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Of Godric, his friends, and Reginald.
Five friends I had, and two of them snakes. Tune and Fairweather they were, thick round as a man's arm, my bedmates and playfellows, keepers of my skimped hearth and hermit's heart till in a grim pet I bade them go that day and nevermore to come again, nevermore to hiss their snakelove when they saw me drawing near or coil themselves for warmth about my shaggy legs. They went. They never came again.I spied them now and then, puddling my way home like a drowned man from dark
Wear with my ballocks shriveled to beansize in their sack and old One-eye scarce a barnacle's length clear of my belly and, crying a-mercy. It was him as I sought in freezing Wear to teach a lesson that he never learned nor has to this day learned though wiser, you'd think, for sixty winters' dunking in bonechilling, treacherous Wear. Not him. I would spy my gentle Tune and watchdog, firetooth Fairweather watching me as still as death in the long grass or under a stone as I hied home sodden on cracked feet, but none of us ever let on that we were seeing what we saw until we saw no longer. I miss them no more or hardly do, past most such sweet grieving now at age above a hundred if 'I've got time straight for once. For old Godric's now more dead than quick, a pile of dark rags left to steamand scorch now by the fire. It's the missing themnow I miss.
That's two. The third was Roger Mouse, as stout of heart and limb as foul of mouth, plowing the stormy seas for pilfer or prize. He had an eye outever for the willing maids, and no matter to Mouse were they flaxenlocked Dane or black Spaniard, old as earth or cherryripe for the plucking. No matterto Mouse if the deck was awash and storm in the rigging. He'd play with them at diddelydurn the weather be damned and cared not a pin that the eyes of the oars were upon them. What a man was Mouse! What a sinner too was Mouse, but none was ever a fonder friend, and what with all the man's great mirth, there was less room left in him for truly mortal sin than in your landlocked, pennypinching chapmen working their cheerless stealth at the fairs where we peddled.
We had rabbitfur, goosefeather, beeswax, calfskin, garlic and gauds galore. We'd load them cheap the one place and unload them dear the other for any fatrump mistress or dungfoot pilgrim with cockles in his hat that had the pence to squander. We grew rich till one fine day the Saint Esprit was ours with her sharp prow that sliced the waves - like cheese. Mouse stood so high he said it blew the caps off men who stood astern when he broke wind. Godric was captain helmsman with a canny nose for weather, and captain Mouse was Godric's charm against the Evil Eye, for, mark you, Mouse's sin smacked less of evil than of larkishness the likes of which Our Lord himself could hardly help but wink at when he spied it out in whore and prodigal.
I loved Mouse. Together we saved a Christian king from infidels and not a silver coin to split between us for our pains. Years afterward, two hundred miles and more away in my dry hut, I saw Mouse in the eye of my heart go down with Saint Esprit off the Welsh rocks. He cried out the only name he knew me by, which was not Godric, and in the ear of my heart I heard him, helpless.
Ailred was fourth. They say as a babe he reared up like a lily in his tub and spoke the Pater Noster through nor would take of his, mother's teat for the forty days and nights of Lent save Sabbaths. He grew to a sheaf of bones made fast round the middle with a monk's rope.
The pictish king of Galloway was the devil fleshed. He had the gold eyes of a toad and a forked beard. On cold nights he'd slit a slave's belly open like a sack so he could dabble his feet in the warm bowels. He tied together the limbs of women in labor for sport and drank blood. Ailred went to him. Throned on a rock, the king was picking his teeth with the bone, of a weasel when Ailred knelt and watered his shins with tears. They, say a light went forth from Ailred then that blinded the king's gold eyes, and a creature was seen passing forth out of the king hung all over with bottles of the blood he'd drunk, and the king swore holy faith from that day on and took him the name, of Allred for his own. Thus with no loss of seed or purity, my friend got him a son that day upon the rock, and Jesu a forkbeard, pictish knight though blind as a bat from that day on.
Ailred himself they made abbot after a time at Rievaulx where so great was his meekness the fat monks vied with each other to try it till one day one of them, finding him flat in a swoon from an attack of the stone, plucked him up as weighed no more than the weight of his thin bones and cast him onto the fire. But Ailred forgave him, wouldn't you know. He'd let them harm no hair of the monk's head for the mischief he'd done. Nor was Allred himself so much as singed.Godric. Copyright © by Frederick Buechner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.