Laissez Faire

CLASSES AT ST BASIL ended at 1500. At about 1455 every day,
like clockwork, the public address system would come on. The
vice principal, Father Rourque, would make an announcement in
his usual matter of fact way. It would start:

“Attention, all students. The following students have been
kindheartedly awarded the detention of the day: so and so, so and
so and so and so, and so on and on so.”
Followed by:

“Would the following students be so kind as to grace us with
their presence at the vice principal’s office: so and so, and, so
and so, and so and so, and on so and on so.”

Grace, my ass, for this was code for major pain.

We never knew what the infractions were or the degree of
which warranted a detention or a visit to the vice principal’s
office. Initially we did, but after awhile, like Pavlov’s dogs, we
became accustomed to this daily rant. Listening but not really
listening unless the familiar tone of one’s name was announced.
We just didn’t care. We sucked it up, whatever punishment it
may be. These priests had a way about them and each of them
reacted in their own unique way.

Father McMullen—math class. Chewing gum? No problem.
Spit it out onto his hand then watch and feel his hands rubbing
said gum into our curly or wavy locks. Brush or crew cuts
presented their own unique problems when this type of discipline
was meted out, but given this new age of Beatlemania and
longish, stylish hair, very few of us sported the short-cropped
hair design. Sports card bubble gum, Bazooka’s, was the worst,
extremely difficult to get out of one’s hair. Chiclets? Wrigley’s?
They were much milder. It must have been the sugar content that
dictated the air and degree of difficulty in trying to get the
gummy gum out. Invariably this equated to a trip to the barber
with the causal effect of sporting the now defunct fashion faux
pas of a crew cut or a brush cut. The John Glenn look. The very
right stuff indeed.

Mr Aslin was a priest in waiting. Perhaps, but he was more
like civilian laity doing the work of a Catholic apostolate. A
pretend priest. An ecclesiastical groupie per se. His modus
operandi was in the form and shape of a thin metal ruler, eighteen
inches long, very flexible and bendable in its delivery of
pain via an effective slap across the palms of one’s hands.
Talking or not paying attention usually earned a slap from this
innocent looking yet nefarious piece of torture machinery. Even a
smirk on one’s face could warrant such a physical reprimand if
Mr Aslin thought, in his smallish mind, that it was a smirk of

“Hold out your hands,” he would bark. “Palms up.”
Then whack.

One day Mr Aslin met his match in one tall, gangly looking
student named Art O’Neill. This O’Neill boy was definitely
making a name for himself? Mr Aslin walked down one of the aisles, pulled out the ruler, and stood by Art’s desk. Standing there, patting his left hand with the ruler itself.

“Hold out your hands, Mr O’Neill,” Aslin barked.

“Palms up.”


“Did you hear me, Mr O’Neill? Get those hands out,” he


“I said, get those hands out!” Now Aslin was screaming.
Nothing. Art would not look at Aslin but just sat there staring
straight ahead with his arms crossed across his chest.
Suddenly, a whack came down hard across Art’s wooden
desk top.

“Now get those hands out,” Aslin demanded.

We all flinched. Aslin’s face was beginning to turn red. He
sensed, and we all sensed, that he really had no clue as to how to
handle this token of disobedience. Fortunately for him, unfortunately
for Art, the situation was resolved for him.

Art suddenly stood up, defiant, facing Mr Aslin. In his black,
Cuban-heeled “Beatle Boots” he was about half a head taller than
Mr Aslin. Then without fanfare, without notice, and without any
indication of intent, Art stepped back, and then with all of the
forward momentum that he could muster, he kicked his right leg
up, making direct contact between the pointed toes of his “Beatle
Boots” and the balls of Mr Aslin. Ouch! Emasculated, Mr Aslin
went down on all fours groaning, cursing, and writhing in pain,
gasping for breath and gesticulating at someone, at no one, that
he needed divine intervention. Art calmly stepped over Mr
Aslin’s frame and walked out of the classroom. We were all in
jubilant shock. We never saw Art again at St Basil’s Catholic
private high school for boys.


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