"What is the greatest fault of your faith?" Tret asked Boj, the day after Boj announced his fear of divine healing.
They were on the sun porch again, in the morning, early, very early, before the sun did much damage to the day. Boj sat wrapped in his sleeping quilt, a contrary image beneath the stirring fan just above his head. His beard ruffled on the patchwork, his sad, rheumy eyes set deep, dark bags below them.
Boj had suffered another sleepless night, alone.
Tret slept well, always.
"I say, what is the great failing of your faith?" Tret repeated. He narrowed his already serpentine eyes to slits, his long, thin tongue protruding as he spoke.
"Do you mean the faith I practice?" Boj asked him. "Or do you ask me about the Faith I ought to practice?"
"Whichever," Tret hissed a sibilant song, "you think is the greater faith."
"The faith I practice is the greater to me, else I would not practice it at all," Boj surprised with his reply. "The Faith I fail to practice is the greater to me, because I know there is so much more I ought to do than I know to do."
"How can you claim to know anything about the little faith or the big Faith?" Tret shot back.
"I know by looking at my failures. The fact I know I fail convinces me," Boj replied.
"How can you expect me to believe that kind of reasoning?" Tret demanded.
"The fact you keep asking convinces me."
"We can start on your failures, if you like," Boj added, with a sideways glance at Tret, for the other man could not sit still when failure became the topic. He needed some kinesis to protect him. If he could move, he need not face his accuser.
Or, as Tret reasoned, at least his accuser could not confront him.
"Let's deal with your frailty, old man," Tret said. "What is the greatest failure of your faith? You choose the faith and then name the failure."
"If I choose, I will choose the We faith over the I faith," Boj told him. "And I will name as our greatest failure in the We faith to be the way we treat women on earth."
"Greater than your inability to offer any proof for your faith statements? A greater failure than your casual acceptance of various atrocities through history as the 'permissive will' of God? You sit there in that frayed quilt beneath a creaking ceiling fan and name gender issues as the greatest failure of your faith?" Tret was dumbfounded.
"Yes," Boj moaned. "You heard me. Before you can know what I mean, though, you have to have loved a woman and gotten to be an old man without her."
The accuser moved with Tret.
"Why don't you die?" Tret thought loud enough for Boj to hear.
"I still have to account for your poor soul," Boj thought back at him.
"Why aren't you afraid to die? I'm afraid to die," Tret cried out mentally, made no sound, created the idea with the pain in his eyes.
"I don't believe I am dying," Boj thought back at him.
"At least," Boj thought, piteously, "I am not dying like you are dying."
"What about women?" Tret looked far down into the yard, hooded eyes a cipher.
"Women," Boj told him, "born of men."
"Born of men?"
"We gave a rib to make the first one. Woman is born of man."
"Rubbish and rot. Not even possible," Tret told him.
"The We Faith masculinity is about self-sacrifice," Boj said. "A rib isn't too much a price for a constant, equal companion. The ancient word for 'wife' means 'equal to' or 'alongside him.' She is a sabra, a cipher, someone worth the giving all."
"As in Heaven, so on earth," Boj told Tret, a wistful whistle to his voice now.
They knew, each man, he spoke of Golda, dead those twenty years.