The book editing is going well. I worked on it a good three hours last night, staying at the office long after the cleaning ladies had left. Good music, a closed door and a mug of coffee saw me right through to the end, and it was with a sense of relief that I turned the last page and sat back. Not that I’m done; the first run through was the easy part, checking phrases, parsing paragraphs, cutting out mistakes and rewriting the occasional sentence. No, the real challenge now lies ahead; I have to rewrite Chapters 11 & 12, change the fate of one of the characters, enrich a few key sections by working on atmosphere and dialogue. I have to smooth out some problems in consistency, etc. So – perhaps another week before I’m done.
When writing the first draft, I often plowed through bits and pieces that I knew I’d have to come back to later and research properly. Did they really do things this way in the mid 19th century? How does the Church go about sanctioning an exorcism? Where would personal affects of a priest be kept? Now, however, I have to answer those thorny questions, and so I arranged to meet my friend Emilio for lunch.
Emilio is training to be a Jesuit priest, and I was hoping that he could provide me with some key answers. We met up in Washington Park, and from there walked to a local pizzeria where we sat at the bar that runs along the front plate glass windows, looking out into the street. We caught up, and then I recounted my dilemmas and questions, and he mulled it over while chewing on his pizza.
He didn’t know the exact answers himself, but he thought he could introduce me to some people who might. Apparently there’s a Jesuit priest coming in from the DR who performed a successful exorcism in the late 80’s on a young girl; he’ll be in NYC for the week, and Emilio said he’d try to arrange a meeting. The story of the exorcism sounds incredible – a friend of Emilio’s, a seminarian who was visiting the priest’s mission at the time recounted it to him. This young man was alone at the church, the priest out in the field, when a group of peasants came running up, panic stricken and breathless. A young girl had been possessed by the devil, and they needed a priest immediately. When the seminarian protested that he wasn’t qualified they brushed aside his objections and hustled him out of the village and up the mountain path to the remote home. People were streaming down in the opposite direction, not pausing even as they yelled for the small group to turn back, to not go further. When the villagers yelled back that they were taking a priest, the others running down hill would yell for them to hurry, to get there quick, and rushed on down and away.
Reaching the house, the villagers slowed, stopped, and urged the seminarian to go in alone. Trembling, he walked into the front yard, and heard a grating bellow resound from within the darkened building in spanish: “I want a priest, not a boy!” He told Emilio later that it sounded like an old man who had spent his life smoking and drinking rotgut whiskey.
Entering the building, he saw the young girl, perhaps 13. She glared at him with livid eyes, and then began to say things that scared the seminarian so badly that he turned and fled, running past the villagers and down to the church where he set about feverishly hunting down the real priest. When he found the man, he told him, stammering and stuttering, about the girl up in the mountains. The priest nodded, shouldered his pack, and headed up there alone.
Two days passed before he returned, worn and weary, and told everybody that he had taken care of the problem.
Emilio didn’t know what the man had done in the house, what he had said or seen, confronted or abjured, but he’s coming to NYC this weekend and I’m going to try and arrange an interview with him. To hear about what went down, and see if I can’t learn something to enrich my own story.
Ah – who said researching material for books was boring?