personally that her 6th- grade boys hated book reports. But she knew we loved her date cookies.
She baited us, a plate of cookies for the winning report. "Boys, you are to report on an action story, your choice
of book." We knew bribery was a sin, but our fear of Sister Mary kept our mouths shut. We nicknamed her "The Bat,"
she liked to spread her arms while teaching, the pleats of her black habit stretched as if in flight. Her rosary beads and
lace handkerchief were looped at her waist. Her wooden spoon doubled as a pointer and a knuckle-rapper.
Those cookies could make a reader out of anyone. Spiced dough, cut in circles and crimped together to hold
the mouth-watering filling. Tops, poked with fork tines let the smell linger, long after baking.
Tommy, the first one to complete his report, got to read first. He stood by his desk and pulled a slip of paper
from his pocket. Sister nodded and he said, "Last week I jumped off a ten-story building. It killed me. My funeral was
yesterday. The End." Our teacher's fingers squeezed her beads, jerking them upward and with the skill of a
marionette artist, her mouth flew open.
For a moment silence, then I heard the coughs and saw my classmate's hands cover their mouths. I couldn't help
it, my laughter rose and blasted out, interrupted by my gasps for air.
The "bat" grabbed her spoon, rosary beads swinging as she headed for Tommy. While she cracked his knuckles
I laughed, knowing that I was next . . . and the smell of date cookies filled the room.