by Michael Díaz Feito
Table of Contents|
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Chapter 2: Perfects
“Is it my horns?” said Fèlix the Relic-Monger. His brown face, deeply pitted by blemishes, pressed against the grille. He scanned the abbess of Crunia. He was referring to twin boils on his forehead.
Eyes averted, Antía ignored the question. He had tried to disrupt her, but she continued speaking Galego, a torrent of prologue. He could imagine laughing at her lazy voice and gangly gestures if he were not humorless. Only idiots smile. He understood her anyway.
“Bring me the bodies,” she was saying, “of Saints Paula and Eustochium.”
In Béziers — or Toulouse? — Fèlix had heard the Cathars preach that the body was a filthy tunic sewn by Satan to trap our holy sparks. He agreed. This facilitated his business, too. Toes, hands, forearms, teeth, femurs, jaws, even whole anatomies, what he stole was nothing but hairy dust. His buyers, however, read the blank pages of saints’ bones like gospel and paid accordingly for relics.
“Find them in Bethlehem.” The vestibule hummed with the abbess’s voice. It was a gray room, plain stone, except for an enormous fresco by the entrance. The fresco depicted Christ’s disembodied wound. A pink slit, shaped like a cat’s eye, with a red inner lining. Obscene.
Antía now spoke Normaund. “We will reward you with four hundred sixty-one marcs in maravedís and deniers.”
“Yes, Dompna Antía,” Fèlix said. “That’s fair. Thank you.”
“Frater Luís has agreed to travel with you.”
The abbey doors opened. A monk in a rain-soaked black habit entered the vestibule. He kept on the cowl. He kneeled by the fresco, kissing Christ’s wound. He ran delicate fingers around the cut’s red lip. Moistened by humidity, the pigment trembled at his touch, a small response of refracted light. Desire for the painted plaster itself repulsed Fèlix. Obscene!
“Frater Luís will help you. He speaks French,” Antía said. “He will also verify that you don’t cheat us.”
The monk, still cowled, stopped at Fèlix’s back. He was small and plump. His wet habit smelled like grease and smoke. He crossed himself.
“Fine,” Fèlix said. “While I’m here, Dompna Antía—”
“Would you like to see what I’ve got for sale?”
“I understand, Dompna Antía. These were for Compostela, but—”
“Leave them. Frater Luís will pay you.”
The grille clattered shut.
As he untied a satchel of detritus for the stinky monk, Fèlix said to himself, I am the agent of God, sent to test the idolaters. The title burdened him. He was proud to bear it. He listed what was for sale, a treasury of secondhand loot from Constantinople.
“Imprimis, a tooth of Saint Basil’s, and also a toe. Item, a splinter from the table of the Last Supper. Item, a trace of the blood of Our Lord. Item, a shard off Saint Cosmas’s foot. Item, the foreskin of Our Lord. Item, a pebble on which Jacob dreamed. Item, a vial of the milk of Our Lord’s mother. Item, a not inconsiderable piece of John the Baptist...”
The painted wound watched.
Copyright © 2017 by Michael Díaz Feito