Write it–What Rejection Does Not Mean

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Photo by Patricia Herlevi

For us sensitive types, rejection feels like someone slamming the door on our fingers. It hurts so badly that we wallow in shame and sometimes the guilt that comes when we feel like we made sacrifices for no good reason. As a writer (and as a human being), I have experienced the worst kinds of rejection–the kind that contains no constructive criticism and is so vague that it leaves too much room for interpretation. This type of criticism is death to the soul (or so it seems).

During the past week, despite kind comments people have left on my YouTube videos and Facebook posts, I received two rejections laced with shame. I felt like authority figures were sending poison arrows at me and those arrows were penetrating my skin leading to the slow death of my creative spirit. These situations reminded me too much of scathing criticism I experienced as an innocent child. It’s that message of “How dare you to think that you are better than anyone else. Or how dare you express yourself creatively when we don’t condone your type of creative talent.”

So the first rejection I experience was the good folks at YouTube slapping an age restriction on one of my astrology videos. The shaming part came with a description of why a viewer flagged my video. Where there is absolutely no violence or pornography or sex in my astrology video. I produced the video to educate my subscribers (whatever their age), to interpret a particular moon transit. True, I included images of the painting of Venus di Milo in my video–which shows a nude Venus rising from the ocean with men dancing around her. This image comes from a Classic Greek myth and anyone taking an ancient art history class will view this photo as art.

Still, YouTube thought it was in their best interest to shame me even though that particular video received over 35,000 visits–people of which saw ads on YouTube and probably purchased a product or service based on the ads they saw. And the message YouTube gave me was to make sure that my videos never become too visible or people will attack me for showing up authentically in the world. I’m expected to live my life by someone’s moral standards based on religions I don’t practice and never will practice.

This rejection as far as I’m concerned does not mean that I’m a wicked person because I know I’m not. I am not a violent person nor am I peddling harmful material to anyone. If people feel offended by the paintings featured in my videos (which are tame compared to modern art paintings), then no one is forcing them to watch my videos. And if this is the beginning of a witch hunt, look no further than the US government and major corporations where you’ll find Reptilian people performing the darkest kind of magic and brainwashing on the populace. So YouTube can go sniffing for evil elsewhere.

The second rejection I experienced was from the Artist Trust out of Seattle. Last year I applied for a storytelling grant. When I received the rejection letter and announcement of the winner in January, there was a passage in the rejection letter that said I could request notes for my submission. So, I requested the notes and waited several months to find out that my application wasn’t worthy of notes or suggestions because two of the three judges decided that my writing wasn’t valuable or viable to ever producing an income for me.

Now, I could make that mean that I’m an unworthy person and that I suck as a writer. But I’m not going to do that. I have worked as a freelance journalist since the age of 22 and I have earned money as a writer in many respects. The writing sample I sent to the Artist’s Trust was a passage from a memoir I wrote about living in between homes for several months due to a housing crisis that no one wants to address. Or perhaps, I had sent a writing sample from a novel that started out with a short story that was almost published by the Missouri Review several years ago. I don’t remember what I had sent.

But I know this. I’m not an unsuccessful writer even if I have not graduated with an MFA from any prestigious school or because I haven’t studied with a decorated person. I don’t require permission from the Artist’s Trust judges to write or to succeed as a writer. And when we feel like getting revenge, the best revenge to rejection is to keep on plugging away until we experience glorious success.

Rejection from publishers, editors, agents or other writers does not mean we suck as people. It does not mean we should throw in the towel to make them feel better. It does not mean that we have to shove ourselves into a square hole when we are a round peg. It does not mean we have to accept snobby behavior from others who believe that they are the authorities of our career or life path. It just means we have yet to find our tribe.

Most of the time other people’s rejection is their problem. Sometimes rejection happens because our work is premature and needs work. Sometimes rejection happens because those rejecting us feel overwhelmed with entries, applications, and proposals. And sometimes rejection happens because we’re from outside their circle of colleagues and friends. And sometimes rejection happens by people who enjoy shaming others because they are narcissistic. We’ll never know. And if the judges can’t give us criteria for us to improve our work, then their rejection is worthless and just plain cruel. Let us reject their rejection of us.

And if you have suffered grief from rejection recently, watch this scene from “Flash Dance” and you will feel uplifted. Success is the best revenge. (Sorry, it’s not in English).

Write It–It’s a Process

375px-KushanmapI love that scene in the movie, “Under a Tuscan Sun” when the character Frances talks about her writing process. First, she says that she tortures herself through procrastination and then she is a writing machine. However, there is a difference between procrastination and a germination process. Stories, similar to fetuses, go through a gestation phase. Stories happen as authors absorb their surroundings and they endure life experiences.

For instance, I started panicking recently because I hadn’t written any literary pieces since last year. Granted, I was living in between homes for 9 months and the last thing I wanted to do was work on a novel. Yet, I completed rewrites for a memoir (still not satisfied with it) and I completed my fifth novel. And after that ordeal, I felt that my muse had run for the hills. Yet, I needed a vacation from writing fiction.

In the past few months, I’ve mainly been blogging and working as a contract journalist. And this leaves me feeling like a ghost of a writer. Instead, of creating stories from my imagination, I’ve been writing stories that promote the successes of other people. I experience satisfaction from journalism but I still miss playing with characters and creating scenarios.

And then, a young sassy voice showed up which launched my next short story which I’m currently writing. I titled the story, “Lately, Queen Mamadou” and the story features young ballet students from a private girls’ school and a mother who channels an entity from colonial West Africa. That’s all I’m going to say about this middle-grade comedy.

As writers, we practice patience. The best stories take the time to appear. And then we structure our days to pour these stories onto the pages. We have many excuses for not sitting our butts in the chair. But in the end, a true writer will face the blank page and muster the courage to explore new worlds we call stories.

What is your writing process? Please share in the comment section.

Super-Nature Heroes Chapter 46

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My urban fantasy novel, Super-Nature Heroes features holy saints that reincarnate in modern Manhattan. They have returned to save the planet. I combined superheroes with Christian saints giving each of them super powers.

In chapter 46, Saints Teresa of Avila and Terese of Lisieux return as Siamese cats and they want to return to human form. They seek the help of Simon Magus. It was his doings that caused them to transform into cats in the first place!

  1. The Two Teresas Feeling Rather Catty And They Blame Their Situation On Simon Magus.

In yet another section of Manhattan, two Siamese cats lounge on a couch covered with their own hair.  The acrid smell from their litter box also causes the felines distress.

Teresa A. wonders if the former nuns had acted too hastily when they transformed into cats.  Although they approached Simon Magus with the strange request of being transformed into cats, he gave them a sales pitch they couldn’t resist.

“Just think of yourselves living a life of quiet contemplation among other people’s luxury.  Not only that, all your needs would be taken care of so you could pray all day.”

He went on to tell The Teresas that animals don’t accumulate karma.  When animals kill, fight or even scratch or bite their masters, they’re not held accountable.  Imagine that! It sounded so purr-fect at the time.

Simon forgot to mention to the nuns that animals don’t have the ability to become ascended masters.  He didn’t mention that they serve their masters even if they are served by the same masters.  As it was, he forgot to warn the nuns of the indignities that they would suffer such as the removal of parasites from their precious bottoms, other female cats wanting to pick fights with them when they go out to explore the rose garden, and those smelly litter boxes.  “Aye, Dios mios!”

Teresa L. wonders if they should have chosen to return as dogs or birds.  Also, why did they choose to come back as domesticated animals when they could have chosen to return as wild creatures? Sure the domestic situation has advantages such as food without hunting.

But cats love to hunt and it’s a drag when the masters trap the few mice that show up in the house.

It turns out that the cat’s life is boring.  Occasionally, the nanny from next door, (a friend of the maid), sneaks The Teresas out in a baby carriage and takes them to Central Park where she exposes the cats to different vibes.

During one of those trips to the park, The Teresas saw Brother Bernardo.  They couldn’t believe their eyes, seeing the Franciscan friar in the body of a greyhound!  Fortunately, Clare had him on a leash and he looked contemplative and serious.  Did he recognize The Teresas?

Then on another trip, Teresa A. saw Catherine walking her leopards.  Now those are the king of all cats, or so Teresa A. thinks.  Why didn’t she come back as one of those beasts instead of as a house cat? If only they had more time to think through their decision.  If only they could find Simon Magus and ask him to shift them back into humans.

And besides that, the nuns miss Clare.  The last time they saw their caretaker was the day an elderly couple adopted them.  They thought they would be able to return once a month for health visits, but their masters chose to take them to a posh cat clinic uptown instead.  They miss Clare’s sweet voice, the way she carefully measured out their food so that the lady cats could stay nice, trim, and active.  They miss Francesco’s daily sermons.

Even if they could leave their cloistered surroundings, they would get lost searching for the clinic.  And now the masters are considering adopting Jack Russell terriers.  Teresa A. told Teresa L. that she thought the days of torture had ended ages ago, but if even one Jack Russell arrives, they’ll be heading for trouble.

Both cats send telepathic messages to their masters regarding the weak qualities of Jack Russell terriers, but the elderly couple keeps searching and talking to dog experts and calling various shelters hoping to adopt these dogs.  They have also considered adopting a neglected toy poodle.

So the nuns, uh, cats, have decided to put their brains together because cat brains are rather small.  They send out telepathic messages to Simon Magus–trying to reach him through his dreams and visions.  They wish to be human again and to join Clare at the clinic where they can form a sisterhood.

However, trying to plow one’s way through the traffic jam of telepathic messages in Simon’s head proves an impossible undertaking.  The magician has opened himself up to channeling extraterrestrials and ancient masters.  The cats started concentrating heavily on finding a crack in the stream of telepathic traffic to send their message.  They must not give up their faith–their most powerful tool.

Teresa L. considered trying to send messages through the other saints. Francesco’s brain is also full of traffic and Jesus is easier to reach, but sometimes you have to knock for a long time at his proverbial door before you get an answer.

Magic Mary would be sympathetic, but Catherine seems the easiest to reach.  The problem is she adores cats so she might not sympathize.  And Jeanne seems too dogmatic.  They wouldn’t appreciate a speech from that hothead.  Oh, what to do?

This feline life causes the nuns to feel rather catty.  Just the other day, Teresa L. scratched her mistress.  She didn’t want to take another flea dip and no, she didn’t want her claws clipped.

Yet, she feels remorse for the welts she left on her mistress’ arm and for the tears that rolled down her face.  Thank Goddess, she won’t reap any karma.

Super-Nature Heroes by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

Podcast from Super-Nature Heroes

signs-of-the-time-027Perhaps, I sound high and mighty when I mention that I include bigger themes of humanity and the journey of the planet in my comic novels. Hah! Yet, I wanted my writing career to dovetail with my metaphysical practice. Also, my current trip is to produce podcasts of my short fiction and chapters from my unpublished novels.

I’m doing this because it is a fun way to waste precious time. And because I feel frustrated that agents ignore my work in favor of dark thrillers and all those romances. Well, that stuff sells, I understand. But I am going to quote that song, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love” and comedy–lots of it.

And I would like to think that the Holy Saints possess a sense of humor. I envision them laughing at their foibles in my heartfelt urban fantasy. A girl’s gotta do, what a girl has gotta do.

Short Fiction–The Space Between Us

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Author’s note: I wrote this story as part of a trilogy with each story representing an Ayurvedic medicine dosha. This story represents Vata (space and air).

The Space between Us

By Patricia Herlevi

As Anetti ambled on the cobblestone alleyway, she heard the comforting sound of church bells in the distance and a set of chimes hanging on a storefront singing in the wind.  The bells and chimes soothed her nerves and she hadn’t felt so relaxed in days due to the windy weather that swept through Seattle and caused her bones to tremble. Her eyes roamed the alleyway in search of a warm lit cafe and the fragrance of roasted coffee beans to bring her back to herself.

Work had not gone well and Anetti felt crunched with deadlines and little breathing space to maneuver.  As it turned out, autumn weather only exasperated her nervous tension, and she stayed awake at night chasing away worries about money.  Her relationship with her partner, (who spent more time traveling for business than he did with her), also kept her awake. Rumbles occurring all around her, she heard change in the wind whispering to her.  Holiday brochures grabbed her attention too.  If only.

Meanwhile, the wind picked up and threw its weight against Anetti’s thin body and her thick black hair came out of its pony tail hitting her in the face.  One of her high heel boots caught on the cobblestone and nearly sent her into a brick wall.  Tumbling forward, she bumped into an attractive Indian man, dressed in casual business attire.  She guessed that he worked for the software company hidden in the loft near the nightclubs.

Funny she had never seen him before, not that she would or should have noticed. After all, her partner Neil had proposed to her.  A discussion of wedding plans was scheduled for the next week after the fiancé returned from France where he promoted his life coaching DVD.

Not able to dredge up pre-wedding bliss, Anetti reflected on the lack of spark she felt with Neil, not that she desired one of those unpredictable magical relationships between soul mates.  But then maybe she did. She never bought into all that new age stuff, that there’s one partner in the world for her and she’d know when she encountered him. She met Neil at Green Drinks and found that he could hold an intelligent conversation even after downing three glasses of organic red wine.

Her own mind buzzed on all the dark chocolate she had consumed. And everything after that moment fell into the groove of predictable, grounding, and comforting.  An astrologer once told Anetti that her triple Gemini threat needed grounding energies.  So she hooked up with a double Taurus and at least he satisfied her in bed, even if his thought process seemed stuck in molasses some of the time.

The Indian man held onto Anetti for a few moments longer.  His dark eyes gazed into her green ones causing an erotic stirring in her body that she brushed aside.

A slow grin widened across his face as if he was pleased by the woman who materialized in front of him.  “Are you okay now?”

Stepping back and away from the man, Anetti nodded.  “Thank you for saving me from hitting my head on that wall.  That’s all I need.”

“This weather makes walking difficult.” He pointed to a café, “I was just going to grab a cup of tea, would you like something?”

The man’s English accent captivated her and she enjoyed the way he wrapped his tongue around the word “tea,” but she now felt an urgency to return to the office. “I’ll take you up on your offer next time we bump into each other.”

Weeks past by and Anetti and Neil chose the wedding gown, the cake, and invitations. They decided to hold the ceremony at Deception Pass State Park, weather permitting and set the wedding date for the end of May.  While Anetti enjoyed scheduling gown viewings and meeting with wedding planners, something felt off.  Did she want to spend her life with Neil? It’s what her mother would prescribe for her restless soul, but the bigger picture sent chills through her.

After a day of sneaking in time to browse caterers’ websites, Anetti slipped out of the office to grab a coffee.

When she approached the long line of business people and tattooed hipsters, she noticed the Indian man ordering his chai tea. She decided to ignore him unless he noticed her first.  So she scrunched down and hid behind her wool coat, hoping he wouldn’t see her and at the same time wishing he would.

As the man turned away from the cashier, his eyes darted over to and locked on Anetti. He approached her. “Remember when I saved you from the wind.  I’m Sanjay.”

Anetti blushed, not because she felt virginal but she wondered if Sanjay’s penetrating brown eyes could read her erotic thoughts. “I’m Anetti.”

Sanjay pointed at a corner table that had just cleared.  “Join me?”

Anetti’s fought with her usual indecision and thoughts of consequences as she projected herself far into the future.  Sanjay’s request was simple and innocent enough.  He wasn’t sending out sexual vibes.  For all she knew, he was probably already married or had an arranged marriage pending in India.  You never could tell with foreigners, especially those that worked for software companies.  Here today and gone tomorrow.

Glancing at her watch, she noticed she had a few minutes of lunch break left and sat in a chair across from Sanjay.  He eyed her while he sipped his chai.

“So do you work at an office nearby?”

Anetti looked for a ring on Sanjay’s finger but noticed his fingers were empty of any jewelry. “I work at Rialto Graphic Design.” She pointed to an orange façade just outside the window.

“Do you enjoy your job?”

“Lately it’s been one deadline after another and I wonder if the headaches are worth it.”

Sanjay smiled gently.  “I know of a cure for headaches.  Do you have one now?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact.  I thought that a cup of black coffee would remedy the problem.”

“Do you mind?”  Sanjay walked behind Anetti and massaged the base of her neck.  His gentle hands wove in and out of her thick hair. The massage did the trick and a little more.

As the weeks flowed into each other, Anetti found herself having lunch with Sanjay.  She knew that she felt more than friendship, but refrained from going further by reminding herself about her upcoming wedding.  Then one rainy afternoon everything changed.

Anetti rode a bus to work and as she waited for it, a torrential downpour soaked her through to the bone. As she stood shivering, Sanjay approached her.  “First the wind storm and now this rain, the weather doesn’t agree with you.”  He chuckled. “I have an apartment near here.  Do you want to go there and dry off? Then afterward I can give you a ride home.”

Water rolled into Anetti’s eyes blurring her vision.  Hunger rumbled in her stomach and passion stirred in her groin. Against her best judgment, she found herself not only in Sanjay’s apartment but also his bed. Rationalizing that she hadn’t betrayed Neil, she felt that she fulfilled her own needs. Sanjay felt grounding and exciting, a combination she’d never experience with Neil.  Come to think of it, she hadn’t experienced any real passion with her fiancé either.

But what would she choose in the end, a passionate love affair with an unknowable future or the predictability of a life with Neil? Destiny had spun her around in a different direction then she previously sought, but it wasn’t as if she never saw the warning signs. Perhaps she wasn’t free to choose her own fate. In that moment as she stretched her bare legs under silk sheets and felt Sanjay’s warm kisses on her neck, she felt at home for the first time in her thirty years.  The wind stopped hounding her brain and she found the center of a storm.  Nobody thought that was where it was supposed to go.

##

All Rights Reserved

 

Super Saints (Chapter from Super-Nature-Heroes)

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In 2004, I met saints. Well, I met the saints in my thoughts. I began to obsess about the saints. I coaxed memories from my brain revolving around saint cards my mother kept in a steamer trunk when I was a child. My mother grew up Catholic and attended a Catholic school for girls in Panama. I wasn’t raised Catholic so the saint cards fascinated me. Around the same time, I watched superhero cartoons, “Super Friends.” And years later the saints on the cards and the superheroes would merge into super beings.

So in 2004, while I was diligently writing my morning pages each day I felt inspired to write my first novel three pages at a time–longhand. And I turned to this idea of marrying Saint Francis of Assisi to Joan of Arc. Actually, I obsessed about this concept. I had no idea how to write a novel even if I had attempted to write shorter fiction. And I knew my novel would need to include magic realism and comic relief. After all, I was poor and depressed at the time so I needed to cheer myself up.

When I began my novel I structured it similar to The Little Flowers of Assisi, which is based on true stories about Saint Francis and the Friars Minor. And around ten drafts later, I finally came up with a novel despite its vignette structure is hilarious and mystical. Below you will find one of the chapters featuring two of my favorite saints, Anthony of Padua and Francis of Assisi contemplating modern life in Central Park, New York City. When I read this chapter at an art gallery in Seattle in 2007, the audience members were in hysterics. This surprised me because they were aloof when I first arrived at the gallery. During subsequent readings, audience members also enjoyed the humor, often comparing it to Monty Python (though that was not my point).

In 2007-08, I blogged the novel and it attracted quite a following, mostly from Asian countries. Then later, I removed the blog because I realized the novel needed extensive revisions. It was a semi-finalist for the first Amazon Debut Novelist Contest in 2008. And then, it appeared on the Authonomy Site from 2008-2010. This excerpt is from the latest version of the novel.

  1. Our Brothers and Sisters, the Birds and the Bees: Francesco Talks Sense to Saint Anthony.

The autumn wind blows leaves in a spiral then sweeps them across the frosty grass.  Despite the chill in the air, Saint Anthony shuffles his way through Central Park–his feet swathed in torn leather shoes with holes in the soles.  His tattered trousers keep sliding down his hips and he wish he had a belt or suspenders to hold them in place.  At least the old wool overcoat covers his thin and bare hips, even if its threadbare state leaves him shivering from the wind.

Of course, all of this is just a disguise.  Anthony prides himself on his Merlin-like qualities. He marvels at how he can transform himself from administrator sporting short hair, a decent suit and a clean shave, to a ragamuffin.  He practices poverty when ever possible so that he can understand the “invisible people.”

How can you help the poor if you do not truly understand their plight? He thinks of his dear friend, Francesco.  How he once lived at a homeless shelter while he studied veterinarian medicine.  Then Jeanne came along and changed all of that.  He still thinks Jeanne was the best thing that could take place in his friend’s life.  For Francesco to marry a woman that will cook for him, share her stories with him and give him companionship, and not just any woman.

Anthony wonders why he hasn’t connected with a former saint in that way.  Goddess knows there are several fine single women saints residing in Manhattan.  Of course, The Virgin is off limits, but he heard that Saint Catherine of Alexandria is available.  She seeks a partner and won’t settle for anyone less than a saint.

The saint plops down on a bench.  He gazes into the distance and notices a familiar figure.  Could that be Francesco out walking Bernardo? Yes, it is.  He wonders what the two of them discuss these days now that Bernardo returned as a hound.  Well, at least the Franciscans meet Bernardo’s needs.  Anthony heard a rumor that Clare adopted the greyhound.  What a fortunate dog!

If only beautiful Clare would give her hand in holy matrimony, but obviously that would never happen.  She’d have chosen Francesco in any case.  What woman wouldn’t?

Anthony waves to his friends.  The Italian saint and his hound approach their fellow Franciscan.  “Oh, my dear Anthony, how wonderful it feels to see you here in this beautiful park on this wonderful late autumn day.  I see that you have taken up with Sister Poverty again.”

Anthony smiles wearily, “I’ll be back with Sister Charity next week.  I was just taking a break from the office routine…you know trying to understand instead of being understood.  But I wonder my dear friend can one man really make a difference by being poor himself?”

Francesco plops down on the bench. Bernardo rests at his feet.  He rubs his chin, pondering Anthony’s complicated question.

“I often wonder the same thing myself.  After all, the poor need money more than they need sermons.  They need food, warm clothing, and shelter and how can you provide those necessities for them if you have nothing like that to give? I think about how we went wrong in telling people to throw away their possessions and live like the birds.”

Anthony considers this food-for-thought.  “And yet when we lived in grottos, people took pity and provided for us. I can’t think of a time when I felt so much joy to trust completely in providence and see that trust rewarded.”

“Those were the days.  I can’t imagine we could get away with that in Manhattan,” Francesco sighs.  “And even if this city has its own beauty, it could never compare to Assisi.  Anthony, here you are hiding out as a self-imposed hermit.  They could cart you off to Bellevue.”

Anthony laughs, “Yes, I’ve had a few close calls.  Say, I wanted to ask you about Brother Bernardo and since you have him here with you…”

Francesco pats the greyhound’s head.  Bernardo wags his tail as he hears his name mentioned.  “Well, as you can see, he’s healthy and filled with Goddess’ presence.  I almost wish I came back as such a faithful companion.”

Anthony nods and laughs.  “Yes, I know what you mean.”

Francesco glances at all the people passing by women with strollers, athletic men, and women on roller skates or jogging with their sporty dogs.

“I wonder my dear friend, what goes on in the minds of all our brothers and sisters as they pass by us?  Do they contemplate Goddess? Do they wonder about Sister Poverty? What do they think when they see us sitting here dressed in rags? Do you think they even notice us?”

“Oh, I think not.  Today, our poverty only inspires guilt and fear, not compassion.  I know because when I solicit donations for the church, few people give. They say that they are broke when they are swathed in furs…”

Francesco grimaces at the thought of ignorant humans draping themselves in the coats of their brothers and sisters.  It is stealing after all. 

“I don’t understand how people can proudly wear fur unless they are Indian and prayed to the creature in which sacrificed its life to them.”

“In this city at least, there’s an indifference to natural products and Goddess-made goods.  Today people eat fake food when Goddess still provides a bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit.”

“Do you think that this is fall of man and womankind? Is it possible that we have returned during the earth’s last breath?”

Anthony chuckles, “Oh, my dear friend, there’s no use in getting apocalyptic.  I think it was much worse when humans experienced plagues and wars that lasted a hundred years.  Now things are a bit more contained.  Life is easier for lots of people although not for all.”

“It’s more difficult for others.”

Anthony smiles, “My dear friend, look at you.  You have clothes and you’re married to Jeanne d’Arc!  Even if this place isn’t Assisi, it’s not bad. In fact, I quite like it.”

Bernardo wags his tail as a young man strides by walking two greyhounds that he recognizes.  The two dogs wag their tails in response.  The saints watch with total amusement.

A smile forms on Francesco’s weary face.   “There goes Brother Juniper and Brother James.”

Anthony gawks, “Are you serious?”

“Oh, yes, Bernardo recognizes them.”

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