. I guess I lingered longer over his picture than Andrew wanted me to. “Shall I show you our cells now. When did he vacate my.. “What.the last three done in sepia.” “Tell me about Prior James. Baton Rouge. did he seem unhappy about giving up his work here... I suppose he would. Father?” Andrew‟s eyes switched from side to side.” “Why do you think he left this morning without meeting me?” “Perhaps he found it embarrassing. All of them did until Prior James. about going to Pennsylvania?” “Oh.Page 40 . more like an African archbishop than prior of an humble Mississippi House of Benedict. perhaps. “Tell me. Father. the dates already fixed. I looked closely at James. He had aged precipitously in ten or so years since then. As we moved away from the pictures. Father?” he said. I wouldn‟t know.” I nodded. The legend said he had been prior from 1941 to 1950.” I said.” I agreed. He sat erect and proud for his photograph.” “Yes. “What do you want to know?” “He is from.” “Where was he staying after that?” Prior Knowledge .. Jacques Boulanger.” “Yes. “Why are the photos here? Did the prior once live in this building?” “Oh yes. I believe. He was the one who had the apartment put in over by the chapel.the apartment?” “Oh. prior from 1955 to 1961. His name was Jacques until he was given James. the way a cow‟s tail swats flies. We had plenty of time to freshen up for you.” “Yes.
“I‟m not really sure. seeing how each monk lived. as a family you see.” The monks were apparently all out doing monastic chores.” “Yes. I‟m just curious.” Benedictines say.” “I see. They lived in the same house. Bartholomew has his barber shop in there and through that way is our laundry. Father. ask around about these matters. and I winked at him. “The Shakers used this first level for cooking and eating. See what you can find out.” I said. “We use the right one for going up. Father.” He looked uneasy. It was quite a revelation. They never allowed men and women to share stairs. it‟s to pay our respects to the Shakers. There is a guest room in the seminarians‟ dormitory.” Andrew quickly stopped me. Brother. Father. It‟s no great thing. Lavora. The left one is for coming down. “Yes.Page 41 . “Just a nosy old man. but to honor them we still consider the stairs different. You see. using different stairwells.” he explained as he led me to the center of the large vestibule. Prior Knowledge .” “Does it matter?” I asked. “Praise and Work.” “Well. show me the monks‟ cells.” “We must go upstairs. But then he often took meals in his rooms.” I said as I started toward the stairway on the left. I‟ve always believed that you don‟t need rules other than the Rule. Father. Andrew seemed not the least embarrassed about opening doors to let me see them. No one told me. “No. I must admit I don‟t like persnickety rules. We go up on the right and down on the left. adding to what I had read in the files and what I had already observed. “Ora.” “Did he continue to eat with you?” “No. Father. We have removed the partition that kept them apart. There‟s also a small prayer room. but they kept to different sides. “Now. Maybe there. it matters.” We peeked into each room.
like a sword about to fall. notes. all eventually coming to look and sound and even smell alike. you accept it as part of your work. and papers. 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. Monks are at heart eternal boys. turned back at the top to show that there were no sheets. competed for space under the edge of his unmade bed. living together in the atmosphere of a summer camp. His book shelves were cluttered with books. The man obviously wanted to live as an ascetic---and he wanted others to know it. It‟s like the smell of a stable or a gymnasium. 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. but you don‟t lap it up. His walls were covered with pictures. Marjon‟s room was entirely different. My last room. all yellowed with age. some of family members long dead. all of them down at the heels. A single crucifix hung above his bed. not a single spare set of clothing. His closet was stuffed with an equal measure of work clothes and robes. would probably look like this one day. The smell is not particularly offensive. You recognize it. It was virtually bare. some religious. The bed was covered with a brown quilt. always riding ponies. Not a book. The whole building had the smell of men. Prior Knowledge .Alexis. It was the room of an old man. always working out in the gym. the quality of burlap. but it does warn you not to breathe too deeply. It all made me want to cry. most of them frayed at the cuffs. wherever I ended up. Peter‟s large empty pajamas lay like a discarded carcass across his bed. never growing up into a heterosexual world.Page 42 . Martin‟s room was crammed with paperback books and a snowfall of papers. Several pairs of old shoes. for example. not a picture. turned in odd directions. a familiar smell to me.
“Excellent work. The Prior Knowledge . is that it?” I joked “Yes. “Twelve of them will be here this year. “Who oversees all this cleaning?” “I do. and surveyed the rooms.” Andrew explained as we climbed the steps to the main level. laughing lightly as we went out.” I stopped and looked at him.” he said shyly.” “All that is possible.” “One for each monk to keep watch over.” “No.” he rasped as we descended the women‟s stairs. fresh towels and washcloths lying on each one. out through the vestibule. We climbed the right stairs.At last we went down the women‟s stairway. “Of course. They were all immaculately clean. “The seminarians live over here.Page 43 . Father. “You‟re joking. the men‟s stairway. The ghosts have accepted us. Some have left because of them. “Commendable.” Andrew said seriously. There was a laundry room. and across a small expanse of grass to the other residence hall. clean sheets on the carefully made beds. there‟s nothing we can do about the ghosts.” I complimented him. Father. “It looks like you‟ve done everything to make the newcomers comfortable.” I said.” Andrew said seriously. The monks don‟t have to deal with it. At each end of the hallway a bathroom sparkled. We‟ve been here a long time. with freshly painted walls. “They can be quite a headache for the students. but here instead of a barber shop and prayer room there were a book shop and library. “Ghosts?” I said. We went inside and found the same arrangement as in the other building. “What ghosts?” “Shakers.
” “Yes.Page 44 . You only hear sounds and see things in this building---and up there.” “Oh. “That‟s Pith. The farmer who bought up all this property when the Shakers left. Father. Lights and moans and sometimes what sounds like singing and dancing. Father. and we make the returning ones promise not to mention it. service of Nones began to peal. We just hope the word doesn‟t get out. and these he kept only to store hay. but some of the monks have. and when he stopped after the 27th ring he gave one more ejaculatory whoop and disappeared down into the tower‟s cavity.” “Graveyard? Shaker graveyard?” “Yes.” he rasped. we couldn‟t pay the bills. and he was laughing with glee. I looked toward the bell tower and saw a lone figure pulling the rope. some distance away from them. but we know where it was by the strange sounds and lights at night. but within days after they arrive they‟re complaining about it. He looked like he was making love to the bells. and a lot of seminarians. Even at that distance he look on his face made my heart beat faster. We never tell the new ones. he tore down all but these two buildings. where the graveyard used to be. Just then the bells for the 11:00 a. “Who on earth is that?” I asked Andrew.seminarians are transients. If we lost our seminarians.” He gave a slight shiver at the thought. I‟ve never seen or heard it myself. the bells were loud. He was as thin as a scarecrow and dressed in tattered black robes.m. He took off all the gravestones and planted crops on the grave sites. We would have to close up and go to other places. “Pith?” Prior Knowledge . Even outside.
I just want to smell the flowers. He comes to the kitchen door for his meals. His name is fitting because it‟s similar to what‟s in his head. “You go along. DON‟T YOU THINK?” “Fitting? What‟s fitting?” “A FOOL TO RING THE BELLS FOR A COMMUNITY OF FOOLS. He‟s got no family. and the gives the right number of rings. He can barely make himself understood when he speaks. But he has a perfect sense of time. “FITTING.” “Is he a monk?” “Oh no.” I said. it seems. I look all around.” “Yes. As I sniffed the pleasant fragrances. He lives here with us.Page 45 . He pointed to the open field where cows grazed.” He trotted away. Near the woods stood a forlorn building which they used as a barn. THEY CALL YOU GOD‟S FOOLS.” “So we‟re fools. and he can count perfectly. We give him food and old robes to wear and let him sleep in the barn. I‟ll be there in a minute. are we? Is that what You think of us?” “THAT‟S WHAT THE WORLD THINKS. I have to get ready.“Pithecarius. I heard the mad laughter again. each different according to the color. in a manner of speaking. They are beautiful. Father. It‟s odd. “He rings the bells for us. “Now if you will excuse me.” “Of course. but I could not long see the idiot. “Amazing. “He rings the bells on time. and I turned to the roses.” Prior Knowledge . He can‟t read.” “Oh yes. he‟s an imbecile.
“Well.in church now?” “Oh. none too compassionately...” the voice said. if you will.” He sighed. Brother?” I said impatiently. “I‟m worried.” He sobbed suddenly.” I stopped and faced him. you see. “Father? Sorry if I startled you. Father. coming from behind a patch of flowering bushes.. hoping he would either not follow me or that I could cut the conversation short as we arrived at the service. “Just to talk with you a moment.” Prior Knowledge .. which of course it was.colored. as if it were slime... I‟m an orphan.” I let the flattery slide down and off of me. the bony arms outlined under the shiny gabardine.“Father.” It was a different voice. wonderful.I‟m not! Father.. Father Prior.. to glean a bit of wisdom from your many years of experience in the work of God. there‟s ample time. The adoption agency place me with.” I said to the bush..Page 46 .” “What about?” “I know we are called to suffer. the transparent hands clasped in prayerful reverence. what I seek. “But I‟m not.. “But this kind of suffering.” He said it as though the world would wait for him. and I nearly jumped out of my skin.. “What do you want?” I said. you must believe me. Father. it‟s what I want. “Startled? You nearly scared me to death. “What is it. “Shouldn‟t you be. Marjon came slowly out into the open and stood there like a devotee to the Sacred Heart: the sickly smile. I never knew my real parents.black people. Fine.. “What is it then?” I said as I began walking toward the chapel.
” I said.. when I entered the Church. “I found it hard to give up all hope of marriage.” I looked around to see that other monks were also moving slowly across the landscape toward the chapel.” “Yes. the Liturgy. “I did it gladly.” he finished his sentence.. Father. “Then I realized that just being a Catholic wasn‟t enough. Their proximity made me feel slightly safer.. Father.. descended from fair people from the bogs of western Ireland.” “Peanut butter. in order to give up everything for God.” he said with contempt. “Those people were Baptists.. to my admittedly unprofessional eye. but his hair had tight curls. all hope of a nice home and earthly possessions. I suffered for the true faith. I lived all alone for many months. and he Prior Knowledge .I nodded.” “Yes. but as a monk I found consolations: the Blessed Virgin. trying to do something to snap him back into reality. Father. but I felt uneasy. Then his eyes cleared.. I left those people. Having never been uncertain about my own race. I wanted nothing more to do with that false religion.” Out of habit I sounded like we were sitting in a confessional booth rather than walking toward the chapel in open view. “.the Word of God. and there was something about his eyes that had. I found it hard to understand his anguish. That‟s why I became a monk. appearing not to have heard my little witticism.converted. not compared with the saints.” I didn‟t know where this was leading. I was not suffering enough. that sad race.Page 47 . He was fair skinned.” “I understand. an African look. I needed to suffer more. “When I was.
” Prior Knowledge . the lies they tell. “YOU OR HIM?” “Both of us.” I said. shivering with delight. “I see it now. and I think he would have kissed it had I not taken it back. overcoming the natural curiosity that would have made me ask what exactly he meant by their lies. that I cannot and will not take.” I murmured. He took my hand. Father. “What a fool.” “Oh yes. but for this there is none.” He stared at me.” I said. “Don‟t you see? That is the very suffering you have always sought. And as they say.” I left him standing in a pool of sunlight and hurried through the chapel door. It‟s God‟s gift: to suffer false accusations. “But what they say about me. hoping he wouldn‟t follow me. and I felt safe.Page 48 . Maybe God has given it to you as a blessing. “Thank you.” “YOU PROMISED TO PRAY FOR HIM. Father.” We were at the chapel door. “Brother Marjon. He has given me a burden that I could not possibly bear without him.” he said. “Thank you.stared at me with a ferocious look of defiance. You have consolation for all the other suffering. I commend him to You.” “I will pray that he gives you many more. lots of luck. His frown slowly melted.
with its dozen monks. I felt relieved. that I had so dreaded the assignment. doing this job. the wild laughter from the rooftop. the volume of the bells.V By my second Monday at Saint Luke‟s. after several short tours of administrative duty. and they seemed to like and respect me. and I begged off it when I could. I felt I was pretty well in sync with life there. a week and a half into its routine. I called it administrivia. I liked most of the men and tolerated the others. I was feeling guilty. It was gratifying. Saint Luke‟s. Now for some reason I was happy once again to be needed. quicker. But after ten or so days on the job. even if it meant being a prior. in a way. and led the services from my stall in the choir. was a scampering rabbit compared to Saint Vincent‟s. for a year. more or less adjusted to the peculiarities of the monks. Saint Luke‟s pulse was lighter. when at age 60 I was allowed to “retire” to teaching history at Saint V‟s. more erratic that the pulse at Saint Vincent‟s: the way a small animal‟s is lighter. Not that I wouldn‟t gladly have packed and gone back to Pennsylvania. All those years when I was young and had no doubts about my worth or skills I had despised administration.Page 49 . human nature. which were always precisely on time. Prior Knowledge . Funny thing. and I ate with them and served as their confessor. It wasn‟t as bad as I had anticipated. but I felt now that I could stand being in Mississippi. with its 103 monks. in fact. quicker. I followed the bells. I felt steady on my feet and comfortable with my responsibilities. more erratic than that of a large one. to prove to myself and others that at 65 I could still be efficient and useful to the Order. a lumbering buffalo.
It concerns Prior Father James..he‟s not still there?” “No. He hasn‟t arrived. “I‟m calling. I wanted to be alone. Are you learning the ropes at Saint Luke‟s? Finding life in the Delta acceptable. and the monks seemed to believe that he left the morning after I arrived. You two didn‟t confer?” “No. He didn‟t meet me. I never saw him. I may gain weight having Ophelia..... I needed to think about the call that had come through from Saint Vincent‟s the night before. the way news reports from abroad sounded during the war. his usual forced bark.. on a somewhat delicate matter.” I said. are you?” I could hear him take in a breath of smoke and release it. but I thanked him and told him to stay where he was. is that you?” Father Superior said.” He laughed. well. after Morning Prayer and breakfast--even the coffee at Saint Luke‟s was good.we just wondered if you knew. “No major problems. “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. “And you?” “Yes. “Columba. “I‟m well.On my eleventh morning there. thank you.” I shook my head..” “Oh? I‟ve been wondering how he‟s. thanks to Ophelia‟s skill---she had grown up close enough to Louisiana to know about chicory---I set out for a long walk.” I said. “Do you know where he is?” The question threw me for a moment. Father. He then went straight to business. “I should have found myself a black woman to cook for me years ago.. “No. Andrew called out to offer his guidance. at Saint V‟s?” “No.” Prior Knowledge . yes. “do you mean he‟s not there with you.Page 50 .” “You say he didn‟t meet you.
let me know if he shows up or calls. “He asked for a couple of days off. He hasn‟t been there. I had been reading. Then he seemed to accept my orders.” “Odd.” I was now trudging up the grassy knoll to which Brother Andrew had told me the Shakers buried their dead. anyway. which was bisected by a barbed wire fence. from 1813 to 1922. Later he changed from rebellion to petition. despite years of corn production. In fact. They had been here at this place for 109 years..” Father went on.Page 51 . well I‟m concerned. where there were reports of noises and eerie lights at night. about the Shakers. and they must have buried quite a number of people during that time. he seemed reconciled to my will. He wasn‟t happy leaving Saint Luke‟s. “Very concerned. an extensive stand of woods crept over a hill. It‟s not that far on down from Saint Luke‟s to Lafayette. climbing a stile and stepping into a meadow. Beyond the open field. on the other road. I could see.” “Yes.” “Sure will. Well.“Yes.disappear. odd. He literally begged me to let him stay. in books for the monastic library. I said he could if he relinquished his priorship and became a simple monk. but that he refused to do.” Prior Knowledge .. It belonged to someone who lived through the woods. at first he said he wouldn‟t go. I never thought he would just. I looked around the square plot for a time and then circled back toward the priory. But when a week passed and he didn‟t show up here I called his home. Neither the meadow beyond the barbed wire fence nor the woods was priory land. wouldn‟t come here. I assumed he wanted to visit his mother and grandmother in Louisiana. beyond the hill. I thought we had it all settled. the vague square outline of the cemetery.
mellow odor of cow flop. green eyes. fearful of the future. I really hate it when someone holds a grudge against me.” When I feel burdened I always say a prayer to Claire. since he was 18. when I did a report on her for my art history class. I see her as a mature young woman.Page 52 . 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. “Santa Clara. Please give me the grace and knowledge to handle my own insecurities and if possible to help Father James overcome his. Saint Francis‟ girlfriend is my closest confidant. and I stopped there and stood looking into its milky water. worldly wise but sensitive. I am sad.” There. where he was able to take his meals in his private apartments so plushly apportioned. Poor guy. What else could he do? How could he feed himself? He surely didn‟t have much money saved.” I said softly. “Although I do not feel guilty because I am not the cause of James‟ wandering. She became more important to me after my Mom died. all girls. A cloud passed before the Prior Knowledge .There was a pond in the middle of the meadow. But as quickly as my spirits rose they fell again. He probably would not come to me for help because he feels I am his supplanter. uncertain.. I surmised that as a black man in the deep south. I felt better. he needed to prove his worth and that to be “demoted” was an affront to his dignity. where he was the great authority. if any. I felt sorry for Father James. it must have been a blow. with light brown hair. But to disappear. smelling the rich. “I‟m sure he is hurt. I began talking with her when I was in Catholic school. She is the kind of woman who would bake fresh bread and have lots of babies. I share his pain. It always helps to tell Claire. feeling the warm breeze on my neck. to be stripped of his tiny kingdom.
call it God Winks. and a chubby kid carrying a small bag crossed the road. no.. under one of the trees.. I had the feeling He grinned and winked. Hawks. and finding a dead one makes me sad. and followed the fence until it crossed back into priory land. and my mind grew dark with worry. a small Chevy sedan from CALIFORNIA. Hanks. I came across a dead Bluebird. Frost. “Oh my. trying not to act too curious..” “You know do You? Then why don‟t You keep it from happening?” He didn‟t reply. so beautiful. It lay on its side.” I sighed. Big red ants swarmed over it. Tags said they were from different states: a Ford pickup from KANSAS. a black Buick with plastic horns on the hood from TEXAS. But along the fence. I walked among them.. eyes open.Page 53 . I SEE THE FALL OF EVERY SPARROW. every muscle taut. so free. three new ones.. I tried to recall the names of the seminarians that would fit each car. From CALIFORNIA. so melodic. The number of cars in the parking lot had doubled since I had left an hour earlier. I Prior Knowledge . I thought I would take this walk every morning. toes drawn up into knots. The start of classes was a week away. It was an idyllic scene. YOU REMEMBER. They were early birds. letting nature take its course. I left the bird to be devoured by the ants.sun. I‟ve always thought I should write a book on Divine Unconcern. As I walked toward the chapel a Greyhound bus stopped out on the highway. Cows grazed on the hillside to my right. “I KNOW. From KANSAS it would be.. From TEXAS. Now there were six. 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. Birds are my favorite creatures.Griffey.
They shook the plumbing. sizing up the monks. with tiny beady eyes and a somewhat misshapen head. but I pretended not to notice. His chin looked like it had only recently been scrubbed clean of tobacco juice. I calculated that if the idiot continued to ring them that way. and he looked it. quietly talking to each other..guessed that was Lucas. The seminarians did not attend Sext. Just looking at him gave me the willies. a cowboy his file said. he had been a mortician for fourteen years. the whole building would collapse.Page 54 . He looked like he had just emerged from a CREEP magazine. Hanks was 41. As they looked at me and made their comments. 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. and while I bathed the bells for Sext began to ring. He was not a second Prior Knowledge . glancing furtively about them. The policy. He hailed from Dodge City. for nineteen years. I had been told. every hour. since Andrew was also missing.. Lucas was the fat kid. He was short. was that monks and seminarians were to sit separately at meals. from Indiana. I assumed they were still moving into their rooms. looking new and a bit frightened. sitting together. a cow. The four sat at one of the three tables reserved for them. had graying blond hair. stocky. too young really to be in this seminary for belated vocations.well yes. I went to my room for a quick shower. Tall and thin. He was only 26. But all four of them were at lunch. so I moved on as quickly as possible. I was looking at the files I had brought with me. Griffey was 38. because he was the only one coming who weighed over 200 pounds. the place we all thought we knew from watching Gunsmoke on Saturday nights. and chewed like. I seemed to excite the most interest.
The gray haired man was Frost. unless the rules were changed. I was willing to bet. where a priest was dealing with unusual people who might misrepresent what had been said and done. and Rome was and is extremely slow. omitting every third one. Still. They presented widely different problems and challenges. His wife had remarried. the father of three daughters. he was paying his own way because no bishop would sponsor him. He had spoken for many years mainly to horses and cows. it was better to be safe than sorry. His uncle had brought him down personally during the summer to assure his acceptance. but neither James before me nor I was willing to tell him he couldn‟t study with us.career man.Page 55 . he would never be a priest. a former animal doctor from California. I didn‟t tell them I was doing this. 47. and I will only reproduce snatches of their conversations. According to his file. He spoke in monosyllables. No bishop would ordain him either. After lunch I met each one in my study. Griffey sat down and hooked one booted leg across the arm of his chair. using only enough sounds to communicate---for the most part. all three daughters were out of college and on their own. unless you counted being a physical trainer for the Notre Dame football team a career. He would have to appeal to Rome. I can do this with some accuracy because I taped each interview. Likely he would end up being a Lay Reader. and I didn‟t think they would be. thus his knowledge of the buildings and grounds. since they had not passed any real ecclesiastical scrutiny. Divorced. but the practice had proven beneficial in other times and places. 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. Prior Knowledge . Until I got to know these men better.
.all... but I couldn‟t help but like the old boy. His face turned red.M..... He had a B......12..“...made.know else..laid up. He was obvious bright...Christin.n‟er.Cath...college. If not for religion---and Griffey said until recently he had not been particularly religious.hope.here..then.. “Why not?” I hated to ask that question... “Hooooohawwww!” It was an embarrassed no.felt....serus.. shaking his red face... I assumed it was a rancher‟s laugh.V.. go.Page 56 ..three year.took... from California State at Fullerton.was. D...fall. hawww.bapt.grades.‟til.. To me it sounded like a mule braying.do it..look up.. “Heee.on back......life....God...... from his letter I see the Bishop of Kansas City thinks you have a lot of potential.har read.” “Well. He was also hostile...” “Do you have any family?” “Mama...good..me.twobit..jun. and he shook his head.” “. It was a bit frustrating... hawww..... 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... from New York Binghamton.” “A mother? Who takes care of her?” “Sist.” “You were never married?” “Hooooohawwwww!” I don‟t know how to reproduce the sound he made. Prior Knowledge .A... Frost was another matter altogether. I could see I wouldn‟t get an answer.” “You were a rancher?” I said. “.” Griffey laughed... But it was a required question. hawww. He left my office still heee-hawww-ing.. so think.do..
but I have heard it does. “No. but so far I haven‟t been able to. There was no annulment. We are Universal. “I have connections. “I don‟t consider myself married. I can speak Spanish. especially in the mountains. She did too.Page 57 .” “But the Church does. I try not to think too much about it.” He nodded and lit up. That‟s why we are the Catholic Church.” “Ever try chewing?” I said.” “I tried. But it was a mistake. He frowned and took another drag.” He laughed cynically. They‟re so hard up.” he said. down in Mexico. Father.... I try not to think about that either.. Father. I guess..fifteen years?” “Too long. “About your wife.how long?” I began.” “Nope. “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.” “You don‟t have a bishop. “Too long. by the way. Mind if I smoke.not in Mexico. Father? I‟m working on beating the habit.” “But you were married for. You had three children. “I‟ve never been married.” He blew a billow of smoke at me.. Father.” “I don‟t have a wife. “Was it eighteen years?” “If that‟s what it says. I think they‟ll take me. and now it‟s over.” “But you were married in the Church..“You were a veterinarian for. really I did. though.. She‟s someone else‟s nightmare now. Does it work?” “I don‟t know personally.” Prior Knowledge . in her own irritating way. The sacraments hold all over the world. I went on. Especially if I agree to do some animal work on the side.
” After Frost.” I said. Father. I need to know. I‟ve never told a soul about this. He was essentially just a big. 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. “God has been so good to me. I was involved. bashful boy. okay.” I told him that if he waited and told me in the confessional I would certainly keep it a secret. I‟m most worried about.Page 58 . “I‟ll hold it. I need to know if it‟s an impediment. got me that job as first assistant to the team doctor. Lucas was easy.. But it could be an impediment. got me into Notre Dame when my grades didn‟t justify it. It has to do with a death.” he interrupted.” Prior Knowledge . Father. I want to suffer. I want to be ordained and work in the slums. in an interview. I only brought one change of clothing. I would have to put it in his file. not the divorce. “It‟s not the marriage. swallowing anger. He look completely innocent. I came here on the Greyhound.” He leaned toward me. “This unmerited grace. So I turned down the car my folks wanted to buy me if I would forget about the priesthood. I want to sacrifice.” I suspected it was more his uncle the bishop than God who got him these things.” he nodded. “You mustn‟t repeat it. and I had a sneaking suspicion the guilt had a lot to do with masturbation.. If he told me now. yes. far better than I deserve.” “He has been good to you?” “Oh. Father. “Far too good. “Okay.He looked me over carefully. I just want to pay some of my debt. “I felt guilty about so many good things coming my way. squinting against the smoke from his cigarette. but I will tell you because I need your opinion. He gave me good parents.
” I said with some hesitation. so I‟m overweight. I indulge my. Father. Bishop Hastridge. Lucas.. “Father. without watching the Irish play?” “I didn‟t even bring a radio.” “Does your bishop down there. “Why you especially?” “Because I‟m. I wouldn‟t have made it through the others. “You were a mortician?” I said.Oh my God. Now his biggest boy is in with „im. Father. “Uh. is that it?” I asked “We are all unworthy. I was glad I saved him for last because if he had come earlier. we had a shop in Arlington.own it?” “Oh no.” “What?” Prior Knowledge . He sat through the interview watching me with tiny blue eyes as if he were measuring me for a casket. “You feel you are unworthy of your good fortune. All I needed was another suffering saint.Page 59 . I burned all m‟bridges.” I said. Finally came Hanks. all of my appetites. yes. Father. another Marjon. “For eleven years. I eat too much.” he drawled. Father.” A shop? “Do you still. “I killt a man.” A masturbator all right. His eyes were big and brown.” A dark shadow crossed his face. well.” he said earnestly. “Well. but especially me... “Do you think you can make it through this fall without a television set. who is he. I thought. He looked at me as if I were going to be difficult to embalm. sheep eyes... awright?” “Yes. I sold m‟part to m‟brother. I need t‟tell you somethin‟.undisciplined. Me „n‟ m‟brother. Big time.” he smiled.. does he have plans for you?” “I dearly hope so.
” “He hasn‟t made a ruling? “No. We got into this fight. “Is this a confession? If it is.” “Oh.” “I HAD HELP. Father.. holding up a hand. Well. I reached into the drawer and flipped the switch. In San Diego.” “Oh God. Bishop Hastridge... I forgot about the time difference.” Before I went to Vespers I called Father Superior at Saint V‟s.” “No. It‟s Your fault.” I said.” 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. I asked if there Prior Knowledge .” “Is this your little surprise for me?” “YOU‟VE ONLY MET THE FIRST FOUR..” “I‟ve worked with humans all my life. just this morning. Father.Page 60 ..“When I was in the army. “BEFORE YOU MET THE HUMAN RACE. He seems.” “Oh.nervous to talk about it.. y‟know? Said t‟come on down here „n‟ we‟d see how things worked out.I don‟t know.” “Wait. Bishop Hastridge does.” “Not in a war. In a bar. You made them. yes. I need. He had foisted him off on us. in the military. I see.” I said. ever‟body knows about it. “I felt so good. 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...” “He does? Then I‟m sure it‟s all right. and a voice from the catacombs told me he had already gone to dinner. What You‟ve sent me are a breed all to themselves... he thinks it might be an impediment.
Prior Knowledge .was any word about Father James. The prior from Mississippi? Yes. nothing. No. I hung up and shook my head.Page 61 .
neither was helping the other very much. even when he changes it. and they were scattered over the floor of their dormitory widely enough not to bother each other. Griffey was middle-aged. much of it having to do with the arrival of the other seminarians.Page 62 . became good friends after a day or two. Lucas ate second and third helpings at every meal. Maybe Lucas needed a father and Griffey needed a son.VI Tuesday was quiet. Monks need routine. It began to disturb both the monks and the other seminarians. Maybe Lucas needed someone to help him push back from the table and Griffey needed someone to help him with his diction. but I didn‟t talk with them. unaware that he made people nervous. they grow dull. A man‟s profession. in chapel. Without enough work to do. argumentative. about the grounds. Lucas and Griffey. the early birds. Hanks still bore the scent of formaldehyde. as if measuring them for a coffin. I wondered if he would be Prior Knowledge . There were only the four seminarians. but my first impressions proved more or less accurate. strangely it seemed to me. as though he was unaware of staring. and dyspeptic. tough as a leather belt. 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. I let them do their own adjusting. seems to linger about him. They moved out of his line of vision only to find themselves back in it. I saw the four seminarians occasionally: at meals. Hanks stood around staring at people. What I did see of them etched them a bit deeper in my mind. wily. When someone moved away from him he followed them. The monks busied themselves with routine. and Griffey was barely able to communicate. If so.
That young man had been a coiled wire. but I made a mental note to watch him closely. keeping a tight rein on urges he was afraid to let loose. I still worried that the strain of conforming to this new way of life might get to him.” he said with a wheeze. and that pleased me. He had for many years been his own boss. pleasant. I noted an occasional tightness around his mouth. I was on my way to another quiet walk by the pond in the meadow that morning when Brother Peter caught up with me. Frost seemed to be doing all right. “I‟m Prior Knowledge . too rebellious. and he spoke only when I stopped and turned to him. He was favoring his right leg. I doubted seriously if he would be able to preach.able to read the mass.Page 63 . regularly looking for a place to spit. “Father Columba. I thought at first that he was too cocky. toward the monks he seemed respectful and solicitous. both at work and at home. He had respected the rule not to yell and disturb the morning calm. 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. too set in his ways to become a good priest. Yet in chapel he seemed sincerely humble. Maybe there was a chance he would indeed go off to Mexico and birth calves between assisting at masses. I guess I look for the worst in people because I have so often seen it emerge. as if being humble. and one day the wire snapped. breathing heavily from sprinting across the parking lot. The one I had possibly partially misjudged was Frost. congenial sometimes proved a real strain for him. but now he seemed willing to live under someone else‟s roof in harmony with others. in table conversations he seemed pleasant and receptive. His expressions reminded me of a young monk I had known many years before who eventually committed suicide. I felt he had taken my hint seriously.
“Somebody‟s stealin‟ food. cake. “I would know that.” She ticked off things on her fingers.” Ophelia said. “Always at night. but enough to be noticed. Father.” “Yes.Page 64 . stroking the air in front of him as if calming troubled seas. “When?” I said. Father.” Ophelia blurted out. but enough to use for the next day.” Peter said. but it‟s a matter I thought you should address.” I said. I should think so.. “I‟m really sorry about this. “When. hands on hips.we wanted to be absolutely sure. Always leftovers.. what time of day. does this theft take place?” “Night. taters.” Peter said. mind you.” Prior Knowledge . but would you please come to the kitchen with me?” “I suppose. Not a great deal. Father. “Roas‟ beef. It‟s been going on for several days now.” “Why didn‟t you tell me earlier?” “We.” Peter said good naturedly. I explained. unable to mask my disappointment at being stopped. for side dishes.” “It‟s not whether to buy peas or carrots?” “Oh no. both of them facing me.sorry to interrupt your meditations. even pickles.” Peter began and then stalled. It seemed to me a little below the calling of a prior to solve kitchen problems. When they looked puzzled. enough to matter to us. Peter went and stood with her. “Yes. “Father. Ophelia stood by the enormous gas cooking range.. for soups.” We rounded the corner of the building and pushed through the flapping kitchen door. looking partly concerned and partly angry. you know.. stuff we leave out in covered dishes. “We have been missing food. I sighed and followed him back toward the kitchen side of the main building.
the idiot boy?” “The Bell Ringer?” Ophelia said.all night?” “His door.” Peter reassured me. we all know that. “It‟s natural for you to think of him.” Ophelia backed him up. Father.. Forget it. I wondered why it was so easy to watch Marjon and not the kitchen itself. “No one. I have found.” I stopped myself.” I was struggling to make myself useful here. If it‟s him. Father..” “You were thinking of Marjon.....someone... “Not even. His ample girth showed why he was interested... “Who.ways. often sneak food and lie to themselves about it. “Everyone is afraid to stay in here and watch.” Ophelia said. Father. “But we‟ve had.Page 65 . “It ain‟t him. “The Peanut Butter Kid. “I didn‟t mean to.. “Who? How?” “We have our. Peter read my thoughts. People like that. I was not a detective. I nodded.. Father?” Peter said with a smile.“You‟ve never seen anyone hanging around.” “Watch him?” I said.Pith.” It made me uneasy to think of spying in the priory. Father?” “No. weren‟t you. he‟s got a holler leg.” Peter said..watch him.and means. “No sir. “What about. yes..” Prior Knowledge .. He doesn‟t eat properly.” “You‟ve had someone watch him. I feed that boy three big meals a day.” he explained.” Brother Peter was quite sophisticated about people‟s eating habits. She had a title for everyone.” “It‟s all right....
. not when the rest of us are there. Let‟s do this. “He won‟t come in.” “But you won‟t say. But Ophelia looked doubtful. Father.” “Oh.” “Just. Sometimes stealing gives a person a jolt of pleasure.” Peter said. It has to be one of the monks.” “No. Father.” “Then it has to be someone with a key.” Peter smiled slyly. Leave some food each night.“You feed him?” I said. on one of the tables. “OF COURSE.. Maybe with that gone he will lose his incentive.” “OF COURSE NOT. “Ophelia gives him food at the back door. “That‟s not a bad idea. I don‟t know.” “YES. stopping occasionally to pick up a pebble and skim it across the peaceful water. “When? Where? He‟s never in the dining room.let him have it?” “Well.” I tried to imagine him eating. “Of course.” “Why not? You believe in law and order.” Prior Knowledge .” she said.Page 66 . so let‟s take away the thrill of theft. Before she could say more. I see. You know who it is.” “Yes. Father. I excused myself and quickly departed to get in my walk before None.” “Oh. “Maybe.” he said with a twinkle in his eye. on a plate. So you two are on good terms. Did he stand? Did he sit on the steps? “Well then. You lock this area when you leave.” I said as I walked beside the pond. he gets it anyway. don‟t you?” “Yes. BUT HE ASKED ME NOT TO TELL.” “All right.
” “So are rapists. I deduced that two did not have cars. HE‟S JUST SATISFYING NATURAL DESIRES. even when it leads people to do things I don‟t like them to do.Page 67 . glancing around them. One was from NEW MEXICO. NEW MEXICO..” “Free will indeed. “La Belle Province.” “GOTCHA!” Our little debates always helped me clear my head. HE‟S NOT AN EVIL SINNER. one from QUEBEC. That one made me realize that I do prefer free will. that would be Lichtenstein. whispering. THERE‟S ALWAYS HOPE FOR A THIEF. the way the first four had done when they first arrived. and comes up dryer than a theologian. especially when he has plenty to eat at meals.” I snorted.” “It‟s a problem when a monk steals food. REMEMBER THE ONE ON THE CROSS.” “FREE WILL. On my way back to chapel there were two new cars in the parking lot. thus Diaz: thick black hair combed into a pompadour. QUEBEC. “YOU PREFER PUPPETS?” “Well. Lichtenstein seemed to me an odd name for someone from French America. All their grand summas seem to me to be just extended personal prejudices. The new four sat at a table together.” “COME OFF IT. Better to do theology my way: by debating God. I had little use for theology. At lunch there were four new ones. a complexion too fair for his hair Prior Knowledge . One was obviously Hispanic. that would be Diaz. WHICH I GAVE HIM. No one goes down farther.” read the Quebecois tag.“YES.. COLUMBA. stays down longer. THIEVES HAVE A WAY OF REPENTING.
a full blooded Sioux.and eyes. the Indian. Lichtenstein was the one with the eye patch. I tried a different method of interviewing these four. but I did have my note pad. and the fourth had a wild head of gray hair and no teeth. jumping from one to another of the dried ones. I carried two folding lawn chairs out to the meadow and set them down under a tree. a figure approached me: short. I told Andrew to send them to me out on the meadow side of the enclosure wall. they certainly made the place look nice. He bounced along. and one was Kopec from Oregon.” I said to Candlemas. Kopec was the toothless one. but since I didn‟t have my files. One was Lichtenstein from Quebec. As I read about them. I thought it would be interesting to see how each reacted to negotiating cow flop. the Rose Triplets were busy pruning. which had pictures. I couldn‟t decide which was which. Another had a full gray beard and wore an eye patch. not young. I opened my files and tried to familiarize myself with the new men. as the heat began to recede somewhat. Priests will have to handle a lot of them in their career. Back at the priory. I couldn‟t tape the interviews out there. He was Candlemas. which I could observe as I sat down. You can tell a lot about what kind of a priest a man will make by watching how he handles rather undesirable substances. squat. Prior Knowledge . I had by this time learned to negotiate the cow patties fairly well. At four o‟clock. and nice surroundings make for contemplation. but he took the cow clods with zest and skill. “Please sit down.Page 68 . and he had to be Candlemas: from South Dakota. Whatever their shortcomings as monks. although in his photograph he flashed a set of shiny falsies. One was a stocky Native American. zigzagging to miss the ripe ones.
” he said as he took the other chair. he can. I just turned 65. but yep.” “Retired from teaching?” “Coaching really. “Looked like he had black on.... Never made enough at either place to save a dime. Basketball. oh hell no. “What makes you think it‟s one of us?” I asked him. I am Sioux. He‟s sort of.“Thanks. Have you seen him?” “Yeah. Kinda ragged but monkish.” I looked down at his file..” “Looked like a monk to me. Prior Knowledge .retired?” “I am. they gave it to me when I converted. named me for the time of year when I was baptized. Monks at Sacred Heart. then at Sacred Heart in Valentine for another 20. the boy who rings the bell. “You come from a Catholic family?” “No. but I saw nothing. He was not your stereotypical stoic Indian.slow.” He made a dribbling motion with his right hand.” He laughed again.Page 69 . the way we say it. Seen him and heard him.” he said. he can really ring that thing.” He gave out a belly laugh. sitting so near its edge that I thought for a moment he might tip over forward. thanks very much. who is that up in the woods.” “And you‟re.” “Yes. fending off a guard with his left. “It‟s probably Pith. “I was with the reservation school for 20 years.” I said. “Who do you mean?” I said. Hosea Candlemas. the man who owns. I tried to think who might be up in the woods at this hour. I‟m the only one. “You‟re a Sioux.. a hundred percent. Man.. up there?” He pointed behind me. I turned and looked. “Say.” “Well.” “Oh. That‟s why I have this name. “There‟s a farmer.
But I‟m not about to let this white man‟s religion make me crazy. Not only was he gay. Understand?” I nodded. An eye twitched.” This was a place for belated vocations. dribbled some more as we talked. and sat down on the chair across from me with a mincing grunt.” he said. Sincere but not serious. Maybe we should all take things less seriously.” Again the laugh. not a bad slogan.” I said. and when we were finished went tripping back through the cow chips.” “You‟re a college graduate. Santa Fe.” he said.Page 70 .“You‟re just beginning to study for the priesthood. Father. Thought I was a good risk. Lawrence Diaz. Diaz would likely have problems with that. He grinned. but I‟m sincere. I have known a lot of gay priests and monks. “Hosea. “Are you sure you‟re taking this seriously?” His smile faded. I retired. He stared at me pensively. I wouldn‟t be here. right?” I said. What he said made a lot of sense. I guess if I make it. New Mexico. He picked his way through the field carefully. “You‟re Larry. I‟ll be a chief. and I don‟t mind them at all so long as they remain celibate. “I may not be serious. “If I wasn‟t sincere. I‟m gonna take it all with a grain of salt. “I hate cows. but he was the kind of gay who might find it hard to stay on the wagon. I‟m not gonna end up like that nut case up in the tower. laughed again. avoiding all the clods. “Sure. so I went to the Jesuits and they said they‟d pay to send me. “Right. After all. had nothing to do. but 65 was more belated than most. the way it has a lot of the Jesuits. Said I‟d be a good example for the other braves.” Prior Knowledge . we were God‟s Fools. I immediately spotted the tone. No sooner was he out of sight than Diaz came around the wall toward me. a look of distaste on his face.
and I made good money. but at the age of 16. My mother was 45. my father 62. “Also I was born with this bad complexion.” He touched his face. my skin is so sensitive. For most of them a degree is out of the question.” “Oh?” he said suspiciously. bang.” “It‟s a mystery. You obviously mean.” I looked closely. class of ‟49.” He shook his head in wonder.” He giggled. “Which one?” “A veterinarian actually. why do I want to be a priest?” “Yes.” “Oh. University of New Mexico.” “Tell me. what made you come here?” “My bishop. not in logical terms. His face was milky white. sorry. but isn‟t our faith itself so? No one can explain his vocation. he thought I would do better here than at the seminary in Phoenix. Since I had been out of school so long. me. bang.Page 71 . but then. then bang. it cleared up and I turned as fair as you see me now. though. very dark. “I worked for many years as a receptionist at a hotel. much of which I have saved. one day I knew I wanted to be a priest. I guess I‟m a rare bird among your seminarians.” he said and laughed. bad joke. “My whole life is a mystery. bang. I felt a sense of foreboding settle over me.” “One of your fellow seminarians is a doctor.” Prior Knowledge .“Right. Father. my parents were for years and years childless. “No. but I took a chance and went to see him and. he said yes. his lips and cheeks pink. Larry. I never dreamed the bishop would approve.” “How so?” “Well. “I use a touch of powder to protect me from the sun. and since I‟m well past 30.
He was a tiny man. I shook my head at God‟s. “You‟ve held a lot of different jobs. defensive tone. “Naw. The way he looked at me with burning.” Prior Knowledge . stepping right into the pies. but he answered all of my questions with the same terse. Truck driver.” I was shocked. I decided I wasn‟t going to get much from him.” Kopec grunted. but that‟s what his file said. He was as quick as a cat. and so I tried just one more question. mysteries. I later learned that he took them out only to eat. “You don‟t seem bothered that my office is in a feed lot. although secretly I wondered how long a ministry he would have. I watched as he walked across the field without regard to the chips. Night watchman. barely five feet. almost feverish blue eyes kept me from asking him about his age. I would never have guessed that he was 70. Sinatra.” “So?” I assured him that I was not being critical. Next came Kopec. first name Sinatra. He just let his feet fall where they would.We talked longer. “Tell me. “Kill?” I said. under a hundred pounds. “Yeah. but I didn‟t take notes from that point on. I tried several lines of conversation. “Yep. 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. that a variety of life experiences would serve him well in the priesthood. At last he went mincing back across the meadow.” I started. bang. both physically and mentally.” “Farmer. He was wearing his teeth.” I said.Page 72 . and when he sat down and crossed his lets I could see that he had punctured several fresh ones.
the man from Quebec.” “There‟s a move underway to change the slogan on our tags.. “I noticed the tag.” I began. but I couldn‟t tell where it came from. I will not forget. having a Quebec tag. It comes from a poem.. “Canadian?” “No. “Against having a car? Here? No. changing the topic. and although I looked all around me. „I will not forget that I was born under the lily but shall die under the rose.” “Not at all.” “Tell me. Some people want to have: J‟me Souviens.” “Oh yes I do.” “I will remember.” “Is there a law against it?” he said mildly. “I‟m Irish.” “I see. Sorry.‟ What it means to many of us is how we have been treated by the Anglo-Saxons.” I said. Most recently he had run a religious house for delinquent children.” he said evenly. The last to come was Charles Lichtenstein. I loosened my collar.” I said. I couldn‟t see anyone close enough for me to hear them. written by a French speaking Quebecois.Page 73 . how did you get the name Lichtenstein?” I Prior Knowledge . I was not sorry to see him slopping through the flop on his way back to the priory.” “I mean. but I don‟t. “If you‟re French. He meant it. but I tried not to show it. or better. He was 47. “I saw your car in the lot.I searched his face for a sign of humor but found none. I thought I heard laughter. or so I thought.” I said with some heat. “I doubt it. had been a teacher in a Catholic boy‟s school. Quebecois.” I said.” “Oh. His eye patch disturbed me.” “Oh.
be sure you don‟t disturb anything.pronounced it with all the Teutonic guttural resonance my German teacher in college had taught me. “As you wish. but I could tell he was already agitated and I didn‟t want to anger him further. in the field.” “Father. We say there that God dwells in the woods. I‟m Quebecois.Page 74 . about his eye patch.” “Can I go into the woods?” “They‟re not ours. “I disturb things everywhere I go. Beyond the fence there. if you don‟t discuss politics at the seminary. after classes. in Quebec. but I didn‟t argue. “First of all.” I said.” “Well. belongs to a local farmer. Except that our land is somewhat limited. but he fell in love with the area around Lac Saint Jean. the rest of the meadow. “Just be careful. in the afternoon. for my spiritual well-being.” I said. “If you go up there.” “It would be better. He grimaced but answered coolly. My mother was a Gilson. I‟m a born walker. and so he petitioned at war‟s end to stay in paradise. Back home.” I wanted to ask about his work at the boys school. I‟m not French. the woods.” “In Quebec. “May I walk?” “Walk?” “Here. But my father was a prisoner of war. I was about to dismiss him when he said. I walk three hours a day. there‟s no law against it. of course. the woods belong to everyone. with the delinquents.” It sounded a bit pagan to me.” he said.” I guess he saw the look of dismay on my face because he went on Prior Knowledge . shipped over to Canada to do slave labor. as in Etienne Gilson the theologian.
quickly. “But I know what you mean.” “Just what I need. “So that‟s what free will brings. “HE‟S A WALKING REVOLUTION.” I said. He seemed not to heed the cow clods.” “Fair is never enough.Page 75 .” I watched him go. Father.” Prior Knowledge .” “Make me old. J‟me souviens.” he said cryptically. I won‟t bother a thing.” “Fair enough. not even a leaf. but I didn‟t see him step on one.” “KEEP YOU YOUNG. “Only justice is enough.
she was lost to us. and this way he‟s not stealing it. I guess we‟ll keep on leaving it out.” Peter said. like the tinkle of a silver bell. During that awful time I was ripe for conversion to Baptist. After talking with Peter and Ophelia. intrigued her.” Ophelia‟s laugh surprised me.Page 76 . Only the three of us were in the dining room. “No. “You monks pay off the devil „n‟ save his soul. and all the confusion that followed it. I think that before the trouble came on us later that fall she was a good candidate for conversion. We were in trouble. It was a pleasant sound. Prior Knowledge . I was always the last to finish because I read the morning paper over my third cup of coffee. “I picked it up from Ophelia. “Has he taken any other food from the kitchen?” I asked.” Ophelia was looking at me curiously. He‟s going to take it anyway. It just means every mouthful of the food was gone. I had not heard it before. “You wont us to keep on puttin‟ it out?” she asked me with her head cocked to one side.” “Hee-hee.” Peter laughed. I went to my office and went over Saint Luke‟s financial accounts. Catholics. “Like a dog?” “That‟s just a southern expression. Father. all at the same time. After the trouble.” Ophelia was a Baptist.” “Licked it?” I said. “not since we started leaving the plate on the table.” “Well then. She had been working at the priory less than a year. 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 especially Catholic monks.VII Friday morning Brother Peter and Ophelia stopped me as I got up from the breakfast table.
He picked on everyone. without being too obvious about it. His manner gave me the willies. with his one good eye. He appeared at every service and meal freshly coifed and thickly made up. Despite all the red ink. It looked like he had run the place like a potentate. on expensive new vestments for himself. not even Kopec.Page 77 . He dribbled in front of people and played keep away with his invisible ball. he was as healthy as a horse. At lunch and dinner. Kopec stayed to himself as much as possible. Prior James had spent a small fortune on renovating his apartment. took offense. and I thought the Jesuits were making a good investment. he was once the equal of Jim Thorpe. He loved being the center Prior Knowledge . Despite his age. across the dining room floor. on big feeds for visitors. but with such a light hearted manner than no one. He bounced everywhere. estimating strengths and weaknesses. down hallways. every movement in the room. He was carrying around a powerful peeve. Candlemas was a delight to watch. To hear him tell it. He seemed to be committing everyone and everything to memory. including the Bishop of Jackson and the Mississippi Attorney General. Then there was Diaz. Lichtenstein watched silently. I observed the newest seminarians. He regaled us all about the boys national basketball championship his Indian school had won when he was in high school.Without help from our Mother Abbey in Latrobe we would have closed down several years before. He would tap someone on a shoulder and then jump to the other side. deciding who to trust and who not to trust. over the grass in the garden. I saw him bridle a time or two at things people said and did. 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.
I said. I shared my deepest feelings with her. I went outside and walked among the cars. I spent the afternoon on correspondence. was that he was holed up in a Benedictine House someplace. His big brown eyes were always melancholy. and tomorrow was housecleaning day. and one Prior Knowledge . newspapers. who lived in Florida. My last letter was to Claire. Writing her did me far more good than going to confession. Someday I will read all those letters. and a sad smile always played around his red lips. One tag said CONNECTICUT.of attention. although I suspected he already knew about it. My guess. I wrote a long report to Father Superior about my first few days as prior. and I suggested that he send out a bulletin to have him paged. There were three new ones. I wrote to my only living relative. and if things didn‟t improve. my Uncle Ed‟s widow. 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. Around eleven I made a reconnaissance of the recreation room. in the order of writing. then shut it all down. my unseen but very real. one ALBERTA. I keep them. living saint. I asked him to notify me the minute he heard from Prior James. But it was Friday. He flirted with everyone but Ophelia. Magazines.Page 78 . 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. It looked unkempt. He was a sweet little saint. in a large wooden box. give the seminary that one more chance. I also asked that someone else come to do the shutting. I paid bills for car and roof repairs. mentioning the way money had been spent during the past couple of years. and books lay scattered about. There must be thousands of them. I wrote to a plumber asking him to return and complete the work he had started. I glanced out the window at the parking lot and saw that it was fuller.
one at a time during the morning. The next morning there were four new men. is that right?” I said. From a distance these Stations were monstrous. “Yes. Fathah. Terminus. A priest must have some aesthetic sense. I instructed Andrew to have them meet me. He was almost as old as Kopec.” “I am. One of the new ones was old and gray. and so I did not take notes until I was back in my office. Classes began in two days. “You‟re.which was hard to read because it was so dirty looked like LOUISIANA. But this was such an unusual group that I am sure my memory served me well when I described them for my journal.Page 79 . The middleaged one. out on the south lawn. and two were fairly young. I took each seminarian on a walk around the Stations. and at close range they were worse. was O‟Day from Alberta.” “You‟re a grandfather. He had that deep fried shrimp Creole accent common to south Louisiana. praise the Lawd. Minnesota...68. I watched each man who approached me to gauge his reaction to them. The old guy was tall and gaunt and wore a spade-shaped goatee. The younger one with red hair was Muldoon.” Prior Knowledge . First off was Mario Terminus.” he answered. The young man with blond curly hair was Lamb. “You look healthy. Fathah. which he turned out to be. He looked like an affable grandfather. who had a steel-gray crew cut and sat bolt upright. and by glancing at his file I saw that he was the one from Louisiana. who came from Ireland by way of Saint Paul. ramrod straight. where someone in the past had erected cement Stations of the Cross. from Connecticut. one was middle-aged. so now all three of the tables reserved for seminarians were full.
But as I was sayin‟.praise the Lord. My chil‟ren. He was what they later came to call a charismatic. each with a scene from the last moments of the life of Jesus.” He reached over and gripped my arm. it‟s changed my whole life. I have received all seven Gifts of the Spirit. So I went back t‟Church.Page 80 . It seemed terribly Protestant to me. but there was a space I couldn‟t fill. Pentecostal. every deed you do.” He squeezed my arm so hard it hurt. nine years. and I had nothin‟ t‟live for. “You.. In the Gospel. Fathah. I‟ve been so blessed. By the way. “Who taught us that?” “Why. „Praise the Lawd in every word „n‟ deed. Prior Knowledge . the Lawd Jesus. dangerous. I had them. Suger there in Baton Rouge. We‟re taught to. first time in eight. Fathah. praise Gawd. See my wife.” “We are?” We passed the stations of the cross like so many grave markers.. “Yes. thank his Holy Name. praise Gawd. with every breath you take.” The Holy Joe stuff got on my nerves quickly. fathah.. she died three years ago.quite a lot. I distrusted that kind of thing. Lizards and ants swarmed over them all. That‟s good.. I have three wonnerful chil‟ren an‟ ten beautiful gran‟babies. but it was dull. I jus‟ this las‟ summah received the gift a tongues. what do you think of these Stations?” “Lovely. made me know why I‟d quit way back there.” “Yes. I had read in this file that he liked to lay stress on his experience of grace. St.” “Oh.” I commented. real dull.‟” “I see. Fathah. “Fathah.“Oh yes.” “Tongues?” “The tongues a Jesus. Fathah. gran‟chil‟ren.
It was in the Catholic Church. Major Sean O‟Day. Father. Next came.Page 81 . I groaned deep in my spirit. He had used the line many times. when I got the Gifts of the Spirit. “Actually the Royal Canadian Air Force. Just retired three months ago. We talked. Now going to Calvary. but we had t‟meet sort of in secret. I shouldn‟t make fun of people like him. Twenty-five solid years. What about people who don‟t know these Gifts? How do you feel about them?” “I pity „em. This was the kind of madness that led the Papacy to instigate the Inquisition. Right out of an Oral Roberts tent revival meeting. on a Tuesday night. I wondered if the Church could ever take a chance on such a man.” I thanked him for his time and sent him merrily on his way to save the Church and then the World. “Tha‟s when I knew I had t‟be a priest. I‟m still in God‟s service. “Army?” I asked. as if crossing a parade ground to meet a commanding officer. Fathah. “one question. Fathah. Like Jesus.“Then I went to this meetin‟ down in the basement. “That‟s right. I knew I had t‟go out „n‟ spread the Holy Spirit throughout the Church. I know.” “Oh no.” I pulled free of his grip. we drank chicory coffee.” I said. coming back into civilian life. This was Protestant all right. He showed no awareness of the ugly stones or of the lovely flowers in the garden or of the blue sky.” “Mario. “You come from Alberta?” I said. Born in Calgary. we prayed. Father. we received the Gifts of the Spirit.” He gave out a nervous bark of a laugh. but it‟s such a temptation.” Prior Knowledge . He was a walking time bomb. I know.” “Must be an adjustment. the priest didden forbid it.
“Let‟s see.. When there‟s Prior Knowledge . “I‟m used to that.. I‟m ready for my next tour of duty. but these are beautiful.Page 82 . After all. cutting me off. my adjustment while I was still in ranks. “They‟re the best Stations of the Cross I‟ve ever seen. in anticipation of being mustered out. “It‟s the only way to get things done.. more or less.don‟t know. Controlling your time is controlling your destiny.. and we arranged for me to start my reading. My parents were dead. don‟t you?” “Well.” I said.” he said. after your Church History class.“Yes. I always say. I have a stereo set with ear phones. yes indeed. Inside he had a day calendar. “Every hour. So I talked with the chaplain. He pulled out a pocket book with a pen in its side slot.” he nodded sincerely. Who created Time?” “Yes. What talent.” “I think I‟ll come out here each day to do my prayers. I‟ll come then.” he said. Who did them?” “I. I had no impediments.” “You think so?” “Yes. so that I would be ready to begin seminary. To plan ahead is to get ahead. I have between four-thirty and five. I made my transition.. “My..” I said as I sneaked a look at his pages. before I have to dress for Vespers.” “A year or more ago I knew I wanted to be a priest.” he said. I was never married. You do it too. “but you may find life in a dormitory at time trying if you are.” “It‟s like life in a barracks. “You seem to have things planned. every day.” He made himself a note. of every day. this one for God. Father Prior.” “Discipline is next to Godliness.” He slowed his pace and looked at the stone.
He‟s far too dumb to argue with me.” “Do you?” Prior Knowledge . I wondered if he made a note to avoid the Quebecker. I can just turn on my Guy Lombardo and drift into another world.” “I hope you two. I know the truth. Father.” “Trouble? Oh.” “Of course. Wants to destroy our great country. I‟m holding a planning session then. He replaced the notebook and smiled at me serenely. “There‟s another one? Here?” “Yes. I know my history. Quebeckers. “I‟ll be first up in the morning. so no one will be in my way.” “Well..” This kind of talk was making me tired.can get along.disturbance. “Is there anything else then?” “Not presently.. walk softly. a world with God.” He jerked out his notebook and jotted something down. I don‟t want trouble..” “Schedule?” He looked puzzled. and I won‟t be in anybody else‟s. He‟s no Canadian. He‟s a separatist. We were at the end of the oval of Stations. “Have you met. to have my bowel movement and take my shower. an eye patch. “Other Canadian?” he said.” I said. We real Canadians think they worship false gods.the other Canadian?” I asked. “I already have my schedule.” “Oh. He has a beard. The one from Quebec? Yes. “You may see me tomorrow afternoon about your class schedule.” “No?” “No. they hate Canada. Lichtenstein. a disgusting creature.” He looked up at the sky. He smells like a goat. Father.Page 83 . there won‟t be any trouble. I‟ll set the pace for the others. Typically French..
and showed me a carefully crafted diagram of his week.” I said. I was used to working with stubborn people. so meek and mild. “Yes.” “Then you worked in a drug store. so unprepared. “See. Father. “No. At last he gave up and sighed in resignation. I did. I just looked at what was being offered and arranged it just right. I was so surprised by his complete innocence that I forgot to get his opinion of them. waiting on my every instruction. “Whatever you say. “No. whose syrupy words stuck to everything and hung in the air for long minutes. that he didn‟t notice the Stations. all done. Did my duty. “Yes. so unopinionated.” “Do you like your room. Lamb. and Barry was utterly compliant. Barry?” I asked him at one point. “Do you know what classes you want to take. listening to my every word. that I didn‟t know whether to hug him or slap him on the head and tell him to wake up. observing my every facial expressing.” he assured me.Page 84 . I believe.” He whipped out the little book again. He was just the opposite of Terminus. For four years. Fortunately he was followed by his mirror opposite. I made it up before I got here. Prior Knowledge . What a holy pain in the ass. Barry Lamb. is that right. Father.“Yes. “You were in the army.” “Is there anything you would like to ask me. Barry?” I found myself calling his name more than I did when I talked with others.” He spoke with a clipped New England accent. Father. Well named.” I nodded grimly and let him go. very much. his words disappearing the moment he spoke them. to please me. turned to a page near the end. Barry?” He frowned. Barry?” “Yes. He was so intent on watching my every move. He was trying to think of something to ask. For ten years. Father.
living in Minnesota. that is only the appearance. the place for me to learn my craft as a priest.originals here. the first to do that.” He flung his arms. That monk.” “Hideous. then slowly dropped them. I knew for sure: This is my place. Father. and when I got here I knew this was it. Just don‟t pay him any mind. Barry. but he was still as Irish as Paddy‟s Pig. I grew up among his kind in Chicago. “what is this. you mean these stones? Stations of the Cross. “Quick? No. You see. He still had his brogue and all his blarney. He puts it in vegetable soup too.. y‟don‟t know how happy I am to be here. t‟meetcha.Father.. and he went off as meekly as he had come. Randy Muldoon came last but not least. not the essence. It only seems so.” he ejaculated as he shook. the conviction grew: This will be my place.” he said in apparent confusion. “Father. and the lion entered. “Father. and I knew the specimen well.” I bade him farewell. Father. all right?” He smiled. from Saint Paul to Saint Luke. mess?” “Mess? Oh. and all the way.” Then he brightened up.” Prior Knowledge .. He had been in the states for two years. “Oh yes. there is something. at lunch? Was that peanut butter he was putting on his red Jell-O?” I nodded. He‟s one of our.” “A quick assessment. “Yes. not quick.Page 85 . The lamb departed. I came here by bus. it was peanut butter. “Yes. through all those states. Father. And after I arrived. then kissed my hand. “I have searched for many years for my place on earth. looked around him. As Thomas Aquinas would say. I knew immediately that I had a real specimen on my hands..” I said.
” Prior Knowledge . Randy. I had this read hair. Despite the blarney.” “What?” “Yes. When I was six. the kid had taste. so one day a man gave me a green suit and a shoe repair kit.” I had never been to Rome. “Well. I liked a seminarian who could laugh. Come to think of it.” “Still is. 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. had never seen a pope in the flesh. “Tell me about your life. Father.Page 86 . A priest needed a good sense of humor. The buses would slow down. My great weakness. Father. how lucky you are to have come on our tour today. then in Switzerland. Father. Me first job was as a Leprechaun. He smiled. workin‟ all over.” “Yes.“Yes. it‟s been eventful. will you?” I was beginning to sound Irish. and I laughed with him. “Go on. to date. Saw Pope John XXIII once. Italy.” He laughed gaily. I did a lot of bad things.” “Not like those lilies in the residence hall. “Life? My life? Well.” I said.” “Yes. “I allowed. We just happen to be comin‟ by as one of the little people is repairin‟ shoes. I grew up on the auld sod.” “Good for you. Saw Pope Pius XII twice. “But I wasn‟t a good Catholic in those days.‟ I could see the people leanin‟ out the windows of the bus with their Kodaks to get pictures of me. „Ladies and gentlemen. I still haven‟t. is for the fair sex. I know how to adopt the old way of speaking. after school I lived in France. and I would hear the guide over the speaker system. when I‟m in the presence of an Irishman.
Prior Knowledge .” He lowered his voice.” “What? Ol‟ Andrew?” He chuckled. “I‟ve worked in law enforcement---for the secret service. I was a spy. I nodded and smiled.” “If I can help you. We exchanged a few more opinions. How much he would help me I had no way of knowing then. but it was probably true. I thought. “Andrew don‟t know his arse from his elbow. As he was leaving he swept his arm over the Stations and held his nose. Father. Irish candor.“What? Lilies?” “Fairies.” “Between us. “We have our own law enforcement. “He‟s a clown. and I was in no mood to spar with the Old Divine. He might be able to help me.” “Oh. I don‟t think we need any other spies. report to me.” “It‟s his job to watch out for things.” “Well. we‟re ripe with „em. Father..” I didn‟t like to hear that. see that there is order.” I said. so long as I kept him in line. Oh Father. I went back to my room without a conversation with You Know Who. and then I sent Muldoon on back. clearing my throat. I had a headache.Page 87 .. even though no one was within earshot. Father?” he said. In all those places in Europe. Just so you‟ll know. I‟m johnny on the spot.
vegetables only. But then he must have begun to Prior Knowledge . starved for diversion. True to his word. lost either in memories of his family. study. it‟s best not to fight it. for lunch. he recited each prayer exactly as it was printed. his jaw jutted out as if to dare Satan to contradict him. I considered cautioning him about it. but then I decided to follow the wisdom of Acts: if it is not of God. though I got wind that he was inviting seminarians to his room for nightcaps of charismatic mumbo jumbo. O‟Day seemed oblivious to everyone and everything. if it is. a born entertainer. it will die out. day after day in the garden. He kept to a strict and unwavering diet: two pieces of unbuttered toast with half-coffee-half-milk for breakfast. and sweets for dinner. his eyes bright and fixed on the crucifix above the altar. reading each stone. and he sang loudly and with fervor. pray. no desert.Page 88 . At first this made him popular. even take a crap. Night after night at the table. eat. lapping up his barely believable tales of European adventure. or conjectures of his heavenly home. Terminus sat alone most of the time. he was surrounded by a clump of followers. every afternoon at precisely four-thirty he appeared out among the Stations of the Cross and spent exactly thirty minutes walking around them. all on cue. bread. and everyone sought his company.VIII The four new men melted quickly into the crazy-quilt pattern of Saint Luke‟s population. and then headed back to the dormitory to prepare for Vespers. He told jokes and stories. And yes. only meat. anticipation of the next visit from the Spirit. he rigidly followed his schedule: sleep. He arrived precisely on time for chapel services. smiling to himself. He made no real trouble. Muldoon proved to be the life of the party.
Lichtenstein became Barry‟s patron. his most dependable guardian. If the other men didn‟t exactly avoid him. share their strength with him. Hanks constantly measured him for his coffin. The first two weeks of the term went by with minimal distractions. Barry Lamb grew sweeter. and he was more and more alone. Candlemas was his only firm friend.repeat himself. I wondered about the “particular friendship. Diaz like a lover. Barry seemed able to take or leave the others. They seemed to want to protect him. Overall things were going well. They loved swapping yarns and didn‟t seem to mind hearing reruns. He advised him on everything from his school work to his devotional life. He tried to drum up audiences but with little success. Prior Knowledge . He sat next to him in classes. if anything younger and more naive. sat next to him in the dining room. Surprisingly it was Lichtenstein who placed the strongest claim on Barry--and had the most success doing so. woolly white hair.Page 89 . virtually captive audiences. the monks like a lord.” but I said nothing. less willing. The seminarians treated me like a seer. Frost like a son. as the days passed. He pumped up his confidence when he felt discouraged. Lucas like a brother. trembling chin all brought out the strongest instincts in the other men. but Lichtenstein he sought and kept as his best friend. He had no trouble finding companions. succor him. He continued to hold forth on occasion but to much reduced. they did not pursue him as they had once done. He protected him if another seminarian became too possessive. His big blue eyes. or maybe after the term got fully underway everyone was too busy to listen. or perhaps guardians would be a better word. He was old Mario‟s first convert to the Spiritual Seances. and walked next to him in the garden. Griffey treated him like a pet pony. I found it all rather reassuring.
“It‟s Randy. Father. that things began to go wrong. “Father Columba!” Someone was beating at the door. wideeyed. “You know.Page 90 ..” I blinked and tried to clear my eyes and head. reality dawned on me.” He stared at me. dear?” “Father! Please! Help me!” “What?” I woke with a start and sat up in bed. Everything was set back sixty minutes: the wake up call. “Muldoon?” “Yes. and I swept the ladies with giant steps from one end of the room to the other. I rarely got more than 7. Other dancers stopped and stood to the sides to watch us. a flashlight in his hand. I had introduced the plan of letting the monks sleep an extra hour on Saturday mornings..Randy Muldoon.It was not until the second Saturday. and so did I..” Prior Knowledge . “Father?” he said.. I. The room spun. “Where are you. You‟ve got to help me. “Father!” “Hmmmm? What is it. “Open the door. and I thought they needed another hour of rest. his red hair standing on end. So on Friday night I went to bed at 8:45. the truth. I was thin and graceful. I fell asleep almost immediately and dreamed I was dancing in an immense ballroom with a series of beautiful ladies. The men loved it. breakfast. 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. my dear?” I called into the darkness.” I fought the blanket and rolled out onto the floor and groped my way to the door. please. when we should have all been able to relax a bit. the prayers. We had to do the cleaning that day. I found the lock and snapped it back threw open the heavy barrier. “Slowly the present.
” I stared at him for a long moment. Randy?” “He had.” He turned his flashlight on his arm. The Shakers. I waved him into my room.. well. “I came to tell you. It was so transparent I wanted to scream. Not a mustache.. I. Father. I know the Irish.please. and a black hat. Father.” “And did your ghost look like anyone you saw there? “No. just the fringe around the chin.“What are you doing here.” “Yes... “What did this ghost look like. Now that I think of it. but I was Prior. As I have said.” “Did it cross your mind. Randy?” I said..Page 91 .what time is it anyway?” “It‟s. my boy.” I said. Father. I looked through the books. then righted himself. “It‟s 2:30.. I‟m one of them. yes. Come with me. that there‟s a. the ones Andrew left open in the library. like Abraham Lincoln. there‟s a ghost in my room. He jumped back in shock. exasperation rising.uh. no one in particular. with loose sort of sleeves.. both in our pajamas.” “There‟s a what? Where?” “A ghost.” “What?” I thundered. Just in general. “It‟s..” He was of course describing a Shaker. They show the people who once lived here.. you have been looking through those books.. and we sat down. “My boy.a beard. so I had to keep calm... You see. Father. that maybe you recalled those pictures while you slept? That you dreamed your ghost?” Prior Knowledge . and I know how suggestible they are. the ghost did look like a Shaker. It‟s. In my room. He had on a white shirt.. “Randy. I also had to assume he was serious. Father..
and he doesn‟t howl. from Ireland. “Father.. Father. after all.” I was getting nowhere.“Dreamed him. “you can rest assured he won‟t come back tonight.. could I ask a big favor? Could I sleep here?” Prior Knowledge . He won‟t hurt you.” I said. Father... “Oh. all of the time. he was trying to protect you..” I sighed. yes.. we Irish know how to get along with the little people and the banshee. But I felt that you should know. I‟m.” “He said. I‟m. He said he was guardian of the building where I lived. it wasn‟t a dream. “I know the difference between a dream and a vision.Page 92 .” He leaned closer to me. I‟m so sorry. Father. My boy. Father.. Randy.scared. Go on then. it‟s all right. Father? Oh no. “did he. t‟be frank.speak to you?” “Oh yes. he talks. It sounds like.” “Well.. Father. Maybe by the morning light. I know this must be a major imposition on you.” He leaned toward me.” “But Father.” “No..” “This one‟s not little. We have them both. You go back and get some sleep.” “Yes.he would come again. No.” His eyes were still wide..” “Come on.almost 3:00 in the morning.” He stopped and reddened.” “When? “He didn‟t say.” “Precisely.. He said I should be careful because there was going to be trouble. “Father..” “The Irish know the difference between dreams and visions. “All right. if anything.” “Maybe he meant trouble if you woke your prior at.
His clothes lay scattered everywhere. with long black hair and big brown eyes. Her ample breasts were close to being bare. help me check out my room?” So it was that I found myself. maybe.” We waddled down the hallway to his room. one of those plug-ins.” he admitted. Father.” He gestured toward the wall at the foot of his bed. walking in my robe and slippers through the Rose Garden to Randy Muldoon‟s room.“No. and I know there were some because as we entered the hallway where the seminarians slept several doors closed quietly..” I bridled. to see the Virgin‟s picture right away. on the bed. “You always sleep with that on?” I said. Randy was barefoot and wore only short legged pajamas. It looked like the room of a teenager.” It was all I needed. shaped like a four-leaf clover. something like a young Sophia Loren. a night light. I went in first. and he followed charily. early morning. “It appears you woke some people.would you just walk over with me. every place but hangers in the closet. if I wake during the night. on a late September early.. on chairs. Father. you know. “Did you make a lot of noise when you saw the ghost?” I asked Muldoon. We probably looked like an Old Testament prophet and his young protégé. Prior Knowledge . on the floor.Page 93 .” “You can‟t sleep in the dark?” “No. I have to be able. at 3:00 a. It must have been quite a sight for anyone watching. for people to find out one of the young seminarians had slept in my room. obviously Italian.m. “Some. There was a woman with a halo. “Always. “Then.. A dim light burned. “Absolutely not. He had left his door wide open. I wasn‟t born yesterday.
your.” I said... Father. THEY STILL PARTIALLY OWN THE PLACE. “All right. “Another night down the drain. “there she is. SAY I DID. GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU TO MISS A BIT OF SLEEP?” “Of all ghosts to send. A Catholic.” I left him and walked back up the hallway. “See. THEY‟RE STILL AROUND. to justify my presence.” “That‟s.Only the nipples were covered.” “THE SHAKERS DON‟T HAVE AS FAR TO COME. I made my way through the Rose Garden.” “So you won‟t wake me again?” “No. if you did.” I sighed. “Are you satisfied. A saint. It would recapture his audience. a Shaker?” “WHO ELSE?” “Anyone.” he said seriously.” Randy said. Father. This from a man who found the concrete Stations of the Cross in bad taste...” Prior Knowledge . Father. something he would relish doing. “ARE YOU BLAMING ME? DO YOU THINK I SENT THE GHOST?” “If not you. DON‟T YOU THINK I WOULD HAVE A GOOD REASON. that your ghost is gone?” “Yes. finally taking my eyes off her.icon? Your Virgin?” “Yes. that no one is here.Page 94 . I stared at it for a long time. I knew I wouldn‟t get back to sleep. Again doors closed discretely. I started to clear my throat and make a loud announcement of some kind. then who did?” “GOOD QUESTION. I would let Randy tell the story of the ghost in the morning. now. but then I couldn‟t think of anything to say.
older than our loveable idiot boy. near the kitchen wall. The figure ran through the rose garden and reached the enclosure wall. This person was heavier. clad in black. then broke for the fence. our midnight snacker. I threw my arms up and grabbed the top and pulled myself up. I wanted to know which one. but my Prior Knowledge . something caught my eye. “Hello!” The figure froze. I stumbled across the grass and got to the wall. I was confused. I looked over and saw him running through the meadow. I gave chase. and dropped down out of sight on the other side. The Jews had returned after 1900 years and reclaimed Palestine. I supposed the Shakers had the right to return after a few decades. where he easily jumped the fence that divided our land from the farm beyond and headed toward the trees on the hill. then called. The figure slowed for a moment but then resumed his run. scaled it easily. respond to my call. Or maybe they never left. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. So it was a monk. a man of 65 who weighted around 275 pounds. the dead ones anyway. I hesitated. I hoped he would recognize me because of my girth. and prior possession could still count. in my robe and loose slippers. Why should the boy run from me? When he ran free of the building‟s shadows. A shadowy figure. As I emerged from the garden and started toward the main building. moved out across the lawn toward the enclosure fence. Insanely I suppose. the one who “licked the plate clean” each night. He had come out of the kitchen door. He was our phantom prowler.He was right. I started to shout. no easy task for me. but he sometimes grinned and nodded my way when I waved to him. “Pith?” I called out. I knew it wasn‟t Pith. I had never met our bell ringer.Page 95 .
when I could stand it no long. I began to yell for help.shoulders were crying out in pain.” I sat up and leaned back against the fence and let the pain from my ankle drift up toward my hip. 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. They had never held up so much weight. Prior Knowledge .” “I‟M HERE IF YOU WANT ME.Page 96 .” I said.” “Just go away. After a long time. now I‟ve done it. Leave me to my misery. not from You. scratching my arms and legs. Involuntarily I let loose and slipped precipitously down the rough side of the wall. “NEED SOME HELP?” “Yes.
He let it down gently to the floor.” he explained. debating excitedly what to do. “OH!” I said with more emphasis. was the monks‟ doctor.” he asked. and men swarmed out in pajamas. robes. I can do my own praying.” “Wouldn‟t it be better to use the best?” I said.Page 97 . “the only Catholic doctor in Mississippi. was our practical nurse..all right. with gratitude. Several Protestants. “There are better. “Is he good?” I asked. one Jew. Maglie. Marjon came fully dressed in his cassock. first in the seminary residence hall and then in the monkery. He had trained in Biloxi. He moved it in a circular motion. “I want the best doctor. a few in their underwear. He came out with his little first aid kit and a big bag of equipment. he couldn‟t be sure.” he told me. I also suspected that he wore a hair shirt under it. “Oh!” I said loudly.IX A lot happened during the next three hours. “Oh. Maglie. and picked up my injured foot. knelt elaborately before me. but either way we should go in and see Dr.” Bartholomew said with an air of insider information.. It was either a break or a very bad sprain. “He‟s. Heads emerged from windows. Only after what seemed an eternity did they get me to my feet and transport me to the vestibule of the chapel.” I said softly. I had to yell another several minutes before they found me and gathered around me and hovered over me. which confirmed my suspicion that he never took it off. I spent the first five minutes of it on my butt yelling for help. “Bad. “But don‟t you want a doctor of the true faith. Then lights began popping on. Bartholomew. he told me when I asked. in addition to being our barber. while he worked at his beauty parlor.” I said. Prior Knowledge .
Monks are the most impossible drivers on earth. I always do my own driving. right in the middle of our progression.Page 98 . “Pith! It‟s okay! We‟re all awake!” someone called to him. ever let a monk drive you anywhere. a curious. I had forgotten to get word to him that we would sleep another hour that morning. It must have been quite a sight: a huge man in pajamas. Let me warn you. the chapel bell began to ring wildly. If He does not. but of course this time I couldn‟t. Bartholomew went ahead and did as he thought best: he went off to call Dr. A half hour later he came back and said the doctor would meet us at his office. My ankle was so swollen I had to be carried to a car. so much the better.They all just stared at me. of course. He stopped pulling. if they die. He came over to the edge of the tower to watch the solemn procession. He will take care of them and keep them from harm. and it was dreadful. lopsided grin on his long. Maglie‟s office a full hour before his pickup truck arrived. so much the quicker they will get to heaven. hoisted by six skinny monks in their skivvies. never. since my foolish attempt to scale the wall had put an end to that happy prospect. moving slowly across a wet early morning lawn to an ancient Ford: a mideastern potentate being ferried to a wedding feast. To make it all the more dramatic. A doctor driving a pickup! I wondered if he might be a veterinarian. and the bell went still. I never ride with another monk. because to do so is to put your life in more danger. angular face. It didn‟t matter anyway. We waited in front of Dr. I would have been just as well off Prior Knowledge . just in time to wake us at the 5:00 appointed time. as if I spoke a foreign tongue. We all looked up to see Pith pulling away at the rope. Then came the mad rush to town. even if your life is in danger. Maglie. If so. They think that because they have committed their lives to God.
But I‟ll have to wrap it. I couldn‟t afford to spend time in bed.calling Frost out. to report my accident. I was in on the ground floor of the revolution. Father. He found a pair of crutches in a closet. For some reason.” I said. I guess they assumed I would not be doing anything foolish. his collar open.” “Better make it crutches. as we drove wildly back to the Priory. James had never done manual labor. servants rulers. It occurred to me. He bathed my ankle and foot and bound it with elastic. I called Saint Vincent‟s on Tuesday. his eyes bleary. and I wished they had called a Puritan Protestant or an Orthodox Jew. They were totally unaware that at that very moment in Rome the Vatican Council was turning the Church upside down. where he moved my foot around and made me shout out with pain again. “It‟s just a sprain. 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. His hair was disheveled. “You‟re lucky. Or else you‟ll need a pair of crutches. I told them that I would return to do my share when I could. I began brooding about Prior James. maybe because I had learned that he avoided physical labor. and you‟ll have to stay in bed for a good while. He looked like he had been drinking. Having so much free time was no blessing. I was carried once again.” he said at last. The men happily did my chores for me. For the next few days I exempted myself from the Priory‟s work detail. and they had still heard nothing Prior Knowledge . I hobbled out to the car with the monks gaggling around me like geese. Rulers would be servants. There was too much for me to do. they told me. He got out and came over to the Ford. and although they were 6 inches too short for me. so they felt comfortable having a Prior who did not dirty his hands. just the way Jesus had intended it to be from the first.Page 99 . this time into his examining room.
A cold shadow moved over me. Had he been the victim of foul play? Had he pushed a monk. “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?” “Because that‟s how I‟m made. he could be mistaken for a Freedom Rider and lynched. or more than one monk. V‟s. I said a quick goodbye and hung up. in the woods? Stop it.Page 100 .” Before leaving St. every face. and I shivered. and I would laugh at my suspicions. It would be impossible for James to “hide out” this long within the Order. he said. I was ashamed of myself. considering whether he could do someone harm.from him. in good shape. His All Points Bulletin had provoked no response. and anything could happen to one of them on his own. but I couldn‟t stop. But then I took up where he left off. No one could even say how long before my arrival he dropped out of sight. too far and been “offed” before I arrived? Was he buried somewhere out behind the barn. Father Superior gave me a cache of letters he had received over the past year. He was beginning to entertain the idea of foul play. No one admitted seeing him leave the next morning. all complaining about Prior James. This is crazy. Monks were innocent men. He said they helped him make up his mind to make a Prior Knowledge . Father Superior sounded worried.” “AND WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THAT?” “You are. I told myself. He could be killed by someone he stopped to help. I went over every monk. Still I kept thinking about it. Sooner or later he would turn up. 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. As a black man. There had to be a logical explanation.
I recalled several letters from him. let alone violence. Musicians can be odd birds. impossible. He was from Alaska. A friendly sheepdog. but young men can be insecure too. James might have snubbed him. He had buried them in remote locations. he explained that he killed them because of the way they butchered Mozart. Yet I remembered a story I had read about a Church organist in Colorado who killed three of his students.change at St. Alexis. 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. all reporting on James‟ regal pretensions. On the other hand. spaced out so that he was not suspected in their disappearance.Page 101 . Not likely. When confronted with his crime. He had a strange look in his eyes. L‟s. one a year. an eye for an eye. afraid he might get the place closed down. afraid he would lose his security? Benjamin was still a young man. Alexis might have resented the man who took his job. Old men were not violent. But no. I remembered them as I thought what might have happened to the long lost Benedictine. skilled. belittled him. Sweetness personified. Who could tell what bloody designs he might harbor? Stop it! Roderick. and I assumed he served James in the same unquestioning way. He seemed incapable of anger. a frontiersman. too nice. My only doubt came from the way he Prior Knowledge . kidded him about his occasional mental lapses. There were no letters from him in the file. He obeyed without question every order I gave. he would never wake up. Was Alexis capable of masterminding a conspiracy to rid the Priory and the Order of a man he despised? Stop it! Benjamin. But had he been concerned about the way James lived and spent money. He lived in a dream world of liturgical music. strong. No. trained to live where it‟s dog eat dog. So long as that was not threatened.
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. the police. the hardest for me to understand. complaining that he had requested a tape recorder.Page 102 . saying it was vanity. even if he didn‟t help do it? Stop it! Peter. the Church itself? Was he being blackmailed to keep quiet about something he knew. 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. so that he could whisper thoughts that came to him while he took walks and that Prior James refused to let him have one. 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. yet he said he didn‟t know where James spent his last night or when or how he left. He was in charge of the buildings. He was by far the most obscure of the monks. 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.” 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 . The letter referred to James as a “black Attila the Hun.acted whenever I asked about James. While Peter might have enjoyed preparing gourmet meals for honored guests.
which could not be good for his mental or physical well being. apparently bent on developing a case of holy lice. Was James more than a man to them? Was he a symbol. and so was Prior James. On the other hand. Had James told him to take a Prior Knowledge .The Rose Triplets. The look in his eyes grew wilder by the day. it was killing. they all were. to me they certainly were. He never bathed. then not a sin. Lord yes. They had not said ten words to me all the time I had been there. Our flower children. never changed that one cassock. and three were enough to carry out a conspiracy. religiously just. other than in the confessional. If religiously just. most of history‟s assassins were of the same race as their victims. had he confronted them about their sexuality? Had he threatened. and usually for a cause the assassin thought just. I saved him for last because he demanded the most thought. He was now tripling instead of just doubling each holy gesture. I still thought of them as a pair. although I knew that this was because of their race. If one were involved in foul play. from four weeks of observation. before the nation adopted that term. going to prune the garden. a religious symbol. Marjon. that Marjon was at least partially insane. probably to Prior James as well.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. They were black. a symbol of evil? Did Eric use his lethal fists? Did Bartholomew use his strength to carry off a body? Stop it! Marjon. Madness hovered over him like a flock of vampire bats. hand in hand. He lived on peanut butter. They crossed my mind the way they crossed the grounds. Oh. I was convinced. for the sake of appearances. I remembered. They talked to no one but each other. Assassination was not murder. Would they harm a brother? As a matter of fact. But why? They seemed oblivious to others. Politically just.
Our poet Martin taught Scripture. and most certainly none that someone at Saint Luke‟s had harmed him. His interpretations were all rigid. more than my gloomy thoughts about the fate of Prior James. sounding as sage as if he had been physically present as each doctrine and creed was formulated. and as had been the case through my entire career I got few compliments and few complaints. to keep steady rhythm. Sitting around this way was making me daffy. 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. and to my surprise he proved to be the most popular teacher on the staff. Alexis taught Theology. to train unpromising voices to sing and chant. The men dozed through class and nodded in appreciation as they left. following precepts formulated in fifth century Egypt. demonstrating in the classroom a sense of humor he never showed in his monastic life. Roderick taught Liturgy and tried his best. even if it didn‟t help them much. The seminarians came over to the dining room to meet me for my class because I couldn‟t go over to their building. certainly none that he was the victim of foul play. I taught Church History. But keeping busy helped me a lot.Page 104 . the most pressing Prior Knowledge . Same old same old. who taught Ethics.” More than the continuing pain in my ankle. It was good that I could still teach my classes because that occupied my mind at least part of each day. 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.shower and straighten up? Had he told him to tone down his religious fervor? Had he threatened to call in a psychiatrist. despite his own limitations. to do it all with dignity. The least popular of the teaching staff was Marjon.
was what to do about Charles Lichtenstein.concern during October. and Peter was livid. “but that I could at least buy fresher vegetables and add more spices to the meat. but he managed to alienate some of the monks as well. when your steps are hurried along by cool temperatures. “He has no sense of solemnity or dignity.” Charles had criticized Roderick for playing the hymns too slowly.” Charles had criticized the food. which came that year on October 20.Page 105 .” Roderick quoted him. “I wonder if it‟s the weather. “It gives the music more spirit. “Maybe it‟s because you-all give your darkies plenty a straw to make their bricks with. we play them faster. So why are the Negroes down here so lazy. because they were closest to him. Most of the complaints came from seminarians. “and they treat whites with courtesy. “Those people work hard. He had cornered Eric and Bartholomew and told them about blacks in Quebec. so uppity?” Bartholomew said he had tried to tease him.” he said. “He says he knows he doesn‟t expect food here to be as good as it is in Quebec. and spirit is the essence of Catholicism.” Peter huffed. as if he hadn‟t heard what Bartholomew said. 1961. He‟d better learn to respect the way Prior Knowledge . makes you take offense so easily. Almost every time I looked up from my work someone was standing before me with a complaint about him.” Eric concluded: “I wanted to punch his good eye out. He raises my blood to the boiling point. Maybe it‟s this heat that holds you back. his name came up again and again.” he said to them.” he said.” Roderick turned red. “In Quebec. Eric finished the story: Charles went right on with his commentary. in the Gallican tradition. “You people can be as productive and congenial as whites when conditions are right. At our monthly chapter meeting in which we aired our concerns. makes you lazy.
” Several monks said.” Prior Knowledge .” Both men were seething. He referred to Alexis as “Old Father Time.we do things. one that needed my immediate attention. I guess I‟m in the habit of doing that.” “Well. “the truth was. “we have regular staff sessions where we criticize each other and are in turn criticized. and for everyone‟s sake. “At our home for wayward boys.. “I took it out. they were offended.” 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.” I tried to smooth things over. “But somebody needs t‟tell him Quebec‟s not the whole of Christendom. „Thanks for nothing. “expecting a compliment. I could see that I had a real problem on my hands. Even the Rose Triplets were fuming at that.” Martin said. It‟s healthy. or at least comments on the text. it‟s best if you ease off. “Amen.‟ Why.” I said. It‟s good for us. I didn‟t realize the monks would take offense. “He hasn‟t heard the last of this. English isn‟t even that prig‟s first tongue. What gall!” He had fire in his eyes. and all it said was. He acted genuinely surprised that he had offended people. shows us where we need improvement.or I‟ll fail his ass in Liturgy.” Charles had also begun to give people nicknames..” I said as gently as I could.” he said.Page 106 .” Roderick piped. Charles had borrowed a manuscript of Martin‟s poems and returned it after two days with a note inside it. “He just comes from a different tradition. “That he does. I was just trying to help them. It keeps us humble.” and he called Marjon “Pepe le Peu. I believe we should tell each other the truth. So I called Charles in and related some of the criticism to him.
Father. “I‟ll be careful with the Brothers. “Because they all emigrated to America. Charles was more clever than Sean. He never let up on Randy Muldoon about the ghost or about how backward Ireland was. and cried out for joy. “Why are there no snakes in Ireland?” he asked him one day. Although O‟Day was Irish and Catholic. “How. 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 imitated Griffey‟s abbreviated speech. Heap Big Chief.” The Brothers were only half the problem. he said. trying to appeal to his common sense. during an Ethics class. There were complaints from the seminarians too. and he could put him down with ease.“Sure. moaned. “Hi ho. shook. He was lucky to escape the room in one piece. how‟s the Mountie today?” He greeted Candlemas. “We‟re a small community.Page 107 . “I meant no disrespect.” He called Hanks “Digger. He seemed to have a vendetta against Sean O‟Day. if he had been raised by a fairy godfather.” He even asked Mario where he kept his dolls and pins.” At dinner one night he made Lucas cry about his appetite and weight problem. and when Randy started to answer. and again I told him he should ease off. to Charles he represented the oppressive Anglican establishment of Canada.” he said. He once asked Diaz. and he referred to Kopec as “Pops.” I said.” I noticed his French accent grew more pronounced when he felt uncomfortable.” I had another talk with him about his relations with the seminarians. the way I earlier talked with him about relations with the monks. He went to one of Mario‟s charisma sessions and sat for an hour watching the men as they prayed. “and we Prior Knowledge . Sergeant Preston. Again he said he was trying to help people improve themselves. He regularly greeted him. then proceeded to compare what he saw to the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries and ended up calling it “Black Magic.
He was only 47. “Just think before you speak. We need to get along with as few distractions as possible. Prior Knowledge .” I said.” he said seriously. He was a square peg in a field of round holes. Charles Lichtenstein had given me a three aspirin headache. NOT YET. Father.Page 108 . but with his gray beard and his eye patch he looked much older.live in cramped quarters. “It‟s a good habit for a priest to develop. I didn‟t know how we would be able to make him fit. too old in fact for me to be reprimanding the way I would a teenage boy.” “I realize that.” “OH NO. After he left I sat there brooding. “THINK YOU CAN HANDLE HIM?” “You tell me.” he nodded.” “I know.” I groaned. Father.
I took a deep breath. Because I know already. a confession. I reluctantly set a time. from Prior Knowledge . whatever the situation called for. I had heard the tone before. and he came rather too boldly into my office. I thought. as I said. A meeting. not a confession. he emphasized. that I‟m not exactly the most popular person in this place. I gathered he could turn it off and on at will. yes.” I could tell from his tone about “this place” that this place was not a particularly happy place for him.” I said. “Will you promise me that?” “Well.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. mostly from monks about to drop their vows. “Father. anticipating trouble.” His French accent was stronger than usual. from what you have told me.” he said. “Good. If I can. “this is not.Page 109 . But I would like to ask you to keep what I say in strictest confidence. after supper one night.
but I‟m certain of it.Page 110 . irked by his delays. very expensive.” I said. I‟m just glad I keep my jewelry box locked in my trunk. that someone would steal a holy book.. Father. “to tell the truth. Father. I had encountered it many times.from my room. and I would never leave the door unlocked for that long a time. but this happened during the day. like anyone..” “Better spill it. intrigued by what he might say. He had to make the first move. At first it was just pens and pencils. “True.” “A breviary.students about to drop their classes. Father. “I don‟t want anyone to know that I came to you about this. and I certainly don‟t want anyone to think I accused them.” I shook my head.” “Do you lock your room?” “Yes. as if to let me Prior Knowledge . It was the most cowardly of crimes. I have this cross that cost.” “What things?” Theft always irritated me. “I know it seems impossible. when I was away. I would never have left it anyplace but my room. It was nothing new. nothing big. It cost me $93 Canadian. I didn‟t elaborate. I might occasionally forget.. especially in a seminary. when I run down to the pissiary.. I mean. “Several items. It‟s leather bound. but it still made me angry. But then two days ago somebody took my breviary. He had asked for this match. I‟ve been missing things. from husbands about to drop their wives. and I couldn‟t be absolutely sure they were stolen. “Well.” He paused. you know.” “Breviary? Are you sure?” “Yes.” I agreed with him. I could have lost them.” he said. even in the monasteries where I had lived.
Father. “All right.” “Theft is grounds for expulsion.” I said. I hadn‟t thought of that. now he shrank and assumed the humble pose of a peasant.Page 111 . quick to defend my monks. were stolen.” I almost hit the ceiling. sitting upright in the chair. Father. So is falsely reporting theft.” Prior Knowledge . I told him that it wasn‟t for him to say who should and should not be there. “Charles. you know that.” I looked at him sharply. I stood up on my painful ankle and read him the riot act. then. “It‟s got to be.” “You didn‟t loan it to anyone?” “I wouldn‟t do that. “I‟ll look into the matter. He assured me that there was no plot.. chin lifted. but I motioned him on.” “Or someone who can pick a lock.... Charles. if true. As I ranted.catch up. this is very serious. You are certain those items. someone with a key.” His eyes were full of sincerity. his whole demeanor changed.misplaced? Somewhere in your room? Perhaps in the chapel?” “No. He would never. Father. “Yes. “Some of these jokers. I warned him that he had better not be hatching some scheme to get someone he didn‟t approve of kicked out. “It can‟t be just. Absolutely not. sitting back down. you‟d be much better off without them.” I said. ever again presume to judge any other seminarian‟s worth. He had earlier assumed a regal pose. I hoped. When I paused.” He smiled. I don‟t loan things. especially the breviary. it was a seminarian. Father. not a monk. no intent to harm anyone.” “Yes. he began begging my forgiveness for having made such a thoughtless remark. somewhat ameliorated. I have looked everywhere.” “I am telling the truth.
the next a C. his self-confidence returning.” “Certainly not!” I huffed. “A search? Of rooms?” “Yes.“You‟ll do a search?” he asked. Only I hadn‟t the faintest notion how to catch him. we were living on Shaker soil.” “You‟re damned right you will. I was no Sherlock Holmes. that I do now. he was Irish. The devil take his leather-bound breviary that cost $93 Canadian. Father. “I do want my breviary back. But if there was a thief. A priest should not believe in ghosts: ghosts are born of superstition. If people live beyond this life. if they exist. all these years later. why a Shaker? Well.Page 112 . and the Irish are susceptible to incorporeal phenomena. I fumed.” “I know that.” I puffed. I know. I didn‟t believe it at first myself. I‟m not altogether sure. and sighed. they are of Satan. Fortunately---I suppose it was fortunate---I got help from an unexpected source: Randy Muldoon‟s intrusive Shaker Spirit. “I will not conduct a witch hunt. they are un-Catholic. Besides. he needed catching. I know. 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. I couldn‟t believe this man. I had been told that there had been other appearances.” He thanked me and left my office. agent. poker-faced. Prior Knowledge . before my time. Why to Randy Muldoon? Well. But why not? Why are they those things? We are supposed to believe in life beyond the grave.” He nodded. “I‟ll leave it in your hands.I.A. One minute he was an humble cleric.
about 3:00. facing me as I opened my door. “Come in. English. Father. that he was sort of protecting me. Father.” I said. „The book..” Randy was not in a panic this time. knowing I was about to miss Morning Prayer and likely my breakfast as well.not again.. careful not to put weight on my ankle. “I remembered that you said he meant me no harm. but to me..” he said evenly. and Randy sat opposite me..it doesn‟t make any sense...Randy was waiting for me the very next morning when I emerged from my digs at 5:15.. he said. I think he must have grown up in Britain. I felt a sharp pain run through my ankle as I put weight on it from the jump...” That was possible.speak?” “Yes. “He said.. my friend.‟ See. He has this strange. I slowly sat down in my chair.. I said it didn‟t make. he came to visit me again. resides with the man from the land of the cows. his curly red hair was combed. “Randy then.” He smiled proudly.friend.Page 113 .” “Okay. What..” “Waiting? What‟s wrong? Don‟t tell me. He stood there. He was fully dressed.” “Did your. “Ricky!” I gasped. hobbling my way to Morning Prayer. his eyes were clear.. “It‟s Randy.” He nodded. I nearly jumped out of my skin.. “Yes. leaning back against the wall. Well.. Prior Knowledge . I can repeat it.. “How did you keep from waking the place?” “I didn‟t cry out this time. Father.well.what on earth.” “Tell me anyway.. covered with cow. old-fashioned accent. Father.. The first Shakers came over with Mother Ann Lee from there. So I just kept still.?” “I was waitin‟ for you to wake up.
you mean what my ghost said. “Land of the cows?” Then his eyes widened.” “Come with me. “Griffey?” Randy said.” I said. “This is a sensitive matter.6. Randy. “He said those exact words? Are you sure. not about the land of the cows. “Number.” I said softly.. and went into the seminarians‟ dormitory. I see. “Listen. The man from the land of the cows. Father. Randy? Are you sure?” “Yes. I wanted to act right now..” “I understand. I always carry it with me. seeing the name BERNIE GRIFFEY on the door with a large number 6 above it. Who else could he have been talking about?” “Oh yes.” I said as I fished my pass key out of my pocket.” I leaned toward him. before the trail got cold. “It might indeed. passing the chapel where we could hear the prayers going strong. not about the book. The seminarians would be in chapel. Not a word. now don‟t mention this to another soul. Father. I‟m sure my eyes were wide. an important. where it was still dark.” Prior Knowledge . not about the man.Page 114 . “Our resident cowboy.” He looked puzzled. Does it mean something to you?” “It might. understand? No one.” I said.” he grinned. serious matter. We crossed the garden. He wasn‟t likely to invite more. He had taken a lot of teasing about his ghost. “Where are we going?” “Just come along.” He followed me as I hobbled down the dark hallway. Father.“Wait. “Oh. Randy took my arm and helped me climb the stairs. not about the ghost.” “Yes.” “I won‟t.
I turned to Randy. I began going through the collected rubble. and floor. I nodded and led Randy out of the room. number 9. carefully closing and locking the door after us. I guess not. Look for a breviary.” “Like Lichtenstein‟s?” “It is Lichtenstein‟s.. a leather-bound breviary... “Yes.. It looked like someone had been fighting in it. when they think of cows. I didn‟t see a breviary. waited.” “Land of cows. “Wrong. “Most people. Father?” Randy said. looking on the desk. I went about the well kept space. I even looked under the bed.” “My. and we went in. chairs. Debris covered the desk. The bed was unmade. just to make sure Griffey hadn‟t slept through Morning Prayer. unlocked the door. cow hide. and we eased into the room. think of Texas. don‟t they. The room was immaculate. Father?” “Yes. “Can I.? Oh. in the closet.I knocked softly at the door.” “Yes. looking puzzled. who was still standing at the door. Lichtenstein‟s has been stolen. I went down the hallway until I found the one assigned to RONALD HANKS. At least Hanks had no bare breasted Virgin on his wall. I see. Father?” “I thought „the man from the land of cows‟ would be Griffey. I was surprised that an old cowboy would be so neat. “Guess I was wrong. oh. I used the pass key.help you. in drawers. No answer.. The one your Shaker mentioned.” “A breviary. It was as bad a mess as Randy‟s room. Father?” Of course. I knocked. Not Kansas but Texas..” I said.” Randy mused.Page 115 . the door swung open. he was talking about a breviary when he said book? One covered with.” Prior Knowledge .
Inside the front cover. but then I turned. We went to the garden and pretended to be talking as the seminarians drifted out for a breath of fresh air before breakfast. “Put it back.Page 116 . Hosea Candlemas came up. In a corner. but I don‟t want anyone to know we know it‟s here. I handed it back to Randy. “On second thought. retrieving it from the nail on the closet door. He‟s been blaming everyone in the dorm for taking it.. I took it with trembling hands and opened it.that‟s the same issue of Playboy I saw in Lucas‟ room” “You can bring your belt.” He looked all around.” I said when Hosea went on off dribbling. and teased Randy that he looked like he had seen a ghost. “But it belongs. it read CHARLES LICHTENSTEIN. APRIL 1961.” he said. “No.” he said. “Well. “That‟s my belt. He returned it to the shelf. not for a while anyway. “And here‟s Mario‟s coffee mug.” I started toward the chapel.. not erased. He whistled.” I said. dribbling..” I led him down the hallway. right where you found it.. I was getting ready to leave when he yelped “Hey” and pointed to Hanks‟ closet. here it is.” Randy‟s green eyes widened. Randy smiled tolerantly. the one with the pope‟s picture. And that‟s. Father.” I told him.” Prior Knowledge . “but leave the rest. “It‟s been gone a week. and he helped me down the stairs.” He picked it up from a crowded shelf and held it out to me. QUEBEC. bring Hosea with you.” “Meet me in my study at 8:30 tonight. “Not a word about this.” “I know whose it is.“Oh. it said $93CAN. understand?” “Hanks stole it?” “He must have.
Maybe we can use his Native American wiles. and he was so sneaky we never did catch „im.” I said. and hang him from the nearest tree. Charles. and that night the four of us met in my office. I‟ve got a hunch.” Hosea said. “We had one in school.” I mused.” Randy said. to catch wolves. Wolves are thieves. I had hoped he might. I have an idea.” “Bait. Everyone would know they came to see me. in such a small community.. I knew I was taking a risk that Charles would ridicule the Shaker ghost story.. back in Ireland. Unless we do. Sure enough.. We ran the risk.put out bait.Page 117 . “What advice do you need. He wasn‟t dribbling. He was a wise old owl who had taught and coached high school boys for thirty years.” “There won‟t be any hanging. Prior Knowledge . How many Hoseas do we have? Fill him in on what we‟ve learned. of gossip spreading. I looked at him. I ended by saying I was asking them for their advice. I told them first of all that they were to say I had appointed them to a committee to prepare a Halloween party. “Just call everyone out. Father?” Charles said. But swear him to secrecy.” “It‟s almost impossible to catch a thief. but you can catch „em if you.“Candlemas?” “Yes. “But I‟d rather catch him in the act.” I got word to Charles Lichtenstein too. “We could do what my people used to do. he smiled when I told it.. I related the entire story of what had happened.and then watch. I get them now and then. but then he sobered up when I told him how it had led us to find his breviary.” “Father. take us all down to Hanks‟ room and identify the stolen goods. he might say all of you left those items in his room and get out of it. shocked at the imagery. He was also an Indian.
the one I supposed he had told me he kept locked in his trunk. Finally we were all laughing. hung a magnificent. and Randy Muldoon came right behind them. It looked outlandish with the clothes he wore.” We all thought about it for a moment. “With wolves it‟s meat. but that was the whole idea. Around his neck. late as usual. Randy and Hosea made a big thing of the cross. as Randy tipped the fourth chair over so no one else could take it. we know he doesn‟t hesitate to steal religious stuff. and Charles would say it had just arrived in the mail. something that‟ll attract him. Then we put our heads together.“Right. Put something out. a glimmer of admiration in his eyes. with Hanks eyeing them with bemusement. He headed Hanks to one of the tables. little Indian kid. Hosea and Randy would comment on it. “We had this little forward.” he said. on a gold chain. While Hosea and Randy Prior Knowledge . and when he goes for it.Page 118 . “Well. Next came Charles. As soon as Charles sat down at the table. jewel-encrusted cross. So something holy. He wore jeans and a sweat shirt as though he had just come in from his usual afternoon walk in the meadow. nab „im. talking a blue streak. like that leather covered book of yours. With a man like Hanks it‟s what glitters. Then we began to nod and grin. to draw attention it it.” I heard him say as they passed my table.” “What sort of thing would it be?” Charles said. taking their measurements. Randy and Hosea rambled on and on as they began to eat. he must not of been more. Charles held it up for them all to see and explained how it had just arrived. a real attractive holy thing. The three of them sat together.. A couple of nights later Hosea came to dinner with Hanks by the arm. We had discussed every detail in our strategy meeting..
“I saw it. the way he was back in Quebec. I asked them to display it at Notre Dame in Montreal for the first year.” I said. We drew a crowd.Page 119 . “Good evening. and went out of the room. the epitome of Father Superior slumming with the peasants.. then got up as if to leave. Everyone was admiring it. all the way to Mississippi. named in honor of our patron Saint Jean. pointing to the gaudy piece of jewelry. usually about $5.” Charles said. “Yes. snorted.from afar.” Hosea whistled. It might create a battalion of thieves. Was something probably only gold plated really worth that much? Its purported value and prestige might scare our thief off.fingered it. who looked it over.. Something that valuable would not have been sent through the mails. and now here it is. “worth $5. and hobbled over to their table. “Father. Prior Knowledge . When they awarded it to me last year. and Charles enjoyed the attention.000. The story sounded farfetched. “It‟s the Saint Jean‟s Cross. “Look what Charles got.” Randy prompted him. it‟s this cross. Hanks simply stared at it. if the person is a cleric.000 Canadian. He had missed being the center of affairs here. worth about the same amount. If the person is a layman.” they all said. John‟s Cross. I watched them for a time.” I said. everyone except Sean O‟Day. That probably explained his caustic wit. Whew!” I thought they were overdoing it a bit.” “St. It ended its display last week. it‟s a monetary gift.” Randy said. Charles was not that famous. for my work with the wayward boys. a gleam in his eye. you said. “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. men.
“Better hide it. turned off the light. I eased into their vestibule. which would be shown in the recreation room of the main building. I could hear them above me. a new experience for me. but it was hard to do. I won‟t wear it to a movie. “And lock your room. “I‟m taking out a lock box in town tomorrow. three at a time. one. I followed them at a distance.” Charles said as he left for his digs. hoping no one planned to do a washing instead of seeing the film.” “Go.” “Right. “Are you.. our little act. I thought I counted 11. won‟t you Charles?” “I doubt it. two. then a figure on the other stairs. I got up and started up the stairs. “Father. Randy spoke: “You‟ll wear it to the movie tonight. alone with my crutches.” Charles said. After a time they started coming back down the stairs.do you need. but I couldn‟t be sure.” I hissed. but Hanks looked ready to burst.” I hissed. Suddenly there was a loud creak..” Larry Diaz said. I waited for a long time and heard no more. I tried to keep count. His eyes followed Charles out. “Go quickly.” Born Yesterday was our flick of the week. and sat down near the door. preparing to leave for the movie. taking my time going through the garden. and when all of the seminarians were inside the dormitory. “I don‟t want to take any chances with it. Go see the movie!” Prior Knowledge . then footsteps.Page 120 . I went into their laundry room. measuring each step he took. and any thief in his right mind would have caught on to it.. just to keep it safe. Then he got up and trailed him out.As we began to break up the assembly. It was overdone.” “What?” “Get outta here. not even out of love for Billie Holliday. staring across at me as if I were some apparition.” Hosea said sagely. “Shhhhh..
Page 121 . I listened for movement above me and heard nothing. Charles‟s room was the first one on the right. I waited for what seemed an eternity. he might be scared away by its purported worth. He had rigged up a two bed sheets as a curtain on a clothes rack for me to use as a hideout. I felt both daring and ridiculous. If the thief were coming. and I saw the cross hanging. maybe this was a wild goose chase. If Hanks were a mere sneak thief. such as the breviary. as well as things like belts. 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. If he Prior Knowledge . and arranged myself so I could see through a narrow slit between the sheets. Maybe they had all gone. He went on down the stairs. Doubtless he was coming. went inside. who just wanted to possess things. rather unlikely I thought. On the other hand. too easy pickings for an experienced thief. He had left a light burning low. so the cross would be overwhelmingly tempting to him. Father. But what if the projector crashed. I leaned my crutches against the wall. and I might have to sit here almost that long. I told myself. and behind it I found a chair. opened Charles‟s unlocked door. I bumbled my way up. He was definitely someone who stole religious items. Hanks‟ was farther down on the left. from he headboard of his bed. The ones who were going were already there. if he were one of those thieves who stole just for the pleasure of it.“Yes. sat down. doubtless he was still in the building. the papal cup. I knew the movie had started. I edged down the hall. and locked it behind me. glanced at me once from the foyer. Something that expensive would be hard to hock. he knew he had an hour and a half. easy pickings. he would have no intention of hocking the cross. shocked by my anger.” he said. and hurried through the front door.
it‟s at least a fourth offense. I‟ve tried to explain it to myself. I stood up. He moaned and nodded. illuminating the cross. “I. I knew it was wrong. then came the scratching sound of a wire in the keyhole. Can‟t you. spied the cross. “Ronald.Page 122 . pushed back the curtain. and went for it. “I guess you know what this means. “Why do you do things like this? Tell me.” He sighed again. Slowly the knob turned.. I never thought it hurt anyone. money. I waited as long as my racing heart let me. Rings.. Ronald?” I said.” He nodded and sighed deeply.” “No.. Randy Muldoon was to come and tell me.know. watches.. I got my crutches and made my way to the hall. Light from the hallway flooded the bed.. That‟s why he bought my part in the parlor. He jumped six inches. His eyes turned to saucers. leaning forward on my crutches toward him.” Prior Knowledge . rocking to and fro. When he had lifted it from the headboard and had gone back toward the hallway. It was open.” I said. No one knew. and Hanks was sitting in a chair. No one knew. I carefully picked up the cross and took my time getting to his door. We found other items in your room. It was easy to remove things from bodies.. I saw him disappear into his room.” “But Father. and called his name. I heard a sound. I perked up. no one cared. before he shut the door. Ronald. I‟ll have to let you go. But then I got to taking things from the living.don‟t.had failed to show up for the movie.. My brother found out. The door rattled.but it was so easy. I guess it started when I was in business. He dropped the cross to the floor and ran. it‟s my first offense. “Why. crying. Hanks looked furtively from side to side..
“No. “So you are both a thief and a liar.Page 123 .” “Why did you do it?” “To cover up this problem I have.“So you decided to quit undertaking and become a priest? A kleptomaniacal priest.” He looked up at me. “Ronald.. not he alone. Before the men get back. You wouldn‟t want to be here when they‟re looking around.” I said. about killing a man..” I was afraid he might start a fight with Charles.faults. Father. There‟s too much missing. I waited for the sobs to subside.” “Just let me pack my stuff. he. “But I never killed no one.” “Ronald. I‟ll be sure Prior Knowledge . he began to cry again..” He nodded sadly.” I shook my head...” I said. I‟ll leave during the night.. I‟ll have the men come in and look around. you‟d better go now. and I‟ll have Brother Andrew ship the rest to you. you‟ll have to pack. Father?” “Well..” “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 hate that son of a bitch. Get a change of clothing and your toiletries.” “I can‟t do that... was that true?” He shook his head sadly. .” he said fiercely. I‟d rather nobody knew.other. claim anything that they can prove is theirs..I can.” “He set this trap. “Lichtenstein‟s in on this... didden he?” “Well. “You can.” I paused... “That story you told me. father. Ronald. “Will you need help?” “No. “Ronald..” When I said his name. ain‟t he. His body shook. it wasn‟t.
” I grumbled to myself. almost sideswiping a couple of cars. and surrendered his will to mine. I‟ll bury him.” “Ronald. and the car lurched forward. I heard laughter from the rec room. I jumped back and almost fell off my crutches.Page 124 .” “I‟ll see him dead. “. He looked up at me.” “Come on. COMPLAIN. The movie was still going. nodded.no one takes anything that‟s yours. YOU HAVE TO BE INTACT AT THE RESURRECTION. I‟ve seen those bodies in the catacombs in Rome. What if the world lasts another few hundred years? I‟ll be nothing then. A bit of hair.. and sped up the lane toward the highway... He sighed.” I decided to correct myself. Hanks backed up rapidly and squealed away. I really hate that. When the headlights came on so did a light in the cow horns on the hoods.. I walked with him down the stairs and out to his car with the TEXAS tags. “COMPLAIN. Why not become nothing now?” “RULES. a bit of bone. “I hate this job. He got a shaving kit but didn‟t bother with clothes.” “This job will be the death of me..” “I‟ve decided to be cremated.” He started to argue but then seemed to sink into a slough of despair.” he said. “That Charles Lichtenstein. Father. “He‟s the devil himself...” There came a roar.” “YOU CAN‟T BE.” “THE GRAVE IS PEACEFUL.. I watched until he hit the road toward Oxford.” Prior Knowledge . He got in and cranked up. anything that you brought here with you. his eyes clear and narrow. for the last time measuring me for my coffin.
Page 125 .“Right. I hate this job. Rules.” Prior Knowledge .
she offered me her deepest friendship. I promised him that I wouldn‟t chase any more nocturnal prowlers. but she was also loving. As I watched the postman takes them away. 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. I think. and they collected 38 items belonging to ten of the eleven. She was wise to the world. I would have chosen a black rather than a white wife. and was able to leave those blasted crutches at his office. After she got over her initial reservations about me. and we start a new race. I needed what she had to offer. Even in such dark hours the good Ophelia knew how to cheer me up. if I were careful. a boss. Prior Knowledge . more or less like a normal human being. a Yankee. a white man.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. Andrew let the men go through Hanks‟ room. While things are never as simple as she tended to make them. a Catholic. But I heaved a sigh of relief that at least the whole smelly ordeal was over. Maglie took the bandages off my ankle. I wondered how much of what we were sending him had been stolen from people before he got to Saint Luke‟s.Page 126 . I am taken in by a bush woman with narrow hips and large breasts. had I been free to marry. and that freed her of lingering malice. He assured me that I could walk around. things are never as complicated as I tended to make them. I also wondered whether some of our men took things that weren‟t really theirs.
”). and she had never had a good chance to fulfill her dream. but someday she said she would. clearer way. about Hanks‟s kleptomania (“his thievin‟” she called it). not about all the things the monks and seminarians put her through. and through her words I saw them in a fresher. Randy Muldoon‟s tall tales (she took them as entertainment and repeated them verbatim---she loved the word “blarney” that I taught her).” she hooted. the love-andprotector triangle developing between Larry Diaz. Prior Knowledge .” she said of Diaz. while she saw them naked. Life had been hard on her. “Uses makeup. While I saw them as candidates for the priesthood. prisses all „round the place. I saw them dressed in black robes and clerical collars. Barry Lamb.” she allowed). She sympathized with my swollen ankle. Sean O‟Day‟s rigid schedule (“that crazy clock watcher”).Page 127 . Lucas‟s appetite (his “weakness for goodies. She often talked with me about the new seminarians. and the slowly evolving problem that perplexed and disturbed her most.” I said. flesh and blood human beings. like a girl. We talked. She confided in me her inner dream of someday being a hair dresser. Frost‟s chewing tobacco (his “nasty spittin‟ all over the place. not about the low wages we paid her. and Charles Lichtenstein (“stuff that ain‟t right. “He‟s jus‟ like a girl. she saw them as men.” “He really seems to have Barry Lamb in his sights.” with which she sympathized). about Mario Terminus‟s charismatic excesses (his “tongue-speakin‟”). after he left. her only real vice. but she did like to gossip. owning her own beauty parlor. She never really complained. “I‟ll say. Jealous too.Ophelia always kept back from the tables some home baked cookies for me to take to my room and eat at night. She knew more about the psychological construct of the men she fed than I would ever hope to know.
Comes ever‟ night. He says Barry is afraid of warm blooded Latin personalities.“He says he just wants to be friends. the way he do that poor little Lamb. from someone.” “Let‟s do.” I smiled and polished off the cookie and coffee she had given me and started off. You wont me t‟keep on feedin‟ „im? He eats a lot. scared. I wouldn‟t do nothin‟ to rile „im.” I told her.” she said. I wouldn‟t cozy up to that man for all the money you could tote in here.” “He‟s ascared t‟say no to ole cyclops.” “Hooo hooo. “If it starts costing too much.” “Maybe not.” “Scared of Charles?” I was surprised to hear that.” I grinned at her. I‟ll say that. turning back at the door. hoping she would find it humorous. Prior Knowledge . He says he‟s a cold blooded Yankee. Charles was many things. “but he‟s warm to Charles Lichtenstein. “you still have your nighttime visitor?” “Cat Burgler? Yep. S-c-a. “That‟s got nothin‟ t‟do with it. not sure how to finish. Ophelia. we can take it out of the fund for the poor.she paused. arrogant. “That ole evil eye is bad news. But if he had his claws in me. Lamb jus‟ don‟t wanta get a reputation. narcissistic. “I‟m beginning to think it‟s no one from here.” She smiled and looked embarrassed.. acidic. “I would be too. You‟re a good cook. we still got „im. holding a sack full of more cookies “Oh.” I said. favoring my sore ankle.” I said..Page 128 . “Yet bet. I think some outsider got a key somewhere. and he knows a good thing when he finds it.” “A Yankee?” Ophelia said disdainfully. but I had never thought of him as frightening.” “He says he can‟t understand why Barry doesn‟t reciprocate his feelings. I looked closely to get her reaction when I continued.
As I made my way along. In classes he sat as far from Charles as possible. “I just can‟t help it. and I left feeling better. and on my walk I turned him over in my mind. Only Sean O‟Day was contemptuous. “I know it‟s not Christian. he told me how he felt. Father. had personally handed it to the Archbishop of Montreal to be placed in the foyer for public viewing. At meals. “What‟s the secret?” “Add water. He had gone to Quebec City to accept it. noisily dump out his tray. if Charles talked about the Cross.” We shared a laugh over that one. as I always did after talking with her. had appeared on television and in newspaper articles for his largesse.” she grinned back. He literally nauseates me.Page 129 . replacing the character Charles in the tale with Randy Muldoon. as if after helping us catch Hanks it was a symbol of law and order. Sean walked away. and I had gained ten pounds. During his confession one morning.“We black folks knows how t‟stretch the food. I thought I could afford to give our thief some of my food. While on the crutches I hadn‟t done much exercising. and leave the room. Most of the men tolerated the story.” Prior Knowledge . had addressed the Quebec National Assembly. The story about winning it for his service to Quebec grew. Ophelia‟s comments about Charles Lichtenstein did bother me some. He would have won the Saint Patrick Cross. Charles had taken to wearing the Saint Jean Cross every day. Randy Muldoon seemed impressed and was probably planning to recycle it to future audiences.” he hummed. he would get up. but I really hate that man. When Charles appeared on the scene.
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.” “Yes. and was out the door.” He nodded. until precisely ten minutes before he had to leave for Morning Prayer. At precisely twenty minutes after the hour he walked from his room to the shower. He rose at precisely the same tick of his clock each morning. the more religiously he devoted himself to it. dried off for precisely thirty seconds. the picture of a well oiled military officer.Page 130 . “Yes. aloud I was told. “Maybe. the more the other seminarians teased him. He made a bee-line to the toilet and got back to his room at precisely the same tick every morning.” I lied. What I said insincerely he took seriously. studied. wearing only sandals and a red towel. Every event of his day he precisely planned and minutely controlled. He ate. set his chin. slept. “Pray that I pass. Father. prayed. but I felt I had to help him lance his boil somehow. went back to his room where his clothes had been laid out the night before. relieved himself---at exactly the same time. He never.“Maybe he was put here to test your faith. showered for precisely three minutes. The more demanding his school work became. He did his private prayers. He nodded thoughtfully. By that time Sean‟s rigid schedule was legendary.” I said.” he said with a wistful smile. and left me. Even Prior Knowledge . ever deviated from it.” Sean agreed. thirty minutes before anyone else. stood. “Pray for me.” “I‟ll pray that you not only pass but make an A. dressed in ninety seconds flat. until everyone else had wandered off so as to have plenty of time to dawdle along the way. I guess that might be it: he might be my test.
when he didn‟t have classes. or deep depression. All I‟ll say is. and the prediction said more of the same was to come. But I didn‟t know how deeply their resentment ran until they pulled off their trick. “Are you sure it‟s for the best. pepper in the lemonade. and as he spoke to me.” It had been raining. I passed Randy Muldoon at the mail boxes. Father. positive.” he said. When on rare occasions something interfered with his routine.” he laughed. a fake withdrawal of support from someone‟s bishop. but it‟s hilarious. both seminarians and monks. “Oh yes. Does this hilarious thing have anything to do with all the whispering I‟ve seen going on lately?” “Might. Randy. teased him about it. told jokes about it. that sort of thing. really I can‟t. “What‟s going on?” “Oh. tomorrow‟ll be a lovely day.” Then I caught on. I say “they” because almost everyone knew it was going to happen. Just you wait „n‟ see. Then one night after Compline. he kept to a schedule. You would be Prior Knowledge . I knew his behavior bothered the others.Page 131 . They griped about it. “Randy?” I said. punctuated with grins. he either went into a blind rage. I knew something was about to happen. all of which ended when I came near them. but in reality Charles Lichtenstein was the mastermind. he couldn‟t contain his laughter. He regained his balance only when he got back to his tight regimen. and it won‟t hurt anyone.Saturdays and Sundays. I saw more than the usual whispered conversations. this thing?” I was thinking of smoke bombs. several took part in it. a nervous tizzy. Father. “Are you sure of that?” I said. “I can‟t tell you. “Wait a minute.
“But it‟ll be okay. I heard a snicker. Part of my job.. “We don‟t want a. I‟ve always hated to be patted. Father. I had to be alert and keep us all together.disturbance. I shrugged. it‟s only natural to get a little stir crazy. Sean O‟Day was always last to arrive. The last in was Charles Lichtenstein. there won‟t be.” He winked. the part I liked the least. who was often late. Father. so I mindlessly counted as each one entered. avoiding tardiness by a split second.” “Not to worry. I glanced over the top of my breviary and searched the faces in the pews. I had almost forgotten about the conversation the next morning as I made my way to the vestibule of the chapel. but for well over a month I had taken my cue from Sean‟s entrance. My watch said it was time to begin. I couldn‟t tell who made the sound. “Trust me. At certain times he did look like a leprechaun. and Sean had not entered. who looked about furtively before he took his seat. I drew back. where we chanted until time to enter the chapel for Morning Prayer. so I thought nothing of it when they all arrived and he was nowhere in sight. made the sign of the cross.. That would really put his schedule off.” Randy assured me. In choir I watched as the seminarians came in and took their places.” He patted me on the arm. his green eyes dancing. was to keep attendance records.Page 132 . Except for Charles Lichtenstein. and sat down in the pews.” He clicked his heels together and went on. but several Prior Knowledge . at the first major pause and silence.” “Oh. “I know after a bit of time here. At least this time he wasn‟t late.surprised at how much of that goes on in seminaries. “Sorry. Maybe he was sick. dipped his fingers in holy water. But after a few minutes. I signaled for Roderick to begin. At first I was too preoccupied with the liturgy to notice anything unusual.” he said.
All sorts of images flooded my head. half of the seminarians. and they stared back at me blankly.faces showed the signs of stress associated with the suppression of laughter: red faces. and they collapsed into hysteria. “No. as I read it in the minutes. ready to initiate the next phase of the worship. The rising sun set tiny diamonds on the fields. was to turn it on the first of November. I beckoned him over to me.Page 133 . fixed expressions.” “You‟re probably right. Father. I led the recessional and waited in the foyer for the seminarians to come by me. laughing. I considered leaving the service to go and check on Sean. He might have overslept. it has something to do with Sean O‟Day. All of the seminarians now. with the exceptions of Diaz and Terminus. He had to be dead. When I looked up. “But my guess is. Only half of them did. He seemed unconcerned. Charles said something. faces in hands. and those avoided my eyes.” He shook his head. So why the laughter? I finished the Prayers. The dew on the grass looked ready to turn to frost. I made a mental note to have Andrew turn on the heat. with the monks distracted. were shaking with laughter. Charles Lichtenstein in the middle. “Do you know what this is all about?” I whispered. I looked back at my book. The tradition. which wasn‟t easy with the seminarians sputtering. talking. Prior Knowledge . He‟s not here. It was well before 7:00 when we finished. I looked at Andrew. I peeped back into the chapel and saw the others.” I agreed. He came with raised eyebrows. He might be dead. were close to rolling in the aisle. I gathered my robes and headed for the door. and he would be here even if he were sick. He never overslept. It was a chilly morning. as quickly as possible. gathered in a clump. but then I heard a wheeze. both of whom appeared to be lost in thought. All Saints Day. I looked around at the monks. dancing eyes. He might be sick.
like a cow in distress. what happened?” “I. but it was a meadow sound. but at least Sean seemed not to be in pain. But this morning when I reached for it. naked.wasn‟t there. for. Besides. “Sean?” I said as I came closer. he dropped his hands to cover his genitals. I stopped and stared and then approached him.. I‟m so glad to see you. He was wearing only a gold chain with a tiny crucifix. It came from up the stairs. seminarians were not monks: they didn‟t consider discomfort a piety. I always turn the lock off so I can get back in without my key. I came into the hallway and saw him. Maybe he wasn‟t here. I pulled up my hood as I made my way to the dormitory. His eyes were red. So you‟ve been out here wet. And I always wear my towel. in the twentieth century.” I went up the steps as fast as my bum ankle would take me.. hands over his face. He looked up and stared at me wildly.Page 134 . I don‟t understand it. Then I heard a soft lowing. “It appears.. “Sean?” I reached down and touched his naked shoulder.. that I locked myself out.but I believe in using thermometers instead of calendars.” He rocked forward and back. it. no cries. He reminded me of an Indian guru chanting for enlightenment. “Father. No moans.. I entered the vestibule and stopped to listen.. but this time. then “Father!” as he jumped to his feet and came close to saluting me. Father. to suffer needlessly.” Prior Knowledge . Maybe I was being foolish. It was chilly in there. Sean sat on the hallway floor at the door to his room.” He took a deep breath.. Instead.. He continued to moan. I guess I forgot. It came again. “Ooooohhhhhhh. “Father. He jumped as if hit with a cattle prod. There‟s no need.” he said pitifully. “Ooooooohhhhhhhh. his face wet with tears. yet more a groan of sorrow than a call for help.” “Sean. I began to think of excuses to give for my trip.” He was shivering.
pulling one end of the towel up to wipe his face.Page 135 .” Just then Andrew appeared and came haltingly toward us.” He disappeared through the door to the showers. okay. “Prior.” he said. Been needing to cut back anyway. lose three pounds. Pants a bit tight. three plus thirty.. “Start over.” he said sharply. His clothes were all either hung in the closet or lying ready for him to put them on. for my first class. Prior Knowledge . “Yes. Brother. “I‟m sure it was. Thanks again. “Certainly. Andrew and I glanced at each other.. “Thank you. good. The only thing that did not fit was a red towel.a long time. “It was Charles. looking about the room.” Andrew rasped. Can‟t let it get me down. Sean. “Where are you going?” I said. was in perfect order. Father. “Will you please open Sean‟s door?” I said. then went down the stairs and out into the garden.” he said. military style. The bed was made. barely suppressing a smile. but I‟ve had „em before.. Thank you. Father.” “Weren‟t any of the other rooms open?” “Well.” He stood straighter. Father.” Andrew rasped.” “Yes. as I expected. I‟ll be ready. I didn‟t feel in the mood for breakfast. I don‟t know. Right? Right. eh?” He clicked his door lock to hold and headed for the shower. Get a warm shower. spic „n‟ span. after Hanks. with each corner tucked in. Sean grabbed it up and put it around him. I see. He seemed to be regaining his confidence. “Bad start to the day. then dress for class. wasn‟t it?” I said as we walked. I could stand to lose three pounds too. thrown hastily across the bed.. “I‟ll just miss breakfast. Sean‟s room. He took out his pass key and let us in. I was afraid.“.
” he said.” “Yes.” I said in a neutral tone. “You do?” “Nothing certain. blowing off a lung full of tobacco smoke.” “California?” “Yes. Father. I would have loved nothing better than to leave all Saint Luke‟s problems behind me. “I‟ve got some news. That would make me deliriously happy..Page 136 . Father?” I said. but me may be on his way to California. I heard the telephone ringing.. and I wondered whether to apologize. My heart jumped. It had to be important.” I said in the formal way I had learned to identify myself. He wasn‟t a man to make a friendly call to chat about the weather and such. “Good I found you at home. 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. “Columba?” Father Superior‟s voice and then his face came into my consciousness. “I‟m not sure. people got confused. After the walk. “Yes. just Charles. but I think I know where Father James is. I wondered fleetingly if I were about to be summoned home. “No.” I agreed. “Prior Columba. Remember my All Points Bulletin to the abbeys?” Prior Knowledge .” he said. “It‟s good to hear your voice.at last. I made it across the room as fast as I could go and got there before it stopped.” I realized he had tried to get me before.“God. If I merely said “hello” or “Columba” the way I was accustomed to doing. as I fumbled to open the door to my study. even if it happened to be because he no longer thought I could do the job.” I swore.
As soon as I get that man‟s number. thanks for letting me know. you know the one. came to the entryway on foot and asked to stay the night. I‟ll call him. Father would not live to see the television series.” “Well. very knowledgeable about the faith. so I let him hang up.Page 137 . No one questioned him.” I agreed. Just that one place.I. Father. ate dinner. He may be going there. Father Superior loved to use government terminology. “Yes.what is that highway? The one that goes all the way to the Pacific Coast?” “Sixty-six. and stayed in his room the rest of the evening. He went to mass. But as of now he seems again to have vanished into thin air. I felt better about Father James but not about myself. Prior Knowledge . halfbrother I think it is. No one else has seen him.” “It sounds like that might have been James. “Right-o. and he went on his way the next day.. left over from his days with the C. Well. I have been able to learn from other sources that he has a brother. that‟s right. leaving money to cover the cost of his room and meals on his study desk. very polished. but they took him to be a priest. A black man. but I knew that wouldn‟t be appropriate. He was wearing jeans and a corduroy jacket. up in the mountains there but near Route.” I said helpfully. He wasn‟t in uniform. I suppose.. I received a call from our sister Abbey in Arizona.” I had an urge to beg him to relieve me of my job. in Los Angeles.A. they say they think he may have stayed the night there last week.” I said. “Well.” I said. “Has any other Abbey or Priory sent you any report?” “No. I‟ll be in touch. near Flagstaff.“Yes.
three as tenths. take it easy. when there is no television to watch and no one but other seminarians to see day after day. The seminarians jumped at the chance to join in.Page 138 . I‟ve always been a time counter. finding seminarians sitting naked in hallways. At Christmas I would be 1/3 of the way. months. 1/6 of the way there. teach a class or two. if the job were to be only 9 months long.III October was drawing to a close. I guess when you‟re ten miles from the nearest town and that town is Oxford. chasing phantoms through the night. and if so. years. I was 65. March 1 would be half. these things just confirmed to me that I was over the hill. would be 3/4. that I no longer wanted to manage anything or anyone. and I do it in percentages. after all. and as each day passed I crossed it off my calendar. I had long since purged myself of any ambition I had ever harbored of being a Benedictine Big-Wig. Monks are. If my job at Saint Luke‟s was to be just a year. Every passing day meant I was closer. the end of October meant 2 of 12 months. For me time was of the essence. I hoped. I was now almost 2/9 finished. October in a Benedictine priory always ends with a Halloween party. Or Father might relieve me then. as Father Superior promised. weeks. All I wanted now was to take long walks in the evenings. almost 1/4. days. Just the thought of those numbers made me feel better. If I am doing a week‟s work. Prior Knowledge . you‟ll jump at anything. I count hours. Leading chants at daybreak. two days as fifteenths. and the end of school. I think of weeks as fourths and days as thirtieths. to leaving Saint Luke‟s. just grown up kids. May 31. If it‟s a month. oh blissful thought. Mississippi. I think of each day as 1/7 of the total.
so I assumed they were planning something good.We formed a committee. if only for the night. and come as a Bohemian artist. Prior Knowledge . a witch. We were all told to wear costumes. Do you want historical. which didn‟t require much costuming. to no one‟s surprise. went far beyond us poor Brothers. Immediately after supper I hurried to my room and dressed. but I finally decided to don jeans and a sweat shirt. Oh what a night it was! What a wild bunch of boys we were! Among the monks‟ costumes there was a baseball player. Frost. a ghost. and a Martian complete with antennae. It took me some time to round up all the necessary stuff. What kind?” we asked. They got together in secret sessions several times. one of the boys.” It took me awhile to come up with my wish. When Halloween arrived. “Anything you want. two seminarians. Andrew and Benjamin were the monks chosen. Some of the guys don‟t have much to work with. what?” “That would limit you too much. comic. spooky. so just do as you wish. came as a cowboy. I got a big cheer as I went in. I took the back door and went around by the wall and succeeded in not being seen until I got to the rec room. a smock and beret.Page 139 . I was ready. which had been cleared for the party. and they organized the bash. Lucas and Frost the seminarians. with more money to spend and more contacts in the outside world. The seminarians.” they laughed. and they always ended them with laughter. “Give us an idea. two monks. and they appreciated it. I was being a good sport. again without much effort. the night before All Saints Day. Griffey. when the spirits of dead saints are supposed to rise and walk about the earth.
black bag. now retired. despite the fact that he wore his Saint Jean Cross around his neck. 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. in green hat and knee britches. Muldoon. to show his patriotism.” At the Prior Knowledge .Page 140 . Hosea Candlemas wore every piece of jewelry the South Dakota Indians make. He heard what people were saying about it. That and his eye patch made him look evil. I‟m just glad that Canada adopted the Maple Leaf flag later. still then the flag of Canada. It was so tightly wound around him that he looked like a hotdog in English cellophane. and he had blackened his beard and hair. or he would doubtless have been wrapped in red. and that would have looked like ketchup. I heard him say. “the Mountie. but he took the kidding as evidence that he was doing the right thing. white suit. They made quite a splash. He worse a tight. was of course a leprechaun. black leather suit. He seemed embarrassed. Larry Diaz and Barry Lamb came dressed in the all-white habits of Passionist nuns.” came wrapped in a Union Jack flag. particularly the Francophonic Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein came as a pirate. the works.came as a doctor. Larry announced that they were Sisters Laurentia and Barentia of Our Lady of Masculine Flatulence. He looked absolutely Satanic. As I shook his hand. and I noticed that Charles Lichtenstein was visibly angry to learn that Larry had stolen Barry from him. 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. I found myself looking closely to see if the figure of Christ hung upside down. loudly enough for Barry to hear. at least for the night. Sean O‟Day. “A pair of pussies. He had procured the costumes from one of his old elementary school teachers.
I only heard and then saw a commotion. Mario wore a sheet. There was a tie for “Best Costume” and the ten dollar prize that went with it. So did my year. and carried a scythe. and at the party it boiled over. We teased Ophelia that her face was red. did turn pink under his white hat. and they acknowledged our cheers shyly. Lucas. By the time I got there they were at it. currently tipping the scales at 305. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw them come in. Peter and Ophelia came walking in with the biggest cake I have ever seen. Their pot had been brewing for weeks. We all applauded them liberally. Men moved toward the center of the rec room where Charles and Sean stood chin to chin. First came the fuss between Lichtenstein and O‟Day. I never learned how the fuss began that night. dressed like a fancy restaurant‟s chef. things went quickly downhill. walked with a stoop.first chance he got. After it was carved up and only its iced carcass was left. So did my life. and they won. Barry parted ways with Larry.Page 141 . and Peter. wore a diaper and carried a giant candy cane. It was shaped like a witch flying on a broom stick and was colored orange with black stripes to match the witch. Prior Knowledge . After we had disposed of the rum punch and tootsie rolls. I followed them. who actually fired the first shot or spoke the first word that provoked the shot or made the gesture that evoked the word. The party came to a standstill while they accepted the award and had their picture made with various other costumers. Mario Terminus teamed up with Lucas to be Old Year and New 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. and Larry began to sulk. I soon learned that I was not 1/6 of the way through anything. although they were a couple of months early.
“Why don‟t you just.“Then why don‟t you just shut up?” Sean snapped. at a party where we were supposed to have fun. He had apparently not been sure whether his locked door was an accident.Page 142 . and everyone but Charles seemed to realize it..after you sat out in the hall naked for an hour.. Charles raised his. No one had mentioned Sean‟s humiliation in public before.” “About as stiff as your back. I can‟t sit back and let someone do that. “Father. I stepped between them like a friendly Irish cop. “Okay.. Sean‟s eyes went wide. Bringing the subject up. break it up. he insulted my cross. “Father. was in bad taste. the reward for service to my country.” I grunted.” I said wearily.... “I just told him what I thought of his costume.” Charles said and laughed derisively. There was a dead silence. his Gallic accent strong. he insulted my flag and therefore my nation..” Sean‟s face was tomato red. I served Canada and the British Empire for 20 years. then with realization. making it clear that Sean‟s humiliation was not accidental.” Sean said like a child.” Sean turned to me. Sean raised his fists. “I just said it was heavy enough to bend his neck. “I might be!” “Do it!” They sounded like little boys.insulted me.” Charles said. Sean Prior Knowledge . “You‟re big enough to make me?” Charles growled. I wondered if the sugar in the cake had gone to their brains.” “Boys. fellows. but now it was clear.. “Father. even as stiff as it is. “After he told me what he thought of mine. first with shock..” “I didn‟t say anything until you bragged about it.” Charles lifted his Saint Jean Cross. defending himself the way an accused child would.. he.
and we both jumped at the sound.started to speak. a bony finger pointing at us like a messenger of death. more than usual for a Church party. The punch was indeed spiked. pointing to a board attached to the wall. Now you are about to gamble. I was surprised to see him there. The whites of Marjon‟s big eyes were lined with deep red. We knew he wouldn‟t return. “There‟s a prize for the winner. and stamped away. He plunged through the crowd and out the door. men half naked. He had never attending the weekly movies. There is alcohol in that punch. standing near the door. and he had rebuffed the invitation to come to the party. We were certainly not saints. He turned slowly to face all of us. “I said that you were bringing sin into this place. But playing darts was not gambling.Page 143 . caught himself. I gave Charles a reproving look and turned away. covered with brightly colored balloons.” he accused. There is perversion. dying if not dead. no costume. Sin! You are all sinners!” I had to agree with some of what he said. Every head in the room turned. and our costumes were not exactly proper attire for arrival at the Pearly Gates. I warned you.” “No!” I was standing beside Andrew. You are fighting among yourselves like babies. “I knew this would happen. men dressed as women. Brother Andrew whistled to get our attention. The party was wounded. “That‟s gambling!” he screamed. wearing his cassock. I hadn‟t seen him arrive and had no idea how long he had been standing there watching the drama. “Would anyone like to play darts?” he rasped. It was Marjon. his tall thin body stiff. sniffed loudly. The voice was as loud and clear as the chapel bell and almost as piercing. He said he had no time for mindless frivolities. it Prior Knowledge .
You have to live for tomorrow and let today slip away. His voice was soft and soothing but firm. He had slipped a cog. “Brother..” I began. I cleared my throat. lick it.Page 144 . “Brother. held it by the blade. “I won‟t stop. For one crazy moment I expected him to reach for the decimated cake.. “So! Not such a bold bunch of sinners after all. Take it.. You‟re not supposed to get excited.until I say something.was a game. We won‟t come near you. and I concluded by looking at his face that Marjon was not a prophet but a madman. “Come on now.” Peter said. a voice came from the crowd. This whole place is on its way to a devil‟s hell! You‟re violating God‟s law. “Marjon.” Peter said.” “Come on!” Marjon snapped. Take it!” he yelled. “this is not holy ground.. boys. “No one wants to hurt or be hurt.. The handle was curved and handsomely carved. Naturally we fell back with an “Ohhhh” and he grinned. the blade white and sharp and I could see that Prior Knowledge .” I said. It was my job to get control of him. and he moved toward Marjon. finding my voice. are we?” he sneered. and wink: just joking. I half expected him to scrape up a finger of filling.” He put out his hand. This is supposed to be holy ground. you know this isn‟t good for you.” “No!” Marjon shouted. Brother. “Brother. He turned and faced us and switched it from side to side. daring us to come near him. graceful motion Marjon was at the table. God‟s will. “Here. trying to cajole him. His eyes were hot coals. “Come on!” Suddenly he flipped the knife in his hand. and I saw he had the cake knife. and you are making it a pagan altar!” “Not the rec room. But instead there was a glint of steel.. and offered the handle to me. I looked at the knife.” “Yes it is!” With one swift. Before I could reach out or think of anything else to say.
“Eeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” He scared me far worse than Marjon had.it was drawing blood from Marjon‟s hand as he gripped it. but in spirit. “No. I am God‟s viceroy here. Well. Father? Why not? You‟ve wanted to do it for a long time. but a scream struck me in the back. Oh yes. throwing blood everywhere. “No. Prior Knowledge . At least with Marjon I felt I was dealing with an intelligent being---if a sick one. His eyes closed. and I wheeled to see what was happening. I assumed they would take him to the cloister. I am the real king. “Eeeee. I was dazed. So go ahead! Do it!” He shook the knife at me. and saliva streamed down his chin. and after what seemed like an eternity Eric and Bartholomew were on him like spiders on a fly. I saw Eric and Bartholomew edging toward him from two sides. no. and the knife went flying across the floor.” he moaned. Blood dripped from his hand. The blood oozed out and mingled with the icing. sensing that something tragic was about to happen. I couldn‟t tell if he understood. By the cake table. “No. and his mouth fell open. grinning idiotically. not in title. you killed the wrong man. knew you were here to kill the king and sit on his throne. and I did everything I could to hold his attention. They brought him down. but he kept me in sight.” I said. I took a deep breath and looked around to see if everyone was all right. without asking for directions. I continued to shake my head and disavow any desire to harm him. don‟t deny it. not in honor. but I shook my head. That‟s why you now have to kill me. I know you. I know. squatting like an Indian warrior. “No?” Marjon said with mock astonishment.” he screamed.Page 145 . eeeeiiiii. and blood gushed from his hand. but he went limp. I knew you from the start. holding the knife Marjon had dropped. was Pithecarius. Each of them took one of his arms and stood him up. Brother. Eric and Bartholomew. slashing the air. dragged him from the room. no.
” “Do you want to go after it?” I said. He caught my eye as he went over to embrace Barry Lamb. “Out there. Most of the men seemed more stunned than frightened.Page 146 .priceless. “Go where?” she screeched. “It‟s. “Go then. irrational emotion. I reached out to him. brute. I decided not to talk but to act.” someone said. but he shied away. neither do I. It‟s maybe three hundred years old. let out that shriek again. The only person who moved was Charles Lichtenstein. with all them crazy fools runnin‟ „roun‟ loose?” Then she just collapsed. They looked like they had witnessed a skirmish in a war. I looked around the room to assess the damage. He was pure. I heard him let out another whoop as he hit the outer door and another from somewhere outside. that knife. Barry put his face on Charles‟s shoulder and sobbed. who was crying convulsively: a pirate comforting a nun. and Pith went sailing by them and out the door. and made for the door. Larry Diaz. and he was imitating it without knowing why. An Abbey in Italy sent it to us.” “Well. onto the floor.” Peter said. “No.Pith seemed hardly to have a mind at all. slashed at me. It‟s one of a kind.. He had seen Marjon‟s act. in a loose lump of shivers and tears. “Look out!” I yelled. stood jealously watching the Prior Knowledge .. standing on her tiptoes as if a bloody tide were sweeping the floor. She was standing in a far corner.” “Lemme outa here! Lemme outa here!” It was Ophelia. “Father. “Lemme out now!” she screamed again. Several of the men knelt to comfort her. He took my arm. Half a dozen men dived for cover. We can‟t let it be lost. hands to her face. the sister nun.
“I‟m. well. Andrew touched me on the shoulder.only have. came out with a match.” “Then give me one. I think I‟ll go out on the porch and get some air.” I said as we went out into the cool night air. and lit it for me.... and I nearly jumped out of my skin.. looking puzzled. “SOME NIGHT. Father.” “Yes. I thanked him. Father?” Andrew said. When Barry stopped crying. and he fished again.. I knew he did by the way he talked and by the smell he carried with him.” “NEED TO TALK?” “No.” he rasped. I was talking to God.” I said. “Then give me a cigarette.” He dug one out of an inner pocket and handed it to me.” “What. “Good God!” I said before I could stop myself.” Andrew apologized.” “Do you?” “Uh. “Oh. you don‟t smoke. not now.Page 147 .nervous. Brother. I‟m sorry.” I started out. “I. “I wasn‟t talking to you.scene. Prior Knowledge . “I don‟t need a drink.. I need a smoke. and he followed me. I took a deep draw. Larry Diaz took a chair and glared at them. Charles took him by the arm and led him away to a corner. “But Father.” Andrew stopped abruptly and turned back toward the building.” I said. sometimes. “No. some night.” “Would you like some rum punch?” “No. We resumed our walk.cigars. and I went on alone. I‟m sorry. where they began to talk.
Then you send in Pith to send us over the edge. You make a man like Marjon.” “GOOD ONE. and You watch while he goes crazy over a group of horny men trying to blow off a little steam. and we are the actors. and You enjoy watching us be what You made us. too wary to move. I had given up tobacco years before. “Got it. I started to get up.” “You enjoyed watching that business tonight. shake us up.IV There were three aluminum-and-plastic armchairs sitting out near the edge of the grass. THAT‟S A GOOD ONE TOO.” “SKITS?” “Yes.” Himself repeated. isn‟t it? And You are the Audience. GET IT? HANDLED?” I shook my head ruefully.” I said.Page 148 . didn‟t you?” “ENJOYED IT? ME? WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?” “I know who You are and what You are. but nothing more happened. I puffed deeply at the cigar. but it cracked again. and watch the explosion. You made us the way we are. White smoke billowed out into the dim yellow porch light and disappeared into the darkness of the garden. You create little skits. I sat waiting to be dropped flat on my bottom on the hard Shaker stone pavement. “SOME NIGHT. puffing harder. It‟s a comedy. skits. “I‟d say so. All for Your amusement.” Prior Knowledge . I sat still. “YOU HANDLED IT WELL. right? Yes. You bring us all together. I fell heavily into one of them and heard a crack. The cigar was tasty but harsh. You‟re a Voyeur. I‟d say it was touch and go. He offered me the handle. too weary. One of my monks goes ape shit and takes a knife to the community.
.” “Father?” I jumped and twisted in the chair. “This kind of thing.” I said..“YOU KNOW. All I would have needed is a few bucks to buy some air time. It was Randy Muldoon.. “What? Oh. and I would end up in a heresy trial. and then the good Catholics of America would have sent me money week after week. Father. if I‟d been born later. you know. my Shaker.Page 149 . He shrank down an inch of two. I‟m scared. visitations...” “We‟re all a bit unnerved.” “Since when?” “One last Friday. what I should have been. I‟ve had more of my. Father.” “You didn‟t tell me.” “No. friend?” “Yes. then one Sunday night. which cracked again. smiled them to the camera. grew smaller.” “No. and cleaned up.” “From your. “You were talkin‟ to yourself.” Prior Knowledge . another Wednesday. Three. Plural?” “Yes.” “YOU THINK SO. and said to me in a small voice: “Father. it‟s more than what happened at the party.” “Yep.” he said. like that prissy Bishop. As a theologian I would tell the truth about You.” “You say visitations. YOU COULD HAVE BEEN A THEOLOGIAN. See. No. COLUMBA. I had been so absorbed with God and my cigar that I hadn‟t heard him coming.. Oh yes..” He came around me and leaned against a stone pillar of the enclosure wall. Odd night.. is a television priest. I could have invented a few catchy phrases.
but nobody got killed. but he kept sayin‟ it. right?” He had indeed. “What was the message this time?” I asked noncommittally. yes.” He raised a hand. “at least you don‟t come knocking at my door in the middle of the night anymore. might not have understood it at the time.” “They‟re not dreams. Randy might have seen Hanks stealing. pardon me if this is sacrilegious. giving him a smile. night after night. I wasn‟t completely sure either Marjon or Pith was still alive. I never thought I would be. But there could be a logical explanation. “You‟re sure? There was a death involved.Father. What the Shaker kept sayin‟ had to do with a death. then informed himself of it in a dream.used to „em by now. Remember that first time? But now I don‟t let them bother me so much.” “A. like many of the Irish.” “Well.“No. I thought of Bridey Murphy.murder. but as an angel.” My cigar suddenly didn‟t taste so good. but I just lie there. hypnotized. it was vague. I don‟t think so. might have analyzed it subconsciously.” I shuddered. I reached back and gave it a toss into the bushes.” “I see.” “Well. I started to get up. maybe that was it tonight. “Well. Father.. had a kind of Sixth Sense.” I said. Father.” “I‟ve come to think of him as. “I know. I know it‟s not good Catholicism. paralyzed. to go and check Prior Knowledge .. Tonight was frightful. but he did tell us where t‟find the stolen goods. It was that somethin‟ bad is about t‟happen. unable to move. while he talks. They‟re more like dreams. Father.. and even after he leaves I keep layin‟ there. Or maybe Randy.” “No..Page 150 . I know that... I‟m kinda.
us Indians.on everyone. About your visitor. “It never bothered me. “Father?” “Let‟s not mention this to anyone. two figures emerged from the garden. One was tall and thin and stooped.” Hosea said.” His voice played like a dirge out into the night. “Randy?” I said. turning to him. made as I am in the image of God. and I hesitated to speak. and the other was short and round. this was not a formal confession. Alexis I soon saw. They stopped where Randy Muldoon had stood. Whatever happens. he had delivered it to me. but the chair cracked again.Page 151 . “Before that.” “Right.” He left me and went back apparently to drink the dregs of the party. “not until I came here. “See. We don‟t think much about sin. I knew I should make myself known.” “Really?” Prior Knowledge . They were in the middle of an intense conversation. all right?” “About the chair?” “No. where to go first. I remained in the shadows. It looked like it had been run over by a car. Randy was quick enough to grab and pull me free before it collapsed into a heap. I guess I‟m a bit of a voyeur myself. but I was intrigued by what they were saying. trying to decide what to do. The burden was off his back. then snapped.” “Not until you began to study Catholic theology?” Alexis said. Besides. and I was afraid if they knew I was there they would stop. we say it‟s meant to be. whatever we do. you never considered it a sin. We looked at it in amazement. Father. Hosea Candlemas. about death. As I stood there. we see thing in a different light. I went to the edge of the pavement and spat the bitter cigar taste into the grass. by the column.
but when they asked me.. no..” Prior Knowledge .hard-on?” Alexis continued to stare at him.Page 152 . but I could tell from his tone that he did not. he‟s satisfying a God-given need. that is wrong. “So see. callin‟ it sinful. naw.. You start tellin‟ „em this is wrong. I thought you might could tell me. You know.embarrassed.” Alexis said. they overheard white teams teasin‟ about it. Father.an erection. in my Morals class. but it‟s kind of in the air. “That‟s why y‟get so few Indians t‟be Catholics.. the ball team.. you know. a. you got t‟do it. I‟d say. but Alexis just stared at him. drinks.” Hhhhmmmmm. it‟s natural. in your class. Otherwise God wouldn‟t be in control.” He stopped and waited for Alexis to reply. you talk about.. and it can‟t be wrong.” “I see.” “You mean. He‟s made me. But here at the seminary. and it don‟t make sense..what?” he said pitifully. but you can tell by the way he raises his eyebrows what he means..masturbation?” “Not in so many words. the Catholics say somethin‟ else.. They think you‟re crazy. what do you do when you get a.“Yeah. he was puzzled by Native American religious thought.whatchacallit. He uses other words. Born in Germany. Father. My boys... a cloistered monk for 50 years. educated in Bavaria and Rome. natural. got t‟sleep.. you bein‟ a priest so long.. Father. like you got t‟eat. “A. “A hard-on. “See.. has sex. Still do.” Alexis allowed. I never felt it was wrong. the one with Marjon. about somethin‟ I used to think we normal. So we say when a person eats. I did it myself.
still dressed as a nun.” “Yes?” Prior Knowledge . I wondered now if the book belonged to Hosea. “Father. covering all the major ethical issues: race relations. I wanted to go to bed. Yes.how long it‟s been. my son. bracketed whole paragraphs. Finally he reached out toward Alexis. I thought of the textbook I had found the week before.Page 153 . The whole affair had depleted my energy and concern for others.since I had a.” I nodded. I was just thinking. Anyway. He had explained it all the best way he knew.” Alexis shook himself.. “Good. left in the classroom where Marjon taught Ethics.hard-on. I met up with Charles Lichtenstein.. I‟m still here. They moved on to walk some more. and Hosea giggled. social justice. As I reached the steps.. war. made notes to himself. It could have belonged to any one of the seminarians. The reader had circled words..I decided not to go looking for Pith or inquire about Marjon. “Yes. The tension broke. Hosea sucked on his lower lip. I had forgotten about Ophelia. and with him. still dressed in his pirate‟s costume. was on sexuality and particularly the pages on masturbation. the only one where there was underlining. marriage. I was trying to remember.” “Uh? Yes. Eric and Bartholomew could take care of them.” He smiled. the place where the book opened when I picked it up. I made a mental note to find a replacement for Marjon or just have the men do papers for the rest of the term.Alexis said nothing. Yet the only chapter the owner had spent much time reading. our Child of Nature being corrupted by a Jansenist. “The party‟s over. the textbook was thorough. on their way to solving one of life‟s great mysteries...” Charles said.. “I have something to tell you. was Barry Lamb..
Well.Page 154 .“I can‟t talk about it right now. BUT MARK TWAIN SAID THAT FIRST. a bit frightened. but I can go one better.” “EVEN CUTER THAN TWAIN. right?” “SO THEY SAY. I‟ll tell you tomorrow..” I said.late. after five days.” He tilted his head toward Barry. I LIKE THAT. I headed for my den. I was too tired for this ridiculous conversation.” “Very well. I think you got a bottle and started drinking.information. “After supper.” “Yes. They went out the door.” “Bring it? I can‟t. not gay in the way Larry Diaz was.” “Bring it to me tomorrow. You know that I take a long walk each day. “But it‟s important. He let himself be led away.” “You made man after a long.. I think when you made man you were either still drunk or had a terrible hangover.as you say. He took Barry‟s arm.” He nodded and smiled. Charles was not gay. up through the meadow.. I think you quit your serious work on Friday. Barry looked confused. I wondered about them.. YES.. after supper. “You made man on the sixth day. I was not a psychologist. Prior Knowledge . something important.. much more virile. 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.” He hesitated. I‟ve found something.. It‟s. hard week‟s work. With dyed hair he looked much younger than usual.” “CUTE. It was too much like talking to myself.. into the woods.” I shook my head and signed off.
stood on a rock high above a wagon train and urinated on a Mormon elder with a long white beard as he passed below. Lamb. and raised her skirts to show me a penis as big as the ones in Aubrey Beardsley prints. Between runs to the porcelain facility I had nightmares. In one dream a bloody hand holding a knife emerged from a cake. After each of these horrors. then Muldoon. but he called back in perfect English that he was doing what came naturally. Candlemas. I fled from it and fell off the edge of a porch into a bed of snakes. it all conspired to put me on edge.Page 155 . and wandered out of the Priory into the night. dressed only in a loincloth and feathered headdress.V It was a bad night. After the third one. I was so stunned that I could not speak. and made for my stomach. the cake. It must have risen late because I remembered the sky was black when I went in about 11:00. who used a life-size crucifix to hammer a black woman into a hole in the rose garden. smiled angelically. made a cup of black coffee. and each time through sheer fatigue I lay back and fell asleep and repeated the ordeal with a worse scene. and my stomach was in a mess. Lichtenstein. the episode. I woke up struggling to catch my breath. the cigar. I forced myself to get up. I was up four or five times to use the toilet. vowing to stay up the rest of the night to avoid having another one. The punch. Prior Knowledge . I yelled at him that he was doing a terrible thing. the way I have heard naked women emerge from cakes at stag parties. There was a full moon. In another dream an Indian. forced myself to drink it. In still another dream a nun met me as I walked in the meadow. The worst dream featured a babbling idiot wrapped in an American flag.
The cows out near the pond would suddenly run several yards and stop to look behind them. so full of philosophical significance. over the graveyard. disturbed by the same emotions that made cows and rabbits run and birds fly. Even we humans. A light popped on in the seminarians‟ residence hall. I drew my robe closer around me. those thoughts of mine. I Prior Knowledge . The next morning I read it: THER CLOBS IN BLUFF OV NIGERATOR SAK---ENK PRODS ALTEGRATHEM SUPHIS SUM. just before dawn. and I wondered who was awake so early. the fields out to the pond and up to the woods and out to the cemetery were all alive with sound and movement. But I didn‟t get up because I knew from experience that they wouldn‟t sound so great in the light of day. but moonlight kept this one bright. They were beautiful. Life is like that. but and he told me it was gibberish. almost poetic. The moonlight made it seem almost morning.Page 156 . It was that time just before dawn when the temperature drops to its nadir. and took it out to sit in the rose garden to the side of the chapel steps. The garden. It was just colder.I picked up a chair. that I got up from bed and wrote it down. I showed it to a linguist. It is usually also the darkest hour. hoping it might be in a foreign tongue. I even thought about going back for paper and pen to capture what I composed in my head. one that looked sturdy. sure that I had captured The Truth for all time. I tried to tell myself that nature was responding to the arrival of autumn. I once had a dream so vivid. Rabbits flitted toward the woods. Oh. to changes that it feared. I think I dozed because suddenly I felt chilly. then shifted directions and came back. I waxed eloquent while I sat there. Over at the seminarians‟ residence several windows were alight. a wooden one this time. the lawn. back and forth. then fell back into a deep sleep. Flocks of birds flew low. in our climate controlled bedrooms were having nightmares.
first to the chapel. then embraced.. Prior Knowledge . anxious to arrange the music for Morning Prayers.Page 157 .” “I couldn‟t sleep. looking about him as if he hadn‟t noticed.. getting stiffly to my feet. questions. He said he expected to be the one chosen to deliver the trumpet blast on Judgment Day.” He had not seen me until I spoke.” Roderick said. they moved toward each other and stopped to talk in the parking lot...remembered that when I first sat down several minutes before. I knew the monk was Roderick. I debated who he was. isn‟t it?” “Yes. Two doors opened almost simultaneously. He was always the first person up. He carried a valise. I waited for Roderick to reach the steps before I spoke: “Morning. “Father Prior.” he said needlessly. When the two men spotted each other. Brother.. They talked for a time. “Beautiful night.going to the chapel.” He jumped.. “Who. 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. “I was just. and Roderick came on toward the chapel while the one in the sweater went to one of the cars. You‟re punctual as usual. and now this was the only one. He told me that not once in 15 years as Organ Master had he overslept. Even before I could see his face. The seminarian who walked parallel to Roderick but for a time seemed oblivious to him was chunky and wore a white sweater. the front door of the cloister and that of the seminarians‟ hall. several lights were burning over there.” I explained. these were just the first of a torrent of questions that would threaten to drown me that day. anyway not well.
It was a Trappist place where the monks took vows of silence along with their other vows. Prior Knowledge .. well. Looks like he‟s been crying. Eyes all swollen. “I usually get inside before he starts that jangle.. There came the sound of an engine rousing. Father. is he?” “Well. “Well. but I knew it was not just the violence.” I said. I assumed it was Pith. and we both looked toward the parking lot.retreat.. I had felt absolutely liberated when I got to leave it.“I assumed so. It appeared that Pith was still on the job in spite of the night he had spent.” I knew Gethsemani.” “Is he?” “He looks bad. huh?” “Yes.” “Yes. After last night. he‟s not sure. good morning.” “Over what happened at the party?” “Yes. I remembered it from an Easter retreat I had myself taken there once. I wondered what he had done with the knife? I went out into the grass.leaving.” he said and went to the door. He‟s.. For the present he‟s just going away for the weekend. feeling the dew penetrate my sandals and moisten my socks. He looked at me and smiled sheepishly. Brother?” “Larry Diaz. he‟s very upset.” He hurried on in. good morning.” I said. up near Bardstown. It made a Benedictine place look like Vanity Fair. Roderick jumped as if touching the door shocked him. Father. Just as he did. Brother. “Who was that you were talking with. No one else did the ringing.” I knew it was what happened at the party. the bells above us began to clang. Cold as a morgue and quiet as a tomb.” “Is he? Not for good.Page 158 . He‟s going to Gethsemani. “Gethsemani. He says for a.
shaking the building. Sean angry.” I said. and drowned the whole plate with maple syrup. Ophelia. Marjon was missing. “You feelin‟ better?” she said sternly. His condition and where he was being kept I didn‟t know. Out of habit I counted both the monks and the seminarians at Morning Prayer. The way you fainted. There were only 11 of us monks. “Yes. I half expected him to beat his chest. he let go of the rope and watched the bells come to rest. filled it with five plump cakes.and looked toward the bell tower. He waved and gave me a big smile and disappeared. put on them an ice cream sized scoop of butter to melt.” Prior Knowledge . At the end of the twenty-seventh pull. ringing with all his might. I‟m better. there were only 7 seminarians. served us pancakes for breakfast. frightening the livestock. but the pancakes smelled so good I couldn‟t resist. It was you I was worried about.” She looked embarrassed. There was no sign of Charles Lichtenstein. It was Pith all right. I followed his gaze to the place where Larry Diaz‟s car pulled out onto the highway. seemingly recovered from her fright the night before. Instead he stopped and squinted. Pith was looking at me. That made nine. He looked out over the priory grounds. Barry Lamb and Sean O‟Day came in late.Page 159 . She handed me a plate still warm from being sterilized with hot water. “I did not faint.” “Me?” “The way you reacted to that knife.” “Oh. Barry looking embarrassed. When I looked back up. When the service began. I had promised myself that with the condition of my stomach I would try to fast most of the day. “Better?” “You looked turrible las‟ night.
Page 160 . but this morning I went over to the table where Randy Muldoon.” “Talk „bout sign. came to me for confession.. half flattered. but I feigned interest. stay. “Sign?” “Signs. These men passed me ten times a day. “You men get over the party?” I said pleasantly. trying to make them relax. Libra. and yet they looked panic stricken when I sat next to them at a small table to eat.” Griffey cackled. Lamb glanced up furtively and nodded just the least bit. I usually sat at the head of the monks‟ large table. took my class. chewing. he born un‟. with that knife and all. Father.” I looked around and saw that several chairs around the seminarians‟ tables were empty. Leo.” I said.. “Yes. Don‟t let me interrupt. “Spare a poor Benedictine a seat with you?” I said lightly. Ronald Griffey. They squatted back into their chairs. “Sit. You know. he say. I guess you are convinced now that Catholics are weird. half alarmed at my presence. and Barry Lamb sat munching their cakes with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Aquarius. Baptists is worse.” “It‟s alright.” I smiled.” I knew next to nothing about such things.“Oh. There was no response. “Really?” “Wha‟ Muldoo. knelt before me at the altar.” I said. “Signs of the Zodiac.” Randy clarified.” Griffey said. “I had trouble sleeping. “What were you men discussing.” Prior Knowledge . They all began to scrape and try to stand. “Mazin‟ tell me like.” “Oh. Griffey nodded and grinned.” Randy said.
Aquarius. I must have given him a dirty look because he hurried on.” “Is that good?” Prior Knowledge .” “That‟s the Irish in me. “Why?” “Nothing. So your year. A detective.. Did you say 1896?” “Yes.” “What does that tell you about me?” I asked him.Page 161 . “What day?” “The fifth. It has a twelve year cycle.” “We are?” “Yeah.” Randy smiled.” Griffey laughed. not a cop on the beat. Father?” Randy asked..” Griffey chimed in.“What‟s your birthday. I had no idea what Griffey meant. “Hey. “You are creative.” Randy said. you might have been a cop. Father. “Uh.” I sniffed. No. hee. “Good sign.February. Father. “You‟re also a peacemaker. we‟re both monkeys. very Aquarian.. “No. “Hee. as if no one still alive could have been born then.” he said at last.” I could see the wheels turning in his head. I was glad he was there. I‟m just calculating what it would be.. hee.” “Hee. You and I are the same. it tells you a lot about yourself too. I‟m asking for a reason. “Maybe you write poetry or paint. A sleuth.” “No. his eyes lighting up. And if you hadn‟t become a priest. “What year were you born?” Randy said. the one they use in China. or could if you wanted to.?” “How does 1896 strike you?” “1896?” He looked surprised.” “Ah then. The lunar year. You‟re right in the middle of it too.” I told him.
hey. competent.” I started to deflate him by telling him that I hate all puzzles. Excusing myself from the table. just buzzing. Charles didn‟t come this morning.” I said to Griffey. but before I could speak Brother Andrew approached the table and leaned over to whisper in my ear.” “Yes?” “Well. “would you go with Brother Andrew? He might need your help. You love peace. not a radio. crossword. you know. not music. “Sure. and every eye was on us. “Why?” “I knocked and there was no answer. You are creative. Aquarius and a monkey. running away. his voice more ragged than usual. human. “Charles Lichtenstein. and you‟re good at solving them. so that I couldn‟t use the pass key.Page 162 . may I speak with you?” he rasped. jigsaw. “I‟m worried about one of the seminarians.” Prior Knowledge . I went back to the table where my pancakes were slowly oxidizing. It‟s so loud a person couldn‟t sleep through it---and couldn‟t do much in that room with it going. our skill. They can depend on our energy. I followed Andrew to a corner.” “Why is that?” “You know I always go by to check on the ones who do not make it to Morning Prayer.” he wheezed. You like puzzles. what a combination. It means skillful. “Father. The door was locked from the inside. and I went over there. “And you‟re.” he whispered.” I looked around the room. People can depend on us to carry things out to the end. “Ron.” I said.” His eyes widened.“Oh yes. I listened and his alarm is on. and I think there‟s something badly wrong.
. After a long time. He had emerged from a slough of despond.” “Do we believe in it.” His voice sounded far away. “Randy. “Well. He was still chewing. but I had never been asked why we believed in it. I tried to resurrect our delayed conversation.” Griffey got up and nodded agreeably. how I‟m a monkey.“Sho. Bro An‟. A vat of maple syrup overturned as she swooned. Monks and seminarians were boiling up all around us..” I heard a crash. “Who‟s dead?” “Lic‟sty dea‟.” I said. “You know. “Tell me something. I had been asked about the resurrection. I felt tension in the air. “tell me about this monkey business..or do we just. and a golden foam gurgled out toward the cakes. “Lea‟ way.. and I sat back down and tried to eat. “Why do we believe in the resurrection?” “Why?” I said. Griffey ran across the floor to me.” “What?” I shouted.. Andrew stopped and gripped the door post as if he might faint.” “What?” Randy said. and when I looked I saw Ophelia standing at the kitchen door.” “Father?” Barry Lamb broke in..because it‟s true. “Wait!” I yelled. I was surprised to hear him speak. I‟ve wondered about this for a long time... but he threw his napkin on the table and looked at Andrew. searching for my feet.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. and he went on. It did Prior Knowledge .dea‟..Page 163 . She had dropped an iron plate of food. “He. his grin gone. Pancakes slid across the polished floor. I looked at him encouragingly. Men were making for the door. Deadern do‟ nob.” The two of them left. Stab bou‟ mil‟ time..
“You knew something like this would happen.” “SURPRISE!” Prior Knowledge . They were a herd.Page 164 .” “And You didn‟t bother to tell me.no good. They didn‟t bother with the sidewalk and went directly across the grass to the hall. and they were on their way to the residence hall.” “YES. I limped along behind them.
ready to laugh his head off when we got there. The men ahead of me slowed to a stop as they came to the porch. plotting to feast off the anxieties of last night. despite its quiet appearance of peaceful slumber. huffing and puffing. The first wave stood aside for the second wave and the second wave stood aside for the third. Prior Knowledge .” someone said. terrified me. “Go on.” “Father. I would kill him with my bare hands. The oblique windows looked out at the odd horde heading toward the building like startled eyes. 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. I felt my flesh crawl. 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. and so when I got there on my gimpy leg. Maybe he got up and watched from his window as they went tearing down the stairs and across the lawn to announce his murder. they were all standing around staring at each other.VI The seminarians‟ residence hall. As we approached the place.Page 165 . Maybe he put fake blood on his shirt. Maybe he stayed behind this morning. He had made a fool of Sean O‟Day and several others. for heaven‟s sake. “What‟s wrong?” I said. Maybe he put in ear plugs and turned on the alarm. Go inside. If what I suspected were true. No one wanted to enter the building first. look. The front door atop the stone porch looked like a mouth open to scream. we would indeed have a murder on our hands.
” I called on the two monks who looked least afraid. “Benjamin. Barry Lamb knew. it would curtail Charles‟s fun if only a few got to see him rise from the dead on All Saints Day. the same way he looked the night the Shaker Ghost first appeared. He had been attentive to detail. helpless. He would know. telling her about it.” I said. He stood far back in the crowd. but no one spoke. They were a light shade of red.. helping Ophelia clean up.” They stirred but didn‟t move. They all looked back at me like a bunch of choir boys: innocent. I looked for Muldoon. They probably didn‟t know anything. “Did anyone see that. at the place where someone might have held the door to close it softly.. I had to hand it to old Charles. Charles probably kept the joke to himself. They were frightened..” I said. or there will be hell to pay. Bartholomew. stain. They would get in my way. “If anyone here is playing a joke. then. and he wasn‟t there. “Kopec.. Rise from the dead. about a trick.. “All right. you‟d better. “You three come with me. It was silly to go on like this.” I picked the bravest looking seminarian.Page 166 . I realized they needn‟t all go in. simple as swans.” I stopped.” I said. Charles had told the little scamp about his trick. of course. “If you know something.when you came out earlier?” No one had. Besides. . A few shook their heads. We‟d better find out what‟s going on. “Don‟t anybody touch that. if anyone would. his eyes like saucers. that was the source of Barry Lamb‟s question. having a big laugh at our expense. trying to look menacing.I looked where he pointed. There were red splotches on the door frame. Prior Knowledge . I looked into the crowd.. We‟ll go up and check.” They all just stared at me. dried. and he was back at the dining room. “you‟d better come clean right this minute. “Come on.
Here all we had was a banister that seemed to me none too solid. “Number 12. I went down the hallway. stay right where you are. The foyer had a sweet odor of decay. I had to walk sort of sideways to fit my big feet onto them. There the Mexican government had installed chains to hold as you ascended and descended. pointing. Father. I gave the others a look of scorn and pulled the front door open. I half expected to see Charles standing down there grinning at me. It grew steadily louder.” I said. iths the lasth room.” Kopec said without hesitation.” My three aids followed me inside.Everyone else.” He had neglected to put in his teeth that morning or he had taken them out and put them in his shirt pocket. We went down the hallway. We moved across the vestibule and went slowly up the stairs. “Watch these steps. The Shakers must have had tiny feet to negotiate them. The morning sun shone through the transoms. the way he did when he ate. As we approached the last door I could hear a buzzing. proud to be among the chosen few. and the men followed. but it was empty. men. leaving the others outside to squirm. Climbing without my crutches was about as hard as doing it with them. The stairs seemed steeper and higher and the steps smaller than I remembered them from my earlier visits. careful not to touch the spots of “blood.Page 167 .” I knew they would obey that command. and I looked down the hallway. “On the righth. The three stepped forward willingly. We came to the head of the stairs. It was an Prior Knowledge . They reminded me of the steps on those Mayan pyramids in Mexico. “Which one is his?” I asked Kopec. passing closed door after closed door. “Yes. spilling pools of orange light along the dark passage. I closed the door.” they said in unison.
go in. A door slightly ajar is far more terrifying than one either fully closed or fully open. I saw the body on the bed. Charles definitely had ear plugs. and it opened inward. The room was dimly lighted. I could see how Andrew and Griffey. would be fooled. Charles had either turned it back on for effect. with a lamp on a stand in the far corner.” Kopec said. How did doors that swung inward pass the fire inspection? I would have to look into this. knowing where the switch would be.” I nodded. or it had been going since Andrew and Griffey were here before. “Yes. Doors are like clothes: neither being fully clothed or being totally nude is as sexy as being partially clothed.Page 168 . “Fellows.” Prior Knowledge . but they were all over the sheets and the floor around the bed. Behind me Benjamin whistled. “Take it easy now.jump to conclusions. “Holy Mother. My mind was whirling with ideas. and hit it.” Kopec said. It had a beard. and Kopec reached out. making another buzzing sound. “That‟s his alarm. I pushed the door. The curtains were drawn tightly. the jamb broken when the two men broke in. I told myself.” I said. It stood ajar. Enough. “Turn on the light. The overhead light blinked twice and came on. They seemed to come from the man‟s head. Dark stains were everywhere. Pictures of partially clothed dead bodies sold a lot of paperback mystery novels. and they did look like blood. We‟d better not. men less skeptical than I. and they were heavy enough to keep out the sunlight.” I said.older alarm.. The men behind me were gasping. We approached the door.” Bartholomew moaned. It looked ominous. The buzz grew louder until he was unbearable. “Good God in heaven..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.
but then he shook his head too. “It could be a trick. Prior Knowledge .” Three pairs of eyes moved from Charles to me.“He‟s dead. Father. Father?” Benjamin said.” Bartholomew said.” I ordered. Charles lay on his back. He wouldn‟t do it either. I reached out close enough to the body to put a forefinger on the knob atop the clock. both neatly arranged next to the alarm clock. just look at „im. Bartholomew groaned but stood his ground. “Well. arms by his sides. Benjamin hesitated. and the blankets at the foot of the bed.” Kopec said. and the buzz stopped.” I said. It appeared he had undressed. “But you never know. legs spread apart. I made a mental note to charge the replacements to Charles‟s bill. “It does look that way. shorts. I might just as well have told them to fly to the moon. There was blood. or socks. “Not me. “Someone take his pulse. shaking his head. “Why not?” I asked them. “I know how it looks. apparently real. beside his wristwatch.” “A trick? A trick. and lain down to rest. “Take his pulse. He wore no undershirt. all over the sheets. “but we‟d better make sure. using it as a loose house coat.Page 169 . His cassock was unbuttoned and parted. I saw how silly it sounded.” I allowed. No one was about to touch that body. His eyepatch lay on his desk at the foot of his bed.” Benjamin said. They would all have to be burned.” “Make sure? How?” Bartholomew moaned. put on his cassock but not buttoned it. The silence was deafening. not wanting to be disobedient. the pillow.
it was not makeup. The penis was mutilated. The one he kept covered with a patch had no cornea. At last I admitted the truth: Charles was dead. split into two roughly equal parts.” Strangely I had noted the eye in detail but hadn‟t seen the tongue. Oddly. I looked away from the face.” Benjamin sighed. far out. His tongue hung out of his mouth.” Kopec said. yet it was the most brutal of the wounds. The tongue was the most appalling part of the murder. “And his chest.Page 170 . and I wondered why the penis had not bled more. no pupil. It looked like someone had stabbed it near the pelvic bone and ripped it right down to the end. Prior Knowledge . with a gash from base to tip.I also had to admit that if this was a trick. It looked so ragged that I imagined a person stabbing and then twisting the blade. It gave Charles the look of an idiot. it was a brutal murder. At the glans the ripper had apparently found it rough going and had sawed it the rest of the way. I knew the body stored a lot of blood in the genitals. This was not a trick. good enough to win an award. he had done a masterful makeup job. had been stabbed. there was less blood down there than around the eye. the good one. hanging to its roots only by a tiny band. It was a either a stunning makeup job--or we had a raving maniac on our hands. “Look at his tongue. and that‟s when for the first time I knew this was real. Dried blood covered the socket and the whole side of the face and matted the beard on that side as well as the pillow. as if it has been pulled. and looked like a white marble. Someone had all but cut it off. His eyes were open. Again as with the penis there was little blood from the tongue. It had to be a real eye because fake ones were painted to look real. Mother of God. The other eye. and my eye caught a glimpse of his penis. Maybe I didn‟t want to see it.
at the party?” It certainly was.” He pointed to the arm nearest the wall. Prior Knowledge . from last night. One of a kind.I had seen the chest wound. The skin was cold.” “Pith then.” I said.” Benjamin said. I let the arm fall back over it. “It‟s the cake knife. “We don‟t need to take his pulse. I hated to touch him. then start to pound intensely. we took Marjon home. and the spot sparkled. Just below the elbow I saw a gold spot. a stab wound. “He‟s been dead to the world since midnight.Page 171 . “He ran off with the knife. I rubbed my sticky fingers together. y‟know.” Bartholomew said. I felt my heart stop. “He‟s asleep.” Bartholomew said. Another like it ran from nipple to nipple.” he went on. From just under the chin to the navel ran a deep gash. “What? When? Where?” “Me „n‟ Eric. Whoever formed the cross had finished the job with a mighty thrust to the chest. as were his arms.” I said. so soaked that they were both still damp. but I swallowed solemnly and reached out and lifted the arm.” “He threw it away. “Father. The sheet on both sides was soaked.” Bartholomew said. and I felt cold. damp blood stick to my fingers. an‟ as we went along toward the cloister we saw Pith runnin‟ out of the building. But under the arm I saw what it was. although the attack seemed several hours old. Together they formed a Latin Cross. the arm was stiff. A gift from Italy. and from it had apparently come the most blood. I leaned closer. So did the men around me. “You know. At the point of the interception there was a hole. “Look there. “Where‟s Marjon?” I said to the two men who had carried him away from the party. but now I looked closer. “We gave him a pill.
“All right. “you men go on. chest.” I do love to “get” Him.” “The trail leads back to You. Keep them outside. They got out of there as fast as they could. I looked down at the body. I‟ll stay. What‟s left of him. And call the police. “YOU GOT ME THERE.” I said.Page 172 . tongue. “Nature.He had that knife all right. Stabbed in the eye. but we saw him throw it in the Rose Garden „n‟ run off. Someone had a lot of anger in him to do this. “Bloody in tooth and claw. Charles seemed to leer at me with that empty eye and loose tongue. Human nature too.” “THIS IS EVIL. I see this as your crowning achievement.” An indulgent chuckle.” I sighed. I DIDN‟T MAKE EVIL. Prior Knowledge .” I sighed. You made everything. As their footsteps died out. penis. Tell the others as little as possible.. The way You made it. COLUMBA. with Charles.. I looked at each wound.” They didn‟t argue. which shouldn‟t be that hard.” “ME?” “You made it.
yes. Nothing looks as ridiculous as a corpulent monk rushing through a door.” but of course it didn‟t. “Men. I tucked up my robe and descended the porch steps and crossed the grass to them. especially when people think he is running from a corpse. fear. that he has been killed. picking up speed as I went. close enough to get the latest report---from me.. and Kopec. it appears we have had a tragedy. far enough from the building to escape the horror they had heard about from Bartholomew. The monks. The Three Roses stared at Prior Knowledge .” Bartholomew reminded me. Father. While I was forcing it together. “Booo. It would appear. presenting a calm appearance.Page 173 . the way a child runs from things in the dark. and Ophelia stood out under the big Shaker Magnolia tree that grew at the edge of the Rose Garden.. pulled the door as nearly closed as the broken jamb would permit. I cleared my throat. but a murdered. I had conducted a hundred funerals and sat up at even more wakes.” (I was still leery.VII I found I had no stomach for watching a corpse. the seminarians.. so I eased out of the room..that Charles is dead. mutilated body was something new and frightening to me. Everyone outside knew. I kept expecting the mutilated body to sit up and say. then stopped and opened the front door slowly. Benjamin. every emotion but sorrow. “Oh. I counted them.” I said. “Benjamin?” I said. “He went to call the police. In one glance I saw in their faces confusion. disbelief. I went down the hall. In fact.) “.” They stirred under the impact of the word “killed” but showed no signs of grief or even regret. I hurried down the stairs as fast as my bum ankle would allow me and across the vestibule.
” Prior Knowledge . I know that for sure.” I chose not to notice the smiles and chuckles.. you were. I know I seen „im. until we worked out a time scheme.” he said with some heat.” I went on.. I tried to cover my stupidity by calling on poor Barry Lamb.Page 174 . “It wasn‟t after twelve. my watch is broken. and if. He coughed into a fist. Ophelia and Peter shook their heads. who knew. at the end of the party. God forbid.” There were a few grins and chuckles.. “that puts him in his room at midnight. Of course. Anyone see him after that?” “I may have. his voice threatening to break.” I sounded like a cop. Once more I cleared my throat. Mario Terminus looked toward heaven. “I said goodbye to him at his door. the way they would have reacted to a shipment of spoiled meat. “We know nothing yet. he certainly wasn‟t going to speak up.” Hosea Candlemas said. Father. the murderer were among us.me blankly. taking this as everything else in stride. who had seen him last? We didn‟t even know when he died. and he fought them successfully. but they were not tears of sorrow. Barry looked about angrily. for a while at least. “All right.” “Why aren‟t you sure?” “Well. Barry Lamb was near tears.. When did you see him last?” “Well. so I never know the time. “Who saw Charles last?” It was a dumb question.with Charles. I don‟t know. I know that now.. But I need to ask a question or two..” Barry began. Alexis nodded his acceptance. Furthermore. his lips moving. but what time it was. really. I meant. the murderer had seen him last. “I. but see. What roles we Priors have to play. “We won‟t disturb the body until the officials come.” I said. “Barry. Sean O‟Day looked grim but not sad. It was in the shower room.think it was.about twelve. “I‟m not sure.
“I didn‟t look. He probably couldn‟t track deer either.” Hosea said. he was in the shower too. but that hall light bothered me.” They began to move away.” Hosea said. “Anyone see him after. and he can‟t run.” “Okay. As the monks gathered around me. from that New Orleans station. “I saw him. say. all that dye was gone from „is beard. I got back to my room at 12:30. seminarians. “Frost there. “Hey. “Yeah.” Kopec said. But Charles was down close to the switch „n‟ I ast him t‟do it an‟ he did.Page 175 . “All right. passing the seminarians.” he said.” Frost put in. I need to talk with the monks for a minute. I felt like Casey Stengel when he commented about Elston Howard: “I finally got a Negro. Just had on a towel. He was on his way to „is room.” I nodded. Ophelia went with them.” Frost nodded. I‟d laid down.” We had an Indian with no sense of time. yeah. “Must a been when he come outa the shower. 12:45?” No one answered.” Mario said dreamily. Father. All he knew how to do was dribble an imaginary basketball. “Police on the way.” I admonished. “Stay in sight. so I got up „n‟ went out t‟shut it off. “He came in about the time I was leaving.Some Indian he was. “What was their reaction when you called?” I asked Prior Knowledge .” “Nouveau Orleans. you wait over by the chapel. and Charles was still in there.” He thought about it. then. I shrugged. “Frost left first. and I followed him out after a few minutes. “It was 12:30. The news was coming on. please.” “What time?” I said. Benjamin came trotting across the lawn.
saw and heard more than the other monks. for the priory. Did you see or more likely hear anything unusual in the night?” I went from right to left.you know.. a possible murder. Fortunately. “Men. You will each be questioned. for each of you. I‟ve already asked the seminarians. Father. “Yes. They‟ve got trouble at the university. you know.. I gave Marjon the sedative. Andrew stood next to them.” I turned to the group. Edward. Robert. “I saw Charles leave with Barry Lamb.” Benjamin said.” “No.. waited until he was Prior Knowledge . which I seriously doubted..” he said. I have time.” His thin. “This is a serious matter. “Nothing. I knew I would never get anything out of them. Father.” I corrected him. before the police arrive. They were in a world of their own.” Bartholomew was next. and I didn‟t see him again.” I called on the Rose Triplets. raspy voice went dead as his lips finished the sentence “. as manager of the seminarians‟ residence hall.at a monastery. even if they knew something... “John. but think about it. They all gave me their typical blank expression and shook their heads collectively. I looked at him with raised eyebrows. Why? Supposed t‟be some reaction?” “Well. and he said. I know most of you were asleep long before midnight.. Integration.Page 176 . Just said it might take a little time.until this morning.“None that I could hear..” “I guess to them one dead man‟s like any other. “but did you see or hear anything during the night?” Andrew. “I didn‟t see him after me „n‟ Eric took Marjon out. “That‟s what we‟re on right now.” I said. to depose you myself.” He dropped his eyes. “Unless it‟s at a Priory.
” Eric said.” “That‟s right. Didn‟t hear or see a thing.” Eric nodded. I sleep sound.Page 177 .” he shook his head with certainty. I sleep like a rock. I didn‟t see or hear anything.. “Benjamin?” I said. Father. “No.” Then he hesitated and raised a weak forefinger.” “How else would we know it was a knife he threw?” Bartholomew said.” “That‟s right. “However.run out of the building. Ooops. in his room?” “No. Barth gave „im the pills „n‟ he went out like a light. Eric did.. Eric?” “Sure did. his lips forming a silent “no. “Peter?” “No..” “Marjon didn‟t wake up at all?” “Nope. You two saw Pith. “Both of you? You too. He shook his head. “We had to of seen it. so I brought an easy chair in and set by all night by Marjon‟s bed. it was curtains for me. Father.. From 10:00 last night until 5:00 this morning I was dead to the world.” They nodded. there is one peculiar thing. “You Prior Knowledge . I turned to Alexis. “How do you know it was a knife?” “The light was on.” I would have to ask others. “Okay. But I thought I should stay with „im. Still out so far as I know.” “So you didn‟t stay with Marjon.” Bartholomew confirmed it.” I waited.” He pointed toward the garden. After that. “You saw him throw that knife away. Father. “It was a knife.” He grinned and covered his mouth. then went on to my own room.under.” Good question: they were not at the party when Pith picked it up and ran out with it. a sweet smile on his face. He come arunnin‟ out like a scared chicken „n‟ when he got to the roses he chucked it out into the bushes there.
” I waited. Strange.” I said. I just sat out there for an hour. Father. last night he didn‟t come. “Well. and he quailed.Page 178 .between two and three. It always happens if I drink alcohol..” His eyes pleaded with me not to pursue it...” “In the seminarian‟s dorm?” “Yes. maybe.well. it had to be in that vicinity. “yes. Father. off and on. maybe more. It was during that time that I saw the lights. I looked at my watch and it said 2:15. “I don‟t remember. I saw a couple of the monks exchange smiles. in different rooms. Off and on.. and I woke up in the Shaker Cemetery.” “Martin?” Martin flashed me a shy. “Well..” “What rooms?” “I couldn‟t say. I wake up in odd places.” Prior Knowledge . His food was still out on the table this morning. before I came back to my bed. He avoided my eyes.” “What was the general time?” He hesitated.. I didn‟t hear anything. almost guilty look.saw.. and then I have trouble getting back to sleep. several of them.” “Maybe the party scared him off. you see I sleepwalk. “Yes. Knowing I would have trouble sleeping.” he said finally.lights. Last night I had a bit of punch. but I saw. at different times. I.” “You were looking out the window between two and three o‟clock in the morning?” “No.. I get up and take a walk in my sleep. father. “I. Father.know our mystery guest? The one we feed each night? Well.
Funny none of them said so. Later I can remember things. But an hour later.” he said confidently.” Martin insisted.I wondered why there was nothing in Martin‟s file about sleepwalking.” “Where? In your building?” “Oh no.” “What?” “Pith.” “Did one come last night?” “Nothing worth preserving. Father. I recognized his laugh. when I returned to the cloister. I assumed from the sound that he on top of one of the buildings. “So you usually stay out where you awaken? What do you do?” “I just think. it was dark and quiet.how come you heard him when no one else did?” “I‟m a light sleeper. “And I sleep with my window open.” “All right. I‟m pretty dopey when I wake up like that.” “How.” “You don‟t know what rooms?” “No. He nodded eagerly when I looked at him. Father.. Sometimes a poem comes to me..” “What time?” “That I don‟t know. I went back to sleep.” Mixed up indeed. It was something I should know about.Page 179 .” “Even in cold weather?” Prior Knowledge .” I sighed. Father. “So between 2:15 and 3:15 something must have disturbed several seminarians because they turned on their lights.” “I see. Roderick was last. but I did hear something. but they‟re all mixed up. He woke me. Laughing. “I didn‟t see anything. I didn‟t look at the clock. I say so. “I saw the lights. outside somewhere.” “Well.
is that right?” “Yes. “All right men. dry. come and tell me. spreading out in different directions.” he said. but I don‟t go out the window. “Father. I can‟t intervene for you. I didn‟t mean that.” I moaned. Father. I went over toward the seminarians. “I did too. “Fellows. “Brother Martin says he saw lights in your building between 2:00 and 3:00. “Why?” “I had to. we‟ve got ourselves a whale of a problem.“All year. If you think of anything else. you know about that. anything at all that will help us. But that‟s right. Whose were they? Hosea Candlemas held up a finger. Go about your usual work. and they gathered in a semicircle around me. I may be an Indian.Page 180 . It could hurt us all. You don‟t have the buffer the monks do. keep thinking. and the one in the hall.” “You went down to the toilet?” “Yes. humid.” “Oh.” They broke up. If anyone knows anything.” “Yes. “I turned mine on. Just stay close. We talked. tell me. So we need to solve this thing right now. But you turned on the light in the toilet as well as the one in your room. It could cost you a year of study. You can be charged with obstruction if you know something and don‟t tell me and the police. You can be called to testify. cold.” I studied their faces.” “I see. Is that all?” “Yes..” “You went to the john?” Prior Knowledge .” “No.pee.” Lucas raised a fat paw. I like my throat to feel the true atmosphere..” I said. Hot. except that I saw Larry Diaz leaving as I went to chapel. if we have to close down.
Candlemas shrugged and Prior Knowledge .no.. “Okay. Randy Muldoon..” “Me too. forget the lights. The tension had grown so high that they needed to release some pressure. but he had not.” “Now you mention it..” “And turned on all three lights?” “Yes.” I sighed. “You had to go too?” “Why.” he said.. He‟s on retreat. Father. At Gethsemani. I didn‟t mean it to be funny. “We‟.” “He left this morning. seemed like quite a few times. wished to high heaven he had heard something. Griffey slowly raised his big ham of a hand. but the men laughed. “I do remember.” “People on runs to the john?” I said. and he knew this was a dangerous time to make up a Blarney story. there was people in the hall.he laugh‟ big. but after you‟ve had a chance to think about it. woke me up. “I was just wonderin‟ if anybody‟s seen Larry Diaz. do you remember?” “Fathah.” “Oh. I could tell. I found this kind of blind trust maddening. “Did anyone hear anything?” I pressed. There went my clue.” Mario spoke up. hear anything after midnight? I know I‟ve asked before. Three incontinent men. in Kentucky. Father. so he kept quiet.” He accepted it on faith. up „n‟ down. “Fa‟?” I nodded encouragement.” Hosea said. all three. I di‟ hear ol‟ Pith.” Frost said. now that I was faced with a murder investigation. Up t‟tower. without questioning. “Oh boy. did anyone see anything.“Right.Page 181 .
Lucas. Still I thanked him.and a sneeze. You know how things get jumbled when you‟re half asleep and half awake.. I woke up once when someone came past my door. “go about your business. find me and tell me immediately. If anything else comes to mind. I‟m down there... not until the police have been here. volunteered: “Father. coughing and a sneeze.” Prior Knowledge . his face pink with laughter.. Should I have?” “Not necessarily. no laughter?” “No. “You know...” “Your room is. Be handy in case they need to talk with you. And I do remember. Out in the all. “Okay.” “You didn‟t hear anything from inside Charles‟s room?” “No. A look of enlightenment crossed Frost face.Page 182 . sometime in the night. “People in the hall” didn‟t help much. “You know the time?” “No.” He tried to imitate the sound he remembered. Their shoes squeaked.” 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. his head nodding slightly. You can‟t go back to your rooms. I remember I made a mental note to buy some cold medicine.. No squeaky shoes.coughing..” “Squeaked?” “Yes. close to Charles‟s room. like. but it didn‟t sound like any shoe I had ever heard. I did hear. you know. And I can‟t be sure the coughing and sneeze were at the same time.grinned. He said he didn‟t know when or who or where they were going. Father.” I said. It‟s that time of year.” “Right next to Charles.” he admitted.” “So.
With Hanks and Diaz gone and Charles dead. “YOU‟RE THE BEST MAN FOR THE JOB.” “But.” “I‟m not a gumshoe. why me?” I moaned.” Prior Knowledge .” “You‟re the one who made a monkey out of me. YOU‟RE CURIOUS.” “DON‟T MENTION IT. and I watched them go. there were only nine.” I protested. Thanks a lot.Page 183 . I went wearily over and sat down in the swing under the big Magnolia tree. “Why me. 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.” “YOU‟RE A MONKEY.” “CREPE SOLED SANDALS ARE CLOSE. “I don‟t have the credentials to conduct an investigation.They dispersed.
then I smiled. I thought. not down here. A seminarian from Quebec. but this was my first go. I thought. bringing the first sharp tang of winter. I had seen the men sit in it. slowing the swing.” “Don‟t do what?” “Black lady don‟ go settin‟ down in a swing with no white man. then shook her head. studying for the Catholic priesthood. back and forth. If indeed he were sane. I opened my eyes. sit down.Page 184 . It felt nice. It was Ophelia.VIII The rose garden swing was one of those box-like contraptions you once saw on many front porches. “I‟m a priest. or he couldn‟t have lived in this part of the country and remained sane.” “I‟m not a man. It was November. I shut my eyes and let the swing take me away. “Hello. but it felt like the last of September in Pennsylvania.” 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. had been brutally murdered in his bed. Mississippi would be a perfect place to live.” came a creamy female voice. I took a seat and pushed with my good leg and felt myself glide back and forth. were it not for the perpetual stream of violence that ran through it. “Come. William Faulkner must have had a swing like this.” Prior Knowledge . An autumn breeze came in from the woods. “Father. glanced from side to side. and swing. dear. irritated at being disturbed.” “Why not?” “We don‟ do that.” I said. “Can‟t.” I said.
.” I had not thought to be afraid. 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. Odd how a Churchman gets to feeling invincible. but Ophelia‟s fear took hold of me and loosened my tongue.” she said. He wouldn‟t likely have carved a cross in his chest. “I jus‟ come t‟ast you. Ophelia.” She was. Someone from off the road. “Could it be. “I hope. “I may not stay here if I don‟ find out who done it.. it was one of us. I was as easy to stab as the next man. since I was a bigger target. easier maybe. and maybe he‟s right. And to tell you God‟s honest truth. Ophelia. Or at you.” “Which one?” Prior Knowledge . I think it was an outsider.right here?” “Well.. one who hated Charles. but I hadn‟t thought to be afraid of the killer. The pope probably doesn‟t think anyone could harm him.. I had to chuckle. yes. Ophelia. a Catholic. I knew it wasn‟t true.” she said and shook her head like a willful horse.” Even as I said it. I was unnerved by staying in the room with a corpse. No.” “I‟m not laughing at the crime. and probably someone with a---pardon the expression--with a vocation. Someone we don‟t even know. I guess. had probably never read it on the cover of a book.. “I‟m serious. “Don‟ laugh.. “I‟m sceered t‟death. who done it?” It was too precious to be true. on the other hand. I was leery of being played the fool.She didn‟t get the humor.” she warned me. I don‟t have any idea who done it.Page 185 . I had never actually heard anyone in real life say “who done it” before.somebody. “No.” “To tell you God‟s honest truth.
if Hanks got home.” “The Grave Digger?” “He stole Charles‟s breviary. too. and I felt like talking with a woman.” “Well. to sort them out. as though he had nothing to hide. “Pith then?” So far her list was the same as mine had been.Page 186 . Wouldn‟t know he‟s done nothin‟ wrong.” I changed the subject. but then he also rang the bell this morning. They say he slept all night.” she said knowingly. “Fishy. But I felt the need to talk. “There are several possibilities. It doesn‟t quite fit. “Them two. wasn‟t even a Catholic. “he‟s crazy anyhow. to bring my jumbled thoughts out into the open. but I could tell she held them in rather low esteem. “What do you know about Brother Martin?” “Martin? The Scribbler?” Prior Knowledge . Bartholomew.” she said.” she said.” I had assumed she would trust their word. But I don‟t know.I knew I probably shouldn‟t be talking with Ophelia about this.” I confessed. ain‟t it?” “Yes. He may have thought Charles plotted to catch him. She wasn‟t a member of the Community. “I don‟t think so. since they were black. “And I wonder. I didn‟t have time to write to my Santa Clara. her eyes wide.” I looked at her sharply. He was up on the building laughing last night. She grinned devilishly. her head cocked sideways. “Possibly.” “Pwwwt.” “Who say?” “Eric. wasn‟t a seminarian. “I said. “One of „em eat a lotta peanut butter?” she said. “Do you know Larry Diaz is gone?” “Yes.
” the coroner said as if this might be a challenge to my authority and he didn‟t want to offend me. all in language that combined thick-asmolasses drawls with crisp. I met the coroner and his two male assistants and led them into the dorm and up the stairs to the body. and then they turned to me. and Martin took after him with a crucifis. and she dropped her voice to a whisper. “Of course. said he spent too much time writin‟.” “Really? Martin?” “Sure did. he‟s mean.” He pointed to the big hole in the chest. I just learned he walks in his sleep. Her mouth grew small. „way from the lab. They showed no shock at the scene. Father. Prior James tol‟ „im t‟git out t‟work.” “Mean?” “Jus‟ don‟ cross „im „bout the stuff he writes. “We gonna hafta take „im in. where in a church built in the shape of Prior Knowledge . precise technical language. her mouth still open. even though we were yards from a human ear. this wound here did it. She knew nothing about that. I scrambled to get up. They had t‟pull „im off.Page 187 . said it was a vanity. We watched the big limousine roll serenely into the parking lot.“Yes. They were all business. One time Prior James did. Martin picked up a crucifis from the altar „n‟ took in after Prior James. made notes.” I said. but we were interrupted by the approach up the driveway of a big white ambulance. “All‟s I know about him is. Ophelia stopped in mid-sentence.” She shook her head. Well. They examined the body. but my guess is. “Can‟t be sure out here. and Ophelia melted away into the bushes. at the juncture of the two lines.” She would gladly have gone on. not an easy feat for a big woman. consulted.
that‟s later too. since they began the conversation without introduction.a Latin Cross the altar and dome would be. I was Prior here. He and the sheriff obviously knew each other well.Page 188 . “Sheriff Lemon.” He shook his head. attacked again.” Alexis said and turned to go. but he wore a big white hat. “He musta got mad. “this is Sheriff Lemon. I held back. “Ya‟ll excuse us?” Lemon said to Alexis and me. After all. The penis. Kinda funny. But Alexis took my arm and Prior Knowledge . we heard voices. “Like t‟tawk t‟Mr. and the tongue is the last. a lot after. maybe sev‟ral times like that. “Father Prior Columba. killed „im. that‟s even later. then waited a long time. through the door. As we mused over the wounds.” the coroner said. offended at what I took to be a dismissal. A badge several times too heavy for his shirt drooped down from his chest like a weary heart. and over to the bed. sir. it looks like t‟me. “Glad „to know ye?” Lemon said. He went on past me. A holster stuffed with a large firearm hung from a belt that circled his thin hips. “Yes. this is the Father Prior of Saint Luke‟s. 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. “The cross lines. Brakeen alone?” The man seemed to talk in questions. “This th‟ body?” “The one „n‟ only. This eye wound.” We shook hands. as if the children should depart so the adults could talk. He wore his brown trousers stuffed unevenly into a pair of pink cowboy boots. not as late as the cross marks but later. had another fit.” He looked seriously at the body.” Alexis acted like he knew the man well. His shirt was open at the neck. and this “body” was in my care at the moment. they‟s an afterthought.” Alexis said with the formality we reserve to impress outsiders.
some of it probably worthless. He hardly had to use his imagination at all to create bizarre plots. “I guess you‟ll want to know what I‟ve been able to piece together. the sky growing ever darker. “Pinky?” I said. The sky had grown darker.” I said.” “How so?” “He was a deputy. tucking a small camera into a leather pouch.” he said.Page 189 . So he threw his hat into the ring last time. “Pinky‟s a peculiar man. He‟s really not cut out for his job.” Mississippi! No wonder William Faulkner won a Nobel Prize for Literature. for a half hour before the sheriff and the medical men emerged from the hall with their gruesome burden. the sounds. real bad. He got it by default. He was a distant third in most people‟s reckoning. the alibis. Then the night before the election the other two candidates met at the county fair.gently pulled me out of the room. “Sheriff Lemon. I described what happened at the party the night before. “Bad. some valuable: the lights. or he gets defensive. Alexis and I stood by the ambulance and police car. got into a fight.” he explained to me as we went down the stairs and outside. out toward the Prior Knowledge . The three took Charles to the ambulance as Pinky came over to us. You have to go along with him. he was declared the winner. “I guess?” I went over the information I had gathered. Pinky still came in third. It looked like rain. the suspects. a good one. and shot each other dead. but since he was the only one alive. No one gave him much of a chance of winning. but he wanted to be top dog. Through it all Pinky looked away. I told him that Charles had angered virtually everyone in the Community.
the bell for Sext began to toll. The notes from the bell came in a regular beat. 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.. a point of clarification.” Alexis explained to me. Pinky said something..” Just as Pinky and I turned to look. You sure. and squatted. up into the trees. Alexis confirmed what I had said.graveyard.. Even at that distance I could see terror in his eyes. “I know these people? I know Oscar?” Prior Knowledge . back toward the highway. there. Sheriff?” I said.. that‟s our killer?” Pinky shouted. I couldn‟t tell whether it was a question or a command. His white elbows flashed silver against the darkening sky.” “Yep?” Pinky watched Pith with beady black eyes. “I guess we can. “What?” I called out over the claps of the bell and the claps of thunder.Page 190 .?” He turned on me as if I were a pesky dog. “Git „im down? Now?” “But how can you be sure.” He looked toward the bell tower. dropped the bell rope. Pith‟s black robe flapped in the rising wind from the coming rainstorm. He turned toward us. The bell went dead as the storm grew louder. He stood. It seemed almost that Pith heard him.. “He means Pithecarius. “There he is. “Oscar?” “Whur‟s Oscar?” Pinky said to Alexis. Big drops of rain began to fall.. When I finished. a congratulations. He blinked away the rainwater. “You think Pith did that. “He. hands on hips. and we waited for a response: a question. “I said. “You git „im down?” he said. “Whur‟s Oscar?” Pinky said. “I know this place?” he said. wet clothes clinging to his thin frame.
“What cows?” “Mut‟lation? Carved crosses in they sides?” I looked at Alexis for confirmation. keep him out of trouble. Father.Father James and I. “Pithecarius!” No answer.well. at the Priory after that?” “Father James agreed to keep him here.” Alexis nodded. still red hot. A sick.. We were the only ones who knew.” “I tuck „im in after what he done t‟them cows?” “Cows?” I said. making him look like Giotto‟s Saint Francis in the Assisi murals. Nothing more had happened.” Until now. “He knows. black robed scarecrow on the roof.” “But.. “His parents didn‟t know what to do with him.. Pith crouched lower as I approached. And when you came. “Pith! It‟s Father Columba!” Prior Knowledge . His head was soaked.. When I wound down. helpless feeling formed in my stomach. The thick ring of fuzz that formed a halo around his bald spot was plastered flat. The sheriff should never have given such a charge to a Priory.Page 191 . I saw Ophelia standing in the doorway.” “Why wasn‟t I told? Why wasn‟t any of this in the records?” “Well..why is he here. Father James promised the judge that we would see to him.” I said. drenched.abused there. I forgot. Pinky looked away to the crouching.“He does. I ranted and raved at poor Alexis and at the sheriff. for fear he would be. The Archabbey should have been told. Alexis looked downcast. Alexis nodded. I was fit to be tied. I stopped and called up to him.” I started across the yard toward the main building. “Okay? Git „im down?” “All right then.. “I‟ll get him down. “That‟s right. we kept it from the others.” Alexis explained.. he simply said. but they didn‟t want him to go to jail.. I should have been told.
He knew to fear Pinky Lemon. with no more than the usual Mississippi slur. to find better shelter. “Don‟t do that!” I called. He rang the bells precisely on time. Pith had it.. that Pith was mentally retarded. and Pinky was standing behind me. and when he did I saw Charles‟s Saint Jean Cross handing from his neck. heavier now. He spoke perfect English. sad. blinded me as I looked up. from what I observed. “I‟m. “Shut up! I snapped as I turned to face Pinky. and I couldn‟t see him clearly. you try to make me come down.Page 192 . “Scared? Of me?” “Of the sheriff!” I looked around. The rain. from what people said. “Stay up there if you want to. She stood in the doorway.“I know who you are!” came a soft. That made me furious. “Father. I had assumed. and I‟ll see you‟re safe and secure!” “No! You come any closer. frightened. “Help me!” “Father? Pssst. I‟m here. He was smart enough to feign idiocy to escape jail. “It will be all right!” I called to Pith. I‟m gonna jump!” I realized I was not conversing with an idiot.” “Father?” Pinky started to correct me. he took a step backward and stared at me in wonder. He wasn‟t. Surprised at my temerity. frightened voice.” Prior Knowledge . I had not noted that the cross was gone from the room. but I couldn‟t order him away. Father!” It was Ophelia. ast „im if he wonts some a my jam cake.. I realized I had never heard him speak before. “Father!” Pith called. “Come on down! I need to talk to you!” “No!” He moved suddenly to his right. “He won‟t hurt you. It was the voice of a young boy: innocent.scared!” he called.
a priest. I gave chase. Pinky ignored me. Well. “Ophelia asks.if you would like to have a piece of her jam cake?” I felt like a fool. “I didn‟t do it.. “Stop this!” I yelled. Then I felt him pulling away from me.Page 193 .” His voice was terribly sad. trying to lure a boy scared out of his wits down from a bell tower with cake. His tongue. I would. come on down. “It‟s all right.” he sobbed. He knew all about it. all right?” I watched in amazement as he got up from his perch. I was vaguely aware that monks and seminarians were watching from the distance. “Yes. We three got to the car at the same time. and when Pith stepped down onto the soggy earth he fell into my arms and began to weep. really I didn‟t. splashing through the sodden grass. “Oh. He loves it. Pinky had him by the shoulders and was trying to wrestle him into a pair of handcuffs.. the Cross swinging like spun gold in the rainfall.” Pith!” I called up. “Father?” he pleaded. I had to resist an urge to break free of him and run. “Sheriff!” I bellowed. I could be his next victim. He got the back door open and pushed Pith Prior Knowledge . The rain began to abate. a grown man.” Pith moaned.” “No.to the kitchen.. I patted his thin back and tried to comfort him. and made his way across the roof to the ladder that hung down the side of the chapel like a single strand of ivy. He‟s confused „n‟ when he‟s confused my cake makes „im better. If he had a knife on him. his dick. hardly believing what I was saying.. Father. Pith cried out in terror. but Pinky was agile and outmaneuvered me.“What?” “My jam cake. I waited at the bottom of the ladder. and started marching him toward the squad car. Jus‟ ast „im. I couldn‟t do that to a man. got the shackles on Pith‟s arms.
Father?” Pinky removed his white hat..” I said. I felt so bad for him. The rain was now just a sprinkle. then realized where he was. Still this was wrong.Page 194 . Pith lay on the seat sobbing. we could see Prior Knowledge . As he moved up the lane toward the highway. and cranked up. “Sheriff. and sometime in the past he had carved crosses on cows. Seminarians and monks came closer as he backed up and pulled away. I ain‟t go time t‟pussyfoot aroun‟ with a killin‟. People‟s after me t‟keep the peace. He took the plate. I took it from her and gave it to Pinky. you unnerstan‟? What if this boy killed somebody else?” He was right.. searched frantically for door handles that weren‟t there. “See he gets it. got into the car. “Keep it simple?” “But. The Saint Jean Cross hung down to the floorboard. but he had been in the murder room. Father?” Pinky said. “Do you have to do this?” I demanded. “This here‟s a murder?” Pinky said. and threw water on me.” “He‟s our man?” I looked through the car window. “We got ourselves a mess at Ole Miss. all this nigger bidness. I‟ve got two or three others I think are more likely. slapped it against his leg.inside and slammed the door... but he turned on his wipers. Pith sat stunned for a moment. Finally he lay down on the seat in a fetal position and began to cry. I looked up to see Ophelia standing beside me with a large slice of jam cake on a plate. “I know what it is! But what if this man didn‟t do it?” “Look. and rattled the steel chain fence that separated the back from the front seat. He was the law.” “No. He had to play the odds.
Prior Knowledge .two eyes peeping over the back seat at us.Page 195 . It appeared that Pith had rung his bell for the last time.
but they were still on the line when I returned with him and put him on. The second call went to Quebec. I knew French was a Romance language. both about the body and about the possible involvement of seminarians. I spoke with a woman. discovering how far the French of Canada had Prior Knowledge . I made two difficult telephone calls. First I called Father Superior at Saint V‟s to tell him the awful news. Monks and seminarians walked around nervous and bewildered. With Marjon keeping to his bed. but my Church Latin didn‟t help a lot.IX We had a hard time returning to what we generally called normal after the murder. and he didn‟t try to hide his displeasure. the bells that signaled Hours rang irregularly. but even I had to admit that the Priory seemed to be disintegrating---under my command---on my watch. so I said attenda un momento per favore into the receiver and went out looking for him. The afternoon of the morning we found Charles and watched Pith carted off. I used my Italian hoping it was close to the French. his class met spasmodically under various teachers. I couldn‟t tell whether he blamed me for the complications. He was terribly upset by what I told him. I don‟t know if they understood. substituting different words for those they did not understand. and then another woman and never made myself fully understood. No one at the number Charles had given us as his “home” address spoke English. nor did the Italian I had learned the year I studied in Rome. then a man. Finally I remembered that Mario spoke some French. all of us in a fog.Page 196 . I watched and listened as he bumbled through. With Andrew trying to fill Pith‟s shoes. It was a difficult conversation. and that was even a greater trial.
I went to visit Pith on Saturday and again on Monday. from confusion to shock to grief. At last Mario said they wanted to speak with me. but so of course would trying to register it. I knew it was going to be complicated. and I talked to him. 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 . even his car. The Saint Jean Cross should go back to his family. as though he didn‟t hear me. I decided. I told Mario to ask if they wanted the Saint Jean Cross. I decided it could go in a case somewhere. They wanted the body shipped back to Quebec. his face reflecting the moods on the other end. we hung up. but since they knew nothing about it. 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. but it would need to be appraised to be insured. He never spoke a word either time. since trying to sell it would require papers. and I was afraid if it proved too expensive to insure we might have to store it in a lock box. His face bore a bemused expression. but he just stared into space as though he were alone.Page 197 . but he looked weak and vulnerable. which I hoped they had already told him. and that meant it would have to be kept frozen and embalmed before it left for Quebec. but they told us to keep all his personal effects. I only hoped I would be gone before the present registration was up. Both times he came down the long jailhouse hallway dressed in a blue jumpsuit and sat down at a table across from me. We would just keep his car for the use of the Order. I would have to wait until the authorities were finished with the body before I could ship it. so I took the receiver and listened to several minutes of unintelligible instruction. and he reported that they didn‟t know what that was. and after a few ouis and mercis.diverged from the French of Louisiana.
“Yes. which is how most retreatants to Gethsemani looked for several days after they returned. I heard contempt in his voice. The Trappists look down on the lesser Orders like mine.” There was a long silence. I thought I would hang up and try again for a better connection. and from what I could tell he showed little interest in anyone else either. then went back into his vacuum. “Gethsemani. I told him who I was and what I represented and asked to speak with the Guest Master. but then from the depths of a cistern I heard a faint ring. “He was here. Father. “I‟m calling about one of our seminarians. but the seminarians said he showed little surprise or shock.” he corrected me. I believe. a voice of Judgment Day. this last weekend. He was with you. They do not have murders. a voice made for a funeral parlor.Page 198 . At that he glanced at me. His name is Larry Diaz. He avoided me. I might as well have been connected to Pakistan or some such place overseas. Brother. but when she snapped me into the Gethsemani line all I could hear was a sputtering buzz. They consider us frivolous. nodded slightly. He was immediately told of the murder. The telephone line was clear when I talked with the operator in Bardstown. Prior Knowledge .” “It‟s Brother. right.” the voice said. Lawrence Diaz.ring the bell on time and put us all 30 minutes late. “This is the Guest Master. Larry Diaz returned on the Tuesday after the murder. for a retreat. six. seven times. He resumed classes and services as if he had not been gone.” a voice cut through the static. apparently referring to a book. It came quivering to me five. He looked sleepy and shopworn. Late on Wednesday afternoon I called Gethsemani. a voice from the Catacombs. I was about to go on when he finally responded. Trappists do not have Halloween parties.
shall we say peculiar about his behavior. Like most of our retreatants. Father Prior. Brother. At first he did. But after a day or so he was more at peace. would you say?” “Peculiar?” he said.nervous...” I sat smoldering for a few minutes. He smoked constantly.Page 199 .” The Trappists think the rest of us are pigs for striving so hard to be priests.. they prefer to remain simple brothers.” “I don‟t actually believe he did.yes.. it would be confidential. God bless. drawing out each syllable. Father... He didn‟t eat. That is when he left us.. the most peculiar breed of monk on the face of the earth. “Yes. What a person to ask about peculiar: a Trappist. Trappists to the rescue. Texas.. Brother. Hanks?” Prior Knowledge .did he seem.” “Did he make a confession while he was there?” “If he did. He walked the floor. “His nerves returned only when he started to leave. he was quite tense. I just wondered. I know that.from Friday evening until Tuesday morning.” “Well.. “I think his studies for the priesthood are making him sick. “The Hanks!” “Yes.” I said. moving the receiver away from my ear but keeping the other end close to my mouth.” He made it sound like Larry had died. tell me. “Hallo!” a large female voice bellowed in my ear.” Damn him! “Yes. “Are you Mrs.” His selfrighteousness positively dripped. “was he. then looked at my books and had our local operator to put through a call to Arlington. That is how Gethsemani affects people.was there anything.agitated?” “Why yes. did he. trying to think how to explain. Brother.” “Not at all. handling the word as if it stank.. “Well. “I forged on. thank you...
“Yaass. I still had reason to suspect both Larry and Ronald. this is Father Columba... “What do yew wont?” she said. I swallowed and hung up.” “Will you?” “Mexico. went off the nex‟ day.Page 200 ... Now I’m losin’ yew. a cigarette dangling from his lip.” “Does he have a telephone. “I was calling to ask about Ronald.” “In Mexico? How long has he been. when did he go there?” “Come back home.” “Who?” “Father Columba..Ronald‟s mother?” “Yaaasss! I said... They both hated Charles. One was unaccounted for when he was killed..I mean. the Prior Knowledge .where Ronald.” “Yeah? Whata yew care?” “May I talk with him?” “No!” “He‟s not there?” “No!” “Could you tell me where he is?” “I could. went down t‟work with „is uncle.... who‟s this?” I could hear country music---Born to Lose---wailing behind her. Hanks. “Mrs.” “No!” The line went dead.” “Oh!” She took a deep draw.. Who‟s this?” “Are you. I had just spent a pile of money on telephone calls and had learned very little. said yew kicked „im out. I pictured her tending bar.from Saint Luke‟s.
The judge sat with a withered hand cupped behind his ear through most of what followed. hoping to catch a glimpse of him. we b‟lieve this boy‟s guilty. Then Pith‟s county appointed defense attorney. The reporter took copious notes on a yellow pad. His crisply appointed young stenographer took everything down for him. He led me into the judge‟s chambers.” “Oh.Page 201 . and she smiled back at him. Rowan Oak. introduced himself. Prior Knowledge . Just my luck. Then came the judge. The attorney came over to me. Pinky sat placidly chewing his cud of tobacco. The courtroom was upstairs in the same ancient building with the jail. a couple of times. On November 10 the county judge held a “hearing” for Pithecarius. After a couple of minutes a Chinese girl entered and sat down near the door. We took our places in a semicircle around the judge‟s big desk. What a headache. who looked to be about 15.” At precisely 1:00 an officer in uniform brought Pith in. “That‟s Miss O‟Shay. He didn‟t notice me. one of the buildings that appeared in the Faulkner novels. Pinky called and told me when and where to come.” the prosecutor moaned. I climbed the rickety stairs and met Pinky in the hallway. who looked to be about 95. and told me this was his first case. He looked dazed. and we sat down in two of the several chairs provided for guests. “O‟Shay?” “Reporter. but it always looked deserted. Pinky nodded to her. I had driven by Faulkner‟s home. Then the prosecutor. who looked to be about 80. “Yo honor. I was later told he was at the University of Virginia.other was right on the scene and then promptly departed it. thin legs crossed. He‟s teched in the head. I felt sick.” he told me. “He‟s known f‟usin‟ a knife.
I glanced down at his note pad. He signaled the prosecutor to stop.. “See.” I said. He didn‟t see it.” I yelled at him.” the blond lisped.” He picked up a bundle from the judge‟s desk and took the cake knife from a folded cloth.” I whispered. “It just seems.” I elbowed the kid who was defending Pith.. Pinky hadn‟t told anyone--if Pinky himself knew.. Charles was killed with a knife. “That knife should have a lot of prints on it.” He surely didn‟t. and all it said was “Oscar Petersen. “What is it?” “Judge. Darlene?” he yelled at his stenographer.” “Why?‟ “The party. “I‟m just wondering. I don‟t know much. “Yew gittin‟ this all down. “It‟s the one we used at the party the night before.. Pith was guilty. “Yaas?” he said. “Whaat is it?” he said to me.Page 202 .” “Paarty? Whaat Paarty?” He didn‟t know anything either.” I looked up at the judge and raised my hand. they just called me in for this case las‟ night. “Our Halloween Prior Knowledge .” “What party?” He saw I was shocked. case closed. He cupped his hand behind his ear more firmly and leaned toward me. so I waved. “Onliest prints on it b‟long t‟Oscar here. “What is?” he whispered back.This is the knife he used in the murder.. “That‟s odd.” “Whaat?” he wailed. “Yeth thir.” “Whaaat?” “The knife. It made me shudder. Pith‟s prints were on that knife..
the blade steel.” the prosecutor said. uncrossed his legs. He turned to the prosecutor. who stood with his mouth open.” The judge‟s face changed from confusion to perplexity. waiting to continue. “Nothin‟ atall. “Oscar here. “Alls I know‟s they dusted it „n‟ all the prints on it was Oscar‟s. The prosecutor just stared. his eyebrows raised. “It b‟longed to the dead man.” “Oh.” he explained. Bessinger?” “Yes.. “No other prints?” Pinky shook his head. Had it on when Pinky took „im in. a gift from Italy. his head pink. “You got all that?” the judge asked Dharlene. Plus when arrested he was wearin‟ that cross b‟longed to the deceased.” the prosecutor said.” the judge grunted. “Whata yew know about all this?” the judge demanded of the prosecutor.” I yelled.” “Cross?” the judge wheezed. “You done then. Slowly he uncovered the cross and put it down before the judge. “There weren‟t no other prints?” he demanded of him. “Well. he stole it. moved his wad of tobacco to the other cheek.” I said.” All eyes fell on the knife in the prosecutor‟s hand. I‟ve talked t‟Oscar?” Prior Knowledge . “You sure it‟s the knife you used at the party?” “Yes. looking it over.” “Lemons?” Pinky stirred. yo honor. “Yeth thir. We know he loves knives. “All in all it must have been handled by a dozen people.. “What cross? The prosecutor leaned over the judge‟s desk and picked up another cloth bundle. He turned back to me.party. slightly curved.Page 203 . He turned to Pinky. your honor. The handle was bone. We know what he done t‟them cows. “It‟s unique.
Page 204 .” he said. I watched him go. but there was no hint of a smile. they‟ll keep an eye on „im there. Dharlene.” Five years! The judge would be a hundred by then. His eyes fell on the young defense attorney. and I was seeing it firsthand. “Uh. who was drawing turkeys on his pad. clearing his throat. The officer moved him toward the door. I stared at Prior Knowledge .” I wanted to choke him. “Yeah? Couple times?” I found that hard to believe. “Father Prior?” I turned and saw the Chinese girl.“He talked to you?” I said. ever stab. no sir.. how it looked. stole a knife. “Homer. He had just given Pith a life sentence.” he smiled. remind me t‟review the case in about five year.” “Father. I went over to him. “He kin tell ye „bout that dead body.. to a tee. I felt completely helpless. I had heard about southern court.” The judge surveyed the room. well. We‟ll send „im up to the state farm. It was a done deal. “Oh. you wont a jury?” The boy jumped to attention. “I‟m not agonna bring „im to trial for the murder. deeply depressed. and he stood. It was medieval. and finally I let go.” I said.” “Yeth thir. He was about to let his client be sent to his death without a defense. The judge struggled to his feet. “I think whatever you say about it is fine. Tears came to my eyes.” Her face was friendly. like a statue. The case would never be reviewed. “Pith. As people left the room. “Yes?” “Could you give me a statement? I work for the Eagle. Le‟s jus‟ say he broke „is parole. but he just stood there. southern justice. I put my arms around him. officer tapped Pith on the shoulder.
little. She was short with a petite figure.” “What part did homosexuality play in the murder. “A statement. We were the only two left there. but she finally backed up and left the room.. but she spoke flawless English with a southern accent.Page 205 . “That woman... She wore a blue suit. “Yeah.. we might‟ve had another murder on our hands?” “I‟m sorry. you got you‟se‟f a temper?” He gave me a tobacco stained grin... Father? After all. She protested. you. “Boy. Her coal black hair was cut close. “Good thang I‟s here...” He nodded. “Miss.” she prompted. and with the other he waved Miss Faye O‟Shay away. He put one hand on my chest to keep me in place. “Why. Was it her married name? I saw no ring.. please. She looked Chinese.her for a moment..” He either couldn‟t think of the word or decided not to use it in my clerical presence. realizing I had made a fool of myself. She offered me her hand. she‟s a real.” she said when I didn‟t reply. “Name‟s Faye O‟Shay.. People do that a lot. A Chinese named O‟Shay. Father.” “Yes. and when I took it I found it warm.” I was seething.. the penis. and we walked out into the Prior Knowledge . Is this a common occurrence in monasteries? Do Catholics have a lot of Murders in the Cathedral?” She laughed... He showed me the door.” “Aaaahhhhrrrr. “How do you cope with having one of your monks found guilty of this brutal murder of another monk?” “How do I feel..” Pinky was between us in a flash. “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.” I said..
I can‟t argee with fingerprints. I got in and rolled down the window. he said. “How will he be treated there?” I asked Pinky. Prior Knowledge . The reporter was gone. he never lied about it? Frum the first. I waited for him to say more.chilly hallway. arms crossed over his thin chest. dust from my tires settling over him. refusing to acknowledge her existence.Page 206 . “At the funny farm? He‟ll be okay. or how he knew all about the attack. He put his hand on the door. I backed off the curb and drove across the graveled parking lot. but I looked away. but. In my rear view mirror I saw Pinky standing spraddle-legged.” “What is it?” “Well. “Yep?” I could see anguish in his eyes. also with a question mark. The day was cold..” “I hope so. or that gold cross he had b‟longed to the victim. bareheaded. I cranked up. Pinky nodded. “Father?” “Yes?” “One thing still bothers me? I mean.. When I pulled out into the street I saw the Chinese woman watching me from a little cherry red Corvair. Pinky walked me down to my car. I wondered if Pith was warm in his cell. but that other time? When he done that to them cows? Well. He let the door go and moved back. but he just shook his head and waved me away. I know Oscar done it. my tires making tiny popping noises as they crunched.” I said. yeah I done it?” “But he denied killing Lichtenstein?” I finished his statement.
” “How is he?” “Right well? Went right in. got „is room. “I‟m returnin‟ this?” It was the Saint Jean Cross.I Pinky came by on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week to tell me he had just returned from taking Pith to the “funny farm. I had seen Charles‟s body Prior Knowledge . and roared away up the lane toward the road.” I said. got into the squad car. I had written a complete report to Father Superior. Poor Pith. “Well.Page 207 . “Thank you. got „is suit. I hoped he knew this was of his own choosing. I hoped we had heard the last of this whole bloody mess. guess he‟s better off‟n he was here? Least he‟ll sleep inside. I stood looking after him as he turned left and headed for Oxford. Pinky reached through his car window and pulled something out. take care then?” He touched his white Stetson. outta the weather?” I guessed Pith had told him that he slept in our barn. I hoped he would find some peace.
I heard everyone‟s confession. her eyes widening.” She began to laugh.” “Sins? What sins?” “Mostly sins of the flesh. Ophelia had asked me the week before why all the men came to see me every Friday. It bumped gently against my chest as I walked away. I have never had the privilege of listening to the confessions of Hollywood actors or Washington politicians. which might be a bit entertaining.” I smiled.” “Why not?” Prior Knowledge . She looked at me with a conspiratorial expression. Mississippi. “Come on. the confessions of monks and seminarians living ten miles outside Oxford. but not this week. “They‟re coming to confess. “Their sins. Father. “How they gonna sin? They don‟ never go nowhere. People probably think it‟s exciting to listen to confession.Page 208 .” “Confess? Confess what?” she said.” I shook my head. Thanksgiving Day and Friday were school holidays. and I told her. I put the chain over my head and let the Cross hang down over my vestments. “This bunch?” she said. tell me what they say. “I can‟t do that. so they wanted to do their confessions early. were altogether pedestrian. Friday was the usual day for confessions. but for the most part it‟s repetitious and boring. The confessions were all humdrum. 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. and she went on until her stomach shook. The rest of that day and on Wednesday. and the seminarians would be scattering for the long week-end. No one confessed to the murder or to having any information about it they had not already divulged. On the other hand.
All the confessions that week went pretty much according to design except the last one on Wednesday. “With God.. Father..an impediment? Is that what you said?” “Yes.. Father.a woman. I have met people throughout my life who knew something was wrong and went ahead and did it. If I told anyone what a person said to me in confession.. “It‟s about... “I. I was still thinking of our murder. Frost came in. She nodded sagely. “. Yes. to have an abortion. Father.“Confession is made in complete confidence. I could tell he was wrestling with a problem... I had to wait for him to get up his nerve and start. he had said something about. But of course this couldn‟t be about Charles.Page 209 . and never brought the subject up again. And I knew it when I did it. but I wasn‟t surprised.” “The Church considers it murder. I know it‟s murder.. that first day. Frost had mentioned it two months before. I counseled someone. Remember?” Vaguely I recalled.” I felt my temperature rise. It‟s about a death.well.” “Oh. that is a problem.” “With who?” I raised an eyebrow. his mouth tight.why?” I was curious. His brow was furrowed... “I know that. I might as well come right out and say it. Just when I thought I was home free.. I know. “An abortion.” “Then.remember when I first came? I mentioned. Prior Knowledge .” she said. deep trouble.” I felt a chill pass over me. walked off...” “Yes... I could get into deep. and I agree fully.” He nodded raggedly.
High Mass was at 11:30. Fortunately I could sleep late the next morning. which was all I had to give. Not me. 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. I see. I told them we could eat leftovers for a week to make up Prior Knowledge . In the end he told me he would probably leave at Christmas. I couldn‟t absolve him. The place needed a feast to help us back to health. his voice husky. Oh lovely. She came to me with it..“She was young. so to speak. He thought he would indeed go to Mexico.. they do anyway. I am her father. completely ignorant of the world‟s ways. learn Spanish. I did sleep late the next morning.” And in my own way.” “You were the father?” “Yes.. We talked on and on. and how I loved the extra forty winks. I fasted all morning and said the Mass cold turkey.” he said.Page 210 . go to a seminary down there. We lolled around all day. I was. innocent. and apply for the priesthood as a new man. I gave him my blessing. I told Brother Peter and Ophelia not to spare cost. Father. I couldn‟t give him much hope that he would ever be ordained---for this and other reasons. Father. “You got her pregnant. work as a vet. I mean. He even joked---I think he was joking---that he would change his name. I sleep until I‟m called.. no.” “Oh. Some monks get so accustomed to rising at 2:30 or 4:00 that even when they don‟t have to wake up then. It all added up to too much. blissful sleep. until late into the night. Thanksgiving morning I had decreed that Morning Prayer would be at 8:00. I did. she needed help doing almost everything.” “No! No. get himself re-baptized.her father. and since I felt responsible.
garnished it with sweet potatoes. how are you?” “Did I disturb 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. coffee with ice cream. As I excused myself after a couple of hours and ambled toward my room. savoring every bite. It was. as if trying to remember. It‟s a holiday. “Oh. stuffed it with creamy dressing. I said to make it a meal par excellence. absorbing the voices around me.” “Oh. and slices of ham. Why.for spending all they needed to make it festive and memorable. angry.” “James. “Yes. What do you want?” “I was just thinking. I waited through ten rings before there came an answer. yes.... Who. only one shadow hung in my sky. I ate slowly. The meal had reminded me of Prior James. is that you?” “Yes. sharp. and I wondered where he had eaten Thanksgiving dinner.” Prior Knowledge . They did. I‟m so sorry.” “Scratched him?” “I‟m no longer looking. Oh. wondering. I was taking a nap. I called.” he said.about Father James. We consider he‟s gone for good. I‟ve scratched him. James. Columba. “Is this Saint Vincent‟s?” “Yes.did you have to answer?” “Everyone‟s asleep.” said a disgruntled voice. cranberry sauce. They bought and smoked an enormous turkey. feeling that the healing was starting. We had fruit jell-o. We haven‟t heard a word from or about him. pumpkin pie. What is it?” The voice sounded completely unlike the funeral parlor voice at Gethsemani. “Father Superior..Page 211 .. This one was business like. Nor is the Order. broccoli with hollandaise sauce.
“Yes?” “Father Columba.” “What a wonderful thing to look forward to. It gave me a sense of dread. finished college and law school in five years.” “Good.” No sooner had I hung up with Father Superior than my telephone rang. Father?” I started to hang up.” “Like that young lawyer.” It was the Chinese woman reporter. I just graduated last May.. “It‟s all right. The Benedictines were writing James off as a bad bet. Father. I‟m new on the job. I wanted to say. and I wanted to use the Anglo-Saxon translation of her very descriptive words. “Father.Page 212 .” I said. Sheriff Lemon tells me that I made a royal anal orifice of myself the other day.. “This is Columba.” What a surprise! “We were in school together. He‟s a smart kid.I felt a lump in my stomach. you did. “Sorry to wake you.” “Oh yes. “Right.” I said.. A southern accent.” “Clever. He‟ll be a judge someday. please.” It was a woman‟s voice. “Are you still there. That‟s hardened me some. “See. like a good Catholic. I mumbled.to apologize. I hope you will talk with me. I still wanted to hang up. I called.” Yes. It sounded vaguely familiar. Been at the Eagle only three months. I‟m really sorry.” she said brightly. Been covering the Ole Miss Mess most of the time.” “Hi.I‟m calling.. but she was good at seduction. To be like that. Anger welled up in me.” I said. “Homer‟s my age. Instead. I raised the receiver warily. but I‟m still green. Prior Knowledge . I thought of the decaying old man behind the mahogany desk. but she said.. “Homer?” she said with a laugh. This is Faye O‟Shay..
Outside my window the sky was a deep red.” I could hardly believe I was such soft putty in her hands. before I went off to get my journalism training in the big city of Memphis. I liked Miss O‟Shay‟s voice.. “In fact. My father and mother came over from Taiwan just before I was born and opened a restaurant. I‟m Chinese. if you‟re Chinese. It wasn‟t a bad experience. “It‟s Chinese. who will take over from him.” “First.” she laughed.” she laughed again. I‟d like to show you. It means something like „how embarrassing. Please say yes. “Our name is really Hsieh.” “Please?” “Maybe. wouldn‟t you know? Prior Knowledge . being seduced. Second. “Shoot.” “Well. and then Homer. who will take over from Virgil some day.” She spelled it and then pronounced it the Chinese way.” I said. “Don‟t ask how I found that out. isn‟t it?” “My exact sentiment.” I was feeling more at ease. which sounded like Shay. will retire soon. and I know my Bill Faulkner. “Anyway. how on earth did you get a name like O‟Shay?” “Oh that. I majored in literature at Ole Miss. I know every spot in this county where he got his ideas for the novels. I know you like William Faulkner. then Virgil. her funny little laugh. Don‟t say no until I‟ve explained. the old judge.” she said. Depressing. Well.Page 213 .‟” “Fair enough.. what was that you said? Boo something. “If you‟ll answer two questions. 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.” “Bou hau itza. although you might not be able to tell.She laughed. it‟s my job to dig out information.” She laughed again. the prosecutor. you saw three generations in that room: Jerome.
her face as round as a beach ball. circled the parking lot.so do I in a way. and went racing out to the highway. Father Prior Columba had just accepted his first date. please say yes. he was an Irishman named O‟Shay. I sat there in stunned disbelief. what white. so you have to go with me. It was agreeable.” “Pick you up in twenty minutes. but I was so densely packed that I didn‟t really need one.Page 214 . “Now I‟ve answered your questions. I have the whole day off.Either that or a laundry.” “Good. Prior Knowledge . “I hope so.” “I suppose so. so he told them just to call him Shay.” I said. back in the court room. even teeth she had. the landlord.. I hadn‟t noticed. right? People had trouble with the name on the window. Father?” she smiled broadly. so far as I could see.” She gunned the engine. Faye goes well with it. this was in Greenville.” “Well. don‟t you agree. as I crawled into the cramped cab and on the second attempt got the door closed on my ample girth. “Ready for this. At the age of 65. One fairly modest collision or flip into a ditch would have crumpled that little car and made mincemeat of me. When?” “How about right now? Please. See. By coincidence.” The line went dead. Father?” “Yes. There were no seat belts back then. That was before Ralph Nader exposed the dangers of that cute little thing. No one was looking. Twenty minutes later I was waiting in the parking lot as she drove up in her little cherry red Corvair.. Perhaps that was because back there she had not smiled. so my father officially changed all of us children to O‟Shays.
and Caulfields. We stopped at a once graceful antebellum mansion.” I said. Bunches. but the first time was to see Doctor Maglie. There were Compsons. Prior Knowledge . now falling down. led by an expert. and again she flashed the big smile. She took me to the graveyard where headstones bore the names---or names close to the names---of characters in Faulkner‟s novels. “Oh. where the court house lay lonely and solemn in the waning holiday sunlight. 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.” She laughed. talking a blue streak all the way. There was even a Snopes.She drove nearly 80 miles an hour all the way back to Oxford. She was incredulous. “You‟ve been here before. but she looked interested.” “A ghost?” she said. Groveses. “Well.a little runin out at the Priory with a ghost. before that to visit Pith.Page 215 . “Well. the one Faulkner speaks of so often. as the sun slowly sank away to the west. “Let‟s just look at a few of the more important Faulkner spots. “A few times. “For the hearing. We rounded the square and headed north.” she said as we slowed down at the town square.” For the next two hours.. I had. the Confederate soldier. where Faulkner was doubtless inspired to write about old Frenchman‟s Bend. We passed the rural grocery stores that inspired scenes in Sanctuary and Intruder in the Dust. I got the royal tour. 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.” Her face relaxed.” I said.. it wasn‟t really a ghost. She slowed down and crept past the home where Faulkner‟s bootlegger lived. that‟s our famous monument.
looking deceptively tranquil in the twilight.Page 216 . into Faulkner‟s books. I was sitting next to a remarkably sexy young Chinese woman. now a breeder of mules. and I wondered whether the stories she wrote for the newspaper were factually true or highly fictionalized. and killed her engine. For the whole two hours she never stopped talking. In a candy apple red Corvair. all the tear gas dissipated. It‟s down to the right. a bit too close to the edge for my comfort. however creatively altered. once the maker of illegal booze. Miss O‟Shay pulled up to the edge of the hill.” Miss O‟Shay said. “if you have good eyesight. you can see the Priory.” Prior Knowledge .” Finally she took me by Ole Miss. Below us as far as I could see without my glasses lay miles of pine trees and winding streams. The sun was taking its plunge toward the other side of the world when we arrived at the crest of a hill. To make it worse. with the master away. I was impressed. I felt jittery. the way I always feel when I‟m in a car with its engine off too far from a town.now retired. the only thing newspapers are good for is wrapping fish. She gave me the plot of each novel she mentioned. We went by Rowan Oak and drove up through the trees lining the gravel driveway to the house where Faulkner lived half the year. I thought she longed much more to be a novelist herself than a reporter. 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. My reputation. “Father. and showed me the street where she had walked with James Meredith as he integrated that bastion of white supremacy. She told me how each of the places where we stopped found its way. It was dark now. what difference did it make? As George Bernard Shaw once wrote. On the other hand. She quoted long passages from works I knew and works I didn‟t know.
Miss O‟Shay.” She held up her hands in surrender. but it rhymes with itch.. can‟t you?” “No. “You have better eyes than I have.. “No. Please?” “Very well.” “I see.” She pinched an imaginary scrap of tobacco off the tip of her tongue. your woods. your hill. no thanks. She lit up and lowered a window..” Frolic? “Yes.well. I didn‟t take you around today for purely altruistic reasons. I won‟t use the word.” I said. turning to me. “I wanted to talk with you about the murder. But I think you know I cannot. “Very.” “In the bend of that creek. no.” I sighed.” She opened her purse and fished out a pack of Chesterfields. They‟re a lot better than glasses. in front of that hill with the trees. “I hope you‟ve enjoyed our little frolic.” I assured her.“I‟m afraid I don‟t..” she said. “Father.” “No?” I said cautiously. “Would you like a cigarette... How dumb. I want to understand.” “Now. “I know what you must think.. And you‟re right. Faye.” she said. Father?” “What? Uh.Page 217 . “Anyway. I‟m really and truly puzzled. noncommittally. Her smoke rushed through the opening and quickly mixed with the fog that was drifting over us.” “Faye..educational.” “Contact lenses. “You should get a pair. I can even see the lights of the Priory.” “Good.” I imagined someone seeing me sitting in this red car with this Chinese girl smoking a cigarette.. Prior Knowledge .. That‟s your creek. Something was coming. I was a real.” “Right. okay? But now I‟m onto something else.
I just don‟t think that poor bastard could have done it. “Sorry. “As I see it. blew the smoke out the window. mixed up kid. “He‟s a deeply troubled. strange. that I had made a real.. Your killer is.well. Not your own personal killer. But not the penis business. even weird.. I realized. whatever Oscar may be. He likes knives.This is not for a story. and Oscar‟s not queer.. Father. I didn‟t..Page 218 . The cross. especially by the standards of Oxford. what I want to ask you about. “I guess I‟m using you as a sounding board. It was the Year of Our Lord 1961.I don‟t. The chest wound. but I know that by the standards of her day. Mississippi.. by the way?” “No.of myself. But he‟s not queer. possibly. was not being purposely offensive.or you.” She took another draw off her weed.. a real loony. I know that. I swept a lot of dirty thoughts under the carpet.” Prior Knowledge . “Just as well.” I admitted. But what I am now thinking about. That was queer.” I was struck dumb by her use of the word.. It was pretty bland. although that is truly weird. maybe Oscar.. after I talked with Pinky. well anyone crazy.” “The killer I mean.” I was deeply embarrassed by this whole conversation. he‟s not queer..” she said frankly. that could have been done by anyone. no.....” “My. He hurt some cows. That‟s not fair. reading my expression. The tongue too. a Catholic obviously.” she said. Did you see my piece on Oscar.. and stared at me.want to hurt the Priory. I didn‟t know exactly what she meant.it rhymes with lass. She stubbed her cigarette out in an ashtray that hung out of the dashboard like a dirty tongue. but it still shocked me for a woman to talk openly about penises.
.look into it more.. Oscar‟s an intelligent person.to reopen the case. What would you get?” She stared at me for a long moment.” She backed hurriedly away from the edge of the hill and raced away down the opposite side.they say he‟s happy. let‟s say we find something.. “Yes.. It was dark. “Let‟s say we do look into this. “I agree with what you say.” I looked at her.” she scoffed. Then she smiled.“No.. but her eyes were bright. Before I knew it we were back Prior Knowledge . it‟s not just Oscar. Father. but I think you and I should.. keep our eyes open.. it‟s all right..Oscar.” “I don‟t suggest a witch hunt. 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. I have. If he‟s innocent. “What would I get... or a man hunt. give it some thought. Pith. and the Corvair came to life.. “Happy in a loony bin? Come on.. still not satisfied myself. He can‟t be happy in an insane asylum.” She nodded..” “Who says?” “The sheriff. discuss our findings. I would get Pith free. you ever think about that?” “Yes. and I think he is.” I said. She reached over and twisted her key.” “Reopen the case?” “Yes.” She cocked a reprimanding eye. you‟ve still got a killer out there. “Faye.” I admitted. I know what I would get from it. Father? A Pulitzer Prize. He might do it again.” I was surprised she said that about Homer. It should all be done low key.. “Miss O‟Shay. I‟m still puzzled. But I wonder if it would be wise.. two deep wells of oriental fire. “Besides.Page 219 ..” “Pinky Lemon? He‟s full of it. I stared into her eyes.you know. half truthfully. on the sly. I would find the real killer.
She sped away. haven‟t you figured it out yet? I‟m a woman. There was probably some new miracle cleaner that took away tobacco stains. “Thanks. Which are you?” “Father. an Asian woman.” “SO WERE MY FIRST TWO.” “She may be Eve.” “What? Oh. and in fifteen minutes we were in the Priory parking lot.” I nodded and shut the door.” Prior Knowledge .” She winked. A walking contradiction. “NOT BAD.” I said “How‟s that?” “One moment you sound like a humanitarian. Father. I wondered how she kept them that way. “Let‟s just find our killer.Page 220 .” she smiled. but I‟m no Adam. Yin and yang. I opened my door and got painfully out. In the light from the dashboard and the overhead light I noted again how white her teeth were. “You‟re a riddle. ADAM AND EVE. the next you sound terribly mercenary. It‟s just a business arrangement. “Thank you.on the blacktop road. panting for a journalism prize. so I‟m both of those things at the same time.” “Shut up. all worried about Oscar.” I said as I looked back at her through the open door. “NOT YET.
. In my book..” “You came.. I met Marjon in the vestibule of the chapel.. Randy?” “Father. Pith was wearing it when he was arrested. I knew I should have sent it to Quebec. He never answered questions about it. got up. and I just now. this bein‟ the usual day for confession. I felt sure Pith wasn‟t the killer. despite the contention that he was under sedation that night.. He hobbled like a man with broken legs. “.II I couldn‟t shake Faye‟s words. I was afraid the real killer would strike again. In my room I sat looking at the Saint Jean Cross. Outside in the semidarkness stood Randy Muldoon.Page 221 . He had not taught his classes.forgot my confession. and opened it. That placed him in Charles‟s room---or did it? He had stolen or found the Cross.you were supposed to come. I. I wrote myself a little message even. but then I mislaid it. It hung from my desk lamp.” Prior Knowledge . Someone could have taken the Cross.. A tap on my door. The next evening as I headed for my digs after dinner. I knew the case wasn‟t closed.Tuesday?” “I was supposed to.. dropped it someplace. and poor Pith could have stumbled across it. I knew she was right.” I consulted the chart on my door to find his name. even though Charles‟s family said to keep all his personal effects.. but I couldn‟t give it up. remembered to come. since the night of the party. It was a part of the crime. “Yes. I sighed. and his eyes were bloodshot. He was as pale as death. Father. He barely lifted his head to nod to me. “I‟m sorry. and he had taken his meals in his room. Marjon was still a suspect. but it was not necessarily in the murder room.
I‟m making an exception. Stay. I mean yes. His descriptions of what they did let me dream of being a radical young priest preaching to a multitude of dark-eyed young idealists. He always entertained me.” Randy said as he followed me inside. “All right then.” “No. encouraging me with her applause. a young Marxist. Randy seemed to be in a hurry. his love affairs in France. finished in Prior Knowledge . Father. there were few digressions. He rattled off the usual collection of small indiscretions. 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. or he believed he had. Ernestina. his drinking sprees in Greece. “Thanks. his political escapades in Italy. He had either lived quite a life. the beginning of Advent. all but wagging his tail. He met her in Florence. Father.” To tell the truth I really didn‟t mind hearing Randy‟s confession on a dull Friday. things he had done. Italy. There was one girl he mentioned a lot. waiting for me to finish so we could drive away in her sports car to a quiet bar for vino and comfort. like an Irish spaniel. In three months I had learned about his boyhood in Ireland. He came right out of an old Saturday movie matinee travelogue. his school days in Switzerland. Father. and he always got off his confession to talk about places he had been. however. This night. From what he said.” I said as charitably as I could. It was. time to forgive offenses. after all. “Don‟t mention it. she must have been quite a treat. come on in.I put aside the temptation to preach one of several sermons on responsibility. Ernestina at the steps of the platform.Page 222 .” “Sit. few opportunities for daydreaming. I mean that literally. and quite a trip.
leaning toward him.from your Shaker.” “What? He told you that?” “Well. Guess I‟m gettin‟ used to „im. shaking himself. He just sat there looking at the Cross hanging from my lamp. Father.. and as I say there. “It‟s not something I wanted to tell you... actually now you mention it.” He leaned toward me.” “Yes. he jumped to reassure me.about ten minutes.Page 223 ..huh?” he said.he didn‟t give Larry‟s name.” “Not another visit.” “Let me get this straight. and he has been.” I said. and he talked about the murder. it came to me.he hardly woke me this time. and last night as I lay in bed. “I think he thinks it was Larry Diaz.. Father... Anyway.” When I groaned. it. He said he would guide my thoughts. about Charles.” “Yes. I do.no. and it was over.. hypnotized by its golden glow. after all that rich food I couldn‟t sleep. Still he made no effort to leave. there in the chair by my bed.. but it adds up. “Your Shaker doesn‟t think Pith killed Charles?” “I guess not. So for the past three days I have been. there is more. and this time he sat down.” Prior Knowledge .. he said he wanted me t‟keep lookin‟ for the killer.” “What does?” “He told me to think about it. not at first. and he had not provided it. “Is there anything more?” I asked him. I needed some diversion. I was disappointed. no. accepted absolution.” “Well.. but the more. “Uh..” “Spill it. “Do you have more to say?” “Well. You know.” “Well. yes. he came in.
Everyone else stayed. and that he would guide my thoughts. and staying is a sign of innocence. and he was there all weekend. The telephone in the hallway rang as I was passin‟ and I answered it. He asked who with.” I said.. At first he didn‟t identify himself. and then I realized Larry knew about Pith because. killed Charles. So I did.” “He planned it ahead of time. It was as plain as the nose on my face. he couldn‟t completely disguise it. schoolwork. That faggy sound. Father.” “That‟s where I realized I knew something I didn‟t know I knew. and he was booked in advance. “But I called Gethsemani.” “How could he know about Pith? They don‟t have radios or newspapers at Gethsemani... and I told him I had seen Barry go out. he knew. to think more. but I recognized his voice. yes.” “You did?” I was excited. My Shaker helped me see that the guilty man ran. Then he said. “Sunday morning?” “Yes. Larry ran away. „Larry? That you?‟ He admitted it was..” Prior Knowledge . and then thought it was safe to return. you know. that. Father. early that morning Charles died. „Everyone holdin‟ up under the strain?‟ and I said yes. you know. First he asked for Barry Lamb. See.” “Maybe he just meant the usual.” “He left. He booked the retreat. “When? How?” “Sunday morning. The Shaker told me to dig deeper.“What came?” “That I knew.I told him. waited up there until Pith was arrested. while flight is a sign of guilt. and he returned here directly when his retreat was over. to Gethsemani. He called.Page 224 . before mass. and I said.
on his car radio. Father.“No. Immediately after the murder Larry left.. and immediately after he learned someone had been arrested for it he returned. Plus. He knew Charles was dead. I told „im yes.” “No.” I felt cold chills up and down my spine.” Randy‟s eyes were bright with certainty.Page 225 .” Yes. because then he asked if they had already said a mass for Charles. Father. “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 talked like it was somethin‟ he had known about for some time.. “Anyway.” Randy shook his head decisively.that‟s when his tone changed. Father... Once you go through that front gate. Larry didn‟t sound the least bit shocked. primarily because he came between him and Barry Lamb. The way Charles took Barry away from him at the party was only the last of many such territorial claims. Maybe he went out for a break. Prior Knowledge ..” He leaned toward me again. that had been true of my visit to Gethsemani.. Larry hated Charles for several reasons. you‟re in there until you say you‟re leavin‟ for good.” It added up. “And that‟s when he said. we had done a mass for Charles. He was either innocent or the most cold blooded killer I had ever heard about.he sounded relieved. I‟ve stayed at Trappist abbeys. no. 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.” “I see. that Pith was in jail.. “He could have heard about it.and he said he would be back soon. “They don‟t like to disturb their guests on retreat..or seen it in a newspaper outside the Abbey...” “Not likely.
THEY ADD SPICE. Prior?” he blurted. It was such a small room that with us two big men inside it there was hardly room to turn around. “Nothing. “Shhhh. Father?” Bartholomew asked. “Just need to look at your records. “You really like to complicate things. “I‟ll look into it.“Okay. dismissing him. maybe not. The shelves were stocked with patent medicines. YOU LIKE INTERESTING CONFESSIONS. “Maybe.” “COMPLICATED? NO. He got up reluctantly.” I said. “You sick.” he nodded seriously. Now You‟ve made me a sleuth. “What‟s wrong with you. his eyes begging for reassurance. THE CATHOLIC FAITH IS FULL OF THEM. and we went inside.” “You‟ve written a murder mystery.” “I WRITE A LOT OF MYSTERIES.” “Sure. I thought I was a priest.” I promised as I ushered him out the door. WELL.” “MONKEYS: CURIOUS BY NATURE. JUST INTERESTING.” I cautioned.” “You can say that again. “Keep it to yourself--and your Shaker. THIS IS AN INTERESTING SITUATION. Just keep quiet and be there.” he said. We met at the door of the closet.Page 226 .” At breakfast the next morning I whispered to Bartholomew to meet me at the medicine closet in a half hour.” “Interesting!” I snorted. Randy. looking around the dining room to make sure no one heard.” “Oh. then turned to the refrigerator that hummed softly in a corner. From its top he pulled a large black Prior Knowledge . Bartholomew opened it with his key. okay. thank you.” I said.” He nodded and went down the hallway. “INTERESTING.
looked intently at the notes. Then I realized that he was the one person who did have the right to question me. The Infirmary Master was licensed by the county.” Prior Knowledge . found what he was looking for. flipped one more. He was approved by the Red Cross.” “Yes.” I was about to reprimand him for questioning my authority. that sort of thing. He had the right to question even me when it came to medicine.” “And it might get ol‟ Pith out?” “Possibly... Father Prior?” “Who had a cold?” “A cold?” “Who came to you for the kind of stuff to treat a cold.Page 227 . I‟m just checking all the angles.the kind where you sneeze. “So you think maybe somebody with a head cold was the killer...” He flipped a couple of pages. and his records were confidential. and ran his large black finger down the page.” I said in a whisper. his eyes widening... “it was testified that someone heard sneezes in the hall outside Charles‟s room the night he was killed. warning him against jumping to conclusions.notebook and took it to the middle of the tiny space.. why you wonta know this?” “Bartholomew. It‟s all guesswork at this stage.” he whispered. “You remember. “October 27 through November 3. All right.the week Charles died. and not Pith?” I held up my hands. What is it you need to know. I was his Prior. I don‟t really know. and he could buy drugs and dispense them. “Possibly. at least on this one subject. and I didn‟t have to give my reasons for anything I did..” He looked down the page. directly beneath the one dim light. just possibly. “Father Prior. and then looked slowly at me..” “Yes..a head cold. “What is it you want to know?” “The week of the.
It smelled the way I remembered him smelling. “Don‟t mention this to anyone. Larry was one of the handful of seminarians who stayed at the Priory over the Thanksgiving holidays. “Sit down. He nodded sagely. Bartholomew had written the name in neat letters and the “sneezer” had signed his signature: Lawrence Diaz. He was in my office fifteen minutes after I called for him. He got eight aspirins on the thirtieth and again the thirty-first. “You wanted to see me. If I didn‟t act quickly. the only keepsake of him I had. it would be all over the place. There‟s only one person it could be. “Yes. Father?” he said. his skin was light.” “Better tell me. “Okay.” I warned Bartholomew.” I said as pleasantly as I could. sooner apparently than the gossip could spread to him. Larry. As I have said. Beside the two check outs. there‟s just the one person it could be. obviously powdered.” Instead. I knew monasteries. Larry was an inch or two below average in height. But I knew I had little time to waste. with thick straight black hair. he held the book around for me to see for myself. Every gesture gave away his sexual orientation. stockily built. Prior Knowledge . I didn‟t even wait for Bartholomew to lock the medicine closet door before I hurried away down the hall. “Yes?” he said.He grinned.Page 228 . It had belonged to my father. and only the slant of his eyes made him look Latin. It gave me comfort when I felt insecure.” I was so nervous that I took up the pipe I kept on my desk but never smoked and began chewing on the stem. „Less the sneezer had „is own medicine or wasn‟t takin‟ any.
New Mexico. We wore suits and ties every day. when things are a bit relaxed.” “Lovely.. “Of course.. “You were lonely. some.. gold neck ties.” he said.yes. and crossed his legs. I thought maybe. some. absolutely lovely. we could remedy that. white shirts.close friends.” His voice lost its edge of excitement.” “Boy‟s school?” “Oh yes. so I can introduce you to its charms. “You grew up in. during this holiday. Can‟t get much more Catholic than that..” “I‟m sure. smiled engagingly.personally. St. Yet I really don‟t know you or any of the men really.” “Nice city. “I‟d love to.” I said. Peter‟s.Page 229 . You see.. Best looking bunch of boys in the Southwest. feeling my way along.” I could see that he was uneasy. I felt guilty taking him along this way. “You attended Catholic schools.” “Isn‟t everyone?” he said sadly. tempting him with a promise of intimacy.and all that jazz. and I am empowered by God to give you absolution. Did you have a lot of. I lived at home. “You tell me your sins.” “Yes..” “Albuquerque. You will have to come there someday. I‟m your confessor while you‟re here. The ends justify. but I knew of no other way to do this.” I said wryly. it was hard.” Liar! He relaxed. Our colors were blue and gold.” “Yes. I didn‟t board. but I pressed on.“Larry... Father.. Prior Knowledge . Larry? Other students?” “Oh..” “Brothers? Sisters?” “I‟m an only. Blue suits.
” Prior Knowledge . are close.” “Are you lonely here?” He hesitated.” The brightness dimmed. “We are closer than Anglos. “Some. I waited a moment.” He smiled wistfully. “Very. which it obviously did.I knew I had him.Page 230 . Latin people generally. Then: “Latin families.” He brightened a shade. “Sure know how to show our love better than most of the people in this place. for the sadness to sink an inch or two deeper. that‟s for sure.
” he finished for me... “Not everyone.” He shivered..frozen inside. But he. put my ego on the line.” Prior Knowledge .” “Exactly.. “Anglos are.the Northeasterners.“You find the men here. stuck my neck way out.” he said. I still do for that matter. Protestant it is. Father. I liked him a lot.” “Cold.. And one or two of the men from the deep south are pleasant enough..rejected.” “No.my offers to be his friend. “I liked Barry. taking me into his confidence in a way he had never done when I was his confessor. “All of them? All of the men here?” “More or less. Remember my trip to Gethsemani? That was mostly to get away from Barry.Page 231 . gentlemanly in a distant sort of way. “Oh. I really went out of my way.” “I‟m a Yankee. He returned the smile.. “No.” He looked at me sharply. except of course that Brother Marjon.” I said with a smile. I don‟t mean you. He even made light of my offers of brotherly love.” “He‟s from Boston. coming from my background.. It‟s been hard for me to take. from the way he hurt me. uncrossing his legs.. dear Father..” he pouted. courteous anyway.” “People like Barry Lamb?” His eyes sparked fire.” “Well.” “I thought everyone knew. Like Barry Lamb. I mean the. But the „Yankees‟ are just icicles. the one who doesn‟t know if he‟s black or white.. but I know he‟s black. “I guess you know about Barry and me.about our little. “Yes.. for all he cares. It‟s that Yankee Puritan heritage.thing. The black guys are a bit warmer... I tried to be his friend.
” “You‟re sure? It wasn‟t Barry?” “It‟s. “Barry will soon be placed under arrest. “You think.” he moaned.Page 232 . “Why? What did he do?” “It‟s serious. They searched the room until they found me.” “Arrest?” He came to his feet.“I wondered about that.” “That‟s why I went.” “I don‟t know..... and dropped his eyes.” “Of course. “But he arrested Pith... “You must promise to keep it confidential.Barry. “Father. Larry.. “he‟s wrong. “I guess it‟s over.” I said. “Strange we should be talking about Barry. shook his head..” The words hit him like hammer blows. perhaps his best friend. but he seems certain....” he said with conviction. “Barry Lamb?” “The sheriff does.” Prior Knowledge . It‟s about Charles. the sheriff is wrong..” His glazed eyes focused.” “How so..” I lied.me. leaning toward him as if to introduce a conspiracy.” I chewed hard on my pipe. “Are you all right.. Why would he think.” “Then who?” He sighed.not.” he said. alarmed. “It was. “Okay.killed Charles?” His voice was dreamy. Father?” He was all eyes and ears. batting him back into his chair. I‟m only telling you because you are his friend.Barry. It was time for my biggest lie. Larry?” I said. He‟s got the wrong man. “Barry is a major concern of mine just now. and you may have to.
“you know how serious this is. He was a prick.” Prior Knowledge . He bullied them. he was telling the truth.” he spoke with a clear voice. So far as I could tell.” he said.” “Larry. “That arrogant prick! He walked all over people. Larry?” “Yes.” I said kindly.” He hesitated. arrogant prick! I waited until everyone was asleep. I‟ll say it a thousand times. I‟ll say it in public. Then he stiffened. Big. God help me.I watched him closely.” “I want to say them. tough.. you can‟t take them back. and then I went into his room and found. to see if he were lying.” He buried his face in his hands and began to sob. “You killed Charles. “I took that knife. The way he humiliated me at the party. He humiliated them.Page 233 . and he deserved what he got. So God help me. “Please. and I used it where it would hurt him the most. momentarily confused. “I killed the bastard. then he went on. to protect his particular friend.. If you say these things in public.
that maybe I was the last to know. wearing just his shorts. “Fa‟ Pri‟. “Do. but vigilant.” He held up a hand and brought the thumb and forefinger together.” “Larry Diaz is in his room. He‟s dealing with a pretty big problem. forming a circle.” Prior Knowledge .” he grinned. It crossed my mind that of all the seminarians his was the least likely door to hear a knock. I knocked. “Don‟t let him know you‟re doing it. “Wha‟ yo‟ do‟ here?” “I‟d like to ask a favor. scratching his hairy stomach. “Just be discrete.” “Kay. There came a rustling from within.Page 234 .” “Lasso „im „e do‟?” “Yes. taking his arm a couple of times when he stumbled..” “Sho‟.” “Sho‟. Would you just keep a tight rein on him for me? Just for a few minutes.III I walked a crushed Larry Diaz back to his room. I happened to see the name “Griffey” on one of the doors.. It occurred to me that more people in that building knew more than they had let on. and told him to wait there for me. and the door opened.” He grinned and nodded knowingly. “How did you. a puzzled look on his face.” “„E kill Li‟stein?” I stared at him. if you will. then turned back.” “Thanks. just keep an eye on him. As I went back down the hallway toward the stairs. Griffey stood there. Don‟t bother him unless he tries to leave.” I started to go.
I was there less than ten minutes when Pinky drove up... “A confession. On the way back to my room I composed my message to the sheriff. I got a new dial tone and called the sheriff‟s office.” “Just over the hill?” Prior Knowledge . Father. Lemon was at home. In my mind I pictured her running for her little cherry red Corvair and heading out to see her. The fact that it was a young woman hit me doubly hard. His home must have been on our side of town.. He‟s from New Mexico. but when I raised the receiver I found myself dialing the newspaper.. Be out in a jiffy. See ya. That‟s good news.” she cheered.Page 235 . but coming from Faye O‟Shay it had no religious tone. “O‟Shay here.” “Hey.” I started to warn her to wait at least until Pinky was here.papa. not so good. Papa is what the Italians call the pope. but she had hung up.” “Which one was it? “His name is Lawrence Diaz.I made my way down the stairs. I didn‟t recognize the tone. to be honest. a lady told me. “You got here quickly.. I thought. He just now told me.” I said. “I‟m. I went outside and waited in the parking lot. “What is it?” he said as he slithered out of his car. I was glad he beat Faye. I heard Faye say. No one had ever called me their papa.” “This is Father Columba. but she would radio him. I‟m about to call the sheriff.you‟d like to know. After a couple of transfers.” “Right you are.” “Oh boy! You got our killer?” “It seems so.well.. I‟ve just received a confession here. “How‟s my favorite papa?” I was at a loss for words.
“I.” he said as we approached him. Prior? We done got ourselves a killer. Pith didn‟t do it after all. yeah. then grinned.” Pinky started to answer as Faye O‟Shay pulled into the lot. sitting in a chair.. boots. Along the way I told them how I had led Larry to tell me. and a checkered shirt. pad flopping.” “Did. “How‟d she fin‟ out?” Pinky said accusingly. He just admitted to me that he killed Charles Lichtenstein. “Guard‟ „im..” “How long have you had a shotgun?” “Sin‟ I‟s fo‟tee.” he said shyly.” “You‟ve got yourself an innocent man.“Your home?” “Home? No? Oh. “Why‟d you go pokin‟ „roun‟ in that pile. sat Griffey. You said yourself it was fishy. “I said keep an eye open. “Howdee. sheriff.called her. Larry Diaz did. Father?” He said no more as she joined us. and the three of us made our way to the residence hall. Pinky did not. I‟s lookin‟ fer moonshine?” “Oh. dressed in jeans.Page 236 .” “Aw hell. Down by Larry‟s door.” “Shhiii-iiitttttt?” Pinky said. Boy from New Mexico. Faye looked impressed. He seemed to prefer a miscarriage of justice to the trouble he would have rectifying it. This was indeed Mississippi. She hurried toward us.” “Confession y‟say? What about?” “The murder. that‟s the code? No. door opening. “What on earth are you doing?” I scolded. He looked puzzled. Larry Diaz. a shotgun across his lap.” Prior Knowledge .
” “Why‟d you do it?” Prior Knowledge . Have you had that awful looking thing here in the dormitory since you got here?” “Uh hu‟. “I did it. Larry looked up at him. Larry‟s room was as neat as Muldoon‟s was messy. but he held his tongue.” Pinky cleared his throat.” I fought dizziness. and it‟s important that she get the story right. I waited for him to go in. “You may go back to your room.” I said softly. If Larry bolted. Faye flounced down on the bed. one on each wall. Larry didn‟t offer to rise as we entered. The bed was neatly made. she‟s from the paper. Pinky motioned for me to sit on the spare chair. Three holy pictures. That brought color to Larry‟s face. I mean here. “That‟s all. and his books were evenly spaced on his bookcase shelves.Page 237 . We‟ll take over now.” I didn‟t want him to be there when we tried to take Larry in. “Larry. where the door stood open.” a subdued voice came from within. then knocked on Larry‟s door. “Kay. He sat in an easy chair dressed in a black suit and clerical collar.” His big brown eyes searched Pinky‟s face. he might shoot him. “Yes sir.“No.” He got up. She‟ll take careful notes. and ambled down to his room. picked up his chair in his free hand.” I said. seemed designed for the room. and the three of us went inside. Sheriff. “Come in. then mine.” “You done killed Charles Lichtenstein?” Pinky said. I opened it. “Miss O‟Shay? Yes. his pajamas were carefully folded and placed on his pillow. “Okay. “Tell the sheriff here what you told me. shaking my head.” “Her too?” he said sharply.
He would go no farther. cruel. but I had to do it...” “How?” “A lot of ways. so I struck out at him. hoping to get the idea into the sheriff‟s head and into Faye‟s pages.me. feel low.he was a terrible.the eye. “Why‟d you do s‟much to „im?” Larry seemed to be gathering his thoughts.” Larry looked at the sheriff defiantly. He would never look at me or any other good person like that again.” “What‟d he do t‟you?” “He. and at the end of it he sobbed.well.humiliated. 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.. how he had made me feel ashamed. I know it‟s a sin.” His voice shook through the speech..I think you would agree... at his eye. the penis. “It had to be.Page 238 .” “What?” Larry said. like a worm.” I said to Pinky and Faye.” he sighed..“Because.. I know that was wrong. the tongue. So we waited. “I killed him. I remembered how he had looked at me. Then I was seized with this terrible impulse..” “A cross?” Prior Knowledge . I‟m sorry I took a human life.” he said.. We three intruders didn‟t know what to do. He deserved to die. “Just take my word for it. “Yes.. his good eye. “And to carve a cross. hateful man. “To kill a man is one thing but to mutilate him... He was dead.. “Was it in a fit of anger?” I prompted him.. hoping we might put in a brief for a verdict of innocent by reason of insanity.. Slowly his sobbing subsided.
I jus‟ carry out orders.I saw confusion in Larry‟s eyes. “Yes he does. He and Pinky were staring each other down. I ducked in front of Pinky and made an angry gesture at Griffey.” I said. he‟s happy there. “Will they let Oscar go now?” Faye said. Instead he rose slowly. bouncing up off the bed. “You got a buncha crazy sum-bitch monks out here. shaking his small head in dismay. “since he did it with such emotion. Sheriff. Sheriff?” He opened his door. he nodded deliberately. already packed I assumed. looking straight ahead. in the same back seat where Pith fell into his fetal position.” He glanced at Faye.Page 239 . Prior?” Pinky said. “Hey. “now it all comes back. He looked frightened and disappeared into his room. Oscar. Sheriff. He started to speak but held himself. Pinky put Larry in the squad car. and led us out into the hallway.” I told her. Larry sat primly. “Think so. and as I came through the door I heard Pinky let out a howl. but he said nothing.” she said.” Faye said. After a moment more of hesitation. “Yes. Don‟ know though.” I said.” “Come on.” “Okay. “Maybe.” Faye concurred. picked up a suitcase.” I said. I turned to Pinky. I was last out. “Got it?” “Yep.” Pinky said. “Sorry. Again Larry looked troubled by her presence. “Yes I do.” “It had to be an irrational act.” he said. “Nuff fer me. Prior Knowledge . “I hope so. you? Pit it down?” I looked out and saw Griffey standing there with his shotgun.
I have a story to write. “Las‟ week” he said as he began to chew.. “a truck come in the grounds down at the farm.” I promised him. found it.” she said. I tapped on the glass where Larry sat. done with as much restraint as she could muster under the circumstances.Page 240 . “You‟ll go as easy on him as you can. I had clipped out each one and sent them along in weekly reports to Father Superior at Saint Vincent‟s. and bit off a plug. I wanted to ask her why she called me that.” “Oh. but I was afraid she might think I didn‟t like it and stop. „What‟ll I do with these chickens?‟ Oscar. “I‟ll be in tonight to see you. “I just thought.. but so far Father Superior had been subdued in his reactions.” I was trying. Yes. one from Memphis and one from New Orleans. had attracted regional attention. There were even a couple of television crews.” I said instead. “Try to keep a lid on it. Faye‟s stories.” “Sorry. “How about some coffee.” she smiled back at me. Pinky cranked up and drove him away.” “Sure. “Our Brother Peter makes a good cup. All right. Columba. I knew our seminary for belated vocations was about to be terminated. but the old judge made them stay out in the yard. I hope. I turned to Faye. He made no response. he‟s there in the yard „n‟ the driver. he just said. he said. truck full a live chickens? Ol‟ Oscar. Papa.Pinky looked down at her tolerantly. *** This time there was a real trial with a jury and spectators and a lot of newspaper people. Each time I called to make a report. He fished in his shirt pocket for his tobacco. Prior Knowledge .” “One cup. he said. „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.” I smiled.
It was to be the same team that handled---I use the term loosely---Pith‟s case: Homer for the defense. Faye and I exchanged occasional comments as the jury. Larry‟s mother. I explained the difference between a confession and a Confession. and I explained monastic and theological jargon to her. head down. it appeared to me. but I think my explanation went over the heads of the Baptist jury. looking angry rather than embarrassed. some anti-Jewish for no reason that I could imagine: all in all a circus atmosphere.I made my way into the courthouse through a wilderness of protestors. Faye explained southern justice to me. Homer told us that Larry confessed to the murder but would contend that he had been temporarily insane when he did it. said she would send Larry‟s cousin to be with Prior Knowledge . Judge Ambrose Potter on the bench: his face red. kept in line by the lispy little Darlene. Mississippi was demonstrating once again its Know Nothing heritage. I could tell by their expressions that no one on the jury had the vaguest notion what that meant. He took me over and seated me beside Faye. Horace. all with signs: some anti-Catholic.Page 241 . On the second day Larry took the stand. the way Larry confessed to me. was chosen and sworn in. waiting for justice. making it as bloody as possible. some anti-Black. who was near the table where Larry sat. Horace to prosecute. Pinky met me at the door and took me up the stairs to the courtroom. the aspirin. described the deed. I came in my civvies so no one would know me. he eyes watering. mostly farmers on winter holiday. as Pinky Lemon described the way Charles was murdered and mutilated. Mid-1850s. dressed in an orange jail suit. Larry sat impassively. He showed no sign of emotion as I told the court about the sneeze. He didn‟t mention the fact that he had earlier sent an innocent man to a mental institution for doing it. when I called her.
except that I know I found Charles Lichtenstein asleep and killed him. then sat and stared darkly at him while he testified.” he said firmly.. the mutilation. the tongue. I liked her a lot. It was Larry‟s decision to go forward. the stabbing. then determined. “Once I went through that door. That really angered me.” Faye whispered to me. “What?” “Did you knock?” “No. but I found this unforgivable. the penis.. “Did Charles generally leave his door unlocked?” “I. His otherwise smooth countenance coarsened by a black mustache.” Then Larry described. no.” Larry looked confused.it wasn‟t locked. Amazing so.Page 242 . if as you say you found him sleeping?” “I..” He took a breath. Larry described how he had come to hate Charles. then frightened. “It.. Carlos sat beside Larry at the defense table as we waited for Larry to be called.I don‟t know. I don‟t really remember what happened.. Prior Knowledge .him.. since he said he was in a daze all the time he was in the room.” “How did you get in?” Homer asked him. all the things Charles had done to humiliate him. He had it in order. and how what transpired at the Halloween party led him to go to Charles‟s room to set things straight. The eye. in elaborate detail.” “Then how did you get into his room. and he was there. “I‟ve got my Pulitzer. dispassionately. “It was unlocked that night. Homer advised him not to. And as he testified I became more and more certain that Homer doubted what Larry was saying.” “Did you have a key?” “Why.
He shook his head. holding it up to show the court.” That‟s when it dawned on me.. I don‟t really remember much about what happened after I walked through that door. We‟ve been told that it belonged to Charles.” Homer said... Now I remember.“The knife. Prior Knowledge .” “Did you see it there?” “No. “Cross?” “This one. How did you get it?” “It was. displaying it for the court to see. “Well sir. How should I know that?” “You didn‟t take it out of Charles‟s room?” “No..in the bushes.” Homer said. It was only when Father Prior made me face the truth that I remembered. it‟s as I‟ve said before. the murder weapon.” “You found it there?” “Yes. “The Saint John Cross..” Homer prodded.. we‟ve been told it was thrown out into the rose bushes. I did. Yes.Page 243 . but his confusion confirmed it.just. In his. What I did in there was a complete blank until it came back to me three weeks later. How did Oscar get it?” Larry shook his head.” “Why not?” Larry looked relieved.” “Where?” “There.” Very neat. “How about the Cross?” Homer said. Oscar Petersen was arrested wearing it the next day. “I don‟t know. I had no idea why.there. I didn‟t.. Larry was lying. “how did you get it?” Again Larry was momentarily puzzled. Oscar Petersen threw it there.. I thought. “which you say you used to kill and mutilate Charles Lichtenstein in a fit of blind passion. “This knife.
Page 244 .” he howled. your honor. looking worried. or it was innocence due to temporary insanity. “Insane?” the little man said. I knew it. “That‟s all the reason we had a trial. You could tell by his tone that he thought the second verdict was ridiculous. “Wooden do no good no how. “I‟ll give „im 99 years in Killhaven. if they ain‟t too many of „em. it was over. That‟s it. He looked at Larry. Homer knew it. I‟ll see the press in my chambers. “I. At long last. Larry was led off in shackles. told us that Larry Diaz was guilty of murder in the first degree. I guess not.” “Good. Can‟t send a preacher boy to the chair. we all filed back into the courtroom.” the judge barked. “He admitted he done it. all of it. Guilty it is. a plump little man in overalls. Prior Knowledge . “Awright. Sorry. The jury. only that I saw Charles lying there and I used the knife I found in the garden to do those things to him. not in this state. All he was askin‟ y‟all t‟say was whether he was crazy.. and the foreman of the jury. Why should we?” The judge turned a deeper shade of scarlet. boy.” The judge shook his hoary white head and turned to Homer. late on the second day.“I still don‟t remember much about the room. wandered out of the room.” “Oh. “Y‟all don‟ b‟lieve he was insane?” the judge barked at the man.” He pounded the gavel. who avoided his eyes. sir. looking confused. The red faced old judge made his instructions to the jury as simple as he could: it was either first degree murder. You plan to appeal?” Homer scrambled to his feet. Faye and I went into a side room to drink coffee.” It was a lie. In less than an hour came a knock.well. “Crazy!” “Crazy? No. Larry knew it..
” “I will. about my particular friend. “Either way.” “What?” “. Larry introduced us.. and I‟m glad finally to set the record straight. his angry scowl softened just a bit by what Larry said. Despite the shackles.. “Telling me that.” He came close to me and whispered.” I sighed.” Faye said...Faye and I pushed our way. he tried to embrace me. The cousin.or he‟s a real psychopath.” “That‟s what you‟re going to write?” Prior Knowledge . “please pray for me. His cousin stood guard at his side..” “Oh. what you said before.” Larry said to me. “It was my own crime. “Cool cucumber.Page 245 .” he said. waited to be taken to prison.” he smiled. “Father. my own sin.. I was shrouded in doubt. “That Barry might be implicated. well Father. giving me warning of what might happen..” “What?” I whispered back. “Yes.. following Pinky Lemon. but glad.well.” she continued. Larry. Larry. this thing has all the elements of a first class farce.” Larry said. “I understand. you know.” I told him..” He looked deeply into my eyes. “Happy to. “I knew I had to when you told me. “Good. followed him out. it‟s over as far as I‟m concerned. “Thank you for all you kindness.” I bumbled. you‟re a saint.” Pinky led him away. “Yes. back to a room where Larry Diaz.” I said.you know what. “He‟s either lying. not happy. “You will forget. still impassive.” I just hoped to heaven I was doing the right thing.. and the cousin grudgingly shook my hand.
. Papa. He mentioned a lamb. that Prior Knowledge . no. and I know you aren‟t going to tell me.. He didn‟t pay me a visit.” She looked at her notes. I understood why the early monks all headed for the desert. “What‟s this business about a lamb?” “Lamb? You heard that?” “I‟ve trained my ears. She‟s a reporter. I don‟t know what I like and don‟t like. I prayed for Larry Diaz. I‟ll let you off. It would soon be Christmas... no.” “One of those lambs was special to Larry. “Your boys are into sheep.” “GIVE YOURSELF TIME.for the moment.” “Who.” I said. huh?” “No. I watched from my window as he drove away to the west. to make sure the extreme read end of my anatomy is covered. “No..” “GIRL REPORTER THEN. AND YOU LIKE THE GIRL PART. Right now I‟ve got enough to write about.” Larry‟s cousin came out the next day to collect his things and drive his car home. “On the farm there by the Priory.” “Bovine feces.” she said with a devilish grin.Page 246 . “I know you know something I don‟t know.” “Oh. it‟s just that Larry got upset when the farmer told him he was going to slaughter. no. Papa.” “Right now. Faye? She‟s not a girl. On the way back He spoke up. But I‟ll do an editorial.” “Oh. Even with its smell of death and decay. Saint Luke‟s was my refuge.. there‟s a lamb. “SOME GIRL.“Not in the story.” “So!” she said with a twinkle. and I didn‟t go out to meet him.” I held up my hands as she laughed.” I was glad when I reached the car and started for the Priory.
Still I remembered the words: I come not to bring peace to the earth. Prior Knowledge .Page 247 .he would find peace. but a sword. That night I drank half a bottle of scotch and got my first full night‟s sleep in weeks.
and I had to write it four times before it came out more or less the way I wanted it. just not for as long a time. At 3:00 in the afternoon. 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. We had no work details and an abbreviated worship schedule. We would have mass at 11:00 p. and we heard no more complaints. Larry had told me she was in bad health. so I knew they weren‟t having to fast with the monks. each alone. Only three seminarians. It was one of the hardest letters I had ever written. as I was feeling bold pangs of hunger. but I felt the need to write her a few words of comfort. during the day. The monastic Community decided to observe silence. I saw them out walking. My only advantage was that I felt almost as bad about it as she did. Muldoon and Frost were too far from home to go. and to keep to our rooms. to fast. and have a real feast at noon. sleep late on Christmas morning. since in a sense he was my son too. mercifully quiet. Peter told me that Ophelia was none too happy having to work all day Christmas. I spent most of Christmas Eve composing a letter to Larry Diaz‟s mother. At first I let it ring. so I gave her a $100 holiday bonus.. to celebrate the Lord‟s birth. and Barry Lamb had no family. break our fast with a light meal at midnight.IV Christmas Eve was wonderfully. when I was licking and sealing the envelop. stayed for the holidays. They had access to the larder. my telephone rang.m. I was sure the cousin had told her the story of the trial. unless they chose to do so. of our dwindling group.Page 248 . I wanted to take a nap and then meditate Prior Knowledge .
her face a round ball of pleasure under the short hair. got all the scraps swept up.” “Yes.” “Greenville. huh?” “Yep. haven‟t you heard?” Prior Knowledge . I think it‟s in September. Papa. she still has a distinctively oriental laugh. Methodists are Christians. She laughed again. Just great. On the good ole Mississippi.” “Oh! Confucius was born around Christmas?” I asked naively. I was just being sacrilegious. Home sweet home. “I was just calling to wish you a Happy Confucius‟s Day. She laughed. not matter how acculturated she may be. I didn‟t want a call from distant family members or a message that would require urgent attention. in Greenville. Just a little joke. On the tenth ring.” I said. celebrate Christmas?” “Of course. Still it might be important. “Does your family.” I started to tell her she had succeeded. but I thought better of it. I picked up. No matter how Americanized an Asian woman is. Where all us darkies be livin‟. I could picture her on the phone. I had to admit I liked being called “Papa. Papa.before mass. I‟m finally through here.” I smiled in spite of myself.Page 249 .” “Come on. We‟re the Oriental Jews. And you?” “Great. and I was after all a responsible person. and I‟m about to leave for Greenville. “Noooo. I found it charming. and we makee de monee. “Papa? It‟s Faye.” “How ya doin‟?” “I‟m well. trying to be cute. But what we celebrate most is that you white folks eat a lot of Chinese food on the holidays.
wrinkled skin. an acrid smell. already stabbed anyway. I realized it when I went back over my notes.I was shocked into silence. certainly not with the verdict.Page 250 .” Prior Knowledge . that‟s assuming I ever get the nerve or get desperate enough to get married. she had so far avoided all of those maladies. “God?” “Go on. I wasn‟t sure whether I was asking about her problem with the murder case or her problem with men. but give the weed time. That knife keeps gnawing at me. “Larry Diaz was lying when he said he found it. at least when he said he found it out in the garden. the tongue. I just chuckled tolerantly and made a “tsk. “A couple of things. when old Larry did his mutilation.” “What‟s the problem?” I asked. the cock. She was still at it. I think someone else took that knife to Lichtenstein‟s room.. Course. So I believe there was someone there before him. As young as she was. either dead or dying. I think Lichtenstein was already dead. cutting through my thoughts. I had observed the effects of “that foul weed” on women: yellow teeth. I‟m hard to satisfy. Papa. I hated to see that ruined with tobacco. “You‟re. I can see him on the eye.” I heard her take a draw from a cigarette. Not being able to think of a proper response. tsk” sound.not?” “Nope.” “God. “I‟ll go farther. She went on.” I sighed. please. He actually found it in the room.” I said. I see him more as a carver than a striker.” My rising spirits drooped.. “But the real reason I called is to tell you that I‟m still not satisfied with this murder of yours. Pity the poor man I marry. She was such a lovely little jewel.
She was less sure of herself than she said. Sorry also to Prior Knowledge .” 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. I think somebody else killed Charles Lichtenstein.. “Does what I‟m saying make any sense to you?” she asked. For me this is a stab in the dark. it‟s still not clear to me.” She sighed. Papa. the real killer. found him stabbed. “Well. sorry about the phrase. Her voice had a waver of uncertainty to it. Papa.” I mumbled.Page 251 . “I moaned. You‟d know that better than I would. He‟s protecting someone.boyfriend?” “A boyfriend?” I carefully weighed my words. “then I would say he is not the killer. as I said.” “The only thing is. Papa. then did some carving. Still I was shocked. only older. “Am I still making sense?” “Yes. Some of it had been floating around in my own head. “Yes. I felt sick. maybe to chew him out. Which leads me to my second suspicion. Remember all he first mentioned was the eye..” she resumed.I blushed. It did make sense. Then after he found out about the other things he confessed to the whole kit „n‟ caboodle. “I wouldn‟t know about that. don‟t you?” “I do. I knew of course that modern women spoke bluntly and used words the girls of my own generation hardly knew. I was glad she couldn‟t see me. I think Larry Diaz came along. Oops. did he have a. but I had swatted it away. speaking more slowly. Tell me. “You hate this. “If so. Maybe not all of it. I have no idea who he would be willing to go to prison---for all he knew to his death---to protect. You never grow younger.
I‟m always scared I‟ll stumble over something in the darkness and fall on my face and spill the wine and wafers. to force the whole idea of blood out of my mind. We are taught that if one of those falls on the ground we are to pop it in our mouth and eat it. but I was disturbed. *** We used candles at the midnight mass. I‟m especially scared of this after the host has been consecrated. The wine. Papa. but they frighten me. and dandruff floated quietly down before my eyes.” “Don‟t worry. I needed to wash my hair.. huddled in the sanctuary. I had noticed. dripping down the sides of the altar. I tried not to think of such things.” I reassured her. as I led the monks into the darkened chapel. our remaining seminarians.. I needed time to think. “I‟m glad you called.disturb you on a Holy Day. when the bread is the body and wine the blood of Christ. “Have a nice Confucius Day.off my chest. For an Asian girl. It occurred to me that I had not written a letter to Santa Clara since I met Faye O‟Shay. Three figures. appearing as tiny spots on my spectacles. I was thinking of her chest. Candles are impressive.. still am.” “Oh. well I just would hate to see blood spattered over a part of the carpet.Page 252 .” She was gone. All those American vitamins. Faye. I needed a shower. I will. and you‟re my Papa Confessor. I scratched my head vigorously. and I suddenly felt very lonely.. The wafers wouldn‟t be a loss.so to speak. I took my place beside the altar and watched the monks file to their places in the Prior Knowledge . I felt I needed to get it.” “You too. she was rather richly endowed. though. I needed a nap. Chinese food for every meal. watching carefully where I stepped.” “Good bye.
chanting. Alexis had taken the host to him.” Prior Knowledge . We marched out. He called it again. trying to raise the courage to approach me. Marjon was as thin as a rake. This was the first mass Marjon had attended since Halloween. their white teeth reflecting candle light. except for the time I saw him by the mailboxes. He called my name. holding his arms lightly. As he passed me. I need.choir. and it made us feel comfortable. Doubts about him still lingered in my mind. and following them at a distance was Marjon. but finally he made it to my side. He followed me as I circulated among the monks. He walked with a limp. but I chose to trust Eric and Bartholomew. he had not been out. his eyes always on me. Each time I caught a glimpse of him I frowned and turned my back.. Peter had taken his meals to his room. and that made things brighter going out. “Father. There was a wood fire in the hearth. Benjamin and Peter walked on either side of Alexis. for almost two months.” “Later. The Rose Triplets came by me as fat and pink as little cherubs in a Rubens painting. We all lighted our small candles from the large one on the altar.” I said. It took him a good half hour. who vowed he could not have committed the murder because he was sedated that evening. and gathered in the lounge for breaking the fast. I ignored him. For some perverse reason I wanted to laugh. Andrew and Martin came next.Page 253 . making sure he didn‟t stumble. “Not now. he gave me a baleful look. I thought of the homeless people and considered myself one of the fortunate. but I restrained myself. Bartholomew and Eric went by me singing. The only fly in the ointment was that Randy Muldoon was obviously stalking me.. As far as I knew. their ebony faces lost in the darkness. I got through the mass without mishap. Randy. Bartholomew his medicine.
“All right. After what we had endured. I‟ll be taking a walk about 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. But different.. salad tossed with every kind of green vegetable..” “When?” I wanted to tell him never. pecan pie. “this is about your.” he said. The wine served with the main course loosened our tongues. coffee with ice cream in it.. Despite the chill on the meadows outside.” “First thing in the morning?” “No. Three o‟clock.. Randy.” I said..I hope not.. it all made me glad I was a Benedictine and not a Cistercian.friend. “You promise not to spoil what‟s left of my Christmas.” “Yes.Page 254 . and his anxious expression quickened my pulse. so I relented.” “I know what it‟s about. I didn‟t want to hear it. “Randy. kind of. and we sat around yakking for almost an hour after we finished eating. but he looked like a wounded dog. Now and then I caught a glimpse of Randy Muldoon. The roast beef and potatoes. Now and then I looked Prior Knowledge .” I sighed.” *** The noon feast on Christmas Day lived up to its name.” “Me too. Monks must forego sex. disappointed. we luxuriated in the peace that followed the storm. and we gave them a standing ovation.” “So late. so they enjoy food. forget it. it felt like springtime in that room.” “Another tip?” “Sort of. By popular demand Peter and Ophelia came into the dining room as we were finishing.“It‟s about.don‟t. Father. Not before.. then. You have to promise me that..” “I. Father. Later.
‟” “You know more than you think you know about what?” He looked surprised. 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.” “Oh?” “Yes. I told myself. All the bushes were bare in the Christmas breeze. and his sad expression gave me pause.Page 255 . more and more.” he said eagerly.” “Not now. going early. SURE. “but not like before.toward Barry Lamb. but he was waiting for me in the Rose Garden. „You know far more than you think you do. A dark cloud came over us. Father. hoping to avoid Randy. Father. He seems to be trustin‟ me to my own devices. Maybe it was all over. “That‟s what this is all about. rubbing his arms to keep warm. “Yes.‟ he said.” At 2:45 I wrapped up and went out for my walk. “The murder.” “The murder.‟ and when I asked him where to go. “Yes. y‟know. „You know.” he said. of course. you do. Think more. he said. Just think.” He gave me a knowing look.” Prior Knowledge . “I started thinkin‟. and I thought of the shoes. he said. IF THAT‟S WHAT YOU WANT TO BELIEVE. “SURE.” I said evenly. „Go on.” The sun seemed to die away. done with.” “He says I should go on. Randy looked almost as sad as they. “is over.‟ and when I said I didn‟t. This time he said. Father. “So you have a new message?” I hummed. “So have you gone on?” I asked him as we neared the pond. „Yes. I know more about it than I think I do. He caught up with me as I headed for the meadow.
not really. but he said they felt so good it didn‟t matter. “See what it was?” I asked as I reached him. “There... I don‟t remember who said it. just as excited as he was. “No. The day was darkening. in the hallway that night.Page 256 . “It‟s..” Randy said. But Father. “So whose. With his youthful dexterity and energy. near the trees.” I said. from up near the woods. He stopped and waited for me.” I looked into the ominous darkness of the woods. remember?” “I remember. “Well... alarmed. and I didn‟t trust my tired old eyes. But I think it was a man. “What is it?” Randy asked. y‟know. and I remembered that there was one person who had a pair of new shoes. I started to call him back. I got to thinkin‟. y‟know? They squeaked.” Randy squinted with me.. I looked up that way and squinted..a man.” “Could be just a shadow. those orthopedic ones. so I just followed along behind him.” I said as I knelt to pick up a rock. He complained about the noise. caught my eye. but I knew it would be as useless as calling back an excited dog. but someone said they heard squeaky footsteps. and it sank with a hollow sound. “Are you sure it‟s a man?” “Yes.he hasn‟t worn those shoes since the night Charles Lichtenstein was killed.” “Okay.“Shoes?” “The squeaky shoes. he topped the fence and reached the edge of the woods before I got half way there. do you.” He stopped me from picking up another rock by taking my arm. I threw it into the pond. “. only a lot slower.. remember? A man in squeaky shoes...” I said. “Want to go in looking?” Prior Knowledge . and he ran toward the woods.” Just then a movement.
I raked out the Prior Knowledge . but the fire had reached only halfway down before it went out. then I was out behind the seminary residence hall. Who had a pair of squeaky shoes. resurrection. I found a stick and separated the paper and plastic and metal. but I wanted to hear it from him.” he said. but no longer wears them?” I knew the answer. He looked crushed. although sodden and rotting.” We were both afraid. but I had always dismissed my suspicions because Barry was as gentle as. “Barry Lamb. finding. discarded items were still intact. overturning. *** After I had sent Randy off to his room with the assignment to spend four hours in prayerful meditation. We turned and walked back toward the Priory. I wandered around the Priory grounds until darkness fell. Resurrection. something like that. the threat of an attack clawing at our coats. a lamb. what Barry Lamb had said that morning we found Charles dead.Page 257 . Below a certain level of ash.” I sighed. A strange question: Why do we believe in it. Even in winter Mississippi days were long.” “Neither do I.. I tried to recall.. Someone had done a burn recently. The next I knew I was in my room. Orthopedic Oxfords. and he asked me about. well. “tell me more. heartbroken. emptying out.“No. poking through the detritus of the burn barrel. “Well. “Of course. 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. as I walked.” I said when we were safely back near he pond. rummaging for my flashlight. Among the things from near the bottom.
please. people such as Barry Lamb. When I was finally done with him. I knew that was a speciality brand of orthopedic shoes. “Lo?” “Faye? This is Columba. Donchu know it‟s Christmas? She‟s at home. Someone answered on the first ring. It rang twenty times before I heard a click and a man‟s voice. and saw a stamp: HERBSCH. I dialed the Greenville number. without having bothered to clean up the mess I had made at the dump site. he gave me a telephone number in Greenville. After several apologies and acceptances.” I apologized profusely and told him who I was.soles and upper scraps of what had been a pair of leather shoes.” came the voice of a man with a Chinese accent. I shone my flashlight onto one of the soles.” Background noise and music grew louder. buddy. They were made for people who spent most of the day on their feet. “House a Shay. Back in my room again. and then he apologized to me. and I told him I would like that. I could hear glasses clinking and trays of food sliding. “Miss O‟Shay. flipped it over.” Prior Knowledge . “Eagle. I heard voices but no English.” he piped.” “She ain‟t here.Page 258 . such as people who worked in drug stores.” “Jusah minit. I dialed the number Faye had given me. I thanked him. he invited me to drop by for a drink sometime. where you oughta be yourself. “Night watchman?” “You might say that.” he chuckled. “Is Faye there?” “Whoooo? Faye?” “Yes.” “Who is this?” I said. “Editor.
” Prior Knowledge . “That‟s great. The restaurant closed at five tonight..not sure we should go any further with this.” I said uneasily. Papa.” “I thought so. and to you too. Each one curled up like a dirty smile. I‟ll come over..“Papa! Hi! Melly Clistmas. I‟m at home. “Well. no.. I figured you knew more than you admitted. other than his connection to Larry Diaz.” “It won‟t be over „til it‟s over.” “You did?” “Yeah.working. maybe more than you knew you knew.” I admonished.” I was looking at the pair of charred soles on my desk.. “Okay now. I just planted a seed so you‟d think about it. I lied to you.” “Are you. and the noise declined. We‟ve had about all the trauma we can stand.at the restaurant?” “Restaurant? Heck no. So who is it?” “One of the seminarians. “I‟m.” “Yes.. Papa.. thank you. I did know someone Larry Diaz might be protecting. I know.” “No. Faye. to suspect him. I knew you‟d think about it and call me.Page 259 . well. I have a confession to make.” “Oh. you know us Chinese. And I have a couple more reasons.” “Yes. remember?” “You must have a large family. We‟re Christians too. Can you hear me?” “Wait!” I heard a door slam shut.” “Well. We gonna take over the world by havin‟ babbbiiiiiieeeees.” “You? A confession? Of all people!” “Yes.
I knew I wouldn‟t sleep much.” “And the other reason?” “Because monks sleep alone. but you meet me in the parking lot at 11:00 tomorrow morning. I wondered if I would ever sleep much again.for confession. Papa.“That‟s why you called me..” I said. promise?” “Yes.” She was gone.Page 260 .” She laughed.he‟s on my list. Faye. “Great. You knew.. not now. Wait until I talk with him. and I joined her when I realized what I had said. Tomorrow morning. “No. Melly Clistmas.. right?” “You‟re probably right.. that if you got me in on this.” “Melly Clistmas. not on Christmas. “Okay.” “Uh. And not tonight. and once more I felt alone.” “Night. Prior Knowledge ...” “I‟ll leave right now. Papa. And I‟m a very sexy chick.” “No!” I blurted. that was one reason you called me. down deep inside. You know I said you called me because you knew I wouldn‟t let you rest until we got to the truth? Well. I wouldn‟t stop until I got to the bottom of it.
m. and any other time I would have delighted in listening to tales about a part of life forbidden to me.” “Me?” I said innocently. Prior Knowledge . In doing so I might also free an innocent man. and that made her try all the harder to entertain me. my calendar said “Barry Lamb. It bothered me that a murderer had soiled the wedding dress of the Bride of Christ. his Priest. “What is it?” I said to her. his Confessor. I grew more and more nervous. As 10:00 approached. He had not cracked. unappealing as it was. I needed time to get my thoughts together. I went straight from Morning Prayer to my digs. as I was more and more convinced Larry Diaz was. someone he trusted. to plot my strategy. slot for December 26. full of stories about her little son‟s Christmas. She was in a talkative mood. He had held his peace all these weeks. whatever it was he knew. her hands on her broad hips. but not that morning. She sensed that something was wrong.” There were no names or notations before that hour. I was Barry‟s Prior. I sneaked down to the kitchen and let Ophelia make me a cup of coffee.V Beside the 10:00 a. It was my duty. I felt guilty. but at last she stopped and stood looking at me. skipping breakfast. and I would not find it easy to crack him now. and that was good. to find the culprit. Yet I was also protecting Mother Church.Page 261 . “Tha‟s whut I meant t‟ax you. Barry had a stronger constitution than met the eye. and I was scheming to trap the poor kid into admitting to a hideous crime.
Page 262 .” I mumbled. Barry was early.” I sighed. feigning pain.” “Coffee‟s cheap.” I countered.ill?” Prior Knowledge . “Barry. “Can it?” she added suspiciously. “are you.” “Ho.” she spouted. “Thanks a million.” We stumbled around the chairs and desk and at last fell into the proper places. realizing for the first time that Ophelia served as my Mother Confessor. I definitely felt better. and his face was lined.” “Thanks for the talk too. He was easily thrown off track. ho. I was having coffee in the kitchen. He was milky white. Barry looked about the way I felt. “it can‟t be a woman. and said in a strained voice.” “Now that‟ll cost you. waiting for me at my door. Father.. “Lots of worries. I handed her my cup. son.” “Well. “You don‟t listen to gossip. “I been hearin‟ „bout that cute little gal from the Eagle. What‟s a matter? You miss y‟breakfas‟. and opened the door.” she said with a laugh. He looked at his wristwatch.” she laughed.” I fumbled for my key.” “No problem.. swallowed hard. You got somethin‟ on your mind.” I said. He looked alarmed.” She laughed again. I know it‟s not quite 10:00. found it.” “Ophelia!” I said. “Maybe not. and her stomach rolled from side to side. “Barry.” I waved to her and left. you come in here like a man‟s loss „is las‟ friend. do you?” “Uh huh. “I‟m sorry.“You. “Maybe.” “I guess so. “Come in.
and I assumed He could hear.for I have sinned. He made the sign of the cross raggedly.” “What?” “You called me Larry. “No.. I tried to recall his most recent confessions. his eyes haunted by things he did not or could not tell me. His forehead and upper lip were usually sweaty. I don‟t think so. abstracted. All I could remember was that they were hesitant. “What sins have you committed?” I said as I turned the side of my face to him. I crossed my legs and without looking directly at him said in a bland voice: “Larry. He was not ultimately confessing to me. “.Page 263 ... Why?” “You‟ve lost weight. in fact a bit of illusion. But it‟s not because I‟m sick.” “It‟s Barry. he was confessing to God. In confession I was not always sure what he said. but I didn‟t worry too much about that. After a few minutes of this. Sometimes in class I had to ask him to repeat himself. He wove aimlessly from one side to the other of a very narrow track.. inhibited. I tried to remember if he had been like that at the beginning of the school term.” “I know it.” He always mumbled.” he was beginning. Father. enough to satisfy his need to confess. He repeated the usual dull litany of minor transgressions.” Prior Knowledge . I‟ve just not had much appetite. tell me something. father.He looked away shyly. my way of giving the men a bit of privacy.
I waited. After a long time he said with a shaky voice. Then he controlled himself. Barry? Before you came here.” “I feel sorry for Larry. as if he had touched an electric wire.Larry Diaz.. not just that he will never be a priest.” “You have overcome your doubts?” “I guess so. tell me something. Father.” I shifted my weight and turned toward him.. Father?” “In prison. you know..” “Yes. Father.” “Why would you have doubts about the resurrection?” “I don‟t!” he blurted. Father. I know I believe in it now. A real Freudian slip. Father?” I stole a look at him. you were concerned about the doctrine of the resurrection. Sorry. “When?” Prior Knowledge .” Barry‟s eyes went blank..homosexuals. his big blue eyes wide. “I don‟t remember that I ever did.” “I don‟t just mean that he has lost his freedom forever at such a young age..” A vein in his temple began to throb.Page 264 . there are.I had. I don‟t remember.” “I did. you were a close friend. “Have you ever had dealings with people like that. of course. but I mean what‟s likely to happen to him in prison..” “I see. I seem to recall that you had a problem sometime back. and he looked whiter still.” “Yes.” He didn‟t answer.. with.” I waited. “Yes. As I recall it. “. “What. “Barry. “I‟m sorry.a theological question.. Father. I cleared my throat. “Yes.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see him jump. Barry. I mean?” “Yes. I believe.
criminology majors of all things. At 21 they went up for life terms. Like Larry. to kill and get away cleanly.” “What. “Barry.Page 265 .” Barry‟s eyes roamed the room. you know that I grew up in Chicago in the 1920s. Father.. he hated the pain they had caused him. “Well. in business. Did you ever hear of Leopold and Loeb?” “No.. you know. He didn‟t invite it. “. and they hired the best lawyer in America. almost lifeless.. “Well. he didn‟t understand it.life. in the army.my... At school..” I said. limp. While I was in school there was a murder. Everyone expected them to be executed. Clarence Darrow.” I knew the younger generation was ignorant. In the papers for weeks. they decided to kill a young boy. here: people always had approached him.” I tried to read Barry‟s eyes. Suddenly he was speaking with a cascade of words. It caused a real sensation. I sighed. he was drained... these two university students. some hardly intelligible. but I couldn‟t tell whether he was frightened or merely intrigued by the tale. and he didn‟t know why. But they were rich. when I was drenched with his invective. but he was always a target. Of course they got caught. he hated them. just to test out their theory that it was possible to commit the perfect crime. but all spoken with terrible urgency. “that‟s why I worry about Larry.“All. some inaccurately used.will. but they seemed to unblock a river of memories. and he performed a miracle by getting them life in prison instead of death.might happen to him?” I looked him in the eyes. He hated it. When he finally stopped talking. some illogically linked.. in prison.” The words came hard.. Prior Knowledge .
“Now.” Barry tried to speak. He looked confused. “I absolve you of all you have freely confessed. you are no long in Confession. in spite of his personal wishes.” Big tear drops suddenly appeared in Barry‟s eyes. just a few years ago.“Loeb was a homosexual. “I have to make a confession. “Yes. to go and work in a laboratory in Puerto Rico. Leopold lived and after 30 years was released. worked hard. Barry. I eased him back from me. the person he loved.” he mumbled. but then he nodded. I blessed him. I would turn that person in to the police. Now I‟m not bound to keep secret what you say. the way Larry may find himself. He blinked.” I said. “Father.” Barry shook his head. Leopold was not. then stopped. doing. and I know who that person was. I felt he was protecting someone. “I was using that person‟s name just to get Larry to tell the truth about what he knew. read books. and they ran down his cheeks. I‟m no longer your Father Confessor.” he wailed.” Barry swallowed hard. I know he was. I had set him Prior Knowledge . He started to speak. his tears wetting my shoulder. I stood up. while Loeb got involved with men. is that I‟m not so sure Larry should even be in prison. Do you still want to tell me something?” For a moment I thought he had changed his mind. But one night in the 1930s someone slit Loeb‟s throat in the shower. that he really didn‟t kill Charles. the person I threatened to accuse. In prison Leopold kept to himself.Page 266 . “The worst part of it. Barry. because I led him to believe that if he didn‟t confess. his jaw set. “In fact. Father.” “Wait!” I said in a panic. “I felt all along that he was making a false confession. But he confessed to a crime he didn‟t commit. His eyes were misty.” Barry nodded. Barry. and he rushed into my arms. to protect the person he thought did it.
. “Let‟s take a walk. he was after.” I said. he said he wanted to help me. “That night. Father.” he indicated a place just below his chin. I saw Randy and Frost in the distance.my soul. Prior Knowledge . “I‟d taken him up to here. I went to my own room.” I coached him..” he said. the way I had set Larry up. like those others. but I couldn‟t stop myself.from Larry by humiliating him. I watched myself pick up that bloody knife. He didn‟t do it out of love.” He spat the words out.. Out near the old Shaker graveyard Barry told me he had killed Charles Lichtenstein. and it was like I was outside myself.. what happened? “That‟s when I knew I had to do something.. I watched myself go down the hall and go into his room. I watched myself take that knife... “He took me under his wing.. but he was harmless.up.own me. and I felt cheap.” “You couldn‟t stop yourself.like I watched myself do it.” He looked away. take away my soul.” We walked past the cemetery and toward the pond. Charles was.. “No. Father. “What did he do?” “He wasn‟t after my body. I knew I had to destroy him or he would destroy me. “I called out to myself. but later I sneaked out and went to his.. The way he protected me. Father. “He was evil. preparing for still another trial.Page 267 . and I knew I had to act fast..” “What did you watch yourself do?” “I watched myself leave my room.” he readily agreed.. Larry was silly. Father. when you left the party with Charles. out by the edge of the woods. but I knew better. “I just couldn‟t take it anymore. He wanted to. he did it so he could be my guardian. my master.the devil.
“what will they do? Will they let Larry out? I mean. but I knew Barry needed to believe he was doing the right thing.” Barry held up a hand to stop me. if you go public with this. “He should be released. I don‟t know that I would even tell what you have said.” I agreed.” “You‟re sure?” “Yes.. The Priory has suffered enough.” he turned to me. How did you come to have it?” “I. “Father. not a soul.” “Father. I didn‟t know what would happen. Go back to your room and pack what you want to take with you.” He sounded momentarily uncertain. how did you come to have that knife?” “Knife.found it.Page 268 . “call the law. Barry. can they?” “No.” he said.. That is. into the rose garden.” “Yes. You could keep quiet about it. It was funny that he found what I later used on him...we. for me. All you have to say to me is that you will drop out of the priesthood. Eric and Bartholomew saw him throw it away.. Remember. Don‟t talk to anyone.. I was the one that did it. funny. Pith carried it away from the party. They can‟t keep him now.” “All right.and I watched myself make sure he would never steal anyone‟s soul again.. He kicked something in the grass and I picked it up.” I remembered Faye‟s question about Larry and the knife. we found it while we walked. someone out to get you. Larry may likely end badly someday anyway. Barry?” Prior Knowledge . he lied. “You‟re absolutely sure. Even if I told someone.” “Yes. “Charles and me. “Tell me..” He nodded and started to go. you could just say I‟m a big bag of wind. but then he rushed on.
but I looked away. “Another tear.” “Maybe. A petite figure popped out.” he said. and a round Chinese face smiled happily. It‟s only right. I snagged my cassock and heard a rip.” “MAYBE NOT INDEED. just a tad. The sun peeked through the clouds. I heard them calling me. things suddenly seemed not quite so dark and lost. but I kept going. I heard voices and saw Muldoon and Frost coming toward me.” I mumbled. Prior Knowledge . “Oh God. Despite the burden I carried.Page 269 . “I‟m guilty.” He walked away toward the dormitory. when he had some desirable qualities.” Faye‟s cherry red Corvair came rapidly up the driveway. IS IT?” “When did I ever have a day?” “MAYBE THE WORST IS OVER. He was a strikingly handsome man. As I climbed through the barbed wire fence. and hurried back toward the Priory. pretending not to see. Larry‟s not.“Yes. maybe not.” “NOT YOUR DAY. Tragically he would never be a priest. Randy raised his hand. and he carried himself with a dignity I had not seen in him before.” “Thanks a lot.
he was as thin as ever.” I said.in love with one another?” Prior Knowledge . Sheriff. you might say. “I just hope I‟ve done the right thing.VI I asked Faye to wait while I went inside and called Pinky... “I think he‟s had time to think. “You have. We think he took the blame so Lamb could go free. When he opened it so that he could assume his characteristic pose.” she smiled. “See. While we waited for him.. Barry Lamb. hands on hips. on Lamb. Pinky wheeled down into the parking lot and came to a sudden stop. and I looked up to see the squad car coming. “Got it..” “Diaz didden do it?” “Seems not. a bean pole.” “You mean he‟s.. “What is it. how come this Lam‟ come clean?” I cleared my throat. Pinky.and now he wants Diaz to go free. He sounded weary and leery.. A cool December breeze ruffled her short black hair. I told Faye the story. now he was disturbed. but then I realized I had never seen him in a coat before.” Faye put in.” “Well. “This one.they‟re. looking out his window at me with one eyebrow cocked. Diaz had this..crush.” I admitted. When I finished. is the real one.Page 270 . As he got out. she flipped her pad closed.” she said. Padre? Got another killer?” “It looks that way.” There was a muffled roar. I thought he had gained weight. She took notes as I talked. but he said he would come right out. “Mean they‟s two of „em?” “No. “What?” He had been joking..
“In a manner of speaking yes. got spooked. her eyes bright. to accept her Pulitzer Prize. stabbed it out.” “So you‟re sayin‟ Diaz was in on it?” Pinky asked her. stayed around long enough to make sure he was dead. you know. and I hated to muddy her water. came out with a big wad of wax.” “Oh my God?” Pinky said. carved him up pretty badly. but I felt we had to get the facts straight before we went Prior Knowledge . “I nodded. It just came to me. “So all that hooray.” “No. and rolled it into a ball. I could see her going up to the stage. „bout cutin‟ „im up. but when Oscar was arrested he kept quiet.Page 271 .. the eye part. “Right. warming to her thoughts. As he thought about it. while all the rest was vague. “Let‟s say Lamb came in.. “But we‟re „bout to release ol‟ Oscar? Now we gotta let this.. desecrating a dead body. I think he may have stabbed him in the eye... maybe Diaz did do what he said. but also saw that one good eye staring at him. “Right. shaking his head. killed him. he dug in his ear. Only when he thought Lamb was about to be charged did he admit to the killing.” “Yes. He described that in detail. stabbed the man in the chest. “It‟s possible. She seemed to be thinking aloud. saw what was done. Let‟s say he thought all along Lamb did it. Let‟s say Diaz happened in. It was obvious that he was in far over his head.” Faye broke in. I thought Faye was onto something.” I said..” Faye said.” Faye said.” “Yeah?” Pinky said.wait. “Maybe not all Diaz said was a lie. Diaz was alyin‟ „bout all that?” “Apparently. then left. Maybe he was really guilty only of. especially how he found the knife. saw Charles was dead.
Pinky frowned. see. “So even if the eye came last..was chest wound.. “Yes.” Faye said. His fingerprints were on the knife.” I said. “the coroner said the order of the. open mouthed. He had the Cross. I wondered if the judicial system of Mississippi and Saint Luke‟s Priory could survive another conviction and release.” She seemed oblivious to our embarrassment. would an eye bleed more than a penis?” She was looking for a real juicy story. “No. “Could the coroner be wrong?” “Wrong?” “Because. Faye turned to Pinky.” Faye and I sounded like an old married couple. eye. penis. “if he were already dead. his were the only ones in fact. Ha!” She had her story. and cross on the chest.” “Yes. tongue.” I said.. you know. Prior Knowledge .” “Tha‟s why he‟s still up at the state home?” Pinky said.crime..Page 272 .. For example.back to court. trying to steer away from tongues and penises. arguing over some trivial point. Did Barry Lamb return and do the rest after Larry left? Or did Larry Diaz do all of the butchering?” Faye thought about it.” we both agreed. but he said he killed the man. “What about Oscar? He was there sometime. “But there‟s another thing.if „is penis was. “Only thing is. “Diaz did it all. even if it were done later. 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. hard?” “It wouldn‟t have been. the eye might bleed more than the penis and the tongue and certainly more than that superficial cross cut.. Pinky just stood there. “Guess it depends. He said he did.” she said. feeling my way through the morass.
“. searching for inspiration.” Pinky fought his way to the surface of the ocean of theory. stole the Cross. He saw the mess.. “they was three of „em in there. Oscar saw the mess. That‟s why the only prints were Oscar‟s. Barry‟s door was ajar.. then realized he would be implicated. you‟re sayin‟.Page 273 . Barry was sitting on his bed. he came in.” I said. had gone. then we will have t‟let Oscar out? Might even have t‟let that Diaz out?” He shook his head. “Oscar didden do nothin‟ but steal the Cross?” “And hid the knife under the arm. “No. but then I thought it would be best for them to come. “Let‟s talk with Barry Lamb. He would be the kind to remember fingerprints and wipe them off. one at a time?” He flicked the ball of wax into the grass. “No.” Faye agreed..” I admitted. it was all over. hid it under the body. then Diaz.. wiped the knife. I don‟t. poked the eye.” “But Oscar..” “He didden do no carvin‟?” “No.. His blue eyes were milky.“He. heard a sound. “Let‟s.” she said. he‟s a known carver?” “I know that.” She looked pleased with herself for the third time. “If this new guy done it. No.” Faye said.” Faye said.saw a light. “So. a small suitcase on his lap. He started to Prior Knowledge . which they did readily. Diaz did that.” “You think Pith would have known to wipe other prints off?” I said. and I pushed it open.” Faye stared into space. “Right. “You could be right. showing some irritation. Lamb. At first I told them to wait for me. I remembered how neat his room had been. so he wiped the knife before he left.
“before we go. I stabbed him. do it all...be sure about this. are you sure you did this?” “Yes.” I said. Only me.” “Tell me. “Because.for me.the mutilations.” “It‟s all right..” “But Larry said. “You don‟t have to. “You stabbed Charles Lichtenstein in the chest. He seemed not to see Faye.. You killed him.he was. Me.” Prior Knowledge . Barry...” “How did you do it?” “With that knife. tell us.” Barry turned to Pinky. now. sitting down beside him on the bed. It was like a dream.” I said softly. “I. “I went into Charles‟s room. why are you doing this? Why are you admitting that you killed Charles Lichtenstein?” “„Cause it‟s the true...” he said.” “And.did you do it all?” “Father. his voice firmer than it had been before. „Cause I did. but he recognized Pinky by his uniform... I cut him up. but I saw myself do it. but I waved him down.. when Charles kicked it. tell me. Barry. The one from the cake. I said I did.” “Larry lied. Father. I told you.get up.. I know you did.” His eyes pleaded with me to believe him. He didn‟t do nothing.” “I did.Page 274 . “He was laying there in his cassock. “Yes. “Barry. I found it in the grass. you know..evil.” I said..” He put his hand to his forehead. “I‟m ready.” he said earnestly.” “Why?” Pinky said..... putting my arm around him.” he said. “But I want the sheriff to hear it.
” Prior Knowledge .” I said. Pith should be able to come home too. waved. Papa. and looked straight ahead as he was driven away.” “We Chinese know the method. I closed the door. “It‟s finished. and Barry rolled down his window. Larry lied.” It was a word my mother often used.” I said.” he said. beginning to rub.” “Good. No more of my men were going to jail in a cage. She came over and stood behind me. “I‟ve got to get this story written.Page 275 . because of what you‟re doing. leading her down the hall to my digs. I helped Barry into the front seat.” Faye said.for me.” The four of us walked together to the squad car. I sat heavily in my chair. “Because it‟s the truth. hands on my shoulders.” “I know.. leading her inside. opening my office door. “We need to get it iron clad. Pinky started to protest it.” I said. “I know. “I thought so.” He smiled sadly. “You‟re doing the right thing. “At least from that awful prison. “Blue.” she said. huh?” she said. When the car was out of sight. These men are your little boys. but I silenced him with a look. Faye walked with me toward the Priory. “Feelin‟ bad.” she warned. startled to hear her use that name for me. Clumps of monks and seminarians watched from some distances away. That feels good.” “It‟s enough. they will let Larry go now. “Father. though. All three of us looked at her. aren‟t they?” “Yes. Papa. “So are you.“Let him talk.” I smiled.. opening the door. won‟t they?” “I think so.
Her hands were surprisingly strong. She giggled at my confusion. just at the time of Barry Lamb‟s trial. A good place to disappear for several decades. living just two blocks from the courthouse.“I just hope there‟s someone left at the seminary when I get through turning people in for murder.. passing cars in ditches. but the roads were hazardous for us good guys too.” she smiled as she came around in front of me. then I touched my lips. Amazing.” “Gotta clear out the dead wood. He took it well. and she was always first to arrive and last to leave. I braved the icy.” “Don‟t use the word dead. “Saint V‟s. I think it might be right for Larry Diaz. using my Yankee savvy. I sat there for a long time.Page 276 . “Take care. She sat next to me through the proceedings.” “Mexico?” “An Abbey way up in the mountains. I was startled.” “Still lookin‟ out for your boys. glassy streets all four days.” She gave my tight muscles a few more pushes.” “I‟ve got to get on the phone. “Gotta go. and kissed me.” She hurried out.” “Yes. A place in Mexico.” I said.” She leaned over suddenly. Prior Knowledge . She patted my neck. Faye had it good. and was near Barry throughout his ordeal.on the lips. It served to hold down the crowds of curious locals and news hounds. impulsively.. I hope there are a few Catholics left. *** Mississippi had its first ice storm in a decade that February. “Take care.
Horace the prosecutor grew more confused and uncertain as the facts unfolded. but I had the feeling he had rehearsed it in his cell.. stole the Cross. Diaz. Barry helped us all out by making a convincing confession.” “You? He lied fer you? He went t‟jail fer you? Is that the way Cath‟lics act?” “Yes. wiping the blade.Old Judge Jerome Potter was obviously irate to be returning to the case. sir. He didn‟t know whether Oscar came in later. He said adamantly that Larry Diaz had nothing to do with it. touched the knife.. This Diaz.what‟s „s name?” He turned to Horace. but Homer the defense attorney seemed to grow more sure of himself. but he allowed that it was possible. When Homer was through with him. he said he done it. sir..” Prior Knowledge . the old judge questioned him.” Homer offered. that he had confessed just to protect a friend. “You say you killed this man. “Yeah.. “Uh. “Why‟d he lie?” “For me.” “That other‟n though. his color rising higher. “Yes sir. He started this trial a face even redder than the one he showed in the previous one. about stabbing Charles in the chest.Page 277 .” Barry agreed. He told us about finding the knife as he walked with Charles. His testimony was impressive. sir.” he rasped in an angry voice. and it grew more crimson by the hour and day. sir. “Larry Diaz.” “I know that. mutilating the body.” “The Mescan!” the old man roared.
” “No. “Confessed? To what?” “To killing Charles.” Larry said. “They gave Larry Diaz life. and me to the familiar waiting room.. most of it drinking coffee. “Just wait..” “What is it?” she said. but. The jury took 20 minutes.. He made him into a „preacher boy.‟ not a candidate for the priesthood.but why?” “It was the right thing to do..Page 278 .Barry‟s simplicity won the day---and cost him his freedom. “What. I‟m guilty enough for us both. “Give Homer credit too. “You didn‟t have to do that.” Larry broke into tears and pulled away from his guard to embrace Barry Lamb. and there we found Larry Diaz watched over by a prison guard. The jury just said so.” Barry said.” Barry said.. He looked more like a Baptist. “Catholics are getting better press.” Faye hissed as we stood up for the judge to exit. moving back.. pushing him gently away.” I said. It‟s to make sure we‟re right. the way I had arranged it with Pinky.” I told her.” Pinky took Barry. He dressed him in a blue suit and tie.” “That may be.” she smoldered.” Prior Knowledge .” “Hold on. “He‟s whiter than Larry. “I did it. puzzled. “I have a surprise for Barry. to find him guilty. “I just confessed. not in the clerical garb Larry wore.. Barry. Faye. They listened to Homer‟s plea that they go easy on a preacher boy and gave him 25 years. “Barry.. what‟s going on?” In his prison uniform he looked smaller than I remembered him.” “You.
my car‟s at the seminary. fishing for a Kleenex. You tried to sacrifice yourself for me.” Larry looked distressed. There he turned back. It may be hard to start. “I‟ve talked with a monastery. It‟s not much. “Do you cry for all love stories?” I asked her. He smiled.” He hesitated.” she said.. “Larry. it would be a wise choice. very remote.” “Go..” Barry said.Page 279 . Larry buried his face in his hands. All right. but it should get you to Mexico. You be a priest for me.” “You can be my replacement. “I no longer have the vocation. “Larry. don‟t give up. Pinky took Barry‟s arm and led him to the door. but take it. and I noticed she was crying.” Larry looked into his eyes.. don‟t quit. if you want to.” “Si. He moved to embrace Barry again. pero. Parle espanol. in the mountains.” “They say you can join them.“You pretended. “Yes. “Is he free to go now. Sheriff?” “In about a week.” “Larry. all I can say to you is. Just like Christ. After all.” she said.” Pinky said. Your brother took yours.” “Tears stood in Larry‟s eyes. You did all you could. “Damn it.” Barry said. I doubt I still can. but you still do.. go. I‟ll go to jail. “Larry. Prior Knowledge . You‟ve got a vocation.” I shouldered in. “I don‟t know. Faye and I left him with his guard and walked together down a long. Now you‟re free to follow it. I know that now. no questions asked. just to protect me.” Barry turned to Pinky. “Strange kind of love. musty hallway. but Barry held up a hand and moved out of reach. “Pray for me. You carry on. Now just shut up. It‟s in Mexico. Barry turned to Larry. I think.” He was gone. given all that‟s happened.
I opened my arms.” “Me too. “It‟s closer---and more private. and she came into them. Three cold protestors stood across the street holding hand lettered signs: IMPEACH EARL WARREN. “Let „em. “Somebody‟ll see us.” she said. Papa?” “Sure. KEEP AMERICA CHRISTIAN AND THE POPE IN ROME.” “I‟ve got a story to write. “You finished?” “Yes.” “Catch you later.Page 280 .” I can tell the whole story now. You?” “Yes. I need a drink. Your place or mine?” “Mine.” she whispered. I saw Faye coming toward me. I explained to the officials that Larry would be leaving for the west and that Oscar would return to live at the Priory. MARTIN LUTHER COON.” I said.” 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. Prior Knowledge . That afternoon a 65 year old latent heterosexual came out of the closet. “You okay. Maybe two. They seemed not to care either way.“What kind isn‟t?” She wiped her round little face and looked at me sharply. It was nearly dark when I emerged from the overheated court house into frosty air. Faye and I killed a fifth of scotch and sacrificed a virgin.
Griffey the cowboy and Candlemas the Prior Knowledge . recounting Barry‟s confession and Larry‟s imminent release. We had shocked each other and ourselves so much by what happened that we stayed kept our distance. which I assumed being in love felt like.VII By early March. Resurrection. although severely crippled. 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. patently ridiculous: a 23 year old Chinese American career girl. but I got the distinct impression the seminary would close for good in May. when I was over half-way through my year. Trees came out in bloom. if he had heard from Father James. I had sent a complete report to Father Superior. I hadn‟t seen Faye since the night the trial ended. Father seemed satisfied with my story. a Methodist who smoked cigarettes. Life boldly reasserted itself. and he just snorted. and I hoped she missed me too. and with me. but neither of us called the other. spring had arrived in Mississippi. There was more than the usual number of student problems. There was fortunately plenty to do to keep my mind occupied. and I was sure it was for the best. after all. I did not mention Pith because he did not show up on any Priory records. Wildflowers poked up amid dark green grasses in the meadow by the pond.Page 281 . The seminary. more emotional and physical than spiritual. and I had my class to teach. all due to the stress we had known for so long. limped along. I had to answer more questions from the prison about Larry and more from the asylum about Pith. I felt I had put Charles Lichtenstein to rest at last. I missed her terribly. It was. and an old Catholic monk. I asked him once.
Occasionally as he talked he would lift his peanut butter jar and spit tobacco. Father. to go over and over the sin of taking his daughter to get an abortion. I didn‟t know what not to do.” Prior Knowledge . She was only 16. Either let me tell you what to do. shaking his head. Poor Barry Lamb. to Kansas and South Dakota. I said to him: “Let me give you a choice. they kept asking me what to do. Magnolia scented southland. even if I can get a dispensation for the divorce. “You mean. “It‟s not much good being a Catholic if you haven‟t been to church for a decade. I have to agree to do it?” “That‟s right. “Those big brown eyes. or don‟t come back to me again. Frost came to see me time and again.” he said over and over. Worse still. before you tell me. to see what attractions the prairie offered. he explained. and you promise to do it.” Tears came to his eyes.” Realizing finally that he would forever go in a circle. If you don‟t. the little girl I taught to walk and ride a bike.Indian were always homesick for the flatlands.” He looked stunned. I‟m finished counseling you. Still I want the priesthood. Their trips home for Christmas had only deepened their aversion to the humid. looking up at the ceiling with big brown eyes of his own.” He spat. She wouldn‟t go to her mother. and the boy wouldn‟t marry her. “I guess I‟m not worthy to be a priest. I didn‟t know what to do. regardless of whether you want to or not. I promised myself that someday I would go out that way. I so much want it. he can‟t ever be a priest because of what he did. You can go find another ear. “She was flesh of my flesh.Page 282 . so he had to take care of it. but I helped take a human life too. “Those eyes.” “You were in a tough position.” I said with all the wisdom of bachelorhood.
I growled for him to come in. He raised his jar and spat. after dinner. the way people think God speaks.” I had never played God before.it. “Agree?” “All right. “Father Columba?” The voice was familiar. Irritated at being interrupted during what I called my golden hour.” “What?” “Remember your promise.” he said.. Prior Knowledge . even though they‟re wrong. There‟s nothing you can do about it now. “Forget it ever happened. That‟s my final word. The last day of March. so you must do it. if in the future there were still a Priory and still a seminary. We have all sinned.” “You will never resolve this as long as you keep going over and over it. he smiled. Don‟t mention it ever again to anyone. The trick is to compensate. I took a breath..” He looked at me. I spoke slowly.” he finally said.get.” he said. *** I kept to a strict diet during Lent and lost ten pounds. The only solution is to put yourself completely in my hands and do exactly what I say. but he was unconvinced. I packed up Barry Lamb‟s personal effects in three boxes..Page 283 . Save a hundred lives for the one you sacrificed. authoritatively. Work like hell to make up for it. I said you are to forget about it. Then for the first time since he arrived. with daylight now holding on until nearly 6:45. “For. You promised to do what I said..” “Yes. “Yes. Father. and stored them in a closet. hoping my gruff voice would actually scare him away.. wrote his name on them.. a knock came on my door. but I thought it was Frost‟s only hope. I hoped a future Prior would give them to a needy seminarian.“But.
Page 284 . “I‟m all right. and then eased off to an uneasy purr.” I told him.for Barry‟s car.” “It hasn‟t been cranked. I came on the bus. Larry Diaz came to me and embraced me. his face coloring. and I got off my bunions.when were you released?” “Just today. I‟m due in Saltillo the first week in May.” I cranked my car and put it nose to nose with Barry‟s. “I sent the rest of your things home with your cousin. When did you. well. “Just to visit my mother. Remember he said for me to take it. “How are you.” he said.” “Yes. It‟s in the lot.. “I came. Prior Knowledge .” He wore sports clothes. “He sent me these.” he said. and we walked out across the grass as the evening cooled and the car warmed.” I teased. We arranged the cables. Beside it sat a single suitcase.. He gave it a lot of gas. Where I‟m from they‟re as important to a priest as his prayer book and robe. I got up. and on Larry‟s first try he got it started. Father?” he said sincerely.” I said when he came into view. “I‟ll only be home for a few days. I had never seen him dressed so informally. “I know. He looked more 25 than 35. let it gain its head..” “That‟s good. threw them in my trunk. “You look splendid.” he said. “Thanks..“Larry..” We went down the corridor and out into the twilight. “Of course I have cables..” “Do you have jumper cables?” “I‟m a Yankee. I took the cables off. May be hard to start. Larry. He held up a set of keys.” I made him sit down.” “Yes.” I said.” “I saw it. I remember. Barry‟s car was covered with dust.
I did it for him. “You‟re not sure. “I lied.” We were back to Barry‟s car.” “I wrote your mother.” he said. “I mean. It‟s a long way.” “I guess not.. I wish to God he hadn‟t done it. Larry climbed into the car and shifted into gear. though I couldn‟t see anyone.” “She said you did. except by confessing he has so ennobled himself that I could never take that away from him. thanks. I would never have taken the blame for anyone but him.” He nodded. I glanced around to see if anyone were looking.” “No.” “Barry wrote me. didn‟t he?” He looked at me sharply.. Oddly.Page 285 . He said you explained how you thought he took the blame for me and how you saw he needed to confess. I would love nothing more than to spend my life serving him.” “You saved my life. at one time. “I‟ll run through a carwash.. In spite of myself. “Better go. yes.” “But he did do it.” I stumbled. Father?” “Oh.” he said with a shudder.“Thank you for everything. Larry impulsively reached out and embraced me. In my eyes he is a saint. so did you. He had to force it to move. “No. and I would do it again. Father.” “You could stay the night.” Prior Knowledge . Father.” “No.” “But I didn‟t. I did of course take the blame. Well. he said he did. Barry is telling the truth. Thank you for that too. but I know why he did. and I felt my stomach turn over. On the other hand.. I felt eyes on me.” “Vaya con Dios. Father.
I examined my conscience. As I walked down the hallway toward my digs. It had been hanging from my lamp for weeks. I got so hungry fasting and so depressed thinking about how little I had to look forward to that I finally went Prior Knowledge . The odor was stronger in the hall. Let it be. like some kind of green vegetable burning. It was just enough of a fast to make me feel that I was suffering like Christ. and slowly it dawned on me. Someone had been here. God. I saw no one on Saturday. I picked up the telephone and dialed Faye‟s number. Except for regular services. I made my way back to the Priory. “Oh. and I had seen it. She had her life. had been in my office. It wasn‟t a total fast. It got stronger as I went into my room..” “Why not?” “YOU HAVE MORE TO LEARN.when? While Larry and I talked. I went down and found the back door open.” I sighed. His taillights lingered on the highway for a long time after his car disappeared into the darkness. Though I had promised myself I wouldn‟t do it. She was out with a young man. feeling eyes still on me. I ate crackers and drank orange juice off and on during the next day. I had mine.He pulled away. had taken the Cross. Saint Jean Cross was gone. I considered my future. I kept to my room.” “I think I‟ve learned enough for one lifetime. and I felt a draft.Page 286 . She was out on a story. I smelled an acrid odor..” *** I began my “fast” on Good Friday night after a light dinner. It rang ten times before I cut it off. I jumped to my feet and rushed to the door. “Will it never end?” “NOT YET. Something was missing. I remembered distinctly. I sat staring ahead. and slowly it began to wane. I searched around but found no cause for it.
rabbits. and breathed in the fresh. and birds. bells sounded. Involuntarily I thought of Pith coming out this way and throwing that knife out into the darkness. Logically it would have been over beyond the bushes. The sun rose over a valley filled with flowers. Something about the story still didn‟t make sense. It was a glorious morning in Mississippi. the hill.out for a late walk and only made myself hungrier and more depressed. the woods. We all chanted as we ascended the hill. as Barry indicated? If so. with all the dew.. had Barry gone to Charles‟s room.. The Rose Triplets. At the top. and by 3:00. No. the way Eric and Bartholomew indicated. as the sun rose. 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. all of the monks. without a weapon? Had he gone there for some other reason and just happened on impulse. for all their shortcomings as monks. and the men came slowly filing out to join me.Page 287 . Had they been to the woods? Possibly. sweet air. Why were Charles and Barry walking over there? That way led only to the meadow. and five seminarians who had not gone away for the Easter break. did make the grounds pleasant. too high to walk comfortably after sunset. Barry never was asked to describe exactly where he and Charles found it. Had Charles really taken the knife to his room. Christ rose in our hearts for the Prior Knowledge . I felt a sense of unease. we sang hymns and recited prayers. now in full bloom. Just before 4:00. I went out into the Rose Garden. bent on revenge. blooming trees. even Marjon. I was up. of Barry and Charles coming along arm in arm and finding it. but the grass over that way was always high. I had trouble falling asleep. still hungry. Barry indicated something had happened between them that night. he said he went there to put an end to evil.
I hated myself because I knew I wanted to listen. and hurried on down the hill.. What is it?” I kept walking.” “No.” “No!” I said sharply. “No.nineteen hundred and twenty-ninth time....you know. my stomach empty but anticipating a nice big breakfast. I recognized both the voice and the tone.. “But.” “Your friend. Father. My Easter cheer was gone.breakfast!” I left him. My heart full.suppose.” I said. One by one. Oh no... his mouth open.Page 288 . while I sat sipping coffee. I glanced back as I entered the dining room and saw him following me. may I talk with you?” “I. I picked at the French toast.” I stopped and looked at him. It‟s about. I refused to talk with anyone. Several times I glanced over at Randy.. I started down the hill ahead of the men. At that moment I really hated the kid.the murder. the men left the dining room.. no. “It‟s about. When I was alone---even Randy had gone out.my.. scowled.. Each time he quailed under my gaze but kept looking at me. “Yes. and it was hard going through the high grass. no. “Father Columba?” I knew before I turned who it was. “After my breakfast.” I said under my breath. far ahead of the others. but he kept up with me. no. rounding up stray Prior Knowledge .” “After.. step for step. How appropriate that Easter comes in April. He spoiled my breakfast. two by two. I was right. presumably to waylay me in the hall---Ophelia floated in. I hated him because of what he wanted to discuss with me.” “But it‟s important. Randy?” “Father. “Oh God. and looked away.
Father.Page 289 .” “Too bad.dishes. “So. “All I know is French toast and French kiss.” “What‟s a French kiss?” She looked at me in amazement. him.” “What kind of things?” “How I know? I don‟ speak French. He planted a seed. and it‟s been growing. and she got up and hurried away.” “Don‟t use that word.” “About what?” “Charles Lichtenstein. as nervous as a cat.” She laughed. where indeed he waited. got up and went out into the hallway.” Her smile faded.” Prior Knowledge . he usta say French things. “I‟m dead. All I „member „bout him. “Oh. “Whhooooeeee. came over to my table and flopped down in a chair. I doubt I‟ll see him again. I shook myself. I‟ve been thinking.” “Yes. “You mean you don‟ know „bout French kissin‟?” “No. please. and took him to my office.” “Yes. Her stomach kept her a good yard away from the table‟s edge.” “What‟s got you so balled up. “You Cath‟lics.” I gathered by the look she gave me that there was something naughty about it.” she said. I don‟t think I need him now. “Bet you think you‟ tongue is jus‟ fer preachin‟ sermons.” “No.” This sent her into a laughing frenzy. Father?” “Just thinking. but it‟s all right.” I said when he was seated.!” She said as she left the room. “it‟s not about the Shaker. It‟s been a long time.
.” He bowed his head. what you need to know is. Well. I‟ve been given this case. Father. He does nothing on time now. I think Sean‟s somehow mixed up in it.” 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.. “Well. He misses meals.. I know. “Randy! How awful!” “I know. “I don‟t think so. I took the liberty. Sometimes he pounds his fists together. Especially in his room.I‟ve read his diary. He even cries. I make it a point.I‟ve admitted I‟ve been snoopin‟ y‟know. He mumbles to himself. his eyes bright.” “Where does he do these things?” “Always when he thinks no one can see or hear.. at services.. He holds up in public. he‟s fallin‟ apart. I keep notes on what I see and hear. It‟s something you wouldn‟t notice. to solve. he even forgets to shower. “And. “Father.” “Is your room near his?” “No. “I do it because I believe. Father.” “I thought it had been solved.” He rushed on before I could comment.well. “I found out a lot though. his journal.. Now that I thought of it.Sean O‟Day.“I keep my eyes and ears open.” I said acidly.” “You what?” I almost came unglued. but when he thinks nobody‟s lookin‟ he lets down.?” I said to Randy. this murder. services. in classes. it‟s all broken down..Page 290 .. somehow or other. but then it popped back up. to acknowledge his unworthiness. Father. You know how organized. I snoop. Father. I realized he had been almost invisible. his hair redder than usual.. Those days just before the Prior Knowledge . how regimented he‟s always been: the way he did everything right on time and in perfect order.” His Gaelic accent was stronger..
he was obsessed by Charles. “Don‟t you see. Father. He didn‟t say what was wrong. 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. so jumbled I could hardly read it. day after day.” “It can keep until the Holy Day is over. and now he‟s obsessed with the people accused of the crime.Page 291 . In fact. He literally cursed him. Then there was one about Pith. then and for the next several days. when Charles humiliated him. We‟re all concerned about the guilty party. He believed Charles was Evil Incarnate. He says he‟s carryin‟ a heavy burden. deliberately. It‟s all he wrote about.murder.” “Randy. wanted him dead. I think he‟s drivin‟ himself crazy on account of guilt.” “It can keep. He nodded curtly. He‟s somehow involved. “You‟re the Prior.” I said slowly. It was what Barry Lamb had said.” “I don‟t think so. I didn‟t. and when he began to write again it was a total muddle. Father. But the entry that night broke off in the middle.” I gulped. “All right.” I drummed my fingers on the desk. was thrown into total confusion by the murder.” His mouth shrank in size.” Prior Knowledge . but I know it had to do with the way Charles always made a fool of „im. Father.” “I think it‟s urgent.” He stopped and waited for me to speak. Father. one he can hardly bear. “we were all thrown into confusion by the murder. “Then right after the party.” “But we haven‟t all gone to pieces. he spoke of „treason‟ and wrote that the man had to die. Sean was obsessed with Charles Lichtenstein. the man‟s a wreck. I‟ll talk with him.
” I picked up the telephone and flipped my book to O. yes.Page 292 .” “Who is this?” “Me? I‟m just a friend. Faye O‟Shay‟s sister. I thought only doctors did that. I dialed the number in Greenville.” “Yes. On the third ring. a Gaye.. except during Lent.” “DOCTORS AND PRIESTS.” “Except doctors get paid. I don‟t like it one bit. she‟s at Oxford. I wondered if there were a Maye. looking hurt. Papa. nor probably would she be at her Oxford place.” “Oh. Prior Knowledge . It‟s not important. How are you. I was glad to see the last of him. Kaye?” Kaye O‟Shay.” “COMES WITH THE JOB. a Raye. “I don‟t like this. I assumed Methodists observed Easter.” “Just remember what I said.Miss O‟Shay there?” “My Mama?” “Faye..” “Some job. a Jaye.” “Faye? No.” “Is this Papa Columba?” I was floored.” “Hi. I tried to imagine that voice coming out of a Chinese face. All I get are three meals a day. a little girl answered. “Hello?” She had a southern accent.” “I will. All right. “Well.” “EXACTLY. is. I knew she wouldn‟t be at work.. “Uh.” “This poking around in other people‟s lives.“I am. I‟m Kaye. I hate it.yes.” He backed out the door..
I was about to call Faye. of course. I had called Faye to clear my mind. Be out in a ha‟f hour. Without hanging up.” “Bye. and now it was more cluttered than ever. The O‟Shay family all knew me. This is Columba. “Sheriff? You‟re working on Easter. Prior?” Pinky said.” “Yeah.“I‟m jus‟ fine. “I was jus‟ „bout t‟call you?” “You were?” “Yeah. and I sat listening to the dial tone. his voice odd. I thought. Without it we feel naked.Page 293 . Why? What is it. and I‟ll tell her to call you. hell. I was surprised when Pinky himself answered the phone. Sheriff?” “Can‟t say on the phone. Did they know about Faye and me? Celibacy to a priest is like clothing. Could I come out there? Know it‟s a hollyday?” My brain reeled.” “Please do. hell. “Well. Prior Knowledge .” She hung up. Papa. hell.” Hell. I dialed another number.
Pinky looked with me.” “Dead? How? When?” “At the home? „Bout noon? Hung „isse‟f?” “But. but I needed to talk some more. His clothes were askew. I felt faint.Page 294 . “It‟s about Oscar? Oscar Petersen?” “Yes. He held to the porch rail as though he might fall to his death four feet below. I looked toward the seminarians‟ dormitory. toward the Rose Garden. He rolled out of his car and came up to me. something he had never done before. I could tell he was driving more slowly than he usually did. “Not good. I needed to sit down. When I did see it. “Stay away from me!” “Sean!” I called to him. His hand was cold and clammy. like a spring caterpillar.” “They‟s a big cross carved on “is chest. Prior Knowledge . “No!” he shouted at us.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. staring wildly at us. “Guess so.” Then something caught my eye. and his blond head looked woolly. “So it‟s over. like Lickensteen?” I felt blood drain from my head. He did. Sean O‟Day stood on the steps. He shook my hand.” I said. I‟m „fraid?” We walked across the lot. What?” “He dead... His crew cut had grown out. I guessed he brought bad news. “What is it?” I said.
Only the hollow. sickening thud of his landing brought life back to our legs and sent us scampering toward him. took chase. Muldoon!” Sean screamed. and reached the ladder that led to the bell tower well before Randy did. “Randy. Ophelia. Each time Pinky had appeared someone had been hauled away. Randy Muldoon.“Stop! I didn‟t do it.” I called. They went dashing across the lawn and through the apple trees. 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. get back. “You saw what happened? “I saw it. He had no more than cleared the first two steps when Sean O‟Day screamed and threw himself out into open space. Behind him. “Stay away. but my voice seemed only to quicken their pace. But it was too late. “No!” Suddenly he wheeled around. “No. at the door. In a moment he was on the roof of the chapel.Page 295 . seminarians. “Sean! Settle down! We‟ll talk!” I called. Sean was quicker. “You‟re here. All I could think was that Sean thought it was his turn. no!” I called.” she said. Randy of course started up the ladder. He was close to hysteria.” Prior Knowledge . Tell that man to go away!” The sight of a uniformed officer had apparently unhinged him. You didn‟t answer the phone. Sean tore down the stone steps and hit the ground sprinting. despite his age. First there were three of us around him.” I said when I finally realized who it was. “Randy. go back!” I yelled. and then there were a dozen of us: monks. “Kaye called. stood Randy Muldoon. and Faye O‟Shay. looking at the broken body. like a dog after a rabbit.
.” The group around us groaned. I was amazed that he was still alive. “See... It was a beautiful.” He coughed again. give him a chance to live.Page 296 ..coming out of the room that night.Ophelia sat down and took Sean‟s head into her lap. Sean‟s eyes blinked open. he loved me. “Father. “But Sean. but mainly me. “How can we be sure of this?” I thought that if he knew he were dying he might be trying to absolve Barry. “I wanted you to know..” He coughed and blood ran down his chin. as beautiful as the one by Michelangelo. “Then Barry lied?” “Yes. I mean.” “Just rest. “Father?” he said. I did it.” Prior Knowledge . As we all stared. as I stooped down and knelt on one knee beside him.I think I might. Barry was. “Yes?” I said. a black Madonna. I felt he was reading my mind. “Forget what you‟re thinking.” “You? Not Larry?” “Maybe Larry too... and let it end.. The rest of us made a circle around them. I wanted to confess.. “You?” “Yes. spring him from prison. “Yes.. He saw me.” “No. It wasn‟t Barry.” I sighed.. Sean?? “I killed Charles Lichtenstein. It was me. Barry just.” I almost swallowed my tongue..” he said with great effort. I did it. to protect me.” He opened his eyes. tragic Pieta. a blond Christ. and there was more blood. and looked directly into mine.. “Let Barry go. openmouthed.die. but it caused him pain. searching for me.” His voice was weak. well.” He tried to smile. He closed his eyes..
” Homer concurred. Pinky radioed for an ambulance.” Horace agreed. “You mean t‟tell me.” Prior Knowledge . “You too?” “Got it.” Pinky said. I made the sign of the cross over Sean.” Her face was stony. “I b‟lieve we did. He takes his own life. *** Pinky picked me up and drove me to the courthouse the next Friday. patted his chest. What do you call all this nonsense?” “You call it love. I looked at Pinky. twict?” “Yes sir. “we sent the wrong man up. The men around us bowed their heads and began to pray.” he rasped.Page 297 . “You gittin‟ this down. no cameras. The three of us walked toward the parking lot without speaking while the monks and seminarians watched over the body. and his mouth fell open slightly. letting the blood run freely. There was no jury this time. Dharlene?” “Yeth thir. We stood in shocked silence as Easter began to wane. no protestors. your honor. telling the man on duty there was no rush.” I said. “Yes.His eyes closed again. Ophelia felt his life leaving him. The old judge‟s face was redder than ever. Faye had held off reporting the final chapter in our drama until the hearing was over. “You heard?” “Yeah. no spectators. He confesses to a crime to clear a brother. and she let out a frantic cry. and finally stood up. At last Faye spoke: “How do you explain a man like Sean O‟Day? He runs from the law.” I turned to Faye.
” I stood up. They have agreed to take him. “We have a place in Alaska. sir. “Awright. I believe that Mr.” Again I played on his ignorance. What makes you think O‟Day didn‟t lie?” “Maybe he did. Murder would. “You thought the other two‟s guilty too.“Prior. I think. he was facing his Maker when he made his confession. I think he should retire from public life. “Alaska.” “So?” the judge gargled. But I played on Protestant ignorance. The judge had told Homer that he would ask it. I let him think a monastery could act as a prison.” I didn‟t add that as a good Catholic Sean O‟Day expected to have ample time beyond the grave to repent a lie. keep him there. we let Lamb go. O‟Day was the man who killed Charles Lichtenstein. “It‟s a monastery like this one. That part wouldn‟t take him much time in purgatory. then consulted his notes. O‟Day was the murderer. you tell us the whole story. what‟ll you do with „im?” I was prepared for the question. “I honestly believe Mr. Lamb lied to get Mr.” the judge pointed a bony finger my way. “Yes. huh?” To a Mississippian.Page 298 . Alaska was like the moon. Diaz lied to protect Mr. But remember. your honor. “It seems Mr.” I said. “Tell me. only more remote. Let „im out. your honor. looking for a sign of uncertainty. eh?” He eyed me. “Yes.” The judge set his jaw. perhaps twenty years. given what‟s happened. “Send out all the paper. The other two knew they would have time and opportunity to make amends. He wanted this case over. stricter in its regimen.” Prior Knowledge . Dharlene. his face beet-red.” He turned to the stenographer. Diaz released and to protect Mr.” “You do. O‟Day. Lamb and that Mr. Lemons.
She parked at the crest of the same hill again.” “I know. “Git outa here.” “Right. but once we were beyond the last row of antebellum houses.” “Why?” she said defiantly.” “You mean.Page 299 . “Because I‟m not „white‟? Because I‟m only 23? Because I‟m not a Catholic?” “Because I weigh 300 pounds.” “Yes. where back in the fall we parked and looked across the darkening valley. and we got out to walk. This time it was daylight.” “I guess so. Finally she turned to me: “Well. I got that pain ag‟in. She headed out of town toward the Priory. she turned off the main highway and drove up into the hills. and away we went in that death trap.” “Gimme one of „em. you-all are a pain in the ass?” The judge saw us giggling and pounded his gavel.” I said.” I agreed. it‟s over. “It‟s the Catholics. “The case.” Since I didn‟t have my car---Pinky had brought me---Faye insisted on driving me home. For a long time neither of us spoke. and it was springtime. And us? What about you „n‟ me? Is that over too?” “What do you think?” “I think you think it is. all a ye. Reluctantly I squeezed into her cherry red Corvair.” Faye leaned toward me and whispered: “The biggest pain the judge has isn‟t in his heart.” “You got them heart pills?” “Yeth thir.” Prior Knowledge .“Yeth thir. “I do not weigh 98 pounds. and you weight 98 soaking wet?” “What?” she said. and the valley was bright and green. you mean.
Papa. I would have to give up my vocation. We stood like that for a long time.” We walked back to her car. If we stayed together.” she said.” she pouted.. and one day you would be saddled with a decrepit old man. and I hugged her.. “Yes. loved each other. “Yes.” I opened my arms. survived it. just for a while. she said thoughtfully. And for the better. you would have to curtail your dreams. and never changed.” “Yes. you can always remember me as the dear Papa you loved when you were a girl. It will always be beautiful.” “No.“Oh. 95?” “I weigh one hundred and five. As I grow old. it does. “It‟s not.” “Okay.” “No. very old.” “Oh my. Listen. We once lived through a war.” “Tell me why.my way. “So. very famous. okay.” “Boys?” Prior Knowledge .” I said.” she smiled. Before she cranked up to go.” “So we can always love each other. As you grow famous. “You know. you‟re doing the same thing to those boys.Page 300 . Slowly we released each other and stood apart. how horrible. “But couldn‟t we be lovers. a cool breeze blowing our hair and clothes. flesh and blood love. I can always remember you as my only real. and I would be saddled with an angry wife.” “That makes no sense. We will have memories without grief.” “This is how you want it?” “Yes. It‟s over. she moved close.
“You look.” “I guess so.” “Beloved infidel.” We kissed. I‟ll pretend it‟s you from the start. 45. we have found Prior James. “Eric. “One request.” “All the better.” Eric said. “Name it. when you‟re tired of that young man you married. “That‟s what Sheila Graham called Scott Fitzgerald. I was almost to them before I realized they were there. rubbing his small boxer‟s hands.” “On in life. you‟ve just told me how to have a normal life. They‟ll be separated. the other off to Alaska. trying to read the expressions on their faces. and then she smiled.” She looked puzzled. say. “You see..” I whispered. All the more tantalizing.” “Cagey old devil you are.” she said. Like you and me. and I watched her go out of my life forever.what is it?” “Father.” Prior Knowledge .” She dropped me in the parking lot. You‟re sending one off to Mexico. Papa. “I‟ll do that. as you do your duty and make love to him. passing the spot where Sean O‟Day died.Page 301 .” I said.. Father. Father. I walked toward my place. “You‟d better come with us.. It beats a Scarlet A. when you‟re. and they‟ll always remember each other at their best. I was so preoccupied that I didn‟t see the two black faces waiting at the door for me. close your eyes and pretend it‟s me. In fact. Papa. “Bartholomew agreed. I‟m not sure.” “Yes.” “I know.” “I‟m sure that‟s sinful. “I like it. Lamb.” I said. Bartholomew.“Diaz..
the words hit me like a kick in the groin. “When was this? Where?” “About noon. what I had smelled in the hallway and in my office the night Larry Diaz came by to get Barry Lamb‟s car. the night someone stole the Saint Jean Cross.IX WE HAVE FOUND PRIOR JAMES. that is. When they realized I was there. beginning to feel more irritated than dumbfounded. 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. But he looks like death. You better come and see for yourself.” “Where is he?” “In his. the Indian. on the hill. “You know. “He‟s alive all right. When I saw James.” Eric said.” “Is he alive?” “Oh. He went into the woods.” “What‟s his condition?” Bartholomew shook his head sadly. “He was on a walk. “You have?” I said stupidly. “Not so good. Father.” I smelled him before I saw him. “Hosea did. everything fell into place: he had been in my office that night. Hosea Candlemas. It was that rank odor. Up in the meadow.” “Let‟s go.” “Yes. not so good. Found him there.Page 302 . in your room.” Eric said. As they might say in a pulp fiction short story.” I said. they Prior Knowledge . he had taken the Cross. I know Hosea. burning vegetables. yes.” Bartholomew said.
” “Not me.. and I had to fight against retching.” they said in unison. trying not to breathe too deeply.” I said.moved away. I Prior Knowledge . muddy. “Just a few words.” Bartholomew vowed.” I turned to Eric and Bartholomew. “Has he. suspicion welling up.” I knelt down in front of him. His black robe and shoes were torn. “I guess this is your prowler.” She smiled tenderly. tears in her eyes. his features more European than African. their eyes big and innocent. buttonless. Father. He was a fair skinned black man. and his beard was long and wild. His odor almost overwhelmed me. His eyes avoided mine. the kind of person you see in the New Orleans area. and I saw him fully. and as he did this his ragged robe came open. know he was up there?” “No. laceless. “Ophelia.talked with anyone?” I asked. “I said softly. “Father James.” Hosea said. his thin arms and legs dangling loosely from his emaciated body. One eye was swollen closed. “What did he say?” “Said he‟d been up in the woods there all winter. “I guess so.. “Because I had a feeling when I arrived that someone knew something.Page 303 . Prior. since I came?” “Yes. He slouched in his chair.” Eric said. an El Greco figure. His eyes flickered. “Me neither. “Father James. “Did any of you men know about this. He was caked with dirt. Guess we kept him alive. that‟s what he said. but he didn‟t look up at me. He turned his head from me.” I turned to her.” “Since he left here. suspiciously so. Father.” “You didn‟t know?” “No.
it... and hanging from it.” His voice was low and breathy.” I said.” “Whose room?” “The man with one eye. “This Cross. My title. I could have taken it the first time. He looked into my eyes. But before they touched him he spoke again. was the Saint Jean Cross... “When you came.. “My God....” His voice came flat. my home.. but then it wasn‟t yours. let‟s get him bathed and put to bed.” I couldn‟t think of a response.” Eric and Bartholomew agreed with me and moved to help him. You plural. Around his neck was a gold chain. Everyone in the room jumped back from him and stared in disbelief. “I took it from you because you took everything from me.” Prior Knowledge .. The Order.. You were only the instrument. “What is it?” Bartholomew said as he knelt beside me.took. like a man awakened from a long sleep. my men.” “Not you personally.” “But I didn‟t.” He looked away again and refused to respond to further questions. “I killed the one eyed man.my emasculation. “I suppose. you took everything but my freedom. Finally I stood up.. Now you will take that as well. “How did he. I tried to speak: “You.. rusty from long disuse.” “I. but certain.” It felt like a bomb had gone off.Page 304 .of my humiliation. amid the muddy gray hairs on his chest.” “You were in his room?” “I killed him. He saw it and whistled. dead.almost sat back onto the floor.. “What first time?” “The night in his room.” I stopped them.
.” I held up a finger. You saw me. how many people have suffered because of you? Four other men. Sacrilege.” “When was that?” “As he left the party. you killed the man?” “I did. “Do you know. “Then once there were two of you.” “Four?” “Pithecarius was the first. I saw him do it. and he came on me.over that.” “What?” “Yes. just the fear he would tell on you.” “I‟m not surprised.” I was seized with a sudden fury. “But. you know.” I blurted.Page 305 . I started to run. and I knew it was only a matter of time before he told you. “My ankle still hurts. You chased after me. He probably suffered pangs of conscience. I‟ve been in a lot of shadows. It was a form of confession.” I remembered that they said he carved a cross on his own chest before he committed suicide. I‟ve heard a lot of things. He smiled slightly.. “He was sent to an asylum. One day in the woods. I guess he was finally overcome with guilt. then he guessed I was the Prior. but he asked me who I was.“But why?” “He saw me. He wasn‟t a fool.” The day with Randy Muldoon.” I remembered.” “You were there?” “I was in the shadows. Prior Knowledge . Then I heard him say he had something important to tell you. He carved a cross on the man‟s chest. and now he‟s dead. hung himself. You met him on the steps. He was going to tell you what you should have known. I was asleep.” I said.
Pith almost hit me with that knife when he threw it away.” I sighed.” James said calmly..Page 306 . Then I heard what the one eyed man said to you. and I went to his room.” He touched his chest. “The Keys to the Kingdom. behind the curtain.” I held up two fingers. “I was there.. He knew about me. I watched from the closet.“Sean O‟Day also died because of you.” “But then you watched.. He smiled and dug deeply into his robe and pulled out a set of pass keys. But I killed him before any of them came in. and he was about to tell. his eye patch and the Cross on a night stand next to him.” “Lamb?” “His privates. I just. stabbed him.” I looked around me. “He never struggled. I held him in place until he died..” I held up three fingers... He smiled at me. “He took his turn too. Was that because he felt guilty too?” “The soldier. I picked it up from the grass. Everyone in the room stared wide eyed at this emaciated prophet. with just the night light on. He was clearly insane. “He almost took the man‟s tongue out. So I waited for the dormitory to go quiet. It took only a minute.” “How did you get in?” I said. “How do you know this?” I whispered.” he said and he handed them to me. “He jumped from the roof. It was so easy.here.” Prior Knowledge . thinking I would take it to the woods with me. “I went in and found him asleep. the Latin boy?” “He stabbed him in the eye.” “Yes. “And Larry Diaz.
He must have been a very hated man. a strange smile on his face.Page 307 . and of course it opened.. He seemed to know the door was open. and he let out a cry. and he stayed there. and I hid in the closet. „Charles?‟ he said. Then he saw the body. and then he reached down and pulled the knife free and stabbed the man‟s good eye. with great feeling.” I said.” “Diaz knocked. He was stunned by what he Prior Knowledge . right at the door. He cried out too. and each played his part.. Again no one came. He stood there for a long time. He was the one who didn‟t knock. I waited a long time. He came right in. When there was no answer. a turn of the knob. His shoes squeaked. sucking his lower lip. the knife still in the chest. as if transfixed. “He dropped the knife on the bed and got out. “Barry Lamb. but oddly no one came. “And O‟Day?” I prompted. He may have seen the blond boy leave. “I could tell by the way each one acted that he was doing it spontaneously.” “Oooohhhhh.“It was like a stage play. he tried to knob. I realized this was the first time she had been told any of the details of the murder. Another knock.” “He was. One by one they came in. and then he picked up the knife and went for the man‟s private parts.” “Yes. Then someone sneezed. and I was just about to come out and leave when I heard someone else coming. It was the boy.” He grew quiet and looked away. I thought someone would hear him and come and I would be caught. He stared at the body. “That was the sickest one of all.” Ophelia moaned. I had little more than turned loose of the man when I heard footsteps. and the fair boy came in.Diaz?” “Yes.
saw but not for long. Father.” “And Pith?” “He came last.” “He deserved it. Now so do I. and Ophelia rushed to hold him. thinking surely no one else would come. “Hosea?” I said. I just wanted to come in and set the record straight before I have to meet God. and butchered the tongue. and got out. I‟m dying. I gave myself up. then picked up the knife and carved the cross on the man‟s chest. then a rattle of the knob. After he was done. I was about to go. “You let them all take blame for what you did?” I said. “Finally.” James looked at me with cool detachment. He laid his head on her big breasts and sobbed. and left the room. “Charles Lichtenstein. Then he lifted the man‟s arm. and Pith came in.Page 308 . I have medical training enough to know the signs. dropped it on the bed beside the man. he picked up the corner of the sheet. The door opened. “No. He looked the scene over carefully. their vocation. Spending the winter outdoors only aggravated a long standing illness.” He laughed gently. Prior Knowledge . “Don‟t you think it‟s appropriate. you see. “Did anyone suffer who did not deserve it?” “Yes.” He sighed. forced open the man‟s mouth.” Tears came to his eyes. when I heard a soft rustling at the door. “Two men have died. I got to leave myself.” I said. put the knife under it. over an hour after I came in.” I felt angry. that I surrendered to an Indian scout?” “You surrendered? He didn‟t capture you?” “Him?” James looked at Hosea and laughed. two others have lost their freedom. That‟s why I‟ve given myself up. He grabbed the knife. O‟Day was the most calculating one. rubbed the knife down.
it was also believed that he had caused Judge Potter‟s death and that he was too cozy with the Catholics. 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. She had come to respect my vocation.” “Yes. Soon I heard that she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was taking a job with the big paper in New Orleans.” “What about the reporter lady?” I looked to see if he were mocking me. “Yes. but I guess we better put in another call to Sheriff Lemon.” He started to pick up my telephone. 1962. In 1967 Prior Knowledge . 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. “And an ambulance?” “I think so. “I hate to do this. just as Faye had predicted. and we did not speak. Father?” he said. and I respected her freedom. *** Prior James took one more life before he was removed to a Catholic sanitarium in Florida for an “indefinite” stay. Although no one said so publicly. Horace took his place and Homer took Horace‟s job as prosecutor. coming to my side. He was not mocking. 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.Page 309 . Pinky Lemon stood for reelection in June that year. Father. A week after his burial. I saw Faye only from a distance at the hearing for Father James. I didn‟t know how much the men knew.“Yes. and the good people of Oxford in their wisdom turned him out of office.” I said.
“Mine? “Yeah? Horace says we don‟t need t‟keep the knife „n‟ I don‟t think it oughta be left here? That Cross. He grinned sheepishly as he handed me a box. that some of the brothers came running. the familiar squad car pulled up beside me.” one of them said. Inside were the murder weapon. and Frost were to be reassigned to a small school in North Carolina. I told him to stay put in Alaska for twenty years before he made any move. and I advised against it. As I was packing the old Chevy to leave. He took my advice good naturedly. where she sent back front page stories that led to Lyndon Johnson‟s decision not to seek another term as president. I let out such a whoop when I read it. I could come home to Saint V‟s. military base near Haiphong.Page 310 . and Pinky got out. Candlemas. Muldoon. He asked me whether he should still try to be ordained some day. He was a lame duck. the Italian knife. Barry Lamb stopped by the Priory on his way to Alaska. as I knew he would. “Open it?” I raised the top. where she died covering an attack on a U. but he was still sheriff until November.the New York Times sent her to Vietnam. Kopec. we don‟t know who it b‟longs to?” Prior Knowledge . “They‟s yores?” he said. “We thought you had been murdered. Lucas. standing by the mailboxes. Bad choice of words. A new Prior would arrive August first.S. and the Saint Jean Cross. “What‟s this?” I said. Terminus. The seminary would be closed. and went off on the Greyhound toward the snows of the last frontier. The message I had longed to receive came in July.
cranked up. I‟ve always hated farewells. “Thank you. hot bath. I longed to take a walk on the freshly watered lawn at sunset. “Marvelous job at Saint Luke‟s. What more could there be? “I am going to ask you to accept another assignment.” “Yes.. wearing the Saint Jean Cross.” “Not only did you get them through their roughest year.” I smiled. “I solved it five times. About noontime. sit down. I turned in my car keys. 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.in another place. but he was waiting for me.” he nodded seriously. please come in. “Columba. I crossed the border into Tennessee. got my room assignment.. It was only when I got to the highway and looked back to see them still standing in the parking lot that I cried.” “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.” I stiffened.Page 311 . I got there early. leaving Mississippi behind me forever. “Which is why I wanted to see you.” Prior Knowledge . I drove northward slowly and arrived at Saint V‟s on the third day.” he said. It was Father Superior. and took a long. but you solved a murder.“The Lichtensteins say they don‟t want it. So much for my walk. and drove away.” “Yes. “Sit down.” he said. so I made it as quick as possible. make yourself comfortable. He wanted to see me at 7:00. Cigar?” I declined. I saw Oxford and the places Faye had shown me through tears. So I guess it should go back to the government in Quebec. Columba.
and David‟s letter says that there has been a death at his Priory. “Who?” He picked up a letter lying on his desk. and he writes that he has a problem. wasn‟t he?” “Yes. no. Small man with perfectly waved black hair. You are now a holy sleuth.” “Yes. No.” I said.” he said simply.” I knew where this was heading. “He is back home now. “Your success in Mississippi has given you a new expertise. feeling blood rush to my face. “He was Korean. Christian name David. Father.” “They need your help. I don‟t. “You‟re not going to ask me... a man named Soon Yu-suk?” “Soon I what?” “Father Soon Yu-suk. Korean. to go to. Yes. He was our guest lecturer on Asian religions.“Oh Father.. at a Priory near Seoul. “No.” Father Superior smiled devilishly. no.. some time back.. “Do you remember.” He smiled again.Korea..” “Actually I am.” he said with a tight smile. Father Superior.” “Oh.” Prior Knowledge .Page 312 .” He raised an eyebrow. no.” David Soon. “A mysterious death. “I just got home. I remembered him.
and other Asian countries. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Prior Knowledge . He is a graduate of Baylor and Florida State Universities and has for many years taught at Western Kentucky University. and The American Benedictine Review. His creative talents and his unique points of view and insights have also made him a highly sought after speaker. Taiwan. Korea. China.About the Author James Baker developed his passion for history and religion while in high school. In addition to his teaching duties. He has delivered addresses and papers in the United States. Throughout his career he has been a prolific writer. His articles have appeared in such places as Christian Century. Commonweal. during his days as a Bulldog. He often appears in a one person show-presentation of industrialistphilanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Italy. authoring 22 books and over 60 articles.Page 313 . James directs the Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program.
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