On the dim reaches of wakefulness, Mickey heard a phone ring, then a hand on his shoulder shook him fully awake and McCall was saying,

"Mickey – phone call."

Groggy, and not immediately remembering where he was or why, Mickey pushed himself to sitting upright with his feet on the floor and took the phone. The blanket tangled around him.


"Mickey? What's going on?" Nick's voice brought Mickey fully awake. He sounded distressed.

"Nick? Where are you? Are you all right?" He looked around. Outside the apartment windows the daylight was rapidly fading; it had to be after five pm.

"I'm fine, I'm in Rome. What's going on?"

The memories opened full bloom in Mickey's brain. He tried to push them away.

"What makes you think anything's going on?"

"Because of the seven levels of Church hierarchy Mr. McCall had to navigate to have this phone call put through to me. You know I left the phone number of our hotel on your answering machine."

"I just got in today. I haven't been home yet."

"What happened? What's wrong?"

"Did you meet the Pope yet?" Mickey asked, trying to redirect Nick's train of thought. He looked around the apartment to glare at McCall for worrying Nick, but he wasn't to be seen.

"Tomorrow, after First Friday Mass. Are you okay?" But Mickey couldn't answer. Maybe he didn't want to. "Mickey – did you just wake up?"

"Yeah. I'm sleeping on McCall's couch."

"Are you okay?"

And again Mickey couldn't answer.

"Do you want me to come home?"

"You haven't met the Pope yet."

"I'm sure he'll survive his disappointment." Nick said, and the remark made Mickey laugh out loud.

"Aunt Ewa would never forgive you."

"Are you kidding? She has met him. She already made friends with every nun in the Vatican; I wouldn't be surprised if she had tea with His Holiness the day we arrived."

They both laughed and then there was silence and then Nick asked again,

"Are you okay?"

"I'm alive." Mickey said after a short consideration.

"Always the best answer."

"I was in Honduras. We tried to save a family that was being held for ransom by some guerillas. We didn't save all of them." And Mickey heard Nick whisper something in Latin, probably a blessing for the dead. "He was a priest, the son was a priest and he died trying to save the life of one of the men who took them hostage."

"What was his name?"


"What was his name?"

"Why? You don't think you knew him?"

"No, but I'd like to say a Mass for him."

"You didn't know him." Mickey said. He tugged the blanket out from under his leg to pull across his lap; he felt cold.

"You knew him." Nick pointed out. "And besides, a priest giving his life for his enemy - there are people here who'll want to know who he was and what happened."

"Oh, okay, yeah. His name was Roberto. Roberto Martínez de Banegas. He was - I'm pretty sure he said he was an Oblate of Mary Immaculate."

"Okay, thanks."



"Promise me you'll never do anything stupid."

"You mean you don't want me sliding down the banister at the rectory anymore?"

"Promise me you'll never do anything stupid."

"I promise Mickey, I'll never do anything stupid."

But having a lifetime of knowing his brother, and being adept at the fine art of verbal hedging himself, Mickey rephrased the question.

"Promise me you'll never do anything that I would think is stupid."

"As long as you promise me the exact same thing."

"Sure, I promise not to do anything I think is stupid." Mickey smiled because even over the phone, he could see the look Nick was giving him.

"And you don't think mocking me is stupid?" Nick asked, trying but not succeeding at sounding completely stern.

"What's the worst you could do to me?"

The briefest moment of hesitation preceded Nick's solemn answer:

"I could ask His Holiness to pray for you."

"Great, first the fall of Communism then the Berlin Wall. You have the Pope pray for me and by this time next week I'll be applying to the seminary and taking a vow of silence."

"Worse things could happen." Nick said.

"Yes they could." Mickey answered gravely. "Promise me."

"Do you think what that priest did was stupid, Mickey?"

Mickey didn't want to answer that because he didn't want to tell the truth, and for everything else wrong he may have ever done in his adult life, he'd never lied to Nick.

"I think – no. He was – who he was. It would be stupid to try to be anybody else."

"Then I promise you I will always be myself, Mickey."

"Even when you meet the Pope?"

"Well, we'll have to see. Who knows, blithering idiot might be who I really am."



When Mickey couldn't say anything, Nick filled the silence.

"You too Mickey."

"Yeah. I should let you go, hunh? It must be late there. You want to be wide awake when you meet John Paul."

"Are you okay Mickey?"

"I'm better now. Send me a postcard, will you?"

"I'll bring you a holy card."

"No, postcard's fine." Mickey answered too fast. "Really."

"All right, no holy card. I'll tell Aunt Ewa you said hello. Take care of yourself Mickey."

"I will. You too."

Mickey hung up the phone and laid his head against the back of the couch. In a few moments McCall reappeared from the bedroom hallway.

"Having kid brothers is not easy." Mickey said.

"Nor is having big brothers a simple matter I gather."

"Me? I'm as simple as the day is long."

A look from McCall toward the window reminded Mickey how short the days were.

"Point taken."

"Dinner will be ready in three quarters of an hour. There are clean clothes waiting for you in the spare room if you'd like to take a shower in the meantime."

"Thanks." Mickey stood up, still having to untangle himself from the blanket. As he walked past, he let his hand rest for a few moments on the telephone.

The end.