St. Anthony was tired. It had been decades since he’d climbed the hill. His arrow, planted centuries ago, was neglected now, and flecked with rust. No caretakers came to burnish it, no shamans on their knees. The air itself had forgotten the simple pilgrim’s chant. Anthony whispered it back into the breezes:
Tony, Tony, look around. Something’s lost and must be found!
An empty azure sky carried the words away.
St. Anthony was tired. He was tired of his memories, the diaphanous web of his life as a hermit, a preacher, an envoy to a Pope. The wealth of his family, the poverty of his vows, and his preference for the later. Now, the pockets of his Franciscan robes were heavy and bulging with objects discarded and forgotten.
He had anchored the arrow in the ground himself, in 1230, the year before he died, anticipating the pressing need of seekers, of the troubled, even of the damned. For a soul can sometimes be lost as easily as a shoe, and Anthony was the patron saint of all things broken off, buried, blown away.
Pilgrims used to come in droves, to touch the arrow, say the prayer, and spin the polished inner wheel. They came for everything they’d lost. They came for missing socks, runaway dogs, old postcards, and single earrings. They came for spurned love, for keys and loose change, for pocketbooks and flexibility. They came for memories, for childhood and innocence, for sleep-flattened dolls, worn baby blankets, and pacifiers. Sometimes they came for pieces of themselves, severed, for old dreams, a soul cleaved apart in devastation or disaster. St. Anthony restored each beloved treasure to its home.
He touched the inner wheel now, the one that used to course and dance. It gave off nothing but a wretched, grinding squeak, and he pulled his palm away as if it had been burned. Around him rose the stench of garbage, his ancient garden gone, the hedges, streams, and roses all subsumed in trash.
This was not an age for miracles, but one reduced to simple computations. It was easier to replace what had been lost, to buy a replica. No one missed the little items tumbled from their plastic piles. Broken pieces — of a toy, a life, a soul — were discarded. You could get anything at a discount store. Anthony shuddered at fluorescence.
He had never meant to become a saint, to have his tongue preserved in a reliquary. He simply liked to find things, to reunite them with their owners. A soul. A shoe. A bit of faith.
As flies buzzed in hordes around him, Anthony emptied out his pockets — a woman’s purple fuzzy slipper, a pearl ring, a dog-eared book, two cups full of hope, one each of love and faith, a compass and a spoon. They were no more than objects now, and Anthony was tired. The arrow pointed up at emptiness as he turned his back and walked away.
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