A little bit more from my days at a Catholic High School.
Read all about it in my book: “I Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” Click on the link at the top of the page for more details:
Father Stack was our Religion teacher. He was a tall man,
broad shouldered, strong and tough with big calloused hands and
a roughhewn face with roughhewn features. He always seemed
to need a shave. He had dark black wavy hair, cropped very short
on the sides, which appeared to be as thick as a steel wool pad.
He had that Irish Catholic bipolar temperament of being pious on
the one hand while being a religious rogue on the other. You
knew full well that he wasn’t one to mess with. His class was the
last class of the day.
Father Stack’s classroom was as sparse as the subject itself
except for his desk, his chair, our desks, and our benches.
Nothing on the walls except for the time clock, which was situated
high up on the wall above the door. This round, black rimmed
device with its white interface, interlaced with black
numbers and black hour, minute, and second hands was standard
issue and could be found in all of the classrooms, in the hallways,
the cafeteria, gymnasium, everywhere. I am sure the same
standard time piece could also be found at St Mary’s. It was
Catholic standard time and issue and, much like the STRAP,
these clocks were probably produced in the diocese somewhere.
And its impact on us was entirely psychological. Psychological
torture for that clock was strategically placed in such a way that
you could never take your eyes off of it. There it was, front and
centre, all of the time, in your face with its hands ticking away
ever so slowly in its pragmatic, precise manner: tick, tock, tick,
Will this class ever end? Father Stack sensed this, but he
didn’t have to look at the clock for it was behind him. I often
wondered what he was thinking as he looked at all of us from his
perspective. We were watching him, listening to him, and trying
without success not to shift our glance up to the clock then back
to him again, hypnotically, trance-like, and straying so far away
from his center of attention as to render the opinion that this class
was really, really boring and it was really, really difficult to stay
awake. This was indeed torture.
There was also a large, heavy wooden bookcase situated at
one end of the classroom. This bookcase was unique in that all of
its shelves were chock full of books, magazines, papers, and the
like except for one shelf, the middle of five, which was as barren
and as empty as the warmth and cuddliness of Sister Mary
Bernice’s charm. It wasn’t long before we were apprised of the
true nature of this bare-faced entity. Funny, but not so funny, was
that the clock was also inextricably linked to the bookcase.
That effin’ clock. Invariably, that clock and the monotonous
tone of Father Stack’s lectures would cause many of us to fall
asleep or nod off. That was Father Stack’s cue for action as we
soon found out.
“(Insert last name here),” he would yell. “Front and center,”
he barked again like the Holy Roller that he was. Why he picked
that individual is lost on me for there were many of us nodding
off at the same time. Our eyes becoming as heavy as lead. The
head rocking forward then back, then forward, forward, down,
down then back up again in a jerky fashion. The eyelids so
heavy, like being hypnotized, followed by that whiplash motion
of awake-fullness, followed by a deep breath of consciousness,
only to begin the torturous routine and rhythm again. Man,
Startled, the young boy, whoever he was, not me, would limp
up to the front of the class, somewhat forlorn, standing there like
a wet noodle, downtrodden and pathetic in front of Father Stack’s
desk. His whole body seemed to shake in nervous trepidation.
Father Stack would then slowly rise up from his chair, then take
the young lad aside but away from the desk and out of reach
from the front row of students. He would then tell him, no, order
him, not to move an inch.
Walking over to the wooden bookcase, Father Stack latched
onto the empty middle shelf and with his two hands pulled the
shelf up and out and away from the bookcase itself in one fell
swooping motion. Returning to the scene of the crime with said
shelf in tow, he would then order the lad to bend over but to look
straight ahead, not down.
The shelf itself measured about one foot in width, two and a
half feet in length, and approximately one inch in thickness. And
like everything else in the nun’s or priest’s arsenal, it was proportionately
attuned to the task at hand for they had years and years
of experience and lessons learned over centuries of practice.
After all, the Catholic faith, unlike other religious orders, had the
Inquisition to fall back on. And unlike a straight-edged stick or a
shortened wooden pole, the length and breadth and thickness of
Father Stack’s shelf required a bit more dexterity and skill from
the handler when meting out punishment of this order of
Father Stack stood athwartship, his legs apart, beside the lad,
well balanced and straight, grabbing on to both sides of the shelf
itself. Like a golfer lining up a shot, he took a couple of short
arched practice swings, being ever so careful as to not actually
strike the target. Stopping just shy of the target itself, millimeters
I would guess, took a great deal of discipline on his part. You
could tell that he was a real pro at this sort of thing. Satisfied that
he had the right angle of attack, Father Stack raised that wooden
shelf about shoulder high then came down hard in a cossacked
whirl-winded arc, robes flaring wildly, meeting his target ass on
and at a perfect right-angled trajectory to the backside of the poor
student. Whack! Well it was more like a thud really, of wood to
the cloth-covered ass. Even the tails of the student’s blue blazer
softened and mitigated the full force and pain of the strike to
some degree. The student lunged forward with his head and his
eyes focused straight ahead rather than down at the floor, as
Father Stack instructed. There was no danger that the student
would crash headlong into something or someone unseen given
the momentum unleashed by the shelf upon his pathetic frame.
Yes, Father Stack was a real pro. His follow through was Bobby
Jones–like in its execution. He had thought of everything. We
were witnessing a real lesson here in practical physics. Unfortunately,
this class was religion.
“Sit down.” Father Stack placed the shelf back in its cradle,
clapped his hands a few times, and then carried on with the class,
as if nothing had happened.
“One whack? Is that all?” we all thought, questionably. It was
enough, for it took some time for the lad to fuss up and return to
his desk. He gait was somewhat laboured, bowlegged, and when
he reached his seat he sat down slowly, methodically, and
gingerly. Red-faced, embarrassed, but somehow just a bit cocky
as his punishment was the first of many more to come. I think he
realized that and felt some pride in being the first student to
receive this lashing and to share this corporal experience with the
rest of us after class.
Thought for the day:
Given the “so called” toxic and racist nature of being white, why do Americans call the White House the White House? Just askin that’s all.
Oops, sorry, It’s Wednesday.