Captain Royce Bivens, University of Saint Thomas, ROTC

Royce Bivens was preparing for his senior year at the University of Saint Thomas. He was from an up and coming family in Pig’s Eye, Minnesota’s capitol city. His mother and father lived about a mile away from campus in a small home on Summit Avenue. His father owned a hardware store, and his mother was a parish leader at Saint Thomas Moore cathedral.

The Bivens were not a wealthy family, but they were squarely positioned in what would come to be known as the middle class. They parents were teetotlers, with a moral and ethical view of the world that was practically Calvinist despite their deeply Catholic roots; they were puritans.

Royce took pride in his training. Prior to his admission to Saint Thomas he had attended Cretin-Derham Hall, and participated in the Junior ROTC. He had dreamed of attending West Point, believing in his heart that he was better than his peers at everything their training called them to do; drills and marches, physical fitness and following orders.

He exemplified his duty.

Royce excelled at everything that entered the martial sphere of his studies, when it came to everything else he was a B student, at best. He consistently failed to understand his academic limitations, perhaps on account of the fact that he had a limited capacity for creative thinking.

Captain Royce Bivens was ardently disciplined, in his heart he believed that following orders, following procedures to the letter, was the signal mark of a good soldier.

He may have been right about that, and for his efforts he was promoted to Captain, but he was wrong about one very important thing: The ROTC program at the university was not training him to be a soldier, he was being groomed for leadership, for a commission in the Army, and command called for something more than the simple motivation to do as you are told.

Royce had been told this many times, such statements had appeared with regularity on his periodic evaluations, and he consistently failed to recognize their importance or how he could change in response to them.

On this night he had been convinced by some of the fellows from ROTC squad to take a trip down Lake Street this evening. They all wanted to see the night life and have a drink. Royce was reluctant, but he was loathe to set himself apart from the group. He thought about the constant critique of his character that his superiors were inclined to level at him and he decided that he should have some fun, join his friends, experience something of the world, do the unexpected.

Once Royce made up his mind he would not be deterred, and so when the rain began to fall in heavy sheets and some of the boys wanted to stay on campus. Royce decided to push them forward. He would have gone alone that night, and his boldness encouraged the squad to follow.

They crossed the Mississippi over the Marshall Avenue Bridge, entering Saint Anthony where Mashall became Lake Street, and they drove its length, stopping at a bar close to baseball field where the Miller’s played. The bar was called the Round-Up, and the brother of one of the boys in his squad worked there, and so they were being treated like family.

They were all gathered at the bar by the door, drinking beer and whiskey when a fight ensued.

They were laughing and talking about the girls they had seen on the corner, wondering out loud how much it would cost to spend an hour with one of them, blushing and guffawing at the thought of it when a sudden commotion started up. A group of men, including the Owner of the bar and Lieutenant Kaplan’s brother were pushing a man of gargantuan stature out the door.

Royce understood instinctively who was in the right, it was the owner of the establishment, and though it chilled him to the core to join the mayhem, he mastered his fear and together with his squad they helped push the man out of the door.

Without them they other men in the bar would not have succeeded.

He stood in the doorway and watched as the man stumbled and fell against a parked car, appearing to cut his jaw, though after a second look Royce thought he imagined it.

He watched the giant recover, and watched Tom Kaplan go outside in his rubber apron to return his hat to him. He watched as the gargantuan looked toward the sky and with maniacal laughter appeared to call the lightning down; he watched the rainbows dance in his glass eye, striking Tom Kaplan dead.

A wave of horror passed through the crowd, a midget brushed past Royce’s leg. The huge man began to run down the street, police following after him; then he saw something that surprised him. He saw Johnny Holiday, a guy that Royce had drummed out of the ROTC, and from the University, he saw Johnny following behind the huge man, ahead of the police, giving chase like had reason to.

Royce Bivens scratched his chin confused, Lieutenant Kaplan ran to his brother, sobbing and screaming. The rest of his crew was standing around in shock, looking to Royce, their Captain for a signal.

Royce Bivens went out to his friend who was sitting on his knees in the downpour, crying. He put his hand on his shoulder, and said to him: “Let’s go call your ma,” then there was another crack of lightening, the lights went out and the city went dark.

Father Luke Meiner (Rector, Saint Thomas, Saint Mary’s Basilica)

Father Luke walked the grounds of Saint Mary’s Basilica, the great church on Hennepin Avenue in Saint Anthony; it was the very first Basilica to be built in the United States, following the old Roman design.

It was his habit to the trim of the hedges, the flower beds and the lawns. He picked up and gathered stray bits of trash, fallen branches and other debris. There was always something out of order.    

He took what he could carry to a receptacle and informed the grounds keeper of the things he could not.

Father Luke looked over the windows and the foundations of the granite building, walking slowly as he smoked his Pall Malls. It was a kind of mediation, caretaking for the property just as Adam had been charged to care for the garden, or so he told himself.

He was late today and feeling somewhat restless in the oppressive Autumn heat.

He had been detained by one of the sisters who had become frantic about a bat that had found its way into the sanctuary, the entire staff had to come together to capture it. After it had been netted the sister insisted that they let the creature go free.

Father Luke had to come to her aid when the groundskeepers argued with her, insisting that it should destroyed because it was pest.

She had her way.

Father Luke looked up from his mediation in time to see one of his parishioners driving past the church in his convertible, with the top down, a young man who Luke had been mentoring for the past several years, a boy named Johnny Holiday who had been going through a spate of trouble recently, drinking, suspended from the University where Father Luke served as Rector.

Johnny did not appear to notice Luke as he drove past, he had his eyes on the road, and was moving straight ahead.

He followed the car with his eyes as he took a right turn past parade field and went up the winding hill of Waverly Place, Luke had to wonder what business was drawing Johnny up the Waverly Place and the ridge people called The Devil’s Spine.

Dr. Quintin Marshall – Professor of Classical Philosophy

Dr. Marshall arrived early in the morning.

The drive down Summit Avenue was beautiful, though the humidity was stifling.

There was a breeze with cool jets of air laced through, it spoke of storms and perhaps a break in the weather.

Students were returning to campus. The Freshmen were in the quad doing drills for R.O.T.C.. Dr. Marshall enjoyed watching the young men exercising, wishing that he had been afforded the benefit of such training before his own service in the Great War.

While his summer sabbatical at the University of Chicago had been illuminating. He was glad to be back in Pig’s Eye. He particularly enjoyed the conferences he had attended with eminent philosopher and physicist, Alfred Whitehead he had to confess that it made him feel small.

His work is groundbreaking, Dr. Marshall thought, even though he was forced to confront the very real limits of his imagination as he tried to comprehend Whitehead’s theory of concresence, and such things. Quintin Marshall knew this much, Whitehead was articulating a whole new cosmology, a signal change in the basic understanding of the nature of reality, one that was based on all of the groundbreaking work that was being carried out by famous men like Einstein and others.

The old world, his world would become just a footnote to theirs.

When he got to his desk in Aquinas Hall he found it much as he had left at the end of the spring term, Freshly cleaned and dusted but his work was right where he left it. There were even a couple of papers he had not graded before leaving.

There was a paper from Johnny Holiday, an exceedingly bright but functionally derelict student who Dr. Marshall had been all too happy to see dismissed, even helping to facilitate his suspension, never mind the fact that it necessitated a less than honest report on his comportment.

The boy was a bright and a gifted writer, but arrogant, and he did not belong in the university.

He looked out the window thinking about Whitehead, wondering why he felt hollow inside. He realized then that he had become a historian, a cataloger of other people’s thoughts. The world had moved on from Socrates and Plato, revolutionaries in their time, now become little more than shining tiles in the mosaic of modern thought.

He looked back at his desk and read the title of Johnny Holiday’s final essay:

Concresence and the Square of Opposition, the end of Aristotle in the Age of Uncertainty

Hubris! Dr. Marshall thought, knowing that he was jealous. He hadn’t read the paper, and he didn’t plan to, but now seeing the title again, he realized that Johnny Holiday had already progressed to the place in philosophy that he himself aspired to. He was with Whitehead, a creature of the modern world.

Sam Olson – Editor at The Star

It was late morning when Sam turned his thoughts to his protégé, Johnny Holiday, while sitting at his desk, looking out of his window over Downtown Saint Anthony, with a view of city hall with its copper spires.

He wondered how Johnny had gotten along with Colonel Forrester, thinking that the interview should be over by now, and wondering what kind of arrangements the Colonel had made for him, what kind of a deal Johnny had struck for himself.

Doing work for the Colonel could be lucrative, Sam knew it from firsthand experience, though in his heart he wondered if he should have tried harder to steer Johnny away from the old man, because the work could also be dangerous too, as anything having to do with the Colonel Forrester could be.

Sam was fond of Johnny, he had known him for the better part of the boy’s life, watched him grow up at the paper, learning every job there was to do in the newsroom.

Sam told Johnny that he had recommended him to Colonel Forrester, for a writing assignment that called for first class prose.

Johnny was young, and he wrote beautifully but the truth of the matter was that there were a half a dozen more experienced writers he would have preferred to recommend to the Colonel if the only qualification was beautiful prose.

When the Colonel came to him asking for a recommendation he asked for Johnny Holiday by name, and really the Colonel was asking Sam if there was some reason that he should not offer Johnny this assignment, then informed Sam that he would appreciate it if Johnny came to the work believing that Sam had made the recommendation on his own.

Sam starred out his window looking over the city watching the clouds approach, telling himself that no harm could come from recommending Johnny to the Colonel, and curious as to what the assignment entailed.

He sipped his coffee, turned his back on the city and returned to the stack pilling up on his desk.