Friday, May 29, 2009

Mary Nora's Perfect Moment

Mary Nora Freeman waited all year for the third grade graduation dance at St. Bartholomew’s Primary School. She was in his arms. The music was soft, the lights were not as low and she’d hoped but it would do. She was determined nothing would ruin this perfect moment. The cosmic fates brought Norman Leech into her personal space using coincidence and mathematical probability. He held her hands. Her heart beat like a Congo Drum gone mad. She remembered to put the Breath Strip she borrowed from her teen age sister on her tongue. She closed her eyes and turned her innocent third grade lips into position for her first kiss.

Earlier that year........

Norman Leech sat in front of Mary in Sister Agatha Noom's class. It was September. He knew a girl sat behind him. He ignored her. Girls had germs so Norman and his friends kept their distance. He was aware she stared at him in the cafeteria and on the playground. It made him uncomfortable, but as long as his friends didn’t notice he would leave it alone. Halfway through the year he found notes in his textbooks. Each note was written in colored marker - the kind with ink laced with gold glitter. He read one and threw it away. The rest were shoved under his desk and then into the trash when Mary wasn’t looking. He tried to be polite and not hurt her feelings but he didn't have time for love notes when there was soccer and video games.

In April Norman could no longer ignore her advances. The notes came daily instead of weekly. She quietly sang to him during Sister Agatha’s lessons. During worksheet time she tried to scratch his back. He was at his breaking point. He asked her to stop repeatedly. Mary didn’t. She thought his rejection of her affection was his attempt at playing hard to get. One day after class Norman talked to the teacher. He explained the situation Mary had him in and asked to be moved to another row.
Sister Agatha took both students into the hallway for questioning.
"Mary, is this true? Have you been making unwanted advances to Norman?" Mary was one of Sister Agatha's favorite students. Her father was a Deacon in the Church.
Mary was cornered - trapped by her love for Norman and her fear of disappointing her parents and Sister Agatha.
"Its a lie," she replied behind large crocodile tears. "He's been saying bad things to me all year?"
"WHAT!" Norman shouted. "She's fibbing Sister. She's the one that's been bothering me. I've got her notes to prove it." Sister Agatha asked to see the notes. That's when Norman remembered he'd thrown them all away.
"I threw them away," he confessed. Sister Agatha's anger exploded. She called Norman 'demented'. Norman had no idea what that word meant. She grabbed him by the arm and led him straight to the chapel where Father O’Reilly was waiting to hear confessions. No one else was in the chapel. Sister Agatha knocked on the confessional. No answer. She heard a snore. He was asleep.
"Father," she called in a rather loud voice while knocking on the side of the ornate box. The priest woke with a start. "Yes," he replied. "I've got a discipline problem for you to deal with."
The old priest emerged from box rubbing his eyes. "It's been a slow morning for sin," he said looking at Norman. He motioned for him to sit in the nearest pew while Sister Agatha explained Norman's unforgivable sins to the priest.

Sister Agatha left. Father O’Reilly sat down beside Norman and began explaining the roles of men and women in God’s kingdom. He explained sexual harassment. Once again Norman had no idea what he was talking about. He only knew he was in trouble because of Mary Nora. After thirty minutes into a discussion that caused Father O’Reilly’s face to change color many times Norman excused himself to use the bathroom. Instead of going back to the chapel he returned to class. It was then Norman began thinking of revenge, sweet revenge.

The opportunity came when a third grade end of the school year dance was announced. The girls would be in dresses and the boys in suits. Norman changed his tactics and began smiling at Mary. He asked her if she would be going to the dance. He asked if she would put him on her dance card. Mary was overjoyed. The love of her third grade class had forgiven her. Norman knew he had one opportunity and one opportunity only to let Mary Norma have it for her lies.

The day before the dance Norman stopped by Cloverdale’s Pet Bonanza and asked the clerk if any of the goldfish in the large tank near the entrance died during the night. The clerk checked the tank. Sure enough, one of the larger goldfish was floating belly up. The fish had one eye clouded and looked heavily pecked. Norman asked the clerk for the dead fish. The clerk asked why then stopped Norman from answering in mid sentence. He realized he really didn’t want to know. Using the fish net under the tank the clerk scooped out the deceased fish, dropped it in a clear plastic bag half full of water and handed it without charge to Norman. Norman's plan was complete.

The day of the dance........

It was the third dance. Norman was next on Mary's dance card. He walked up to her and held her hands. He smiled at her. Her heart when pitter pat.
“Close your eyes,” Norman whispered. “I’ve got a surprise for you.” Norman looked at Mary’s face to be sure her eyes were tightly closed. He turned and looked at the three nuns standing near the record player. The nuns were using their loud voices as they reviewed the records looking for the music they had agreed to play. It was time. He reached into his pocket and took out the fish wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag. He let go of her hands to take the fish out of the baggie. Mary opened her eyes.

The thrill of anticipation raced through her. She knew he loved her even though he pretended not to. He was going to kiss her. She was right. She knew it would happen at the dance. Everything was perfect.
"No cheating," Norman said. "Close your eyes for a big surprise." She closed her eyes and puckered her lips. Norman held the dead fish up to her lips and pushed gently. She moved her lips back and forth like she had practiced so many times before. The moment was interrupted by Sammy Mulligan’s laughter. Then Rose Lemond screamed. Mary opened her eyes. She could see Norman’s face - including his lips. Mary wondered how she could see his mouth when it was suppose to be kissing hers. She pulled her head back and saw the dead fish held between his forefinger and thumb. Mary held a hand up to her mouth to prevent the escape of her partially digested lunch and ran for the bathroom.

Sister Agatha Noons looked over from the refreshment table in time to see everything. “God save us,” she said as she rushed take hold of Norman’s left ear. With a powerful twist she convinced him to release the dead fish into her hand. It was all the evidence she needed for conviction.

Five minutes later Norman was back in the chapel with two other boys from the sixth grade waiting for Father O’Reilly’s verdict on their misbehavior. The sixth grade boys were found throwing rocks at a bird’s nest in the courtyard. They would be given two slaps on the hands with a ruler and sent back to class. Norman risked suspension. A final decision awaited the arrival of his parents. Norman wondered if his prank was worth suspension. After all, it was the end of the school year. . Only time would tell - but he did get a thumbs up from the two sixth grade boys as they left the chapel.

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