I was led up to the roof of the abbey after spending an hour or in my private room (monastic nomenclature aside, I couldn't bring myself to call it a cell) after the evening meal. There on the roof I found the Abbot, who'd introduced himself to me as Weaver, staring up at the night sky, smoking a pipe. He turned as he heard up clambering through the trap door, myself and a smaller, balding monk. I hadn't seen brother Lurch since before dinner.
Abbot Weaver welcomed me to join him by the ledge, motioning with expansive gestures. The smaller monk leaned against the wall of the stairwell.
"Well, well, Vagabond. What'dya think so far?" he asked, smiling. I had the sneaking suspicion he was drunk.
"Well, dinner was lovely" I said. I joined him in an awkward silence as he smoked his pipe and we gazed at the stars.
"So!" he said, finally. "How does a young man such as yourself happen to become, er...a young man such as yourself?" he asked, waving one hand in front of him.
"Well, it just kind of happened, I guess. I pulled the yellow straw."
He looked at me as though I'd spoken gibberish.
"Well, there was this man...who, come to think of it, looked a lot like you- that came to town, and offered to let us draw straws to determine...well, I don't know. what we'd be, what we'd do... Anyway, I drew the yellow one. No one else volunteered to draw. But, he said the yellow one meant I have to travel. So, here I am." He puffed silently on his cigar, looking out over the woods surrounding the Abbey. Finally, he spoke.
I coughed, choking slightly on the cigar, and he waited, not so much patient, as impassive, as I composed myself. I looked up at hi, my eyes watering and my smile weak. I gave a small laugh and a large shrug. He snorted.
"Oh, come off it, Vagabond, I explained how this works. I know your background and we'll help you write some new chapters. We can't go all the way back but maybe we'll polish up some of the exposition. But along the way you'll tell me what I want to know and please don't act surprised by what I already do. Do know, that is." he finished helpfully.
"Yes, I followed." I said, continuing to cough a little. He muttered smartass and turned back to the view. After a while, though, the questioning began.
"So. Tell me about the first. Tell me about Coloring Book."
I winced. While I'd thought of her often, Coloring Book's name was one I hadn't heard in a while.
"She, um...she doesn't speak to me anymore." I said. He nodded, and motioned for me to continue. "I blame her new fellow, of course. But then, you know that, right?" I added, perhaps too acidly.
"No, actually. Your motives and all that we don't know. I know enough about you and CB, and that she doesn't speak to you. But kid, common mistake. I never know what any one is thinking. Until they tell me. You sound like you miss her."
"Of course I do!" I said, flicking ash off the balcony.
"Don't do that." He chided. "Well, what about Girl-In-Plaid? Y'miss her?" I thought about it moment, trying to compose my thoughts, and afraid I might upset him with my answer. He was proving a little temperamental.
"Well, no. I mean, we had great times. And, I loved her. But, we were so young, and it was a long time ago. I know she's happy, somewhere, doing something. I think she's married, now. I'm happy for her. But no, I don't miss her." He nodded again, and shrugged. "Well, maybe you're better off than we thought. What about the Brass Girl?" I choked again, but regained my composure more quickly. I put out my cigar, and set it on the railing.
"No. I don't miss the Brass Girl. I was young, and stupid. And possibly sick. And so was she. I don't know how much of what we felt was real. We just...needed each other. Needed something. I don't know, it was a long time ago, and I was falling apart. I don't miss any of it."
"She has a child, now, you know."
"YES, I do, and so did Orphansong, before she-before she died." He patted me softly on the back. "We don't have to go through all of it tonight. I'm starting to get a good feeling for where your heads at, though, and that helps. Will you be able to sleep?" He asked.
"After this litany? not likely." I answered bitterly. He offered to have some wine sent to me, but I declined. Mainly, I thought maybe he was tricking me. But he shrugged and said, "Suit yourself." as we walked back to the stair case. As before, he left me at the threshold, but his final words were more tender this time. "You know, you could try calling Coloring Book. It's worth a shot."
"Thanks, but no. I've tried. It's no use." He sighed , and again patted me on the back.
I descended the stairs with the smaller, bald monk. "I'm Slinky Vagabond." I introduced myself, as I followed behind him.
"Brother Vespacian." He muttered, keeping his neck bent, not taking his eyes off the steps. It seemed an ostentatious name for a monk, especially one so small-to say nothing of the irony.
"Is there anyone else staying here at the Abbey?" I asked. He grunted in reply, still not turning. "I'm looking for a friend, she sent me a postcard-" At this he whirled, and thrust one finger up to my face. "Who sent you? Let me be clear. We don not- DO NOT- share our guest list. not even," And here he paused, presumably for dramatic effect, and pointed his one, bony finger to the sky. "With other guests!"
And with that, he turned and sprinted down the steps, abandoning me in the stairwell.