The secret I felt thrust upon me is nothing I wish to claim; a syllable it was that earned me this room and in itself the syllable was true. From my small town near Pisa where bread was scarce I’ve journeyed here to a room of my own, impossibly neat and clean, warm with candles and a beautiful book to keep my counsel and a window that looks at the tower. I’m not a student of geometry, but if the shadow reaches my window, won’t the tower crush me when it falls? Yes, I said. My soul was worth a syllable. Yes, I have often dreamed of studying with the Little Brothers at this school. I have no brothers of my own, I told the friar when he asked, and neither do my sisters. If he didn’t follow my logic, am I to blame? He stroked my head and questioned whether I could devote my life to poverty and repentance. I have, I said, as they have devoted themselves to me. He smiled and asked me for a lesson. I told him about the second thief—how salvation was at hand even in the shadow of the cross—and kept to myself what I thought about the first. He brought me here, bid me pray and took my tears for tears of joy. When the tower falls, will I hear the bells in time to repent? They will find me out. The little dog who sleeps outside the confessional knows the difference when I pass, but I will learn to read and write and take what they put before me and if the tower doesn’t smite me where I sit, is it wrong to feel I’m forgiven in advance for taking a room that was meant for a boy?

Copyright © January 08, 2008 David Hodges

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