Boarding School Blues: Ch. 56

Boarding School Blues: Ch. 56

By Louise Peloquin

Ch. 56: An elixir and a frappe

Blanche’s head was a Tilt-A-Whirl. Buzzing voices extracted her from stupor.

“Andy, get Marieanne! PF’s bleedin’ all over the place. Madeleine, help me turn her over. One, two, three, go!”

Blanche didn’t need to open her eyes to know that Titi was running the show.

“What’s that melted butter taste?” she wondered. “Somethin’s movin’ in my mouth but I don’t remember sucking on any icicles. What am I doin’ layin’ down in the snow?” She opened her eyes to see Madeleine and Titi bending over her.

“Don’t talk. You’re OK. Don’t worry. We got you” Titi reassured.

Blanche looked at the distraught faces and dribbled in an effort to respond. A second run on the Tilt-A-Whirl transformed her into Raggedy Ann. Her arms and legs flopped as the girls lifted her. She didn’t bother to open her eyes. The slightest movement triggered shooting pain. She didn’t bother to swallow the tepid liquid in her mouth either. Better to drool than to vomit, she thought before passing out.

She woke up laying in a spacious room with pale green walls and no curtains around the beds. Was this a nuns’ dorm? The smell of bleach stung her nose, triggered nausea and brought back jerky, silent-movie images of the cafeteria tray tobogganing.

“Sista! Sista!” she screeched. “Wanna caw home! Hep me please!”

Seconds later, a slight figure switched on the ceiling neon. Blanche saw an ageless yet time-worn face. Who was this nun? She separated her sticky lips to speak but gagged instead.

“Bonjour Mademoiselle Blanche. Je suis la garde-malade (1), Soeur Marie-Ange, here to take care of you. Non, non, c’est pas le temps de parler asteur! (2) You had a little accident, nothing serious. Rest and silence are the best remedies. Perfect time for a little prayer. Alors allons-y (3). Just nod to let le Bon Dieu know you are praying too.”

Sister Marie-Ange closed her deep-set eyes, tilted her head upwards and improvised. “Merci Mon Dieu for watching over us at all times. Merci that Blanche’s accident today was minor. Losing a couple of teeth does not compare with breaking an arm or a leg or a neck. Whether it be injured or not, our body remains the temple of the Holy Spirit. Merci for giving me the opportunity to serve Blanche today. Her pain can be offered up to you for the purification of her sinful nature. When bad things happen, we say merci because your love is forever. Ainsi soit-il.” (4)

Blanche didn’t nod during the prayer. “I wanna caw home. My front teef ah fallin’ out. Please lemme caw home!”

The nurse smiled sweetly. “Yes indeed, you fell right smack on your face and it’s surprising your teeth didn’t get knocked out then and there. It just goes to show how good a job Le Bon Dieu did when He placed them in your mouth. You surely drank plenty of milk growing up. Yes, your teeth are moving. But don’t worry. You can always get new ones. They make very nice ones nowadays. And they never get cavities. No more mouth pain. No more dentists.”

Sister Marie-Ange tilted her head up as she did when in prayer, opened her mouth wide and removed a complete upper denture. It had bubblegum-pink gums and perfectly-aligned Chiclets. But for the Dracula canines, they looked like the ones sold at Woolworth’s for Halloween.

Blanche pleaded “pleaje Sista. Havta caw home!”

“Shush Blanche. It’s dinner time soon and today, yours will be very special. Since chewing is ill-advised at the moment, your nourishment will come from frappes with plenty of ice cream. I’m going to give you some Tylenol elixir for the pain and swelling. Be brave ma fille. I’ll be right back.”

Blanche was plotting her escape. No way did she want to be the only kid in her class with dentures. It was bad enough to have flat, mousy brown hair and an ugly nose, not to mention thin lips, although they felt pretty puffy at that moment.

Sister Marie-Ange reappeared as Blanche was trying to slip out of bed.

“Here’s the elixir. It will take the edge off the pain and allow you to enjoy your frappe. Drink this down with the straw. You will feel its effect in no time.”

The impatient patient did as told and within minutes, she passed out.

A light from outside Blanche’s infirmary drew a long white sword on the floor in front of her bed.

“How long have I been here? It’s already dark out and I still don’t know where I am. Gotta get outa here, find a phone and hide. When I’m caught, I’ll get library duty again. Better than goin’ to class.”

She teetered as she got up. The dizziness reminded her of that family dinner when  she took a big gulp from Ma Tante Lucie’s wine glass while her head was turned. She had felt giggly then, but not now. The front teeth were wiggling a lot. The thick saliva tasted metallic. She shuffled in her stockinged feet and ran her hand along the wall to switch on the light. At the other end of the room, a door was ajar.

“I’m outa here” she told herself. The door lead to a space with a toilet and a sink over which hung a round mirror the size of a pie plate.

“I’m a zombie!” she thought as she took a look. Her face was blotched in scarlet. Her mouth, nose and cheeks had doubled in size. She lifted her top lip to uncover the bruised gum and mobile teeth.

A series of staccato steps echoed in the hall, too many for a single person. She imagined some kind of multi-legged creature coming to get her and returned to the cot.


She tried to think straight. “What word did the biology teacher use for things like centipedes and millipedes? Oh yeah, myriapod. So SFA has myriapod nuns now? You can expect anything in this place.”

Sure enough, a whole group of people entered the infirmary. Sister Marie-Ange lead the way holding a tray with a tall stainless steel cup like the ones used to make frappes at the soda fountain. Behind the nurse was Sister Gerald looking stern. Marieanne, Madeleine, Titi and Andy followed, looking aghast.

“ ‘Chose promise, chose due’ (5). Here is your extra thick frappe with plenty of ice cream. A generous dose of calcium in there, good for your teeth and bones. And Sister Gerald kindly allowed visitors to cheer you up. Yvette has your night garments because you will sleep here. I shall also be spending the night here to check on you regularly. So far so good, no vomiting and no splitting headache. Mademoiselle Blanche Réjean has survived her little accident. Merci Mon Dieu.

Not missing a beat, Sister Gerald pursued. “That is correct Sister Marie-Ange. Blanche, I have informed the headmistress of this mishap. Her kind nature compelled her to call your mother, without giving details of today’s events of course, in order to tell her that your present academic performance is rewarded with exceptional permission home next weekend. Madame was thrilled at the news and stated that your presence would accelerate Docteur Réjean’s recovery. Never forget that Sister Théophile always has her students’ wellbeing in mind.”

Blanche noticed that Sister Gerald’s voice had started to squeak and her unusual spiel ended oddly.

“Come along now Sister Marie-Ange and Novice Marieanne, we will let Blanche’s friends visit with her while she drinks her frappe. You have twenty minutes girls. Then, please join the others in the dining hall. Bonsoir Blanche, everything will be fine, you will see.”

The nurse agreed. “Yes Blanche, all things broken can be replaced.”

The nun myriapod slinked out of the room, leaving the four girls alone.

Madeleine spoke up after an awkward silence. “You didn’t even break the stupid cafeteria tray. What in the world is she talking about? Who is she anyway? I’ve never seen her.”

Blanche was struggling with the straw. The frappe was so thick it oozed down the corners of her swollen mouth. The few drops of cold liquid that made it inside her mouth felt good.

“That’s the school nurse” Titi explained. “I’ve seen her around a couple of times. Nice enough nun. But I don’t wanna know what she’s talking about cuz it can’t be about the old caf tray. Blanche, we’re here with ya and we feel for ya. ‘One for all, all for one’.”

Titi teared up and turned around, head bent.

Andy’s eyes flashed as she reached out to squeeze the patient’s forearm. “ Hey, what’s this about your ‘present academic performance’? What’s Gerald talkin’ about? Bet ya she made that whole thing up so as not to get into trouble with your parents. I should be jealous that you get to fly the coop for a couple days.”

The squeeze turned into a gentle tap and Andy continued. “You know PF, you don’t need a beat-up boxer face to attract attention. We love ya no matter what you look like.”

Andy bowed her head and cleared her throat before taking on her usual snide tone. “A frappe is supposed to slide inside your throat, not outside, you dummy. All that ice cream is goin’ to waste with your droolin’. Here, lemme help ya with the straw. I’ll hold it and you suck. Smells like vanilla. I really like vanilla. But you don’t have to give me a sip. It’s all yours m’dear.”

  1. I am the nurse.
  2. No, no, it’s not the time to speak now.
  3. So let’s go.
  4. French proverb equivalent to “A promise delayed is justice deferred” or literally, “thing promised, thing due.”


Read Chapter 1: The Announcement

Read Chapter 2: Facing the Inevitable

Read Chapter 3: Readying

Read Chapter 4: Au revoir!

Read Chapter 5: Arrival

Read Chapter 6: Settling In

Read Chapter 7: Beginning to Belong

Read Chapter 8: Quick Showers

Read Chapter 9: Inside & Outside Study Hall

Read Chapter 10: Math Manoeuvres

Read Chapter 11: Cinephiles

Read Chapter 12: Camera, Action, Lights

Read Chapter 13: Reconnecting

Read Chapter 14: Back to the Fold

Read Chapter 15: In the Night

Read Chapter 16: Parlez-vous?

Read Chapter 17: On the Agenda

Read Chapter 18: Dress up, sit up, chin up

Read Chapter 19: Post Conference Assessment

Read Chapter 20: Orderliness

Read Chapter 21: Inspection

Read Chapter 22: The Inner Sanctum

Read Chapter 23: Going Home

Read Chapter 24: Merci Mon Oncle

Read Chapter 25: The Food Fairy

Read Chapter 26: Bon appetit!

Read Chapter 27: Friends

Read Chapter 28: A Grocery Stop

Read Chapter 29: Tempus Fugit

Read Chapter 30: The Chapel

Read Chapter 31: A Nice Kind of Weird

Read Chapter 32: Mnemonic Device

Read Chapter 33: Cuisses de grenouille

Read Chapter 34: Run along now

Read Chapter 35: Consequences of playing hooky

Read Chapter 36: Good Vibes

Read Chapter 37: Never too many, never too much

Read chapter 38: Dust Bunnies

Read Chapter 39: I’m into something good

Read Chapter 40: Wistful and Admiring

Read Chapter 41: “Anywhere Out of the World”

Read Chapter 42: “If you really want to hear about it

Read Chapter 43: “Why don’t they go and create something”

Read Chapter 44: Squiggles, snowmen and angels

Read Chapter 45: A Measure of Mirth

Read Chapter 46: Advienne que pourra

Read Chapter 47: Smile upon our joys

Read Chapter 48: “Venez, venez, venez!”

Read Chapter 49: “C’est si bon”

Read Chapter 50: Naughty or nice

Read Chapter 51: We all fall down

Read Chapter 52: The Eve of Destruction

Read Chapter 53: A turtle’s heart

Read Chapter 54: Airlock

Read Chapter 55: Here Lies . . .

One Response to Boarding School Blues: Ch. 56

  1. Malcolm Sharps says:

    Now on Ch 56. And Louise Peloquin’s quirky little celebrations of life still get better. Almost always there’s one line at least that has a ring to it that no one else in the world would have come up with. Titi teared up and turned round, head bent. That’s the one for me.