Holy Man

By Mickey Kulp

Even though Lucid the Uncanny Dream Dog usually fetched me vibrant images to match her technicolor fur, this was a grayscale dream, a subdued, delicate Japanese watercolor…

Imagine a steel sky and a dark mountain.  A wise hermit’s stone hovel perches on the scoured summit.  The old man sits on a small boulder before a modest fire, huddling within his scratchy homespun robe.

A distraught maiden from the valley makes the perilous climb, weeping and stumbling (as maidens are required to do – don’t blame me, it was all Lucid’s idea), at last arriving at the hermitage scratched and dirty.

Now we learn that the hermit is a holy man, and the maiden is seeking absolution.  She has sinned, broken one of the Top Ten laid down by the Great Spirit. And  it’s not a normal sin either. It’s one of the Big Sins, something that changes a life forever, like coveting her sister’s boyfriend; and letting him covet her.  Twice.

The holy man hears her stumbling confession, complete with copious tears and enormous, wet sniffles.  He ponders her Big Sin for a long moment.  Then he pronounces her doom.

“You are forgiven,” he says.

No strings.  No chants or deeds required. No writing “I will not do the Big Sin” a thousand times on the chalkboard.

The maiden is puzzled.  Then she becomes furious.  She had come all this way, got scratched and dirty (she hated to be dirty) for this?  She screams at the placid holy man, she gestures wildly, she uses a few words that make one holy eyebrow rise slightly.

When she finishes, the old man says, “If I had commanded you to sacrifice a chicken or burn some herbs or bathe in the icy stream, would you have done it?”

“Of course,” she cries.

“If I had commanded you to shave your head and eat bread and water for a month, would you have done it?”


“Then I command you to believe that you are forgiven.”  He folds his hands into his homespun sleeves and bows slightly.  “That is much harder.”

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Mickey Kulp

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