Word Count 500
By Terry Rainey
Because I lived close to OLPS, I did once a week classroom duty, washing the ancient desks and cleaning the chalkboards, full of the words of Sister Mary Xavier, SPC. While X graded papers, snorting and harrumphing, I reimagined the words on the board spelled backwards. I started flipped-over reading with Speed Limit, which seemed “Timil Deeps.” After that sign got into my head, I read lots backwards, so it became second nature. My mother said that I could converse in reverse.
Reinforcing my tendencies, SisterX loved palindromes, phrases or sentences that read identically forwards and backwards. RaceCar and ANutforaJarofTuna were two of her favorites. When she got on the palindrome kick, it could be incredibly boring, as we’d heard them many times in class, so I simply focused on her feet as she talked, imagining her right foot booting a football 45 yards, her left foot as anchor. Sister had no discernible ankles so I always felt that her feet must be incredibly strong, like a statue or a field goal kicker.
Rumor had it that X played youth football till the age of 12, when it was discovered that she was a girl in a boys-only league. She was planning on becoming a Pittsburgh Steeler, but she hid her disappointment by deciding to become a nun, where she could still line up opponents and hit them squarely.
She struck with a thimble, and she had one on her forefinger at most times, and could tap it on heads deftly, so much so that we’d developed a theory that she had five levels of thimble, from mild to wild. Sometimes she just wanted to get a point across, sometimes it was punitive.
Sister saved punitive for extreme violations, which primarily involved cursing and any references to sex. Consequently we developed the most potentially lethal combination of cursing and sex, yet disguised as something else entirely. Mosob, pronounced MooZob, was a reversal of Bosom. Its utterance guaranteed that we’d laugh uncontrollably. Martin always threatened that he’d use Mosob at the opportune instant. He knew that he possessed a nuclear weapon, one that would hit its mark dead on. With its clever execution, anyone would be rendered helpless.
As I was finishing the chalkboard, grunting with effort, X turned to me and palindromed me with her latest: Wepanicinapew! Just then, Martin, who was waiting for me, appeared at the door at the back of the room. He cupped his hands and exaggerated a silent MooZob. As expected I did lose control, chortling hysterically. Sister was a bit taken aback, but she interpreted it as my appreciation for her clever palindrome. Unexpectedly, her eyes met mine. I didn’t have time to look away. It stunned me momentarily. Was there a connection!? Imagine a connection with Sister X! I shuddered, a bit bewildered.
Sister X chuckled at her word wizardry, but I was thinking of another palindrome, one that hearkened back to Sister X’s youth, a quote we attributed to her: “Maisanun,asIam.”