Abbey

The monks made a very fine wine and Albert, being so formerly an alcoholic, found the temptation to sin practically invited flagellation. It was that or damnation. He had never understood why medieval clergymen whipped themselves. Now he knew.

The abbot took Albert’s nervous unease for caution. “You are like a wife with cold feet,” the old abbot told him kindly. “Remember, if it is not the right time to wed yourself to God, there is still time enough to ponder. There is no divorce brooked from the Almighty.”

Albert tried his best to remain civil. “Yes, Father.”

“Are you perhaps contemplating His divine plan for you, my son?”

“No, Father,” Albert replied.

“Do you not like it at the abbey?” he asked.

“I like it just fine,” said Albert.

But in the end Albert succumbed to his lesser demons and had a grand rollicking time boozing it up in the abbey’s stone halls. His hoots and joyful cajoling sent the other monks into unequal factions of sympathizers and repudiators.

Overall it was a short affair, both the fete and Albert’s monkhood. He learned, however, a good deal about himself, not the least of which was that not even vows are strong enough to break a man’s habit for public urination. He began the year holy enough. He ended it outside Cleveland in an iron bungalow. By that point even he had to admit that his prayers weren’t fooling anyone. His sole consolation, in the long unhappy years ahead of him, was that he’d briefly met heaven in the intoxicated abandon of the monks’ fine wine, free from condemnation however briefly. Hell was always the hangover.

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