Boarding School Blues: Ch. 58

Boarding School Blues: Ch. 58

By Louise Peloquin

Ch. 58: Peeps & Twinkies

“Spit it out PF, not your teeth, but what happened at home. We missed ya. Weird past couple of days around here. Got extra recreation time, got to blab in study hall and, to top it all off, got a Saturday night movie, ‘Polyana’. (1) For kids but hey, anythin’s better than the same ole routine right?”

Titi was obviously excited to see Blanche while Andy, sporting her impatient look, snapped. “Don’t waste time talkin’ ‘bout that stupid flick Titi. Let PF talk, will ya?”

She continued. “Yeah, you look better PF. Maybe you won’t have to sing ‘all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’ after all, eh? (2) Titi’s right though. Over the weekend, the nuns were way less strict than usual. They all talked about how you were gonna help your father and that was a good deed cuz he takes care of a lot of people around town for free, including a lot of nuns and priests. And Sister Gerald said bein’ jealous of you for goin’ home is a sin. Even Sister Roger said it. And she never talks about sins when we fib to get outa gym class.”

Andy paused and Blanche suspected that her exercise-allergic friend was thinking about the many times she had managed to be excused from physical activity. Then she resumed her account.

“Best thing about the weekend was the ice cream for dessert. Strawberry, strawberry and strawberry. Same flavour three times don’t bother me. I’ll take any ice cream any time. So PF, can ya talk now or what? Not that you ever have anything mind boggling to say. But we missed ya.”

Andy stopped to catch her breath while Titi held hers with those piercing dark eyes now topped by circumflex eyebrows.

Blanche understood that a rundown on the weekend was unavoidable.

Speaking was uncomfortable so she whittled the compute rendu down to the core. “Saw dentist. Front teeth root canals. Holes in the back to drain puss. No more crunchin’.”

“Does that mean no more eatin’ stuff like candy apples? Woah, big time bummer” exclaimed Andy. “Is life even worth living without sticky sweeties? How ‘bout roasted marshmallows? I’ll make you a list of non-crunchy goodies. It’ll make you feel better.” Andy’s eyes twinkled as she conjured up appropriate tidbits for her friend.

“Did it hurt?” Titi asked. “Did ya get novocaine needles? Yucko! You’re a tough cookie PF. I hate dentists. Thank goodness mine told me I got horse teeth. So now ya got holes in your teeth? Food’s gonna get stuck in there and you’ll have a permanent case of ‘the Zaks’ and maybe your teeth’ll rot.”

Andy shouted “Good old Titi. Sure knows how to cheer people up. What a moron you are. A root canal is a procedure where the dentist drills a hole in the tooth, sticks a wire into the root and yanks the nerve out. After that, the tooth is dead. It’s kinda like an amputation. No more nerve, no more pain. Puss oozes out. Holes get filled. Infection and extraction avoided. And now PF, you gotta go on with a candy-apple-free life. Titi, what’s ‘Zaks’” ? Never heard of it.”

Titi’s definition was succinct. “ ‘The Zaks’ is a condition when your mouth smells zakly like your derrière. Not good.”

Andy and Titi performed a giggle duet in front of their injured friend.

“Already infected” specified Blanche. “Puss comin’ out. Dentist again on Saturday.”

“Oh, so Mademoiselle is gonna have another weekend outa this place?” Andy barked. “Well, oh my! I may consider gettin’ into an accident myself just to have the same privileges.”

“So who’s the moron now Andy?” retorted Titi. “Do you really think PF went through all that pain for a coupla weekends home? I don’t think so.”

Turning to Blanche she added “I’m glad the dentist helped. You must have horse teeth too. Forget about candy apples and think of Peeps and Twinkies. I’ll add to Andy’s list of soft treats.”

A high-pitched whistle interrupted the powwow.

“What was that?” asked Andy. “No one’s around.”

The airy, wafting sound repeated.

“Stop breathin’ for a sec’ guys. This is freakin’ me out” ordered Titi.

A third blast cut through the silence and Blanche broke out in a laughing fit that shook her so hard it made her cry. In a now-automatic gesture, she covered her mouth to stifle the hee-haws. But the irresistible whoops made her bend over. It took her three minutes to get a grip. She removed her hand from her face and, with barely separated lips, inhaled. The exhale produced the mysterious whistle.

“Whistle with mouth closed.” Blanche announced.

“Far out! Holy moly, is this permanent? I can think of a million ways to put your new skill to very good use.”

“Whistle through holes” Blanche explained.

The girls spotted Sister Gerald trotting down the hall, immediately wiped the mischief off of their faces and adopted a docile, dignified demeanor.

“Good Lord, don’t let that woman head over here please” Andy mumbled.

Her prayer was not answered. From several yards away, the nun exclaimed “How nice to see Andrea and Yvette evaluating their classmate’s wellbeing. Blanche is looking quite well isn’t she? And her father was so happy to see her. A boost for his recovery. Would you girls like to have a frappe before study hall, a merci for last week’s devotion to your friend? Afterwards, I need to speak to Blanche alone.”

Before her friends could accept the offer, Blanche blurted “Thank you Sister but don’t want to spoil dinner. We were heading for the bathroom. I’ll come back right away if you want to speak to me.”

Without waiting for the response, Blanche nudged her friends and the threesome trooped off.

Once inside the narrow space in front of the toilet stalls, Andy seethed. “What a lousy hypocrite you are PF. Here we get an outa sight offer and you have the gall to tell her we don’t wanna spoil our supper? You got holes in your head bigger than the ones in your lousy horse teeth!”

“Well, I kinda agree with Andy” Titi added. “We woulda enjoyed a frappe cuz Sunday dinner is usually mystery meat or leftover sandwiches.”

“Sorry but another frappe’ll make me puke” Blanche justified herself.

Manoeuvring her tongue, cheeks and jaw to avoid discomfort, she gradually became more verbose.

“Dentist showed me how to whistle. He blasted crazy music while takin’ care of me. It covered up the drillin’ noise. Some weird song with the words like –

Matty told Hatty
About a thing she saw
Had two bog horns
And a wooly jaw

Wooly bully
Wooly bully (3)

While Blanche was trying to imitate Sam the Sham, Sister Gerald popped into the ladies room. “You’re taking quite a long time aren’t you, les filles? Blanche, I need to talk with you immediately.” The squeak in her voice indicated displeasure.

Andy and Titi about faced and stomped towards study hall. Their rolling eyes and upturned fingers twirling the air said “PF, you’ve gone bonkers.”

Blanche pretended to ignore the sign language. She turned to Sister Gerald who, with a voice full of faux charm, commented on the weekend home. “Yes, a couple of days with family does a world of good. Indeed it does. Good for your father, your brothers and sister, for your mother of course, for you naturally. All good, nice family time together. A blessing.”

Blanche noticed that Sister’s verbal meandering was leading nowhere. She was glad to have forgotten the box of Mrs. Nelson’s fruit slices in the car. Someone else would enjoy them rather than this woman who ignored the toboggan accident aftermath.

Hearing the nun’s obvious discomfort filled Blanche with satisfaction. “Seeing Sister Gerald cringe isn’t supposed to feel good but it does” she thought. “I should just ask to be excused but it’s a thrill to hear her talk for nothin’ and look so uncomfortable. I guess wipin’ out on my face turned me into a bad person.”

Sister finally concluded with her new buzzword. “Never forget, ma chère Blanche, SFA always promotes student wellbeing. Your weekend home is the proof of that. Run along now, only twenty minutes in study hall before dinner. Bon appétit ma fille.” With the slightest inclination, almost a bow, Sister took her leave. Blanche felt very strange, as if their roles had been switched.

After Titi’s predicted leftover sandwiches, stale but soft enough for Blanche to swallow without too much trouble, the girls went outside for recreation. The cold wind whipped their faces and colored their cheeks bright pink. Blanche walked cautiously, prospecting the ground, avoiding icy booby traps to pull her down.

Apparently, Madeleine was not afraid of taking a spill on the slick pavement. Blanche saw her zipping down the drive towards Andy, Titi and her.

“Hey guys, wait up” she yelled. “Stuff to tell ya. Phew! Lemme catch my breath a sec’. Cold is freezin’ my windpipes.”

As Madeleine’s breath formed miniature clouds, Titi inquired about Gary and the move to Florida.

Madeleine’s titters made vapor puffs in the frosty air. “Oh him? Outa sight, outa mind. Gary’s a goner, a distant memory, a past without a blast. Waste of breath to talk about that dude. Got my mind set on another. Name’s Tom. Lives in my neighborhood. Known him since I was a kid. Never really thought much of him but my Mom says he’s been askin’ ‘bout me so, worth explorin’. Tom’s the nice kind of goofy. Know what I mean?”

Andy smirked. “So you went through all that pain and expense gettin’ a tattoo for nothin’? Guys ain’t worth it, I tell ya.”

Madeleine retorted “I beg to differ kiddo. My tattoo has no name or initial so it’s ready for a newbie. And I figured out how to put it to good use.”

The words “put to good use” inspired Blanche to display her whistling skills. The clearest “wee eee eee” set the tempo for tiny breath fairies to pirouette out of her mouth. Andy immediately informed a bemused Madeleine about the origin of the ethereal sound. Blanche gave an encore and the four girls shared a good laugh before Madeleine resumed her story.

“I have a great idea for my tattoo. If Tommy turns out to be my next forever love, I’ll have a navy blue ’T’ set right smack dab in the middle of the red heart. I was thinkin’ of black but that’s kinda dreary. Bright royal blue is better, don’t you think? But here’s what I really wanted to tell you guys. Listen up.”

Madeleine huddled the three freshmen around her. “I had kitchen duty with the novices today. Washin’ pots ’n pans and all. They’re not supposed to talk about stuff in front of us students but Marieanne knows me and said I was OK to trust. So here’s the scoop. Marieanne heard the nuns shootin’ the breeze about changin’ SFA policy. One of them used the word ’evolution’ and another said it was ‘revolution’ instead, whatever that means around here.”

Blanche was wondering where the story was going. Madeleine continued.

“Well, first I should say there was a lot of talk about your accident PF. I guess your father called the headmistress and wasn’t very happy and talked about legitimate legal action in cases of negligence, underestimating the consequences of accidents, and stuff like that. I can’t remember all the boring words but it sure sounded serious. Your Dad didn’t beat around the bush. And then your Mom picked up the phone because he was getting really upset and that’s not good for the heart. And then…”

Ever impatient Andy butt in “OK that’s all fine and dandy Mad, but what’s the big revolution? Parents gettin’ all riled up when their kid gets hurt is one thing but what’s the big deal?”

Madeleine justified herself. “Dude, don’t you want the juicy details about nuns eavesdropping on Sister Théophile’s telephone conversations? A little suspense is way more the fun. Wanna know what the big deal is?”

  1. Walt Disney’s “Polyana” starring Haley Mills, Jane Wyman and Karl Malden was released on May 19, 1960.
  2. “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”, originally recorded for RCA Victor by Spike Jones and His City Slickers on December 6, 1947.
  3. “Wooly Bully”, by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, was released on March 12, 1965.


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 . . .

Read Ch. 56: An elixir and a frappe

Read Chapter 57: We can work it out.