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Excerpt From “Glimpses of God, My Autobiography

Let me be totally honest and fair to Sister Margaret Jean. One of the weeks I had to serve was because I

was guilty as charged. I was reading a Perry Mason paperback book. I loved reading Perry Mason

mysteries. The problem was that one day I was reading Perry Mason during History class, not a real

bright move on my part at all but it was kind of a history book wasn’t it? I guess that sister didn’t see it

quite that way. Well I got caught fair and square and started to reach for my poor, overused demerit

card, but guess what? All she did was to confiscate the book, taking it out of my hands without missing a

beat while she continued on with the lecture she was delivering, she gave me no demerit; I think that

my charm was starting to work on her! I knew instinctively that I had gotten off lucky that time.

Lunch time came and I noticed that she had placed the book on her desk and I assumed that it would be

okay for me to read it at lunchtime so I put the snatch on it intending to return it to her desk

immediately after lunch. Things confiscated by nuns were very seldom if ever returned and I was hoping

to finish the book before it went to wherever things confiscated by nuns went to. It was raining that day

and the lunchtime recess was being held in the gym. I sat down on the sideline and began to read.

Suddenly in the distance I could hear the sound of nun shoes hitting gym floor. Actually only the nuns

and priests had the privilege of walking with shoes on in the gym so any noise coming off of the floor

could be construed as possible bad news; kids removed their shoes while playing in the gym so they did

not scuff the floor. You could actually tell the difference between nun steps and priest’s steps without

looking; nun steps were rapid and close together and seemed to transmit a feeling of dread and doom

as they echoed off of the cinder block walls, while the noise a priest’s feet made were slower and

somewhat heavier and louder, and they were more confident and more jovial sounding since it was not

part of his duty to discipline a kid, he was just passing through. In this particular case it was definitely

nun leather slapping the wood and based on the Doppler Echo and the shifting red to blue pattern of
the sound I knew some poor joker was in for it, nuns never walked that fast unless someone was about

to get it. I did not look up because Della Street was telling something important to Perry about the case

that Lieutenant Trag had let slip. The case was certainly more important than seeing some schmuck get

what was coming to him from an antagonized, rapidly moving nun, who was obviously both on the

warpath and on a seek and destroy mission. As a matter of fact when a nun was on the warpath it was

probably better if you didn’t make eye contact or draw any attention to yourself at all. I kept reading

trying to spot the clue that would unlock the mystery and free Perry’s wronged client. Suddenly the

sound of the nun heel on hardwood stopped just as it was in front of me. As the noise faded I thought;

“Oops. I am in for it now.”

Sure enough I looked up and there she was in all her magnificence. Now all nuns had pale white faces

at SJSA, it must have been a requirement of their order that they cultivate that pallor. Today Sister

Margaret Jean’s face was a most remarkable shade of purplish red as she said;

“You dirty little sneak thief! May I have your Demerit card please?”

Nuns were always polite; it was part of the Nun’s Code. If a Sister of St. Joseph was in charge of a firing

squad she would say;

“Excuse me gentlemen your attention please, please get ready, (Michael stand up straight) and now

gentlemen if you would please take very careful aim, (Michael I am not going to tell you again stand up

straight and please remove those hands from your pockets!) And now, gentlemen if you are quite ready

kindly fire.” The sound of the shots would echo and bounce off of the walls in the kid sock polished gym

and with that Michael would hit the floor with his last act being to make sure he did not lose his clip on

tie and risk getting a demerit for being out of uniform.

I gave her my demerit card as I scrambled to my feet. You never remained seated while Sister was

disciplining you. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that anything a kid did with a nun was always done with

the kid standing. She snatched the demerit card out of my one hand while she pried the book from my

other hand, she was certainly efficient if nothing else, and then kind of ironically she used “The Case of

the Reluctant Model” by Earl Stanley Gardner as a writing desk to write three demerits on my poor,

starting to get dog eared demerit card, assuring me of a week away on hallway holiday. I didn’t mean

anything by what I had done, but thinking about it, I did after all take the book off of her desk without

permission and so after school I did approach her and apologize, secretly hoping the demerits would

disappear, they didn’t but she thanked me for the apology and even briefly smiled. I did silently

disagree with the “dirty little sneak thief” thing, but having already received three demerits for the day I

decided to let it slide.

Someone told me that if you stared at the statue of the Blessed Virgin long enough she would wink at

you; I never saw her wink or do anything else during those long solitary hours in the hallway. The last

semester of the school year Sister Margaret Jean pretty much forgave me for being a rebel. She gave me

no more demerits and even extended a few minor marks of her favor once in awhile. The pastor arrived

on the last day of school and handed out report cards. He came to mine and for once he had something

to say. He said he was happy I had improved. Sister had given me a B in school spirit in the last marking

period and the words “Promoted to Seventh Grade” were written in her flowery script. Michael looked

at his world and saw everything was very good. Spring came and summer followed, the sixth year.