instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Great Diocese Handicap, cont.


I don't know if you've ever been "Oi"ed at by a Spanish cardinal looking down from his bedroom window on the shady side of midnight. It is not an experience one soon forgets. Spanish cardinals can "Oi" with the best of them, pouring into that brief expression the full passion of the Mediterranean temperament.

Pimples had vanished like a magician's rabbit the moment the ball had left his foot, and I could see the right reasoning of the thing to be done he had employed. But before I could follow suit, Cardinal Vittoria addressed me by name. "Booster? Is that you?"

"Oh, ah, what ho, your Eminence! Up late too, what?"

"What are you doing down there?"

"Me? Oh, you know, just out for an evening stroll. In the nights lift up your hands, and all that. I find that nothing clears the mind quite like emptying it, and what is more empty than a garden in the middle of the night? Not another soul here. I'm quite alone. Well, of course now you've joined me, if it can be called joining me when you're still --"

"Bishop Booster, do cease babbling."

"Oh, right-o."

"I take it, since you are alone, that you must be the one responsible for this object that came crashing through my window a moment ago."

"I? No, no! I strongly oppose crashing objects through windows. Ask anyone. Perhaps it was a prowler."

"And are the prowlers of your country, Bishop Booster, in the habit of throwing pointed balls through bedroom windows in the nighttime?" the cardinal asked, and if he was trying to keep the skepticism from his voice he failed.

"Not that I've heard. But there is a university in town. Perhaps it was a fraternity prank."

By way of answer, Cardinal Vittoria said nothing. Sister Mary Kathleen, the headmistress of Ss. Soter and Caius Day School during my time there, had also frequently employed this technique, under not dissimilar circs., so I knew from experience that, if the silence weren't broken, I would blurt out the full truth.

"Well, cheerio, then!" I offered, and, pivoting briskly, set off at a dignified trot toward a hedge some distance from the light spilling from the cardinal's window.

Had a surgeon examined me as soon as I achieved full concealment, he would have been baffled by the two red circular marks in the center of my back, until I explained they were made by the burning stare I could feel Cardinal Vittoria directing at me during my retreat.