From this third-floor window, I could see only part of the deep front yard and the blacktop lane that cleaved it. Four low lampposts with bell-shaped caps focused light in round pale pools.

The guesthouse is in the northwest wing of the abbey. The ground floor features parlors. Private rooms occupy the higher and the highest floors.

As I watched in anticipation of the storm, a whiteness that was not snow drifted across the yard, out of darkness, into lamplight.

The abbey has one dog, a no-pound German-shepherd mix, perhaps part Labrador retriever. He is entirely white and moves with the grace of fog. His name is Boo.

My name is Odd Thomas. My dysfunctional parents claim a mistake was made on the birth certificate, that Todd was the wanted name. Yet they have never called me Todd.

In twenty-one years, I have not considered changing to Todd. The bizarre course of my life suggests that Odd is more suited to me, whether it was conferred by my parents with intention or by fate.

Below, Boo stopped in the middle of the pavement and gazed along the lane as it dwindled and descended into darkness.

Mountains are not entirely slopes. Sometimes the rising land takes a rest. The abbey stands on a high meadow, facing north.

Fudging by his pricked ears and lifted head, Boo perceived a visitor approaching. He held his tail low.

I could not discern the state of his hackles, but his tense posture suggested that they were raised.

From dusk the driveway lamps burn until dawn ascends. The monks of St. Bart's believe that night visitors, no matter how seldom they come, must be welcomed with light.

The dog stood motionless for a while, then shifted his attention toward the lawn to the right of the blacktop. His head lowered. His ears flattened against his skull.



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