The Salvation of John Ambert

“We live in a challenged world, where the lion is devouring the lamb.”

The Reverend John Ambert put his sermon down for a moment to reflect. Except for his candelabra, the parsonage was dark. However, a wash of red light outside was just beginning to expose the bedroom to a palpable clarity, as an image on film. He was straightening the alb sleeves and amice in his mirror when it came to him. Taking up his pen he crossed out the word challenged and substituted evil. Nodding with satisfaction he now attended to his face, an eyebrow pluck here, a bit more rouge there; and as he commenced reading the sermon in its entirety a third and final time, henceforth he paused only for sips of his chalice wine.

This holy man was quite fond of his attire, a reverence originating when he was a boy and his older sisters had often dressed him up as their minion; and this affection had only escalated into his fledgling adulthood. In the case of his vestments, although it was optional he wore the biretta (he liked how it contrasted with his blonde hair, making the latter seem to glow), and not until the height of summer would he dispense with the cappa, the ‘black cape.’ To his great pride he kept more than a dozen pectoral necklaces, the choice of which to wear on Sunday contingent on the sermon, the day’s sacred significance, or his mood; and these hallowed crosses of the Trinity he augmented with gold collar buttons, cufflinks, and a large pearl broach. By sunrise his mirror reflected the image of a delicate though strikingly attractive man of God, the halo compliments of angels and the old candelabra — the crowning touch, as always, his great gem bracelets, which he shackled one each to a wrist and ankle.

The Reverend John Ambert was one of eight children (the sole male), the previous seven also products of a strenuous rhythm; and as the last (conceived just shy of his parents’ decision of chastity), his vocation had naturally been prearranged. As soon as he’d reached an age at which his calling, of its most rudimentary earthly and spiritual duties, was understood, he’d accepted it in complete assent; indeed, with a burgeoning rigor. Gregarious from the start, in part due to the indulgence of his seven adoring siblings (they’d nicknamed him Card’nal for his innate abilities in leadership, organization, and devotion), as he grew, his gift for gab took increasingly the form of outspokenness in his repudiation of cliques, mediation of arguments, dispersal of bullies, and incessant pursuit of other Godly causes.

This distinguishing quality followed John Ambert into adulthood. And yet, though outwardly compassionate and affable, The Reverend John Ambert harbored an omnipresent fear that he might be perceived by some as unsuited to his calling, as if the sacred cloth gave the impression of its meek wearer rather as a pedestrian, or worse, a charlatan, his diminutive stature and high voice undermining his virtues in the public mind as untenable. To subvert impressions that he might be too fragile for his duties, or even reticent, he fashioned a conspicuous persona of spiritual strength and consummate moral conviction, both stemming from an intricate comprehension of the human condition in its historic and present implications (he was a student of religious history, current affairs, public opinion, and above all, knowledge), all the while maintaining a robust schedule — which he did his best to nudge in favor of community service over private penance. He was proud of his early record as a virtuous and enlightened Child of God, which he prayed manifested in his every gesture and word, especially during his Sunday sermons. Of the divine significance of the number three, he delivered his sermons three times, at seven, nine, and eleven o’clock. Lately his homilies, as that to which he had made the last edit, embraced a particular devotion to tolerance. “It is lamentable to think,” soon he would proclaim to the usual hundreds in attendance at his services, “that here and now, in this, the twenty-first century following the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior — this awesome time of advanced reason and knowledge, hallmarks of mankind’s greatness — it is lamentable to think that marriage is still universally proclaimed the sole privilege of a man and a woman, God’s only ‘sacred’ union; further, that it is still universally believed heterosexuality is the one and only ‘true’ province of a legitimate soul and a legitimate body. Yet consider this: Once it was also a foregone conclusion that epileptics were possessed by the devil, that African Americans were perceived as nothing more than beasts of burden, and that women were denied the vote on the basis that men considered them inferior decision-makers. My people, know that it is but a matter of time before the misconceptions about homosexuals shall too be vanquished, that under man’s laws they will enjoy the same privileges as heterosexuals, as they already do under God’s....” The other reason The Reverend John Ambert held three services was because, with each, memory and chatter increased exponentially as his awakening parishioners began exporting his messages well beyond the confines of their one-hour seclusion, the net effect being that soon their passion (if not always aligned with The Reverend’s) mimicked, if not surpassed, his own.

The Reverend John Ambert was a vigorously intelligent man; at university he had graduated in the top twenty-five of his class and been mentioned by many among the faculty as a bona fide candidate for the Fulbright Scholarship to continue his religious studies abroad; at seminary he had graduated number one; and so far, during his three years behind the pulpit, he had not once wanted for a sermon topic. As a product of the new century, this time of recharged sexual promiscuity and intense political partisanship, he was especially mindful of the everyday concerns, stresses, and temptations of his flock, and strove to address these with language that was transparent, empathetic, and useful. Always straining for balance between instruction and enlightenment, he nevertheless believed that he had already proved an adeptness at distilling right from wrong on many subjects, traditional and modern, from the most basic calls to faith, hope, marriage, parenting, peace, soulful wellbeing, and wisdom, to humble directives on latter-day topics ranging from anger management to workplace harmony. He would intone: “Yea, though the righteous walk in light, the brightest light shines on the sinners.” Above all he felt at ease navigating that most difficult of topics, sin — from the seven deadly sins, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath, to those he deemed prevailing sins, foremost among them trespassing, violence, and intolerance. He loved his flock, whom he called his Folks. From his pastoral apex in the old cathedral he had already admonished them to supplement their faith with good works. Though, of course, this notion of salvation was controversial, he defended it steadfastly, his rationale being that good works are faith’s “checks and balances”; that is, that good works (manifestation of the mind) must flow in tandem with faith (manifestation of the heart). “It is written that we who uphold Jesus Christ as our Savior are already forgiven of our sins through faith alone,” he asserted. “Yet such absolution is given only for our original sin, that which is innate in all human beings since the time of the Garden. Mortal sin — adultery, murder, rape, and the like — because it can only be forgiven at Judgment, and because forgiveness then is not even guaranteed, must therefore be vanquished during our mortal lives. Thus good works, like faith, naturally stem from Christ’s teachings, which commend moral exactitude.”

Not surprisingly, this declaration caused a stir. The local, and also the regional and national, publications of the Church had immediately featured intensive commentary, the prevailing message being condemnatory, of course, with cries among clergy and lay alike for punishment and censure. Yet instead of calling a summary inquisition the hierarchy laid low, that the furor might get ‘swept under the rug’; the elders chastised the young pastor by letter only, in the hope that it would make him come to his senses. Meanwhile, among The Reverend Ambert’s parishioners reactions came in somewhat mixed, from whispered repudiation (and even acceptance), to underground debates in an ardent quest to imagine what influences or impulses had propelled him to such “heretical nonsense” (or “brilliant insight”), to vociferous rage (primarily among the most conservative), which ignited, in the least, confrontation and demands for full clarification. In one particularly chiding affront (an email), a parishioner may have spoken for all detractors: “Shame on you, Rev. Ambert, in your haughty attempt to pin salvation on ‘good works!’ That, sir, is a sin, your sin! For faith, as every true believer knows, is the holy legacy of our Savior’s sacrifice — by His death on the cross He bore our sins and forgave them! On the contrary, sir, this is not our work to do; Christ did it for us, that we shall be saved through our faith in Him!” Even so, against a heightened rigorous scrutiny by his elders The Reverend John Ambert remained resolute in his conviction, and to reinforce it, in subsequent services cited examples of what, to his insistence, constituted a “litany” of good works toward salvation: “ order to safeguard against adultery one must not only resist temptation but also minister to those who feel helpless in its clutches; in order to safeguard against greed one must demonstrate charity; in order to safeguard against intolerance one must purge the self and act for the welfare of others unconditionally....” That Monday, he’d received another letter.

In truth, John Ambert had come to these assertions from a longstanding melancholy in which burned a seemingly inextinguishable, and, he was certain, unpardonable guilt.

As has already been established, John Ambert was a gifted leader. Among all the boys in the neighborhood, it had been he who had typically headed up the school’s social activities; he who had organized the summer baseball games at the park and the winter hockey matches at the frozen pond outside of town; it had been he, small in size yet great in stature, to whom the others had turned for advice in every kind of conflict, from minor squabbles to territorial disputes. Throughout his youth John Ambert had worked, with unshakable conviction, to shape his character such that it would be distinguished by an adherence to the purest constraints of objectivity, fellowship, and fairness; in a phrase, to project himself as an eminently reliable and honorable servant. Yet this effort had not been easy, given his home environment. His mother, Dot Ambert, was woefully demur and a consummate worrier; she especially worried about her tormented son, and had become so convinced that it was only a matter of time until she’d worried herself to death over him that, mid-marriage to her husband, on the basis that she felt she’d not the strength of will any longer to co-manage them, she’d relinquished all her rightful powers of parenting to him. Jack Ambert, a mill worker, had passed his perfectionism to his son, and was also prone to moods and provocation. Strapped in youth with a stutter he’d never been able to shake, throughout his life he’d forsaken many opportunities for fulfillment for fear of ridicule or reproach. In John, he’d hoped to behold a reflection of himself as he could have been: a pillar of his vocation. Instead, in his only son he beheld little more than a dreamer and weakling — “The Runt,” he called John — and altogether dismissed the boy for his brooding, pensiveness, and, predominantly, what the father ultimately decried as an ardent femininity.

Naturally, young John Ambert had withdrawn. For solace he’d immersed himself in books: fantasies and classic novels at first, but soon also the works of the modern philosophers, particularly of the rationalists Immanuel Kant, for his belief that reason is the source of morality, and Arthur Schopenhauer, for his belief that individual morality arises from “collective consciousness”; and too, he devoured the works of the Christian philosophers, Reinhold Niebuhr and others. All this absorption of so much critical thinking, in addition to strengthening his intellect, also fortified his will; the pivotal consequences being the rise of an effusive love of self (born of a burgeoning pity of his stoic father) and resolute independence (born of pity in kind of his passive mother). One day, he was twelve, in response to a particularly upbraiding remark in which the father had essentially pegged the “dreamer” as an aimless good-for-nothing, John Ambert had retaliated by saying: “At least my life is whole, the result of a healthy philosophical foundation!” At the time, the father had been half-asleep in his favorite chair, the plush sofa kind, a hand-me-down from his mother, when slowly he’d stood up. “A healthy philosophical foundation, you say,” he’d yawned. He’d continued, “Is this what you mean?”, and slapped John Ambert so forcefully that the blow had knocked him to the floor. As usual, by the time the boy had been able to rise again, the father had disappeared.

These were the principal laws John Ambert had learned in youth: the law of wrongdoing and consequence; and the law of dominance, one over another.

Years before the comfort of books, whenever the father had chastised or clouted John Ambert he had afterward immediately run for sanctuary to one of his sisters’ rooms, where the sweet voice of accordance and the color pink had salved his wounds. Yet a time had eventually come when, instead of scabbing and healing, those injuries had festered like rancid fruit, as bruised as his whole.

As the interests of his older sisters had transitioned to school events, sleepovers, and boys, John Ambert had redirected his interminable itch for solace to other male peers who were troubled. The core group numbered four: two brothers he’d met at the frozen pond when, happening by, they had invited themselves into the skate; the third befriended with a pack of cigarettes John Ambert had stolen from the pharmacy on a dare; the last a cousin, who was also a black sheep. One day, after the skate and a brief diversion to town to fetch jerky and pop, sauntering back to the woods in the common direction of their respective homes the five boys had encountered another. He was sitting against a tree, humped over a little, a cane at his side, his knees propped almost to the eyes, a large jar of something embraced by both arms like a favorite stuffed animal. They asked the sprite who he was. “Pea-nut But-ter,” the boy grinned. The smoker leaned in. “What’s your last name? And Jelly?” Hackles fogged the frozen air. The boy hadn’t a chance to retreat; the four were upon him in a wisp and stretching him like canvas.

In the crystalline solstice grief gasped from him like smoke rings branding the frozen air. Until then an awful sense of wonder of the yearling’s struggle had kept John Ambert locked in his tracks, for he understood not why the struggle felt empowering. “What are you doing, Card’nal? Get over here and help!” one of them cried. A dead ash leaf lilted then on the lad’s forehead. Then another. And another. Upon each landing, a teardrop made its way down the peanut-butter mask the four were making of the face. When they’d finished, they grabbed John Ambert and threw him into the sauce, whereupon he tasted a mingled sweat of contempt and charity before being thrown back again. As he tumbled away, he made himself believe he could not see the abused as they tore away his pants, savages reeling in vile pleasure, their sticks already aimed.


Ostensibly, John Ambert’s family was devastated by the brutal assault. To Jack Ambert especially, his son’s despicable turn more than confirmed his aberrant sexuality. Often now, with his thoughts of the girly boy, the father would shudder: He’d look in a mirror and see his son. No longer could he golf with the guys that he’d not suddenly be consumed by a feeling of self-loathing, as though he were walking the course in a waddle and conversing in lisps; no longer could he go anywhere in the world that he did not sense a thousand condescending stares. Facing all his friends and acquaintances was an ominous labor. What could he now say about John Ambert: “Still, I am proud”? No. He hated his son.

The father’s first reaction to the brutal attack, of course, had been to slap the boy and stomp away. But Jack Ambert gleaned no satisfaction from this act — though he knew that nothing about his son could provide hope of a full reconciliation: The boy’s fall had opened a wound that neither time, nor mindfulness, nor God Himself could ever heal. Dot Ambert felt no less devastated. She, who’d always listened intently to her son’s soliloquies on good versus evil, conviction versus doubt, fairness, egalitarianism, the Rights of Man..., now she could only hear, whenever she tried to recall the righteousness in him, the police report of his terrible wrong. For months she could not attend church: not just because of her lost faith, but also because of the judgment of peers. Often now she would rub her abdomen and weep, wondering how she could have delivered such an anomaly into the world. Now, of all her children, it was he who constituted the whole of her worries, this “lost sheep!” And as for John Ambert’s sisters, his sanctuary, they had likewise been transformed: pink no more but coal-black; their faces pressed now in perpetual pouts and sneers, their tongues screwed in eternal silence. One of them (probably not coincidentally, the eldest) crystallized the feelings of all when she said, “Shame brother, for far have you strayed from the world you imagined!”

John Ambert was sent to a juvenile detention center for rehabilitation. Test results deemed him “cognizant of the difference between right and wrong,” so drugs were dismissed in favor of counseling. His assigned advocate, Dr. Kurt Neuer, an ancient man with a white Socratic beard and pensive blue eyes, had studied under Carl Jung, and was thus well-versed in the Swiss psychiatrist’s theories on individuation (the psychological process of integrating opposites, such as consciousness with unconsciousness), as well as the master’s contention that, because God’s Word instructs man how to live, all ideas about behavior must be examined within the context of religion. Jung wrote: “Religions are systems of healing for psychic illness. That is why patients force the psychotherapist into the role of a priest, and expect and demand of him that he shall free them from their distress. That is why we psychotherapists must occupy ourselves with problems which, strictly speaking, belong to the theologian.” Dr. Neuer knew much about religion, and also about angst and rebellion and light and lightness. He’d spent nearly the whole of World War II as a prisoner at the German concentration camp Ravensbrück, to which originally only his mother and both sisters had been herded of the contention they were gypsies, but to which he’d soon followed as their “abettor.” His first months (he never knew how many; he’d lost count after six hundred eighty seven days) he’d somehow managed to conquer death in a pit not much bigger than himself, under an iron cover in which was a hole for light no larger than a pfennig, and on rations consisting, in part, of his feces. In the whole, nearly four years (fall 1941 to liberation in April 1945), he’d tell you that he’d survived from “love of the enemy,” hope, and luck, in that order. Upon meeting John Ambert, the first thing he said was:

“Do zu know, in German Ambert means a bright, shining light?”

The boy nodded that he did not.

“Ja! And do zu know also, in German Neuer means new?”

Again the boy nodded that he did not.

“Well, together,” said Dr. Neuer, placing an arm gently around his underling’s shoulder, “ve shall give to a certain bright, shining light a new beginning. Ja? Ja!”

In the beginning, Dr. Neuer met with the boy first thing each morning after breakfast (after, in order to advance the likelihood that his patient would be alert), then again before lunch, and finally at seven o’clock, two hours before compulsory time for the wards to retire. Each of the first two sessions convened one hour; the last, two hours, the second hour reserved for respite, casual conversation (or none, if the boy preferred), and a choice of milk or fruit smoothie plus a generous slice of Bienenstich (yeast dough with Bavarian cream filling, topped with almonds and honey), a favorite of the doctor’s from the old country. Except for when he was in the midst of creating a new poem (often he visited the facility’s outlying woods for reflection and contemplation), John Ambert rarely chose silence over dialogue during the evening session, so taken had he been by Dr. Neuer’s probity and approbation, that these qualities had all but instantly freed him of feelings of apathy and superiority. Nor would Kurt Neuer ever ask John Ambert why he had been an accessory to the rape of the disabled boy; the good doctor refused to juggle questions or assessments of “predispositions” — genetic and environmental factors that so far had shaped the boy and may thus have conspired in directing his fateful action. Rather, Dr. Neuer concentrated wholly on availing the boy to a world of acceptance and possibility, and poured his interest fully in John Ambert as he had been presented: possessed by shame and trepidation.

“Well, then,” continued the doctor, “ve ist here today because of vhat is confirmed by za report as a terrible act, an unfortunate act. Correct?”

“Yes, sir,” said John Ambert.

“Please, my boy, dispense viz za zir!” waved the doctor. “Call me Dr. Neuer; ur better, Kurt!”

The boy shrugged.

“Ha, ist bashful! Vy — because I am za zo-called authority figure here?”

John Ambert nodded.

Dr. Neuer rose from his chair. “Listen my goot young acolyte, do not be trapped by impressions! Neither zu, nor I, ist more important — more zacred — zan za other. Oonderstand? Ve ist both human, ja? Made of za zame substances, flesh und blood. Am I correct, Mr. Ambert?”

“John,” whispered the boy.

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed the doctor, “zu ist learning. Ist goot!”

John Ambert did not acknowledge the praise; his eyes had filled like beakers to their rims: blue sapphires in acid. He had no idea, anyway, what the answer was to the doctor’s question, “Ve ist both human, ja?”: was not sure, comparing himself to this man of extraordinary courage and wisdom, whether his own substance, tainted as it was, had any remaining value.

Yet as the doctor’s inquisitions formed a foundation, their meetings progressed.

Dr. Neuer’s uppermost objective was to help his young acolyte “feel in deference to zo much thinking.” Along with this call, he had the boy ultimately reciting in full the “Moral Alphabet” and putting to task its A to Z tenets in emotive daily exercises.

One day the good doctor asked John Ambert to say the first thing that came to mind. Not surprisingly the boy shrugged. “Don’t think!” said Dr. Neuer. “Let it come.” He snapped his fingers. “The world is flat,” said John Ambert. “Goot! Now, go deeper!” Before the doctor had finished the boy sputtered, “How was Jesus like a tree?”

“Yes, now ve ist getting zumvhere!” said Dr. Neuer. Naturally he asked his young acolyte to elaborate.

John Ambert proceeded to describe how strong his Savior was, like an oak: how true, like the best hardwoods. How, in pathos tinged by conviction, like the sagging yet sturdy branches of the willow, He had born all the sins of man. “And yet, how human He was,” John Ambert added, “such that He, too, felt doubt, and abandonment. —How indignant He was toward the money-lenders in the Temple!”

“Ah, but remember,” replied the good doctor, “that oon personalizing those emotions Jesus absorbed our sins, that upon His death und resurrection they would be vanquished in His name und through our enduring faith in Him.”

“And yet,” interjected the boy, “could it be that on account of His exclamation on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, that Jesus actually was no more human than we?”

Consummate,” corrected Dr. Neuer, “that by such searing separateness from His father, Jesus, in his last earthly moment, was able to finish His good works — and ours.”

For the remainder of their time together, some three months, the mentor and the protégé would rekindle this dialogue often, and, indeed, afterward sustained it for many years....

Initially after his release from the detention center, the sunny days of the world seemed brighter to John Ambert and the overcast not so much. Humanity’s social commerce seemed invigorated and the march of days quickened. He felt as he might if he were in love.

Within the month, as he celebrated his thirteenth birthday the wish he made was that he might embark on an extracurricular mission of aid to the hopeless, wayward, and misbegotten. As another three years must pass before he’d get his driver’s permit, his approving parents served then as his principal means of transport to and from the mission destinations (and, of course, whenever those destinations happened to be removed enough from the greater traffic, he’d ride his bike).

At the start of his chosen work, in an effort to pace himself, as well as to abide the necessity of maintaining good grades at school, John Ambert served only the town’s foster home. Yet as it seemed increasingly logical that this calling would not undermine the academic, starting the second quarter following his discharge from the juvenile detention center he further availed his Samaritan services at the food pantry and an elderly care center. By the end of his first year of rehabilitation, having hardly finished his first month in high school, he was also aiding the homeless in skid row and assisting in isolating the protest blockades at the abortion clinic.

He went on to serve the local chapters of Action Against Hunger and the Alzheimer’s and AIDS Foundations, served with distinction at the American Red Cross, helped in fundraising for the Catholic Charities, comforted children at McDonald’s House, marched with the Salvation Army and chanted with the mothers of MADD; and in his freshman summer volunteered at the Christian Care Foundation for Children with Disabilities, in his sophomore helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity, in his junior sat with the condemned at the maximum-security prison upstate, and in his senior year comforted PTSD vets of foreign wars. In college, he continued tirelessly to serve in these causes and added several more obligations, including as an assistant scout leader for the Boy Scouts, volunteer at the local Boys Club, and correspondent for Children of Peace International.

Still, the guilt of his youthful transgression felt unpardonable.

Now, with the arrival of the first Sunday of Lent, The Reverend John Ambert turned his attention again to the subject of tolerance, placing in the series of homilies he would deliver for the next six weeks especial focus on the sins of the high priests and Pharisees, principal among those sins, envy; culminating in a meditation on salvation. More than ever he poured himself into this work, the work of tolerance, which, nearly to the last, his Folks received in awe and with deep ardor, their passion more than ever aligning with, even surpassing, his. Then Easter arrived, and the culmination.

“My Folks, dear Folks,” he said. “On this hallowed day of our Savior’s death, His glorious resurrection, and the promise of death no more, let us continue to reflect on tolerance, which is our acceptance, nay, love, of all human beings. Love thy neighbor, as thyself.” A mellifluous hush, like the Holy Spirit whispering, rose through the cathedral. “My Folks, the burdens of our earthly life are many. So many to conquer; too many perhaps to overcome.” He paused. “O guilt. Remorse. O hope! Do you still spring eternal? Friends, bear tolerance for your enemy, for he is also you; forgive the sins of the sinner, for he is also you.” He turned to cough. “Excuse me, that was just the devil. He’s had enough!” Tempered laughter made its way to the altar. He coughed again. “Where was I?” He pulled a handkerchief from beneath the alb and patted his forehead. “Oh, yes, tolerance. Doubt not, nor chide, nor dismiss thyself,” he said, “for to do so is doubly to forsake your brothers and sisters. Rather, love thyself — and the world — without bias or preconception. For just as a vase broken is not the end of the world, so also is it true with every mistake.” This is what The Reverend John Ambert said on Easter. Afterward, as his parishioners filed out, he said goodbye, and wished each in turn everlasting wellness and contentment. Then, nonchalantly, he made his way back through the cathedral and out, into the garden....

First thing Monday morning he was standing at his mirror straightening the alb sleeves and amice, as he had just twenty-four hours before. Today, though, he also wore a sturdy belt. Next he applied a pectoral necklace, which he’d selected based on his early mood of tranquility, then the cappa, and finally his great gem bracelets, one each which he shackled to a wrist and ankle. Then, as always in culmination, he attended to his face, the usual dab of rouge here, an eyebrow pluck there. Extinguishing the flames of his candelabra, he entered the world. First stop was the Post Office, where he dropped off a bucket of letters to his family, his Folks, and to Dr. Neuer.

This morning he had forsaken the breaking of bread in favor of taking a walk to the old beloved woods of his youth. There, well beyond the pond, in the darkest part, at a dried-up creek bed at the foot of a sandstone precipice, he picked up a stick. For a moment he examined it closely, turning it over and over in his hands, once or twice even stabbing the air with it, and then suddenly dropped it for a more earnest pursuit of a section of ground that might be particularly barren of life, a small plot of dirt untouched by the light above. As soon as he’d found it he put his hands to work tracing two lines in the dirt, one perpendicular to and intersecting the other, and when he’d finished thus, reached into his belt for the hammer. Then he lay down, with his shoulders at the intersecting point.

He sat up, but only briefly. This for the purpose of removing his shoes and then driving the first of two spikes extracted from them into his stacked feet. Then he lay down again, and turning, as best he could repeated the procedure by driving the second spike into his left hand.

If it weren’t for the fact that he hadn’t the luxury of being able to hammer into the free hand, he would have packed a third spike. But for this he forgave himself.

The End