The abbey where I live is outside a small town in a rural area of the Pacific Northwest. There are five monks here, myself included, and our abbot, Father Modestus. We call him Father Mo for short, but unofficially it’s short for “Mo’ Money.” As far as we can tell the whole counterfeiting operation is his brainchild, ostensibly to fund the monastery and feed the poor. I’m skeptical, but only because in my naïveté I don’t know how to reconcile charity with criminal art fraud. The monastery is a weird Spanish villa setup, which is really out of place in bumfuck Washington but still pretty comfortable. I share a dormitory room with Brother Quintus, a talented forger in his own right. Where my specialties are illustration, illumination, and script, Q has mad skills in developing the tools of the trade. All the vellum, ink, leather, gold leaf, quills, nibs, burnishers, awls, needles, wax, and all the rest of that stuff come off his workbench.
He’s also the master chemist; he used to work for an antiquities house as an analyst and knows what to look for. So when you read about how a counterfeit artifact was busted through energy dispersive x-ray spectrometry, Q knows that shit. If a particle of pollen lands on a bible printed in Detroit last year, I’m pretty sure he could convince the art world it happened six-hundred fucking years ago.
The best part? My lab. Well, technically it’s a “scriptorium,” but that implies a dusty kind of wood-paneled room where monks go blind by tallow candles as they labor at copying the unimpeachable Word of God. The reality is that I’m listening to Sisters of Mercy in a clean room lit by full-spectrum UV filtered LEDs as I lay down some Middle Age magic under an 8-diopter magnifying lamp.
On a good day I do it with a rocks glass of bourbon nearby. On a bad day, someone in the room farts. Not to worry though. Q makes sure that fart smells like it was emitted by a mutton-fed scribe with a fifteenth-century pimple on his ass.
I’ve only been here a few months, but Q has been here for years. He got busted for cooking meth in Antwerp awhile back and after creating an international incident, getting deported, and doing some time his prospects for employment had pretty much dried up. He holed up in his apartment in the dark for awhile until Father Mo knocked on his door. It worked out pretty well though, actually. Everyone around Q knew he was despondent enough to do something as batshit crazy as run off to become a monk, which is exactly what he did. Well, kinda. He doesn’t believe anything they teach here; in what is supposed to be a Benedictine monastery, Q is the only Buddhist.
Me? I don’t know what to think about God. I’d like to believe he’s up there in space or something, looking down on us (and whatever aliens are floating around out there in the rest of the universe) with some kind of loving and benevolent concern. A little like a cosmic Ward Cleaver, keeping us all on the straight and narrow with a stern expression and a clap on the back. The truth, I suspect, is that he’s a little less Mr. Cleaver and a little more Al Bundy, a ne’er-do-well deity who more or less regrets his creation and finds our petty discomforts and genocides to be quaint entertainment.
Yeah. The more I think about it, the more I figure God is a real asshole. That’s why I’m working on my own translation of the Bible in my spare time; nobody seems to realize what a perfect fucker the Lord our God really is, so I’m here to spread the Good News. And you know what? There is nothing quite like evangelizing from the belly of the beast.