After I told Bobby Kell about the dustup I had with Pat Peck while fishing in the Wisconsin River, Bobby said, "Eugene Peck's in my seventh-grade class. He's Pat's older brother. Sister Beaky is our teacher."
"You're kidding. That can't be her real name."
"You're a genius, all right, Hoffman. Her real name is Sister Mary Rose, but we all call her Beaky."
"Not to her face, right?"
"Right. I have to tell you something that Pat Peck did. It's funnier than hell. He—" Stopping, with his face turning red, Bobby burst out in laughter.
"He what?" I urged.
Wiping away tears, Bobby finally was able to say, "He got into big time trouble with Sister, Julius, Monsignor Gille (GUY-lee), and the Holy Ghost."
"Well, every Friday afternoon, SSPP (Saints Peter & Paul students call their school that) classes finish early so students can attend a Novena. Beaky and the other nuns make a head count before they march us to the church next door. When we're in front of the church, the drill sergeants stop us and make another head count. Then, it's into the church we go. No way can we skip out."
"But what about Pat Peck? What did he do that's so funny?"
"I'm getting to that," said Bobby. "After lunch period one day, while kids were on the playground before the start of afternoon classes, Eugene and Pat walked into the church. Pat carried an empty cardboard box."
"I'm getting to that. So, they made their way up the narrow stairs to the choir loft. Up there, Pat put the cardboard box down and climbed a built-in ladder to the belfry where all kinds of pigeons live. You can hear 'em cooing when nothing's going on inside the church. When the nun who plays the pipe organ starts playing—or the huge bell starts gonging—birds fly outta there as fast as they can. Must be the noise. Anyway, Pat snagged a pigeon, feathers flying all over the place, and with the bird held to his chest in one hand, he climbed down using the other hand. He made it to choir loft floor and put the bird into the box and hid it under a narrow pew in the rear."
I was already laughing. "Why'd he do that?"
"I'm getting to that. On Friday, Pat's sixth grade class was assigned to the choir loft for the Novena. Monsignor Gille was dressed in pure white vestments and when he lifted the Monstrance—"
"Hoffman, you're Catholic. You know what a Monstrance is."
"No, I don't."
"It's that huge gold thing placed on the altar with a host in the center. Glass covers the host. It reminds me of the sun with its rays reaching out."
"Oh, yeah. That's when the altar boys burn incense, right? And the priest shakes the incense burner on chains?"
"You got it, Gordy. That's when we all sing, 'Come, Holy Ghost.’ Bobby started singing,
"Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
And in our souls, take up your rest.
Come with your grace and heavenly aid
To fill the hearts which you have made."
When Bobby finished, I said, "Yeah, we sing that during summer school."
"Now, you know what I'm talking about. Once the choir started singing, Pat snuck off to that cardboard box, opened it, got the pigeon, carried it to the front of the loft and threw it."
"He threw the pigeon?"
"He did, and its wing started going crazy. That bird flew all over the inside of that church, kids and teachers looking up, pointing and oohing and ahhhing, until—get this—it landed square on the altar while Monsignor and the rest of us were singing the fourth verse. Gille, at first, had a shit fit because Sister Julius, Pat's teacher, yelled, "Patrick Peck, what did you do?" However, Gille pointed at the bird and announced to everyone, "We sang that he come. And here he is, the Holy Ghost."
Nuns and students started laughing like all get out, but not that big Sister Julius or Pat Peck."
"What happened to Pat?"
"Oh, he got kicked out of school for only a week. I don't think he was too upset about that, though."
I can tell you this, Diary: I'm now more than happy that Pat Peck and I became friends that day at the river. What a guy.
===================== WEBMASTER NOTE =========================
Gordy will be taking a brief vacation after today's diary entry. He will return on August 7.