VIEW LEADERBOARD

Racine - Part Four

Racine - Part Four

Racine settles into St.Drogo and discovers a hidden talent. Paulo has an odd way of expressing his faith and we are introduced to the beautiful and clever Flavia.

0

Literary fiction


Author Image

Dreyfus (Australia)


After being provided with an assortment of ill-fitting clothes, Racine joined Paulo for a simple repast of, olives, bread and a carafe of red wine. The boy shot his arms through the sleeves of his shirt, revealing two bruised but hungry hands and proceeded to eat. Paulo said a small silent prayer of thanks, and let the boy eat, while the young maid, Flavia, dished more pasta to his plate. Flavia, of whom we will hear more shortly, was suspicious of the little reprobate, but held her tongue. The wine and the wholesome food caused Racine to become sleepy and he was shown to a cot in the spare room, where he passed out with not so much as a Hail Mary.

If Paulo had any regret it was that his chosen profession necessitated a herculean restraint in the needs of the flesh. Now, by way of an illegal chimney intrusion he was made into a father as well as a shepherd. He would have preferred a more biblical version of fatherhood but he was thankful for small mercies. He was an odd person, consisting of cryptic and often acute perceptions, leaving his untutored flock, almost entirely bewildered. They wandered astray into rough fields of spiny nettles, rather than the expected delights of clover and heather. They expected their spiritual appetites persuaded with virgin births and exciting crucifixions, but received a starvation diet of Platonic dialogues, Socratic oaths, not to mention perplexing strolls into the odd Elysian Field with Aristotle.

How Paulo thought ancient Greek wisdom and the disgracefully modern concepts of existentialism and post-structuralism, rather than the teachings of Jesus, might bring the flock to God, never emerged. Presumably he claimed his path was righteous and only mentioned the alleged Son of God, when pursuing an obscure reference into which He could be neatly located, thus mitigating his frequently confusing sermons. Many glazed eyes and drooping heads occupied the pews when the good father proposed the perfectly reasonable nature of context, structure or relativism. He was a man who marched to the beat of his own drum, but he was also a person who treated all with generosity and equanimity. He avoided judgement and listened carefully. At times, his flock may have been shocked and even confused by his words, but they trusted him with their spiritual needs. What he offered was not the retelling of tales of miracles and reincarnation, but something more fulfilling. From his pulpit, Paulo never expressed views he could not prove to be true. The goblet was filled with wine and not blood, he affably proclaimed. The sacramental wafer was a nice snack and occasionally accompanied by an olive or perhaps a smidgen of anchovy if the budget allowed.

Paulo’s flock were mostly in dire straits, so any form of nourishment was gratefully received. Holy Communion had deteriorated into a small feast and the father, not one to miss an opportunity, sought to cultivate their poor beleaguered minds by way of their undernourished bellies. Some left his congregation in disgust, citing ungodly behaviour, demonic possession, bearing of false witness and one delicate soul, because of an anchovy allergy. Another disgruntled zealot confessed to her alternative priest, Father Paulo had been responsible for her cancer diagnosis and indicated a particularly disgraceful lecture on relativism, as the moment at which the demon cells encircled and consumed her pristine corpuscles - or something to that effect. I wasn't there, it being a confessional, but the priest involved was incorrigibly indiscreet and failed to uphold holy privacy, in favour of some inebriated amusement at dinner one night.
With the financial assistance of his long suffering bishop Paulo setup a soup kitchen in the piazza, adjacent to the church. Three mornings a week Paulo, Flavia and now Racine, offered steaming cups of soup and thick slices of ciabatta, cheese and salami to the neighbourhood’s poor. It was to these sacramental repasts, rectory meal preparations and daily soup kitchen activities, Racine was assigned, once he had recovered from his injuries. At first, he engaged with this new occupation with ungracious resentment. The years within the walls of the orphanage had shaped him into a surly and suspicious boy.
The fragrant and comely Flavia, efficient in the kitchen, educated Racine in the rudiments of simple meal preparation. She had other duties, and when assured Racine could boil water safely and cut a slice from a cob of bread, without a visit to the hospital, left him to it. To be honest, Flavia was a tad repelled by the less than polite fellow. He appeared to be disinterested in personal hygiene, so one can’t blame her reluctance to enjoy his company for any extent of time. It should be said in Racine’s favour, he was in receipt of an elevated imagination and as any thinking person would know, this singular attribute has been exploited in many walks of life and occasionally, even to the betterment of mankind. Despite his street-hardened crust, Racine started to transform the unconventional but simple Holy Communion, to an artful feast. A form of pride began to interrupt his customary unpleasant disposition. To Flavia and Paulo’s surprise, Racine began to pay more attention to his appearance and behaviour.

One morning, passing the bathroom, Flavia smiled to hear him singing along with the sound of running water. Her favourable judgment of this moment was somewhat reduced however, when she paused to discover the song was of the bawdy street variety. The lyrics told the story of a fisherman who brought a lobster home as a gift for his wife, putting it in the chamber pot for safe-keeping. During the night, the wife answers a call of nature and was rewarded with the lobster attaching itself to her genitals. Flavia, flustered by the salacious ditty was both stirred and appalled in equal measure. Paulo, who was not alerted to Racine's musical talents, interpreted this change of his young protégé in a particularly small 'c' catholic light. That is to say he rationalized it as part of the cosmic influence, to which mankind was tethered. The rescue of the boy was validated. A comprehensive change in environment and circumstance could render the lowliest of creatures, a modicum of grace..

Flavia was a petite and pretty girl of seventeen years, at the time of Racine’s entry to St.Drogo. She lived with her father in Naples, an often lonely child, who lamented the absence of her mother as a deep and unresolved loss. Paulo had a particular fondness for this bright spark of a child. One day, she sat with him at the kitchen table, eating lunch.

"You know Flavia, in all of this great world, there are many things of which you currently have little knowledge. If you keep your eyes open and make your mind a vessel for experience, you will become wise," he said.

"Father, I am sometimes confused by the things you say. It is as if they are walking beside me as friends and when I look, they run away like naughty ghosts."

"I see,’ he thought for a long minute, busying himself absently with a cigar. Flavia admired the slow deliberation in his preparation and the rich, earthy smell of the smoke. Paulo sat back, pushing his spectacles along the bridge of his nose. ‘I have to say Flavia, that is a pleasingly poetic way of putting it and I will do my best to do it justice. Is there anything in particular you have in mind my dear?"

"Last week, you told the congregation the story of Oedipus and how, by a set of tragic circumstances, he unwittingly killed his father and had relations with his mother," she said, colouring a little.

"Ah yes…you were listening child, go on."

"You said a deed perpetrated in ignorance deserves more compassion than one done wickedly, even though the outcome was the same."

"Yes, yes. You see Oedipus’s crime was really one of pride and not intention. He failed to understand a fundamental issue as to what it is to be human. To be a good person one must exercise humility, even in the face of unbounded success, such as Oedipus experienced when he became king of Thebes. I think Sophocles was saying this – when we try to avoid the true trajectory of our nature, we are destined to fail. So by being arrogantly determined to escape the prophecy he had, in fact, caused it to be fulfilled."

"But his crime is less because he let his pride place so many obstacles he lost the means to see the truth, and the reason he put out his own eyes; because he was already blind with them?" she said.

"Goodness Flavia, I could not have said it better myself, you see, malice had not entered his thinking. Oedipus tried with all his power to avoid the murder of his father and the marrying of his mother. The actual effort to achieve it was the cause of the tragedy."


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

SEE MORE LIKE THIS



Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
You are a good writer. Thanks for letting me read.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Great books, nowadays, start with a powerful opening and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
This is a good piece of writing. I felt a bit lost though coming into it in Chapter four. I wasn't sure who the characters were or what their goals were. That said though, the writing is very good and the world that you create is vivid and compelling. I would have loved to read the preceding chapters just so I could really get into this story. However, there is no doubt that you are telling a powerful story here. Well done.

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!