Agony


Were you aware that Garden Gnomes make excellent Lovers?

-Tosh McMillan



Today is September 14, International Be What You Want to Be Day.

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[Normally a story like this would only run on Hyperion After Dark, but you caught me in a weird week, where, among other things, I'm not all that concerned who gets offended. Anyway, there's your warning.]





Tiff and I decided to try another Dual-Story. Last time this was the result. The way it works is that we chose a picture and then independently work on separate stories. Neither one Tof us have any idea about the other one's story, which should give two unique takes on the artwork.

This time Tiff picked the art, a painting by Egon Shiele. Tiff's story is called Seville Summer. Make sure you check it out. And now I bring you mine (click for full size):



AGONY




The tour was winding down.

“We come to our most popular piece here at the Shiele Museum, a stained glass work of magnificent art. The tour guide droned on in that unnaturally chirpy voice they all have.

“Who created it?” someone asked.

“We do not know, but Art Historians have been able to reliably date the work to the 1150s.” This fact always impressed the tour.

“What’s it called?” The same annoying guy. The tour guide smiled, a little forced this time.


This wonderful work of Art is called ‘The Agony of Saint Giardello.’
As you can see, the stained glass portrays Saint Giardello in incredible pain. No one knows exactly why he suffered so,” the tour guide said, perhaps a trifle quicker than normal, if only to forestall the same man from asking, “But Church Scholars speculate it was Saint Giardello’s tremendous empathy to all the victims of the war going on outside the Abbey during his life, or possibly all the souls lost to Heaven.”

The tour guide glanced at the crowd. They were eating it up. “We may never know exactly why Saint Giardello suffered so, but his piety is an example to us all. In his life Saint Giar….”

“Who’s the dude in brown, laying his hands all over Diarjello?” Guess who again.

Visible patience in the tour guide’s voice. “That is Yaphet, Saint Giardello’s lifelong friend and companion, and author of many of the historical works about the great man. It is largely because of Yaphet that we have such a rich tapestry of knowledge on one of the Church’s most renowned Saints….”

***

-The Sheile Abbey (somewhere in the 1150s)-

“Faithful Yaphet, my joints do trouble me so. Please to bring me the hot broth from the tray.”

Silently Yaphet complies. A long drink, and then Giardello puts down the mug.

“Ah, Yaphet, though the foul north wind may rattle the window casements, I thank the Lord we are safe and as warm as can be here in our quarters, although I do think that the fire might do with another log or two, do you not? Actually, now that I think about it, will our supply of fuel hold out the night? Perhaps you should call for Brother Clarence and ask him if…”

“Where you were last night?”

If the interruption—or the abrupt question—or its implication—catch Giardello by surprise he reveals it not on his face. Smoothly he answers.

“Why Yaphet, you know it was my night to pray in the vestibule. I tell you the truth, my old friend, it breaks my heart to think of the plight of all the devoted pilgrims marching to the Holy Land to return it to our Lord and Savior. All of the children who will henceforth be without fathers. I pray for their souls, as well as the heathen enemy.”

“Stop it.”

A mildly raised eyebrow, arched in wry question.

“Why Yaphet, are you well? Might we not ask Brother Clarence to bring Abbot Francis to look after you…..?”

“Just stop it. No one is present to hear your hypocritical chatterings, and I am not ‘recording’ any of your great wisdom right now. So just stop it.”

“Brother Yaphet, you seem upset.” Still smooth as silk. Nothing can touch him here.

“You were not in the Vestibule. I know you like to pray there, where everyone can see you with your off-the-cuff prayers, so pious, so holy. None of them know I write them for you.”

A bitter laugh.

“But you were not there.”

“Well, at one point I was overcome with grief for the suffering of the young men in his most holy of the crusades and felt need to away to a private chamber where I might pray in solitude.”

This time Yaphet’s laugh is more like a bark, short, guttural.

“I know how you feel about ‘young men,’ you fucking pederast. I saw the way you were looking at Alphonse yesterday during vespers. Did you ‘retire’ to a private room to pray with him?”

Giardello’s face is still calm, but there might be a slight tightening of his eyes.

“W-Well, yes, I do believe at one point Brother Alphonse came into the chamber, also looking for a place to pray, and we beseeched our Lord and Savior together for many hours into the night.


This time the explosion is not verbal, but the glass of mulled wine in Yaphet’s hand hurled into the hearth. For the first time, Giardello looks slightly concerned.

“Who do you think you are talking to? I am not one of your sycophantic acolytes, fawning on your every fake word. I am not one of the adoring masses who come to witness your piety, who have no idea that your ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ has a far different meaning than any could guess. I am not even Father Kotto, willfully turning a blind eye because you are ‘good for business.’”

Yaphet moves closer now to Giardello, the bit clearly in his teeth. Giardello reaches for the broth, if to ward off the sudden chill in the room.


”You can pretend all day you are not a fucking sodomite, but whom do you think you are talking to?
Me, god damn you! Me! I was fourteen when you first approached me, and took me under your wing. I have been there for you every day since then, and I have put up with your numerous dalliances, though the mere thought of them turns my blood to ichor and raises bile in my throat like angry seas. I put up with all of that because I knew then, I know now, that is the price to bask in the presence of the ‘great’ Giardello.

“But now, now I am too old for you. Fucked me enough times, wore me out I suppose you did, tired of me and you want another. But this is not another fling, like so many who have come and gone before. I see the way you look at Alphonse, and I am in agony! Agony, Giardello! Do you not care at all for how I am feeling?”

Giardello swallows, to catch his breath, buy a few seconds to think. He pulls the mug of broth to his lips and finishes the rest in one large gulp. Holding it up, he addresses it and Yaphet together.

“Yaphet, is a vessel such as this mug demeaned by its purpose? Does it sit on the shelf when not in use and pine to hold great wines from the fields in Bordeaux or Champagne? Of course not. Its purpose is to hold the nourishing hot broth that feeds our bodies. We all have a purpose, Yaphet, and we it is a sin to question what God would have us do.”

Sneering now, Yaphet moves closer. “Am I a ‘vessel’ for you, Giardello? Was I only to be a receptacle of your seed until you found a younger, a better?” Yaphet picked up the empty broth mug, examining the dregs closely.

“You know, it is funny you use that example. What I have yet to tell you is that this lowly ‘vessel’ was actually meant for higher purpose. Not just to hold broth, but a much stronger liquid. Some might even call it ‘poison.’ It seeps through your veins as we speak.”

Terror in Giardello’s eyes.

“No, old friend, this poison will not kill you. However, it will paralyze your jaw and leave your muscles in rigor, a most painful ordeal, I am afraid. In your condition, you will of course be unable to speak, to cry out in agony at your suffering, but I promise Giardello, I promise to be here right by your side the entire time. We will get through this together, you and I. Have no fear I will abandon you short of death.”

A knock on the door. Brother Clarence sticks his head in.

“Is everything all right, Brothers? I heard a crash.”

Giardello tries to speak, but only mewling comes out. Yaphet steps in front of him smoothly. “Ah, Brother Clarence, so good to see you. Giardello wanted me to ask you to have more wood brought for the fire. And perhaps a nice bottle of wine. One of your best, from Champagne or Bordeaux?

“A celebration, Brother Yaphet?

“Yes, you might say that. Young Alphonse has decided to journey to the Holy Land and preach the word of the Lord. He may be only 15, but already a passion for the Word of God. We drink tonight to toast his call.”

“I have not see Alphonse all day.”

“He was in a hurry to get started, and left this morning. But worry not,” Yaphet says with a wink. “We will drink in his honor. His agonies are our agonies, and his successes ours too.”

Brother Clarence bows his head, moved by the words. .“I feel honor just being in your presence.” He ducks out.

Yaphet turns back to Giardello, now almost fully rigid with the poison’s flow.

“My my, Old Friend. Your muscles strain like a chariot horse. I wonder if all the muscles on your body are like that…..hmmm…..It may be time to find out just what kind of vessel you would make.”

***

“Yes,” said the tour guide, “We will never know the cause of Saint Giardello’s suffering, but it must have been a wondrous thing indeed.”


2 comments:

tiff said...

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I really liked this.

Lady Jane Scarlett said...

awesome! :)