Father Knows Best

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, another excerpt from my first crack at writing a novel: I Thought I’d Died and Gone To Heaven. You can support my effort in purchasing a copy. Click on the link above and / or check out my other two attempts at being an author. Every little bit helps this poor Canadian author.

In today’s vernacular, what had just occurred was all shock
and awe for the rest of us. We were agape, our mouths wide
open, our eyes and minds in disbelief at what we had just seen,
witnessed, and processed. “Holy shit,” these words being
mouthed in silent unison. This was going to be really different
from elementary school and all that the nuns could ever muster.

This was not corporal punishment but major pain. Now I understand
the reasoning and the escalation of pain from the Sacrament
of Confirmation through our elementary days to high
school. Sister Mary Bernice’s punishment would pale in comparison
to Father Stack’s ingenuity and that of the other priests and
priests in waiting here. Nevertheless, it was considered a natural
progression of discipline in the overall Catholic scheme of things
and a transition from the rudimentary slap on the face by the
priest during the Sacrament of Confirmation, to the more classic
Catholic penance of major punishment and pain for the slightest
transgression. Self-sacrifice, flagellation, for better or for
worse. Whoa!

Thank God again for the geniuses at Hilroy. They produced a
school classic in the “Hilroy Scribbler.” These innocuous-
looking writing books were an essential part of any student’s
toolbox at St Basil’s Catholic private high school for boys. They
had an important role to play in the classrooms of St Basil
Catholic private high school for boys and the survival of its
students’ backsides. Flexible and malleable, these scribblers were
more than just a tool of record. No, they provided the perfect foil
against Father Stack’s unique method of class management and
control. Not knowing who or what might set Father Stack off
during any given class or who might find themselves at the
receiving end of his methodology of good order and discipline, it
was absolutely prudent that one protected oneself appropriately.
Consequently, prior to entering his classroom and domain, it was
necessary to stuff one or two of those scribblers down the rear of
one’s pants. Personally I preferred just one as two or more scribblers
were difficult to control. They would separate, move
around, or slide down one side or the other, especially after
sitting down on them during his discourse. Any one of us could
be caught and snared into his devilish trap so it was absolutely
essential that these binders worked but in a stealthy kind of way
as we did not want Father Stack to have any inkling that his
punishment was being met with some resistance and was therefore
ineffective. The nice thing about these Hilroy scribblers is
that they could conform to the contours of one’s backside. Even
bending over, and we did test this out, they were difficult to
detect. The tails of our blazers overlapped the upper portion of
our backsides to such an extent that, on closer inspection, the
outline of the hard spine of the binder could not be seen. It was
even better if one’s trousers were baggy in the crotch area.

This stroke of adolescent ingenuity and genius only worked
once, I’m afraid. Thinking back, it was insane for us to believe
we could outsmart these priests and their corporal ways. They
had seen it all before and no amount of creative effort on our part
could outsmart them. When they did discover our inspired inventiveness
and resourcefulness, the punishment only got worse. At
least Father Stack had a sense of humour about the whole thing:
smirking and chuckling as he was giving it out whenever we
were found out. Yet after awhile, after few months of suffering, it
became evident that Father Stack’s bite was worse than his bark.
We began to respect him, enjoy his lectures, and admire his way
of expressing himself. While we were constantly trying to
outsmart him in a juvenile sort of way by playing with his form
of corporal punishment, he never belittled us or made us feel
insignificant. Funny too, as with the feeling of being recognized
by an adult by the use of your first name, it felt really great when
Father Stack would dispatch one of us to the local corner smoke
shop during class to pick him up a carton of smokes. Keep the
change, he would often say. You had the sense that you were
trusted and respected by him. Over the course of the school year,
each and every one of us made that trek across the street to the
smoke shop to get him that carton of Camels. Good thing he was
a chain smoker.

There always existed a bit of cat and mouse play in Father
Stack’s class. We would attempt to mitigate our circumstances by
trying to undermine the tool of his trade. More than once we
addressed that bookcase by placing a multitude of objects on the
empty shelf. To no avail. He would just go over to the bookcase
and with a broad sweep of his arm scatter everything that was on
that shelf over a wide expanse of the classroom floor, then carry
on. The poor sod who was the victim of the day would then have
to clean up the mess after he received his punishment. We even
tried to hide the shelf itself. He was nonplussed about that
because, to our consternation, he would somehow produce an
exact replica of the delinquent shelf. Our most daring bit of espi-
onage was to nail the shelf into its cradle, doing so before class
and before the great inquisitor arrived. This worked to some
degree but was again thwarted. Quite ominously as it turned out.
For when Father Stack went over to grab the shelf in his
customary fashion, the shelf would not budge. But the resulting
flash of his kinetic energy caused the entire bookcase to come
crashing down, missing him by a hair’s breadth. The cacophony
of the resulting noise attracted some of the other priests in the
adjacent classrooms to come running. He just waved them off.
More importantly and more ominously for him, the action and
momentum of his arms was suddenly squelched. The causal effect
on Father Stack was equally momentous as the energy released
was oriented toward him and his entire body mass. This was unexpected
and resulted in an unflattering predicament as he found
himself off balance, falling, and landing squarely on his ass. We
were all shocked, fit to be tied, and laughed ourselves silly.
Fortunately Father Stack was not hurt except for a toss of
wounded pride. To his credit and our growing admiration for
him, he got up, brushed himself off, and continued the lecture
without missing a beat. The poor lad who was about to be the
focus of this latest cause and effect sauntered slowly and
cautiously back to his seat for he was still unsure of the consequences
to occur to him as a result of this latest student transgression.
Nothing. The next day the bookcase was back in its normal
state, the middle shelf intact, empty as always. We did have a
short respite but, in time, we were, and he was, back to our
normal selves and our normal state of affairs. We did detect that
there seemed to be a hint of mutual respect in the air in his
manner of teaching because the punishment never seemed to be
as harsh as it was at the start of the year. The whacks were bit
more subdued. Father Stack always seemed to chuckle as he was
giving it out as if to say to all of us:

“Hey, you may have won that battle, good on you, but you
will never win this war.”

Over time Father Stack met a woman, fell in love, and even
got married. He was then excommunicated.

Thought for the day:

If things need to be so diverse, why is diversity breaking up my country.

Leave well enough alone.

More of the blues: Moody Blues