During the final seconds of his life Jorge Blanco’s past appears as a spiraled succession of images on a dynamic canvas. Deluded by the conviction of a religious vocation and motivated by the desire to escape his troubled home life, Jorge migrates from Puerto Rico to Minnesota, where he joins a Benedictine monastery. Jorge’s dismay at the reality of monastic hypocrisy, however, drives him to a cynical outrage, with fatal consequences.
Excerpts from Tropical Snow:
And as parents received their sons at home once every month and found them with bruises around their legs and belt marks on their backs, none of them thought those bad things, because in the long run they would snaffle their sons into becoming men of good…
“Listening to warped ideas that present the religious life out of its true context is distorting history. It’s…it’s anachronistic, unfair. That’s what I’m referring to. Novices re usually too…too..too lacking in understanding of the choices that must be made, the decisions that must also be made for a religious community to retain its character and its ulterior goal.”
“Would you like me to take a look at it?” Brother Bennett asked, pointing to the examining room table in the corner of his office. Jorge had forgotten rumors among students about Brother Bennett.
He pulled a pair of briefs from a drawer in the armoire, and was getting into them when his bedroom door flew open. Larry, in his underwear, walked up to him, grabbed Jorge’s left hand and grunted as he rubbed a glob of hand lotion on the palm of Jorge’s hand. he pressed his crotch against Jorge’s thigh, then quickly pulled away, turned around and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
“Jorge, this is Brother Bryan Pascal,” Mark said, “He’s leader of the Brother Power Movement, and he hates priests.”
“But you’re turning your back on this. Isn’t it more constructive to stay and try to get other monks to see things your way?”
Thomas stopped on his way to his armoire and faced Jorge. “Me? Against that corporate board of parasites downstairs? I think I can contribute more to people whose minds are still open to what’s really going on in the world and have no commitments with the establishment to keep them from facing reality.”
Some things became clearer to Jorge now. That explained why Father Elmer, after months of indifference, one evening had walked into haustus when Jorge was serving, and walked past him, snickering under his breath. As for the rest of the silly remarks he thought he had heard, especially Brother Bryan’s decidedly malicious “And how’s darling little father today–or is it mother?” Jorge couldn’t peg it on anything. It seemed so common among most monks in the juniorate to call each other darling, precious, and bitch, that over the twenty weeks Jorge had lived among them he had come to accept those words as part of the monks’ vocabulary.
“Whatever–you’ve lived with those guys for–what, six, seven months?–and you don’t know they’re dopers?”
“Yeah, they smoke pot! You really didn’t know?”
Jorge had heard that Red Randy and a day student who commuted from St. Joseph, Vern Steichen, were the two sole sources of marijuana on campus.
“Two of those guys who sit on the first two rows in the monk stalls there in church during Mass, one next to you and the other across the way there,” Gordie said, drawing the layout of the sanctuary with his hands, “They buy shit from Red Randy. He pushes from basement Bede.”
“But they’re safe in here, aren’t they? Isn’t that called abetting felons?”