Lord in heaven, life be damn good. Dear old Henry Wykes sure did take care of me, first hiring me to manage his lucrative clothing mercantile, then offering me up his pretty and hot-blooded widowed daughter in marriage – all in exchange for bailing his arse out of a tangled and convoluted legal mess. Not a bad trade, I’d say – lots of profit to be made in that arrangement, with the luck of side benefits from a wild and randy bed warmer to boot. With plenty of crowns in my pocket, a new home neighboring Austin Friars, and a pretty little wench filled with child, even my low-born seed donor is impressed. Hey Walter, I met the Pope and bribed His Holiness with sweet meats. What do you think of that? It be too late old man, there be no crowns going to Putney or your sorry shriveled cod piece. Want to wail me now, you drunken bastard?
Tonight be time for a party, and the gentlemen from Boston’s Guild of St. Mary traveled ‘plenty to join me and my good friend James Edwards, and my Bess and his Alice in celebrating our fine success, the guild’s finances now secure in perpetuity with farthings flowing from the pockets of those gullible fools who drop their coin in exchange for a ticket straight to heaven. Hey, what be the problem? Everyone wins in this deal of indulgences. The priests of the Guild Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary get their cut of the bounty, the Boston St. Mary’s Guild theirs, and the fools in line leave with the peace of mind their mothers avoid the wrath of purgatory. Need some more gaudy idols for St. Botolph’s, Your Grace? No worries, you are all set now good man. Boston strong!
A tad drunk from all the ale and mead pouring in abundance, a sorry jolly bunch we are. Poor Bess, heavy with my seed, she banters on with our guests and directs the servants. She’ll make a good mother, my pretty little lady will, but she needs to stop chiding me. My God in heaven that woman can preach, correcting my words to the King’s English each time I speak like the Putney cur I am. Bless her on her mission, Lord. God knows I need the lessons. As I pat my bonny wife’s bottom as she passes, good old Henry Wykes gives a corrective glare, his smile wide. “Thomas, you are incorrigible, lad. Do tell us all about your exploits with James Edwards and our friends here from the Boston Guild. Why Bess and Alice say it was quite the adventure.”
Before I can get out a damn word, laughing heartily James blurts to Master Wykes, “Oh my lord, oh my lord… It certainly was, good man. In spite of the God awful journey, we did have fun a’plenty!” James looks over at my Elizabeth, who suddenly is paying apt attention. “Dear Bess, your husband is a wily one, he is. We did get those Bulls signed, thanks be to his cunning ways. Thomas, please… do tell, man.”
He holds up a goblet and all the Boston Guild mates follow. “To Crom, the Pope’s most beloved confectioner.” All present jovially reply, “To Crom!” James drinks the ale down quick and declares, “Now this be good, I do promise.”
I look around, and everyone stays all quiet, looking at me as I be King Harry himself. “Eh good men, you will not hear this from that God awful new book of More’s or in the writings of Erasmus. In my Utopia, the Pope trades indulgences for indulgences, and he be quite fat.” We all laugh.
My Elizabeth, she gives me the eye and chides merrily, “Thomas… you be going straight to hell speaking of His Holy Father so. Do go on, but respectfully, dear husband.”
I glare over at my wife and mouth her a kiss. “Look around, love. This be all for you and that babe that be baking.” She smiles wide, and waves her finger at me in jest. I take a long swig of ale, and go on. “Well, it went like this. I ventured on to Boston, lovely city that, and met with these fine guild men. The papal bulls for their sale of trips to heaven near expired, much income was soon to falter. So we hatched a good plan, we did. Eh, gentlemen?”
They hold up their goblets. “Hear! Hear!”, one adding, “Crom did… not we, Crom did!… And it be a grand one!”
“A grand one, eh? Grander than the swindling he did to get me out of my legal entanglements?” asks Henry Wykys.
“Hell yes! Hell yes!” the man declares merrily, laughing and spewing his brew.
We laugh mighty, the ale flowing. I pause and look about the room. All eyes, though most bloodshot from the ale and mead, are all on me still. “Listen, we all decides we’ll send me and some of these fine guild members to Rome, seek an audience with His Holy Father, and get the bulls signed that way. So, bold as brass we went our way. Dumb dolts we be. We traveled far at many a crown’s expense to learn His Holy Father holds court like the Holy Roman Emperor himself. There be no audience for the likes of us, as we’d die waiting, many a Lord and Ambassador ahead. Alas! We thought all was for naught.”
“For naught? When with Crom, nothing is for naught. We wasted not a farthing,” James Edwards chimes in.
“Oh be still, James, you dog,” I chide. “Well, like the dolts we be, we wait two long days in line, finally nearly to the front. Then, we be told, in Latin yet, “Sorry, good Englishmen, His Holy Father is going on a hunting trip in the morn. You be out of luck this day and several on hence. Oh, damn it. This was not goin’ well for sure. Then I conjured, let us then go to this hunt of his, wait there where they be no line. So off we went.”
“Crom, you forgot to mention how you bribed one of the Cardinals many a crown for the locale of that hunt!” There he goes again. James will be the death of me.
We all laugh heartily, and I retort, “Well thank you so very much, you scoundrel. My dear wife will be lecturing me plenty now.” She waves her finger at me again, teasingly, me once more forgiven. “Yes, I bribed a Cardinal. I’ll say many a ‘Hail Mary’ later.” I pause and drink more ale as all have a hearty laugh at my expense.
“Thanks be to God, four of these fine guild men sing in the abbey choir, so I offered, do sing for the Pope. Maybe we shall get his attention, and as seeing he be fat, we shall bring this jolly man’s sweet meats along.” I snicker, for every man has his price. “His Holy Father be rich in crowns, so we done bribed him with confections. With him gushing with the Holy Spirit these blessed voices did raise, and with sugary snacks a’plenty, His Holy Father signed off fast on the Boston Guild of St. Mary’s Bulls, just like that, not reading a word.” Now everyone be rolling with hearty laughter and good cheer.
“Dear Thomas, did the Pope bless you? Lay hands on your head and pray for your eternal soul? I pray so, God knows you need it,” Henry Wykys joyfully chides. We all laugh again. Bess, her father be a fine man, bless his soul.
I smile wide as the moon and say in all seriousness so dearest old Wkyes knows I speak truth, “Dearest father, yes he done did. The Pope said, in proper Latin, of course, ‘You be no doubting Thomas, dear man. Go in peace and spread to all in England the true religion. And, many indulgences go to you if you name your first born for one of the great Bishops of Rome.”
I look to my wife, and as if on cue, she speaks. “I desired to name the babe Henry after my father and His Grace, but just for you Thomas, I will be first to indulge.” She rubs her belly gently, and says with a wide smile, “Gregory”.
~~~~~~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~~~~~~
Rest in Peace
We will never forget.
LU LINGZI, age 23
MARTIN RICHARD, age 8
KRYSTLE CAMPBELL, age 29
SEAN COLLIER, age 26