A NUN’S TALE
By Pete McArdle

 

Sister Mary Dismas was dead, about this there can be no doubt. Her heart had stopped in the cold winter’s night, the blood had congealed in her veins, and as the clock tick-tocked her temperature dropped ever closer to the room’s, which she kept at sixty degrees. She was not one to waste energy.

Sister Mary Dismas was as dead as—well, St. Dismas himself, who back in the 13th Century had confronted a powerful miller who was producing tainted Communion hosts. The miller’s response was to stab and quarter Dismas, then grind him to dust under the massive millstone. Dismas was then incorporated into a new brand of host called “Holy Pumpernickel,” which became quite popular with the local communicants due to its speckled appearance and nutty taste. A disapproving Vatican, however, soon stepped in, and after canonizing the hapless Dismas had the miller slathered in lard and thrown into a dungeon full of Shih Tzus, where he was licked to death.

In life, Sr. Mary Dismas was much like her namesake: brave, strong-willed, and uncompromising. She would not look away from evil, could not be swayed from the course of her duties, and preferred her hosts just as Dismas did: pure, white, and papery. But now she was dead in her bed, and this must be clearly understood or nothing wonderful can come of this story.

After cardiac arrest the brain dies slowly, discrete pockets of neurons continuing to fire hours after the heart has ceased to beat. At six a.m. sharp, the morning after Sr. Mary Dismas’s demise, an undamaged shred of the nun’s cortex ordered her to rise—and she opened her eyes. She clumsily climbed out of bed, knelt down on the hard wood floor, and began her morning devotion. As she prayed, the nun felt numb and extremely sluggish, but this concerned her little, for Sr. Mary Dismas had taught fifth grade for fifty-two years, never once missing a day. She was not about to start now...

 
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In his real life, Pete McArdle is a devoted husband, father to three wonderful young adults, and your friendly neighborhood dentist for the last thirty-four years or so. In his fantasy life, he’s a former college football player, rock musician, rock gardener, artist, and triathlete. As the ravages of age gradually took his beloved hobbies away, he decided to write short stories. Now that he’s been published in twenty-odd magazines, he likes to imagine future McArdles one day reading his stuff. And just shaking their heads.

 

 
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