Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mercy, part 2

Here's part 2 of Mercy. If you've missed part 1, look back to my postings of 03-29-08
Part 3 to come

Interlude: A Nun’s Story

Sister Carr seemed to conduct her life in a strange mixture of “lace-curtain Irishness” and barracks crudity.

Perhaps the affected Waspishness was a reaction to growing up in a poor Irish-American family during the depression. Maybe embarrassment about the crassness of her family led her to want to emulate those people she considered being upwardly mobile. It could have been that the hostility that she exhibited to certain children could have been projection of the shame she felt toward her own humble beginnings. Then again, perhaps there was nothing to this.

Maybe her tendency to play the drill instructor could have been an unconscious attempt to emulate her dead brother, who died all too soon with the Marines, during the invasion of Okinawa. He seemed to be the only one of her four older siblings who had any real sense of direction in his life, but he never had a chance to achieve his dreams. At the time she joined the Sisters of Mercy, had quipped to someone she would rather be a Marine, but all women get to do there is to type, and as a nun, she would get to be a leader.

Whatever the case might have been, she had a way of making the lives of those beneath her a living hell.

Sister Maureen Carr, of course, did not consider herself abusive. She of course was molding the children’s character. Yet, for someone who was confident that her actions were right, she toned down her behavior when outside visitors where present, and would deny any such words or deeds when asked.

She would deny having any scapegoats; everyone was equal in her class. Yet, certain students could do no right, and then again, there were students who could do no wrong, mostly children of parents who were involved in the power structure of the parish.

That might sound cruel to some people, but in her eyes, it was simply cold facts. People from lower class families were basically rabble who had to be shown their place early in life. She was careful to whom she said that, because it would be taken the wrong way. In fact, some might have said that her own background branded her as the very sort of rabble against which she was trying to guard society. That would have infuriated her.

It was true, that she was born poor, but she would no doubt counter that she was meant to be among the elite, and it was a fluke that her family was poor. She knew that she was of the elite, because why else would the Sisters of Mercy had taken her to be one of theirs? At any rate, she had strong memories of her poor upbringing, and her father’s drunken rages, and knew that she was not, and was never meant to be of that world.

Calvin came from a similar background; she had heard the gossip about his family. Although there was similarity between Calvin’s upbringing and her own, she did not feel for him. The difference was that she thought of herself as one who was never meant to be part of that type of world, whereas Calvin belonged there, but would not accept it. What was particularly devious about Calvin, was the way that he pretended to be respectable, getting all those A’s like he was actually smart, and some teachers actually fell for the act. It was enraging for her to watch him sit there quietly with his nose in a book, when she knew it was just a front. Sister Carr wondered if he might actually have some sort of strange mental retardation that caused him to appear intelligent when he wasn’t. He couldn’t be, not if he was carrying the genes from such defective parents. Another thing that she hated about him was the fact that when she would cast a gesture his way, he would pretend that he didn’t understand the message that was being sent. He was stupid, but not that stupid.

Her top priority, though, was not Calvin, but the Trudeau kid. She loathed him even more than Peterson. She was offended that Calvin wanted to be a scientist, when he should probably be thinking about being a fireman, or something appropriate to his station, but Trudeau was even worse; He wanted to be an artist. She was going to break him of that, no matter what it might take.

Sister Carr thought of herself as a highly qualified teacher, and was disappointed that she was posted to a school in such a decaying neighborhood; she thought she deserved better than to be among this rabble. She would have been devastated to know that higher-ups in the religious order posted those nuns who were considered the bottom of the barrel—the incompetents, the burn-outs, even the mentally ill—to certain rather downscale parishes. San Quentin was one of those Siberia-type outposts—practically every nun who was there was sent there, because they were not wanted elsewhere. Here, where the parents where less likely to be highly educated, they were less likely to ask embarrassing questions.

© Copyright by AAF. Violators will be sentenced to stay after school at St. Quentin's School.

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