If you are just getting to this story, scroll back a couple posts to start at the beginning. We’ll see how far I get this time…
“Well, I know two fresh buttons who have some sentences to write. How about this, ‘I will not talk in the lavatory’? One hundred sentences. Monday on my desk after mass.”
Kev and I cowered in the corner. I was thinking 100 sentences was pretty stiff for just talking in the lav but there was absolutely no arguing with Sister Justin. She would just give us more sentences. “Yes, Sister Justin,” we murmured together.
We slunk out of the restroom, miserable, our necks sore and our spirits low. One hundred sentences would take a really long time. We had just learned cursive and one hundred sentences in our newly acquired handwriting would be painful. Sister didn’t ask us to have our parents sign the papers, so I wouldn’t have to tell my folks about the episode. This was one I hoped that I would get away with.
I began my sentences at recess on three lined handwriting paper. My friends played kickball while Kevin and I sat next to the gym wall writing away. I completed about fifteen during the recess break. I figured I had about 90 minutes to go before I was finished. That was the same as three carton shows. Ninety minutes watching cartoons went by quickly, but ninety minutes working on sentences… ninety of those minutes would seem like forever.
But I did it. Over the weekend I worked on the sentences until my hand ached. Early Saturday morning before band practice, before mass on Sunday morning, whenever I could work without letting my parents know, I wrote a few at a time. If they found out I was talking in the lavatory they would probably be mad. Since Sister didn’t say I had to get my papers signed I wasn’t about to let my parents know. Of course, she could make us get them signed after we turned them in. I only hoped that 100 sentences would be punishment enough.
Sunday night I had my sentences finished. The handwriting on the last page was a little rough, but I didn’t think Sister Justin would mind. This was a punishment, not a handwriting assignment. She knew what 100 sentences would do to a third grade boy’s weekend. I tucked them into my religion book and waited to hand them in the next day. I wondered how Kevin did on his sentences. I hoped he had his finished as well.
On Monday I walked to school with my neighbor, Rick Kadar and my brother Pat. I told them what happened. Pat was outraged. “Just for talking?! She sure couldn’t make me do 100 sentences for that.” Pat probably would have gotten away with not doing sentences. Sister Justin probably wouldn’t have assigned sentences to Pat anyway, knowing he wouldn’t even do them. He was just like that. I, on the other hand, could never have gotten away with it. I wasn’t as tough as Pat.
In a strange way, I was proud of those sentences. I was going to school early enough so I could have the sentences on her desk before she even got there. I envisioned her coming in to the classroom to find my 100 sentences neatly on her desk waiting for her. In my mind I see her counting the sentences to be sure there were exactly 100. There were. I made sure of it. I could see her admiring my handwriting; 10 sentences per side, 5 pages of cursive sentences from a third grader. She would be proud, maybe even think a little more of me. I would be the O’Keefe she could count on to do the job that needed to be done.
When we got to school Mass had already started. Everyone would be in church. The building was open so I ducked inside while Pat and Rick went to join their classes.
When I reached her classroom, Sister Justin’s door was unlocked. I entered quickly and opened my religion book. My sentences weren’t there. I was in shock. Perhaps I had put them in another book and forgotten. I flipped through all of my books, searched my pockets and lunch bag. The sentences weren’t there. I searched through everything again.
I was panicked as I slunk into church. I tried to make myself invisible. My mind raced. Where could the papers be? Had I dropped them on the way to school? Had one of my big brothers played a cruel joke on me and taken them out? Did I leave them on my desk at home? Would Sister Justin take them late? Would my parents kill me if she called them? Looking over at Kevin, he didn’t seem nervous. No doubt he had his sentences ready to turn in. The pressure of waiting to find out my eventual punishment was unbearable. Would she make me write a thousand sentences? Would she paddle me? Would she take me to the principal and have Sister Rosa Lima paddle me? Would they have me talk to the Pastor, Father Beckman?
The horrible part of the whole thing was that I had actually written the sentences! I couldn’t prove that I had done them, but I had truly written all 100 sentences during that long, miserable weekend. I did it without letting my parents know so they wouldn’t vouch for me. What was I going to do?