Already this was the conversation Eagan was longing to have. If hearts could sing, his did. He said, "But if you did."
"I'd face it east to catch the sun coming up to get me the day I die."
Eagan didn't know how he knew what to do, but he did. He crossed the room, picked up a hand towel, and tossed it to the priest. "I think I'm becoming Catholic again."
Simeon nodded, threw down the towel, and took a Gatorade from a small brown refrigerator. "So maybe you're one of the lucky ones."
"I think I might be."
"Excuse the living conditions. The Dominicans threw me out of the retirement home."
"Because of the weightlifting?" Harry said.
"I sent some letters to the pope."
"They were considered heretical, I guess."
"Heretical was the least of it."
"My name is Harry Eagan."
The priest extended a still perspiring hand to shake. "Tony Simeon."
"Do I call you Father?"
"Not unless you want a fist in the face."
"But you're still a priest."
Simeon nodded. "That, God gave to me. They can't take it away. You want a drink?"
Harry was happy to find that Simeon meant Scotch, though Harry's drink was bourbon. They sat in lawn chairs on a widow's walk off the attic, looking down on Staunton.
"I've drunk better Scotch," the priest commented. "I'm economizing lately."
"The Dominicans took away your retirement, too?"
The priest shrugged. In a black T-shirt and baggy blue gym trunks that went down to his knees, his chest was still powerful, his legs still strong, for an old man's. His head, with its great bald crown and wide brow, was huge. Eagan was in awe of that head, which obviously contained a universe of understanding. Simeon offered Eagan a Dutch Masters Presidente. They lit up.
"I'm not the kind of man who smokes cheap cigars by choice."
"In the wrong hands," Eagan said, "cheap cigars are an affectation."
"You said it, brother. If I had a few bucks, I'd spring for a decent cigar."
"So what do I do?"
"Where do I go from here?"
He felt deeply satisfied, sitting in the late-afternoon air, Scotch in a jelly jar, the bitter bite of the Dutch Masters on his tongue, below them Staunton behaving like the small southern city it was. Eagan felt close if not to God then to a room He had just stepped out of. The air tingled, as though its very molecules were jazzed by proximity.
"You looking for some kind of twelve-step program, Harry?"
"No." Eagan shook his head. "Just God. I was reading Saint Augustine."
"Confessions or the City of God?"
"Good," the priest said. "That's the one you want."
Eagan waited for more, but was only slightly disappointed when Simeon told him, after they'd finished their cigars, that he was tired. "What can I say? I'm seventy-five, and no longevity in the family. It's a minor miracle I've lasted this long."
"Don't get up," Eagan said, and showed himself out. From his motel room he called Cathy. "I'm in Staunton."