Of Hell and Heavenbybmunchausen©
I first and absolutely foremost want to thank and dedicate this story and the following stories in this series to someone who I can only call my muse. She supports and encourages me. When I need it, she critiques and corrects me. She is a real godsend and she is a friend. Thank you Catheath, these stories are for you.
Next...these stories are total fiction. They all arose from my demented imagination. With respect to the Benedictines, I have no knowledge of their rules or their mission. Everything about them is made up, again the product of a warped mind.
So if you are a Benedictine or have intimate knowledge of them, that's nice, but I really don't want to know. It would require a big rewrite and that's just too much work.
As with most of my stories, they start off very slowly, if you are looking for a quick slam bam thank you ma'am, look elsewhere.
I am going to hell.
I mean that very seriously. When I die my immortal soul is going to be damned. I will spend eternity in pain and torment. Burning and suffering forever.
And if the truth be known, I don't care. I wouldn't do anything differently. I will have had my heaven here on earth. I will die a happy man.
I it all started on the first day of my senior year at Saint Steven's High School in Baltimore, Maryland. I had just turned eighteen in August just before school started. St. Steven's logo was two red "S"s on a white background. We called it Sing Sing after that ancient notorious prison in New York.
I walked into homeroom early. I was always early, my Mom would drop me off and then take Mandy, my twin sister to St. Augustine's before going to work. Mom had to be in her office by 7:45 am. Thus, I was always the first one in class. Usually, I would just drop my books by my desk and go back outside, that is if the weather was nice.
As I walked into the room I saw a nun standing looking out of the window. Her back was to the door. I knew that she was a nun because she was wearing one of those modified habits. You know, the black skirt that comes down between the knee and ankle and a white blouse. She was wearing a short black veil with a white band in front, I guess that held it on her head.
"Oh Christ," I thought, "A nun for homeroom. We're seniors, we shouldn't have a nun for homeroom. This is not good."
As I walked across the room she turned and in a voice that would put angel's singing to shame, said, "You must be Zachary. I was told that you would be the first one in. I'm Sister Carol."
When I looked over at her, I became lost in the bluest eyes that I have ever seen. She was beautiful. Never before had I seen a nun...no... never before had I seen any woman who was as beautiful as this nun standing in front of me.
Her face was clear with a soft peaches and cream complexion, her lips were rose petal pink and her hair was a reddish-brown. Her clothes were loose and baggy so that all you could tell was that she was slender.
As I walked to my desk, I stared at her like a deer caught in the headlights. The next thing I knew, I was falling over a desk. It went down with me on top of it. My books flew all over the floor. But, it did sort of bring me back to the land of the living.
Sister Carol came running over to me and when she saw that I was okay she sat on one of the seats and laughed. She had a soft sweet laugh, like the tinkling of crystal. I was sputtering and stuttering, trying to get up and somehow hide my embarrassment.
Sr. Carol laughed and said, "My goodness, Zachary. Do I look that frightening that you fall over desks trying to get away?"
"No, no, no, Sister you're not frightening," I gasped.
"Just hideous, huh."
I finally found my voice and the words just poured out. A lot faster than my brain was working. My mouth just kept spewing out the words, "No Sister, you're not hideous, you're the most beautiful woman I have ever seeeeeeeennnnnnn." At this point I realized just who I was talking to and what I was saying. She was a NUN! You can't say things like that to a nun.
Again I started to stammer. "No...no I didn't mean that..."
She smiled and said "Then I'm not beautiful?"
"NO...no...no...I didn't mean that, you are, but I 'm not supposed to tell..."
She put her hand on my shoulder and laughingly said, "Calm down Zachary. I'll tell you what. Why don't you go outside and come in again. We will start all over and act like this never happened."
I got up, picked up my books and as I walked to the door, Sister Carol said in a soft voice, "Thank you, Zachary. No one has ever told me that before."
Again my mouth took off and I said, "Then everybody must be blind."
When my mind caught up with my mouth, I almost cried and said, "Oh god, oh god" as I literally ran out of the room, hearing her sweet laughter.
I went outside. I just wanted to run away, to go home and hide under the bed. I walked around the front of the building and then I slowly walked back to class and arrived about ten seconds before the bell rang. I was the last one to get to class.
As I came in the door, Sister Carol looked over at me and smiled as the bell rang.
"I'm Sister Carol, I will be your homeroom teacher this year. And you are?" she asked. Doing exactly what she said she would do; starting all over again.
Once again I was enthralled by her beauty, but this time I was able to speak...well almost. "I'm Zack, no, no...Zachary... Zachary...ah... Zachary Miller," I stuttered.
She was laughing. "Well Zachary Zachary Zachary Miller, I think that I will just call you Zachary, if you don't mind, it's a bit easier that way."
The whole class roared with laughter. They were all teasing and hollering at me, especially the guys and girls on the Swimming Team. I've been on the team since freshman year. They started a chant, "Zachary Zachary Zachary... Zachary Zachary Zachary." Sr. Carol put a stop to that right away.
I muttered, "Thank you, sister." and walked back to my seat. As I did Sister Carol said, "Be careful, Zachary, watch so you don't trip over the desk."
I could feel the back of my neck heat up as I reddened. I just wanted to melt into the woodwork. I went and sat at my desk.
During that first class, Sister Carol told us that she had recently graduated from MIT with a degree in mathematics and she had just taken her final vows. She would be with us in homeroom and Religion class and that if anyone was taking Calculus, AP Calc, or Trigonometry she would be teaching us that. Thus, she would be my AP Calc (Advanced Placement Calculus) and Trig teacher, for the whole year.
We were her very first class and someone said, "We're your firsts." Everyone laughed, but we kept the name. We were the "Firsts." Not that it meant anything, but we flaunted it. I think that some of the other nuns didn't like it but the brothers thought it was funny.
We had both nuns and brothers teaching at St. Steven's. The Nuns were the Benedictines or the Bennys as we called them. The Brothers were the Christian Brothers de LaSalle (The French Christian Brothers) or the Frenchies. So for most of the four years we had religious teachers.
It turned out, amazingly, when I was in Sr. Carol's classes, I didn't just sit mooning over her. It was like my brain took in everything that she said. I had no problem with religion, not one of my favorite subjects and I flew through Calc and Trig, which turned out to be my favorite subjects. (I'm sure that you can't imagine why) I understood even the most complicated problems the first time she explained it.
She was different; she wasn't like a lot of the other nuns, she would joke with us and she would treat us like adults; except when we acted like children. Also, it was like she had no idea that she was even mildly attractive, never mind the most beautiful woman in the world. And it seemed that the other guys just saw a nun, not a woman...certainly not a very beautiful woman.
I would think about her, dream about her and even fantasize about her when I beat off. Yea, I really did. At first, I was horrified that I could think about a nun this way. But no matter how I tried, I couldn't get her out of my mind. If I started to think about a girl in my class or even looking at a girly magazine, she would always morph into Sister Carol. For the longest time, I lived with the guilt and shame. It was a sacrilege to think about a nun like that.
That's when I realized that I was going to hell. There was no way around it. My soul was so degraded that there was no chance of redemption. So...I just went with it. If I was going to hell then so be it, I was going to hell. How much worse could it be than what I was going through now? Having her so close but so far away.
Before I knew it, we had sent out our college applications and it seemed like an eternity before the colleges started sending out their acceptances and rejections. I had a lot of acceptances. I got a scholarship to the School of Engineering at Stamford University. I swore it was because of the recommendation letter that Sister Carol wrote. She played it down...but I knew differently.
I sent in my acceptance to Stanford, with the required deposit. The rest of the school year flew by and soon final exams were in, marked and we were just waiting for Graduation Day. On the last day of classes, we all met in our homeroom. We presented Sr. Carol with a sort of crystal thing that had some writing on it. As everyone was leaving I put a yellow sticky note on it. I didn't sign it, but I don't think that she would have a problem knowing who put it there.
After what seemed like years, on a Friday evening, the senior class was lined up and we walked down the center aisle of the auditorium and into our seats, the Commencement Ceremony had started.
The diplomas were handed out, I was the salutatorian and I received the Calculus medal. After Mary Beth, the Valedictorian gave her speech I had to get up and give one. As I approached the podium I saw that Sister Carol was sitting in the front row. Her face was lit up with a big smile. She was looking and smiling at me!
I put my notes on the podium and began. I have no idea what I said. I would try to look at other people in the auditorium but my gaze always returned to her. Finally I finished and it must have been okay because the audience clapped and the Swimming Team cheered like a bunch of loonies.
My parents were ecstatic and planned to go out to one of the best restaurants in town. My twin sister Mandy, who was the Valedictorian at her school and my older "brother," Mark, his wife, Georgia and their two kids, Marky and Lissa were coming. It would be a gala affair. I would have to sit between the kids. They would have it no other way and I loved it. I would be teasing and being teased the whole night.
Mark, although technically my cousin, was more of a brother to Mandy and I. He is my Mom's sister's son. Mark's parents were killed before my mom got married. And as she was his only relative, Mom took him. Dad married mom, knowing the situation; they raised him together. He calls my Mom "Mom" and my Dad "Dad". When Mandy and I were born, he was there, I always have considered him my brother. And I am Uncle Zacky to the kids.
After the ceremony as we were walking out to the school lobby, Mom reminded me that I had to finish cleaning out my locker and take the lock. If I didn't remove the stuff today, the custodian would cut the lock off and take everything inside and throw it away.
I ran up to the third floor, yea, I know a senior with a locker on the third floor, but that's where it was. As I was putting everything in a plastic bag (there really wasn't that much) I heard that angelic voice.
"I thought that I would find you here."
I turned around and Sister Carol was standing there smiling at me. "I wanted to tell you just how proud of you I am. And I have a little something, for you. Just so you won't forget me too soon," she said as she handed me a small box.
I took the box and as I started to open it, I sort of mumbled, "I really don't need anything to remember you, Sister."
She smiled at me. I opened the box. There was a small silver charm, in the shape of those old fashioned eyeglasses.
"Maybe these will help you to see things the way they are."
"Sister, I don't need glasses to see things that way."
"Well then, maybe they will keep you from tripping over desks at Stanford."
"I can guarantee, that I won't be tripping over any desks at Stanford," I said with a grin. "You won't be there."
"Zachary, you are incorrigible," she laughed. And she actually turned a little red. Then she leaned over and gave me a light kiss on the cheek. "I wish you the best of luck, but the way you work, you won't need any. You'll make your own."
I was stunned, she kissed me. I was in heaven. I just stood there, I couldn't speak, I couldn't think. It felt like I was there for hours, in a dreamland. But, then I heard my fathers voice from the stairs, "Zack, lets get going, we have reservations for seven."
He walked into the hall and said, "Oh, Sister, I was hoping that I would see you. I really want to thank you for all you did for Zack. That letter was absolutely wonderful...but just who were you writing about?"
She laughed and said, "I was writing about one of my favorite students."
Dad was smiling, "Well since you are a nun, I won't comment on your choice of favorites."
And with that she took her leave and walked away. I watched her until she turned the corner.
As I was finishing up at the locker, Dad was teasing me, "You really like her don't you? Well I can understand she ain't bad looking. But, I guess that I have nothing to worry about she is a nun."
I complained, "Oh come on Dad, stop, she's really nice."
He laughed and we went down to the lobby. The whole class was there with parents and relatives. We were saying goodbye, exchanging phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Eventually we headed for the restaurant and the dinner was everything that I expected, perfect.
The summer flew by. I had a summer job, working at my Father's friend's warehouse; I was what was referred to as a runner. Me and another guy, Jake had to get stuff from the warehouse for the guys at the counter. It would be Zack, get me 500 lag bolts; Jake get me a hundred feet of cable, etc. It was hard work but not all that bad and it did keep me in shape.
All of a sudden, it was the end of August, Dad and I were heading out to a place called Palo Alto, California, to Stanford University. I was quickly settled into my dorm room and Dad headed home. I must say that I had a great time with him.
It took a few weeks but I finally got comfortable with my classes and the school. I joined the Army ROTC. My roommate was in it and it turned out to be a lot of fun (most of the time). The good thing was that the Army would pick up the difference between the scholarship and room and board.
I would graduate a Second Lieutenant, and have a six-year commitment. A year or two in one of the combat arms and the rest in my area of study, engineering. Mom wasn't happy about me joining the Army, but dad was elated that he only had Mandy's room and board to worry about, yea she got a full scholarship to Penn State.
The four years flew by and before I knew it I graduated with a degree in Marine and Naval Engineering and was a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Yea, I know Marine and Naval engineering...in the Army, what can I tell you?
My first duty assignment was Fort Jackson in South Carolina for infantry training. Finishing that I went to Fort Benning for Airborne School. There were three of us "Shave Tail Looies" who went through Infantry training and Jump School together. We hung out together, went out drinking together and we all decided that three big, virile, macho guys like us should go off to Ranger School, together.
Well, we spent 61 days going through absolute hell, in the desert, the jungles and the swamps and mock-ups of towns and cities. But in the end we got to wear the Ranger tab and were all assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. And to a man we ended up in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. You know enjoying the scenery, the food and the adulation and hospitality of the friendly Taliban (yea right).
In training I got the nickname of "Papa". I would take care of the other two. Get them out of trouble and get them back to the barracks in one piece, just being a papa.
However, when we got to Iraq and later in Afghanistan, the name changed to Papa Swiss. It seemed that every time I went out I would come back with a hole in me. It would be from shrapnel, or a ricochet, whatever but it would be a hole. Not enough to get me sent home but just enough to sometimes get a day in the field hospital. Most of the time nothing was done other than a bandage or a band-aid.
The joke was that if Papa Swiss were a wheel of cheese, he would be rejected because he had too many holes.
This went on until I was about half way through my second tour in Afghanistan. Things sorta went wrong. I ended up minus a left kneecap and a whole bunch of muscles and stuff. This time it was enough to get me out of Afghanistan, to Germany and then back to the States. After they replaced everything with stainless steel and porcelain, it got me out of the Army, too.
So, within six months of being wounded, I was back in Baltimore. My Mother was beside herself with joy. Her wounded son was home and he wasn't going back. She took it upon herself to fatten me up. But I guess that being a Ranger stuck. I watched what I ate and worked out like a demon, getting back into shape.
One of my buddies, Terry Matson, had an uncle in the ship building business. Thus, three months after being discharged, I was gainfully employed as a marine engineer. Who says nepotism is a bad thing?
The biggest part of the company's business was working on military vessels, but it also had a recreational division. I worked with the military division. However, another young engineer named Mark and I would, in our off time, tinker with sailboats, something we both loved. We developed a new type of keel for racing sailboats. The idea worked and the bosses were really happy. It meant a rather big bonus and a lot of good publicity for the company and they even made some money on it. And if based on the continuing bonuses, quite a bit of money, I would imagine.
A few months after the keel had been released, the company was asked if one of us could speak at a symposium that was being held in St. Louis, Missouri. Mark went into a panic, doesn't like to talk in front of people, so I was sort of asked to go. And of course I said yes, like I had a choice.
The people at the symposium paid for everything. And they went first class. Everything was top shelf. As I was going to be speaking in the early afternoon on Monday, after registration, they requested that I get to the Hotel on Sunday. So on a Sunday afternoon, after a long day, an even longer flight and an endless cab ride from the airport to the hotel, all I wanted to do was have a very large bourbon and get to bed.
But, as Bobby Burns said about the best laid plans...they "gang aft agley." I had gotten a call from Terry Matson and when he found out that I would be in St Louis on Sunday evening he went nuts. Both he and Bobby Goldberg were on TDY (Temporary Duty) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
He said that they were going back to Benning on Monday afternoon, but that left all of Sunday evening and night to ParTAY. They were only 130 miles from St. Louis so it should only take them about 45 minutes to get to the hotel. "That is if I drive," Terry laughed.
Terry's wife Rachel and Bobby's wife Miriam were with them. And the girls would be overjoyed to see Papa again. "Shit man, we've missed you."