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Blame My School
by Dan Greene
I grew up in a really old city and went to a pretty old school. It was over 150 years old and run by the Catholic Church, so most of the teachers were Christian Brothers. It wasn’t exactly like you’d see in a horror movie but there were definite similarities. The principal was an evil, decrepit old despot who used the strap on a regular basis – now those were good times. The school itself was just like you’d expect an old Catholic school to look like: all hardwood from floor to ceiling, huge pillars, massive arches with windows, some of those windows with stained glass frames depicting assorted scenes of biblical cruelty. The whole place was darkly beautiful – I know, but what else would you call it? It was beautiful like the face of God beaming through stained glass, but it was dark as Hell. It’s hard to describe the Old School Catholic experience and now isn’t the time, but growing up in that environment made me the person I am, for better and worse. Maybe I believe in God and maybe I don’t, it’s not the time for that either, but what I will tell you is that I believe in good and evil. A youthful fear of God made those movies with demons and vampires seem that much more unholy, and therefore cooler.
I saw my older brother break his arm in two places one day on the playground of that school. That was fucked. It was a warm sunny Saturday and my Grandparents lived nearby, so we went to climb some of the big chestnut trees in the schoolyard. He spilled from about twelve feet… And a six inch portion of his arm was just jutting out, like he’d grown two new jagged elbows in his forearm. His hand spastically twitching in the dirt while the blood drained from his face and he screamed at me to go get help right now. I was six and I was fucking terrified like you wouldn’t believe. I ran across the soccer field to the monastery and got one of the cleaning ladies to call an ambulance. Mom came to take me home before my brother got taken to the hospital, but I had seen the action. I heard the bone break and saw the terror in my brother’s eyes.
Then he came home with a cast and some fried chicken and I thought, “That was so fucked up, but look at that. He got chicken. Prick.” Girls, real girls signed his cast and everything. He was cool for being smart enough to fall out of a tree. Fuck’s sake.
Not only that, but in light of it all he was pretty lucky to have come out with just a broken arm. These trees, you see, they were probably there as long as the school; most of them were pretty damn big. To make it fun there was a big wrought iron fence going around the whole place, and it came pretty close to the trees. You weren’t allowed to climb the trees like at any other school, but these trees had iron spikes underneath them. My brother and I should have known better, and we were lucky that neither of us had been impaled on the fence. As scared as I was when I ran across the field to get help, I still knew we were lucky that my brother only fucked up his arm. The next guy I know of who went climbing trees was not so lucky.
It happened a year or two later and it made the news. This kid was eleven years old and went up a tree on school grounds one Sunday morning, probably skipping Church. He fell out of the tree and landed on the wrought iron fence. The top spikes on the fence were about six inches long and spaced apart about four inches. The first one went in right underneath his chin, and the wounds continued through his neck and the top of his torso.
They didn’t really give that much detail in the news piece, but everyone around knew how he had been nailed by that fence. Everyone could see the damage when he came back to school and showed off his scars. He lived through it…. He was lucky as hell, managed to do no serious damage when he fell ten or twelve feet out of the tree and landed on top of the spiked wrought iron fence. Holy shit. Now, is that proof of the existence of God, or is it just proof that he will fuck with you for skipping Church? If it’s neither, then it’s just funny. All I remember is thinking back to when my brother had fallen out of the tree a few years before and wishing I had been there to witness the trauma of the guy who landed on that fence. Then wondering if it was weird to want to see something like that.
With every Catholic school there is a Church. The Church around the corner from my school was as old as the school itself, give or take. Every year the whole class would go down for a tour of the Church, the same tour every year. The one cool part was when they showed us the burial crypts for all these old priests and bishops from 150 years ago. You can’t help but wonder what some of those guys were thinking, taking a bunch of primary school kids underground to see where they kept the corpses. Worked for me though. Anytime I was in that Church and they weren’t talking to me about hell (because that’s good stuff) and my mind would wander and I’d get bored, I could always think about the corpses. Wondering if those men of God had lived lives as good as those they promoted, and if they were in the heaven they promised or if their all too human past had caught up with them. Wondering if priests in hell have it worse than the other sinners, like bad (worse than usual, I mean) cops in prison or something.
Then I’d look at the girl a few rows ahead of me and start thinking about tits. Those tits, those holy tits made by God that I’m not supposed to look at or else I’ll go to hell.
Be a good boy and don’t go to hell. Don’t question God’s mysteries either. Growing up in an environment like that, where simple cause & effect goes hand in hand with the supernatural and the unexplained, can lead to some pretty twisted logic in a kid. It can make a kid want to see things that he knows are bad.
Of course bad horror movies are good. For fuck’s sake, I’m Catholic.