Wednesday, July 20, 2011


by Walt Staples -

Douay Charles Maria hesitated at the cell’s door. He made to knock but allowed his fist to hang in mid-air. His indecision was broken by a voice from within, “If you are coming in, come in then. I don’t bite—at least not as I’ve just been fed.”

The Bible took a breath and pushed the door open. Brother Eustis sat in a rocking chair facing the door. His blind eyes gleamed whitely in the near darkness. “Yes?”

The younger man said, “It is Charles, Brother.”

The ancient man’s face broke into a wide grin. “Charley! It’s good to hear your voice again. Oh.” He reached to the side and turned up the lights. “Forgive me, my boy. I’ve lived so long in the dark I forget others don’t have my blessing.”

“Blessing, Brother?”

The old friar chuckled. “Lose one of the seven senses, and the others become more acute, supposedly to compensate for the lost one. Personally, I don’t buy it. Brother Ignatius Mary lost all sense of smell and taste back when he worked in the smelting works, before taking the cowl. He still managed to trip over things.” He smiled in apparent fond memory. “Only man I know who could trip over a beach.” After a moment, he went on, “No, I think it’s just the lack of distraction.”

Douay Charles smiled at the picture just described. “Perhaps.”

Like many of the blind, Brother Eustis kept his face toward his guest as much as possible when talking. “I heard you landed yesterday about Terce. Why so long coming to see me?”

“Well, I…I, er…” The Bible let it peter out.

Brother Eustis smiled at him. “You were embarrassed by the fact that you’ve been recalled to be my replacement. Not so?”

The other looked at the floor. “Yes, Brother, I’m afraid it is.”

The elderly friar laughed. “Charley, Charley. It’s not like you’re speeding me to my grave. The good Lord and Father Time are doing that between them just fine.” He pointed in the direction of an armchair. “Take a load off. No, quite the contrary, I am extremely happy you’re here.”

The chair made a squeaking “whoof “ sound as the Bible settled into it. “You are?”

“Oh, yes, quite happy. Look, you and I both know I’m not going to see the Feast of St. Paul Tong Buong. That’s why I asked specifically for you.”

Douay Charles looked at him with surprise. “You did?”

Brother Eustis snorted. “You don’t think the Abbot came up with your name on his own, do you? Abbot Mary Chuck de Yeager, O.F.M. is a saintly man, a thoughtful man, and probably one of the greatest leaders this abbey will see, but he knows nothing of teaching new Bibles. I think the fact that his novice master chose to give him the name of the patron of spacers is probably an acknowledgement that the future Abbot Chuck was no man of letters. On the other hand, he’s smart enough to listen to those who do know.”

The Bible grinned at his old teacher. Blindness may have come upon him with the decades, but he still saw quite clearly.

“Beating one’s gums tends to be thirsty work. So’s having to listen to said beaten gums. Would you join me in a cup of tea?” He raised an admonishing finger. “And none of that ‘Are you sure there will be room for both of us?’ mind you. I remember your rather questionable sense of humor.”

Douay Charles laughed. “Yes, thank you, Brother. I would like a cup.”

Brother Eustis touched a button on the arm of his chair. A young voice issued from a speaker, “Yes, Brother Eustis?”

“Tommy, could you see if Brother Trout still has some of the Jerusalem Mint tea? And if he does, would you ask if he would mind making a couple of cups for us?”

“Right away, Brother.”

“Thank you, Tommy.” The old man smiled. “He’s one of our James; has about a standard year to go. Brother Levi tells me he’s probably going to be one of the best.”

The Bible grinned. “Do the other manuscripts still call them ‘Kings?’”

The Brother chuckled. “And since when do things change in the Church? After all, we Douays are still referred to as ‘Rhemis.’ Though for the life of me, I have no idea where the word comes from or what its original meaning was. But enough old times.” He changed the subject, “You have work to do, Charley. We have one Douay, Bede, who is close to publication. I expect by Advent, he’ll be ready .”

Douay Charles nodded. “I remember my publication. One minute, I’m a manuscript. Then Archbishop Patel passes the candle flame under my hand and I’m a Bible. Who’s celebrating Bede’s?”

“Bishop Guash.”

“Um, better than nothing I suppose. What about the younger manuscripts?”


There were a number of sniffles and red eyes among the manuscripts, especially the Douays, as the abbey’s congregation left the chapel. Brother Charles—formerly Douay Charles—-and Manuscript Bede lagged behind. Bede glanced back at the entrance of the crypt. He sniffed and ran a finger under his eye. The erstwhile Bible placed a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I miss him too, son.”

“Douay—“ He stopped. “Sorry, Brother Charles. I’m not used to you not being a Bible anymore, I guess.”

“Bede, I’ll always be a Bible, just as you will always be a manuscript. It’s a part of us that never goes away. The good man we just laid in the crypt was a Manuscript, a Bible and a Brother. Lord willing, and I think he probably is, Eustis will also be a saint.” He put his arm around the younger man’s shoulders. “Our calling, yours, mine, and our teacher’s was to be the Living voice telling man that no matter how bad things are, there is still hope. Once upon a time, Bibles were on paper only and people burned them. That’s why the candle flame during publication; to remind us what may be involved in carrying the Word.” He released his hold and the two of them genuflected and left the chapel.


  1. Nice episode, Walt. A touch of Fahrenheit 451 and A Canticle for Leibowitz, plus a reminder that the colony's library has been shredded several times over the centuries during and since the journey to Eclectia, so measures like this are both beautiful and practical.

  2. A very interesting look into the world of the Living Bibles. Until now, I confess, I've had a rather difficult time understanding them. This solved that!