Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chapter 9

Saturday, September 12, 1964

Saturday was a quiet day, at least for the faculty. The local boys had gone home on Friday after classes. On Saturday  morning, the other seminarians were wrapped up doing their weekly chores, same as in years before. But afternoons were free, really free, a big change under the new regime. They could go into town to catch a movie or entertain themselves on the seminary grounds or on the Notre Dame campus. 

I had to check in with Hank and invited him for a walk around the lake. No dice. Walking wasn't his cup of teaor scotch
but talking was fine. We sat at a picnic table overlooking the lake.

“How’s it feel to be a high-school teacher?” Hank asked me.

“It's not easy, but I'm getting there. Yesterday, I noticed I might be enjoying it."

“You sound surprised,” Hank said.

“I am,” I said. “I didn’t ask for this job. I don’t have the background for it. I could have been a real flop.”

“But you’re not,” he said. “What’s you’re secret?”

“Well, it’s only been a week. The juniors tried to rip my covers off, but I turned the tables on them.”

“Apparently your lesson plan had to do with mixed metaphors,” Hank said.

“More like mixed drinks,” I said. “Anyway, I handled it and it came out well. The freshmen are easier. The secret has been to do as little actual teaching as possible. I invented a project for the freshman to do
turning a short story from our text into a radio play. They’re having a ball.”

“That explains why I found a crew in the handball courts with tape recorders.”

“Yep, sound effects.” I said. “Those unbreakable dishes you make the seminarians use may be unspeakably ugly, but they mimic the sound of a subway when you rotate them around on a handball floor.” 

“You’ve managed to stumble on a good teaching technique in your first week,” Hank said. “Or did someone give you the suggestion?”

“Nope, everyone seemed keen on leaving me to my own devices.”

“Even Bernie?”

“Oh, c’mon,” I said. “You knew he wasn’t going to give me any help.”

“Pretty much, but I thought you should ask. You never know. Have you gotten to know him?”

“More than I care to,” I said. “You know, he’s a little hard to take. Teaching has been a piece of cake compared to trying to warm up to this guy.”

“You think he’s got a problem?”

“Yea, he’s got a problem, but maybe not the one you’re worried about.”

“How so?”

“Well, he’s a jerk. I’m not sure he likes his job.”

“Being a priest, you mean,” Hank asked?

“Right,” I said, “But I don’t make him for a pedophile.”

“Why is that?”

“He’s not likable enough,” I said.

“He seems to be a hit with some of the boys,” .

“You’re right,” I said, “and it's odd. The other day, I played bridge with him and a couple of the freshmen. He was hard on them, but they seemed to like him. I don't get it. Some of the other fellows like him for his rough edges. He’s a rebel. He says Mass in fifteen minutes. He teaches history backwards. He’s rude. He’s sarcastic. But he’s not universally popular either. In fact, some of the seminarians seem to despise him for these same qualities. Pedophilesat least according to my researchseduce their prey with charm. Bernie is way short on charm."

“So he’s just a garden-variety bastard,” Hank said.

“That’s my take,”

“Well, that is good news,”

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