Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Constable Keep, a Chestertonian Short Story

Note well: This is not the whole story. Hopefully, there is more to come. So, if some of the conversation in the middle scene seems a bit…incongruous…well, it’s supposed to be.

He had nice curves. It of course is expected that the person who reads that thinks that there is a typo and that the previous sentence should read “she.” But that is not the case. He had nice curves, from the top of his well-rounded, elongated domular, “British Grenadier” policeman’s hat; to his face, which continued the contours of the cap; to the graceful arms and well-rounded lower body. His buttons were as shiny as the hall of mirrors at Versailles, and as golden as the mirror-frames. For Constable Keep refused to save pounds by buying brass buttons, even if they looked just as nice as the gold ones.
The perpetual English rain may have been plopping in the puddles as Constable Keep twirled his bobby-stick, but its frenetic pace and the rushing of the hansom-cabs did not stop the Constable from sniffing a deep sniff and grunting a small grunt.

“Hmm…yes…It’s a fine day, and…Ooh! Get away from me!”

The instigator of the problem was a small child with dirty hands. Constable Keep ran after him with small but surprisingly quick steps, twirling his stick and yelling unintelligible insults at the child. The insults were all in good taste, of course.
An older man stood by the side of the street laughing. He was dressed in those old and worn clothes of quality that betray moderate wealth matched with a more than moderate lifespan.

“Be careful, bob, or you’ll get fired for disturbing the peace.”

Keep turned around.

“No…perhaps not fired, although I have been fired before…from a clothing store I believe. Never mind. I won’t get fired. I’ll be deposed or downsized. Or possibly even transferred.”

Constable Keep sniffed and looked straight at the man, with eyes that looked like finest glass and made you feel like they were made of glue.

“You see,” Constable Keep continued, “That really wouldn’t be all that bad. For perhaps I would get transferred to deep guard over the Globe Theater on the other side of London. I’ve always had this dream, you see, of guarding Shakespeare.”

“Well,” said the old man, “I’m in a literary society.”

“Pooh. Literary society. Just because it’s a literary society…”

“And so is the present administrator of the Globe.”

And with that, the old man walked away.

The next day, which happened to be Constable Keep’s day off, he received an invitation to a meeting of the very same literary society that the man had mentioned before, the Globe Street Regulars. He went, of course.
The Globe Street Regulars met in a pleasant, well-kept, slightly overdecorated small house in a London suburb. The yard was not quite as large as one might like, but the porch chairs were stuffed quite as large as most people could ever have use for. Down the street was a train station, the very fast express line that went through Oxford, stopping near that esteemed university en route. (It was not a place for really useful engines, for Oxford is an excellent place for learning those things that are learned for their own sake.)
Constable Keep, dressed in his best bobby hat, walked up and rang the bell just as the sun completely disappeared beneath the gorgeous curtain of London smog. Fortunately, this barrier did not stop the beams from decorating the sky with colors to gorgeous to be mentioned in a story taking place in grey, rainy England. Ah, the glories of stereotyping…
Following Costable Keep was Kate, whose prim yet precise steps measured out the stairs up to the porch as if they were a dance…or a length of wire. Kate had almost not come that day because she had spent too much time trying to get the head of another literary society to write her a letter of recommendation. Eventually, however, her good manners got the better of her, and she gave up on the letter to fulfill her RSVP to the meeting of the Globe Street Regulars.
Haspic and Harskevitz arrived a bit later. A British version of a sandstorm had ensued, driving the smog away from the sunset, staining the small house slightly sand-colored.
Finally, Dr. Baker arrived. He had been a bit delayed, for instead of taking a cab, he had followed Plato’s advice (as stated in Plato’s Britannia, that is) and taken a bus. When someone asked him his reason, he said, “It was my day off, so naturally, I wasn’t being exactly scholarly and particular.”
Upon entering, the guests found, in addition to the mysterious man who had invited them, a Dr. Than, and a Dr. McDuff. After everyone had been roundly introduced (Kate was introduced as Catherine), Dr. Baker had the pudence to ask what work of literature they would be studying.

“After all, one must make sure that moral falsehoods are not placed before the minds of those who must be protected, such as Kate, who, like Aphrodite in the Trojan war, ought not fight the battles of lower creatures, lest they be injured.”

Kate responded, “If Dr. Than wanted to program a computer to draw me, I would be perfectly happy if Dr. Baker expressed his admiration of the picture. I would not be so foolish as to believe that Dr. Baker was therefore in love with the computer.”

At this, Constable Keep pulled out a donkey’s head, put it on his own, and started braying: “If…neigh!...anyone did that, the would be almohohost as bewitched as Titania!”

“Considering the level of absurdity in Through the Looking-Glass,” Dr. Than remarked, “Your behavior is quite normal.”

“Do not associate with this illiberally educated, solely arithmetical man, Kate,” Dr. Baker warned.

“Kiss me, Kate!” Constable Keep brayed.

“Do not change Diana to Venus!” Dr. Baker fumed, willing, but too thin and weak, to fight the policeman.

“I shall kiss nobody. Writing love letters, even in this modern age of supercooled supercomputers, can get one into enough trouble!” Kate remarked.

“But you haven’t written any love letters to put into the post office box by Paddington station,” Haspic interrupted, “And neither did Bishop Machbeuf.”

“And Bishop Machebeuf wouldn’t have,” Harskevitz said, “for he neither planted bombs at Paddington nor had lady-friends from any French archdiocese, especially Paris.”

“How you do go off on tangents,” the mysterious man remarked.

With that, Dr. Baker and Dr. Than began arguing about an obscure point concerning tangents, with Dr. Baker taking the side of Euclid and Dr. Than taking the curve of Lobachevski.

“Of course, unlike the Maya, the Native Americans of New Mexico were not renowned mathmaticians,” Haspic remarked, “or else, they would have calculated that 5 kilograms of dynamite was sufficient to throw a train engine off its track, possibly killing all inside.”

“If there were no such things as weaponry, there would be no dashing soldiers to become senselessly infatuated with. Most video game designers would also lose their jobs.” Kate lamented.

“Whish is why I am Not a Pacifist,” Dr. Baker blurted out before continuing his argument. “War is noble, say the ancients.”

“But it’s not St. Crispin’s day!” Keep lamented.

“It does matter when or where a remark is made,” Harskevitz observed, “If Bishop Valliant had made his remark about the French soup tomorrow at noon instead of on Christmas many years ago, the remark would not have been nearly as well-dressed with fame.”

“I am well dressed with yellow stockings, cross-gartered!” Constable Keep said, slightly lifting up the foot-ends of his policeman-perfect pants to reveal the off-regulation socks underneath.

Kate gasped in horror, for, according to good manners, such a display of “underclothes” is not acceptable in public. She was also gasping in amazement because the socks were exactly the same shade as the yellow slugs in Halo. She said as much, and then fainted. With that, the meeting was over.

A few days later, Constable Keep received this letter in the mail.

Dear Sir,
After observing your behavior at the literary gathering, I have come to the conclusion that you are a very cultured man, enthusiastic for and well versed in the works of Shakespeare. I am sure that your behavior at the gathering was calculated (and well calculated, I might add) to the end of obtaining the job of guard for London’s Globe Theater. However, I have decided that, even more than Shakespeare, you are, due to your wonderful disregard of conventions in pursuit of a worthy goal, more suited to guard the street on which GK Chesterton resided while he lived in London. To this end, I shall move the mechanisms of law enforcement in the London area.

Dr. Mysterious Stranger
Professor of Modern British Literature
Oxford University

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Chestertonian Moment (It's a true story!)

Step falls on step, just like the day before
Falls flat on floor (it's on Nebraska ground),
Eyes view white walls, and closed and opened doors
No laughter gleams, and no scared heartes pound.
The statue stands as he has always stood
Upon his pedestal of cubic wood
The carpet's clean, just as it ought to be
So free of clutter that it looks empty.
It grabs my head and whips it straight around
I cry: "I say! Where did all of it go?
There's nothing here! This is such empty ground!
And Andy says: "It's like this always, though."
The hallway is just as its sposed to be
But never has it been so wonderf'ly.

Monday, February 01, 2010

News News News!

We're hoping to start a Chesterton reading group at St. Gregory the Great seminary!

And if you want to know why I don't post much anymore...I have no excuse.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Shop of Ghosts

Rather a paradoxical title for a post around Christmas, it might seem, but Christmas is rife with paradoxes. The Burning Babe comes in the frost of winter, to thaw the chilled hearts of men; the All-Powerful becomes a defenseless infant; there is no room for the King of Kings at the inn; the Lord of Lords is born in a stable; God becomes Man. There is another paradox to Christmas, however, that Chesterton touched on in one of his "Tremendous Trifles" called "The Shop of

In this trifle, GKC wanders into a toy shop in the poorer end of Battersea. There, he encounters a dying old man who refuses to accept money for the toys GKC tries to buy--and who turns out to be Father Christmas. In one of those supernatural twists to Chesterton's fiction, other literary figures--Dickens, Richard Steele, Ben Jonson, even Robin Hood--suddenly make an appearance in the toy shop, all questioning why, since he was dying in their time, Father Christmas is still alive. Finally, it is Dickens who discovers the answer to the riddle: Father Christmas has been dying since he was born; but he will never die.

This paradox of Christmas extends to everything about it, including it's traditions. For something so earth-shatteringly powerful, universal, and stirring, Christmas is surprisingly intangible; we experience it almost solely through the richness of living tradition. And the startling fact--the paradox-- is that when we focus too strongly on the traditions, that vivid richness is lost. We can be glad of giving and receiving gifts, but if we forget the reason we are doing so--because the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us--the traditions suddenly become empty, they become blurry, losing shape and form because they have lost purpose. No tradition, no sentiment has any value when separated from priceless Child in the manger. Nostalgia is not a satisfying feeling; it is a hunger and a thirst for something. Memories do not satisfy; they remind.

That is why, as in "The Shop of Ghosts," Christmas is dying, yet cannot die. It's source is eternal, it's traditions temporal--meaning those external traditions, such as Christmas trees and carols and family gatherings. The temporal outward signs are always dying, like a tree dying in winter; yet because the roots are eternal, it is always living again.

In our time, and as Chesterton suggests, always, Christmas is under attack. Nativity scenes are banned in public places; "holiday" and "season" have edged "Christmas" out of the vernacular; anti-Christians struggle to hold on to the external branches of celebration while rejecting the roots, by having "Winter Solstice Celebrations." As Father Christmas says in "The Shop of Ghosts":

"All the new people have left my shop. I cannot understand it. They seem to object to me on such curious and inconsistent sort of grounds, these scientific men, these innovators. They say that I give people superstitions and make them too visionary; they say I give people sausages and make them too coarse. They say my heavenly parts are too heavenly; they say my earthly parts are too earthly; I don't know what they want, I'm sure. How can heavenly things be too heavenly, or earthly things too earthly? How can one be too good, or too jolly?"

He is speaking, of course, of Christmas Traditions. Father Christmas himself is a tradition, indeed, the embodiment of all the traditions; and like all the other traditions, he is dying as the world constantly attempts to cut him off from his roots, his source of life.

All "Christmasses past" are bound into one poignant and powerful memory by the golden thread of tradition; though the externals have sometimes changed, the celebration of Christmas has been much the same since the time of...Robin Hood. The reason for this communion of Christmas traditions, spanning centuries and continents, is that at Christmas, all the earth is drawn round the creche, knowingly or no. That constancy of eternal truth, ever ancient, ever new, is what makes all Christmasses one, for their center is One: the Holy Christ Child. And that is why Christmas cannot die.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Recent Chestertonian Revelation

The Great Dr. Overkamp :) has just reached Chesterton in Modern Literature class...and I realized that rejection of convention (which is what I thought Manalive advocated) is not what Chesterton really wanted...read The Unpardonable Appearance of Colonel Crane for a more moderate, but still unconventional, idea on the subject.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A few quotes

I've been rereading parts of The Wisdom and Innocence for a college admission essay I'm working on, and came across several absolutely lovely quotes:

"I am overwhelmed with an enormous sense of my own worthlessness- which is very nice and makes me dance and sing."

"The principle objection to an argument is that it interrupts a quarrel."

"I knew pages of Shakespeare's blank verse without a notion of the meaning of most of it; which is perhaps the right way to begin to appreciate verse."

Monday, November 09, 2009

Long Overdue

Just a quick note, to apologize for my long absence and to announce my Confirmation name (I was Confirmed this past May)- Gilbert Karol.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday: Chesterton and Children

I was reading The Everlasting Man today and happened to read a section most appropriate for today's Gospel readings.

"The exaltation of childhood is something which we do really understand; but it was by no means a thing that was then [during Christ's time] in that sense understood. If we wanted an example of the originality of the Gospel, we could hardly take a stronger or more startling one. Nearly two thousand years afterwards we happen to find ourselves in a mood that does really feel the mystical charm of the child; we express it in romances and regrets about childhood, in Peter Pan or The Child's Garden of Verses. And we can say of the words of Christ with so angry an anti-Christian as Swinburne:--

'No sign that ever was given
To faithful or faithless eyes
Showed ever beyond clouds riven
So clear a paradise.

Earth's creeds may be seventy times seven
And blood have defiled each creed
But if such be the kingdom of heaven
It must be heaven indeed.'

But that paradise was not clear until Christianity had gradually cleared it. The pagan world, as such, would not have understood any such thing as a serious suggestion that a child is higher or holier than a man. It would have seemed like the suggestion that a tadpole is higher or holier than a frog. To the merely rationalistic mind, it would sound like saying that a bud must be more beautiful than a flower or that an unripe apple must be better than a ripe one. In other words, this modern feeling is an entirely mystical feeling. It is quite as mystical as the cult of virginity; in fact it is the cult of virginity. But pagan antiquity had much more idea of the holiness of the virgin than of the holiness of the child. For various reasons we have come nowadays to venerate children; perhaps partly because we envy children for still doing what men used to do; such as play simple games and enjoy fairy-tales. Over and above this, however, there is a great deal of real and subtle psychology in our appreciation of childhood; but if we turn it into a modern discovery, we must once more admit that the historical Jesus of Nazareth had already covered it two thousand years too soon. There was certainly nothing in the world around him to help him to the discovery. Here Christ was indeed human; but more human that a human being was then likely to be. Peter Pan does not belong to the world of Pan but the world of Peter."

---GKC in The Everlasting Man, the chapter entitled: "The Strangest Story in the World."

Monday, August 31, 2009

One the Last Two Gilberts

Did you see Mrs. Brown's article on cop-out husbands and the responses it got in the letters in the next Gilbert! magazine? I think that she has one half of the truth (that modern husbands are often lazy and irresponsible and need to love their wives more) and that the male letter-writer has the other half (that wives don't understand or appreciate some of the needs of their husbands).

What do you think?

I will admit...I'm not married, of course.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Chance non-meeting, as we say in Middle-Earth...

I just met a person who had been to, of all places, ChesterCon 08 (not 09). I did not talk to him at the conference.

As for how I met him.....well, you should probably learn that he and I are both seminarians now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ChesterTeens In Seattle?

Are any of you going to Seattle for the Chesterton Conference?

If you do, please watch and see if you spot Lucy or Ben - or Toby.

(See here for further information.)

And perhaps if you don't go, you'll get to read about the conference anyway... it's rumoured that Barclay Livingston may be attending!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


My family and I recently had the privilege of visiting Chesterton Square in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, the home of the only life-size statue of G.K. Chesterton in America! Here are some photos of our visit--view and be jealous, my fellow Chestertonians!

Around each side of the statue are four different plaques:

My brother and I were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, standing next to GKC!

A few more pics of GK and his square:

Ponchatoula is also known for its Strawberry Festival in the spring, when there is beautiful weather. Chesterton Square is an event center; wouldn't it be just perfect if they had the next ChesterCon there in Ponchatoula?

Here is the Ponchatoula Train Depot, directly across the street from Chesterton Square. The Chesterton Square's creator said he wanted it to look like Chesterton had fallen asleep on the train and accidentally disembarked at Ponchatoula!

Right next to the Train Depot is the home of "Ole Hardhide", who is " an alligator credited with "writing" a column in The Ponchatoula Times newspaper. The current Hardhide is the fourth by that name."

The old train engine!

The square from different angles.

To the far left in the distance, you can see the steeple for St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

A pretty alleyway in Ponchatoula.

I was so thrilled to be able to see the statue and the square!

God bless!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Who prayed for Chesterton?

On Chesterton's conversion to the Catholic Faith:

"Nothing for years has given me so much joy. I have hardly ever entered a church without putting up a candle to Our Lady or to St. Joseph or St. Anthony for you. And both this year and last year in Lent I made a Novena for you. I know of many other people, better people far than I, who did the same. Many Masses were said for you and prayers all over England and Scotland in centres of Holiness. I will show you some day a letter from some Nuns on the subject. A great friend of mine, one of the greatest saints I have known, Sister Mary Annunciation of the Convent Orphanage, Upper Norwood, used always to pray for you...Well, all I have to say, Gilbert, is what I think I have already said to you, and what I have said not long ago in a printed book. That I was received into the Church on the Eve of Candlemas 1909, and it is perhaps the only act in my life which I am quite certain I have never regretted. Every day I live, the Church seems to me more and more wonderful; the Sacraments more and more solemn and sustaining; the voice of the Church, her liturgy, her rules, her discipline, her ritual, her decisions in matters of Faith and Morals more and more excellent and profoundly wise and true and right, and her children stamped with something that those outside Her are without. There I have found Truth and reality and everything outside Her is to me, compared with Her, as dust and shadow. Once more God bless you, and Frances. Please give her my love. In my prayers for you I have always added her name."

The above quote is from a good friend of GKC's, Maurice Baring (famously seen in the "Baring, Overbearing and Past-bearing" portrait with Chesterton and Belloc). It seems that we owe a great debt to Baring, and many others, for praying for Chesterton and therefore aiding his entrance into the Church. It's a humbling reminder: Christ meant it when He said, "Ask and you shall recieve, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you..."

God bless!

Monday, June 15, 2009

G.K. and Canonisation

Just some sketchy thoughts on the question of the canonisation of G.K., reproduced from my personal blog Sing Me the Old Songs:

The question of G.K. Chesterton being canonised is being raised once again, and getting a little bit of buzz in the Chestertonian blogging world. Sean Dailey, of one of my favourite Chestertonian blogs The Blue Boar, wrote about it initially here, and again here.

In his second post he offered a sort of apology for saying: "The world needs more fat saints." And while it's true that dear Uncle Gilbert was a heck of a lot more than a jolly fat man, I think there's some validity in Mr. Dailey's statement.

St. Gianna Molla was recently a topic of discussion in our house, and one thing about this extraordinary and heroic woman was that she was not the stereotypical saint. She was a working woman - a pediatrician, to be precise - and she was a married woman.

But frankly I don't think any of the saints were stereotypical saints. Their 'failure' to conform to the stereotypes is, I'd almost venture to say, what made them saints. The Church has always been about breaking stereotypes. From the wild sinner to saint Augustine, to the radically simple Francis of Assisi, to the quiet Therese following her Little Way, to the 'dumb ox' Aquinas, saints have always been found in the most unlikely of places.

I don't know whether Uncle Gilbert merits canonisation or not... I haven't made it a course of study, and I can only testify to the radical way he changed my life.

But I do believe that if he breaks from the mold of the stereotypical saint, on account of all his most stereotypically Chesterton qualities, then that's the first step, and the first proof that maybe he should be canonised. The world needs more fat saints because the world needs more saints... holy men and women who challenge us to break past the stereotypes and live in an unthought of and radical way for God.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy 135th birthday, GKC!

Happy Birthday to our beloved G.K. Chesterton!

What did you do to celebrate?

In honor of GK, my family moved our Chesterton collection down into the living room, the towards the center of our family circle!