Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
Herbie Meets The Sisters Of Villa Marie
by Bruce Lucas
My Mom hung up the phone. "It's our turn this week."
I said, "Turn for what?"
She got a devious smile on her face. "To get the sisters from Villa Marie for Sunday school. Looks like you get the job."
Every week, St. Michael's Church had to borrow nuns from a school twenty miles away and a different family was selected to fetch them. I showed up at the convent at 6:00. The sisters walked out in a group, said hello and looked at the car. In 1968 everyone had a family car, not a VW Beetle. No one asked and I didn't tell. I suggested that three sit in the back and two in the front. There seemed to be a leader. She pointed at the gearshift. Four of them climbed into the back and the leader, Sister 1, sat in the front. As we drove off the back of the Beetle bounced up and down, on every bump.
They were very chatty and talked from the time we left the convent. I tried to imagine them as cheerleaders, but it didn't work. We talked about families. I told them that I was 17 and had a 21- year-old sister who didn't live at home anymore. Then it all went bad.
Sister 1: "Is she married?"
Sister 1: "Where does she live?"
"In new York City."
Sister 3: "What does she do there?"
"She works for Western Union."
Sister 3: "How long has she been there?"
"Since she was 17."
Sister 2: "You're mother let her go to New York by herself when she was seventeen?"
"No. She went to Harford first to be a stewardess."
The four in the back moved closer to me. I could see all of them in the rearview mirror.
Sister 4: "Why isn't she a stewardess, now?"
"She wasn't tall enough."
Sister 4: "How did she get in?"
"I don't know."
Sister 4: "Does she have her own apartment?"
"No. She shares it with two other girls."
Sister 1: "Does she have a boyfriend?"
Sister 1: "Are they going to get married?
"I don't know. She's had four boyfriends since she moved there."
Sister1: "Does your mother know?"
"I don't know."
Sister5: "Does she go to church?"
"My mother or my sister?"
Sister 5: "Your sister."
"I don't know."
Sister 1: "Don't you think we're going a little fast?"
The speedometer needle was at 80mph. Going up a hill, I'd had to floor the accelerator pedal. Going down, during my interrogation, I had forgotten to release it. Beetles aren't meant to go that fast, especially this one. The steering vibrated and shook the whole car. I looked into the mirror at four, terrified faces. I slowed down to 50mph hoping that the front end wouldn't fall off.
At church they solemnly got out, thanked me, and hurried off. At their request, another family took them home. I wasn't insulted. I didn't have to stay for Benediction, Mass, and the Stations of the Cross. I smiled. I never told my Mom.
Bruce Lucas, writing from the St. Louis area, is an electrical engineer who started writing about three years ago: first memoirs, then fiction and non-fiction. He's completed two short stories, "Camelot" and "Lost at Sea," and is working on a novel, "A Year for Kristine."
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