The year is 1981. My nine year old frame is hunched over my tightly clutched library book. Am not wearing my school jersey but the morning chill has nothing on my excitement. My Dad has just dropped my sister and I to school. It is still too early for class. She has gone off to play with her friends. Her world is simple, unlike mine.
The wooden bench am sitting on is still moist with dew. The field looks beautiful from here. Tall Jacaranda trees frame the school playground. Yellow and lilac specs on the lush green grass. And a few scattered brown patches where skipping ropes hold daily domain.
I am seated at the farthest corner of the field from the classrooms. Alone. On the bench nearest to the Convent gate. Waiting. A solitary sentry on a mission. A Divine adventure. You see, I am about to save the Christ.
The Convent gates open and a minivan drives out. I count three veiled heads in it then quickly bury my head in my book again. I am pretending to read. All the while my mind is racing. Am very conscious of every movement or sound around me. Anticipating that one chance. As the automated gates slowly draw towards each other, I tense up ready to spring. I am barely five steps away. I know I can slip in before they lock into place. But as I reach the gate I come face to face with Andrea. I am stunned to see him on the other side of the gate. He looks irritated to see me and shoos me away. “No students in Convent” he growls.
I sigh and slink back to the bench. You cannot defeat Andrea. He works for Mother Superior and God. My tiny fists are clenched as I assess the situation. Today is Tuesday and Jesus is still locked in the Loreto Convent by the old nuns. The world is waiting for the Second Coming, wondering why it is taking so long. Father Burke said so last Sunday. But I know He did come like He promised. Jesus would never lie! Now, it has fallen on my tiny shoulders to carry this weight. To save Him. So He can save us.
It’s the nuns’ fault! They got to Him before anyone saw Him come back. They grabbed Him and locked Him in the Convent. So He can be their real husband. That’s why they float around all day, rolling their “wedding” rings. Smiling mysteriously. They think they have fooled the world. But not me, I am so on to them!
Why am I the only one on earth who has figured this out? I don’t understand, the clues are all over. These old white women, cloaked in black and white are all crazy. They say they are happy to share a husband. But then there is the Pope. How their faces light up too when they talk about him. And they were so sad when he was shot earlier this year. I wonder if Jesus knows about this other guy. It is not right. My Mother says a woman cannot have two husbands.
The bell rings as I sit there lost in thought. It’s time for assembly and Morning Prayer. “I will try again at lunch time Jesus.” I whisper towards the gate. I cannot give up on Jesus; he never gave up on me even with giant nails in his hands. Besides, Nancy Drew wouldn’t give up. Neither would the Famous Five or the Secret Seven. O how I wish the Hardy boys were here, especially Frank. Or even just Scoobie Doo and Shaggy! Or is this a job for the Pink Panther? Mmm…deep in thought I trudge through the moist grass to join my Standard 3 Blue line up.
The moment the 12.30 bell goes, I grab my lunch box and dash towards my lookout point. “Am here Jesus,” I whisper as I sip on my light green juice bottle. I have no idea where my friends are. I don’t care either. My hopscotch days are over. Life has chosen me to do this serious thing. But alas! The gates do not open even once. The same as yesterday lunch time. It seems the only hope I have of breaking Jesus out is in the mornings. Where are Asterix and Obelix when you need them? One menhir and this gate would be flat! The Angelus bell rings and I guess Jesus will have to wait another day.
I imagine the old nuns fussing around him and feeding him chocolate cakes from morning to evening. If I wait too long He might get fat then nobody will recognize him from His pictures. Even Father Burke will not believe He is the Messiah. Again! What if He gets crucified once more? It would be my entire fault this time. I am trying so hard here. I feel so sad I want to cry. But I cannot disclose my mission. They wouldn’t believe me anyway. Only God believes me and He’s not here. But He is watching I know.
I manage to slip in between the closing gates the next morning. No Andrea, no Mother Superior, no Jesus. Just lots of giant rose bushes! I skilfully creep towards the brick house, treading softly and keeping to the shadows like Nancy Drew would. I just have to figure out which room they have locked Him in. It just then occurs to me that given that He walked on water surely He can kick down a door? I shake the thought away. No, not Jesus, He is a Gentleman. That is the exact moment when I walk straight into Sister Teresa. I cannot explain to her what I am doing in the Convent grounds. She grabs me by my ear and leads me out of the gate. Mother Superior herself does the same the next morning. Andrea threatens me with his broom on Friday morning.
And that is how I get to go home with a typed and stapled note for my Mother on Friday. The end of the worst week of my life. As Jesus grows fatter and fatter. Perhaps they have even cut and dyed His hair by now. Plus none of my friends are talking to me because of all my secretiveness. All the nuns now seem to be scowling and wagging their fingers at me. But worst of all? I have failed God. I am very sure I am going straight to hell!
The typed note apparently outlines my ‘odd behaviour.’ My Mother asks me what this “unhealthy fascination with the Convent I have developed” means? Do I want to be a nun? Am I trying to run away from home? My narrow shoulders slump under the weight of carrying the world. I break down and tell her everything. It doesn’t matter anymore. So what if I get a beating? Nothing is worse than the fires of hell.
I wearily tell her about the nuns who are cheating on Jesus with the Pope. I tell her about the Divine abduction and the delayed Second Coming. I explain how we need to go to the police and report Jesus missing. I have proof, you see, I know He is in that Convent! Why else do they keep it so locked up and never let any outsider in?
My Mother sits there and watches me for a while. I think she does not want to believe her child is insane. Normally she does not indulge my flighty imagination. But this is about Jesus. And he is taken very seriously in our household. Then she sends me to her room to fetch her Bible. She lays it open and patiently unveils the plot to me. She promises that when He comes, everyone will see Him at the same time. There will be trumpets and armies of angels guarding Him so nobody can kidnap Him or crucify Him again. And finally she swears that if He was in the Convent, St Michael would have broken every gate, every door and every window to break him out. That’s his job, to guard Jesus from crazy old women.
I go to bed early that Friday night happy but tired. It has been a hectic week. Saving Saviors is not for babies. I am very relieved to know that He was never in there but I still don’t trust those nuns one bit! I know they are hiding something and I must find out what it is!
That’s what good detectives do, we watch and wait. And we never give up. Every mystery must get solved sometime! I think I will call on Tin Tin and his dog for that one!
Image: Celine Nadeau via Flickr (modified)