Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chapter 7

Thursday, September 10, 1964

I had been a teacher for three full days and hadn’t beat the crap out of a single priest. Not that I didn’t want to. As far as I could tell, Father Bernard Fox didn't exhibit any signs of being a sexual predator, but he was a first-class prick. He was scornful of me, none too friendly with his colleagues, and diffident with the seminarians. 

Nevertheless, he seemed to be capturing their imagination. On the first day of his sophomore class, he announced that he was bored with teaching U.S. history the normal way and had decided to teach it backwards, beginning with the assassination of President Kennedy. This pushed a lot of buttonsbut it fascinated the rebels.

When Hank invited him to say the Mass in the main chapel yesterday, he did it in fifteen minutes. Record time, again pissing off the traditionalists and cheering the rebels. The Fox, which quickly became the nickname of choice, was a hot topicright up there with the altar turned around to face the people, no silence in the halls, and the end of the music censorship committee.

Right now, in fact, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was blaring over the rec room sound system, something unheard of the year before. Or so I was told. Last year, the seminarians had a committee that decided what music to prohibit, which tended to limit the playlist to folk music, some show tunes, and a bit of classical music. With the censorship committee gone, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were fair game. 

I was engaged in a bridge match, partly for something to do and partly as a reasonably safe way to interact with the Fox. My mistake. I wasn’t much better
or much more interested than our partners, two freshmen who were singing along to the Beatles tune. This irritated the Fox, my opponent, who had opened the bidding with a heart and appeared to be far more serious about teaching bridge than he was about teaching U.S. history. 

“Mick, we’re waiting,” said the Fox.

“I want to hold your h-a-n-d,” sang Mick Clark, shaking his head and sorting his cards.

“I bet you do,” giggled Louis Dzinski.

“Not my hand,” I said, looking at Louis out of the corner of my eye and my spread, which contained a single counter.

“No table talk,” the Fox said, glaring at me over his half glasses, which accentuated his scar.

“Umm, I dunno, a spade, I guess,” said Mick.

“Two hearts,” said Louis.

I passed. The Fox made it four hearts, which gave him control and made Louis the dummy. This was fine with Louis, who laid down his cards and started singing along with Mick.

“Why did you jump to four hearts?” I asked, more to make conversation than anything else. 

“Because four hearts is game,” the Fox said, with a tone that suggested I should have known better. He began to draw trump.

“And what’s game?” I asked. 

“Never mind, we’re not counting points anyway,” he said, pulling an ace of hearts from the dummy.

“Does that mean you should have settled for three hearts?” I said, tossing my lone trump, the king of hearts, onto the pile.

“Only if I didn’t give a damn,” he said, flipping out the jack of hearts. 

“Oh, I don’t give a damn about a greenback dollar,” Mick sang, repeating a tune he had heard at last weekend’s hootenanny while the record player changed Beatle tunes. He almost shouted the "damn."

Louis giggled again. I was trying to figure out which of the three was getting on my nerves more. 

“Mick, play your queen,” the Fox said.

“Hey, how’d you know I had the queen?” Mick said. Bernie Fox looked at him as if he were dumber than ratmeat
and Mick muttered “oh, wow!”


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