Love in the Ruins

 I've had it in my mind to post passages from my favorite books that have stayed with me over the years.  This one, from Love in the Ruins:  The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, by Walker Percy, (1971), is my first choice.

Percy is one of my personal "saints", along with Graham Greene and Malcolm Muggeridge, whom I credit with my conversion.  The world that was ending for Percy included the segregated South and the pre-Vatican II Church.

I have butchered this quotation for the sake of brevity.  You should read the whole of "July First", chapter 13, to really understand it.  Percy is struggling with the Mystery of Evil, particularly as it relates to the Jim Crow South.  I'll just add that Victor Charles is black, and Leroy Ledbetter is white.

    I look at the mirror. Behind the bar towers a mahogany piece, a miniature cathedral, an altarpiece, an intricate business of shelves for bottles, cupboards, stained-glass windows, and a huge mirror whose silvering is blighted with an advancing pox, clusters of vacuoles, expanding naughts. Most of the customers of the Little Napoleon have long since removed to the lounges of the suburbs, the nifty refrigerated windowless sealed-up Muzaked hideaways, leaving stranded here a small band of regulars and old-timers, some of whom have sat here in the same peaceable gloom open to the same twilight over the same swinging doors that swung their way straight through Prohibition and saw King-fish Huey P. Long promise to make every man a king on the courthouse lawn across the street. Next door Gone with the Wind had its final run at the old Majestic Theater.
    The vines are sprouting here in earnest. A huge wistaria with a tree size trunk holds the Little Napoleon like a rock in a root The building strains and creaks in its grip.
    The storm is closer, the sun gone, and it is darker than dusk The martins are skimming in from the swamp, sliding down the dark glassy sky like flecks of soot. Soon the bullbats will be thrumming.
    Leroy Ledbetter stands by companionably. Like me he is seventh-generation Anglo-Saxon American, but unlike me he is Protestant, countrified, sweet-natured. He's the sort of fellow, don't you know, who if you run in a ditch or have a flat tire   shows up to help you...

    "Looks like it's going to freshen up," says Leroy. We drink toddies, eat eggs, and watch the martins come skimming home, sliding down the glassy sky.
    In the dark mirror there is a dim hollow-eyed Spanish Christ. The pox is spreading on his face. Vacuoles are opening in his chest. It is the new Christ, the spotted Christ, the maculate Christ, the sinful Christ. The old Christ died for our sins and it didn't work, we were not reconciled. The new Christ shall reconcile man with his sins. The new Christ lies drunk in a ditch. Victor Charles and Leroy Ledbetter pass by and see him. "Victor, do you love me?" "Sho, Doc." "Leroy, do you love me?" "Cut it out, Tom, you know better than to ask that." "Then y'all help me." "O.K., Doc." They laugh and pick up the new Christ, making a fireman's carry, joining four hands. They love the new Christ and so they love each other.
    "You all right now?" Leroy asks, watching me eat eggs and drink my toddy.
    "I'm fine."

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