Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Chapter 28

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Chapter 28

  • That evening, Dr. Cors finds Father Zerchi to tell him he broke his promise.
  • He encountered a truly hopeless woman and her child. Each had fatal flash burns and radiation sickness, and the doctor just couldn't let them go on suffering.
  • Both he and Zerchi think it'd be best if Dr. Cors would leave.
  • Zerchi finds the woman and begs her not to be an accomplice to her own murder. He provides her with a rosary, and notices she knows how to handle it.
  • The next day, Zerchi watches the Guam Conference—that's what they're calling the peace talks in those days—but the news irritates him so much that he has to go outside for some air.
  • That's when he meets up with Mrs. Grales, who has a basket of tomatoes for the refugees.
  • She asks Zerchi to hear her confession, and the abbot agrees to do so in about thirty minutes.
  • Zerchi goes for a drive in his robot car, which sounds awesome. But just wait.
  • He spies the sick woman carrying her child to the Green Relief Station.
  • He asks her where she's going, and she lies and says she's heading to town. He offers her a ride.
  • As they pass the Green Relief Station, he tells her a story from when he was a boy.
  • It goes something like this: Once, his cat was hit by a car, and he tried to put his pet down to ease her suffering. But everything he did only made the suffering worse and worse, and didn't kill the animal.
  • The moral is that God inflicts nothing on us we can't handle.
  • So he says she should offer her and her child's suffering up to Heaven.
  • The woman understands his sermon but says it's the baby who can't understand anything but the pain.
  • Solid point, we have to admit.
  • They go to town, and Zerchi posts a letter.
  • On the way back to the abbey, a police officer stops Zerchi's robot car with a wave of his baton. See, robot cars sound cool in theory, but they never work out well in practice.
  • He wants to question Zerchi about the picket line in front of the mercy camp.
  • Zerchi says he'll return once he's delivered the sick woman home, but the woman says she wants to get out of here.
  • Zerchi tries to stop her, but the police officers pin him down and call out to Dr. Cors to help the woman.
  • The police wonder whether they should charge Zerchi with kidnapping or not. Dr. Cors tries to talk to the abbot, but Zerchi hits him square across the jaw.
  • One cop takes Zerchi over to his cruiser, while the others talk with Cors.
  • Dr. Cors doesn't charge Zerchi with assault, feeling he had that one coming.
  • Zerchi returns to the abbey, beaten and sullen.