by Alex Haber
At the far end of our street there is a cul-de-sac, a dead end of houses removed from our proper neighborhood. We gather in the woods behind the cul-de-sac in a clubhouse built at the top of a tree, titled with an old bar sign one of us stole from the rubble of a nearby fire: The Rusty Nail.
From our clubhouse we can see into the houses of the cul-de-sac. Two of the properties are owned by old hags, the ancient Agmon sisters, whose rundown houses face each other across the street. Other than to investigate the strange whirring noises that come from their bedrooms at night, we’ve had no reasons to study them.
The third house, painted pale yellow so that it stands out from the plain white others, and with large, uncurtained windows, belongs to Sister Holly. Sister Holly is the youngest nun we’ve ever seen – all of us students at the Catholic boys’ high school. She must be just a few years older than us, and she doesn’t teach, as far as we know. Each day she leaves her house in full uniform, heading to an unknown place: a convent in the city, we imagine, or some other queer religious institute. Our parents call her Sister Holly – the italics a tone in their voices – when referencing her.
“Poor Mary Miller,” says my mother to my aunt one evening at the kitchen table. Across the room my father sits in his usual chair, whittling a piece of wood into some sort of knick-knack. “That daughter of hers is going to end up in the family way.”
“A disciple of Sister Holly,” says my aunt.
Our street is full of these sayings, these innuendos, though we’ve never seen anyone at the pale yellow house but its owner. In the clubhouse we share our findings, trying to understand the young nun.
“Ms. Hamel said she’s had an abortion.”
“Who’s Ms. Hamel?”
“She works at the clinic.”
“You’ve never been to any clinic.”
“She got expelled from the convent. That’s why she can’t teach in town.”
“I’d confess my sins to Sister Holly any day.”