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Wednesday
July 23, 2014
10:20pm EDT


Rated: E | Short Story | Young Adult | #1026444
A catholic kid stumbles onto the truth
Eugene and the Spanking Machine


“Eugene - what is it?”
“Sister Mary Elizabeth may I please go to the boys room”
“You just went at recess; now put your hand down”
“But Sister...”

The black and white habited Nun stood at the front of the class clinching a long wooden pointer with a black rubber tip, which she aimed directly at the boy way the back, and with a single word, she demonstrated her controlling power.

“Eugene!”

Sister Mary Elizabeth pulled the loaded pointer away ending the conversation as she turned back to the blackboard to teach whatever lesson the time of day dictated her to teach.

“Now class...” She continued,

With one hand tucked into her black habit she waddled like a serious plump penguin across the front of the classroom whirling the pointer in the air and jabbing the blackboard as if she was dueling with the ideas she drilled into the intimidated class of five and six year olds.

Eugene thrust his antsy wiggling hand up again, raising it as high as it could possibly go without him getting out of his seat. He continued to shake and wave his hand around so urgently the entire class could not help but sense his distress, and turned their attention away for the current lesson and over to him.

“EUGENE?”

The annoyed Nun said loudly with a most stern disapproving, - "what it is now" - tone.

“Sister may I PLEASE be excused,” he begged.

Without a word uttered, and with tightened lips, the Dominican Sister cracked the pointer down hard on her solid oak desk; all the first graders snapped to attention and remained so. She marched around behind her immaculately organized desk and turned sharply down the last aisle heading straight for Eugene.

Her veil flew up above the yellow brick ledge that ran the length of the classroom; sailing like a kite it streaked the bottom row of cold moisture dripping windows. The fogged up windows were all latched shut but the winter wind whistling through the mullion gaps.

Sister Mary Elizabeth made an abrupt stop next to the last desk. She slammed her foot down and looked at the boy. Her damp veil dropped limp to her side and steam seemed to come from her nostrils and opened mouth as she said in an escalating volume,

“EuGENE!.”

The Nun from above stared the boy down. Eugene pushed himself into the corner of his desk and looked up to her, scared.

The sound of her tough leather low heeled shoes tapped out a tense beat on the beige tiled floor, as she stood there with her arms folded

“Stand-up” she said

Eugene continued to look up to her.

“Stand-up!”

She repeated with the stern pious certainty that comes when you sincerely believe you are a messenger of God himself.

“Yes Sister” Eugene said, with a meek - what did I do now - tone.

He slowly swung his cold feet out from underneath his one piece desk and obediently planted them just in front of the book compartment below his seat. As he stood, he lowered his red head and hid his freckled face with no desire to make eye contact with anyone.

With his knees clinched, his hands folded together over his cold zipper and with far too much attention being paid to his current bladder condition, he assumed a demoralized accused criminal pose and fidgeted nervously.

“Now open the cloak room,” The no nonsense Nun said

She continued to tap her foot and pointed her rubber tipped stick toward the cloak room doors. Surprised and embarrassed, Eugene head shot up, his eyes opened wide and he looked at her incredulously. He understand what she said, but did not believe her command.

“Open the door”

He looked at her again

“Open the door” She repeated sternly

“But Sister?”

“Open the Door - Eugene,” she emphatically demanded

“Yes Sister” he said in defeat

He reached for the door handle that was only a step away for his last row seat and pushed open the three piece folding door exposing one section of the long classroom closet. A line of boots stood at attention and a row of hooks, covered with overcoats, hats, scarf’s and mittens, seemed to obediently stare back all surprised to see the light of day so soon after recess and long before lunch time.

Eugene looked up at Sister Mary Elizabeth with a timid - mission accomplished - stare.

“Now get in there,” she said bluntly and pointed into the closet.

“But Sister?”

“You heard me – get in there”

He looked at her not for mercy but surprise. Then he looked at the class for their agreement that this was an unjust demand. Those staring at him quickly looked away just as Sister Mary Elizabeth said,

“Class - face front”

With only the accused and the accuser involved, Eugene said just above a whisper,

“But Sister I really have to go. PLEASE”

The door swung shut in his face. Eugene stood there momentarily motionless in the space between the closed door and the moist wool winter ware looking out through the thin slit between the sliding door panels.

Sister Mary Elizabeth righteously and triumphantly strolled to the front of the classroom. She waved her pointer stick toward the black board, hit it twice to get the classes attention, and picked up right where she left off. The morning lesson was neatly scrolled across the entire blackboard in perfect cursive, which only a few in the class could decipher.

Eugene began to fidget. The door began to shake.

“Sister?”

A squeaky call came from behind the closed closet doors now wobbling in the back of the class.
The class giggled nervously when they heard Eugene’s call from within his temporary detention room. Sister Mary Elizabeth gave no reply.

“Sister” he repeated.

Giggles filled the room. Sister Mary Elizabeth looked at the class with a clinched jaw, burrowed brow, giggle ending stare, letting them know they had better ignore the shaking door and his repeated request for her attention.

“Sister, Sister!”

The door swung open. Eugene stood there holding his crotch.

“Sister I have to go to the bathroom really badly”

“Eugene! You shut that door immediately and keep still”

“But Sister I can’t hold it” He said as he fidgeted

“That is not my problem” She replied and looked away

“Sister, please”

“Close the door Eugene” She calmly repeated.

The futile banter passed over the seemingly invisible class. They were reluctantly forced to listen to the begging necessity of nature calling falling on the deaf, callous, and cold ears of the totalitarian parochial authority.

“Sister I am going to the bathroom” he said and hopped from one foot to the other.

“If you leave without my permission I will send you to the Principal office” she said in a rasied voice.

“Sister, please”

Eugene knew his pleading was ineffectual as he felt the cold damp air from the leaky windows and the wet cloths around him contracting his weak little bladder to the point of no return. He had only two choices - to pee or not to pee and he knew the peer pressure penalty if you pee in your pants, it was no choice at all. He had to pee and would certainly not do it in class.

“Sister I’ve got to go,” He said urgently

Then he darted out of the clammy closet and ran down the center aisle right past eight rows of nervously giggling classmates turning directly in front of Sister Mary Elizabeth.

“Eugene – Ah - Go the Principals office,”

Rushing intently, Eugene grabbed the cold knob of the heavy wire mesh windowed door and pushed it open.

Sister Mary Elizabeth's bewildered voice cried out a falteringly demand,

"Eugene, come back in here"

It was a last ditch pitch attempt to assert her diminishing authority. The class could not control itself and burst out laughing.

Eugene ran out into the empty hallway and pushed the door shut behind him, slamming it a bit harder than he meant to. He flew down the corridor without a pass and whizzed past an alternating row of classrooms full of obedient students. His rushing foot steps echoed off the shinny terrazzo floor and high plaster walls until he skidded to a stop in front of the BOYS ROOM door, which happened to be directly across from the Principal office. He thrust open the spring loaded door and rushed in. Eugene made it to the row of full length urinals just in time and stood there in urinary ecstasy, knowing it would only get worse from here.

As he zipped up his affairs and left the boys restroom relieved, he walked directly across into the Principals office, sat down, and waited resolutely, yet nervously, outside Sister Jude’s inner sanctum. Sister Jude heard the boy enter and said through her closed office door,

“Eugene, come in here,”

“Yes Sister”

He dejectedly mumbled, not expecting she would hear him and thinking she probably wouldn’t want or care to hear him.

He opened her door and slowly entered. Eugene had been to the Principals office many times before for various reasons.

“Eugene, sit down,” The intimidating # 1 Nun said.

Eugene got up onto the solid hard wood chair his skinny legs dangled down a few inches off the floor. He held his head to his chest expressing the gravity of the situation.

“Eugene, Sister Mary Elizabeth said you deliberately disobeyed her orders and left the class, is that true?”

“Well Sister Jude, I had to...”

“Is it true Yes or No?”

“Well Sister” He faltered.

“Yes or No” she insisted.'

“No.”

“NO!” The Principal responded in abrupt disbelief.

“You did not leave the class without permission”

“Well Yes but...”

“So you did disobey Sister Mary Elizabeth”

“Yes. But she made me…”

“Eugene, - enough - just admit it!”

“Yes Sister, but I…”

“Eugene!” Sister Jude interrupted and began her prepared speech.

“How many times have I told you if you continue to misbehave I will be forced to put you on the SPANKING MACHINE? Do you want that?”

Eugene had been threatened with the SPANKING MACHINE many times before and imagined it to be a “mid-evil” rack like, impulse curbing device that had been passed down by a secret order of Nuns from the dark ages. He and the other first graders were supremely frightened by the potential power of the infamous torture device and were kept in check by the mere threat of being strapped to the SPANKING MACHINE.

“But Sister”

“Eugene, don’t challenge me. Do you want me to put you on the spanking machine?”

Eugene knew he was licked. There was a silent guilt coming from every part of his body.

“Well do you?”

She pressed him knowing he would certainly knuckle under.

Eugene thought and thought. He knew he would be finding his way back here again and wondered what to do. He sat silently staring out of the tall narrow window behind Sister Jude’s head. The contrast of bright back-light from the snowy outdoors and the black veil protecting her face made it hard for him to look directly at her so he looked out at the icicles on the awning above her office window as she continued to drip the cold reality of threatened torture on his little head.

“Well Eugene, do you?”

Eugene looked squarely at her face and passively said,

“OK – I guess so.

Then gaining the strength of a religious martyr and said,

“Yes. Put me on the spanking machine”

“What!” Sister Jude said with flabbergasted shock.

She lunged forward, then snapped back and sat deep in her solid oak chair. She grabbed hold of the arms and squeezed them for emotional support.

”Just do it.” Eugene said with his chest out as he lowered his head again and added,

“I suppose I deserve it and God must want me to be punished, so just put me on the spanking machine”

Eugene had done it. He knew he must be guilty of something and he was ready for his punishment. He looked up for her response. Sister Jude’s jaw dropped down so far the starched white crown of her tight habit dug into her forehead creasing it into a mass of wrinkled worried skin as a bead or two of sweat leaked out.

“But Eugene, aren’t you sorry?” She said in a relenting way.

“Yes Sister I am. I am very sorry but I don’t know what for, and I know I will make another mistake, and I know I’ll have to go to the bathroom again, and Sister Mary Elizabeth will just...”

Sister Jude was caught so off guard she was not able to conceal her nervous look as she glanced back at the small boy in the buttoned down white shirt, with a snap on tie, rumpled pants, and jacket. She said compromisingly,

“Well Eugene, perhaps I can talk with Sister Mary Elizabeth?”

Eugene instantly sensed something odd. Sister Jude had never been willing to come to his aid before, and everyone knew Sister Mary Elizabeth was much tougher and stricter than any of the other Sisters were.

Something was up. He knew it.

“But what about the spanking machine”

He asked, wanting more information about her unexpected clemency and his surprise pardon.

“Well, I am sure if you promise to never disobey again we can spare you from the spanking machine this time”

There was definitely something odd going on. Eugene began to see a glimmer of light in the once dark and scary passage way that led to the Spanking Machine. He knew, as though God himself had shown him the way, this new light would give him the right to pass through - unharmed.

Eugene now knew there was no spanking machine. Why else would I be spared? He thought. To test this redemptive revelation he beseeched the tough love Nun to give him a small taste of the medicine she had so many times said would come from a session on the so called “Spanking Machine.”

“Sister I think I deserve it, take me to the Spanking Machine”

“Well Eugene it is in the basement in a special room”

“Yes Sister I know but I am ready to go”

“Eugene I don’t think that will be necessary but I may need to call your Mother”

Eugene’s Mother and her mere manual spankings were old hat and of no real consequence this time. He knew his Mother would understand his bladder problem and on this occasion, he would prevail. He pressed on.

“But Sister, I think I should get the Spanking Machine”

“That won’t be necessary.”

She said, as sternly as she could, given the loss of her most powerful weapon, then added

“Now go back to your classroom while I decide what to do with you”

Sister Jude took an embroidered lace handkerchief out from the sleeve of her habit and dabbed her forehead as Eugene slid off the seat and walked out leaving the disciplinarian to wonder what deterrents were still left to her.

Eugene did not say a word or let on that he knew there was no “SPANKING MACHINE”
He was quietly ecstatic. There was no Spanking Machine and he could not wait to tell the rest of the class. However, before he went back to his classroom he went into the BOYS ROOM again. There was still an hour until lunch and it was a cold damp day. He knew he had better go one more time.

Eugene entered the classroom with a relieved smile on his face not the defeated frown that usual accompanied him after one of his visits to the Superior Mother Nuns’ office.
He walked confidently past Sister Mary Elizabeth, walked tall past his silently curious classmates, and made his way all way back to his most remote seat. He sat down, looked out past the fog streaked windows at the cold gray winter sky, and saw a new world where justice may be lurking.

When the lunch bell rang, his liberating news spread faster than spilled beans on a slippery cafeteria floor and all the first graders knew in a flash they were free from the fear of the “SPANKING MACHINE.” A safe warm glow of relief filled each mischievous little souls and pumped new life into their big playful hearts.

Eugene was their rogue hero, a Catholic grammar school Spartacus. Sister Mary Elizabeth, Sister Jude, and Eugene had new rules of engagement. His Right of Passage gave him the divine wisdom to know not to test his lucky break. He took measured steps to stay safely within his protected place so the disarmed truce he created would stay in force, God willing.






Eugene and the first kiss


“Eugene! Go the Principals’ office and I am calling your Mother.”

“Mrs. Hamlin, where is the Principals office?” Eugene curiously asked. The kindergartners laughed

“Eugene, are you trying to be funny?

“No Mrs. Hamlin” he said smiling at the unexpected laugh he got.

“I don’t know where to go”

“Oh go sit down at your table; I will deal with you later.”

Eugene took his seat back at his round table for six. Mary Spano smiled at him from her seat across the room. She wanted him to come back over but she knew it would not be a good idea.

Eugene and Mary kissed. It was only the third day of kindergarten. His classmates barely had time to use their pencil sharpeners, but Eugene already had a mark he couldn't erase. Eugene didn’t blame Mary but he did tell Mrs. Hamlin, with the class listening, that she told him to do it, which she had.

“Eugene, what is your Mothers phone number?”

Eugene, startled, stood up, and fumbled to reattach his clip on tie that came loose as he got up. His deep blue jacket and white shirt fit well but did not suit him. Eugene fidgeted for a moment and said

“I think it is T - E – FIVE – ONE - OH…..FOUR hmm NINE, I think.”

Eugene knew he was in trouble for kissing Mary, but no one told him he had to stay in his seat. He was an antsy child and distracted to a fault. Today his fault was kissing Mary.

“Class, color in page 5 of the picture book,” Mrs. Hamlin directed the class of about three dozen little people. Several heads turned to see what page 5 looked like and a few who were on the wrong page were given peer correction.

Mrs. Hamlin went over to the black rotary telephone on the table by a tall narrow side window. The hinged window was angled open and warm mild breeze aired the place that smelled like crayons and white paste glue. She turned her back to the class stuck her short red nail polished finger into the TUV # 8 hole and dialed the exchange and the rest of the numbers Eugene gave her.

“Hello, Mrs. Hendricks. This isn’t? Oh, I am so sorry"

Eugene!” She snapped as she placed the phone back on its cradle stronger than usual.

“Eugene,” she repeated, “Come up to my desk”

Mrs. Hamlin went over to her desk, clinched both her hands shut and knuckled them against the heavy oak fortress and stood there. She kept this pose as she asked Eugene why he gave her the wrong number, and then folded her arms over her very large and well protected bosoms. For intimidating effect, she tapped her foot. The class suspenseful waited for his reply.

“That isn’t my phone number?” Eugene said as the class laughed behind him again.

“No Eugene that is not your telephone number” Mrs. Hamlin said with her arms still folded resting on her floral dress, and gave him an “explain yourself” look.

“Are you sure? What numbers did I say it was?” Eugene asked in genuine a genuinely believable surprised tone.

“You said it was T E FIVE ONE OH FOUR NINE” the veteran Kindergarten teacher parroted impatiently.

“That’s my number I think,” He said and shook his head up and down to convince himself but he looked uncertain and put his hands in his pockets and cross his fingers.

“Eugene I want you to call your Mother”

Mrs. Hamlin was episode hardened. Over her telling years, she had made many of her errant pupils dial their Mothers. Mrs. Hamlin pointed to the telephone in the narrow alcove adjacent to a small one seat bathroom. The dull finish dial telephone waited right in the middle of a sturdy oak table for the next awkward culprit to call home.

Eugene uncrossed his sticky fingers, and went over to the phone. He noticed he liked this alcove. The light was pleasant as it bounced off the wall of the bathroom and the slate gray blackboard that confined the cozy space, and it didn’t smell as much from the instruments of kindergarten learning. He picked up the phone, which was not heavy but bulky for him and held it awkwardly to his right ear.

Mrs. Hamlin towered over him ready to watch the numbers he dialed on the big black telephone. “T “- he said out loud as he dialed the exchange and heard the click, click, click, of the wholly ring apparatus as it made its return trip. “E” click, click…– FIVE – ONE – OH - FOUR” and then his voice stopped short. He looked at the NINE and then the SIX and knew he had told Mrs. Hamlin the wrong number by mistake. He often got the 9 and the 6 confused. He turned, looked up at her with a very embarrassed nervous look, and said

“I thing it is this one” and pointed to the 6.

“I think it is the SIX one, not the NINE one.” Eugene smiled a helplessly honest smile.

She looked at him with some disbelief since her mercy and compassion graduated years ago and all that remained was her rout child teaching routine. She said nothing. He looked at the 6, placed his little nail bitten pointer finger into the hole, and wishfully dialed the SIX and the heard the ringing.

“Hello” the familiar voice of his Mother answered. Eugene did not know what to say and looked at Mrs. Hamlin. She looked back and him with a “go ahead and say Hello” look.

Eugene said “Hello” and his Mother, recognizing his voice, said

“Eugene, you are suppose to be in school”

“I am MOM,” he said without more information to give any indication to the nature of the call.

“Are you alright” his Mother asked in a concerned but not distressed voice?

“Ah yes” he said with a trill, give away, inflection at the end.

“Why are you calling, do you need something?” his Mother caringly asked.

“No” he said trying to postpone the enviable disclosure as long as possible.

“Eugene?” his Mother said with a voice changing tone.

“Are you in trouble?”

There was silence; a long enough silence that the answer “YES” was not only implied, guilt came right along for the long ride.

“I think so”

“Eugene what did you do?” His Mother asked in disbelief, but not bewildered disbelief, as she shook her at the other end of the line thinking, “it’s only his third day of kindergarten!.”

Mrs. Hamlin had heard the whole exchange thus far. The old telephone company issued device was quite loud and Eugene held the clunky receiver away from his head like it was, or he was, a dumbbell. The big burly lesson matron grabbed the phone away and said,

“Mrs. Hendricks, this is Mrs. Hamlin. I caught Eugene kissing a girl in class. I am going to send him home.” She said in a final verdict, case closed, near gavel slamming, tone

“Mrs. Hamlin isn’t that a little…” Eugene's Mother started to say as Mrs. Hamlin cut here off.

“I cannot not have that kind of promiscuous bad behavior in my class and I won’t, he his going home” She said and slammed her foot down to make a point sound more emphatic.

“But I can’t come to get him; my husband has our car at his work” Mrs. Hendricks explained in hopes of lessening her involvement in the strict sentence.

“Well, I cannot keep him in my kindergarten class. He will be in the Principals office.”

“But Mrs. Hamlin, please.”

Eugene’s Mother was about to come to the aid of her most mischievous son. Although this was not his first encounter with authority, it was his first episode with the authorities at this new learning institution. Mrs. Hendricks went into her “Please be understanding.” mode. She could be very convincing especially since this seemed like an innocent thing. She had gotten worse calls for far more serious offenses than this.

Mrs. Hamlin, hardened by what she had been through, knew she would likely not back down. Kissing in class, was unacceptable and must be made an example and punished severely. However, since she was experienced in many disciplinary ways; she decided to give the latest Mother of an unruly child a listen.

Mrs. Hamlin, knowing this might take a while, looked at Eugene and said,

“Go back to your table while I talk with your Mother.”

Eugene knew, if his Mom was giving “that speech,” the worst was over, he thought.

Eugene went back to his seat. Mrs. Hamlin listened to the futile begging and interjected only occasionally. Mostly she quietly looked out the narrow window taking in the breeze, deciding when to end the one sided conversation by saying - NO!

Eugene was back at his seat and about to color when he looked up and there was Mary Spano with the biggest brown eyes, and the prettiest brunette hair. He smiled. She was his type. Even at only 4 and a half, he knew. She looked him right in the eyes and gave him a quick kiss. The whole class saw the peck and picked a reaction, some laughed, some oooo’d, some giggled, and some made a gasping noise. No one was silent on the kiss and telling matter.

The sound of the commotion filled the rigid high ceiled classroom and shook the strict environment with the unacceptable sounds of excited children. Two rows of three round tables stocked with five little laughing students each was out of control. Mrs. Hamlin turned around and moved out from the alcove only to see Mary Spano and Eugene kissing.

“Eugene” she yelled. “Stop that!”

Mary scurried back across the room to her table as though if she ran fast enough the event would be sucked back in time. She jumped into her chair, which made a scrapping noise as it slid over the recently waxed dark and light beige tiled floor. The chair, with Mary precariously on board screeched to a thumping halt, she grabbed a red crayon and started to color outside the lines.

“Eugene!” Mrs. Hamlin yelled again with greater authority and less surprise.

“What did he do? What did he do?” Mrs. Hendricks shouted at the other end of the telephone line. Mrs. Hamlin, with flared nostrils and a higher pitched voice, said

“He kissed her again, that’s what he did” Mrs. Hamlin replay the lively and emotional scene into the telephone and continued,

“Your Son will be in the Principals office, whenever you decide to come for him.” Her stern voice made its verdict and she passed her sentence in a gavel slamming pronouncement.

“Your Son will be sent home!” The class gasped and went silent. Eugene gulped.

Mrs. Hendricks could tell this Kindergarten teacher would not budge and was not one to respond to motherly begging, parental demands or grown up reasoning and she politely asked.

“May I please speak my Son - please?”

“Eugene your Mother wants to talk to you,” Mrs. Hamlin barked and she stuck the phone out into the stinky white glue and construction paper air, and waited for the cut up to take the bulky telephone, and face the punishment.

“Hello” Eugene said with his heart beating from all kinds of things.

“Eugene, what did you do?” His Mom asked as though she didn’t know. She wanted to hear it from him.

“Mary Spano kissed me”

“Mary Spano kissed YOU”

“Yes on the mouth!” Eugene said with boyish pride and surprise.

“Eugene, if she kissed you, then why is Mrs. Hamlin send you home”

“I don’t know.”

Mrs. Hamlin grabbed the phone and said

“Mrs. Hendricks I have a class to run. Your Son will be with Sister Jude, you can speak to him there.”

She was about to put the telephone down when Eugene stuck his head near the mouthpiece and yelled

“Bye Mom.”

Mrs. Hamlin dropped the phone from about three inches above the cradle with case closing finality.

“Eugene, go to the Principals office”

“But where is it” Eugene said with some frustration.

The class laughed but only a tiny bit. They sensed once Eugene left they were in for a stern lecture and didn’t want to make it any sterner or longer. Mrs. Hamlin pointed to the hallway and said,

“Eugene, it is the door with the word “Principal” on it at the end of the hall by the boys’ room.”

“Oh yeah, I know that one,” he said.

He had been past the heavy oak and wire mesh glass door across from the boys’ room. He had wondered if it was the janitor’s closet, since it smelled like Lysol. He couldn’t read yet and thought the word on the glass might have said “Janitor.”

“You tell Sister Jude what you did, and wait there for your Mother.”

“OK” Eugene said, seeing no reason to say anything other than that.

He went to the door opened it and looked back. Mary Spano was smiling and waving a cute little wave to him. He wanted to wave back but thought better of it and left the room.

The hall was quiet and empty, except for him. Since the Kindergarten had its own entrance, he had only been in the long hall once or twice before. He marched down the terrazzo floored hallway with one shoe untied. The high light green plaster walls echoed a mix of his foot steps and loose laces with the mumble of classroom lessons as he passed the fist, second, third grade, and finally the eight grade classroom that was right by the boys’ room. This was the big boys’ bathroom and since the kindergarten had its own little kid’s bathroom, he had been inside the big one only a few times.

Across from the boys’ room was that heavy white oak and glass door. He took a deep breath grabbed the cold door knob, looked up at painted word on the wire mesh glass, which he now knew said Principal, and slowly pushed open the door and entered. The room had a sterile odor, and with the chairs lined up against the walls, it felt like a Doctors waiting room.

Sister Jude opened her office door and looked at Eugene, who was about to take a seat.

“What can I do for you Mr.…?” She paused, leading him on to tell her his name.

“I am Eugene, Eugene Hendricks. Mrs. Hamlin sent me.”

Sister Jude heard her phone ring but ignored it and asked Eugene

“Why did she send you down to me?”

The phone was on its third ring when Sister Jude said

“Come in,” as she walked back to her desk, and picked up the ringing telephone. It was Mrs. Hamlin explaining the circumstance of Eugene surprise visit.

“Yes, he’s here. OK, I see, thank you. I will handle it” Sister Jude gentle place the phone down, folded her hand together, placed them and her elbows on the neatly organized desk, leaned forward, and said

“So Mr. Hendricks, Mrs. Hamlin said she caught kissing a girl, why did you do that”

Eugene thought the question odd. He didn’t know exactly what to say, it seemed self explanatory even to a kindergartener. However, this was a Nun, and this was a Catholic school and she wanted, and demanded answers.

“Mr. Hendricks?” the principled Nun repeated, using his name to restate the question.

Eugene knew when his last name was used it was not a good sign.

“Yes Sister” he said buying some time.

“Why did you kiss her.?” She repeated louder and clearer. He thought of telling the truth saying

“Well she kissed me first and I didn’t mind so I kissed her back and then she came over and kissed me some more.”

Defenselessly, Eugene felt like that would be tattling, even though it was true and did not want to get her in trouble. He just said,

“Cause”

Sister Jude was not one to get into the “cause-why” routine.

“OK” she simply said, knowing that there was nothing more that she needed to do. The boy had already been banished. She had other disciplinary matters to attend to so she looked at the exile sentenced kindergartener and said

“Mrs. Hamlin said she called your Mother?”

“Yes sister”

“When is she picking you up?” Sister Jude said.

Eugene looked up and noticed the man on the cross hanging on the wall over her head.

“I don’t know?” he said and looked back at her.

Just then, the phone rang. Sister Jude picked up and made a gesture to Eugene and said

“Hello Mrs. Hendricks, yes, yes he is right here. Would you like to speak with him? There was a pause and a few nods “All right, I will tell him.”

The parochial school Principal hung up the telephone gently and looked at Eugene.

“That was your Mother,” she said revealing the obvious.

“She is going to send a cab for you. It will be here in about ten minutes.”

“Now, Eugene” she asked in a perfunctory Principal statement

“What are you going to do tomorrow?” Sister Jude looked at him expecting him to know the correct answer.

“Tomorrow - do I have to come back to school?"

“Yes Eugene, you will,” she said with a mildly exasperated tone not expecting to have to coach the youth to the right answer

“Oh, well then I will do coloring.”

Sister Jude did not think Eugene was slow, but he was not cooperating. She was getting truly exasperated.

“What about kissing? She said in a leading way.

“Kissing?” He questioned, not knowing where she was leading him, and thought what does she mean.

“Kissing! Will you do any kissing?”

“Well if Mary kisses me I won’t kiss her back” he shot back proudly thinking he got the gist of her question and gave a smile to accompany his seemingly right answer.

However, Sister Jude did not accept the answer and emphatically demanded,

“You will not let her kiss you. Do you understand that Mr. Hendricks!”

He saw where this was going and said in compliance

“Yes Sister. Oh Yes sister, But he knew he would not stop her.

“Alright then, wait in the other room for the cab. He will honk I am sure.”

Eugene went out, closed her office door and waited. He sat fidgeting for a few minutes then called out

“Sister”

“What is it Eugene?”

“Can I use the boys’ room?” Eugene asked as his legs wiggled together.

“Well, alright but make it fast.” She said without a thought and continued her correctional paper work.

He slid off the hard wood seat onto the terrazzo floor, and walked over a small circular rug and across the hall to the boys’ room.

He took care of business then looked around. The big boys’ room had six tall porcelain urinals and three sinks and the floor looked like a giant checker board with small black and white tiles. It was a big bathroom. He went over to the beaded wire mesh window It was just barely opened and he peeked out. Outside was the big kids’ playground with the basket ball hoops and the running track. Eugene had never played in this yard since the kindergartener and the first and second grader shared a separate playground with a swing set and a tether ball.

Eugene rested his chin on the ledge and stared out at the empty yard thinking of being a big kid one day and heard a horn, but paid no attention. He and stared into an exciting future of recesses and lunch breaks. He heard the honking horn again then heard

“Eugene!” Are you still in there” Sister Jude was calling through the heavy swing loaded door.

Without waiting for a reply, the big boys’ room door swung open and Sister Jude stood there and saw Eugene by the window and asked

“Eugene what are you doing? The taxi driver is waiting for you.”

“Yes Sister" Eugene said, turned, and started to run to the door.

“Slow down, no running” Sister Jude reminded him.

He knew that rule and stopped running but he walked as fast as he could. The school entrance, where the taxi patiently waited, was next to the Principals office. Eugene walked across past the sterile smell, down the short hall, put his outstretched freshly washed little hands on the bar, and pushed the door open with an echoing clank.

The warm air and sunlight of an early September day hit him in the face like a daytime camp fire. It felt good and reminded him of his sleep away summer but he wondered if he would be able to spend any time outside enjoying the afternoon or be punished and just spend his time looking out from the solitary confinement of his bedroom.

Just outside, the idling yellow cab was waiting. The driver, standing by the passenger door was surprised to see such a small young rider. When Eugene got to the cab, the driver looked over and smiled at Sister Jude who was watching from her office window through the slats in her Venetian blinds. She did not smile back, but parted the white metal slats open wide enough to show he full face and give a nod that little Eugene was his fare. The driver retracted his smile and soberly nodded. And said out loud

“Yes Sister.”

The blinds snapped up and twisted shut. Sister Jude was out of the picture now. Eugene got into the cab on the next leg of his mouth to mouth retribution.

The back seat was a firm shiny vinyl, and bouncy. He pushed his hand down and up a few time then stopped when the taxi man opened the drivers’ door and looked back at him.

“Well young man do you know where you live. Your Mother called but didn’t tell us where to take you.”

Eugene looked at the taxi man in the leather visor cap and leather bow tie and said.

“Yes Sir, I think so.”

The regional parochial school was one town over from his house and he did not know the way very well. “It’s on Northumberland Road.,” he said hoping that would help.

“Northumberland, I know right where that is, nice place.”

Eugene did not know what to say. He did not excel in cordial conversations with strangers, and had difficulty knowing how to answer simple questions like “What do you say.” His Fathers friends would always ask him that. Mostly he would just stare back at them and smile or say “I don’t know”, which made him feel far dumber than he felt he was.

The diver noticed he got no reply so tried another question.

“Why are you going home are you sick?”

“Nope, they sent me home because a girl kissed me.”

“A girl kissed YOU,” the driver said as he looked into the rear view mirror and smiled at the bold young man.

“What do you mean?” He asked with a sounds strange to me tone.

“Well she kissed me and dared me to kiss her back, on the mouth. So I did, and my teacher saw me at her table kissing her.”

“Oh, and you’re being sent home for that.” The driver said in a “boy they are strict” tone

“Yes sir,” he said in a guilty as unfairly charged tone.

“Why did she kiss you?”

“I don’t know. I guess she likes me?”

“Sounds like it,” The driver affirmed and queried further “Do you like her.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty.”

The driver looked front, smiled and almost laughed.

There was a lull in the short conversation as they drove down River Road. The driver was going exactly the speed limit when the cab drove down a little dip and up. Eugene stomach jumped and gave him a wobbly feeling and he said

“Woo.”

The driver looked back quickly over his shoulder and said

“What’s the matter son?”

Eugene said as he held his stomach. “I got a tickly feeling in my tummy.”

The driver knew it must have been the dip in the road and said

“Oh I’m sorry, son it must have been that dip back there.”

Eugene said “Oh no that OK.I liked it, it felt funny, can we do it again.”

The driver thought for a second. He didn’t see any reason not to do it again. This was a flat fare and he had nothing better to do. Why not, he decided.

“Sure we can!”

At the next street, he made a rather sharp left turn. Then another left he drove for a few blocks and made two more lefts. The dip was right up ahead.

“Here we go.”

The cab was at the perfect speed, down, and up.

Eugene giggled “WOOOO” and laughed, “That was ever better.”

The driver laughed at the genuine delight of a flying stomach and asked

“Want to do it again?”

“SURE” Eugene replied instantly

They followed the same flying stomach pattern two more time until Eugene and the driver were full out laughing.

“We better get you home,” the driver said ending his laughing as he realized Eugene’s Mother might be waiting.

“One more time Please.”

“OK last one” The driver was having fun too.

“OK, thanks” Eugene said to his new playmate

As they drove around this times the driver asked Eugene his name.

“I’m Eugene Hendricks.”

Well Eugene I am Kelly Smith. You can call me Kelly.

Eugene only smiled; he was still not familiar with the ways to pick up the conversation.

They drove over the dip of delight. Eugene and Kelly laughed again but this time the taxi continued on to the fate that awaited the sentenced.

Kelly realized that he was bringing his new little friend to an unsettling state of affairs, a face off with a Mother who had to pay to have her son driven home from a Catholic school.

Kelly asked Eugene, “Are you going to be in much trouble?”

Eugene had almost forgotten that this cab ride was not for a good time and his stomach sank to a new low. He knew his Mom would not be happy.

“I don’t know,” he said with a big sigh for a small kid.

“I don’t know,” he repeated in abject something.

This time Kelly did not know what to say. As a taxi driver, he could gab easily and converse on most casual topics, but being tossed out of kindergarten on the third day of school for kissing a girl. This was worse that a drive to a funeral. He had never taken anyone to be taken to task.

Kelly sensed the abject something Eugene exuded and although he felt it was seemingly an injustice, he wanted to get more details about the crime and asked

“It seems an awfully hard punishment to send you home for just kissing a girl, what else did you do?”

“Nothing I didn’t do anything. I just kissed her back.” Eugene unremorsefully demanded.

“Gee,” Kelly said in a “tough luck” tone as he saw the street sign for Northumberland Road and slowed for the final turn

“What happened to the girl?” He asked, thinking this was a harsh lesson for a kindergartener.

“Mary” Eugene said with a wondering reply

“Nothing! Mrs. Hamlin didn’t say anything to her.”

“She didn’t!” Kelly said expressing surprise and a validated feeling of injustice.

Kelly drove slowly up the block shaking his head when Eugene said

“That’s my house over there. Ohhh and there’s my Mom”. From Eugene’s reaction, Kelly knew he was in trouble and Eugene knew his Mom had plenty of time to plan his indoor afternoon.

The taxi stopped and the Eugene’s Mon walked from the front door porch toward the taxi. Kelly, now needing to balance out the lopsided punishment asked,

“How come nothing happened to her?” Kelly voice had a life is unfair tone.

Eugene slid up in his seat about to open the door, and looked at Kelly with the look of a condemned martyr and said

“I don’t know? Maybe it’s because her name is Mary. Mary is a pretty name.”

Kelly was confused and looked in the rearview mirror as Eugene opened the door.

Kelly settled up the fare with Mrs. Hendricks as Eugene walked dejectedly over to the front porch and turned around.

Kelly smiled a sympathetic smile at the unjustly convicted kindergartener as his Mom walked back snapping shut her patent leather purse. Eugene smiled back and waved to Kelly and thought about his flying stomach ride, the day wasn’t so bad. However, the day was not over.

“Eugene! Get inside.” His Mother said.

Copyright 2005, Gene Fredericks


Eugene and the first kiss


“Eugene! Go the Principals’ office and I am calling your Mother.”

“Mrs. Hamlin, where is the Principals office?” Eugene curiously asked. The kindergartners laughed

“Eugene, are you trying to be funny?

“No Mrs. Hamlin” he said smiling at the unexpected laugh he got.

“I don’t know where to go”

“Oh go sit down at your table; I will deal with you later.”

Eugene took his seat back at his round table for six. Mary Spano smiled at him from her seat across the room. She wanted him to come back over but she knew it would not be a good idea.

Eugene and Mary kissed. It was only the third day of kindergarten. His classmates barely had time to use their pencil sharpeners, but Eugene already had a mark he couldn't erase. Eugene didn’t blame Mary but he did tell Mrs. Hamlin, with the class listening, that she told him to do it, which she had.

“Eugene, what is your Mothers phone number?”

Eugene, startled, stood up, and fumbled to reattach his clip on tie that came loose as he got up. His deep blue jacket and white shirt fit well but did not suit him. Eugene fidgeted for a moment and said

“I think it is T - E – FIVE – ONE - OH…..FOUR hmm NINE, I think.”

Eugene knew he was in trouble for kissing Mary, but no one told him he had to stay in his seat. He was an antsy child and distracted to a fault. Today his fault was kissing Mary.

“Class, color in page 5 of the picture book,” Mrs. Hamlin directed the class of about three dozen little people. Several heads turned to see what page 5 looked like and a few who were on the wrong page were given peer correction.

Mrs. Hamlin went over to the black rotary telephone on the table by a tall narrow side window. The hinged window was angled open and warm mild breeze aired the place that smelled like crayons and white paste glue. She turned her back to the class stuck her short red nail polished finger into the TUV # 8 hole and dialed the exchange and the rest of the numbers Eugene gave her.

“Hello, Mrs. Hendricks. This isn’t? Oh, I am so sorry"

Eugene!” She snapped as she placed the phone back on its cradle stronger than usual.

“Eugene,” she repeated, “Come up to my desk”

Mrs. Hamlin went over to her desk, clinched both her hands shut and knuckled them against the heavy oak fortress and stood there. She kept this pose as she asked Eugene why he gave her the wrong number, and then folded her arms over her very large and well protected bosoms. For intimidating effect, she tapped her foot. The class suspenseful waited for his reply.

“That isn’t my phone number?” Eugene said as the class laughed behind him again.

“No Eugene that is not your telephone number” Mrs. Hamlin said with her arms still folded resting on her floral dress, and gave him an “explain yourself” look.

“Are you sure? What numbers did I say it was?” Eugene asked in genuine a genuinely believable surprised tone.

“You said it was T E FIVE ONE OH FOUR NINE” the veteran Kindergarten teacher parroted impatiently.

“That’s my number I think,” He said and shook his head up and down to convince himself but he looked uncertain and put his hands in his pockets and cross his fingers.

“Eugene I want you to call your Mother”

Mrs. Hamlin was episode hardened. Over her telling years, she had made many of her errant pupils dial their Mothers. Mrs. Hamlin pointed to the telephone in the narrow alcove adjacent to a small one seat bathroom. The dull finish dial telephone waited right in the middle of a sturdy oak table for the next awkward culprit to call home.

Eugene uncrossed his sticky fingers, and went over to the phone. He noticed he liked this alcove. The light was pleasant as it bounced off the wall of the bathroom and the slate gray blackboard that confined the cozy space, and it didn’t smell as much from the instruments of kindergarten learning. He picked up the phone, which was not heavy but bulky for him and held it awkwardly to his right ear.

Mrs. Hamlin towered over him ready to watch the numbers he dialed on the big black telephone. “T “- he said out loud as he dialed the exchange and heard the click, click, click, of the wholly ring apparatus as it made its return trip. “E” click, click…– FIVE – ONE – OH - FOUR” and then his voice stopped short. He looked at the NINE and then the SIX and knew he had told Mrs. Hamlin the wrong number by mistake. He often got the 9 and the 6 confused. He turned, looked up at her with a very embarrassed nervous look, and said

“I thing it is this one” and pointed to the 6.

“I think it is the SIX one, not the NINE one.” Eugene smiled a helplessly honest smile.

She looked at him with some disbelief since her mercy and compassion graduated years ago and all that remained was her rout child teaching routine. She said nothing. He looked at the 6, placed his little nail bitten pointer finger into the hole, and wishfully dialed the SIX and the heard the ringing.

“Hello” the familiar voice of his Mother answered. Eugene did not know what to say and looked at Mrs. Hamlin. She looked back and him with a “go ahead and say Hello” look.

Eugene said “Hello” and his Mother, recognizing his voice, said

“Eugene, you are suppose to be in school”

“I am MOM,” he said without more information to give any indication to the nature of the call.

“Are you alright” his Mother asked in a concerned but not distressed voice?

“Ah yes” he said with a trill, give away, inflection at the end.

“Why are you calling, do you need something?” his Mother caringly asked.

“No” he said trying to postpone the enviable disclosure as long as possible.

“Eugene?” his Mother said with a voice changing tone.

“Are you in trouble?”

There was silence; a long enough silence that the answer “YES” was not only implied, guilt came right along for the long ride.

“I think so”

“Eugene what did you do?” His Mother asked in disbelief, but not bewildered disbelief, as she shook her at the other end of the line thinking, “it’s only his third day of kindergarten!.”

Mrs. Hamlin had heard the whole exchange thus far. The old telephone company issued device was quite loud and Eugene held the clunky receiver away from his head like it was, or he was, a dumbbell. The big burly lesson matron grabbed the phone away and said,

“Mrs. Hendricks, this is Mrs. Hamlin. I caught Eugene kissing a girl in class. I am going to send him home.” She said in a final verdict, case closed, near gavel slamming, tone

“Mrs. Hamlin isn’t that a little…” Eugene's Mother started to say as Mrs. Hamlin cut here off.

“I cannot not have that kind of promiscuous bad behavior in my class and I won’t, he his going home” She said and slammed her foot down to make a point sound more emphatic.

“But I can’t come to get him; my husband has our car at his work” Mrs. Hendricks explained in hopes of lessening her involvement in the strict sentence.

“Well, I cannot keep him in my kindergarten class. He will be in the Principals office.”

“But Mrs. Hamlin, please.”

Eugene’s Mother was about to come to the aid of her most mischievous son. Although this was not his first encounter with authority, it was his first episode with the authorities at this new learning institution. Mrs. Hendricks went into her “Please be understanding.” mode. She could be very convincing especially since this seemed like an innocent thing. She had gotten worse calls for far more serious offenses than this.

Mrs. Hamlin, hardened by what she had been through, knew she would likely not back down. Kissing in class, was unacceptable and must be made an example and punished severely. However, since she was experienced in many disciplinary ways; she decided to give the latest Mother of an unruly child a listen.

Mrs. Hamlin, knowing this might take a while, looked at Eugene and said,

“Go back to your table while I talk with your Mother.”

Eugene knew, if his Mom was giving “that speech,” the worst was over, he thought.

Eugene went back to his seat. Mrs. Hamlin listened to the futile begging and interjected only occasionally. Mostly she quietly looked out the narrow window taking in the breeze, deciding when to end the one sided conversation by saying - NO!

Eugene was back at his seat and about to color when he looked up and there was Mary Spano with the biggest brown eyes, and the prettiest brunette hair. He smiled. She was his type. Even at only 4 and a half, he knew. She looked him right in the eyes and gave him a quick kiss. The whole class saw the peck and picked a reaction, some laughed, some oooo’d, some giggled, and some made a gasping noise. No one was silent on the kiss and telling matter.

The sound of the commotion filled the rigid high ceiled classroom and shook the strict environment with the unacceptable sounds of excited children. Two rows of three round tables stocked with five little laughing students each was out of control. Mrs. Hamlin turned around and moved out from the alcove only to see Mary Spano and Eugene kissing.

“Eugene” she yelled. “Stop that!”

Mary scurried back across the room to her table as though if she ran fast enough the event would be sucked back in time. She jumped into her chair, which made a scrapping noise as it slid over the recently waxed dark and light beige tiled floor. The chair, with Mary precariously on board screeched to a thumping halt, she grabbed a red crayon and started to color outside the lines.

“Eugene!” Mrs. Hamlin yelled again with greater authority and less surprise.

“What did he do? What did he do?” Mrs. Hendricks shouted at the other end of the telephone line. Mrs. Hamlin, with flared nostrils and a higher pitched voice, said

“He kissed her again, that’s what he did” Mrs. Hamlin replay the lively and emotional scene into the telephone and continued,

“Your Son will be in the Principals office, whenever you decide to come for him.” Her stern voice made its verdict and she passed her sentence in a gavel slamming pronouncement.

“Your Son will be sent home!” The class gasped and went silent. Eugene gulped.

Mrs. Hendricks could tell this Kindergarten teacher would not budge and was not one to respond to motherly begging, parental demands or grown up reasoning and she politely asked.

“May I please speak my Son - please?”

“Eugene your Mother wants to talk to you,” Mrs. Hamlin barked and she stuck the phone out into the stinky white glue and construction paper air, and waited for the cut up to take the bulky telephone, and face the punishment.

“Hello” Eugene said with his heart beating from all kinds of things.

“Eugene, what did you do?” His Mom asked as though she didn’t know. She wanted to hear it from him.

“Mary Spano kissed me”

“Mary Spano kissed YOU”

“Yes on the mouth!” Eugene said with boyish pride and surprise.

“Eugene, if she kissed you, then why is Mrs. Hamlin send you home”

“I don’t know.”

Mrs. Hamlin grabbed the phone and said

“Mrs. Hendricks I have a class to run. Your Son will be with Sister Jude, you can speak to him there.”

She was about to put the telephone down when Eugene stuck his head near the mouthpiece and yelled

“Bye Mom.”

Mrs. Hamlin dropped the phone from about three inches above the cradle with case closing finality.

“Eugene, go to the Principals office”

“But where is it” Eugene said with some frustration.

The class laughed but only a tiny bit. They sensed once Eugene left they were in for a stern lecture and didn’t want to make it any sterner or longer. Mrs. Hamlin pointed to the hallway and said,

“Eugene, it is the door with the word “Principal” on it at the end of the hall by the boys’ room.”

“Oh yeah, I know that one,” he said.

He had been past the heavy oak and wire mesh glass door across from the boys’ room. He had wondered if it was the janitor’s closet, since it smelled like Lysol. He couldn’t read yet and thought the word on the glass might have said “Janitor.”

“You tell Sister Jude what you did, and wait there for your Mother.”

“OK” Eugene said, seeing no reason to say anything other than that.

He went to the door opened it and looked back. Mary Spano was smiling and waving a cute little wave to him. He wanted to wave back but thought better of it and left the room.

The hall was quiet and empty, except for him. Since the Kindergarten had its own entrance, he had only been in the long hall once or twice before. He marched down the terrazzo floored hallway with one shoe untied. The high light green plaster walls echoed a mix of his foot steps and loose laces with the mumble of classroom lessons as he passed the fist, second, third grade, and finally the eight grade classroom that was right by the boys’ room. This was the big boys’ bathroom and since the kindergarten had its own little kid’s bathroom, he had been inside the big one only a few times.

Across from the boys’ room was that heavy white oak and glass door. He took a deep breath grabbed the cold door knob, looked up at painted word on the wire mesh glass, which he now knew said Principal, and slowly pushed open the door and entered. The room had a sterile odor, and with the chairs lined up against the walls, it felt like a Doctors waiting room.

Sister Jude opened her office door and looked at Eugene, who was about to take a seat.

“What can I do for you Mr.…?” She paused, leading him on to tell her his name.

“I am Eugene, Eugene Hendricks. Mrs. Hamlin sent me.”

Sister Jude heard her phone ring but ignored it and asked Eugene

“Why did she send you down to me?”

The phone was on its third ring when Sister Jude said

“Come in,” as she walked back to her desk, and picked up the ringing telephone. It was Mrs. Hamlin explaining the circumstance of Eugene surprise visit.

“Yes, he’s here. OK, I see, thank you. I will handle it” Sister Jude gentle place the phone down, folded her hand together, placed them and her elbows on the neatly organized desk, leaned forward, and said

“So Mr. Hendricks, Mrs. Hamlin said she caught kissing a girl, why did you do that”

Eugene thought the question odd. He didn’t know exactly what to say, it seemed self explanatory even to a kindergartener. However, this was a Nun, and this was a Catholic school and she wanted, and demanded answers.

“Mr. Hendricks?” the principled Nun repeated, using his name to restate the question.

Eugene knew when his last name was used it was not a good sign.

“Yes Sister” he said buying some time.

“Why did you kiss her.?” She repeated louder and clearer. He thought of telling the truth saying

“Well she kissed me first and I didn’t mind so I kissed her back and then she came over and kissed me some more.”

Defenselessly, Eugene felt like that would be tattling, even though it was true and did not want to get her in trouble. He just said,

“Cause”

Sister Jude was not one to get into the “cause-why” routine.

“OK” she simply said, knowing that there was nothing more that she needed to do. The boy had already been banished. She had other disciplinary matters to attend to so she looked at the exile sentenced kindergartener and said

“Mrs. Hamlin said she called your Mother?”

“Yes sister”

“When is she picking you up?” Sister Jude said.

Eugene looked up and noticed the man on the cross hanging on the wall over her head.

“I don’t know?” he said and looked back at her.

Just then, the phone rang. Sister Jude picked up and made a gesture to Eugene and said

“Hello Mrs. Hendricks, yes, yes he is right here. Would you like to speak with him? There was a pause and a few nods “All right, I will tell him.”

The parochial school Principal hung up the telephone gently and looked at Eugene.

“That was your Mother,” she said revealing the obvious.

“She is going to send a cab for you. It will be here in about ten minutes.”

“Now, Eugene” she asked in a perfunctory Principal statement

“What are you going to do tomorrow?” Sister Jude looked at him expecting him to know the correct answer.

“Tomorrow - do I have to come back to school?"

“Yes Eugene, you will,” she said with a mildly exasperated tone not expecting to have to coach the youth to the right answer

“Oh, well then I will do coloring.”

Sister Jude did not think Eugene was slow, but he was not cooperating. She was getting truly exasperated.

“What about kissing? She said in a leading way.

“Kissing?” He questioned, not knowing where she was leading him, and thought what does she mean.

“Kissing! Will you do any kissing?”

“Well if Mary kisses me I won’t kiss her back” he shot back proudly thinking he got the gist of her question and gave a smile to accompany his seemingly right answer.

However, Sister Jude did not accept the answer and emphatically demanded,

“You will not let her kiss you. Do you understand that Mr. Hendricks!”

He saw where this was going and said in compliance

“Yes Sister. Oh Yes sister, But he knew he would not stop her.

“Alright then, wait in the other room for the cab. He will honk I am sure.”

Eugene went out, closed her office door and waited. He sat fidgeting for a few minutes then called out

“Sister”

“What is it Eugene?”

“Can I use the boys’ room?” Eugene asked as his legs wiggled together.

“Well, alright but make it fast.” She said without a thought and continued her correctional paper work.

He slid off the hard wood seat onto the terrazzo floor, and walked over a small circular rug and across the hall to the boys’ room.

He took care of business then looked around. The big boys’ room had six tall porcelain urinals and three sinks and the floor looked like a giant checker board with small black and white tiles. It was a big bathroom. He went over to the beaded wire mesh window It was just barely opened and he peeked out. Outside was the big kids’ playground with the basket ball hoops and the running track. Eugene had never played in this yard since the kindergartener and the first and second grader shared a separate playground with a swing set and a tether ball.

Eugene rested his chin on the ledge and stared out at the empty yard thinking of being a big kid one day and heard a horn, but paid no attention. He and stared into an exciting future of recesses and lunch breaks. He heard the honking horn again then heard

“Eugene!” Are you still in there” Sister Jude was calling through the heavy swing loaded door.

Without waiting for a reply, the big boys’ room door swung open and Sister Jude stood there and saw Eugene by the window and asked

“Eugene what are you doing? The taxi driver is waiting for you.”

“Yes Sister" Eugene said, turned, and started to run to the door.

“Slow down, no running” Sister Jude reminded him.

He knew that rule and stopped running but he walked as fast as he could. The school entrance, where the taxi patiently waited, was next to the Principals office. Eugene walked across past the sterile smell, down the short hall, put his outstretched freshly washed little hands on the bar, and pushed the door open with an echoing clank.

The warm air and sunlight of an early September day hit him in the face like a daytime camp fire. It felt good and reminded him of his sleep away summer but he wondered if he would be able to spend any time outside enjoying the afternoon or be punished and just spend his time looking out from the solitary confinement of his bedroom.

Just outside, the idling yellow cab was waiting. The driver, standing by the passenger door was surprised to see such a small young rider. When Eugene got to the cab, the driver looked over and smiled at Sister Jude who was watching from her office window through the slats in her Venetian blinds. She did not smile back, but parted the white metal slats open wide enough to show he full face and give a nod that little Eugene was his fare. The driver retracted his smile and soberly nodded. And said out loud

“Yes Sister.”

The blinds snapped up and twisted shut. Sister Jude was out of the picture now. Eugene got into the cab on the next leg of his mouth to mouth retribution.

The back seat was a firm shiny vinyl, and bouncy. He pushed his hand down and up a few time then stopped when the taxi man opened the drivers’ door and looked back at him.

“Well young man do you know where you live. Your Mother called but didn’t tell us where to take you.”

Eugene looked at the taxi man in the leather visor cap and leather bow tie and said.

“Yes Sir, I think so.”

The regional parochial school was one town over from his house and he did not know the way very well. “It’s on Northumberland Road.,” he said hoping that would help.

“Northumberland, I know right where that is, nice place.”

Eugene did not know what to say. He did not excel in cordial conversations with strangers, and had difficulty knowing how to answer simple questions like “What do you say.” His Fathers friends would always ask him that. Mostly he would just stare back at them and smile or say “I don’t know”, which made him feel far dumber than he felt he was.

The diver noticed he got no reply so tried another question.

“Why are you going home are you sick?”

“Nope, they sent me home because a girl kissed me.”

“A girl kissed YOU,” the driver said as he looked into the rear view mirror and smiled at the bold young man.

“What do you mean?” He asked with a sounds strange to me tone.

“Well she kissed me and dared me to kiss her back, on the mouth. So I did, and my teacher saw me at her table kissing her.”

“Oh, and you’re being sent home for that.” The driver said in a “boy they are strict” tone

“Yes sir,” he said in a guilty as unfairly charged tone.

“Why did she kiss you?”

“I don’t know. I guess she likes me?”

“Sounds like it,” The driver affirmed and queried further “Do you like her.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty.”

The driver looked front, smiled and almost laughed.

There was a lull in the short conversation as they drove down River Road. The driver was going exactly the speed limit when the cab drove down a little dip and up. Eugene stomach jumped and gave him a wobbly feeling and he said

“Woo.”

The driver looked back quickly over his shoulder and said

“What’s the matter son?”

Eugene said as he held his stomach. “I got a tickly feeling in my tummy.”

The driver knew it must have been the dip in the road and said

“Oh I’m sorry, son it must have been that dip back there.”

Eugene said “Oh no that OK.I liked it, it felt funny, can we do it again.”

The driver thought for a second. He didn’t see any reason not to do it again. This was a flat fare and he had nothing better to do. Why not, he decided.

“Sure we can!”

At the next street, he made a rather sharp left turn. Then another left he drove for a few blocks and made two more lefts. The dip was right up ahead.

“Here we go.”

The cab was at the perfect speed, down, and up.

Eugene giggled “WOOOO” and laughed, “That was ever better.”

The driver laughed at the genuine delight of a flying stomach and asked

“Want to do it again?”

“SURE” Eugene replied instantly

They followed the same flying stomach pattern two more time until Eugene and the driver were full out laughing.

“We better get you home,” the driver said ending his laughing as he realized Eugene’s Mother might be waiting.

“One more time Please.”

“OK last one” The driver was having fun too.

“OK, thanks” Eugene said to his new playmate

As they drove around this times the driver asked Eugene his name.

“I’m Eugene Hendricks.”

Well Eugene I am Kelly Smith. You can call me Kelly.

Eugene only smiled; he was still not familiar with the ways to pick up the conversation.

They drove over the dip of delight. Eugene and Kelly laughed again but this time the taxi continued on to the fate that awaited the sentenced.

Kelly realized that he was bringing his new little friend to an unsettling state of affairs, a face off with a Mother who had to pay to have her son driven home from a Catholic school.

Kelly asked Eugene, “Are you going to be in much trouble?”

Eugene had almost forgotten that this cab ride was not for a good time and his stomach sank to a new low. He knew his Mom would not be happy.

“I don’t know,” he said with a big sigh for a small kid.

“I don’t know,” he repeated in abject something.

This time Kelly did not know what to say. As a taxi driver, he could gab easily and converse on most casual topics, but being tossed out of kindergarten on the third day of school for kissing a girl. This was worse that a drive to a funeral. He had never taken anyone to be taken to task.

Kelly sensed the abject something Eugene exuded and although he felt it was seemingly an injustice, he wanted to get more details about the crime and asked

“It seems an awfully hard punishment to send you home for just kissing a girl, what else did you do?”

“Nothing I didn’t do anything. I just kissed her back.” Eugene unremorsefully demanded.

“Gee,” Kelly said in a “tough luck” tone as he saw the street sign for Northumberland Road and slowed for the final turn

“What happened to the girl?” He asked, thinking this was a harsh lesson for a kindergartener.

“Mary” Eugene said with a wondering reply

“Nothing! Mrs. Hamlin didn’t say anything to her.”

“She didn’t!” Kelly said expressing surprise and a validated feeling of injustice.

Kelly drove slowly up the block shaking his head when Eugene said

“That’s my house over there. Ohhh and there’s my Mom”. From Eugene’s reaction, Kelly knew he was in trouble and Eugene knew his Mom had plenty of time to plan his indoor afternoon.

The taxi stopped and the Eugene’s Mon walked from the front door porch toward the taxi. Kelly, now needing to balance out the lopsided punishment asked,

“How come nothing happened to her?” Kelly voice had a life is unfair tone.

Eugene slid up in his seat about to open the door, and looked at Kelly with the look of a condemned martyr and said

“I don’t know? Maybe it’s because her name is Mary. Mary is a pretty name.”

Kelly was confused and looked in the rearview mirror as Eugene opened the door.

Kelly settled up the fare with Mrs. Hendricks as Eugene walked dejectedly over to the front porch and turned around.

Kelly smiled a sympathetic smile at the unjustly convicted kindergartener as his Mom walked back snapping shut her patent leather purse. Eugene smiled back and waved to Kelly and thought about his flying stomach ride, the day wasn’t so bad. However, the day was not over.

“Eugene! Get inside.” His Mother said.


© Copyright 2005 Casual writer (UN: gene at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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