In which our narrator posits an admittedly tenuous but, perhaps, not entirely ridiculous (ok, fine, entirely ridiculous) correspondence between the 109th United States Congress and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And that was all well and good.
It was not presently the Word that was troubling the good Abbot Hastert, however, but, rather, a more pedestrian brand of logos — mere words, as it were; specifically, the words his Benedictine brother Foley had recently IM’ed one of the monastery’s young novices. Words suggesting that the brother’s interest in said novitiate extended a bit beyond that fellow-feeling a good Christian was expected to exhibit as a matter of course and into somewhat more questionable territory. Jesus was on record as having said many things, but “I always use lotion and the hand,” was not among them.
One was never, of course, overjoyed to hear of a brother’s attempt to bugger an underage boy, but this, Hastert reflected as he settled into his chair at the chapter hall’s table, was a particularly inconvenient time. Already there had been the ugliness with Brothers Delay and Cunningham and Abramoff and Ney. Rome was nervous. The laity was restless. The Franciscans were no doubt delighted. And now he had to deal with this guy going around asking a sixteen-year-old novice if his “little guy” was “limp… or growing.”
Quite frankly, the abbot didn’t need this shit.
He looked around the table. It was a pretty ghastly cast of characters. There was Brother Boehner across the way, looking like a local weatherman gotten up in sackcloth. Brother Reynolds next to him, glasses fogged, sweating like Porky Pig in a Russian bath. Beside him Alexander and Shimkus. Santorum, the idiot goatherd, had somehow crept into the room as well and now sat slumped over with his staff in a corner.
Brother Foley himself, the man of the hour, stood at the front of the room, chained to the wall. Hastert looked down for a moment to the scroll before him on the table. He looked up again, eyeing the monk with disbelief.
“For Christ’s sake, Brother Mark, you really wrote this stuff?” Foley smiled sheepishly and shrugged.
“How’s my favorite young stud doing?”
“Did you spank it this weekend yourself?”
“I’m as hard as a rock?”
“Cute butt bouncing in the air?”
“I mean, c’mon, man, really? What on earth were you thinking?”
“I dunno. I just sorta liked him, I guess.” The abbot threw his hands in the air.
“You just sorta liked him, you guess? Aw, Jesus. Mark, buddy, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret here — you’re not supposed to try and schtup your novices. Just generally considered a bad idea. I mean, really, how do you think this is going to play in Umbria?”
“Man on dog! Man on dog!” The goatherd Santorum started shrieking in his corner of the room. Hastert chucked a goblet in his general direction.
“Somebody, please, shut that jackass up.”
He shifted in his seat. Christ, he’d gotten fat. His goddamn robes were starting to chafe again. Why him, Lord? Why anyone? He was definitely getting plowed on Benedictine tonight. He got up from his chair and began pacing the tiles in the back of the room.
“Mark, me and the other brothers have been talking and we’ve decided we’re gonna have to cut you loose. You’re out. Done. We got a nice little abbey over in Galicia somewhere where you can go and relax until all this dies down. There’s a donkey out back we’ll put you on tomorrow morning and send you off with a couple of townies, because right now, with the big convocation coming up and the Franciscans stirring up trouble, we just can’t have this sort of thing around.
Honestly — get a ruler and measure it for me ? Mark, kiddo, you just can’t say that.” The sound of footsteps approached outside in the hallway. There was knock and then the door flew open, and Cardinal Cheney, fresh from Rome, stalked into the room, a vision in red. His retinue followed neatly in tow. Hastert blanched at the sight.
“This your guy, Denny?” the Cardinal asked, pointing at Brother Foley. “I’m taking over here. Grand Inquisitor, right? George decided he wants me to be the decider.”
“Yes, um, Your Eminence,” the abbot said, pausing for a moment to figure out just what to tell the crazy bastard.
“We’ve actually just finished with Brother Foley here. He’s to be sent away — no noise, no fuss, all very low-key. A nice quiet spot in Spain.”
“That’s the plan, Your Eminence.”
The Cardinal looked around the room. He frowned.
“Nah, that’s a lousy plan. Tell you what — let’s torture him instead.”
“Torture. Whips, chains, the iron maiden, the rack. Pokers in the eye — that sort of thing. Good stuff. Gets ‘em talking. Tell you anything you want to know.”
“But he’s already told us everything we want to know. His novitiate. The messages. A few emails. That’s all. It’s done. He’s leaving. No more trouble. Off to Spain.”
“He a terrorist?”
“A terrorist. You know. Bang, boom, kablooey. Gotta find out. One-percent, right? Better safe than sorry. Here now, somebody get me a car battery.”
“I’m sorry, Your Eminence, but we don’t have any.”
“To the cold room then.”
“Sorry, we don’t have that either.”
“A couple of rubber hoses?”
“Damn it, Denny. What kind of a joint are you running here, anyway? What kind of half-assed Inquisition is this? Menstrual blood? Attack dogs? A metal baton?”
“Jeeeesus.” The Cardinal let out a long, low whistle. “That’s pathetic. Well boys, I guess there’s just one thing for it. Brothers, get out of those clothes. It’s naked pyramid time.”
“Yup. An oldie but a goodie. Just ask Cardinal Rumsfeld.”
“But, Your Eminence, really, let’s be reasonable, is this truly what He would want…?”
“Denny, go fuck yourself. Strip down or it’s your ass. Now then, anyone got a camera on them? We’re totally gonna want pictures of this.”