BY ROGER MOORE
Copyright is held by the author.
THE OLD man watched a drop of red wine slide slowly down the side of the bottle. It was November 11, his birthday.
Seventy-three years ago, Father John had taken the boy’s ear lobe between thumb and forefinger and pinched the nail deep into the flesh until the blood ran.
“This afternoon you will go down to the bamboo grove and cut a cane. Bring that cane to me and I will bless it.
That night, the boy woke up. Snuffles, snores, and an occasional sob broke the dormitory’s silence. The bamboo was a long, cold serpent drawn up in bed beside him.
The next day he awoke to his seventh birthday.
Father John beckoned and the boy followed him to his cell and knelt with his hands stretched out like those of Christ on the Cross. The priest struck him with the bamboo cane six times on each hand.
“Your Savior, blessed be His name, suffered more, much more for you,” the priest sighed. “Examine your soul. Find fault with each flaw, for you are unworthy.”
The boy spent his birthday kneeling in prayer. He contemplated the wounds of Christ. He imagined each blow of the hammer and imagined the pain of cold nails biting into his warm flesh. He tasted bitter vinegar as it dripped off the sponge, gasped at the thrusting spear, felt the lash’s sting as it fell across his flesh. He became the flagellated Christ and knelt before the crucifix, staring at himself eyeball to eyeball in the same way he looked at himself in the morning mirror.
The crucified Christ gazed back at him, his brother, his soul mate, his double.
“The eye you see is not an eye because you see it,” Father John droned on. “It is an eye because it sees you. Christ sees you as you kneel there. He sees. He knows. He judges. Examine your soul with care, for the unexamined life is not worth living.” The priest raised his right hand and made the sign of the cross in the empty air. “Stay there until I return.”
After an hour, a red drop of paint slipped slowly from the nail hole in Christ’s right hand. The boy blinked. The red drop trembled then fell.
After two hours, Christ opened his eyes and smiled at the boy.
After three hours, salt-water formed at the corner of Christ’s eye. It glistened in a sunbeam that entered through the cell’s narrow window.
After four hours, tears began to flow down flesh and painted wooden face.
It was Remembrance Day, the boy’s birthday. He was seven years old.
Seventy-three years later, the old man sat at the table. He watched the red wine trickle down the bottle. He remembered it all and his tears flowed again.