A Nun’s Smile
Mary never forgot it. Old Sister Michael
had Danny Feeley by the cheek, squeezing hard. With her other hand, she slapped
him, repeatedly. Each slap made him laugh, louder. Like he enjoyed the pain.
“Scumbag!” he said, between laughs.
Mary cringed. Usually, she was the one Danny called “Scumbag.”
Or “Fatso.” Or he pretended to stumble along, since they all knew Mary’s Pop
was a fall-down drunk.
Around them, the cool sixth-graders
laughed, too. But Mary’s friends, the other class creeps, looked horrified. Boo
Hoo Bridget was crying, though Boo Hoo cried if Friday’s lunch was fish sticks
instead of grilled cheese.
As the show went on, Mary’s
raced. She stared up at the crucifix, praying that Jesus would come down and
a nun hits you, Mary’s mom always said, it’s
because you deserve it. If Sister had hit Mary, her mom would smack her
twice as hard, that night.
Please? Mary asked Jesus, one last time.
When the door opened, heads turned. But Mary was watching Sister,
in amazement: the old nun was smiling! Both corners of her ancient lips turned
up, revealing teeth like Chiclets. She let go of Danny.
Father Sebastian strolled in, also smiling, like Sister had been
reading aloud, instead of beating Danny. But Father was always smiling. His
teeth looked fake, like on those toothpaste commercials. He was older, like
forty, but loved showing up to visit Mary’s class. But mostly the boys.
And Danny was his pet.
But why? Mary always wondered. Danny was the
meanest kid, ever. So mean, sometimes she wished he was dead.
“Danny, Danny, Danny . . .” Father gripped his shoulders,
rubbing them. “Sister,” he said, with those teeth, “What did Mr. Feeley do, on
this beautiful spring day?”
In unison, the class glanced out the open windows. Soft pink
blossoms stuck out from the trees. The sky was almost too blue.
Sister sighed. “The usual.”
When Mary looked back, Father was rubbing Danny’s neck. Danny’s eyes
were cast down, his face really red, from Sister’s slaps. But he wasn’t
laughing, now. He seemed almost . . . scared. But of what?
Not Father, Mary thought. Father was so nice. He
liked the Beatles, though Sister said all four of them “were going straight to
“We’re all sinners,” Father told the class, each time he stopped
by. “Even . . . Sisters of Charity.”
Sister Michael waved that away.
“All of us,” Father said, in a dreamy voice.
Mary recalled Danny acting up on those days, too. And Father squeezing
him. Sometimes just mussing his hair. Danny had very curly, dark hair.
“Come with me,” he told Danny today, “And I’ll hear your
But it’s Wednesday, Mary thought.
Danny had gotten pale. “I’m sorry,” he told Sister, sitting down.
“I’ll be quiet. Or . . . read out loud, if you want.” He struggled to find his
place in the reader.
Sister pointed at the door. “Go with Father!”
But Danny wouldn’t budge.
“Mr. Feeley?” Father said, softly.
Danny’s eyes darted from Father, to the window, then back again.
As Father stepped closer, Danny bolted out of his seat. Knocked down
Boo Hoo, before scrambling onto the ledge, and out the window.
A three-flight drop.
Mary screamed. Others did, too: snotty kids who’d just laughed,
minutes ago. Sister clutched her heart, fell against the blackboard. But she
Father must’ve been the first outside. Mary’s class stayed put,
guarded by Miss Norell, from next door. Miss Norell was trying not to cry, so
they wouldn’t. But Boo Hoo had been bawling since Danny knocked her down.
Later, Mary heard that Father knelt, wailing, over Danny’s
broken body. That he choked out the wrong words to the prayers.
She heard Danny’s body was covered with reddened cherry
blossoms, from his flight into the tree.
She also heard Sister Michael never smiled again.
That, Mary believed.
Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like
Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out a lot, so needs no excuse
to do whatever she wants. She hates shopping and shoes, chick lit and chick
flicks. She’s been published in the usual places, such as Hardboiled; Shotgun
Honey, Twisted Sister, A Twist of Noir; Beat to a Pulp; Pulp
Metal; Thrillers, Killers, n’ Chillers; Mysterical-E; and Powder Burn Flash. She
is the editor of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s also a Gemini, an animal
rights activist, and a Christian.