Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mercy, Part 4

The State of Nature:

4:30 PM

Calvin watched yet again as a helpless victim was savagely set upon, although this time, it was not a crisis. The slaughter this time involved not human predators regressing to a beast-like state, but rather, lowly creatures acting out their roles exactly as learned through millions of years of evolution. Calvin sat transfixed at the end of his bed as the tenants of his homemade ant farm overwhelmed the beetle that he had tossed them to fulfill their nutritive needs. When his mother watched him do things like this, she feared that he normally gentle son might be showing a hidden sadistic side. She needed not worry, because his interest in feeding his pets was purely scientific. He saw what he was doing as simply an extension of nature. He was quite repulsed by human violence of any kind, a fact that was underscored by his revulsion to the violence he witnessed earlier that day.

Calvin, from the time he was six, had been entranced with insects. He would capture them, and build habitats for them in his own private zoo. He would invest hours of his time either observing insects first hand, or pouring through books on the subject. At an age when other boys could not decide whether to be firemen, cops, astronauts, or cowboys, Calvin already knew what he wanted to be: an entomologist.

It had not occurred to Calvin that someday he could actually do what he loved and be paid good money while doing so, until someone broadened his horizons by pointing out this possibility. One day, as a first grader, when he was in the schoolyard, watching a preying mantis waiting for lunch to come its way, attracted the attention of Father Dunnigan. The priest knew who he was, because he was acquainted with Calvin’s mother and older siblings, but had not yet had a conversation with him. He was a priest who liked to know everyone in the parish, so he decided to take the opportunity to meet him. Father Dunnigan greeted Calvin with “Don’t worry son, it won’t hurt you, no matter how scary it looks.”

The priest knew two things about preying mantises. He believed correctly, that the monstrous looking things were quite harmless to people, and he incorrectly believed the folklore that there was a fifty dollar fine for killing them.

He was astounded when the seven-year old Calvin began to tell him everything that he could have wanted to know about preying mantises, and even more than that! In talking further with Calvin, he learned that he had an intense interest in not only mantises, but also insects in general.

As the conversation proceeded, Father Dunnigan told Calvin, “You know, you can study this stuff for a job when you grow up. The scientists who do this…they are called entomologists, I think.”

Calvin had read about entomologists, but the thought had never occurred to him that he could someday be one. “How do you become one of those entomologists, Father?” Calvin asked. “Do you have to go to a special school or something like that?”

“Well, Calvin, you’ll have to go through twelve more years, through high school. Then it will be on to college. After that, it will even be more college. It takes a lot of schooling to become a scientist. I know that it sounds like forever for you, because you have only been around for seven years, so talking about schooling for all those years sounds like forever. Believe me Calvin, I know you’re bored like crazy at times, but schooling when you get older will be a lot different. You will get to study things that you actually like, and the school years will be over before you know it, and then you’ll be an important entomologist studying insects to your heart’s content off in the jungles in Brazil or somewhere. And getting paid for it—Just think about that.”

Calvin was astounded by the thought that he could someday have a job that would pay him for doing the things that he liked. From watching his father come home every night, sometimes hostile, sometimes bored, usually tired, and seldom friendly, he had assumed that the world of grown-up work was something not to be savored.

“Father, there isn’t any way that I could study entomology now, is there?” Calvin assumed that he would receive an abrasive “no,” as a retort to such a daring question.

“Calvin, whether or not you know that, that is what you are doing now, and you have been doing it for a while.”

“Father, I meant studying it in school.”

“Calvin, just because what you have learned about insects up to now was not learned in school does not mean that it is not part of education. Knowledge is still knowledge no matter where you learn it. But, I can give you some advice for your formal education that will help you here and now. In all of your years of schooling, you will be exposed too much that will bore you like crazy, either because it does not seem important to you, or because you think that you already know it. I learned a long time ago to keep my eyes, ears, and mind open, because there is always something that I can learn. What may seem useless at the time might be something that it important later on in life. Think of knowledge as being money in the bank.”

Father Dunnigan patted him on the back, and said goodbye. Calvin hated grown-ups patting him on the back or the head; it made him feel like someone’s pet. However, he tolerated the gesture, as long as it was not overdone, because he understood what it was intended to convey. Besides, Calvin’s mind was dancing with images of someday being paid for something that he would do anyway: study insects.

When his told his first grade teacher, Sister Anastasia, of the conversation that he had with Father Dunnigan, she was infuriated that the priest had violated her territory by giving academic advice to one of her students. Unknown to Calvin, she complained to the pastor, Father Nelson, and he agreed to keep a reign on Father Dunnigan, and eventually had him transferred out of the parish. Sister Anastasia, who did not much care for Father Dunnigan was gratified. She wished that there could be more priests like Father Nelson, not knowing years later, he would be implicated in the sexual abuse of a long parade of boys at various parishes, including St. Quentin, during the sixties and seventies.

Calvin continued to watch the ants at their feast, trying, with only partial success, to divert his mind from what he witnessed earlier in the day. Every so often, he would be haunted by the image of Willie Leclerc being punched out, with himself standing passively by and doing nothing.

Kill ‘Em All and Let the Lord Sort ‘Em Out:

5:00 PM Wednesday

Sister Dominic stood statue-like in her office staring at the walls, pondering what might be the proper spot to tack up the poster that her niece, Margaret had sent last month for a birthday present. It would not do for her to arrive and not be greeted by the office walls adorned with her gift, so the nun knew she had to tack it up somewhere, if only for a few days. Sister Dominic despised the poster; she found the cheesy poetry written on it quite maudlin, but when the kid was gone, it could be consigned to the back of a closet where it belonged. After finding a spot on the wall, she began to search for a thumbtack when the ringing of the phone intruded upon her solitude.

It was the Trudeau kid’s mother complaining, yet again, of those ruffians who were beating up her poor little boy. As cruel as it sounded, God put some people on earth to rule, and some to serve. How else could one explain feudalism and divine right monarchy? Feudalism, in the so called dark ages was a system that was created by God where he raised chosen rulers to reign over the masses, and it was a system that worked, at least until it was destroyed by the organized forces of the enlightenment pagans and the Protestant heretics. Yes, Sister Dominic had seen the past, and it worked. That boy had been chosen by God to serve, an American serf of sorts, and was creating problems by not accepting his rightful place in God’s scheme. He was useful to have around, if for no other reason that so young Catholic warriors could have their first taste of blood. There were Holy Wars that would have to be fought, and now was the time to prepare. However, the child had probably outlived whatever useful purpose he had served up to now. If he were kept around much longer, he could be seriously hurt, and embarrassing questions might be asked. It was probably time to show him the door.

Sister Dominic played the empathic listener for a few moments, listening to the latest crisis regarding the boy “Mrs. Trudeau, I promise you that I will get to the bottom of this if I have to turn over every rock and stone,” Sister Mary Dominic proclaimed, even as she was making an unflattering gesture at the telephone.

Mrs. Trudeau shot back, “Sister, you’ve told me this before, but every time my son gets beaten up you always look into it and decide that my son started it. I will be the first to tell you that my boy is no angel. I has gotten in his share of troubles, and told his share of lies to try to keep out of trouble, but I'll say one thing about him that I’m absolutely sure of. He is the very opposite of a violent boy. In fact, Henry and I would like to see him be a bit more physical in asserting himself, but we don’t want to say that to him, because he might get the wrong idea.”

“Mrs. Trudeau, what you have just told me is the first that I have heard of this incident, and I promise again that I will look into this and see that justice is done. If your son was beaten up…” Let him accept his place in God’s scheme of things, and maybe he won’t be beaten up any more.

Mrs. Trudeau interrupted with “What do you mean if he was beaten up. Do you have any alternate explanation of where all the blood and two black eyes came from?”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Trudeau, I used a careless term. What I meant was if those boys started the fight with James…”

“Sister, even if a hundred witnesses testified that my son started the fight, what justification is there for giving him that sort of beating? This isn’t kid stuff anymore; this is criminal. If you don’t take the action before this day is over, I am taking my son out of your school, and going to the police.”

“Mrs. Trudeau, I assure you, I will act in the fairest way that I know how. I want you to know, back in my days as a novice nun, when I was still known as Marie Flanigan, I chose the name Dominic. I wanted St. Dominic, who founded the Dominican order of priests, to be my namesake, because he was a man of justice. Now in this day of reform, when many of the sisters are taking back the names which they were born with, I have chosen to keep my nun name, because I identify so strongly with his ideal.”

“Sister, didn't he carry out massacres of Protestants?”

“They were Cathars actually, not Protestants, because this was well before the Protestant problem, and besides, he didn't kill anybody. He took on the heretics through the power of his preaching. He let other's do the rough stuff." They were heretics against the True Church, who made their choice and reaped the bitter fruit. But, I should not have said that, because the bitch will think that I am some kind of a bigot.

“I think that I have finally figured out your strange definition of the word “mercy,” retorted Mrs. Trudeau.

Sister Dominic took that exactly as the affront that Mrs. Trudeau intended it to be. “I believe that you are making a reference to my order, the Sisters of Mercy. I assure you one again, Mrs. Trudeau, my heart burns with a desire for justice. If wrong has been done, I will be the hammer of God, an obedient instrument of His will in punishing the wrong doer.” Sister Dominic lit up as she said that, her eyes becoming the eyes of a woman on a mission from God.

Mrs. Trudeau had heard enough at this point, and answered, “Sister, your religiosity is inspirational, but it sounds to me like your holy crusade will be an enormous burden on you, saving the world from the dark forces all by yourself. Perhaps I need to talk to Father Nelson so that he can assist you.”

“If you feel the need to go over my head, Mrs. Trudeau, feel free to tramp your boots all over my little head.” Yes, tramp, tramp and tramp your tramp boots all over me you tramp. “I am sure that Father Nelson will back whatever I will do, because he knows that I am compassionate and professional, even if I sometimes am a little on the stern side.” Don’t you think for a second that I haven’t heard that you had to get married, you slut.

“Sister, all you have to do is ask Calvin Peterson. My son said that he witnessed the whole thing.” Becoming bored with the conversation, Sister Dominic looked over at the poster that her niece had given her for a birthday present, and made a mental note to herself to tack it on the wall. It would not do to not have it displayed when she came to visit this week, even though the poetry written on it was incredibly sappy.

Sister Dominic then said, “Ah, then there is an independent witness. That is excellent. I have someone who can tell me what happened.” That will be the day that I believe that bastard offspring of a marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant heretic. The Church may say that it recognizes, this sort of union, but we know better.

Mrs. Trudeau felt better as she felt the nun’s attitude softening. At first, she was sure a necktie party was being prepared for her son, again. Fortunately, when she mentioned the name of the Peterson boy, she metamorphosed from a lynch mob leader and into a blindfolded goddess of justice.

“Sister, I hope that you will do the right thing. I can’t keep having this happen to Jimmy.”

The conversation concluded as the two uttered their farewells. The nun was gratified to return the receiver to its place as she flashed yet another unflattering gesture at the phone. She was angry because of the time she had diverted on this conversation. Because of this, she was late for her novena.

© Copyright 1998-2008 AAF - violators will be reported to Sister Dominic

1 comment:

bludancer said...

you write really well. (i came across your blog on a google search re AS, ptsd.) i like the irony. i grew up catholic too. it was awful.

i hope father dunnigan was real. he's an unusual priest.

i loved insects too as a child. i still do (though i'm less vocal about it now.)

i know my comments are disconnected--but i hope you keep writing.