Priests in Love

It was time travel that finally put an end to priestly celibacy.

In the aftermath of the final economic collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990's the Jesuit order returned to its ancient traditions and again began producing priests and scholars. Once they had freed themselves from the mishmash of liberation theology, which the devastating commentary of Father Louis Martin had ridiculed and exposed as the combination of chiliastic longings and sublimated resentments and frustrations that it really was, the Jesuits were able to return to their roots and begin the serious business of saving souls and of seeking to understand the workings of the divine in the world. This culminated in 2079 when two Jesuits were awarded Nobel prizes. Father Lawrence Tillich for his work in economics, which provided a mathematical exposition of the effects of government intervention in the market place and which provided confirmation of the theories of the early twentieth century Austrians such as von Mises and Hayek, and Father Martin Luther Hartz for his work in physics which provided an experimental verification of the suggestions of Feynman and Pauli that anti-matter is merely matter that is traveling backwards in time; for this work they were both honored by the Nobel committee.

As for myself I was and am content to be a simple priest and teacher. I teach English literature at Georgetown University where I am, at the risk of sounding proud, a fairly popular teacher. I think most of it has to do with the fact that I teach a class on late 20th century literature and the students are fascinated by that era that has so much and so little in common with our own. From time to time I bring in some of the old recordings of Bob Dylan and the Beatles and an old Marantz stereo that came to me from my great-grandfather and they find it amazing that people actually used such primitive equipment and technology. All of this may sound like it has little to do with my story but I want to set the scene for the amazing events that followed.

I'd known Henry Michener for most of my life. We grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same parish and the same schools, sometimes, before we both went to the seminary, we had even dated the same girls, not at the same time of course. It was in the seminary that we parted company for a while. He became enamored of physics and history, the physics was easy to explain, as I said Father Hartz had just been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics and the academy was still reeling from the impact of his discoveries. As for his interest in history I think that may be because he was enamored with the work of one of his ancestors, a writer of the late twentieth century, my period, who turned out fairly awful historical novels but who earned vast sums of money. I became interested in the 20th century, a fascinating time, both primitive and sophisticated, horrible and marvelous too, the literature was so rich and varied with people like Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Hemingway, Kerouack, Dylan, and Lennon writing; and the music, people like Baez that could actually sing, not like the atonal, aharmonic, amelodic noise that our young people listen to now. At any rate, as I say, we parted company for a while and then we were both assigned to teaching positions at Georgetown University.

We quickly renewed our friendship and then one evening I was sitting with him in his room and he told me about his mad idea.

-- Tom, have you given any thought to the possibility of time travel.

-- No. Of course, I've read the classics about time travel. I mean everybody's read The Time Machine or at least seen the classic movie with Yvette Mimieux and I've read the more recent stuff as well as the classics by Heinlein and Wells and Asimov.

-- Yes, I don't mean as fiction, I mean as reality. Think what it might mean to be able to actually travel back in time and see Jesus Christ as he really was when he walked on the earth, to see Peter and Paul.

-- I don't think I'd want to. I mean, I have my faith and that's enough for me.

-- Well it's not for me. Come on, admit it, wouldn't you like to be able to go back and actually be at Woodstock instead of just watching old movies from the twentieth century.

I have to admit the idea was tempting, to actually be able to go back and see the Beatles in their early days or to be able to walk up to John Lennon in Liverpool and talk to him all the while knowing what would happen to him. No, I might be tempted to tell him and try to warn him about that fatal December day and then who knows what would happen to history. Better to leave the past alone. Besides there were all sorts of paradoxes involved weren't there?

-- Hank, even if time travel is possible aren't there any number of paradoxes involved? I mean….

-- You mean that I could go back and kill one of my ancestors and then I would cease to be or I would never be?

-- Yes, that is precisely what I meant, also since you were born so many years in the past and will, I guess, die sometime in the future, suppose that you go back and something happens to you in the past so that you can't get back to now?

-- But the fact that I'm here shows that it doesn't, right. I mean the past has already happened and is fixed and can't be altered.

-- But if you go back then you'll introduce a new element that wasn't there before.

-- Will I? If the past has already happened and time travel is possible then I may have already gone and just not returned yet.

My head was starting to ache from the paradoxes involved in this concept so I got up and walked over to his refrigerator and got another bottle of Guiness from the shelf. The stout would not keep my head from aching in the morning but at least it made the concept of time travel less painful. I poured it into my glass and watched the dark suds form. I went back to the living room and Hank was still sitting there, waiting for me to voice some more objections.

-- Let's say that it is possible, how will you justify it to the university. I assume that this project is something that you will be working on for the university, or for the government?

-- Yes, it will be a university project. As to how I'll justify it, I'm not altogether sure but I think it will be on the grounds of historical interest. Using time travel it will be possible to circumvent the entire system of archaeological methodology and obtain direct evidence of the Exodus, the Resurrection, the miracles. Just think, it might be possible to recover entire libraries from the ancient world.

I shuddered at the thought. Latin and Greek in the seminary were bad enough, just imagine if more of Cicero were recovered. My God, that pompous bore deserved everything Anthony gave him, he and Polonius both came to the ends they so richly merited. I managed to suppress that thought though.

-- And that is how you'll justify your project?

-- Yes.

-- But what is the real reason that you want to do this?

-- Ah, that would be telling now, wouldn't it?

Oh God, he was going to start on his stage Irishman act now, he was really too far gone for me to say anything rational to him. the only thing to do was to help myself to another bottle of Guiness, which I did, and then I said farewell to him.

Hank and I saw each other frequently during the ensuing months and the project seemed to be making excellent progress. One night he and I were together at the faculty lounge and he told me that he had tested a prototype model and had actually managed to transport a mouse backwards in time by five minutes. He was so excited that he could talk of nothing else and about the royalties that would accrue to the university when his patent was issued and the other colleges and universities started to abandon their old methods of historical and biblical research and turned to his machine so that scholars could become actual participant observers of the events they described.

-- My God, just think Tom we'll actually be able to decide if Troy VIa or Troy VIb is the city of the Iliad, all of this pointless argue-bargue that has been going on since Schliemann will finally be resolved. Maybe you can go back and talk to Shakespeare about whether or not he was really Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon or himself.

-- I think he was himself. Hank, I really don't see the point of all this.

-- Look Tom, since Hartz we've known what they suspected in the twentieth century, that anti-matter is merely matter travelling backwards in time.

-- Yes, but why go back in time if you can't change anything?

-- Maybe you can. Maybe it is possible, what if Hitler could be assassinated or killed in Munich during the putsch then the Holocaust would never have happened, there would have been no atomic bomb, no Hiroshima. Didn't some of your ancestors die under Hitler, Tom?

-- Yes, but suppose that something worse was prevented from happening?

-- That is something that we'll never know till we try, will we?

I had no answer for that.

A few weeks later Hank told me that he had been granted a patent on the prototype and that he already had some customers lined up pending full scale tests. He had already received orders from Harvard, Brown, George Washington University, our near neighbor, Berkeley and some other colleges in the United States. He said that there were even indications that the University of Moscow was interested in obtaining one so that finally the Russian historians could sort out truth from myth in the many conflicting versions of the October revolution that had come down to them. I had my doubts about all of this but I could hardly turn him down when he invited me to come along for the first full scale test of the machine.

How can I describe the machine? I suppose you remember what George Pal's version looked like in his classic film of Wells's story or the Victorian monstrosities, all brass and polish of other films before and since. Hank's didn't look like any of these, it was totally immobile and it required enormous energy to run, how much I don't remember; I'm afraid that even though someone explains to me the difference between a joule and a coulomb a hundred times I still have to ask that hundred and first time. I think it was on the order of megawatts, or gigawatts, at any rate the power drain was supposed to be enormous and I was scared that it would be like something out of those old science fiction movies with lightning flashing and little wizened, hunchbacked Igor shouting as the electricity flashed in the sky. Instead it was something completely different.

Hank's machine was more like a kettle in appearance than anything else. The power supply was, thanks to the advances in fusion power, entirely self-contained so that his journey would not be a one way trip and, as Hank had explained, he had outfitted it with a cloaking device, one borrowed from the Space ROTC program, in order to conceal the machine when he arrived. He then stepped into the kettle, closed the door and set the instrument panel.

He had decided that his first jaunt would be to the period that particularly interested me, the 1960's and that he would bring back some evidence of his participation in the events of that era.

Since his stay in the past could be indefinitely long he might, even if he returned to the same moment, appear to have aged even though, strictly speaking he would not have aged at all. So saying he stepped into the machine and informed us that he would return in five minutes by our time.

He pressed the controls and the kettle simply vanished. We stood around and stared at each other for five minutes and then the kettle reappeared. The door opened and Hank was inside with a young blonde woman who was obviously in what they used to call an interesting condition. My jaw dropped and I finally managed to ask,

-- Hank, who is this?

-- I'm afraid, Tom, that this is my wife and she's pregnant.


Hank and I and the young woman, whose name was Sandra, or Sandy, were greeted politely by the president of the university. He showed us into his office and I sat down in one of the old-fashioned leather chairs that furnished his office. Hank and Sandy sat together on the equally old-fashioned couch. Sandy was holding his hand and Hank was looking at her in a way that I had never seen him look at any human being before.

-- Well now, Father Michener, suppose you tell us how this all came about? How does a priest, one who has never shown any inclination to stray from the fold before, one who has made a life-long commitment to celibacy come to show up in my office with a woman that he claims is his wife and that woman noticeably pregnant?

-- I'm afraid that it's a rather long story Father Quintero.

-- I have time and I'm all ears.

-- Well, you know that I decided to go back to the 1960's.

-- Yes, yes, we know all that.

-- Well, I decided to go back to the time of the early demonstrations against the war in Vietnam and so I went back to February of '65, when Lyndon Johnson first started the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. It was there that I met Sandy, her father Mark Schreiber worked for a congressman and she and her brother and his girlfriend were at a demonstration. Sandy was about eighteen then and she had just started to Trinity College.

-- So she's over a hundred and fifty now?

-- Yes, I suppose so, chronologically, physically she's just turned twenty. But suppose I tell the story from the beginning and you can question me later?

-- Very well, proceed.

As I said I went back to 1965 and I found that the machine had appeared in a wooded area, I believe that back then this area of the campus was part of what was called Rock Creek Park, at any rate the area seemed to be fairly isolated but even so I switched on the cloaking device so that no curious passers-by would harm it or themselves.

When I got out I found that I had arrived in the middle of a Washington snow storm and I was greeted with a blast of cold air. I cursed myself for not having remembered how primitive the twentieth century was and I started walking towards where I thought the university should be.

Needless to say Washington has changed in the hundred and fifty years since and I was completely disoriented. I managed to walk over to Wisconsin Avenue and I went into this store with posters and pipes displayed in the window. There was a girl there with long, stringy blond hair, it came down past her waist. She was wearing tight faded blue jeans, a shirt and a suede thing, I don't know what you call it, sort of a jacket, with fringe on it. She looked me over as I walked around the store and then she started to talk to me.

-- Hey man, you okay?

-- Hmm, oh yes, I'm fine. I'm just trying to get warm. Is it always this cold around here this time of year?

-- Yeah, I'm afraid so. You from out of town?

-- Yes.

-- Well you know you're going to freeze to death walking around like that.

-- Yes, I suppose I might.

At this point I got the feeling that she was appraising me, looking me over to see if she might take any greater risks with me.

-- Listen, if you need a place to crash you can stay with me, my boy friend split and I need someone to help with the rent. I'm going to be working here till late tonight and then I'm going to join some friends down at the GW Student Union for a protest meeting about the bombing of Hanoi, you want to come?

Apparently she felt confident that she could deal with me, I'm not sure why, at any rate I needed to find a place to stay.

-- Sure.

-- Okay, do you know where it is?

-- I'm not sure exactly.

-- Okay, look it's sort of a big ugly building between 21st and 22nd on G and it's next to a fire station, so I'll see you then. Listen do you need money, food, anything?

-- No, I can manage.

-- Good, then come by there about ten tonight.

After I had gotten warm I went out and found a store where I could buy a winter jacket and some gloves and I walked around a bit to try and get a feel of the town. finally I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and when I got to 21st street there was a theater there that was showing a couple of old French movies so I went inside and watched the movies until it was time to go and meet my friend.

She was sitting in the lobby of the union with three other girls and a boy, Sandy here, her sister Mary and her brother Peter, and his girl friend Julia. I thought Sandy and Julia were two of the prettiest girls I had ever seen but Julia seemed to be all wrapped up in Peter. I don't know if Sandy sensed that I was ill at ease or what but at some point she turned to me and smiled at me and suddenly I felt here was someone that I could live with forever and never miss what I had back here.

They sat there all night talking about the war and about the movement, meaning the civil rights movement and about non-violence and about Camus and Sartre and the classes that they were taking and the professors, about how dull certain English teachers were even though they were nice enough personally.

Sandy, it turned out was a freshman at Trinity College and her father worked for a congressman from Iowa, Congressman Atkinson, and she and most of the older children in her family were involved in politics.

I did not have the heart to tell her how futile all of this was, that in the near future Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos would all go Communist and that there would be massive bloodbaths and that over fifty thousand Americans would die in vain and that this was a direct cause of the disaster that would overcome millions. No, I held my piece.

finally about two o'clock my friend, Laurie, asked if I wanted to go home with her and I said yes. Sandy asked if she could come too and I was a little non-plussed but I said sure.

Laurie's place turned out to be a room on 23rd St. She had no bathroom to herself, that was shared with the rest of the house, she cooked on a double hot plate and had a refrigerator. She slept on the bed and said that Sandy and I could crash, or sleep, on the floor.

Sandy slept on the floor next to me and I couldn't help thinking how strange it was to be laying here next to this young woman and listening to her breathe, it was so different from the seminary.

What can I say to describe what it meant to me to be sleeping there next to this young woman. There was something delightful about her, about the soft sheen of her hair, her smell, the scent that she used lingered on her body and in her hair, the faint smell of flowers that lingered on her skin. Even the sound of her breathing was different. That first night we did not make love, even though we slept together, as we did on many other nights.

When morning came I got up and looked in Laurie's refrigerator. I found some eggs and started to fix breakfast for us. Apparently Sandy heard me and she woke up and joined me.

She wanted to know more about me.

-- Hank, you never told me what you're doing in Washington, you're a little old to still be a student aren't you?

-- Yes, I suppose I am. Actually I'm sort of a free-lance writer and artist.

-- Oh, then you'd like to talk to Mary, my sister, the one that was with Julia and Peter last night.

Actually Sandy was the one that interested me. She was bright, pretty, tall with long thin legs and blonde hair that came almost to her waist. Her sister was rather on the plain side, at least compared to Sandy.

-- So what kind of things do you write or paint.

Here I had to improvise so I decided that I would tell a version of the truth and pass off the history of the next century and a half as science fiction. That was not quite a lie, since to them it would appear to be just that and just as incredible.

-- Oh, I'm mostly interested in science fiction. Actually I'm working on a series of stories that all take place in the near future, would you like to see them?

-- Yes, I would, have you sold any of them yet?

-- No, actually I've met with quite a bit of rejection.

-- Well don't let that discourage you. You said you were an artist as well?

-- Yes, I paint a little.

-- Look, you really should talk to my sister Mary, right now I think she's going through a sort of socialist realist phase but she's really very good. She's a student at the Corcoran School of Art, why don't we walk over and see her about noon, that's when the classes break for lunch. Maybe you and she could share some studio space.

-- That may be a good idea.

Well that took care of the day. I had to find some kind of job while I was in this time period since the money that I had been able to bring from here to use in the past would soon be running out and I was apparently obligated to meet her sister and talk about painting with her.

After breakfast Sandy got ready to go to class and told me that she would see me at the Corcoran at noon. She kissed me on the cheek and told me to have a good day. Laurie woke up about then and she came over to me, greeted me and then went to the refrigerator, got out some milk, looked on what passed for a counter and picked a box of cereal from the counter, got a bowl out and poured the cereal and milk into it. She looked at me and then she started to talk to me.

-- Hey man, that was a late night last night, what'd you think?

-- About what?

-- About the whole scene, the bombing, the cause, Peter, Mary, everybody, everything.

I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts. What could I say to this child that would not make her think that I was crazy or that would not reveal the truth to her.

-- I don't know. I don't know whether it will do any good to sit around and protest this war….

-- Yeah, but you know it's crazy, the whole thing over there, I mean what is the fighting all about, let them go Communist, what do we care? I mean, they're not going to come over and take over California or something now, are they?

And of course the Japanese had been too backwards to mount a carrier attack on an island thousands of miles from their shores.

-- Peter and Mary seem to be nice. That girl of Peter's, what's her name, Julia?

-- Yeah, Julia Gordon.

-- She certainly seems to be very fond of him.

-- Yeah, she is. You know the funny thing is that I understand a few years back she had a big love affair with a girl in her high school, now she's crazy about Peter.

-- She's very pretty.

-- Yes, she is and how did you like Sandy?

-- She was very nice too.

I think she wanted me to make some kind of advance towards her but I didn't. I've never been altogether sure of how to handle a situation like that and I was really more attracted to Sandy than to Laurie.

-- I've got to get ready to go to work, will you be okay while I'm out?

-- Sure. I'm going to start job hunting today and I'm supposed to meet Sandy for lunch at the Corcoran, she wants me to talk to her sister Mary.

-- Are you some kind of artist?

-- I suppose so, I paint some and I write.

-- Cool. So show me some of your stuff sometime. Listen, I've got to split now. Say now that I think of it we could use someone in the store, you know anything about bookkeeping, taxes, stuff like that?

-- Yes, I've had some experience.

-- Well they need someone to help out in back, come by after lunch and talk to my boss.

-- Okay, I will.

So after she left I checked to see how much money I had left and then I walked over to a pawnshop on the corner of 22nd and Pennsylvania Avenue. They had an old portable typewriter in the window, again I marvelled at 20th century primitivism and then I recalled that it would still be a dozen or so years before two college dropouts who were fooling around in their garage would launch the modern age, well I would make do, so I bought the typewriter and some paper and went back to the room on 23rd St. I started on a journal of my experiences in the new time and brought events up to the moment. Then I started writing a story that I based on the events of the Donna Rice presidency. By then it was time to go see Sandy and her friend Mary.

Sandy and Mary were at the door of the school, the one on the New York Avenue side, Mary smiled at me and said that Sandy had told her I was an artist.

-- Yes, I try to be but I haven't had much luck lately in selling any of my paintings.

-- I know, it seems like everybody's against you sometimes doesn't it? Listen you want to come down and see the studio.

-- Sure.

We walked downstairs into the basement of the gallery where the classes were held and a striking blonde with very short hair and wearing only a dark blue leotard walked by and smiled at me.

-- She's one of the models for the life class.

-- She's very pretty.

-- But not as pretty as Sandy or Julia, don't you think? I wish I could talk one of them into modeling for me.

The thought of Sandy as a model for a nude art study was rather pleasing, so I decided to ask her.

-- Well, Sandy, why don't you model for your sister?

-- I'd be embarrassed. I'm not sure I want the whole world to see me nude.

-- The whole world won't, just me and I'm your sister, I've already seen you naked before.

-- That's different.

-- Sandy, I don't think you should be embarrassed by posing for Mary but if you don't want to that's certainly your business.

-- Good, I'm glad you realize that, why don't you ask Julia instead, she's very nice too.

-- God, I wish she would but I'm afraid to even ask her, oh well, here let me show you my paintings.

Her paintings were in a neat stack against one of the walls, the more recent ones were in front and the earlier ones in back. In her early paintings she had been concerned with color and form, they were all hard-edged, very precisely drawn and the colors bright and vibrant. They had some of the quality of Gene Davis's paintings, although they were not all stripes like his. The later paintings were, as Sandy had said, socialist realist paintings and they were, in my opinion, pretty bad. But then I don't like that style of painting and never have, again though I decided it was better to keep quiet.

-- They're very interesting. I must admit though that I like the earlier hard-edged canvases better.

-- I agree with you Hank, I wish Mary would go back to that type of painting, those early ones that she just showed you, I think that's some of the best work she's ever done. I think Peter has been a big influence on her.

-- Peter, your brother?

-- Yes, Mary thinks the world of him, don't you Mary?

-- Yes, of course.

-- And I'm afraid that she's taken up with some of his radical notions and that's influenced her painting.

-- I just don't want to live in an ivory tower any more. I want to express my solidarity with the people that are suffering.

-- Maybe you could do that by doing something to bring more joy into their lives, people that are suffering don't need propaganda about their sufferings they need more joy, they need to forget that suffering.

-- I never thought of it that way, maybe you have a point.

I may have had a point but she did not change her style of painting because of anything that I said or that happened that day.

Sandy and I left Mary and I told her that I was going back to see Laurie, who had suggested that I work in the store with her. We were standing in the doorway and the students were coming back in when suddenly she kissed me.

-- What was that for?

-- Because I like you and because you didn't hurt Mary by telling her how bad her new paintings were or how silly her politics are.

-- Well thank you.

-- You're welcome, so now I've got work to do and you have to find a job, so why don't I come over and see you tonight, maybe I'll take you to dinner, would you like that?

-- Isn't that a bit unusual? I should take you out.

-- Well, you're new around here, I like you, and besides I wouldn't feel right asking you to take me out. Does it hurt your male ego to have me take you out?

-- No, I'm sure I can cope with my male ego.

-- Good, I'm sure I can too. So why don't I meet you about seven?

-- fine.

I walked up to Wisconsin Avenue again and went into the store and talked with Laurie's boss. He agreed to have me start keeping the books for him on the following Monday, so I said good-bye to Laurie and went back to 23rd St. I worked on the story some more and waited for Sandy to come and get me.

She showed up at seven, as she had promised and told me that she was going to take me to a little Italian restaurant that she knew so we walked up to Pennsylvania Avenue again and went to Trieste's restaurant. The owner, Pasquale, knew Sandy and her family and greeted her warmly. She asked for a carafe of wine and we both ordered the manicotti. Then afterwards, as we were eating dessert and drinking espresso she asked me how the day had gone. I told her and she seemed pleased. She was particularly pleased when I told her about the story that I was writing. She paid the bill, thanked Pasquale and we walked back to the room on 23rd St.

She told me that she wanted to see me again and asked if I would like to go to a folk mass that was being held that Sunday. I had heard about this phenomenon in my history classes, about the nuns who would show up wearing mini-skirts and play their guitars and the songs that would be sung and the beer and pretzels communions (I never saw that) and wanted to see one of these rituals in person, so I agreed to go.

Sunday was bright and cold and the snow was starting to disappear when Sandy showed up in her parents' car and so we went over to St. Damian's church on 14th and V, in the heart of what was then the black ghetto, where the Mass was being said in the basement of the school. Sandy told me that Peter and Mary and Julia had worked there on summer projects for a couple of years and I had heard about the influence that the young pastor there had had on the civil rights movement and I knew that he would even go on to become part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter.

It was not the pastor who said Mass that Sunday, but one of his assistants, Father David Wender. He was fairly young and good-looking, dark, lean, and muscular. A black woman was sitting next to him on the podium, she was playing the guitar, getting it in in tune and then he turned to her and she started playing Blowin' in the Wind. When she had finished he turned to us and spoke.

-- The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and so I invite all of you, whatever your race or sex or even creed to come and unite with us in this sacrament of love. Now let us join our voices and celebrate our unity and our love.

There were shouts of Amen from some of the people in the congregation and then they started singing We Shall Overcome. When the time came to distribute communion everybody went up and Father Wender and the black woman gave communion to everybody that came up and allowed them to drink from the chalice as well. I remembered having read that it was not until about fifteen or twenty years later that it became a common practice for the laity to receive both the bread and the wine and even then some dioceses were reluctant to allow it.

Sandy and I stayed afterwards and talked to Father Wender and I told him that the service had been very interesting and that it had been my first time at a Mass like that.

Sandy and I left and then she took me to her parents' house in Arlington. Sandy's brothers and sisters were all present, including Peter and his girl friend Julia, and Mary, who was down in the basement working on a large canvas. She introduced me to her parents and the rest of the family and we all sat around and talked about the war and about the civil rights movement and Peter told me about working at St. Damian's in '63 and '64 and about how they had reacted when the bodies of Cheney, Schwerner, and Goodman had been found in the dam in Mississippi and how they had held prayer vigils at St. Damian's for them before their bodies were found.

I went on like this for quite a while. I saw Sandy and her family and talked to them about current politics and movements while I stayed with Laurie, who did not seem upset that I was not interested in her and who eventually found herself another roommate and boy friend. Eventually I moved out and started selling some of the stories to magazines. Because they were described as fiction or fantasies they were not taken seriously and were published for the most part in magazines with titles like Amazing Fantasies and Science or Galactic Adventures but at least I was earning extra money. All this time of course I kept on seeing Sandy and her family and friends. Shortly before I moved out of my room with Laurie I was invited to a party for her brother, Peter, who had just graduated from Georgetown.

Peter and his girl, Julia were having a major fight, it seems that he had decided to enlist in the Army and she was afraid of losing him. Sandy and I overheard part of the conversation and I'm afraid that was the turning point for us.

-- You know, Hank she really loves him and I think she's afraid of losing him.

-- Yes, I can imagine she is.

-- I'm afraid of losing you too.

-- Are you?

-- Yes. Oh, I don't mean that you would go off and enlist but I want something more permanent from you than just seeing you from time to time or even seeing you every day.

-- What is that you want.

-- I want you, totally and wholly, I want you next to me, I want children someday.

When she said that I knew I should have resisted but I had grown used to her, I was fond of her, I loved her. But what about my vows as a priest. I wasn't even sure if they applied. Technically speaking I hadn't been born yet and my ordination hadn't happened so was I bound by vows that I had not yet taken? Besides, when I came back here she would be dead and there is nothing that has prohibited a man, once his wife has died, from taking holy orders, and I thought I could have the best of both worlds by passing back and forth and between them, rather like Alec Guiness in that old movie about the captain with two wives. So I decided that nothing prohibited me from taking her as my wife.

-- I want you the same way.

-- Good.

She kissed me firmly on the lips and then I knew that my fate was sealed.

Later on that summer we managed to convince Father Wender to marry us and of course I did not tell him about being a priest or being from the future, he would have thought I was crazy, in any case, as I said, that information would be irrelevant. I don't think he would have been too concerned about irregularities anyhow, the few times that I met him he dismissed all of the rules and regulations with an airy wave of his hand as so much Roman nonsense., He left the priesthood a year later and married an ex-nun.

Shortly after Sandy and I got married her brother Peter was killed in Vietnam. It seems that the plane he was in crashed as it was coming in for the landing and he and most of his company were killed.

Sandy's sister Mary moved in with her friend Julia after he died and we saw them from time to time when we went over to her parents' house. Mary had gone back to her old style of painting but the spirit and joy had gone out of them. They were dark and somber, brooding patches of color and I looked at them and I felt sorry for the poor child.

Sandy and I had gotten married in the summer of 1965 and we had moved into an apartment on 21st and I and were living there. Sandy transferred from Trinity College to George Washington University and was going to school at night and working during the day and I was writing whenever I had some free time.

In the summer of 1966 we saw Mary and her friend Julia again. Mary had met a man, a Marine by the name of Jim Lindner who was soon to be discharged, and she had fallen in love with him. When she showed us her new paintings I could see that a change had come over her, a change that showed in her work and one that I did not like. Her early paintings had been soft and sensuous, full of vibrant color and hard, precise geometries, later on she had gone on to a figurative type of art, full of protest and passion, and after her brother had died she had started painting in the dark somber style of Mark Rothko and I did not like that. Rothko had committed suicide and I was afraid that the shift in her style foretold the same thing for Mary. I liked Mary and did not want anything bad to happen to her. The latest change, however, was even less to me liking than the Rothko style paintings had been. The colors were brighter but there was a harshness, a sense of freneticism about them. Her earlier paintings had been joyous, these were harsh, they almost screamed at me and I looked at them and I was afraid.

In September Mary came to see us and she was on the verge of tears. She confided in Sandy and me that she had had a fight with her friend Julia and she had been forced to leave and that she was moving in with Jim. I wanted to know more about this fight.

-- Why did you and Julia fight, I thought you and she were such great friends?

-- We are….We were. It was over Jim.

-- Why, was she jealous of him, did she want him for herself, I thought she had found someone else since Peter died.

-- She has, I think she's going to marry him after she graduates. No, it wasn't that.

-- Then what?

-- He's been helping me get over Peter's death and she didn't like what he was doing.

I knew she had been depressed over Peter's death, that had been obvious in her work and in the way she acted and talked and I knew that the anti-depressive drugs that are common in our day had less benign predecessors that had terrible side effects. So I asked her outright if she had been taking anything, expecting her to name one of the anti-depressant drugs.

-- Yes. Jim's been able to get me some crystal.

-- Crystal?

-- Speed, methedrine.

-- And that helps you?

-- I don't know. I know the pain is less. I work faster and harder but when I don't take it I look at what I've done and it seems false, there's something phony about it.

I had wondered if she had seen that in her work, the freneticism, the harshness and stridency that had taken the place of her earlier paintings.

-- Mary, I don't know what to say to help you.

Damn it I should have known, I was a priest, I should have some words of comfort for her. I cursed myself for failing her and myself at that moment. Then I made an attempt anyhow.

-- Mary, you and Peter were both Catholic, don't you believe that he may have gone to a better world?

-- I don't know. I only know that I've really loved two people in my life, Peter and Julia and Peter's dead and Julia won't have anything to do with me anymore.

-- Why is that?

-- Because of Jim, because she found a bag of crystal that he had given me and she told me that I had to choose between Jim and her.

Was she in love with Julia? I had to find out.

-- Do you love her?

-- Yes. Do you mean do I want to sleep with her, have sex with her?

I nodded.

-- Once, maybe, but not now. Oh God, I'm so unhappy. I'll miss Peter till the day I die and I don't think I'll ever get over Julia tossing me out.

-- She was right you know.

-- About Jim?

-- Yes, and about the drugs too. Mary, there isn't much comfort I can give you, there isn't much by the way of certainty. I can tell you what I believe but I have no way of knowing if any of it is true. I can't offer you certainty but you can have faith, you can bear it through the pain. I'm afraid that faith is still a form of darkness to our senses and our intellects, that hasn't changed in four hundred years and it won't change anytime in the future. All you can really do is try and live with the pain and the darkness. Don't you think Julia was in pain when you left, you two were very close for a long time?

-- Yes, I'm sure it did hurt.

-- You know she would welcome you back with open arms, I'm sure she loves you as much as you love her. She was right Mary, she was right about Jim and about everything, go back to her and she'll forgive you.

-- I'll think about it, maybe you're right.

She left and I watched her walk out into the fall twilight and down Pennsylvania Avenue. I watched the poor, sad child who had loved two people and had lost one to death and had lost the other through her own need for a moment of happiness. I never saw her alive again after that.

Mary never came to see the family again and Sandy had no wish to see Jim so we, who might have been able to help her, were cut off from her.

As with so many things and so many people we put her from our minds. Oh, it is easy enough to say that you'll pray for someone and I suppose we did pray for Mary, after all Sandy was and is a good Catholic girl, and sometimes it is all that you can do, but it is so much harder to deal with the people that you love and to help them. So we forgot about Mary after a while, that is we ceased to be concerned about her and in October Sandy found out she was pregnant and we became absorbed in the more mundane tasks of finding a bigger place to live than our efficiency apartment and of finding an obstetrician to take care of her and deliver the baby. So things went until Christmas day.

Sandy's father, Mark, called to say that Mary had died, apparently from a drug overdose. I was the one who took the call and when I hung up and told Sandy what had happened she broke out crying and I knew that there was nothing I could say or do to comfort her.

We went to the funeral, which was held a couple of days after Christmas and we saw Mary's friend Julia there. I think she loved Mary as much as her family did and that she regretted as much as any of us that she had been unable to help her but the oldest girl, Catherine, went up to Julia and I heard her telling her how she had brought nothing but death to all the members of the family that she had known, first Peter and now Mary and she told Julia that she was not welcome in their house anymore. I don't know if anybody said anything else to her but she seemed to be pretty shaken by what Catherine said and she left after the funeral Mass.

We went to the house in Arlington after we left the cemetery and when Sandy and I were alone she told me something that made me realize that I had been deceiving myself.

-- You know this has been very hard on Catherine.

-- Yes, I guess it has been. I liked Mary very much, she had a lot of talent, a lot of sweetness, it's too bad that it was destroyed so early.

-- You know I think something like that might happen to me if I ever lost you.

-- You think you might end up like Mary?

-- Something like that. Oh God, this life has been so terrible in some ways, losing Peter, and then Mary, I think if I lost you I would be lost too.

I had lied to myself. I could not commute between two time periods, maybe somebody else could but I could not. I wanted Sandy and suddenly I knew that I wanted my life back here as well. Damn it, I wanted both of them, I was tired of the primitivism and the despair, I wanted to show her that there would be a renewal of hope and energy and vitality. I wanted her here with me, I wanted to be able to sit at a computer that worked right instead of a typewriter that might be a relic from one of the stone ages for all I knew or cared. I wanted to be able to move about in Washington without having to worry about the summer heat or the winter cold and so I decided to tell her the truth. So I told her. Told her the whole bloody story and do you know what she did….she quoted the Bible to me.

-- Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; Henry, take me with you.

We sat there in silence and awe. Then Father Quintero broke the silence.

-- Did you intend to do this, get married, and commute between now and the past when you built this thing?

-- No….I'm not really sure. I don't know why I built it. I do know I didn't expect to fall in love with Sandy when I went back there.

-- But you say this Father Wender married you?

-- Yes, I took care to make everything as legal as I could, in fact Sandy was a virgin when we got married.

-- And there is no defect that you know of that would allow you to get the marriage annulled?

-- Aside from the fact that I was ordained a priest, something which took place in a different time frame than our wedding, no, none that I know of. But Father, neither Sandy nor I want an annulment and we have to ask for it. While I was in the past and with Sandy she was the way through which I was always sure of God's grace and sweetness. Every moment of grace and sweetness in my life is because of her. I won't give her up and I will continue as a priest.

-- Yes, I suppose it is true that you have to ask for an annulment. But we can't allow you to keep working as a priest.

-- Father Quintero, with all due respect I won't give up teaching here and I won't give up Sandy and I won't allow her to go back to the past.

-- Well we seem to have reached an impasse here, Tom can you suggest a solution.

I had no idea what to say or do so it seemed best to me to temporize. Then it came to me that perhaps the best thing to do was to go on as if nothing had happened and to pass the decision on to our superiors and let it end with them.

-- It seems to me that it may be best to do nothing. Hank, there are other copies of your machine, right?

-- Yes, it's already been sold and several units have been shipped and I hold a patent on the device so that it is a matter of public record.

-- Then we can't destroy the machine here and suppress the knowledge of how to build it.

-- No, I'm afraid not. It's rather like the monopoly on the bomb after the Second World War, once it was known the thing could be done it was a simple matter to do it again, even if espionage did have to be resorted to, that merely cut down on the development time. It's too widely known now to be stopped.

-- Father Quintero, it doesn't look like there's much we can do. Hank and Sandy will still be able to commute back and forth even if we destroy the machine. I think we should allow him to continue to teach and to exercise his priestly duties. After all it won't be as if there haven't been married priests before, even in the twentieth century there were instances of dispensations in which married men served as priests.

-- Yes, there is that. So it looks like it will be a case of CYA for us.

-- Yes, a great American institution going back to George Washington's quartermaster.

-- You know though that this rationalization can also be used to justify married men going back and forth in time and maintaining two or more households. My God, this could open a whole a new can of worms.

-- Yes, it could, so I think the best thing to do is pass the buck and let it wind up with the Pope, let him make the final decision. So Sandy, do you think you can adjust to this time, you know that everybody you ever knew is gone, although you might have a few distant relatives around.

-- Father Quintero, Tom, I have Henry and what I said back in 1966, or half an hour ago, is still true, where he goes, I go, and I will not be separated from him and his time is now my time.

Hank and Sandy stayed in our time and Hank continued teaching and preaching while Sandy had his child. The Papal nuncio had his opinion and the curia had theirs and the debate raged on for years. Henry and Sandy had more children while the debate raged, an organization that can take seven or eight hundred years debating both sides of a dogma can afford to take it's time while mere mortals like Henry or Sandy or myself grow old and die before it reaches a vital decision, but eventually it did.

Pope John Paul VI in his encyclical Sacerdotes in Caritatem proclaimed that we were priests in love and the grace of God and that as the instruments of grace through which God ministered to His flock it was right for us to share in the lives of our flock to the extent to which we were able, however, this in no way negated the value of celibacy as a form of witness and liberation from the concerns of the world.

And so on the slimmest of pretexts celibacy was made optional and all of this came about because Hank went back in time and refused, with the haughtiness of a twentieth century monarch, to be separated from the woman he loved.

This blog is an Amazon affiliate. Help support Jurassic Rants by making purchases through Amazon links on this site.