Over and over, and in a way that threatened to do a lot of harm. There were a lot of other men on both sides. Fifty or so. And one woman on ours-I nearly forgot her. This man had a hammer in his belt, positioned so that he could pull it out with his right hand. He'd been using it as a weapon. There are a good many others, I'm afraid, depending on just how God judges these things.
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I sipped my water while I pulled myself together. I'd been using an oak bar with an iron tip as a weapon. It was about this long. Maybe five. About that. It would have been heavy even without the iron tip, but the tip brought its weight toward that end. You know what I mean? Yes, he did. Everyone was shaking hands with me then, and he wanted to be one of them.
I accepted his hand and held it so he couldn't get to his hammer, and I swung the bar I had been leaning on overhand with my left hand. I've never been quite sure why I did that, but I did. A friend of mine picked up his feet, and I picked up his shoulders. His head was a mess-I remember that. Together, we threw him over the gunwale into the sea. My visitor had a great many questions after that, but I answered hardly any, just telling him over and over that the answers were too complicated to explain unless we sat up all night. I did not add-although I could have-that he would not have believed me.
Finally I promised I would write everything out and mail it to him when it could do no more harm.
Now I am going to take a long walk and do a lot of thinking. When I return to the rectory, I will begin. Sometimes it seems that I spend most of my time trying to explain things to people who do not want to understand. This may be more of that. My evenings are free once I have locked up the Youth Center.
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Maybe I should have written semi-free. I read whenever I can, the lives of good and decent men and women who sought God and found Him. I am not like that-either I have never lost Him or I have never sought Him. When you read this, you can say which. I have already confessed many times, but I think someone ought to tell my story.
I am no autobiographer, just the only one who knows it. I was ten, I think, when my father and I moved to Cuba. The communists had lost power, and my father was going to run a casino in Havana. Some monks had reopened an old monastery outside the city, and they were trying to start a boarding school.
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After a few years, my father signed me up. I think he must have given the monastery fifty thousand or so, because nothing was said about payment in all the years I was there-nothing I remember. A year seems like a lifetime at that age, so three or maybe four lifetimes passed before I went from being a student to being a novice in the order. You would think I would remember something like that better than I do.
All that I recall is that the Novice Master called us together one day and explained that the abbot had given up the idea of a school. The parents who did not want their sons to enter the order would come and take them home. I see I have gotten ahead of myself, which happens a lot whenever I try to talk in public. I should tell you first that up to then I had gone home for holidays.
Not all of them but some, like Christmas, and for eight weeks in the summer, every summer until then. After that, my father never came for me again. I talked to my confessor about it, and he explained that being a novice was different. My father could not come anymore. He could have written letters, but he never did.
It was still like going to school. I helped Brother Ignacio herd our pigs and weed the garden, and there were novenas and mass and vespers and whatnot. But we had always done those. We still had classes and grades and all that. Now I know the subjects we studied were just the ones various monks could teach, but they knew a lot and it was a pretty good education.
Most of them were from Mexico and most of the kids from Cuba, so we spoke Spanish in the monastery. The kids' Spanish was a little different, but not a whole lot. Mass was in Spanish at first, Latin later on. A lot of what I learned there was languages. We did two at a time: Spanish and Latin for a year, French and English the next year, then Spanish and Latin again the year after.
I had picked up quite a bit of Italian from my father and his friends, English was what we had spoken at my school in the States, and I had gotten a good bit of Spanish just living in Havana before I went to the monastery. So I did not do too badly. I was not anybody's star pupil in languages, but I was not at the bottom of the class in any of them. Or even close to it. Besides the languages we got a lot of theology, like you would expect, and liturgy, Bible studies, and so forth. I guess all of us thought we would be priests eventually, and maybe the monks did, too, or some did.
We took biology every year. We called it biology, but a whole lot of it was about sex. If we became priests as well as monks we would have to hear confessions. Some of them would be the confessions of other monks, but two or three of our priests went into Havana almost every Friday and Saturday to help out in various parishes, and one of the things they did was hear the confessions of the laity. Not just men, but women too. I used to daydream about having this beautiful woman come into the confessional and say, "I know it's wrong to lust after a priest, Father, but I can't help myself.
It's Father Chris. Every time I see him I want to tear off all my clothes. I did not like it, and I like it even less now.
I pray that God will strike me down before I ever do that to anyone. We learned about all the perversions, or at least about all those our teacher knew about, and that was a lot. Some were pretty funny, but some were just horrible. There was a lot about homosexuality, how bad it was, and how we must love the sinner but not the sin. That stuff was one reason I left the monastery.
I will get to that soon. Math was my best subject. We got arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, and geometry, plain and solid. Most of the kids griped about math, but I loved it. Pretty soon I caught on to what Fr.
Luis was doing for tests. He would assign certain problems in the book for homework. The problems he had not assigned would show up on his tests. I got wise and worked all the problems. I got quite a few hundreds on my tests, and hardly ever had a test come back lower than ninety-seven. Luis used to brag about me when I was not around. Two or three of the other monks told me about it. I can never repay Fr. Luis for teaching me math-geometry and trig, especially.
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