My daughter Gladiola claims she got detention for asking a question in class.
Come to find out, the question was “What shade toenail polish R U wearing 2nite?” And she asked it to her friend Mawlene – by texting.
Old people like myself remember when we had to lean over and pass actual notes, but texting is way more devious. Gladiola brags she can text without taking her phone out of her pocket. That explains a lot. She texts me “#0*scrblgpm” and wonders why I don’t pick her up from cheerleading practice at 4 p.m.
But this time she got caught. “Tough,” I say, not too nice. She wails that obviously I’m too old to remember what high school was like, and flounces off to text somebody that her mama don’t have a clue.
But I do remember. I went to Celibacy Academy – an all-girls’ school – and almost all the teachers were nuns back then. Nuns knew everything. They were omnivorous. Like God.
I never got away with nothing.
What happened was, I dashed into the restroom after first period religion class. It was against the rules to talk in there during school hours, but my friend Awlette was coming out a stall and she had accidentally tucked the back of her skirt into the waistband of her panties.
“Woo-hoo,” I said. “You going to charge for that show?”
Instantly, a nun materialized behind me. Back then, when they wore long habits, the sudden appearance of a nun caused the same hair-raising sensation as the sudden appearance of a vampire bat even though, technically, the nun would issue you a detention instead of removing all your blood.
It was Sister Scrupula, and in tones she would have used to accuse us of frolicking with witches under the full moon, she said, “You girls are nothing but …” (Here there was a dramatic pause, and I thought she might be going to actually take the Lord’s name in …) “jellyfish!”
I guess that was the best she could do without cursing.
“You have no spine,” she hissed. “You cannot stand up to temptation.”
I said I stood up to the temptation of letting Awlette prance out with her backside showing.
So me and Awlette both got detentions, me for saying “backside” and Awlette for having one.
Looking back on it after all this time, I think maybe poor Sister Scrupula had had a little too much of virginity. A year later, she got sent to a mission in the Fiji Islands and after that, I heard, she left the convent and got married. I don’t know who to, but Blackbeard the pirate would have been a good match.
Anyway, Awlette and me sulked along to Sister Gargantua’s second period English class, where, right in the middle of Hamlet’s soliloquy, a bunch of boys from Jesuit High School roared past the school in a red convertible blaring their horn and yelling out “Love me tenderrr!” Sister Gargantua yanked down the shades, but nobody paid much attention to Hamlet after that.
In third period Latin class – also taught by Sister Gargantua – five guys from St. Expedite High School tore by in a Jeep, yelling girls’ names randomly “Kar-en! Lauralee! Jeanieee! We lovvve you!”
Then the fire drill siren went off, and Sister Gargantua tore outside with fire in her eye. But by then the boys had beat it.
The rest of the school filed outside, and stood around for a long time, being as there was an actual fire; flaming beignets in Sister Scrupula’s home ec lab. (She was having a very bad day.) After I got tired rating the firemen No. 1 through 10 on degrees of sex appeal (you get very man-starved in a all-girls’ school), I realized it was time for lunch period.
Awlette caught my eye, and inclined her head toward her daddy’s Thunderbird, parked on the street just a few feet away. Awlette was a daddy’s girl, and she got to borrow it for school.
Well, we already had detention, so how much worse could things get? A few minutes later, that Thunderbird slipped away from the curb with us slunk down so low, it looked like it was driving itself.
First we stopped at Frostop for burgers and fries. Then we headed for the boys’ schools. We drove around Jesuit’s twice, honking and yelling, “Hit the rooaad Jack …”
Then we swung over to St. Expedite’s, laid on the horn and yowled the words to “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog,” while we zoomed around the block. But on the second time around, a car shot out the parking lot and blocked the street in front of us. “Back up!” I screeched to Awlette. But there was another car behind us. We were boxed in. Then the car doors opened and two Catholic Brothers stepped out. They strode up to us like highway patrol officers.
They escorted us to the principal’s office, sat us down, and the principal called Celibacy Academy. He started off with “Your girls, and I would not call them ‘ladies’ …” I tried not to listen to what else he was saying.
But then he jerked the phone away from his ear. A lot of words were pouring out of that receiver, all of them loud. It was Sister Gargantua.
“Driving around your school? Distracting your boys? Your young gentlemen who have been harassing our students for weeks? You’ll send our young ladies back, right now, thank you very much!”
“Yes, Sister,” said the principal. “I’m sorry, Sister.” Then he hung up and told us to leave.
Sister Gargantua was a feminist before her time.
Even so, when we got back to school, we expected to be thrown in some dungeon deep under the nuns’ quarters.
Instead, we just slinked into our next class and nobody said nothing.
Score one for jellyfishes.