What of Heaven and Men?

Partially inspired by adventures in the highly illuminating Omnibus series, I find myself drifting back towards writing fiction. Like I said, yes, I am doing The Writing Month thingy this year. Finally. But still, I procrastinate and write about OTHER things BESIDES this imminent project that shall be here in like . . . gosh . . . 12 days. There is a blog thing going around in regards to the endeavors of National Novel Writing Month. One of my favorite blogs called Further up and Further In is hosting Beautiful Books, a project designed to provoke thoughts and questions concerning the novels. My answers to their questions should be here soon. In the meantime, have a short story meant to be expanded on in my WIP, Heaven’s Sight. 

The corners of Father O’Connor’s mouth curled slightly as he peered down at the paper in Anton’s hands. “Well,” he murmured, bending down a bit more. “What a work is this! What a work indeed.”

“My sketch,” Anton said tremulously. He forced himself to look straight up into the priest’s face. His eyes revealed that skittish anxiety which one could notice almost immediately when looking at him.

“Yes, my lad. That is quite a sketch. It is a wonder!”

Anton’s stricken features suddenly relaxed—an infinitesimal bit.

“You needn’t look as if I’m ‘bout to rap you o’er your knuckles, lad,” Father O’Connor sighed, and then laughed. He ruffled the boy’s dark curls, with a full-fledged grin spreading out his mouth. “I was in a good mind to when I called you to stay here, but I don’t believe Michelangelo’s teacher would have done that, if Michelangelo was working those marvelous hands o’ his.”

Anton sat in twitching silence, clasping and unclasping his own damp hands.

Father O’Connor laughed again. “Aye, lad! I will send you on your way now. You’re lookin’ a wee peaked now, and I believe you’ve been punished enough, by your own doing. And I’d be mighty pleased to see if you have a book of these sketches hidden away somewhere.”

“Oh, Father!” Anton burst out at last, terror etched sharply in his features. “I won’t ever draw in class again! I won’t! I won’t!”

“Hush, now. None of this. If you fear that I will seize your sketchbook, you have me quite wrong. Nothing of that sort shall come about, I am only desperately curious to have a look at your pictures.”

Anton, pleadings burning on his tongue, sat in heavy silence. A flicker of worry sent a faint chill through the priest. He laid his hand gently on Anton’s fist. “There, there, my lad,” he said softly, “you mustn’t be afraid of me. Or of anyone else here. What a blessing it is that you should be here now, reading books, learning, safe and warm with everything a lad could need! ‘Tis a fine blessing, Mother Mary’s benediction for you.”

Anton did not stir or speak. So Father O’Connor continued. “And I only asked to see your pictures, for I find you do a splendid job of it, a real dandy hand you have. You must have many a reason to thank heaven—”

His words might have been sparks to a bed of straw. Anton’s eyes took on an uncanny frigid brilliance. “Heaven hasn’t given me anything,” he said simply.

Father O’Connor’s eyebrows leapt up his forehead, and his mouth tightened at once. “Crikey, lad! What do you mean by that?”

“I mean,” said Anton still in that frank, slow tone, “That I haven’t ever heard or seen anything from Heaven good. Nothing will.”

“One does not see or hear a divine thing, my son. It is something beyond that. Beyond the tangible and the reasonable. And indeed, nothing is ever wholly good on this earth—that is only material. What is in it—that is the beautiful substance of life.”

But Anton had stood, his limber young figure akin to a healthy sapling. Father O’Connor let his tongue rest, even as he clasped his hands. He watched Anton silently gather his things, noting the masked expression—not even an expression, but some new hardness.

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