PLEASE NOTE: This is part 2 of a 4-part story. Part 1 is online here: http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-bob-and-monastery-blo...
I was flying low in my paraglider, there was wreckage of a paraglider on the ground. A trail of smoke let from my plane to the wreckage. “Know this before you die,” I said…
I startled awake, panicked! Where was I? Oh, yes, in my cell. A beeswax candle providing the only light. I’d already forgotten the dream, and was a bit confused. I heard a noise, and in the dim shadows I saw Dan was there. He had somehow gotten a hold of a child’s alphabet blocks. He was picking them up carefully, one by one, in his mouth, and stacking them one atop another, very carefully, until he had seven or eight of them in a precarious tower. Then he gave a happy growl and knocked them over. He kept doing this - stacking and knocking - for at least a half hour, before he got bored with it, and came over to me for some attention. He maneuvered his head under my new hand in that endearing way dogs have, and waited for me to pet him.
“What are you?” I asked him. He didn’t answer, but I wouldn’t have been too surprised if he had.
Morning prayers came at five AM, local time. I was groggy. Dan kept pace with me as we marched to the chapel, then a sad-looking Jesuit shooed him away. He gave a happy yap, and vanished into the shadows to go catch a jumprat or something for his breakfast. We passed the naked old man with the peacock feather and the gourd, already awake and jumping around like an idiot. He recognized me and waved. I averted my eyes.
After prayers, it was a bland breakfast of hominy grits, which I wolfed down. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. A dark-skinned man wearing a dark orange coat and a lighter orange turban introduced himself as Brother Brijesh, and took me in the kitchen. “In light of your injuries,” he said, “You’re on light duty for the time being. Think you can handle washing dishes?” I allowed as how I could, and for the next hour I scrubbed away, all by myself while the sad Jesuit put them away for me. “You’ll have to learn where to put this stuff when I’m gone,” he said, “Assuming you stay, of course.” He coughed. I asked if he was ok, but he just smiled in a way that was even sadder than he normally looked, and walked off.
After I’d done the dishes, it was more prayers, then a singing service, then Mendayev gave me an hour of personal tutoring in Russian.
“Why do I need to learn that?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “Since you’re probably the only Baptist monk in history, we don’t have any specific worship services or rituals for you. Until we can set some up - assuming we ever can - you’ll be following the Orthodox rites. Russian is the liturgical language, soo….” He let it rail off.
“So why are you teaching me? I thought you were a Shaolin?”
“I am, but I grew up speaking it in Yvgenistan, and I speak it better than anyone here who isn’t otherwise occupied with other duties. As your Jesus said, ‘Freely hast thou received, freely also shalt thou give.’”
After that, a prayer service, then lunch - some kind of vegetarian Buddhist salad thing - then an hour of meditation for everyone else, and an hour of dishes for me. Then an hour of indoctrination from Brother Brijesh, then more prayers, a choir service, several hours of rather dogmatic study, another meal and more dishes, some free time, some more prayers, some quiet contemplation time, and lights out.
That was basically my routine for the next six months, though starting on the second day they woke me up an hour earlier so I could do calisthenics and Tai Chi with the rest of the brothers. And I dreamed, fitfully.
I was flying low, maybe a hundred feet above the ground. I was angry at someone for some reason. A bald man with an eye patch said, “Finish him!”
When I’d first arrived, the monastery had been full of men and boys, all talking with their hokey accents, and wearing their goofy Victorian clothes. After my second day, the Kirby swarm was done, and everyone went home.
“Most of the ranchers around here have marginal existences at best. They need to