Monday, April 28, 2008

Mercy, part 5

So, here it is. You've been waiting for it. I'm posting part V of Mercy.

Interlude: Yet Another Nun’s Story

Sister Dominic, the principal at St. Quentin School, was a warrior princess, fighting the Holy War against the pagans and unbelievers. She fancied herself to be part of a vast underground resistance, a secret Catholic Army ready to strike at a moments notice. Although she had never met any of her fellow “soldiers,” and could therefore only guess at their existence, she accepted it as a matter of faith that they existed. It would be a matter of time before they contacted her to formally enlist her in the organization.

She knew they would be in contact with her, because God told her so. Not in a voice as per se, that sort of thing was for schizophrenics, and schizophrenia was something even Sister Dominic’s worst enemies had never accused her of, although some had attempted to slander her by labeling her manic-depressive. Sister Dominic knew the mind of God because of her close relationship with Him, and knew what plan God had for her. She was sufficiently close to her God so that what He wanted was what she wanted, and vice-versa.

Sister Dominic, the former Marie Flanigan, was careful not to tell anyone about her involvement in the resistance, because it was impossible to tell who was a spy or a heretic. The Church these days was totally overrun with them. They had begun their takeover in the 1930’s when they went after Father Coughlin, and now in 1968, in this post-Vatican II day, there was only a small remnant of true believers. They would eventually coalesce and retake their Church when He decided it was time. So she kept her views to herself, and consoled herself by giving her students the education that would prepare them to be Catholic Warriors for the Faith when the call would come forth sometime in the future.

Sometimes, Sister Dominic felt she was ready to lead the charge at any time she might be called. At times like this, she was sure she could have whipped an infantry brigade armed with nothing more than her rosary beads. Then there were times where she wondered if she was living in a fool’s paradise, maybe this idea of an underground resistance was no more than a fantasy. At times like that, she had all she could do to lift herself from her bed, and carry herself through the all too long day. What helped her make it through these times of skepticism was the fact that she knew God, and knew what he wanted. THERE MUST BE AN UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT GOD WANTS!

Like her subordinate, Sister Carr, Sister Dominic would have been destroyed had she known the truth behind her journey to St. Quentin. Her superiors and peers had decided she was nutty as a fruitcake, and in addition to that, a bigoted fanatic, athough they grasped neither the true magnitude of her fanaticism nor that of her mental illness. At any rate, they sent her off to that place of exile for the crazy nuns, St. Quentin's School. She had risen to the post of principal at a previous school, partly as a result of her administrative ability -- she was a detail oriented person who was a competent manager -- and partly as a way to remove her from classroom contact with the children, to whom she was often abusive. Demoting her would surely cause too many questions to be asked, and besides, it was out of the question to have her teaching again. So, then, she was transferred to St. Quentin to preside as principal at that far flung outpost of the diocese for which nobody in power in the Church cared.

Unlike Sister Carr, she did not resent serving at St. Quentin, because it gave her a freedom to run things that she would never have had at any other Catholic School.

For example, there was the famous paddle. At a time when corporal punishment was increasingly being seen as a relic of the past, she had refined it, she believed, to new levels of effectiveness. She was not content with using it for the most severe of offenses, because then the majority who were not the big offenders would feel they were immune from feeling the wrath of the paddle. But, she certainly couldn't unleash her paddle on a regular basis for trivial offenses, as much as she would have liked to. What she did, however, was insert a level of unpredictability into the use of her paddle that she believed increased its impact. Sometimes, she would use indeed use it for a relatively trivial offense, such as kids yanking hats off their classmates in the schoolyard. Other times, a child who had committed a more serious transgression, and expected to have his or hands or posterior feel the wood, might be let off with little more than a lecture. Sometimes the paddle would go into hibernation for extended periods, other times it would be used on a regular basis. Yes, keep them guessing.

She also enjoyed putting the same sort of unpredictability in the enforcement of rules. Sometimes rules would not be enforced for a prolonged period, and suddenly, children would find themselves facing severe punishment for rules of which they might have forgotten even existed. Then, to keep them further off balance, after heavily enforcing the given rule, she sometimes would lapse into a period of non-enforcement.

It was important that the children learn what it was all about: power.

Beethoven’s 9th, Second Movement:

6:20 PM

Calvin spread his papers, books and notes over the kitchen table. Now that supper had been served and devoured, the table was his to do his homework. He moved into this task ever so gingerly, as if he were eating a despised vegetable as opposed to a favorite desert. This was because although he enjoyed learning, he despised homework as if it was the plague. He considered it an invasion of his personal space and time, a naked attempt by his teachers to extend their long arms into his life away from school. Even worse than this was the fact that so much of the homework was absolutely irrelevant to the learning process; it all seemed to be a conspiracy to tie up the kids’ free time as so they would not be able to get into mischief in the after school hours. To Calvin, homework was not a daily chore like hauling the garbage out to the cans, but a dragon to be slain again and again, until someday, the dragon will rise no more. Perhaps war was a better example, considering the bit of unpleasantness currently taking place in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Every war was supposed to be the war that was going to end war once and for all, at least until the next one. Today’s homework dragon loomed especially tall, and would require an extra large sword, and some powerful blows to kill. Bar-Of-Mail had been in a foul mood, and had kept piling extra homework on the class every time that she lost her temper.

His mother, who had just finished doing the dishes, gave him an expressive look as she walked by. Calvin, for all his intelligence, was not very competent in reading non-verbal cues, but he was usually able to make some sort of sense out of the gestures of people who were in his everyday circle. He knew his mother, upon seeing the volume of work strewn across the table, knew that he had a heavy burden of homework, and with that raised eyebrow of hers, was letting him know that he should have attacked this obstacle as soon as he arrived home from school. He had his own reason for not jumping in to the task, however. In his own mind, if he was too eager to do his homework, he felt as if he was selling out, that he was condoning the school’s long arm grasp on him, in the privacy of his home. By delaying it until the last minute, he felt as if he had some control over the situation. He was resisting, in the only way he could.

The TV in the living room was tuned into the news. The nightly news were a regular ritual for his dad, who was not a well-educated man, but nonetheless, was a fairly knowledgeable person who did more than a bit of reading, and kept himself abreast of the news on a daily basis. He had watched a half-hour of local news, and now it was time for the national news; the Huntley-Brinkley program was now beginning with that distinctive “da da DA da da DA da da DA” at the beginning. Calvin had once heard someone say that the music was from Beethoven’s 9th whatever that was. He would have liked to hear the whole piece, but would not get a chance until after the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty-one years later.

Calvin continued to plow through his homework over the next half hour, until his father, once the news was over, came into the kitchen to drink some of that weird tasting stuff that made him act goofy. He had wanted to ask his father how he should have handled the unpleasantness of this afternoon, but he didn’t dare attempt to have a discourse with him during the news broadcast unless he wanted to be on the wrong end of one of his father’s outbursts. Calvin knew now that the news was over, he had better grab this window of opportunity, because he certainly did not want to talk to him when he was intoxicated, as soon would be the case. Therefore, this was a good time to take a breather from his homework, and exchange a few words with his father. On second thought, though, he decided not to mention the brawl, and instead, discussed the safer subject of the upcoming World Series.

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