Once, when I was in 6th grade and not having a good day at all, I was waiting in line for the bus home. I was attending St Mary’s School and was being put through the Catholic school system, all the while not believing one iota about Jesus.
Oh sure I had respect for religion back then, but I couldn’t believe the story of Jesus. I was brought up on a diet of science fiction and knew that magic was an illusion from an early age, even when pertaining to a guy who could make water into wine. I didn’t quite fully understand the whole “no sex” thing between the staff though. I did go to a progressive school that taught us minimum sex education from a priest (he once told the class that women’s breasts were a “wonderful thing”) but we didn’t get into any priest/nun abstinence details. So nuns, like women in general, were a mystery to me. Nuns more so I guess. I feared them.
I digress. My point is that I respected religion and the people who worked in that particular chosen career.
So back to me in line. I had a terrible day. I don’t know what happened on that particular day – maybe a jock told me I was a fag or I got beat up or something, but I was grumpy. I looked to the front of the line and there was Linda. Liiiiiinnnnnndaaa – said with an angry expulsion of air through clenched teeth. The popular girl who I hated purely because she was popular. I don’t recall ever crossing paths with her but I knew I hated how easily the teachers chatted with her and how many friends she had. Liiiiiiinnnnnndaaaah….
Linda was doing it again. Chatting easily with the Sister who was monitoring our straight line as we waited for the bus to bring us home from school. They laughed and smiled and as anyone who is already in a bad mood knows, that is like flipping a magnifying glass onto your already burning ant bad mood.
The bus arrives and Liiiinnndaaa flips her hair, picks up her books and boards the bus but not before saying “Goodbye Sister!” to the nun. The nun… her name escapes me but I swear to you this day that my memory has her at 6ft, 8in, 310lbs of solid muscle and possibly a gym teacher. I know it’s typical, but I can’t deny my memories. Maybe it was because I was slight in school. This I am firm on, in my recall of this nun: she was smart and would speak her mind. But that day I had forgotten all that, shadowed by my foul mood.
We start entering the bus. The nun is telling everyone individually goodbye, by names. With each name her voice is like a hammer in my head. “Goodbye Paul!” Will… “Goodbye Allison!” You… “Goodbye Donald!” Please…
I make it to the second step on the bus before I notice that I’m being stared at, that a collective GASP has been chorused and that someone just yelled my name.
Oh right. That wasn’t a good idea.
I return to the Nun to receive my punishment – a week of detentions.
I spend the week in her class and write stories about being sorry. I remember I write about kids who made me mad and added a few disjointed science fiction stories just for good measure.