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By Erwin Brea

Copyright 1999 Erwin Brea


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And so, in this small and lovely green little patch of garden there could
be found ten monks kneeling beside each other every morning: but not in
prayer, as might have been supposed, but deeply lost in agricultural
pursuits. The leader of these morning  expeditions, Juan Ruiz de la Cruz, a
small and chubby little monk, was hunched in the middle of the group that
morning, round the group that was gathered round him. He was quick-spoken,
and blustery in his speech, which is often the case with round and portly
men; but his resolutions, like his actions, were quick and true to the mark.
At the present moment he was explaining a certain bit of egregrian knowledge
onto the others, who displayed not their inattentiveness (if, indeed, there
were any).

    By the sound of Francisco's slippers on the hard and faded stones leading
to the garden, Ruiz halted in the middle of a sentence, and stared intently
at Francisco he entered the group. With this motion, all others followed
suit; and in a contemptous manner, Ruiz snickered once, and raised his
eyebrows tartly at the intruder.

    "Good morning, brother!" cheerily cried Ruiz, who, with his
characterstically rough voice, hid a slight tint of annoyance at the
disturbance; "will not you join us at this gathering? What you see before you
is what you might call a humble assembly before the beauty of God, if you
were disposed to call it anything at all."

    "Indeed," smiled Franciso; " I am not at all inclined!"

    At this, Juan arched his eyebrows in a most knowing manner.
    "But if I were, I would term it as just a loving group of loving monks in
a lovely garden: that's all," finished Francisco.

    Bowing down referentially to Ruiz: for he was his elder by at least
twenty years: Francisco found an empty gap between two monks, situated
himself there, and smiled roundly at every one of them.

    "And so," Ruiz continued, "back to the point I was on: even this small
and tender shoot," here he directed his eyes toward his upturned hand on
which lay a small and withered flower,"needs the Love and Caress of God. It
has been rummaged and misused; that is the basis of Life; but surely even
this young and tender shoot could stand to be watered by the love of God, and
it will, by our diligence and effort. In a sense, this young and tender shoot
represents every life: ignobly born by bestial hest and command, but risen
from the ground by eternal primordial nature to strive between its brother
and sister for the same patch of ground which shall both be their Cradle and
Grave. Good and Care shall triumph over all at the End."

    Pausing here, and the other monks realizing this to be the peremptory
coda of an impromptu sermon, they all murmered a whispered Amen, and looked
up toward God. 

    As Francisco closed his eyes, and tried to feel the dark and mystic
poetry of Ruiz's clear and true sermon through the pores of his skin, the
membranes of his ears, and the shuddering of his heart, the group was
disturbed by the rude screeching of the monastery door. Since the door was
not very far away from the cloister, they were immediatly disturbed by its
auricular presence; and because the presence of a stranger was a rare thing
in the monastery, all the monks stood up at once, except for Ruiz who
maintained his postion, but augmented it with a hard frown on his face. The
steps echoed loudly toward them, and, as they all looked at each other,
various looks of wonder and curiousity countananced themselves on their faces.

    Finally, an object shyly presented itself at the cloister door: it was a
basket, and carrying it was a short young girl, blushing quite violently,
who, upon appearing before so many holy men enexpectedly, curstied nervously.

    She was of a dark hue, which proclaimed her Moorish descent. The only
garment that clothed her was a thin and frail purple frock, peculiar to the
fondness of that race for its ostentatious taste in clothing; however, her
raiment was not of any quality - indeed, it boasted of no such advantage as
must needs suit a poor peasant.

    Ruiz, from his prostrate position in the middle of the cloister garden,
    "A hundred pardons, but there are no ladies admitted to these grounds.
You must immediately take your leave." Eyeing the products she had before
her, he added, "and I am afraid your goods must be purchased elsewhere."

    In response, the young girl, who had medium-length brown hair, and was of
a slight build, curtsied again, and, kneeling on one knee and placing the
basket before her, said, "These flowers, picked by the aging hand of my
slowly dying mother are our only source of income; but today I have breached
these hallowed walls by the courage that only Necessity can bring. You see,
my mother stands on her last thoughts: she is dying as I speak; and so, by
your generous purchases, " here she navigated her sadly pleading eye toward
every monk, "you will be giving a Mother a few more seconds of Life, and a
daughter a few more smiles."

    The monks remained silent to such an appeal; they knew no response.
Looking towards each other in that bland manner that people have when in a
quandry, they searched every face other than their own for an answer, but
found none. However, Francisco's face had become, at the commencement of the
girl's speech, a silent grave; for his eyes penetrated the young girl's. So
strucken was he by her beauty and youth, that he was immediately caught in
the clutches of an almost maniacal piteous passion.

(End of excerpt....)



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