The Bishop of Saint George

Kellerman wondered, Would he be there today?

Ben always stewed about things on his Monday commute. He was a foreigner in Estonia and had made only a few friends since his arrival six weeks earlier. Just then the speaker box of the Number 9 rattled coarsely, “Katedraal Avenüü,” and the trolley came to a stop in front of Saint George Basilica. It was where Kellerman caught the 15a, the bus that would take him to Haabneeme-Tammneeme, the peninsula on the northern brink of the Baltic Sea. But he still had twenty blocks and forty minutes to go before he could feel any warmth in his hands or feet. On these frosty Tallinn mornings, he looked forward to the electric space heater in his office. If he sat up close, he could warm up in about fifteen minutes. He'd thought it silly when his landlord, Mrs. Kuusik, offered it, Such a small heater, what good could it possibly do?

Once he escaped the packed trolley, Ben felt a sense of relief. Following a few nervous weeks of “finding his way,” Cathedral Square had become his signpost, only one more transfer, and the 15a would take him straight to the University. After the trolley had passed by Ben had a clear view of the Square and his fellow commuters setting out in every direction: babushkas off to the market, children off to school, military recruits heading to shipyards, day workers lining up outside the construction sites. Cater-corner from Saint George was “transfer central,” and that’s where Ben caught the 15a. At the back edge of the sidewalk was a large Plexiglas shell, built to protect travelers during inclement weather. But nobody used it. For most locals, it was a place to be avoided because it had become the point of contact between drug dealers and their customers, thugs and their victims. An outbreak of tuberculosis accompanied the illegal trades, and just breathing the air there was believed to be harmful. Everyone called it the Turks' Arcade.

Still anxious, Ben thought, What if he’s not there?

Such supposing seemed like a waste of time, but the newly hired professor was a worrier. What would happen if he missed the 15a? Hoping to avoid that possibility, Ben stepped off the curb and headed quickstep across the Square to his bus stop. It was damn cold that mornin, and again he agonized, What alternatives might be available should his 15a be out of service? Tall, chiseled, and of steadfast German stock, Ben Kellerman was not normally so irrational, but he was a foreigner in a faraway land, and his angst had grown worse as weeks turned into months.

As he approached the Arcade Ben could see people scattering. Like everyone else, Ben hoped to avoid the grim images that were everywhere: the discarded syringes, rubber hoses, plastic bottles, half-eaten garbage, and the bloodstained rags. He knew that if the foul imprints got inside of his head, they would remain there throughout the day. It wasn’t the litter or the smell that so bothered Ben, but the vagrant who could regularly be found there. Ben didn't know the man, nor did he want to, and could barely understand his feelings about the poor soul. But he'd nicknamed him. He called him Bishop – the Bishop of Saint George.

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