29 August 2007

Silence is Golden

Sister could clap really loud.

She was a Sister of Notre Dame. Maybe that had something to do with it.

She was also principal of our little elementary school, and thus commanded the respect of every little cretin in the lunchroom.

As I recall, it was winter-time. I was wearing an enormous black and orange coat my mom had bought at Burlington Coat Factory. It was the kind that zipped down the center of the hood so you could unzip and wear the flaps over each shoulder.

Somebody please bring back that fashion statement.

Anyway, there we were in the cafeteria. Standing at attention. Waiting for Sister to let us go.

She had just clapped, which was nun-communication at the time for "Yo, twerps! Shut yr mouths and listen up!"

Being winter, the heater was on full-blast. Because if it weren't for running the heater constantly, the parish would never have had reason for taking a second collection on Sundays.

I was standing behind a kid I didn't know that well. He was wearing a black and silver winter-coat very similar to my own.

I had just eaten a cheese sandwich.

Now, this had been no ordinary sandwich. This was one of my mother's "we couldn't afford liverwurst this week" cheese sandwiches. Several slices of white American cheese lodged between two mayonnaise-slathered slices of Wonder Bread. Salt and pepper optional.

I don't know just how long we stood in that line. Perhaps three minutes. But in first-grader-mind that equals at least a half-hour.

About a minute and a half into the ordeal of standing in silence, I felt the cheese sandwich changing direction. Somewhere around the entrance to the stomach it decided to throw on the air-brakes and do an about-face. Fleeing that bubbling caldron of 2% milk and gastric juices, it headed north pausing for just a moment near the Adam's apple before bursting through the flood-gates and pouring directly into the hood of the jacket of the poor boy standing in front of me.

I still remember it today as having attained an iridescent pinkish quality during the brief respite it had made in my esophagus.

And to this very day, I always equate listening to directions whilst being forced to stand still in silence with the smell of hot vomit.

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