Sunday, May 07, 2006

I Said "Fuck" to a Nun

As promised, here is the story of how I said "fuck" to a nun...when I was six years old. If you had an opportunity to read my previous entry, you will know all about my foreign background and the difficulties which I faced fitting into my new life in America as a non-English speaking youngster.

I attended first grade at St. Procop Catholic School in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. I will never forget the first day of school when my father held my hand and walked me to the yellow brick penitentary on Clark Ave. When we arrived at my new classroon, he delivered me to Sister Bonaventura and told he that if I became in any way troublesome, they could treat me as their own and give me a good beating. NICE! This was still in the days of what some people describe as flowing robes and pure, white habits. To a six year old, what the nuns wore was fucking scary. Long, black robes that smelled of incense and old lady butt! With a menacing cross hanging on a rope belt that I was certain was intended to inflict exquisite pain in the right hands. And the white thing around the face? Well imagine the expression on Dick the Bruiser's face if BoBo Brazil had him in a headlock and you'll understand why the nuns scared the shit out of me.

Sister Bonaventura was the prototypical scary nun with her chafed, red jowl meat bursting out of the sides of that habit and the wooden ruler stuck into her rope belt the way kids wear toy swords when they play pirate. If we fucked up in any of a hundred ways, she would make us hold our hand up with our finger tips together and smack the goddamn fingerprints right off. Ah...Sister Bonaventura...I hate that bitch like it was yesterday...but back to the point.

By the time I started first grade, my English was beginning to come around. Although we spoke only German at home, I had made some friends and was doing well enough in school to stay in class with my own age group.My older brother was in the fourth grade and was helping me to learn some of phrases that would be more useful in interacting with my new playmates. Many of these phrases find their way into my vocabulary even now.

My latest linguistic accomplishment had been the pronounciation of the word "fuck", as in "fuck you" or used as an adjective to modify a word with particular emphasis, as in "Jesus, just take a whiff of that fucking nun!" You get the idea. We practiced secretly at night in our shared bedroom. He even made an attempt at explaining the meaning of the word by describing some sort of ritual consisting of a man peeing in a lady's butt.

While rough-housing on the asphalt playground one afternoon during recess, a second-grader named Joey was bullying the first-graders mercilessly and I decided to put him in his place after he had made me his target. I gathered myself and in my very best English, I told him to "keep his fucking hands off me!" He stopped dead in his tracks, pointed his finger at me and said "ooooooh, you said a bad word." Second-graders are not known for snappy comebacks, so I came back with "fuck you Joey!" This was starting to draw a crowd and may have actually been the beginning of my career in public as well as my career as a filthy talker. Joey told everyone that I had said a dirty word and vowed to tell Sister Bonaventura. To which I replied, "go ahead and tell Sister Bonaventura...fucker." He did.

A minute later the hag stomped over to me in those scary, black, big-heeled shoes and with that smell, dragging Joey by the upper arm and asked me to repeat what I had said to Joey. Proud as i was of my English, I did just that...and got the back of her hand, with the wedding ring of our mercifull Lord, smack across my face. Then she asked me if I knew what that word meant. Not aware that this may be a trick question, and still thinking that I could redeem whatever transgression I had commited by answering promptly and in English, I recounted the "man peeing in the lady's butt" explanation which my brother had furnished. Wham! Turn the other cheek my ass!

By the time I got home from school, the hag had called my mom who, still being afraid to speak on the phone, had promised to have my dad call her when he got home from work. My dad, fresh from a 10 hour shift working at a metal lathe, dialed the phone, listened for a moment, then asked me to tell him what I had said to Joey at school. I did and...whack! Another backhand heard from. My mom had no idea what the fuck was going on but when my dad explained the whole thing she went red, then white, then red again and then she went...whack! I was beginning to wonder if it was worth learning English after all. After things settled down a bit, they got me to tell them where i had learned these words. At least my brother knew what the whacks were for. Now, if you remember, my brother and I shared a room so you know what happened next.

So, the moral of the story is, if you have a little brother, teach him how to say "fuck" and you may get smacked, but he'll get his first and it'll be fun. Oh, and the other moral is, I don't know about now, because I won't go near one. But when I was a kid and nuns walked the earth in full regalia...they didn't smell good.


Anonymous said...

Pete, I think you're a fraud with this story. The nuns who ran St. Procop School (on 41st and Trent)in Cleveland never had a nun there teaching First Grade with the name of Sister Bonaventura. They didn't wear black; that order wore brown, and the parishioners didn't speak German at home; they spoke Czech at home. And further, the nun who taught First Grade for years and years and years at Saint Procop was like a third grandmother to every kid in that school; we all loved her! Shame on you for perpetuating the false myth that the Catholic school nuns of old were rigid, mean and unreasomable. Maybe the occasional one was off-base, but you are so far off the mark with our beloved First Grade teacher (whose name I won't insult by printing it here in your column) that you'd die of embarrassment if you had met her vefore she died, having made that remark about her. Make amends somehow.

Pete Strobl said...

Typical Catholic bullshit response from someone making an "anonymous" comment. The story is true as far as my part in it is concerned and I am not aware that every goddamned parishioner spoke Czech. My family spoke German. Yes, I've changed names...forgive me. I don't know when you went to St Procop but my teacher was a bitch that liked to hit kids so you can kiss my ass with your amends.