The Catherine Wheel

Golden leaves danced across the blacktop. April hurried from her car and up to the schoolhouse door. She willed her heart to beat more slowly and then rang the office bell. Under the shadow of Saint Catherine of the Breaking Wheel, April waited to be buzzed in. Buzz! April walked to the tall front desk where a very old nun sat.

“I’m so sorry to be late the traffic—“

“Oliver’s mom, they are waiting for you in the conference room,” Sister Bernard said, with cherubic pink cheeks and dead serious eyes. The nun gestured in no particular direction with a paper thin hand. April looked perplexed. So not the vice principal’s office this time. Is that good is that worse and where in the hell was the conference room? April waited and then turned. Sister Thomas the principal was standing behind her. April jumped.

“Right this way Mrs. Grayson.”

April followed the nun quietly suddenly a schoolgirl in a plaid uniform being sent to detention. But that’s just it I never had detention I never got so much as a B. After Sister Thomas, April stepped into the school’s conference. A too large walnut conference table was squeezed into what once may have been a storage room. Sister Thomas sat down between Mrs. MacGillicuddy, Tessa’s second grade teacher, and Ms. Wicke, the school psychologist. April pushed the image of the three headed hydra out of her head and sat down opposite.

“I’m so sorry to be late the traffic…” April’s voice slipped away as she made meaningless conciliatory hand gestures.

“A grave matter has come to our attention,” said Sister Thomas.

Mrs. MacGillicuddy slid an open religion textbook towards April. There was a childlike drawing of a naked and familiar man peeing in the shower. April slapped a hand to her forehead.

“This was found in Tessa’s religion book and she claims it was drawn by her brother Oliver. We questioned Oliver and he confessed that it was a picture of his daddy in the shower. Mrs. MacGillicuddy reached over and turned the page. Here was another familiar naked man drawing peeing and tossing dollar bills.

“And this is a picture of his daddy at the bank.”

April clapped her hands over her mouth. I am going to kill that boy.

“And this Saint Joseph.” April massaged her temples. Well at least Saint Joseph had on pants but he also had a devil horns, a tail, and a pitchfork.

“Is this what you family thinks of religion!” Said Mrs. MacGillicuddy.

What do you think we are nudist exhibitionist devil worshippers. “No of course not. We’re Methodists.” April searched the hydra for a glimmer of sympathy but all she got was Ms. Wicke looking uncomfortable.

“Oliver is in the third grade. He told me had drawn silly pictures in his little sister’s book to get back at her because she ate all of his Advent chocolates. I think he thought this was an old textbook.”

“Well we respect school property at Saint Catherine,” Mrs. MacGillicuddy huffed.

“There have been other issues with Oliver regarding behavior and grades,” Sister Thomas said.

“Sister Jerome told me he really tries in her small reading group.”

“We know you work outside the home. Do the children go home to an empty house?” Sister Thomas asked.

“No.” What the hell.

“Is their father in the picture?” Mrs. MacGillicuddy asked.

“Of course, you’ve met him at Back to School Night tall guy with a beard. What are trying to say,” April demanded. Ms. Wicke looked down at the checkerboard linoleum as if to find a crack to melt into.

“We are merely looking for answers to better understand Oliver,” Sister Thomas said.

My child is not a problem in need of a solution. He is a child. A good boy with a learning disability, excellent drawing skills, and a wicked sense of humor. April simmered.

“Some parents have wondered why a boy like this is still at Saint Catherine. We have a culture here—“

“Wait are you talking about my kid with other parents?” Shit I said that out loud. April stopped , reversed and switched her code switching skills up to the highest gear. There is a price other than money parents pay to get and keep their children in good schools. Her parents paid it and now it was her turn.

“We have a culture here, a high standard, a Saint Catherine of the Breaking Wheel’s way. It has been challenging I know for the new students from Saint Martin de Porres to become part of our community,” Sister Thomas finished. She folded her hands and tilted her head in a pose of deepest concern.

“Yes, we appreciate your concern. Oliver’s father and I are also concerned and we are looking at additional resources to support our son. We will work on Oliver.” April closed the religion book. Tears burned the back of her eyes.

Suddenly, April was outside the school, holding a folder of half finished school assignments. The wind slapped at her face. Ms. Wicke stepped outside.

“You have to ask yourself is this school the best place for Oliver,” Ms. Wicke said in a hushed tone before walking quickly to her car. The stature of Saint Catherine stood over the entrance, one arm outstretched holding a sharp spiked wheel, the instrument of her torture. Weighed down, April walked to her own car.


  1. Friar says:

    Yet, the biggest concern for the school and the biggest challenge for April, is ensuring the over-priced tuition is paid on time. Because that’s what Jesus would do.

    1. Thank you for commenting, sweetie peach. I wanted the reader to connect with April and know her pain.

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