(There isn't anything supernatural about this; it's just a short story I wrote, greatly revised from an earlier version I wrote many years ago. Cross posted at my fiction blog fragments, found.)
I was nine, probably ten. In my thin green Girl Scout
uniform, badge filled sash, heavy white oxfords, little white socks. I
knew that there was some mix-up somehow, some weird thing but no proof
or even evidence. Gut feelings from a ten year old didn’t count for
much. So my grandmother dropped me off at the Parish Hall, where our
Girl Scout meetings were held, and drove off. I knew something was wrong
when I noticed ... nothing. No other cars, people, little Brownies or
my sisters in green. The heavy dark brown doors of the hall were shut,
locked. So there I was. Alone in the quiet Saturday schoolyard.
Everything shut up; school, hall, even the church. So I waited, trying
not to be scared, knowing that eventually my grandmother would return to
pick me up. In the meantime, I waited.
I pretty much
stayed in the same place; sitting on the rough low stone wall in front
of the Parish Hall next to the school, facing the street. The church and
church parking lot was to my right, further down.
sort of wandered around the asphalt covered school yard. Those were the
days when the playground equipment set-up was a stark affair. There was a
merry go round, right smack on top of the asphalt. No sand, no wood
chip coverings, no rubberized surfaces, just the uneven black asphalt.
One day I managed to get myself going pretty well on the merry go round
and flew off, landing several yards away on my knees. The green and
yellow plaid jumpers that were the school uniform offered nothing in way
of protection. In my late fifties, I still have the scar that
highlights a little hollow in my left knee.
large, hot asphalt playground offered nothing of interest. I went back
to the low stone wall. It was cooler there anyway, in the shade of the
buildings. A small white haired lady walked by me. She was wearing her
lace head scarf, carrying her missal, rosary dangling from her hand. I
smiled at her; she didn’t smile back. She asked me what was I doing
there; she seemed innately suspicious. She wanted to argue with me:
“There’s no Girl Scout meeting here!” she said. I felt a little bit like
I was leaving my body; this old lady on her way to do her Altar Society
business inside the church, was repeating back to me what I just told
her. I’m feeling disconnected; why is she doing that? Repeating back to
me what I told her: I was waiting for my grandmother; we thought there
was a meeting but turned out we got mixed up. In my mind I thought
“Lady, do you really think I’d be sitting here in my jerky Girl Scout
uniform just for fun?” But I rarely spoke to adults that way so I just
sat there, staring at her. She shook her finger at me and walked on.
was getting cooler. With that, a little dimmer. It seemed an awfully
long time; shouldn’ my grandmother be here by now? I see the white
haired woman come striding back in the opposite direction, from the
church. She’s finished with her official altar arranging business and on
her way home. She looks upset, angry; her face is splotched wtih red
patches on her thin white skin. She comes right up to me and hisses,
spitting a little on me. “How dare you!? WHAT GRADE ARE YOU IN??!! Is it
Sister Patrick?! She’ll know, she’ll know!!!” She paused for breath. I
have no idea what she’s doing. Before I can answer she goes on.
“The beautiful Mother! Covered, covered in mud! Just filthy! FILTHY!
YOU did it! You’re the only one who’s been here; you did it!”
I told her, simply, I didn’t do anything. Didn’t know what she was talking about.
“You’re a lying little thing! She was beautiful when I went in; when I
came out, she was covered in dirt, her head, covered! Who else could
have done this?”
I just looked at her. She was crazy,
but I knew that wouldn’t mean anything. One complaint to the nuns would
be enough. Logic had nothing to do with anything. She went on her way,
mumbling to herself.
I sat there, scared, expecting one
of the sisters to come scuttling out from the convent behind the school
any minute. My grandmother came, and we went home. I didn’t say
anything; not that I wouldn't have been believed, but no point to it. It
wouldn’t occur to anyone that this was anything of any importance. So I
spent that night, and the next week, paranoid. A nervous wreck, that at
any time I’d get pulled into the principal’s office, the old lady with
her lace head scarf and rosary trembling with outrage waiting for me.
Nothing happened, and I never heard anything about the statue of the Virgin Mary in the church parking lot being vandalized.
regan lee, march 2013