I’m not saying , for sure , that the pigwa had anything to do with it . Not necessarily . As Scrooge said , it could have been something I et . It might well have simply been a coincidence that I happened to be relaxing with a little glass of pigwa when the ghost of Sister Agony revisited , out of the blue ( well , out of the darkness , actually ; it was just after midnight ) . Agony again , with her bullhorn .
I’ll try not to pick on her too much , here . Let the old nun rest in peace. I will say , however , that the prospect of meeting her in heaven or hell did occur to me as I leaned back in the tub listening to the wind blow through the one tree out there behind the building . A loud neighbor with a voice that could cut glass was being yelled at by , I think , the man downstairs . It was all in Polish , so I didn’t get the specifics other than a repeated curse word that he began to use a few minutes into the harangue . I got the gist of it , though . It wasn’t hard to figure out . It was too late for her to be making so much noise . She quieted down a little after the minutes-long shouting match . She gave in , eventually , but had to save face , of course , with a few more minutes of loud talking . U.S Steel could have used her voice to cut steel plates . Anyway , she quieted down , and I was left with my thoughts .
I wondered for awhile whether Agony went to heaven or to hell . She , being a nun , was married to Jesus , you know , as they say . Maybe with the immigration policies in heaven , if you’re married to a citizen of heaven , then you’re in . Does it work that way ? No one ever came back to tell me . As a kid I waited for a string to drop from the sky with a note giving me a little inside info , but it never happened . That doesn’t mean it never will . Eternity is a long time . Souls up there must be on heaven -time , and who knows what that schedule might be like . I could be waiting a long , long time , for a note .
Sorry to say , but I doubt very much that Sister Agony made it to heaven . I wouldn’t like to say that she’s sitting in hell , roasting away and dripping fat , either , though . I wouldn’t like to say that because I suspect plenty of my old friends will be hanging around there too , and I might like to see them again at some point . I wouldn’t like to get there to the hot place and see Sister A sitting in her teacher chair , leaning forward menacingly in her intimidating way , and staring at me aggressively with that evil smirk she wore so well . That would really be hell . Well , now that I think of it , I guess that’s the point .
Can’t win !
On the other hand , if I ever make it up to heaven , and she’s there ……………. That would sort of defeat the idea of heaven , too . Sure it would . See ? Can’t win ! An eternity of Sister Agony ? If that happens then God better have an eternity’s supply of single malt and a big glass .
I’ll work this out a little more in my tiny brain and see what I come up with . Maybe all this rising panic is just the pigwa talking . Or a bad perogi .
The memory that popped into my mind tonight was the time Agony had just unwrapped her shiny new bullhorn . This one had a little length of cord attached to a microphone . The old bullhorn was just a bullhorn , the kind of thing used at AFL-CIO rallies , anti-war protests , and in Tom Waits songs , the kind of thing used by Aimee Semple MacPherson in the 1920s and 30s to gather her flock and talk about the possible peril for people’s eternal souls . In other words , Agony needed an upgrade , and it arrived in a trim cardboard box from the bullhorn factory . She might have had a coupon . The thing was hatched from its cardboard carton on the very morning that my class of fifth-graders was assigned to help with the morning assembly .
Agony was in charge of the morning assemblies . Every morning the student bodies ( all 350 of them ) lined up and Sister Agony bullhorned them for a few minutes . The principal stood meekly off to one side as the drill sergeant nun shouted orders and bits of information to the troops . Truth was she didn’t need a bullhorn at all . But now she had a nice brand new blue and grey one with the microphone on a flexible cord. It gave her more mobility . She could word-blast one group of students while giving the evil eye to another group . The power of the Lord knows no bounds . ( Or , in this case , the power of one of the Lord’s wives ) .
Each class was assigned a week to ” help ” with the morning assembly . To “help” meant that two students must be assigned to hold the bullhorn . My class was up . Two shy little girls from my fifth grade class held the instrument of disruption . It was the horn’s maiden run and all was going well for the first few minutes .
Cinco de Mayo was coming up and Agony had planned , in her way , a school-wide celebration of the event . ” You will all dress up like Mexicans ! ” , she said in a bullhorn blare .. Well , she barked the words out over her new bullhorn . Now , what you should know is that the school population was almost totally Mexican . Most of the parents and many of the students were immigrants from Mexico . The command to ” dress like Mexicans ” dropped like a ton of stone as the kids looked around with confusion on their faces and the teachers shared stifled sneaky little smiles , trying to catch one another’s eyes to share the secret mirth . Agony didn’t get the irony . It’s irony , isn’t it ? Maybe it’s something else . It’s not onomatopoeia . But you get the point .
There was an awkward silence for a moment . You could have heard a pin drop , as they say , during that moment . Yes , and then Charlie B. in my class raised his skinny little hand high to ask a Charlie question . . Charlie was always good for the appropriately probing query . Charlie’s mother was Mexican . He was surrounded by children of Mexican descent .
” How do you dress like Mexicans ? ” Charlie asked . How indeed .
Sister Agony began her answer , mentioning “serapes and big sombreros” and stumbling awkwardly on when it happened . My students , the two shy little girls , lost their grip on the shiny new bullhorn and it slipped onto the concrete . There was a loud clatter and Sister Agony’s heart ( I assume she had one ; perhaps not , though ) must have skipped a couple of beats . She rescued the bullhorn as if it were her baby but it had a grapefruit -shaped dent in it now that wasn’t there before ..
The principal rushed everyone back into their classrooms as Sister Agony bent over her bullhorn baby , temporarily speechless and perhaps in shock .
And then there came a loud knock on my classroom door . It was Agony .
” I want to see the two girls who had assembly duty today ,” she demanded . There was rage in her beady eyes . Fire might have been coming from her ears , too , but I had to focus my attention on her fists so that she wouldn’t be able to administer any sucker punches while I wasn’t paying attention ; so I don’t know for sure about the ear-flames . Maybe just smoke . To say that there was a slight odor of sulphur would probably be unfair . As I said at the start , I don’t want to pick on the old girl too much today .
” I have a class to teach , Sister , ” I said . I said it in a bland , bored sort of a way . She wasn’t giving up , though , and she repeated her demand . This one had an implied threat contained in it . She was an expert at that kind of thing . She stepped a half-step closer , but I didn’t back away . She could’ve taken me in a couple of rounds , easily , but I wasn’t going to throw the match from the get go .
” Let me in ! ” she said . I saw to two shy little bullhorn-bashers cowering in the aisle behind me , scared to death .
” I have a class to teach , ” I said again . ” Please come back later , Sister , and we can discuss the matter . ” I must admit that I said those words because I knew that would make her mad . Agony and I never discussed anything . Certainly and absolutely not with the likes of me she didn’t discuss matters . She issued orders and admonitions .
I closed the classroom door in her face and locked it . She had to have liked that when she heard that little click .