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Volume 2 Issue 1
June 2004

LINK TO TEXT ONLY VERSION

Robert Blair Kaiser:  A Letter from the Editor

BOOKS

Reviewed by
Don Foran: A Dying Breed of Brave Men: The Self-Written Stories of Nine Married Priests Edited by Robert J. Brousseau

Reviewed by
Doug McFerran: Papal Reich by Arun Pereira

Reviewed by
Leonard Swidler: Ignatian Humanism: A Dynamic Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century by Ronald Modras

CHURCH REFORM

Thomas P. Doyle: The John Jay Report and The National Review Board Report

Bruce Russett: Conclusion of Governance, Accountability and the Future of the Catholic Church — Monarchy, Democracy, or "Decent Consultation Hierarchy"?

Leonard Swidler: Desperately Needed: Catholic ‘Americanist’ Heroes — The Model of Bishop John England of Charleston

FEATURED CONTRIBUTORS

Morgan Zo Callahan: Two Zen Dialogues:
Change Your Mind Day — June 7, 2003 — Ciudad de Los Angeles
Distant & Close


Geraldine Glodek: One Day on the Way to the Time Room

Paul Kelly: The Kelly Kollection

JESUITS THEN & NOW

Robert Brophy, Don Cordero, Doug McFerran, Robert R. Rahl, Jim Torrens, SJ, and Dave Van Etten : Convocation 2003

Peter Henriot, SJ: Letter from Zambia

Joseph E. Mulligan, SJ: A Faith and Justice Pilgrimage in Rome ... and Related Reflections at Home


LITERARY CRITICISM


Frances A. Della Cava and Madeline H. Engel: Catholics under the Magnifying Glass: Views in American Mystery Fiction

Ramón Rami Porta: El teólogo itinerante: Un comentario sobre Monseñor Quijote de Graham Greene

Ramón Rami Porta: The Itinerant Theologian: A Commentary on Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene


 

 


 

Geraldine Glodek lives in Decatur, Illinois. She has taught English to immigrants in Iowa and in Maine, as well as to scientists in Russia. She freelances as a writer of multiple-choice test items in a variety of subjects, an ability she credits to her interdisciplinary Jesuit education at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. She also works with autistic children and writes novels. Her first novel, Nine Bells at the Breaker: An Immigrant's Story, is set in the coalfields of Pennsylvania in the early 20th century. Geraldine Glodek's father, uncles, and grandfathers were coal miners.

Welcome, Geraldine, to the world of freelance writing, where payment most often comes in the form of love (from your readers) and certainly not in deposits to your bank account. We're delighted to run your short story, not least because it focuses one of our Jesuit heroes, Teilhard de Chardin.

And we would like to say we welcome more fiction submissions to JustGoodCompany.

One Day on the Way to the Time Room

Geraldine Glodek

       Professor James Hadley was sweating in his belted brown coat. Faithful to his lifelong practice, he had zipped in the heavy fleece lining on the last Friday of October, that very morning, and, sixty-eight degrees or not, he would not permit himself to remove it.

       What a surprise, this warm Atlantic breeze so late in the year! It seemed a shame to waste it going home to a supper alone. Tempted to drive down to the waterfront, he dallied on the cement steps of the former private home that housed the philosophy department. He thought of taking a cruise on the Longfellow. He imagined sitting back on the lower deck, listening to the captain’s piped-in, chuckling voice reciting those tales of Casco Bay. Soon after the boat passed the Portland Head Light, the engines would shut down and all passengers would gather on the upper deck, where the crew would pass out bread to hurl at seagulls summoned by the familiar whistle. Today was only Friday. Sunday was Professor Hadley’s day to ride that boat. He frowned, recalling that the Longfellow would soon be docked for the winter. No more rides until April. He was tired, a bit bored and lonely. A little cruise might be just the lift.

       The antennae of a long black bug trying to crawl along the wrought-iron railing began palpating the web of flesh between his thumb and forefinger. The professor moved his hand from the insect’s path and said, “Oh! Look at me, standing here like the quintessential absent-minded professor. Thanks for the wake-up call there, fellow.”

       A young woman jogged by in shorts and high-top sneakers with pull-on straps sticking out at the heels like wings. Her short, blonde hair flared out above the sweatband and flew back like a second set of wings on the sides of her head. Professor Hadley recognized her. She had been in his intro class and had just declared a minor in philosophy. He called out, “Hey! Julie Johnson! You look like Mercury whizzing across the planet! Delivering messages from the gods, are you?”

       “Hello, it’s you!” she said between huffs as she circled back and jogged in place. “I’m on a break from my work-study job at the bookstore. Actually, I do have a message. I just sent you a slip in inter-campus mail. It’s about that book you reordered for spring term, Perspectives on Life, Side-by-Side.”

       “Oh?”

       “It’s out of print.”

       “No!”

       “Yeah, sorry. I know how much you love that book. I came across another one I think you’ll like. I set a copy behind the counter for you. Stop down! I’ll be there till closing.” She waved and ran to the corner and around the block.

       The professor steadied himself against the railing. Out of print. Out of print after all these years! Couldn’t they have waited one more semester till his retirement? He dreaded the prospect of perusing alternative texts. He felt like just going home. Oh, bite the bullet and get down to the bookstore, he told himself. He cut across the side yard to the Law School parking lot and crossed Bedford Street to the main part of the campus. As he was passing the Alumni House, which was once a farmhouse, he looked skyward at the sound of a familiar clue that President Bush would be spending the weekend at his Kennebunkport mansion. Grateful for any distraction, the professor stood still and watched for several minutes as three helicopters circled the coast like vultures.

       Moving along again, his eyes still watching the iron birds, he felt something like a shower of golf balls bouncing off his shoes.

       “Oh, sorry,” a woman’s voice said. “I’m really sorry.” Tall, her shoulder-length hair straight and black, the woman was dressed in a brown uniform with a blue-and-white emblem of Maine embroidered on the breast pocket.

       Just ahead in the middle of the walkway was a small, three-wheeled pickup truck. The ruptured underside of a large cardboard box hanging over the open tailgate was dropping tulip bulbs like giant grains of sand in an hourglass.

       The woman shoved the box securely onto the truck and began gathering bulbs from the macadam walkway.

       Professor Hadley stooped down. “Let me help you,” he said. He began picking up bulbs and tucking them in the crook of his left arm. “Where shall we put them?”

       “Oh, thanks. Over there by that round flowerbed in front of the Alumni House.”

       After they picked up all the bulbs, they pressed their palms on the bottom of the box, carried it over to the flowerbed, and set it down on the brown grass. “There you are, miss.” Professor Hadley’s eyes fell upon the brass fixture on the top of the stubby granite post that stood in the center of the bed. “Ah, the sundial,” he said. He stooped down, one knee bent on the grass. Leaning forward, he stretched his arms toward the monument and ran his fingertips up and down the gray granite. “I love sundials. They make me think of Aristarchus of Samos.”

       “Who?”

       “Aristarchus of Samos. He lived around 270 B.C. He had a sundial, and he surmised that the earth revolved around the sun.”

       “I learned that Copernicus was the first to say the earth went ’round the sun.”

       “Ho, no. It was Aristarchus of Samos. Centuries before Copernicus! Most people don’t realize that. In any case, sundials are wonderful, don’t you think? Beautiful, quiet. If it were up to me, and if the sun never hid behind clouds or mountains, I’d say let’s get rid of all these ticking, ringing, beeping clocks and just use sundials.”

       “I like sundials, too. A Micmac Indian taught me how to tell time by a sundial when I was a little girl. I love planting flowers around this one. You a gardener?”

       The professor chuckled. “No, no. I hardly know a pansy from a petunia. Maybe I should take up gardening, though. I’ll be retiring soon. I’ll have lots of time on my hands. My wife passed away many years ago. Gardening might be just the thing. That is, if I’m not too old to learn.”

       “Oh, well, here! If you want to learn, I can show you something right now.”

       “I’m afraid I must get to the bookstore, you see.”

       “C’mon. A five-minute gardening lesson. How ’bout it?”

       “All right.”

       The groundskeeper took a crate of hand tools from the truck, dropped it noisily near the flowerbed, and went back for some long-handled tools. The professor, still genuflecting before the sundial, tumbled sideways as he dodged the rake she hurled from the truck like a spear. Her hair swung forward and back with the throw.

       “Oh, sorry,” she said. She picked up the iron rake and combed through the lumpy soil that had been turned over. Then she dragged the rake, teeth upward, over the soil, smoothing it. She knelt down and tucked her hair behind her ears. “Now watch what I do.” She stabbed a trowel into the earth. Pulling the soil toward her, holding it in place with the trowel, she dropped a bulb into the hole and glanced at the way it landed. The professor noticed that if it looked okay to her, whatever okay was, she removed the trowel and let the earth fall over the bulb. Then she scraped a little extra over the top and patted it down. There was something mysteriously tender in the way she patted the soil, as if she had just hidden some sweet, sacred object known only to her. This tenderness surprised him as he recalled dodging the rake only moments before.

       If the bulb was not okay, he noticed, she reached in and did something to it before covering it.

       “How come you fuss with some of them and not others?” he asked.

       “Because they’re supposed to point straight up to heaven like steeples.”

       “What happens if the point is facing down? Or sideways?”

       “Nothing, really. Most of them sorta squirm themselves right somehow. Come Easter, tah-daah, tulips! Straight up!” Her voice was husky and confident.

       A staticky voice called from the radio in the groundskeeper’s leather holster. “Base to forty-six.”

       Lifting the radio to her mouth, she answered, “Forty-six.”

       “The trashcan outside the Campus Center is overflowing?”

       “Ten-four.” She put the radio back. “Well, it’ll probably have to wait till Monday,” she said with a shrug. “They won’t like it, but what can I do? I punch out in less than an hour. I still have this planting to finish and all the tools to put away. My little girl has a dentist appointment at four. I can’t be late picking her up from the daycare.”

       “And I still have to get to the bookstore. Thanks for the gardening lesson.”

       “Any time.”

       Professor Hadley walked down the hill to the Campus Center, a one-story gray building with the bookstore on the south end. He stood before the double doors, surprised by an impulse to pray for the courage to hunt for a new intro text after all these years. But having never satisfactorily deduced whether there was, in fact, a God, he dismissed the urge as foolishness. “Shame on you,” he said to his reflection in the glass doors. “Bite the bullet and get yourself into that bookstore.”

       Stepping inside, he draped his coat neatly over his left arm and dawdled in the common area of the Campus Center, looking at posters and announcements. When he entered the bookstore, Julie Johnson called and waved from behind the register. She reached under the counter and pulled out a paperback called, The Devonshire Philosophy Reader. She held it out to him. His trembling hands held empty space like the hands of a first-time father afraid to take the newborn infant from a goading nurse.

       Julie came out from behind the counter. “Go on, take it.”

       He let her place the book in his hands. He pressed it against his chest for a moment. Then he handed it back with an expression of distaste, as if it had just wet down the front of his shirt. He shook his head. “I’m—I’m sorry. It was kind of you to set this aside for me, but— Are you sure the one I want is out of print?”

       “Absolutely. There may be some used copies floating around, but we couldn’t guarantee enough for your two sections spring term. You don’t have to decide today. You can borrow this book over the weekend. It’s a lot like Perspectives on Life, Side-by-Side. Pairs of opposing views on the same topic. Readings from ancient to modern times. Lots of topics. The selections on women are even better.”

       “Yes, as I recall, you didn’t like the Schopenhauer-versus-Germaine-Greer selections.”

       “Good old Schopenhauer. Ugh. Women are merely big children who should never be entrusted with money, even their own. I didn’t care for some of the theological selections either.”

       “Oh, yes, I remember you didn’t like Saint Thomas Aquinas versus Bertrand Russell.”

       Julie rolled her blue eyes. “Yes, five ways of proving there’s a God. Then the same five criteria to prove there isn’t. Pretty dry stuff. No offense. I wish you’d look over this book. How ’bout it? Won’t you take it for the weekend? It has wonderful photographs and sketches!”

       “Sketches! In a philosophy book? See, that’s what I mean about these so-called modern texts. Full of gimmicks!”

       “Oh, these are beautiful. I love the photo in the section on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It brings out the spirit of that man so, so— There are quotes from his letters that make his philosophical writings a little easier to understand. For me, at least. Here, why not take the book for the weekend and see for yourself? I put a bookmark on the Teilhard page for you.”

       Professor James Hadley, staring at the book, slipped on his coat and buttoned it. “Oh, all right. It’s about time I looked at something new. Thanks for setting this aside for me. You kept me from falling into nothing but a big, empty chasm. And thanks for your persistence, my friend. See you on Monday.”

       He went out and looked up the hill. Gray clouds were gathering near the deep orange sun that squatted on the horizon. The door swung open behind him. Julie poked her head out and said, “Professor Hadley, don’t forget to turn your clock back this weekend!”

       He laughed. “Oh, I never forget a thing like that. But thanks.” He started up the hill, the textbook under his arm, out of sight. After ten paces or so, he stopped and unbuttoned his coat.

       When he got to the Alumni House, he saw that the little three-wheeled truck was still on the walkway, but the groundskeeper was throwing her tools into the truck bed in a frenzy. He quickened his step. “Say, what’s the hurry? Is something wrong?”

       “The daycare called. My kid’s got a real high fever. I just had to drop those tulip bulbs in any which way and cover them over. Hey, how ’bout punching me out?”

       “I beg your pardon?”

       She pointed to the south and spoke fast. “The tool shed is over that way.” She pointed to the east. “The garage where I park the truck is all the way down by the Campus Center, but the time room where I gotta punch my timecard,” she said, pointing north, “is in Payson Smith Hall up here. I gotta pick up my daughter! Would you punch my timecard out for me?”

       “I won’t get in trouble, will I? Or get you in trouble?”

       “Naw, the student grounds crew punched out at 2:30. So did the daytime building crew. The night crew’s already punched in. You won’t run into anybody in the time room, especially if you wait till the last minute to go there.”

       “Okay. What do I do?”

       The groundskeeper pointed across the lawn to the west end of Payson Smith Hall, a long, three-story brick building. “Go in this end of the building. Go down the stairs to the basement, head down the hall to the center of building, and through the door that says, ‘Maintenance Time Room.’ There’s a rack of cards on the wall next to a punch clock. My card says, ‘Theresa McKnight.’ Slide it into the slot under the clock face. Line up the out-Friday space with the red dot below the six. Then push the flat metal bar the card is resting on. Only do me a favor. Don’t punch me out until three-thirty exactly, or they’ll dock me fifteen minutes, okay?”

       “I suppose I could do that. You go on. I hope your little girl’s okay.”

       “Thanks.” She jumped into the truck, swung the door shut, and took off. Her departure was so abrupt and the resulting stillness so stark that the professor felt as if a door that separated him from the whole world had been slammed shut. Nearby, brittle brown oak leaves, clinging stubbornly to branches, began to rattle like death. He looked at the sundial and tried to tell the time. It was no use. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud. He checked his watch. Only eight past three.

       He began to feel guilty and nervous about the crime he was about to commit. In his thirty-four years on this campus, he had never broken one rule, much less conspired with someone to do something sneaky and wrong. Oh, if only he had had more time to think about it! He would have said no. But now that he’d given his word to Theresa McKnight, he had to do it. Or did he? He thought about the sick child, the worried mother, the mother thoughtful enough give him that little gardening lesson. He looked at the flowerbed, picturing her hands patting the soil over each bulb.

       What if someone saw him standing idle there on the lawn? How would he explain himself? Ah, he thought, I’ll play the absent-minded professor, lost in thought. He tried staring into space and immediately fell into self-ridicule, but he was soon rescued by the feel of the textbook under his arm. I’ll lose myself in a book, he decided. More convincing. He looked at the red paper bookmark Julie had inserted in the section on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He slipped his fingers in with the bookmark. “Here I go,” he said.

       But he would not open the book. He clutched it against his chest while his mind leafed through all the dog-eared facts he could recall about Teilhard. He knew who Teilhard was no matter what some modern, gimmicky textbook was about to claim—philosopher, Jesuit priest, mystic, if there really were such things, paleontologist. Silenced by his church for his theories of evolution, for his concept of Noogenesis, for doubting the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. Had dared to agree with other scientists that the universe may have begun with a Big Bang. Died on Easter Sunday in New York in 1955. Or was it 1956? It annoyed Professor James Hadley not to be sure of his facts.

       If this book is worth anything at all, it will at least give the exact time of the man’s birth and death, he thought. He swung the pages apart like floodgates.

       His eyes beheld a black-and-white photograph shot from behind a tangle of reeds and grasses on the banks of a body of water reflecting the plants on the opposite shore. Against a sky of long, gray clouds stood three pyramids, the second and third farther back. Beneath the photograph was the caption:

The Pyramids of Giza. Some years later, memories of Egypt
were to stimulate the writing of ‘La Vie Cosmique.’

Then there were Teilhard’s own words about a saying he had recalled:

The world is still being created, and in the world it
is Christ who is being fulfilled.’ When I had heard
and understood this saying, I looked, and I saw, as
though in an ecstasy, that through all nature, I was
immersed in God. (‘La Vie Cosmique,’ 1916) *

       The professor’s eyes swam through the photograph again and again. They turned to the flowerbed, which looked bare and barren now, sad, unattended, forsaken by the rake-wielding woman who had buried the bulbs so lovingly there. Her husky voice came back to him. “I just had to drop those tulip bulbs in any which way and cover them over.”

       Suddenly he saw that the flowerbed wasn’t empty at all. Anyone crossing the brown lawn would snub the bed as if there were nothing to see but a small post of granite in a circle of plain, dull soil. But he knew now. He stooped down and pressed his palm to the ground, as though feeling for a heartbeat. He knew now. He knew. Beneath that soil were bulbs buried any which way by loving, hurried hands trusting that they’d squirm themselves right somehow and, tah-daah, come Easter, tulips! He could almost see them mooching around on their roots, then sitting through the long winter, alive and waiting for their time. Waiting. Suddenly bursting into visible life!

       The ground seemed to drop from under him like a trap door. But he remained above the hole, sure-footed and full of delight. His jaw dropped loose in complete surrender as waves of peace washed over him, through him. His fingers released their grip on the textbook. It tumbled to the ground.

       Oh, no, the punch clock! He looked at his watch, snatched up the book, and ran across the lawn toward to Payson Smith Hall. His feet felt airborne. He flew down the stairs and flung wide the pair of metal doors as easily as if they were made of paper. Though he could see the movement of his own legs, he could not feel the floor. The black and white tiles of the long hall passed under his feet like a filmstrip that his body was suspended above.

       He pushed the time-room door open, effortlessly again, thinking he could have walked right through it. A forgotten, black lunch can lay gaping on a blue, Formica-topped table, like a black hole. Near the can lay a few crumpled napkins and some crumbs. The round face of the punch clock on the wall presented itself to him like a cartoon, like something unreal, non-existent in the space he occupied now. He watched his hands take Theresa McKnight’s card and line up the out-Friday space with the red dot below the six.

       “Don’t punch me out till exactly three-thirty,” she had told him.

       He laughed, ecstatic, still floating on waves of peace, his eyes fixed on the face of the clock. How crazy, he thought. How crazy to be waiting for the hands of a clock to come around! How absurd! There is no three-thirty. No yesterday. No today. No time.

       When the big hand came around to the six, he watched his thumbs press the bar. It made an awfully big bang.

###

      * The picture described and the caption come from: The Teilhard de Chardin Album. Compiled and edited by Jeanne Mortier and Marie-Louis Auboux. English Edition. New York, Harper & Row, 1966. pp.36-37.

 

Volume 2 Issue 1
June 2004

MOVIES

Vittorio Messori: A Passion of Violence and Love

POETRY

Robert Bagg: Chimera

George Keithley: Looking at the Man

Tom Sheehan: We Share A Universe

POLITICS

Edward M. Fashing: WTO Meeting In Cancun, Mexico, October 2003

Robert Blair Kaiser: Holy Words Holy War

Senator Edward M. Kennedy: "Leading This Country to a Perilous Place"

Joseph E. Mulligan, SJ: The Fight for Bread and Justice Goes On in Central America

ROME DIARY

Robert Blair Kaiser:
Latest Chapter
Rome Diary Index


THEOLOGY

José María Vigil, CMF: La opción por los pobres es opción por la justicia, y no es preferencial: Para un reencuadramiento teologico-sistemático de la OP

José María Vigil, CMF: The Option for the Poor is an Option for Justice, and Not Preferential: A New Theological-Systematic Framework for the Option for the Poor

Leobard D’Souza: There Are Many Mother Teresas

TRAVEL

Michael Saso: The Advanced Asian Research and Language Institute, Beijing, Announces New, Inter-Disciplinary BA, MA, & PhD Programs, 10-14 Day Tibetan Pilgrimages, and Opportunities To Help in Building and Sponsoring Schools in Greater Tibet

VITAL SPEECHES

Anthony Padovano: The American Catholic Church: Assessing the Past, Discerning the Future

 

 

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Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.

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Robert R. Rahl
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