December 01, 2005

The Eye of St Lucy Part 1

Without wishing to offend anyone, I offer my short story, written several years ago and unpublished:

Pamela Spiro Wagner

The whole thing never would have happened if it hadn't been for Mary Elizabeth Quigley. I already knew right from wrong. I knew, for instance, that it was wrong to kill and right to tell the truth. But though I had my share of faults (I swore, and once I stole a pack of cigarettes from Liggetts, and I had a bad reputation, earned for playing doctor with boys and using four-letter words in ways that indicated I understood them) the Unitarian Sunday school I went to was curiously silent on the concept of sin. It wasn't until I was twelve and started junior high that, thanks to Mary Elizabeth, the word “sin” entered my working vocabulary.

The teachers at Briar Ridge Elementary had liked me, bad reputation or no; I was popular, the class clown. But at Winterskill Junior High, instead of being indulged for my “vivid imagination,” I was scolded for not paying attention, my cutting up treated as disruptive. Regularly kept after school for detention, I became a loner, no longer sought-after or in the in-crowd. To make things worse, in homeroom, where we were seated alphabetically, no one else's name ended in a letter after “P,” and since my surname was Stoll, the other half of my desk was left unoccupied, and I was odd girl out at the back of the room.

It was well into November when Mary Elizabeth, late to class her first day, appeared at W.J.H., still wearing her parochial school jumper with the St. Sebastian's insignia over the breast pocket. Miss Ivor, our homeroom teacher, reminded her the bell rang at 7:30 sharp. Instead of finding excuses or arguing, Mary Elizabeth bowed her head, murmured, “Yes, Ma’am,” and made a little curtsey. Tittering swept the room. I might have joined in, if she hadn't been assigned to sit next to me. Instead, I swallowed my giggles and made room for her on the bench. She was chubby, with a pink freckled face and scraped-up knees and still wore pigtails instead of a pageboy or Toni Home Perm like the rest of us. Nudging her slightly, I introduced myself. Although she kept her face forward and her hands folded on the desk, she whispered back, "Freddy? That's a funny name for a girl."

“It's Freddie, 'I, E', not with a 'Y' and it's short for Winifred, my mother's name, which I absolutely hate. Can you imagine going through life with such a sucky name? When I grow up I'm going to change it to Laura Marchand, or maybe Camilla Howell Higgins. Even Penelope--” I pronounced this with a silent final 'e' “-- would be scads better than Winifred.”

“Hey, I've thought of changing my name too. There were a zillion Mary Elizabeths at St. Sebby's. Everyone called me 'Emmi’”

Miss Ivor frowned and looked up from her desk. “Winifred Stoll and Mary Elizabeth Quigley, may I have the courtesy of your attention or must I reassign desks?”

I quickly opened my notebook. Emmi dropped her head and blushed, a slow red climbing her neck and staining her cheeks and the tips of her ears.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, some odd behavior Emmi learned at St. Sebastian's, I warmed to her from the start. I noticed her erect posture when she sat or walked and began to copy her, not in fun but because I admired her. She told me how the nuns at “St. Sebby’s” used to strap a yardstick to her back to keep her from slouching. “Slide your feet, girl, don’t stomp,” they were always reminding her. Once, my mother said Emmi was a Good Influence, a remark she soon regretted speaking aloud when it caused me to revert to my old swagger. I had my reputation to maintain after all and I didn't want to be contaminated by any influence, good or bad. But I had to admit I liked Emmi.

Posted by pamwagg at December 1, 2005 10:51 AM


Dear Pam,
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm waiting for the second installment of "St. Lucy's Eve". It's like reading it anew, seeing it in all its glory on my computer screen. I know that you are tired and busy. This is just a little nudge from your equally tired and busy pal.
With anticipation and love, Paula

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at December 3, 2005 11:05 AM

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