I remember thinking if God is gonna be pulling the strings in my life, watching my every move, then I gotta get closer to him. So I became an Altar Boy to try and get on his good side. My grandmother loved that. She actually drove to my neighborhood to see me serve my first mass. My other 6th grade pals served as well. We got to see all the behind the scenes action. The priest was an alcoholic so he poured Welches grape juice into the challis instead of wine but if he ever yelled at us or was a dick, we always spiked the grape juice with wine. We didn’t realize we were causing a priest to relapse. He never flew off the rails but would always scream at whoever fucked up and gave him wine. He’d smoke cigarettes out in the alley before Mass and swear about the Cubs. “Fucking Sutcliff shit the bed again. The Cubs are the worst! The fucking worst.” He was right about one thing. The Cubs are the worst. And I LOVE the Cubs. But they are the worst.
One time he told me to go into the closet and get some Hosts and set them on the altar for him. Hosts are little bread wafers that the priest uses during the mass as a physical representation of the body of christ, which you will then eat as a sign of your loyalty. Yep, that’s a real thing. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So I opened the storage closet door and there on the floor is a brown box. I pick it up, open it and sure enough, there are bags of hosts. There was a shipping label from a warehouse in Cleveland. For whatever reason, I thought hosts were delivered by angels from heaven but apparently they are made in Cleveland and delivered by the UPS guy. Certainly not as romantic as I had only moments prior imagined. Now all I can think about is some guy making eight fifty an hour on an assembly line in Cleveland banging out the Body of Christ.
“Tommy, when are you going to be more like your brother? He’s a lawyer and makes a hundred grand a year..” His mom would say.
“I guess I could go back to school Mom, or I could just show up at work tomorrow and keep making THE BODY OF CHRIST!” my imaginary factory would say back to his fictional mother. Why can’t she be more understanding?
We would be assigned funeral masses to serve. The casket would be at the front of the church, the family doused in black sobbing in agony over the lost of their loved one. I was in 6th grade. They always had two 6th graders and then an 8th grader to make sure shit didn’t come off the rails. The 8th grader gave us the low down about how to work the funeral mass. He handed us each a thumb tack.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“You wait until you see the grandmother cry, then stick yourself in the leg to make yourself cry. The family’ll see you crying and you’ll make a better tip.”
“Who tips at a funeral mass?” I asked?
I remember the first time I stuck myself. It hurt like hell. I actually shrieked. The family looked up at me and nodded, like yep, we’re in that much pain too. They gave me a ten spot when it was all over. I’d tell you that I felt awful but we were all broke, from fucked up homes, looking for a buck any way we could get it.
Plus we were at war. It was us against the priests and nuns. They were an unending source of misery and terror and we felt amazing if we could get any shots over their bow.
Most of the Nuns were treacherous miserable women who lived to torture children but there was one who was kind. Her name was Sister Sirby. She was so innocent and kind we almost couldn’t believe she was real. This was around the time we discovered spitballs. A spitball is a tiny piece of wet chewed up paper rolled small enough to fit into hollowed out pen tube, then blown out like a jungle dart as somebody or something. Spitballs would stick to the chalkboard so when Sirby would turn around all the savage boys would raise their hollowed out pens like Zulu bush warrios and shoot spitablls at her. The spitballs reigned down around her, creating a with a white outline around her at the board making it look like a crime scene.
She would whip around and ask who did it but by that time our shooters were already in our socks and we had put on our best angelic faces.
One day this kid Brian showed us a sewing needle with short pieces of yarn scotch taped to the bottom.
“What is that?” we all asked.
“Watch this,” he said with a demonic grin. He slide the needle and yarn into his hollowed out pen shooter, took a deep breath then blew into it. The needle flew out and stuck into the chalkboard.
Our whole world changed in that moment. He figured out a way to make an actual jungle dart. The next day Sister Sirby turned her back to write something on the board and ten kids raised their blow dart weapons and lit her up. About five were dead on ass shots. The darts pierced her one inch thick tweed skirt nun armor and went right into her nun ass. She shrieked and jumped in the air.
She swatted the needles off her ass and picked them up off the ground. She asked who would dare shoot a servant of the lord with darts like this. 10 angel faced boys all realized they had just crossed a line but not one raised his hand. I remember thinking maybe the devil will go a little easier on us than the big guy in the sky. That was the last time we shot a nun with blow darts but certainly not the last time we gave Sirby a hard time.
There is a thing called MadLibs. It is a collection of stories with words strategically taken out so that you can add your own words, thus making up your own story and teaching you about nouns and adjectives at the same time. Sirby would read her favorite student MadLibs aloud in front of the entire class. As 6th grade boys hurting toward the onslaught of puberty, we would slip and sexual innuendo into the a MadLib here and there and see watch in amazement as we got a Nun, oblivious to our devious plan, read aloud or Junior High Versions of Penthouse Letters. It was always just one word here or there until one day I crossed the line. An example of a MadLib would be like this; The _____________ went into the __________ cave and ____________ with ______________.
So I wrote The hard sausage went into the supple moist cave and exploded with white cream. (Even in 6th grade I liked to overwrite.)
Sister Sirby, completely oblivious, stood in front of a classroom of savage sixth grade boys and read my MadLib masterpiece aloud. It was too much for us to take. Mob mentality took over and we started laughing hysterically. Kids fell out of their seats. She laughed because we were laughing which made us laugh even harder but it was clear she had no idea what she was laughing about.
The next day Sirby stood in front of the class dead quiet and dead serious. We thought she was going to give us a stern talking to but that is not what happened.
Back then, fake wrestling was HUGE. Hulk Hogan, Rick Flair, Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, etc. So theatrical, so intense and physical. There were tag team matches where somebody would be on the ropes, taking an incredible beating, then somehow, someway, their arm reached over to their corner where they tapped in their partner who’d lunge over the rope and save their partner from certain demise. That is what happened with Sirby that day. We had her, almost down for the count, and there she stood, defeated, or so we though, until the door flew open and the meanest nuns in the history of the catholic church came flying in. She had murder in her eyes.
“How dare you..” She said as she started open hand slapping boys in the front row, “Making Sister Sirby read your pornographic stories…” WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!
She worked her way through the entire class as Sirby looked on in approval. The Nun looked like Hulk Hogan when he ripped his shirt off and the arena went crazy, then he suplexed the bag guy and pinned him. We were on the wrong side of Hogan that day, the bad guys, about to be pinned. Like a biblical atrocity, the crazy Nun slapped every male child in the class, then stormed out. Sirby stood over us, then without a word, turned to the chalk board and started writing. We were defeated, broken… or so I thought.
That’s when I saw what real insanity looks like.
Brian reached into his sock and took out his shooter and loaded a blow dart into it. I shook my head and whispered, “Don’t do it, she’ll kill us all.”
He took a deep breath then blew into his dart gun. The dart whizzed across the room and BAM! A bulls eye into Sirby’s left ass cheek. She jumped in the air, spun around and screamed “You’re all evil children! Children of the devil!”
That’s when I knew we had crossed a line. It’s alright to make a nun read your elicit stories, maybe even shoot her with a blow dart gun – ONCE, but shooting her twice, after another nun just ran through the room like a drunk Irish cop with a billyclub, you have to draw the line somewhere.
Brian later apologized and she forgave him. She was the real deal. You get a little older and realize maybe the Nuns were right.
We were all little savages.