Of Nuns, Guns, and Freedom Runs:
Along with the wanton, impudent betrayal of my 'great potential,' I was always regarded by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a 'deportment' problem in grammar school. To shreve me of my sins, and to motivate me to work harder in school, the nuns of St. Mark's school kept me after school religiously--that is, virtually every day--during the course of my Sixth-Grade year. By my birthday, near the end of April, I was already in possession of the Diocessan Detention Award, having been made to "stay after school," for affronts to good school order--real and imagined--every day since the beginning of the second semester, in January.
So it was that, on my birthday that year (1957, iirc), Sister Mary Hand-Grenade was dragging me by the ear (I kid NOT) across the school parking lot from the school to the convent where a special room was set up with portable greenboards, on which it was my perpetual penance to inscribe countless repetitions of the times tables (to 25), squares (to 50), and for variation, endless, meaningless repetitions of the 10 Commandments. Twice an hour, or so, a Sister would check on me, and measure my progress. Usually, they released me about 4:30 pm.
(Higher maths were never my strong suit. I became accustomed to flunking shit like "Algebra II," "Calculus," and "Solid Geometry." I got by on GPA, cuz I aced Soc.Studies and Humanities. Solid "C" student. Who, btw --and everytime I say it, I visualize the earth in various Catholic cemeteries across the country churning uncomfortably, as a generation of long-deceased nuns and brothers spin in their graves at the mere possibility--eventually accomplished both a Master's and Ph.D., and TAUGHT! But I digress...)
I had been making that wretched trip, on and off, since September, but on this bright Spring day, MY BIRTHDAY, I rebelled: With a quick jerk of my head, I shook my ear free the hag's gnarled grip and pinching claw, and made a break for it!
It took Sister a second to recover her wits; the nuns never contemplated resistance. By the time reality had sunk in, I had a pretty goood start. I was quite quick of foot in my youth, and with the start I had, both she and I knew she was NEVER gonna catch me. (That she need only telephone my parents would have occurred to her, as it had to me; but my father was at work in the City, and my mother was, I was quite certain, away from the house playing bridge, sipping sherry, and planning good, philanthropic deeds with her sorority sisters. I was free, at least til dinner.)
It was exhilarating!I was almost skylarking. I heard her harpy's caw: "Boy! BOY! YOU COME BACK HERE, BOY!!!" I looked back and saw her coming at her best pace, striding and stamping across the parking lot, her black habit flapping, the crucifix on the rosary around her waste glinting in the sun like the hilt of a weapon. I felt like dancing a jig out of utter, insolent, impudent disrespect.
But then her voice changed. She was hollering out to the 'big' kids--the Eighth Graders--playing basketball in back of the school. Shouting commands at them like a drill sergeant, she sicced them on me with orders to return me to her, and not to return without me. They sprang to their assignment with what was, in my eyes, unseemly alacrity. Still, I also had a couple of jumps on them, and so I kicked it into lower gear and jetted homeward.
It was a race in which I was pretty confident I had the advantage, since 1) I was quick and fast and knew where I was going, and 2) they pretty much had to follow me and overtake me when and if they could. I guessed they probably didn't know where I lived. Why would they. I was jsut a 6thie. So I led 'em astray a little, down an alley and over a fence and through a couple of yards: Cushioning my lead. I was about 50-60 yards ahead of 'em when I got to my block. They were just cutting the corner, across ol' Mr. Schneider's lot, grimly determined to return me to school, when I hit the front porch and bolted into the house.
Nobody home. Good!
Being a 'latch-key kid', I knew all the secrets of the place, and in particular I knew where my Dad kept a loaded .45 cal revolver. Of course, I knew I was already in BIG trouble, but I was utterly and irremediably determined that I was not going to go back to that school that day--it was my fucking BIRTHDAY!
I dashed through the house, up to my parents' bedroom, and yanked open the bureau drawer where, among his socks, I knew my Dad kept the gun. Seizing it, I ran down stairs and got to the door, pistol in hand--but hand out of sight, below the glass--as the Eighth Graders stormed noisily up the steps and onto the porch. Thumping, loud, rude, and noisy, they clamored and demanded I come out.
Which was when I raised that pistol and cocked that big ol' trigger.
Instantly, everything stopped, arrested in time.
It was a big gun.
It was in plain sight.
I had it in my hand and I was pointing it skyward...
And there was a movement and ...
I flinched, or something,
And the gun kinda ...
I received a serious 'whuppin' for that stunt. And I went back to school a few days later. But I never spent another day's detention in that school that year, or ever. And the Eighth Grade avoided me as though I were contagious. I don't know how MUCH it was related, but we moved into a new parish before school started the following year.
Oh, and Pop made me clean the pistol; showed me how...