Sunday, January 10, 2016

7666. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt.128)

(pt 128)
Ever-present and keen. I'd decided that
back then, those two concepts would be
my initial start  -  seminary stuff. that's
how I wished to be. Ever-present, so as
not to miss a trick; and keen, so as to be
emphatic and enthused about each of those
things I'd be bringing my way. And I knew
I would be. I was already way different than
the other boys. Some seemed bent and listless,
withered already and without form, as if they'd
been sent there to just stake out some horrid time
and then die somewhere. Some just seemed
ridiculous  - mouthing all their dumb and
constant prayers all the time. This guy, Chuck
Waddell, never called Charles at all, he would
be the first in and the last out of chapel at all
times. But that wasn't good enough for him. He'd
have to remain seated, at the rear somewhere, so
that every other person leaving the damn room
would have to pass his pathetic, still-kneeling
figure, praying. Not just praying  -  perhaps that
would have tolerable in its Frenchie ways  -  but
he'd silent-mouth the God-awful words to everything.
It was like the only time the guy ever talked anyway.
We knew at least that his mouth and jaw worked, if
not his fool voice-box. It's OK if you see someone
doing that like on the subway or something, even back
then, reading Leon Uris or something -  you just
figure the dumb guy's a stickler for stupidity, or a
sixth-grade retard or reject. But this Chuck Waddell
guy was different. Full of the old self-Harry. All
about him. I don't think he ever did anything else.
never saw him lift a finger; a basketball would
scare him, a snowball fight would tear out his heart
and he threw like a freaking girl anyway. It always
used to crack me up when they'd show films or pictures
of seminarians in Rome (we were supposed to really pack
it up and get totally enthusiastic about that stuff -  our own
little futures, black-robed acolytes in Rome). It was always
one of those 'Oh my! A rare snowfall in Beautiful Roma,
and the seminarians come out to play!'  -  they'd show a
group of stiffs throwing snowballs around in the snow,
while they still wore their cassocks. Idiots. And every one
of the creeps, I always noted, threw like a freaking girl.
Quite the future, but they wouldn't be having sex anyway,
with girls that is, so it wouldn't matter. Pride goeth before
the  -  in this case Winter, forget the Fall. Made me puke.
I much rather liked the cool iron-John stance of this
Brother Isadore guy. The silent farmer. The quiet saint.
The distant Human, a real Soul caught in a body. Story
behind him was  -  and this turned out to be true, Salvatorian
Archives in Milwaukee; it's listed, and it's also played up
in the necrology, which is a DVD of like all the old dead
guys now who used to be there when we were there, in
their 40's mostly then. Except this Isadore guy was already
like 70. He died at 92. He was an original German, in the
service, at the beginning of the German Army, or whatever
it was back then in WWI, a low-level officer of some sort.
It was only after the war that he decided to become a
religious, take his vows and all that, and he ended up
somehow in the huge German community of Milwaukee
and other parts of Wisconsin, where he became a
Salvatorian Brother or priest or whatever that whole
thing was. We'd gotten him there, at the Blackwood
posting, in the nowhere middle of the Jersey pines,
back then, after that. Anyway, back when he was still
in the Army he had under his command a young private
or new recruit or whatever it was, named Adolph Hitler,
previous name Alois Schicklegruber or something like
that. It seems that this brash new recruit one day began
complaining and then demanding, on and on, about
wanting more stuffing, or hay, or straw, or whatever
they used, for his bedding. A softer sleep. His incessant
grinding on about this came to the attention of his officer,
who just happened to be Isadore, and who, in discipline
mode, dispensed a quick slap or two to the face of this
Hitler character; end of conversation. SO....that's my
Brother Isadore and Hitler story. I was kind of 'keen'
and 'ever-present' to be all over that story, and
slopping pigs for the guy who socked Hitler!
Now, back to the other guys around me  - as I said there
were different types. We had a few rich kids, just the
sort of entitlement brats their families send away for
'better schooling' or 'better pedigree'. Except in this
case all it meant was like ten thousand prayers a day
and early morning and late night chapel, group huddles
for reflection and prayer and supplication and all that.
We'd swarm together to dine in the 'refectory'. They
couldn't even call it a mess hall or a dining hall or
anything normal. They had to say refectory. If you
look the word up, it's got a specific meaning for a
place where group dining takes place - 'as in a
seminary', so I guess they got that right. Except
sometimes, with all that 'Lives of the Saints' 
reading (it was read while we ate)  - it was more 
like a 'reflectory', where you couldn't have much fun
but had to reflect on the crummy stories they read.
I wouldn't know if anyone reading this has ever
read 'Lives of the Saints', but it's pretty ridiculous,
medieval, fantastic, ludicrous and, oh, let's see, stupid!
In the Catholic hierarchy there's like a million saints,
and they all have bullshit stories attached to themselves
about 'miracles' and 'healings' or like the time they were
bitten and mauled by fifteen crazed leopards and their 
arms and nose torn off and then they lifted their eyes, 
or what was left of them, to Heaven and asked for God 
and God stopped everything and put their arms back on 
(in proper sequence for lefties or righties, I'd guess  -  
He's apt to know those things even in the heat of the 
moment) and their nose too, and these blessed beings
than walked away from ten leopards who decided they
loved him instead of wanting to eat him. And that's a
sainted miracle of like, 'Saint Alphonse LaBreaqare, of
the Holy Grail and Keeper of the Leopard Jungle Flame'.
That's how it goes, like rap stars calling themselves 
'K-Tiger Fly' or something. And then they become
'patron saints' of something, like in this case, let's say,
Saint Alphonse, patron saint of leopard tamers, or some
such really awful bullshit. We had to listen to this crap,
and then they'd expect us to eat too. There were two
big milk machines up front, and we'd get these metal
pitchers to have to fill up, over and over, for the table
where we ate, maybe 8 guys at a table or something.
It was like getting a cold pitcher of beer at a neat tavern
or something, off in the sandy bizarre middle of nowhere,
except it was milk. That was all we ever got.
Up above us, maybe five steps up or so, at a long 
table, sat the priests who were in charge of us. They'd 
eat, above our heads a little, at the side wall by the 
big window, sternly gazing down in silence, sometimes
in a smiley silence, as if sizing each one of us up for 
whatever. It always felt weird  -  God knows what 
they knew about us; it was like they were reading 
our thoughts, or knew the track record of our minds.
Not real pleasant. One guy, Father Edwards  -  he was
the real boss of the show  -  was a chain smoker. He was
a very fair-skinned, red-haired, guy, with little, twinkly
blue eyes. His skin was nearly whitely-translucent. Scary
dude. To make it all worse, his smoker-hand had the 
index-finger and the middle-finger almost fair yellow
with nicotine or tobacco stains, or whatever it is in
smoking that turns things yellow.  Many of these
priest guys smoked, this was the first years of the 
60's and smoking was yet allowed and prevalent 
most everywhere. No one thought twice about it, 
not even in  a blue cloud while trying to eat. By the
way, someone attended to their table. They never
got their own milk. There was, also, most probably
already a patron-saint of smoker-hackers, lung cancer
victims : like 'Saint Kent of Avila' or maybe even 
some Marlboro guy named Saint Eustacius or 
something. It never failed, all was covered.
The rest of the guys in there with me, they all fit a mold
of some sort  -  Leo Benjamin, from up Bangor, Maine.
French-American guy, really vocal and with some
swagger. He knew, somehow, all the wrong stuff. One
time he took me off through the sandy woods to a stash 
in the wooded area of a walkside meadow, covered
with some rocks and stuff. (We were Freshman together,
and then, as I recall, he just disappeared the next year).
He lifted up some things and there was a stash of
dirty magazines, well protected. He said that was where
the upper classmen came to jerk off into the weeds. That
 freaked me out, totally. Ruined everything, like a blemish 
on a baby. I couldn't look at any upper class guy right again.
Another time  - again, Leo  -  he started to quite vividly tell
me, while we were walking along, what it was like to 'fuck a 
girl.' He had this weird Maine accent that made it all sound
odd, besides it being odd. I mean, jeepers, we were twelve 
years old and this guy's giving me the rundown, blue by blow, 
with NO LESS, the precise description of the smells! I
wondered to myself, what the hell do they do in Maine, get
started at eight years old? This guy was a pro, he could teach
a class, for God's sake.  Leo was pretty big, a fleshy guy, wore
the same shiny pants a lot, dressed fairly sloppily, never
looked clean. Not that it mattered much, but we had these 
freaky upperclassmen who'd go around saying weird, stupid stuff.
Like this John Banko guy, he'd announce when he was about to 
take a shower. he'd say, 'you know, clean body, clean mind.'
Whatever the hell that was supposed to get across. I'll have more
on him a little later; big surprise on that guy. Another time,
(Leo again) in the far back woods, we'd be running track, we
were milers, and there was some long crazy pine-barrens trail
we'd use for cross-country trots -  not speed stuff, just like a
hearty jog for a half hour or so. Out where we were, in the
 deep pine barrens, it was nothing but sandy road-trails
through fields of scrub-pine. Actually pretty neat. Anyway,
along the run we'd always come across girl's panties, or underwear,
or bloomers, or whatever the right term is for those pre-
Victoria's Secret versions of boat sails the girls used to wear.
They always be stuck on tree branches along the way. I wondered 
about that, and of course Leo had the answer(s); whether from 
Maine experience or not. According to him, in the country 
hereabouts, when you took your girlfriend out into the woods to neck
and stuff in your car, when you finally got into her pants and had sex,
the trophy factor came into play  -  that being you had to leave her
underpants hanging on the tree where you'd 'had' her. Other guys
could see, your friends could vouch that you'd gotten into Lucy, all 
that shit. Whether true or not, it worked for me. I could never quite 
figure a girl going home after that with no underpants on, thinking 
they'd be really nervous their mother or somebody would catch that. 
So, I figured any smart girl, knowing what was coming anyway, would
 just always have an extra pair in her purse, so at least she could go  
home with something on underneath. The panties actually were 
on the trees around us, and they were always more prevalent after
Friday or Saturday nights, as opposed to Tuesday or Wednesday  -  
so it made good enough Leo Benjamin sense to me. I was
just always afraid he'd stop running and start sniffing.
Remember, please, for an Avenel boy this was
some fantastic, heady stuff to absorb.

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