by Bryan Murphy
Filippo was in pretty good shape, until they burnt him.
Of course, seven years of imprisonment had taken a toll – his leg muscles had atrophied and his eyes would water in sunlight – but for a man past fifty, well, he looked as though he’d be around for years to come. And that voice: loud and level, a debater’s voice. Not to mention the man’s mind, sharp and lucid as his tongue. Ah, his tongue. The weakest part of his whole body, the only part he couldn’t control. Even that was healthy enough when I examined it. They brought the friar to us, to our hospital on the island in the river. Wanted to be sure he’d survive until the end of his holy inquisition. Some of his holy inquisitors looked more likely to snuff it than he did. Tortured consciences. Brought him here regularly over the years. Always me who examined him, until – Holy Father!
Yes, we talked. Mostly he talked and I listened. No, I didn’t absorb any of his heretical ideas, all that rubbish about life on other worlds. He did teach me some of his memory tricks. No, it’s not witchcraft. Believe me, I’ve seen a few witches in my time. Tell you one thing, I’ll never be able to forget him. Never forget a word he said. And he says plenty. Dominican, he is. Was. Intellectuals. Not like us plain John-of-God people. We just tend to the sick. It’s true we learn anatomy and cures, but mostly we just talk and listen to our charges. And pray for them.
So, memory and anatomy and obedience. I’ll get by with them in the secular world. Saecula saeculorum. What a world. Sixteen hundred years after Our Lord came to it. And left it. Poor, forsaken Filippo Bruno: our Brother Giordano.