Sister Mary Judas Roars


Charles Bins, Coastal Carolinas Writer's Club

Her name was Sister Mary Judas;* the students called her “Scariot.” She was the red-faced principal of our Florida elementary school in the’60s whose most relaxed expression was a scowl. Her nun’s habit dripped with resentment, and the white flag at her forehead was not a sign of surrender.

When she wasn’t scouring the halls looking for someone to devour, we imagined she blasted steam out of her head like Tom Terrific. Celibacy must be hell. Why does a woman become a nun? Is it an act of love or contrition, or more likely, revenge?

The movie my classmates could never see…

Once at lunch, two tough boys squirted ketchup on each other and broke into a fistfight. A teacher pulled them apart, but strangely they weren’t sent to the principal’s office. Five minute after lunch though, Sister Mary Judas stood in the doorway of our 6th grade class glaring. She summoned one of the pugilistic boys to the front. Bending him over the teacher’s desk, she beat him with a stick until he whimpered and cried. The other boy met a similar fate, and they both spent the afternoon in front of the class sitting in trash cans.

At 8:35 one morning, Sister Mary Judas broke in over the PA fulminating: A boy in uniform had heaved a rock from an overpass and struck a car, narrowly missing the windshield and inflicting $1,750 in damage. Waves of anger vibrated the wall speaker. The guilty boy was too terrified to confess. –That day I promised never to find myself in Scariot’s crosshairs.

Early one December, our class went to a matinee of “The Robe,” which followed the robe-winning solider after the crucifixion. At the end, the Romans filled our (now) Christian hero with arrows. For me, it was worse: I’d been sitting on a wad of Bazooka gum for two hours. Surprisingly, in the rush to leave, no one noticed the pink Rorschach on my butt. It was a long ride back to school though, and when I rose from the seat of my classmate’s station wagon, a gooey string stretched lugubriously behind. I tiptoed away and wrapped a sweater around my waist.

Arriving back to class last, I alerted the teacher to my predicament. She sent me to the principal’s office. The secretary directed me to the nurse’s room; the nurse was out, but I should wait. My stomach jumped on a trampoline. A dark form finally appeared in the doorway, then flew in. The raven was not smiling. “Take your pants off,” she said.

I tried to stall: “Why?”

She roared at me. I was now in such a hurry I couldn’t wrestle my pants over my shoes. She watched, then screeched–“Take your shoes off first!” This maneuver prolonged the agony. (That I had donned underwear without moth holes that day was no consolation.)

Topping things off, there was a freezer in the chilly room. The nun popped a cube from the ice tray and showed me how to rub it fast to harden the gum and pick it off. My brain taunted: “You’re standing next to Scariot in your Fruit of the Loom’s.” She left after the demo, but Bazooka is tenacious.

Eventually, she returned to see my sticky situation, and said they’d call home. My mother didn’t drive, so I wasn’t sure how this movie would end. Yet 47 minutes later, a taxi arrived with a clean pair of pants.

Thinking back on it, I realize now that Sister Mary Judas may have roared like a lion, but there was probably a kitten under the hood.

*Not her real name