Each new post of “The Buccaneers of St. BeSillius Middle School” will include all the previous chapters. As the new chapters are added, the previous ones are re-written. If you are writing a book, and the story only comes to ten of fifteen pages, how do you turn it into a 250 page book? Notice the changes in “St. BeS, especially THE FIRE DRILL. Added descriptions that enable the reader to get the flavor of the setting and characters are essential. Dialog makes the characters come alive. Action words are always a plus. So, read on, and find out what the Buccaneers will be doing next. Thanks, Linda
THOSE CATHOLIC SCHOOL KIDS
A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS
THE BUCCANEERS OF ST. BeSillius PAROCHIAL SCHOOL.
What can possibly happen when a crime happens under the very noses of a group of very savvy eighth graders at St. BeSillius’ Catholic School on St. Frederick’s Island? When the money they raised to buy toys for children in homeless shelters in near-by NYC is stolen, the Buccaneers, as they call themselves are outraged. Despite warnings from Father Felix and Sr. Jo, Sprocket, the leader of the Buccaneers, and her determined buddies set out to follow the clues, run down the thief, and get those toys for the homeless kids.
List of Characters:
John Finntail, the local fisherman, name is an alias
The Kids See below
Meeting Place: Abandoned (NOT really) fishing shack.
ON THE MOVE
How do those turtles do it? Pull their heads into their bodies? Here comes Sr. Jo-Ann. My head stubbornly remained on top of my neck.
If you think it’s easy writing a note to the kid in the seat next to you when the rattling of Sr. JoAnn’s rosary would announce her slow walk down my aisle at any moment, you’ve never been to Catholic school. The room is silent. You can hear pen nibs scratching across the pages of our black and white composition books, leaving a trail of ink blots.
Pen nibs, you say? Ink blots? You won’t believe this about the ink and the inkwell. Will you? This is just another aspect of toughening the backbone here at St. BeSillius’s. As I look at my permanently stained right middle finger, I wonder if I will be poisoned by some carcinogen in the ink and become St. Sprocket, patron saint of calligraphy.
The smell of chalk and old tempera paints barely covers the tinge of pine-scented urine coming from the old radiators. My mom went to this school and tells the story of kids leaning their wet behinds against the heat to let their underwear dry if they had an accident. Going to the bathroom in those days was a privilege reserved for the Pope. Thank God things have changed, and St. BeSillius had hired a nurse, and given her an office where this kind of thing could be taken care of.
A floor board squeaks. I hear the faint clink of keys as if Sr. has reached into the stygian depths of her pocket for something. I slide my ruler over the words I’ve just written, and peer cautiously from the side of my vision trying to locate Sr. Mary Jo. My stomach bunches. She is reading Eddie O’Malley’s entire page. Eddie’s not one of us, so there is nothing out of the ordinary to see in his notebook.
My page is full of writing, but not what I think I want Sr. to see. So far I’ve jotted a list: LOOK FOR CLUES, including the narvex, the sacristy, the side entrance, the choir loft, and the bushes around the church. I’ve signed it, Sprocket.
Sprocket? Is that a Christian name? Of course not, silly reader. We all have code names to protect the guilty. We are the Buccaneers of St. BeSillius, a secret society dedicated to solving the secrets and misdeeds of our little parish school and the island where it’s located.
Uh-oh. Here she comes. If I rip the page out and crumple it, she’ll just grab it. And, I’ll have to explain why there’s nothing on the page, in cursive mind you, about the characteristic that would have made George Washington a good Catholic, if only he had known better.
George was an Anglican(?) having once been a colonial loyal to the King of England, also a George. But, I digress.
Eddie, not the sharpest pencil in the box is getting the Spanish Inquisition treatment about his lack of inspiration on the topic. I wonder if the nuns get a special course in interrogation techniques?
Eddie, I love him dearly, is buying me time. Could I quietly turn the page and jot a quick sentence or two? I pick up the notebook and turn the page, knocking a pen full of ink onto the floor along with the ink well. As you can imagine, this was not a silent maneuver. Sr. JoAnn, Eddie and the whole class look at me. I feel my face burn. I get up to clean the mess and knock the composition book on the floor with my note showing plainly on top. Sister reaches for it. I’M DEAD!
The fire drills sounds. Sr. turns to move the class to the fire exit, and I kick the composition book under the desk. It obliges me, closing with a snap.
“I’ll clean this later, Sr.” I smile.
“And I will be checking your essay.” She smiles back.
“Yes, Sr.,” I say, noting. The proverbial glove his been tossed onto the floor like they did in those ancient duels. I file past her.
Are you wondering why a bunch of Catholic school kids are searching for clues in what looks like a church and the yard around it?
Let me digress for a bit and fill you in on some details about why we are listing clues and what all this skullduggery (Great word, isn’t it?) is about.
Well, before I fill you in on what happened when we found those clues, let me explain who we are. We called ourselves The Secret Crime-Stoppers of Sts. Christopher and Michael, but I wanted a shorter title like Buccaneers of St. BeSillius. I thought calling on both St. Christopher and St. Michael was pushing the envelope of sponsorship. And who even knows who St. BeSillius is? So, just think of us as the Buccaneers.
For the past year, our class has been raising money for a class trip to visit seven churches in Manhattan and distribute toys to the children’s day care centers in those parishes. We did bake sales, car washes, leaf-raking, snow shoveling. We cleaned attics for old ladies, cut lawns and pulled weeds. Some ill-informed parents even let us do fence-painting. Don’t worry! Those shrubs will come back in a year or two.
A whole year of those earnings went into the fund. We kept it in the vestry. That’s the room behind the altar in the church where the priest keeps his vestments. The box with the money disappeared the day Father Felix was supposed to open a bank account for us. We never got the money back, never found out who did it, and we’re pi….. Whoops! Sorry. I’m just angry. Not mad. Sister Priscilla said that mad means crazy. Well, she never met my family.
Anyway, even though the sisters and priests said we should offer it up to God. I’m not sure what that means, the money or the cursing we did? And, we should learn a lesson. Next time lock it up! And where were we supposed to lock it up?
This didn’t go down too well with some of us, and one night last summer at WingNut’s beach house on Frederick Island, we decided to form our own little CSI. We voted on and accepted our official title, Buccaneers of St.Besillius. Look. You can’t beat our creativity in naming the group. We even researched St. BS. He is the patron saint of mimes.
As we gathered around the fire, we wrote up a charter including the following:
- Each member is sworn to secrecy, under pain of pain.
- All clues are to be shared by everyone.
- All communications would be done using our code names. Mine is Sprocket.
- Our meeting place would be the old fishing hut behind the Middle School.
We made a list of our code names.
Lily code name Sprocket, computer whiz.
Ryan: code name Tee Square, computer whiz.
Frank: code name Wing Nut, mechanical genius.
Leon: code name Snap Shackle, math genius.
Amalie: code name Ratchet, electronic surveillance, or just plain snoop.
TALKING DURING A FIRE DRILL
I pulled up my knee socks for what must have been the tenth time today, and hurried after the other kids, moving like cockroaches when someone turns the light on.
I caught up to Wing Nut who was practicing a skill every Catholic School kid learns, that of communicating in a ventriloquist’s voice.
“Did Sister see your note?”
“No, but it was a close call. I knocked over the ink well and the notebook is soaked in ink. The message is obliterated”.
Thank you, Saint BeSillius, I prayed.
Just as an aside, but important to this story, St. BS, as we like to call her is the patron saint of mimes. Mimes, as you know communicate through body language, gestures and facial expressions. Even though the students here at St. BS’s don’t take a vow of silence, the results of the discipline our teachers impose, is that it helps you to be a mime if you want to get a message across to your friends.
Perhaps you’d like a little background? The school at St. BS was housed in the oldest building on the Island of St. Frederick, or Fred as we affectionately called our plot of earth surrounded by water. Legend has it that this building was erected during the American Revolution by the pirate, Jon Buccleigh. One would think that a pirate would be foot loose and not anchored to one place. Not, Buch-O as he was known. According to the legend, he had free urn of the cost here.
You need to understand that Fred is still isolated. It’s a forty-five-minute ferry ride to get to the main island that is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Back in the 18th Century a forty-five-minute ferry ride of today would take hours. The island is smothered in fog five days out of seven. The currents are tricky too. Many a kayaker or canoer, even small power boats are rescued by the Coast Guard every year.
Getting back to the school building. It was authentically dated at 1770. It’s old. Several attempts have been made over the years to reconstruct, modernize and otherwise improve the place.
It has its charm, and of course, its nooks and crannies give rise to all manner of ghost stories and pirate plots, kidnapped damsels and unexplained disappearances. How’my doin’ so far with St. BS’s history?
There was even a story about one of the Sisters disappearing in 1943. It was even in the newspaper. The staff here at the school never talked about it, but my mom and I looked it up in the library on the main island. By the way, the main island is called Main Island. I wonder whose amazing imagination came up with that one.
But right now, leaving our classroom, the corridor in front of us, shining like a newly Zambonied ice rink, led us to the massive front door. If I closed my eyes, I could see the door creak open and Buccleigh’s men dragging loot across a draw-bridge into their castle lair.
The shiny floor reflected the stained glass that decorated the high windows above the classroom doors. The smell of floor wax scented the air along with beeswax candles and incense drifting from the chapel. Saints and the Virgin occupied little alcoves from one end of the hall to the other.
The all clear gong echoed from the main office and we headed back to class.
“What’s the plan? We’ll have to pass it along the usual route to get everyone on board,” Wing Nut said, not a muscle of his mouth moving.
I thought about this. The usual route required some messages secreted behind the poor box in chapel, under statues of the Virgin and Saints, and in blackboard erasers which had to be clapped outdoors to remove the chalk dust. Sister JoAnn never seemed to notice the increase in piety or the fervor to do a good deed, or maybe she was onto us, and hadn’t figured out exactly what it was she was onto.
“Forget it. I haven’t got my plan together yet, and we meet on Friday anyway. Leave it at that.”
Best not to create any more suspicion at this point, I thought.
Wing Nut seemed to shrink by two sizes like a deflated balloon at this turn of events.
“Hey, call me tonight. Help me with the plan, okay?”
Wing Nut re-inflated, and we did a fist bump. We rushed to catch the rest of the class, melting into the crowd. Wing Nut, who deserves his nick-name, was snorting, shoulders jerking, like he was having some sort of a fit.
“What’s up with you, Wingie,” I said. “You look like you’ve got a spider in your shirt.”
“I just remembered a story my Dad told me.” He poked me hard. “Oh-oh.”
Sister Superior was staring at us with that laser look (I promise. You could see the yellow light streaking from her eyes.) that promised dire consequences if you continued down the road you’d just chosen.
“Tell ya later,” Wing Nut whispered.
“There is NO talking before or AFTER a fire drill.
“Yes, Sister Superior,” we chorused, and scurried off, hoping to escape any remedy she had for breaking fire drill rules. A quick turn over my shoulder revealed Sister JoAnn and Sister Superior frowning and pointing to us.
Sister JoAnn and Mother Superior (no one knew her real name) belonged to an order of nuns that chose to keep their habits. I guess they figured that the habits weren’t bad habits.
The long black old-fashioned dress was equipped with large rosary beads. A broad white collar adorned the neckline of the dress. It made me think of Puritans or Pilgrims. The whole effect was topped off with a bonnet that made the two sisters look like Lil” Miss Muffet. The habit definitely set the nuns apart.
Sister Superior was very tall with a long narrow face. She always appeared stern, girding herself for the next Crusade. Sister JoAnn was small and round-faced and pretty. She was the more approachable of the two.
But with their heads together, speaking in whispers while eying Wing Nut and me, I felt my stomach cramp. Their advice to forgive and forget fell on deaf ears. That was not our plan. I think they suspected something, so we would have to be careful.
She couldn’t stop us from what we planned to do. Too late for that, I thought.
Wing Nut and I exchanged a final knowing look and I headed back to clean up the ink, all the while trying to push my anger down, so I could think clearly and plan our moves. I wasn’t about to forgive and forget, pray for the soul who did the evil deed, and neither were my friends. We were going to find out who stole the money we raised to buy toys for needy kids and get that money back.
The rest of the day went as usual. George Washington was deemed to be a great candidate for Baptism into the Roman Catholic Church, a moot point, since he was dead. Sister JoAnn put the kibosh on any discussion of whether the Father of our country made it to heaven or not.
The dismissal bell found me high-tailing it home. I walked in on what looked like a Mexican stand-off between Boots, my Scotch terrier and Fish, our Tabby cat.
Boots positioned herself between Fish and Fish’s food dish. She crouched, facing Fish, rear end up in the air, stubby little black tail wagging. A low gurgly little groan announced she was ready to challenge the cat to a fur-flying, caterwauling, barking melee.
Fish, her tail expanded to resemble my mom’s styling brush, executed two swift moves, vaulting onto the kitchen counter and leaping to the top of the frig.
From that lofty perch, she proceeded to lick her tail into a more manageable style, all the while glaring down her cute orange nose at Boots who was now running around in circles in frustration. This little tableau was repeated so often that I was beginning to believe Boots was either retarded or suffered from canine Alzheimer’s disease.
“Wanna treat,” I called, clapping my hands.
Before you could say Jon Buccleigh’s teeth, my two little buddies sat at attention at my feet.
Slipping off my backpack, I jiggled the treat jar. Behind me eight little paws did a tap dance on the tile floor. Treats accepted, truce declared, peace reigned in our home, Windalee Cottage.
The door to the porch that faced the beach on the other side of the house banged shut.
“Mom?” I called.
Her bare feet slapped along the tiles as she made her way to the kitchen.
“Lily. I’m glad you’re home.”
I didn’t like what I saw. Her hair clung to her face in sweaty ringlets. Her tee shirt and shorts were streaked with some black stuff. And she looked at me with an expression that said, “I’m so sorry your goldfish died.” Only I haven’t had a goldfish since the one she told me died when I was five.
“Mom?” My knees were beginning to feel watery. If my heart hadn’t stopped, it would be pounding.
“What’s wrong, for Pete’s sake. You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
“Oh, Honey! She was coming at me with open arms ready to hug me.
“What is it, Mom. You’re scaring me!”
“There was a fire today, just before lunch, and it was your beach shack.”
The beach shack was our clubhouse. The Buccaneers held our meetings there.
“Whaa . . . Who? Do the firemen know what happened?”
“They think it was a homeless person who was living there during the day when you and your buddies were in classes.”
I pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down hard.
Could this be connected to the stolen money, I wondered.
“I know the homeless beachies, and I don’t think anyone of them would set a fire so carelessly. It’s never happened before.”
Things were beginning to make no sense. The first thing I needed to do was to figure out how to get the Buccaneers together, and where, so we could get down to business. This was spinning out of control.