Salamanaca
by Colleen Keating

 

Joshua Claremont sat in the stiff-backed pew, bare feet aching, blistered shoulders burning.  The fibers in his shirt ripped nerve endings into a screaming symphony piping through his being like the echoes of the massive cathedral organ.   Shadows curled themselves into recesses of stone and wood as intrusive light spat glowing rays, bubbling over dust particles.  The morning sun rose outside as congregants stood.  White robes bore a gilded cross down the aisle.

His stomach growled.  Spanish voices rose in unison.  His lips, cracked from a hitchhiker’s exposure, remained parted—but no sound fell.  Salamanca—his daily muttered prayer to every passing auto—still hung stilted, on those lips.

He reflected bitterly as the sonorous Spanish of the priest rang over the air.  The jumbling baroque mysticism of Salamanca had wrought chaos in his heart, and he knew he had to embrace it.  No more for him the stark solemnity of his father’s church, with white collars, white walls, white faces eating white bread and sipping grape juice.  He wanted the mixed grains and sweet sangría of Spain, her dark women, her green moon, her earth that creeps itself into clay houses, bitter coffee, and soft skin.  San Juan de la Cruz, Santa Teresa de Ávila, those sensual saintly apostates, climbing forbidden ladders into tenuous intimacy with God—like them he would face himself in the gilded mirrors of baroque cathedrals.

 ***

 “But dad, don’t you get it?”  Three weeks ago, plane tickets in hand, he was still trying to explain to his father. Sunday afternoons had become a weekly ritual of back-and-forth, Josh pushing his father to be more open, his father responding with timeworn proof texts.    Today they talked, hurling words around Josh’s mother as she silently cleared the table.  Rarely would she join the discussion.  Frequently she would press her hand to Josh’s shoulder as she left the dining room for the pastor’s study.  There, she would close heavy oaken doors and sit behind her husband’s desk.  Invariably, her hands would trace the outline of their family photograph, brushing away any collected dust, repositioning the silver frame.  Then she would open his Bible to the Psalms and pray through them, one by one, hearing faintly the sharp words of her son.  Eventually her husband would come through the doors, and she would move to the sofa as he sat behind the desk.  He would prepare for the evening service as she continued through the Psalms.  It was 3:00, two hours until his entrance would interrupt her meditation and end a prolonged argument.

“Get what?  That you’re bored with the truth?  We can’t go over this again—you know the truth—“  Desperate anger lay beneath his father’s questions.

“—and the truth will set you free. I know, but, Dad, that’s just it—I’m not free, I’m trapped on a spiritual plateau.  I want to be on the mountain.  To climb Jacob’s ladder, wrestle with God, I want—”

“To be consumed with fire?  You can’t face God and live.  That’s why he has given us simple spiritual things—bread, wine, a book of stories.   Josh, listen to me—”

“I have, dad.  For twenty-five years.”

“Well listen again.  You won’t be satisfied with this. God doesn’t speak in mystical ecstasies, but through the ordinary.   You can’t hear him if you are so concerned with seeing him.”

“But Moses asked to see God, Jacob wrestled with God, the disciples saw the Transfiguration, Paul was taken up into mystical ecstasy.  I just want truth uncontaminated, dad.  Not starched and processed into palatable orthodoxy.”

“Josh.   I hope you get what you want in Spain, I really do.  I pray that God will show himself to you, but I don’t think you’ll like it if he does.”

“Maybe not, but like isn’t the issue here.  Truth is.”

“Really.”  his father sighed.    “Then we’re back to the beginning.   Why aren’t you content with the truth?”

“Because it’s not immediate, dad.  It’s distant.   Your God is distant, filtered by creeds.   By clergy.  By doctrines.  By youth ministries and evening Bible studies.  By commercialism, crass commercialism.”

“Josh—that’s unfair.  Our church may have its faults, but it is not commercial.  Don’t let the rest of the culture affect your view of God’s truth.”

“What am I supposed to think?  This country was supposed to be founded on God’s truth.  The Puritans, the Declaration of Independence.  Yada yada.  And what is there to show for it today?  God’s truth has sold out.”

“And you think the Catholic Church isn’t filtered, isn’t commercial?  What about the priests, the confessionals, the hierarchy?  Surely you can’t believe your mystical experience can be found there.”

Josh was silent for a moment.  “Well, then where else,”  he stated, echoing the desperately angry voice of his father.  “Dad.  We’re dust.    Maybe you’re right.  We can’t see God and live.  But we can’t live without seeing him.  And I haven’t seen him since I was five and I looked up at the sun when you told me not to.  I went around squinting for hours after that, with blotches of green smears tracing across my eyes.  I thought I was going to die because I saw God, that those green smears were his angels, bringing me home.  But the streaks went away, and I went back to playing in my sandbox.”

 ***

After only a day or so of sandaled feet, he began to despise the dust that lay in the bottom of his backpack as he searched for the map, hung in his throat as he smoked, and crouched on the lip of his wine bottle as he drank himself to sleep.  Every morning he greeted the heavy vice around his temples as the burden of the journey, stopping occasionally to purge himself as he walked along dirt roads.   Drink was his communion wine—a sacred slipping into color tinged selfhood, the ends of his fingertips sliding along cool glass, numb to their guiding limbs.  One night, when his legs had given up on him and he sprawled in holy dirt under the ink spill midnight parchment, torn by occasional constellations, he met himself.  

"Illbethestars” he sang to no one in particular, recalling perhaps the edge of a nursery rhyme or a children’s book and twisting innocence into a drunken mantra.  “Illbethestars” a swing of an arm the slosh of elixir and a swig of wine.   “And the moon.”  Crouching behind the horizon slept the town he had passed through early afternoon.   The calls of merchants still hung on his shirtsleeves, fading vapors of mercantilism that he blithely brushed aside in search of a church, a bar, a brothel, or some other holy place where his flesh could take one step, one pious, drunken, or lecherous step towards the Infinite.   He could almost hear rungs cracking under his weight as he lay flatbacked onto dust.  The echo of his ribcage reverberated shivers throughout, and stars above swung and arched in response.   Residual tartness exhaled as he breathed a belch of wine and hunger.  The stars still swung.  He closed his eyes.   Illbethestars and a short minor melody kissed in his memory as simultaneous recognition of touches, glances, smells and sighs of bodies rang in his mind.  Was the song from childhood or only the innocence of yesterday’s bewildered fears when he sat in a village alley, lost and tired?  Then the market sounds were a harmony of clamorous determination, purposeful chaos of a people at home, settled and oblivious.  His lost-ness, though surrounded with purposeful-ness, cried silently inside of him for want of a five minute spell of familiar aromas and routine.  It was at the moment when this desire was shrieking for recognition that he heard the small strumming of a guitar through the thicket of noise.  His flesh hesitated in a wrinkle of goosebumps, despite the encasing heat of noon.  

 That single vibration of melody now sang into the thickness of his mind as he lay, turned, lay, stretched, and lay sprawled under the infinite of the dark.    Ah, brightness galloped behind his eyes.    Blissful melody smacking of touch and memory.   A smile worked itself across parched lips and Joshua laughed the foolish laughter of a holy fool, tears settling in corners of closed eyes.  The crouching city behind the hills lay still, silent hearts beating unknowing in the night as cascades of laughter rang on, piercing parchment night, rippling.  Josh saw himself, childlike and playful, in his mind’s eye.   He saw the sandbox and legions of surrounding angels, dripping green.  He laughed, a hilarious laugh, as that small child dug, squinting into dust that folded itself back over after every heave of the red plastic shovel.

That night of riotous laughter faded into days of journey, detached contemplation and the ache of thirst.  Yesterday he arrived in this small town, finding shelter in the dark arms of a prostitute who took sandals in exchange for a bed. His hostess used those sandals to wake him, the toll of the church bells beating him as rhythmically as the flat soles.  Soon after, his splintered feet found themselves on the hot stone steps of the cathedral where he now sat.

An old woman in the pew behind tapped him.  “Alla, mi’jito, alla.”  She pointed a cracked fingernail to the front.  The line to receive the Host was dwindling, and the woman left him to join the others.   His stomach growled again, and he thought of the last time he ate.  Wearily, he rose, knowing that today he would call his father on his cell phone, to receive chastisement and a plane ticket home.  Dreading the sterility of the inevitable flight back, he resolved to culminate in sacred communion, in spiritual cannibalism surrounded by cavernous space.  He had traveled the edge of the dark night, and he would taste at least the bottom rung of the ladder before he returned in defeat.

He knelt, genuflexed, and opened his mouth.  Dust touched dust and he swallowed the tasteless bread.  It was white and dissolved on his tongue, floating down to join the remnants of last night’s wine and smoke.  As he left the church and entered the town square, a dry plaza with a stone fountain central, he felt his stomach reject the Host.  The sun above beat down as the church bells pealed in his head, and the plaza spun itself into his peripheral vision.  Blackness and heat enveloped him as he vomited particles of blandness.  

He slept.   He dreamed.  He dreamed ladders and mountains.  He dreamed of dark women running down spiral steps.  He followed them down.  He followed them laughing, running.  He dreamed of books falling as he ran.  The books fell thickly, their pages exploding like teardrops slamming into concrete.  Letters bounced from the pages and scattered across the steps as he ran down into darkness.  Their hard iron edges scraped as they landed—a gleaming cascade of consonants and vowels.  He tripped as one caught his bare foot, and he fell screaming into the spiral stairway.  The dark women disappeared as he fell, his body lacerated a thousand times by letters swarming in the air.    The words Bone and marrow rang through his mind and he pushed the thought away, cutting his hand on flying Greek symbols.   Bone and marrow.  I am not dust, he thought.  I am bone and marrow.   

He awoke, tongue dry and swollen, against the hard stone of the plaza fountain.  No one was in the square—it was the afternoon siesta.  He squinted at the sky, watching a plane disappear into the embrace of the sun.  Heavily pulling himself up, he leaned over the edge of the fountain.   The tile floor glimmered below, the sun reflecting in small shards on scattered coins.  He spat.  

Trembling, he pulled his backpack towards him, reaching inside for his cell phone.  He would call his father, he would wash his face off with this gleaming fountain water.  As he reached inside, his hand found hot leather.  Pulling out a pocket-sized Bible, he breathed a silent prayer—-the preliminary kind that half-repentant rebels are prone to-—a quiet If-Then query bathed in context and reluctance.

Bone and marrow, he murmured, flipping the pages to the book of Hebrews.  Fearfully he read, from “In the past” through “dividing bone and marrow” until “Grace be with you all.”  Then he cried.   He cried and he saw the ugliness of his pretension, the wraith he had become, flying towards dark reflections, warped images in a bent glass.  Jesus Christ was the new and living way, not a copy, not a shadow.  What a weak and useless sinner he was, trying to travel on his own power to find a God of his imagination.  He spat, the taste of his vomit still clinging to his breath.  He was repulsive to himself now.  He would return to the white bread and grape juice with the taste of dust in his mouth.   Christ forgive him, he thought.  Christ.  One word on his mind now.

“My son, do you need help?”

Josh looked up and saw a silhouette, sunlight flashing behind.  The voice was old, acquainted with English, but tinged with Spanish.

Salamanca.”  the word came out without thought.  “I—I was looking for Salamanca.”

“Ju need to travel muy lejos to get there.  Ju OK?”

“Sí.   Sí—uh, gracias, señor.”  Josh put his head in his hands as the old man shuffled away.   He could hear his footsteps scraping in the dirt, and when the silence returned, he prayed.

He murmured and cried, and images of his parents forced themselves upon him.  Again he saw mountains, ladders, dark women, even as he tried to clear his mind and pray clearly.  This repentance was a cloudy exhalation of desire and image, and he prayed to Christ to take him back, with the heavy warnings of Hebrews still in his memory.  He would desire only Christ crucified, only the purest high priest and the new covenant.  He would lay aside everything, even his desire to see God, if only he could have faith in Christ and live.

But how could he lay aside himself?  Flesh clung to him like sweat, and he hardly knew what the faith of the Hebrews was.   The litany of saints, tied together by the life breathing word, were men of desire and fear, clothed in spirit and sinew.  Their tents erected in the desert slung fabric over wretched acts of daily life, hygienic and orgasmic, thicker than King James type on thin paper.    But God and yet faith.  Two words permeating even to life.  He could not unmake himself, but he could not think of the bright white of purity without the cloudy shadow of sin tracing its breath against his soul’s neck.  Lord God Almighty, unmake me, he cried.  

A speckled sparkling whiteness fluttered away, surprised by his exclamation.  Noah’s birds, he smiled.  Birds of faith flying to the mountain I will never climb.  But they bring back the promise of rest.  Lord God, I want that rest without hangover, without flagellation, without sleep.  Christ.  Give me rest.

He laughed the laugh of foolish holiness, the colors of heaven reflecting in weary blue eyes.

Joshua Claremont sat in the stiff-backed pew, bare feet aching, blistered shoulders burning.  The fibers in his shirt ripped nerve endings into a screaming symphony piping through his being like the echoes of the massive cathedral organ.   Shadows curled themselves into recesses of stone and wood as intrusive light spat glowing rays, bubbling over dust particles.  The morning sun rose outside as congregants stood.  White robes bore a gilded cross down the aisle.

His stomach growled.  Spanish voices rose in unison.  His lips, cracked from a hitchhiker’s exposure, remained parted—but no sound fell.  Salamanca—his daily muttered prayer to every passing auto—still hung stilted, on those lips.

He reflected bitterly as the sonorous Spanish of the priest rang over the air.  The jumbling baroque mysticism of Salamanca had wrought chaos in his heart, and he knew he had to embrace it.  No more for him the stark solemnity of his father’s church, with white collars, white walls, white faces eating white bread and sipping grape juice.  He wanted the mixed grains and sweet sangría of Spain, her dark women, her green moon, her earth that creeps itself into clay houses, bitter coffee, and soft skin.  San Juan de la Cruz, Santa Teresa de Ávila, those sensual saintly apostates, climbing forbidden ladders into tenuous intimacy with God—like them he would face himself in the gilded mirrors of baroque cathedrals.

 ***

 “But dad, don’t you get it?”  Three weeks ago, plane tickets in hand, he was still trying to explain to his father. Sunday afternoons had become a weekly ritual of back-and-forth, Josh pushing his father to be more open, his father responding with timeworn proof texts.    Today they talked, hurling words around Josh’s mother as she silently cleared the table.  Rarely would she join the discussion.  Frequently she would press her hand to Josh’s shoulder as she left the dining room for the pastor’s study.  There, she would close heavy oaken doors and sit behind her husband’s desk.  Invariably, her hands would trace the outline of their family photograph, brushing away any collected dust, repositioning the silver frame.  Then she would open his Bible to the Psalms and pray through them, one by one, hearing faintly the sharp words of her son.  Eventually her husband would come through the doors, and she would move to the sofa as he sat behind the desk.  He would prepare for the evening service as she continued through the Psalms.  It was 3:00, two hours until his entrance would interrupt her meditation and end a prolonged argument.

“Get what?  That you’re bored with the truth?  We can’t go over this again—you know the truth—“  Desperate anger lay beneath his father’s questions.

“—and the truth will set you free. I know, but, Dad, that’s just it—I’m not free, I’m trapped on a spiritual plateau.  I want to be on the mountain.  To climb Jacob’s ladder, wrestle with God, I want—”

“To be consumed with fire?  You can’t face God and live.  That’s why he has given us simple spiritual things—bread, wine, a book of stories.   Josh, listen to me—”

“I have, dad.  For twenty-five years.”

“Well listen again.  You won’t be satisfied with this. God doesn’t speak in mystical ecstasies, but through the ordinary.   You can’t hear him if you are so concerned with seeing him.”

“But Moses asked to see God, Jacob wrestled with God, the disciples saw the Transfiguration, Paul was taken up into mystical ecstasy.  I just want truth uncontaminated, dad.  Not starched and processed into palatable orthodoxy.”

“Josh.   I hope you get what you want in Spain, I really do.  I pray that God will show himself to you, but I don’t think you’ll like it if he does.”

“Maybe not, but like isn’t the issue here.  Truth is.”

“Really.”  his father sighed.    “Then we’re back to the beginning.   Why aren’t you content with the truth?”

“Because it’s not immediate, dad.  It’s distant.   Your God is distant, filtered by creeds.   By clergy.  By doctrines.  By youth ministries and evening Bible studies.  By commercialism, crass commercialism.”

“Josh—that’s unfair.  Our church may have its faults, but it is not commercial.  Don’t let the rest of the culture affect your view of God’s truth.”

“What am I supposed to think?  This country was supposed to be founded on God’s truth.  The Puritans, the Declaration of Independence.  Yada yada.  And what is there to show for it today?  God’s truth has sold out.”

“And you think the Catholic Church isn’t filtered, isn’t commercial?  What about the priests, the confessionals, the hierarchy?  Surely you can’t believe your mystical experience can be found there.”

Josh was silent for a moment.  “Well, then where else,”  he stated, echoing the desperately angry voice of his father.  “Dad.  We’re dust.    Maybe you’re right.  We can’t see God and live.  But we can’t live without seeing him.  And I haven’t seen him since I was five and I looked up at the sun when you told me not to.  I went around squinting for hours after that, with blotches of green smears tracing across my eyes.  I thought I was going to die because I saw God, that those green smears were his angels, bringing me home.  But the streaks went away, and I went back to playing in my sandbox.”

 ***

After only a day or so of sandaled feet, he began to despise the dust that lay in the bottom of his backpack as he searched for the map, hung in his throat as he smoked, and crouched on the lip of his wine bottle as he drank himself to sleep.  Every morning he greeted the heavy vice around his temples as the burden of the journey, stopping occasionally to purge himself as he walked along dirt roads.   Drink was his communion wine—a sacred slipping into color tinged selfhood, the ends of his fingertips sliding along cool glass, numb to their guiding limbs.  One night, when his legs had given up on him and he sprawled in holy dirt under the ink spill midnight parchment, torn by occasional constellations, he met himself.  

"Illbethestars” he sang to no one in particular, recalling perhaps the edge of a nursery rhyme or a children’s book and twisting innocence into a drunken mantra.  “Illbethestars” a swing of an arm the slosh of elixir and a swig of wine.   “And the moon.”  Crouching behind the horizon slept the town he had passed through early afternoon.   The calls of merchants still hung on his shirtsleeves, fading vapors of mercantilism that he blithely brushed aside in search of a church, a bar, a brothel, or some other holy place where his flesh could take one step, one pious, drunken, or lecherous step towards the Infinite.   He could almost hear rungs cracking under his weight as he lay flatbacked onto dust.  The echo of his ribcage reverberated shivers throughout, and stars above swung and arched in response.   Residual tartness exhaled as he breathed a belch of wine and hunger.  The stars still swung.  He closed his eyes.   Illbethestars and a short minor melody kissed in his memory as simultaneous recognition of touches, glances, smells and sighs of bodies rang in his mind.  Was the song from childhood or only the innocence of yesterday’s bewildered fears when he sat in a village alley, lost and tired?  Then the market sounds were a harmony of clamorous determination, purposeful chaos of a people at home, settled and oblivious.  His lost-ness, though surrounded with purposeful-ness, cried silently inside of him for want of a five minute spell of familiar aromas and routine.  It was at the moment when this desire was shrieking for recognition that he heard the small strumming of a guitar through the thicket of noise.  His flesh hesitated in a wrinkle of goosebumps, despite the encasing heat of noon.  

 That single vibration of melody now sang into the thickness of his mind as he lay, turned, lay, stretched, and lay sprawled under the infinite of the dark.    Ah, brightness galloped behind his eyes.    Blissful melody smacking of touch and memory.   A smile worked itself across parched lips and Joshua laughed the foolish laughter of a holy fool, tears settling in corners of closed eyes.  The crouching city behind the hills lay still, silent hearts beating unknowing in the night as cascades of laughter rang on, piercing parchment night, rippling.  Josh saw himself, childlike and playful, in his mind’s eye.   He saw the sandbox and legions of surrounding angels, dripping green.  He laughed, a hilarious laugh, as that small child dug, squinting into dust that folded itself back over after every heave of the red plastic shovel.

That night of riotous laughter faded into days of journey, detached contemplation and the ache of thirst.  Yesterday he arrived in this small town, finding shelter in the dark arms of a prostitute who took sandals in exchange for a bed. His hostess used those sandals to wake him, the toll of the church bells beating him as rhythmically as the flat soles.  Soon after, his splintered feet found themselves on the hot stone steps of the cathedral where he now sat.

An old woman in the pew behind tapped him.  “Alla, mi’jito, alla.”  She pointed a cracked fingernail to the front.  The line to receive the Host was dwindling, and the woman left him to join the others.   His stomach growled again, and he thought of the last time he ate.  Wearily, he rose, knowing that today he would call his father on his cell phone, to receive chastisement and a plane ticket home.  Dreading the sterility of the inevitable flight back, he resolved to culminate in sacred communion, in spiritual cannibalism surrounded by cavernous space.  He had traveled the edge of the dark night, and he would taste at least the bottom rung of the ladder before he returned in defeat.

He knelt, genuflexed, and opened his mouth.  Dust touched dust and he swallowed the tasteless bread.  It was white and dissolved on his tongue, floating down to join the remnants of last night’s wine and smoke.  As he left the church and entered the town square, a dry plaza with a stone fountain central, he felt his stomach reject the Host.  The sun above beat down as the church bells pealed in his head, and the plaza spun itself into his peripheral vision.  Blackness and heat enveloped him as he vomited particles of blandness.  

He slept.   He dreamed.  He dreamed ladders and mountains.  He dreamed of dark women running down spiral steps.  He followed them down.  He followed them laughing, running.  He dreamed of books falling as he ran.  The books fell thickly, their pages exploding like teardrops slamming into concrete.  Letters bounced from the pages and scattered across the steps as he ran down into darkness.  Their hard iron edges scraped as they landed—a gleaming cascade of consonants and vowels.  He tripped as one caught his bare foot, and he fell screaming into the spiral stairway.  The dark women disappeared as he fell, his body lacerated a thousand times by letters swarming in the air.    The words Bone and marrow rang through his mind and he pushed the thought away, cutting his hand on flying Greek symbols.   Bone and marrow.  I am not dust, he thought.  I am bone and marrow.   

He awoke, tongue dry and swollen, against the hard stone of the plaza fountain.  No one was in the square—it was the afternoon siesta.  He squinted at the sky, watching a plane disappear into the embrace of the sun.  Heavily pulling himself up, he leaned over the edge of the fountain.   The tile floor glimmered below, the sun reflecting in small shards on scattered coins.  He spat.  

Trembling, he pulled his backpack towards him, reaching inside for his cell phone.  He would call his father, he would wash his face off with this gleaming fountain water.  As he reached inside, his hand found hot leather.  Pulling out a pocket-sized Bible, he breathed a silent prayer—-the preliminary kind that half-repentant rebels are prone to-—a quiet If-Then query bathed in context and reluctance.

Bone and marrow, he murmured, flipping the pages to the book of Hebrews.  Fearfully he read, from “In the past” through “dividing bone and marrow” until “Grace be with you all.”  Then he cried.   He cried and he saw the ugliness of his pretension, the wraith he had become, flying towards dark reflections, warped images in a bent glass.  Jesus Christ was the new and living way, not a copy, not a shadow.  What a weak and useless sinner he was, trying to travel on his own power to find a God of his imagination.  He spat, the taste of his vomit still clinging to his breath.  He was repulsive to himself now.  He would return to the white bread and grape juice with the taste of dust in his mouth.   Christ forgive him, he thought.  Christ.  One word on his mind now.

“My son, do you need help?”

Josh looked up and saw a silhouette, sunlight flashing behind.  The voice was old, acquainted with English, but tinged with Spanish.

Salamanca.”  the word came out without thought.  “I—I was looking for Salamanca.”

“Ju need to travel muy lejos to get there.  Ju OK?”

“Sí.   Sí—uh, gracias, señor.”  Josh put his head in his hands as the old man shuffled away.   He could hear his footsteps scraping in the dirt, and when the silence returned, he prayed.

He murmured and cried, and images of his parents forced themselves upon him.  Again he saw mountains, ladders, dark women, even as he tried to clear his mind and pray clearly.  This repentance was a cloudy exhalation of desire and image, and he prayed to Christ to take him back, with the heavy warnings of Hebrews still in his memory.  He would desire only Christ crucified, only the purest high priest and the new covenant.  He would lay aside everything, even his desire to see God, if only he could have faith in Christ and live.

But how could he lay aside himself?  Flesh clung to him like sweat, and he hardly knew what the faith of the Hebrews was.   The litany of saints, tied together by the life breathing word, were men of desire and fear, clothed in spirit and sinew.  Their tents erected in the desert slung fabric over wretched acts of daily life, hygienic and orgasmic, thicker than King James type on thin paper.    But God and yet faith.  Two words permeating even to life.  He could not unmake himself, but he could not think of the bright white of purity without the cloudy shadow of sin tracing its breath against his soul’s neck.  Lord God Almighty, unmake me, he cried.  

A speckled sparkling whiteness fluttered away, surprised by his exclamation.  Noah’s birds, he smiled.  Birds of faith flying to the mountain I will never climb.  But they bring back the promise of rest.  Lord God, I want that rest without hangover, without flagellation, without sleep.  Christ.  Give me rest.

He laughed the laugh of foolish holiness, the colors of heaven reflecting in weary blue eyes.

 

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