I am not an atheist even though I suffered mightily at the hands of merciless nuns and sometimes priests of the Roman Catholic Church.
The truth is that I know there is a Creator, although I don’t pretend to understand this unknowable Being. I know because this Intelligence revealed Itself to me at a very early age. I was about 6 years old when another boy in my class decided to take off his shoe and ambush me by banging its heel on the back of my head. I reeled from the pain, but a feeling of outrage and survival swelled up inside of me like a flame. A wild thought came into my head, “take off your shoe and pound Raymond Little on the side of his head, as hard as you possibly can,” which I promptly did. This was the Creator protecting and guiding me. Raymond was staggered from my unexpected blow and summarily ran from me in terror. Thank you Creator – lessons learned:
Stay alive. Don’t take shit from anybody. And if you are outnumbered, play along with them, take your beating, until you can get each one of those son-of-a-bitches alone, then take your revenge as though it was the wrath of God.
Starting to Seethe
It is a miracle I didn’t turn into a hardcore atheist or at the very least an incorrigible agnostic, but I didn’t. Even when I was sent home by a 20-something-year-old nun for talking in line and at six I had to walk three miles and cross several major intersections all by myself, I tried not to hate this woman. Even when she sent me home the next day because my mother refused to accompany me back to school and I almost got hit by a bus, I still didn’t hate her, but I was starting to seethe a little.
This nun was the first in a line of sick, nasty witches that tortured me until I was in my early teens. They left an indelible mark on my psyche that made me mistrust women and never confide in them until much later in my life. Sad but true.
Under Sister S’s Care
Like Sister S, I will call her, when I was in 7th Grade Catholic School in Baltimore. One day a young woman who sat in front of me had to go to the bathroom, but Sister S didn’t believe her.
“You just want to get out of the class,” she barked. “Hold it in.”
“No, no, please, Sister, I have to go,” Mary, not her real name, begged. But Sister S, who was in her 70s, ignored her pleas.
Well, Mary, I won’t use her last name, couldn’t hold it in. In fact, she urinated and defecated all over the floor. Her shit and piss flooded the entire aisle, causing the kids in the class to scream in disgust, only to break out in nervous laughter when Sister S berated Margaret and told her to go get a mop and pail and clean “her mess up.”
Mary got a new nick name that day, which stuck with her until she graduated: “Shitty Mary.” I’ll never forget the look on her face that day, although many decades have passed. The girl’s face was blood red, and I being a young man entering puberty, vowed never to allow someone to be humiliated like Margaret, in my presence. I swore I would somehow intervene. I credit the Creator with that thought.
My Ears Hurt
But Sister S was a particular kind of she-demon in Christ’s clothing. She had her favorites and she had those she didn’t like for some reason. Guess which one I was.
One day a boy behind me made a noise by putting his hand under his armpit that sounded like flatulence. Sister S blamed me, although I had nothing to do with it.
She grabbed me by the ear and took me outside in the hall. “Put your arms down by the side of your legs and don’t raise them,” she ordered.
It took all of my willpower not to strike her as she clapped both of her hands on my ears like a cold, clammy vice. Bang, bang, bang, my ears were numb and my voice screamed involuntarily because of the pain.
When she had had enough and was out of breath, Sister S then marched me back into the classroom to the smiling and taunting laughter of my classmates. My ears would ring for hours; I swear that Sister S is the reason I am partially deaf in the right ear today.
© 2018 Chet Dembeck
Categories: Flash Fiction