Tag Archives: Work In Progress

NaNoWriMo 2005 — Chapter Eight

Chapter 8
Supper at the convent that night wasn’t exactly delightful, but then again, it never was. Sr. Mary Gerard looked at the tasteless slop on her plate. She knew she should just “offer it up,” but she was a convert and really didn’t have a clue what that meant exactly. She was pretty convinced that Jesus’s death wasn’t going to suddenly be less painful because she ate food without much flavoring. She maintained custody of the eyes, however, and looked down at her plate while Sr. Jane Louise read to them all.

When she was a novice, the older sisters told Sr. Mary Gerard all about how things were done so long ago, when they were young. Seasonings on the table were merely decoration; you weren’t allowed to actually use them. Black coffee, food without salt and pepper, no small talk at the table — that was meal time. Recreation didn’t involve actual recreation at all. Rooms had funny names like the refectory. You were layered in heavy clothes and forced to pretend to outsiders that you were perfectly fine. The sisters then were not permitted to see their families at all from the day they arrived until they made Final Vows – in other words, they couldn’t see their families until it was too late to leave. Sr. Mary Gerard assumed that this was because they’d beg their families to help them escape.

It all seemed so barbaric, and out of synch with what a loving God would ask of His followers. Yet here they were now, totally regressed! If those Sisters were here now, this would all look so painfully familiar. How did this happen? Oh, the answer was so simple: Sr. Evangeline. Some how she managed to drag them all into the pit of fake piety through mortification. Well, Sr. Evangeline wasn’t here any more. Maybe there was hope. Otherwise, what would she do? She couldn’t exactly write to the Pope for exclaustration!

Every day, it got harder. She’d joined at a time when faith was very important to her. Yet now she was surrounded by supposedly holy people, yet they never once talked about God. They never talked about their lived experience of their faith, or doubts, or things they wondered about. Now it was all about the rules — which somehow become more important than The Rule, and often violated it! And now, they also never talked about the fact that one of them was a murderer. Murderess? Did women get their own word? No matter. One of them was a killer.

It didn’t matter, really, that no one actually liked Sr. Evangeline. Now that she was gone, was it really different? Or did anyone notice that others stepped in to fill the vacuum she created by dying? Sr. Mary Gerard thought about it, prayed about it to a God she was starting to suspect was still back at Earth. After enough time losing sleep, she decided she only had one choice: leaving. But where would she go? Would one of the families take her in? It wasn’t like at home, where she could just get an apartment and job and start over. This was a weird planet where she’d been isolated. She’d never been out of the human sector, and the two cops were really the first aliens she’d seen up close since the convent was built.

She would talk to one of the parents. Maybe they would help her! The problem was that she had very little unsupervised contact with the parents. On the plus side, Sr. Mary Gerard was pretty sharp. Although she didn’t personally know which parents would likely be more sympathetic to her, or how to contact those who left the school, she did note that the principal and Sr. Evangeline hovered around her a whole lot more often when Mrs. Argyoswami was around. Her son Joe was in Sr. Mary Gerard’s class, so that provided a great excuse to make contact.

Unfortunately, news traveled very quickly here. Mrs. Argyoswami was supportive, of course, but sometimes life is a race, and Sr. Mary Gerard lost. They found her the next morning, after Morning Prayer, and contacted the police once again. Had they still lived on Earth, had they still lived in the United States, it would’ve been quite easy to imply that Sr. Mary Gerard had committed suicide. One could imply that she was despondent over the death of Sr. Evangeline or, even more convenient, that she was the killer and remorse caused her to take her own life. This whole scenario would’ve been quite plausible on Earth.

The thing is, they weren’t on Earth. And if they hadn’t been so stubborn, if they hadn’t been isolationist snobs, they would’ve learned something about the culture surrounding them. They would’ve learned that suicide actually doesn’t exist here. It wasn’t shockingly unusual to the natives that someone killed another, as they are used to living in close quarters. Sometimes it isn’t pretty, and these things have happened. But another side effect of those close quarters is that no one is able to sustain long, drawn-out despondency to the point of suicide. And so the local constabulary wasn’t a bit fooled.


NaNoWriMo 2005 — Chapter Seven

Chapter 7
I arrived home just as my children did. Meliadora held a mysterious package, refusing to say what was in it. The sparkle in her eyes, though, told me that it was going to be a nice surprise of some sort, for someone! Her older sister, Jacintha, rushed past me to the newspad, eager to communicate with the same friends she’d just spent the entire week with. The youngest climbed on my back for a ride into our home.

My mother and Thalla were in the kitchen, cooking. There was also pipe music coming from the other room, which meant one of my sisters was home as well. I put Meliadora down and reached behind the quilt for a cup. My mother had made this quilt herself, when she was about the age of Jacintha. The design was perfect for the kitchen, and matched the cups and dishes that hid behind it during the day.

As soon as I sat on the floor, our pet dog zoomed in and started licking my face. The humans had brought cats and dogs with them on the ship. Of course, they didn’t all survive the trip; neither did all the humans. But it didn’t take long to discover that you really didn’t need many dogs or cats: They were certainly fertile little things! And although the humans themselves took some getting used to, their pets were a big hit! In their early days, they traded weaned puppies and kittens for goods and services. The animals were less exotic and elite now, but still immensely popular.

“So what happened today?” My mother was good at reading me. Of course, I still had my head scarf on, which was a clue. I handed it to Meliadora, who hung it up on the hook by the door.

“I had to go to the human sector today, for a murder. It looks like a murder, anyway. Everyone who lived with the lady pretended she was all perfect, but the others said that everyone hated her and that basically anyone with a pulse had a motive. And would you believe? They have their own schools! We bend over backwards to make them feel welcome, give them what they need, but they don’t want to associate with us. Ungrateful wretches!” My mother handed me a cup of hot beverage name.

“Anything new with Daria?”

“How did you know? Yeah, she’s pregnant. Her and Weldon are going to become partners. How do you know this stuff? Did you run into her?”

My mother smiled and patted me on the shoulder. Then she returned to the original subject. “Don’t your children go to school with humans?”

It never occurred to me to ask them about it, but it could be useful in this case. They had never really talked about them. What were they like? The girls were silent for a moment.

“Well, they stay one gender.”

“Like us.” Ah, here it was again. My daughters’ father was from Aldo Bay, and so like him they had one solid gender. All the time. They didn’t mention it very often, but occasionally they let it slip that they didn’t think it was even a little bit appealing.

“So the humans are one gender each. Then isn’t it nice that there is someone like you?” Oops! Wrong thing to say!

“They are not like us! They are short. And that weird color. Like the ground.”

“Colors. They come in all different colors.”

“But their hands are shaped funny. Their fingers are all wrong.”

“Their fingers are short and stubby. I don’t know how they manage to do anything with them!”

“And their noses are long.”

“But still, they can’t smell anything. They have no idea how much they stink.”

“And they don’t have any tails.”

“You don’t know that for sure.”

“I do too. They wear tight clothes, or they did the first day of school. Until they got uniforms. No tails. Plus, I saw how they sit. Watch them next time.”

“Maybe their tails are cut off. They do that in name of place, or at least they used to. My friend name doesn’t have her tail any more.”

“That’s because she’s … older now. When a girl is … older … there, they do that. It’s barbaric, really.”

“Who’s going to marry her without a tail?”

“Girls, please! I want to know more about the humans!”

“Well, we’re telling you about the humans!”

“No, I want to know what they’re like.”

“They talk funny.”

“Well, it takes a while to learn a new language.”

“No, not that. Well, that, too. But their voices are deep, and kind of flat, and, I don’t know, just different.”

“And they’re separate.”

“What do you mean, separate?”

“They don’t touch.”

“Anybody. Ever.”

“Their faces have no expressions when they talk.”

“Their ears don’t move when they talk.”

“They’re just really weird.”

Somehow, this really wasn’t the sort of information I needed. This wasn’t going to tell me anything about how to solve the murder. I decided to go back to the human sector tomorrow, as awful as that sounded, to see what else I could find out.

NaNoWriMo 2005 — Chapter Six

Chapter 6
“Hi, Hon, I’m home!” Kyle Nakimoto liked to greet his wife as if they were in a 50s television show. He said that as long as they were reliving Lost In Space, they might as well throw in Father Knows Best and the rest of those shows! Actually, his world now was a lot closer to those shows than it was when they lived on Earth. When they left behind the ultraconservative religious zealots who dragged education and everyday life back to the Dark Ages, they also left behind all those things the zealots fought against and used as their platform: drug usage, homosexuality, AIDS and similar diseases, and all the social conditions that television ignored in the 50s but broadcast 24/7 until the change. He kissed his wife and children and asked “What’s new?”

“Sister Evangeline died this morning. They say she was murdered. The cops came here to ask questions.” The children stared at their mother in awe at this last bit of information. Those people had been here! In this very house! Did that mean that they were going to go to hell for associating with heathens?

“What did they look like?” everyone asked at once. The children were curious because they were rarely out of the human sector. Kyle was curious because he still carried the television image of cops in his head, and that didn’t match what he saw of the locals every day. Were they simply huge, green people in blue uniforms?

“As near as I can tell, they just look like all the others. They were women, and had their heads covered. It never occurred to me to cover mine until after they left.”

“But what were they wearing?” her husband reiterated.

“Really, they wore the usual shapeless long robes of that shimmery stuff. They had some kind of weird flower things on their head scarves, and I’d swear they were moving, but I didn’t want to stare. Plus, of course, they’re taller than me, so I couldn’t see much until they sat on the couch. They weren’t too happy about sitting on it, either. They’re not that much bigger than us!”

“What did they want to know?”

“They already knew about the school. I’m willing to bet it isn’t going to be there much longer, if they have any say about it! But the sisters had told them all this ‘what a sweet nun she was’ nonsense.” The children tried to stifle a choke at the sound of someone calling Sr. Evangeline a ‘sweet nun.’

“You know, we discussed this before. I’m not against our children going to their school. We’re obviously going to be here forever, and they can’t just hide in this one little spot on the planet. I leave every day to go to work in their sector, and lots of them have tried to be tolerant in their own way.”

“But we wanted our children to have a Catholic education. That’s one of the reasons we left!”

“Kellianne, you remember St. John the Baptist. Are Riley and Rhiannon having anything like our school experience?”

“Um, no, not even close. I snuck up into the school one day, and they’re right. They sit at tables all day and recite Latin nonsense. They don’t even learn math or reading.”

“Then maybe this is a Godsend. Not Sr. Evangeline dying, of course. But since they might close the school anyway, we should take the children out now, sort of in a pre-emptive way. After all, there really might be legal ramifications.” Kyle kissed his wife. “I’ll take off work tomorrow morning and go with you to register them. Maybe they have classes so you can learn the language too.”

Kellianne looked like learning the new language was the last thing she was interested in, but she sighed.

“Besides,” Kyle reminded her, “I’m half Irish. We should be hanging out with green people!”

NaNoWriMo 2005 — Chapter Five

Chapter 5
Daria understood my discomfort of the morning, and so she drove us to my favorite restaurant, The Wooden Bowl. There were two spaces open together on the floor, so we sat their and joined the other diners. A woman brought us each a bowl and spoon, and we dug into the food before us. Today we were having a spicy stew with meat, vegetables, and grains. Colored lights danced along the ceiling, and we were surrounded by the hum of familiar language, familiar voices, clothes in familiar smells. There’s no place like home. There was a moment of silence when two humans entered, a male and a female, but once they sat in the section next to ours, conversation resumed.

Daria looked at me. “It can’t be easy for them. Did you hear what they were expecting?”

“I don’t listen to rumors.”

“No, I think it’s true. They come from a race of conquerers, and they thought they’d just show up and take over whatever was here. That’s their history — whoever is wherever they want to be becomes subservient to them. They assume that they’re the highest form of civilization. Imagine their suprise to arrive here and instead of finding a vast emptiness to colonize, they find a civilization that’s greater than theirs and that isn’t interested in putting up with any nonsense!”

I smiled. Yes, I’d heard those rumors, but didn’t believe them. I didn’t see anything today to convince me that they were conquering heroes bringing civilization to the universe! So much for human arrogance.

I was about to say something along those lines to Daria, when I realized something. “You’ve been in your female side for quite a while lately. Are you pregnant?”

She smiled and nodded. “Weldon and I decided to become partners. We decided we’d start as two, but we’re open to including more partners as time passes. I was hoping you’d come to the ceremony. It’s the woman’s ceremony.”

“Well, of course! Can I bring Thalla?” Daria had no problem with that, and I thought about the woman’s ceremony. Sometimes it seemed weird to me that our religion had some separate roles and rules for males and females, as if we were each only one or the other. No one could ever explain to me why that was. So while everyone at the woman’s ceremony had to be female, the majority were quite capable of becoming male as soon as they left the room. What was Sophia thinking when the rules were written? And what would she think about that convent?

After lunch, Daria and I went over to see Zuleika, who was in charge of the human sector. Needless to say, she was not happy about the whole school issue. It is crucial to her that the humans become integrated into our society, and that begins with sending their children to our schools. “The other provinces don’t have this problem! The group that was sent to Samayoa had no problem assimilating. They fit right in! What’s wrong with this group?”

“I think it’s a religion thing,” Daria said. “Talking to our group, some are a religion called Christian and some have no religion at all. The group that went to that place were a religion called Muslim. Some of their customs were remarkably like ours already, so it was easier for them to fit in, at least in some ways.”

“Maybe this whole ‘human sector’ thing was a mistake. They’re too separate from each other, as well as from us.”

“But their area is already built up, their way. You can’t send water back upstream!”

“No, but we have the new Kolodzieczak compound finished.”

“You’re not going to put them in there! What about all the families on the waiting list?”

“No, no. I’ll talk to the housing director. What I’m thinking of is plugging in the human families into the housing evacuated by the families moving in to the Kolodzieczak compound. They would still be with a few of their kind, but surrounded by ours. Then we can reclaim their sector. What were we thinking?”

When we got outside and back to the sled, there was something inside it. The wroting on it was in English, so I handed it to Daria. “What is it?”

“It’s a book. In English. The front shows the name: Rolled-Up Streets. But there’s a thing on the inside cover. It says … OK, I can’t pronounce those words. But after that it says I’m a very special book. You see, I’m traveling around the world making new friends. I hope I’ve met another friend in you. Please go to http://www.BookCrossing.com and enter my BCID number (shown below). You’ll discover where I’ve been and who has read me, and can let them know I’m safe here in your hands. Then … READ and RELEASE me! Then there’s a number. Somebody’s got to be kidding!”

“So where is this http://www.BookCrossing.com place? Is it in the human sector?”

“I don’t know. Really, I can’t imagine that many of us even read English, so I don’t know what the whole point is!”

“Just don’t tell me we have to go back there! Not today!”

“No, not today. I will go back to the Legal Center. Where do you want to be dropped off?”

“Home is good.”

NaNoWriMo 2005 — Chapter Four

Chapter 4
Even though the human sector seemed unnecessarily spacious to the locals, the humans considered it to be practically a slum. Their houses were little box houses, and even an old woman with arthritis could throw a rock and hit the neighbor’s house. Still, they tried to be grateful. The older ones remembered Planet of the Apes and decided they were lucky not to be pets, slaves, or lunch.

It took them a little while to get the hang of the communication technology, but now they were quite adept at it. Long before the police arrived at the convent, every human in this sector knew that Sr. Evangeline was dead. Not one gave any indication of sadness, and the children who went to the Catholic school seemed to be a little bit more relaxed this morning, now that they didn’t have to worry about having a substitute teacher – or at least that one.

Kellianne Nakimoto heard a knock on the door shortly after her children left for school. She was a little stunned at first to see what looked like giant green Muslims at her door. At first she thought she was having a flashback to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons of her youth. Then one addressed her in a kind of high-pitched musical version of English, and she realized that these were the local police.

Afterwards, of course, everyone wanted to hear from Kellianne, Gita Argyoswami, and Letitia Loomis, so they gathered at Kellianne’s house. Kellianne wasn’t particularly famous for being politically correct, or even sensitive. Still, her friends were shocked to discover that it never occured to her to cover her head when the visitors arrived. “I’m a Catholic, for pete’s sake! We don’t even cover our heads at Mass any more!”

“Well, if Sr. Evangeline had her way, we would! She would have us…” Gita was elbowed by Letitia before she could finish.

“Sister Avenging Angel is dead now. You gotta speak nice of the dead, especially nuns.” Letitia sounded a bit like the deceased herself, and her friends weren’t quite sure if she was joking or not.

“But who do you think did it?” Kellianne asked as she poured the coffee for her friends. Well, it wasn’t quite coffee, but they called it that anyway. They ate the cookies Letitia brought, which were about as close to American cookies as the coffee was to coffee.

“Watch,” said Gita. “It’ll be like Murder On The Orient Express.”

Another neighbor spoke up. “You mean to tell me that you think they all did it?”

“Well, are you saying that in this whole God-forsaken place, only one person had a motive to kill her? C’mon! She drove everyone nuts. To meet her was to have a motive to harm her!”

“They are scary, though,” Letitia added quietly, and everyone knew she wasn’t talking about the nuns.

“Remember all those silly books and movies about little green men? How come these people aren’t little? I swear, I’ll never get used to this!” Kellianne took another gulp of her beverage. “Letitia, your kids go to their school. What’s that like?”

“They’re too young to have known any place else, so it’s normal to them. Besides, it wouldn’t be any different on Earth.”

“What do you mean?” asked Gita.

“Well, sure my kids stand out in a class of green kids, but if we stayed where we were living when we got married, my kids would’ve stood out in a class of white kids just as much. Here, if they’re being called derrogatory names, we don’t know what they are or what they mean. They both speak their language, though, so that helps.”

“I still can’t believe you sent your kids to an alien day care. Their kids are huge, and so … different.”

“We’re the aliens, Kellianne. We’re the ones who are different.”

NaNoWriMo 2005 — Chapter Three

Chapter 3
It turns out that the school was upstairs in this same building. All of the teachers were in the black outfits, and we had already met them. Each classroom had a solid door, and contained a flat table, which the students sat around on furniture. The walls had the same morbid decorations as the house below us. The teacher said things, and the students repeated what the teacher said. However, they didn’t speak English — the language of the group of aliens closest to us, nor did they speak our language. Really, with all this copying of each other, I wondered how anyone had the initiative to commit a murder!

At this point, it was clear that the investigation was going nowhere. I asked for information about the parents of these children; perhaps they could be of more assistance. Of course, Sr. Margaret James — who turned out to be in charge of the school — balked. I reminded her that we were investigating an untimely death, not their educational practices.

Daria and I left the building and headed for the first house on the list. It wasn’t far — especially the way Daria drives. I still didn’t understand why they needed all this … space. Only one family lived in each home (aside from the convent), and the homes were far apart.

It was weird dealing with these people. The one who answered the door was about the size of a young adolescent. Her hair was uncovered, but we tried not to look. She also wore clothes that were snug, form-fitting, but they looked like they were originally made from our fabrics and she just modified them. “I’m Pyan and this is Daria. We’re from the New Baty Legal Team. May we come in?”

She looked at each of us, and then pointed inside. I took this to mean we were invited in. This house also had no quilts on the wall, but rather flat pictures that I couldn’t figure out. Art is definitely cultural, I guess. This house was cluttered as well. She motioned for us to sit on something that stood on the floor, but didn’t offer us a beverage or any other refreshment.

“This morning, we were called to …” I looked at my notes. “We were called to the Mother Marianne of Molokai Convent. One of the sisters, Sr. Evangeline was found dead on the floor, and it looked as though foul play was involved. We understand you have two children who go to her school. What can you tell us about her?”

The woman did not look like self-control was coming easily. Finally she spoke. “I’m sure you have heard how sweet and wonderful Sr. Evangeline is … was … already.” She looked at both of us. “It’s nonsense.”


“She was awful. All the kids hated her. She wouldn’t let them past her in the hall unless she gave them a cheerful greeting. Then she’d say ‘See how the children love me! They greet me each morning!’ Really, she was awful. And don’t let them fool you; the nuns all hated her, too!”

“You’re saying that none of them liked her?”

“Only Sr. Margaret James. That was a really weird relationship. But no, if you’re looking for a list of people who didn’t like Sr. Evangeline, that would be just about everybody.”

OK, this was a bit of a jump, going from no suspects to everyone being a suspect. “Really, though, you should talk to Mrs. Argyoswami. She’s the parent liaison with the school. She’s the bridge between the parents and the Sisters.” Then the woman stood up and made it clear the visit was over.

It wasn’t easy following the English language street signs, but eventually we found Mrs. Argyoswami. Like the woman before her, her head was uncovered, but she quickly covered it when she saw who we were. She let us in and offered us a hot beverage.

I asked about the school first. After all, these children were going to be part of our future too, not just the human’s future. How were they going to turn out? How were they going to participate in our society?

“Have you been to the school?” Mrs. Argyoswami asked. “Have you seen them teach?”

“Well, we were inside. Your schools are clearly different from ours.” How else was I supposed to put it?

“No, ours aren’t supposed to be like that either. Really. When we still had freedom, Catholic schools were good schools. They were an important part of our faith culture, and when they were all closed, we were devastated. We had been going to Catholic schools for generations. So when we had a chance to come here and start over, or escape, we took it. Imagine our delight when a group of nuns wanted to come as well! We could continue our tradition of sending our children to Catholic schools, and it would be as though nothing changed. We were so wrong.”


“Well, we were so desperate that we never checked them out. We’d forgotten, and so we thought nuns were nuns. We get here, and discover that we’re in a group that somehow decided the downfall of our culture was the liberals, the changes. So they decided that everything would be in Latin, and rote memorization. That’s when you just say back stuff, but you don’t really learn anything that way.” Daria relaxed a little. She agreed with that, and perhaps found a glimmer of hope that this bunch wasn’t so ignorant. I wasn’t ready to make that leap yet.

“So then, why don’t you send your children to a real school? Why not send them to the school that they’re legally required to attend?”

“They have this whole guilt thing going. Really, it makes sense when you think about it. They came to staff schools and continue the faith. How does it look if everyone refuses to go to those schools? See, they were planning to have a new generation of girls wanting to become nuns and carrying on their work. Of course, none of the children would even remotely consider such a thing after spending one day at their school!” She paused. “You know, though, if the Sisters themselves closed the school, that would be different. We’d be free to send our children to school anywhere else.”

Ahh, so parents, students, and nuns all had a motive. “Are there any people in your group — um, humans — who don’t send their children to that school?”

“Sure. Not everyone who came was Catholic. People with no religion at all wanted to escape just as much as we did! You can talk to Mrs. Loomis next door.”

We thanked Mrs. Argyoswami and took our leave. It was nearly mealtime. I wanted to get back to the normal world, but Daria knew she’d have a hard time dragging me back here, so we decided to meet with Mrs. Loomis first.

Mrs. Loomis had a darker color skin than the women we’d met so far, even darker than Mrs. Argyoswami. I guess I never noticed that there was variety among the humans. She covered her head before answering the door. I suspected this because she had the hook next to the door, just as the rest of us do, so that we can put on our scarf before going outside.

Her home was less alien than the others. It wasn’t cluttered with furniture, and there were quilts hanging on the walls in all the usual places to hide plates and pots in the kitchen, the bathroom exit, and the place where clothing was stored. She smiled when she saw us notice the blankets. “These quilts were in my family for years, and I had to bring them with me. Now I’m glad I did!” She pointed out how the different patterns had different meanings, not unlike some of our own. I was much more relaxed here.

We told her about the apparent murder of Sr. Evangeline, and asked if she could shed any light on the topic. “Yeah, she was nasty. I kept telling Gita — Mrs. Argyoswami, that she should just pull her kids out of that school. They aren’t learning anything there except how to be depressed. It’s a dreadful place there!” I certainly wasn’t going to argue with that! “My kids go to your school. We call it Gregory Frost Elementary because we can’t pronounce your name for it, really. But the kids who go there are becoming bilingual, and they seem happy enough. Not like that dreadful convent school.”

“Do you have any experience with nuns? Knowing the culture more than we do, do you have any reason to believe that one nun would kill off another, or would it more likely be an outsider?”

“Well, I didn’t have that much experience with them back home, but this group? Yeah, why not? They have all these awful pictures on the wall, Christ’s agony and stuff. How can you live with that every day and not be affected by it? But that doesn’t mean that no one else could have done it. They weren’t cloistered, per se. They could leave when they wanted to, even though it didn’t happen much. Still, they did have dealings with the rest of us, and they didn’t make a ton of friends among the non-Catholics!”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, they tried to make the Catholics feel guilty. They tried to make them think that if they’d really been good Catholics, the bad times wouldn’t have come and they could still be on Earth. For the rest of us, they blamed us too. They said that if we’d fought to keep public schools secular, we could still be home too. None of it’s their fault, of course. They think they’re going straight to heaven when they die. Somehow, I rather suspect that Sr. Evangeline went to the Smoking Section of eternity, instead.”

“Smoking Section?”

“Never mind. It means that if she’s actually face to face with God, it isn’t a happy meeting!” That I could understand. I wasn’t sure Sophia would be all that cheerful about Sr. Evangeline treated other people, especially children. Then again, I wasn’t very sure that the nun was treating herself all that well either, surrounding herself with dour pictures and dour people.

We thanked the woman and returned to the sled. It was definitely time to get back to our own world, and eat! This time I was perfectly OK with Daria driving quickly, and in a short time we were back where we belonged.

NaNoWriMo 2005 — Chapter One

Chapter 1
The Sisters silently prepared for their morning. Sr. Mary Gerard said in her mind the correct prayer for each part of her garment as she put it on. Her lips never moved, though — the Grand Silence didn’t end until morning prayer. She washed up and brushed her teeth in the basin in her room. Her stomach growled, but she didn’t think it was from hunger. She just had one of those creepy feelings. She tried not to think about it. Sr. Evangeline said that sort of thing was the same as superstition and magic and witchcraft, and certainly not appropriate for a Catholic — especially a nun. Why, it was almost enough for God to forget she was a nun and send her to hell for eternity when she died. Sr. Evangeline was such a peach to be around!

What a nasty woman! She reminded Sr. Mary Gerard so much of the woman in that poem about St. Peter at the Gate, where the woman goes on and on about her husband’s faults, but she herself is perfect. Sr. Mary Gerard stifled a sneeze. There was no way she was going to get sick! That would mean that Sr. Evangeline would be her substitute teacher in the classroom!

The last time that happened, Sr. Evangeline got practically nothing accomplished and Sr. Mary Gerard’s class was behind for days. And what were they so busy learning instead? Eventually, her students reported that they had lessons on the proper way to sit up straight, the proper way to use and store a handkerchief, the proper way to hold a pen, the proper angle of the writing tablet on the table, and the proper tone of voice for recitations. Poor kids! After that, Sr. Mary Gerard made sure that she was never sick unless Sr. Evangeline was already booked to sub in someone else’s classroom!

Sighing, Sr. Mary Gerard made her bed, left her room, and went to the chapel. Sr. Margaret James was already there, silently praying the rosary. Sr. Mary Gerard was surprised not to see Sr. Evangeline already in her spot; being first to chapel increased her feelings of superiority over everyone else. Still honoring the Grand Silence, Sr. Evangeline began her own prayers until the rest of the Sisters arrived.

Once everyone was in her place — that is, everyone except Sr. Evangeline, Morning Prayer began. Sr. Mary Gerard considered Morning Prayer to be what she managed to accomplish before everyone else arrived. To her, what they called Morning Prayer was simply synchronized reading. It certainly didn’t bring her any closer to God, and she couldn’t imagine how anyone could have thought this sort of thing was a good idea. Of course, she suspected that in a lifestyle where individuality was quashed, that would include individual prayers. That was for separate times, to be squeezed into her day.

After Morning Prayer, they were allowed to speak, but a moment of silence remained as everyone looked at Sr. Evangeline’s empty chair. The missing Sister was adamant about prayer beginning on time, all of them being on time, the selfishness of doing anything to draw attention to yourself by being late – and yet, she wasn’t here. Finally, Sr. Margaret James broke the silence. “Sr. Mary Gerard, go check on Sr. Evangeline.”

Sr. Mary Gerard looked at her Superior, her questions not passing her lips. Sr. Margaret James knew what she was thinking, however. “Yes, it’s because you’re the youngest. If our Sister has fallen, you’re strong enough to help her get back up.” Even as a grown woman in a convent, it stunk being the youngest!

Obediently Sr. Mary Gerard got up and went down the hall to Sr. Evangeline’s room. She gently tapped on the door but got no answer. Tapping harder made no difference. Sighing, she called out “Sr. Evangeline, I’m opening the door.” There on the floor was Sr. Evangeline, fully dressed, but with a dark stain on the back of her veil. Sr. Mary Gerard had watched enough television as a child to know that someone had bashed in the back of Sr. Evangeline’s head. She had also watched her fellow humans long enough to know that everyone who met Sr. Evangeline had a motive to kill her, or at least punch her once. Feeling slightly guilty about this thought, realistic though it was, Sr. Mary Gerard returned to the chapel and reported the old nun’s demise.

No one reacted with shock or horror. “I’ll contact the authorities, Sisters. However, today is a normal school day, so I suggest your morning routine continue as usual so that you may do your best in your classrooms.” And that was that.