Friday, November 20, 2009

Memories of being chased by an angry, toothless monk

This is my second post for today. Upon finding the above photo which I featured in my other post, it brought back some monastery memories. Mount St. Benedict (monastery) is up the mountain, a few minutes from where I live. I don't go there often now, but years ago I used to go almost daily to breeze out, relax, think, etc.

Years ago one of the monks (Bro. Tony) asked me to come and help him develop ideas for turning a house of interesting monastery artifacts into a museum. While perusing the items I saw the wooden chair (seen in above photo). I was drawn to its simplicity and presence. I saw myself driving around with it in the car, taking photos of it in different places, either empty or with people sitting in it, interviewing them. When the monk (Brother Tony) saw my interest in it, he told me I could have it. It had been made ages ago by an old monk and no one was using it.

It did end up being a part of some of my projects - the most recent being "Out of the Box" (2008) - a short documentary created by teen schoolgirls, an HIV positive woman and myself.
But ... the classic memory that this chair brings back ironically occurred on the premises of that same building that Bro Tony was turning into a museum. Years before, it was lived in by an old Monk - Brother Cornelius (as a friend and I discovered later). My friend Salim had come to visit me on this particular day and we had gone traipsing up to the Mount to explore. Upon reaching the building, we spotted many fruit trees in the bushes below. We clambered down the steep incline, and, "trespassing", proceeded to climb trees, picking fruit - limes, plums and if I remember correctly, one or two mangoes. Praedial larceny.

We sat in the trees, eating fruit, talking and, when finished, we clambered back up the hill, our hands full of 'produce'. As Salim was coming up, he stopped (I think to hand something to me). All of a sudden a hand shot out of a nearby window and grabbed him - I think by his shoe. A dark, grimacing, twisted toothless face with red eyes was at the other end of the arm. Salim managed to twist his way free and the two of us pelted down the hill with our limes in our hands.

"Pelt the limes away! Pelt the limes away!" Salim shouted as we ran.

As we pelted them into the bushes we became aware of the sound of a vehicle speeding up behind us. We looked back to see the dark toothless man, pursuing us in a white pick up truck. We ran into a bushy track at the side of the road and, thinking we were safe from him, stopped, breathing sighs of relief and exhaustion.

Too soon! He had parked his pick up truck at the other end of the track and was advancing towards us brandishing a large piece of wood. We stood there as he neared us, mainly grimacing at Salim. He said: "Gimme de limes! Gimme de limes!"

"Turn out yuh pockets!" he shouted at us.

We turned out our empty pockets.

With one last grimace, he told Salim: "If you wasn't wit a woman ah woulda beat yuh here today!"

I had forgotten about that until I saw this old photo of the chair today. Apart from a few small details (like which part of Salim was grabbed by the hand), I remember the day vividly.

I saw Brother Cornelius years later. He was older, in a wheelchair and didn't look as terrifying. I don't think he remembered me.


Lynn Cohen said...

Wow, what a story that chair tells. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Simple yet remarkable tale. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

That was some fierce monk!