The Black Veiled Monster



Randy Cobleigh

For five long bone-crunching years, I was confined to prison, one that had no equals and showed no mercy. There was no thought of escape and I knew not even God would help me, because this was his domain. The warden and all the hand-picked guards were His personal representatives in this facility. This was a Catholic school in the early nineteen sixties, and I was stuck there without reprieve. The nuns were said to be Christ’s Brides. I never could understand why they would marry a dead man and why in the world The Lord would want a plethora of NFL linebackers to be his personal harem. Possibly, out of the thirty nuns that ran the school, five or less could be considered pleasant to look at. Now that’s not to say they were ugly. No not really. They just weren’t appealing or pleasant to look at except in a motherly or even a grandmotherly sort of way. They were a tough bunch. Nobody got anything over on them. I honestly can’t say that any one of them was sharper than another. Nope, huh-uh. They all had eyes that could penetrate you and pluck those thoughts right out of your head.

They were sisters of the B.V.M. which was an abbreviation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but most of the students called them the Black Veiled Monsters. “God will strike you dead with a lightning bolt.” That was their motto. It applied to any circumstance that was out of reach of the black board pointer, yard stick and twelve inch ruler. But that was really not the end of it. Many times my friends and I were slapped or sent to the pricipals office for swats. That tiny little lady who sat behind the principal’s desk was no bigger that my ten year old sister, but she could make your backside blister and your anus pucker in defense of the pain for the next two days.  I recall on early spring days the nuns would listen to local baseball games. You had better be on your best behavior and not interupt those games. In the spirit of baseball my eighth grade teaching nun could throw a chalk eraser or even a small piece of chalk and easily miss the little kids in the front four rows and hit me between the eyes. After I was pelted with either item she stared at me until my mouth flew open as I was gasping for air. My giant maw was stretched so far out that she always made the same comment. “Nice looking esophagus, Mr Cobleigh.” The fact that I was hiding behind a bigger boy and the nun waited until the precise moment to strike like a hunter on a tree stand. When I barely peeked out from behind the big kid, it was indeed as if lightening had struck. Whap. Right between the eyes.

The last year I spent as an inmate of this suburban parochial prison, found me under the watchful, bulging eyes of Sister Mary Angelica. The term “Angel” implies a certain amount of peace, beauty and well, a loving nature. This was not Sister Angelica. She stood an entire head above most of us eighth grade boys, which would have made her a six footer and carried three hundred pounds. She was a forty five year old cross between a linebacker and a Marine drill seargent. Dressed daily in long black flowing robes and a white heavily starched fabric known as a Habit, that wrapped the face tightly enough that it looked pinched and puckery, like a prune. All of this was covered with a long black veil that hung from the top of her head to the middle of the back. In truth she was very good as an umpire behind home plate during our school yard games. Sometimes she would take flight and follow a runner to first base just to make sure he had been legally tagged out. That woman could run like the wind on and off the field. I can attest to that fact because I was the stupid kid that tried putting one over on her. A beautiful spring morning. The sun was bright and the day seemed full of the promise that all young boys want, pretty girls. There was a slight problem though. These pretty girls weren’t the flesh and blood type but in a brown lunch bag on pornographic playing cards. I was carrying two lunch bags up the stairs to the second floor classroom and through the door guarded by our own heavenly representative, Sister Angelica.

“Extra hungry today Mister Cobleigh?” she asked , giving my dual lunch sacks a visual inspection.

“No sister,”  I replied as my right hand tightened around the top of the old wrinkled bag. Sister Angelica mut have sensed my fear and anxiety as I stood there trmembling and wondering who would get me first. God or Sister Angelica. God wasn’t fast enough. With the speed of a cobra, Sister made a lunge for my sack of naked women just as I jumped backwards. Miniature naked ladies spewed into the air and landed on the floor all around us, exactly the same as a game of 52 card pickup.

The nuns eyes turned to flaming crucifixes as her index and middle finger lodged securely in my nostrils. I slid down the hallway on my heels as she drug me to the pricipals office. After a satisfied retelling of the episode, Sister Angelica grabbed the swat board from the Mother Superior’s hand and asked with a maniacal grin, “Mother May I?”

I still remember those swats and those feisty women to this day. I still wonder if they had many a laugh at their students antics.

Mr. Logbook



Yesterday or today, it doesn’t really seem to matter. They all seem to melt into the same uneventful life of a seventy-year old. Don’t misunderstand me. I love being alive and smelling the fresh air and hearing the birds sing early in the mornings when I step out onto my back porch.  But every now and again my imagination runs rampant much like the old story of Walter Mitty. Somedays I would like to feel some excitement or do something that makes my neck hairs tingle as they rub-up against my collar. Then the real telltale symptom of that ultra-whoosh and swoosh growl of excitement is when the stomach gets into that nauseous, sick frog jumping around behind the belly button and kicking the lower ribs with its tiny green webbed feet, feeling. You know the one I mean, I hope. But at my age, how do I get that? I could become a criminal and rob banks, I can guarantee that would be exciting, but I can also guarantee I would get caught and end up in jail. That would be much more excitement than I could handle. Having an affair is certainly out, because I’ve been married now for over forty years and I just won’t go there, at all. What does that leave? Well now, I am losing weight and getting back to my handsome self. That is so much a good thing, I can’t begin to quantify it.

I don’t really get it. I sat down here wanting to write a story of fiction and I end up blathering on about myself. I used to think I could be one of the great novelists of all time. So far, my imagination hasn’t taken me into orbit where I can see the future of a story far enough ahead to begin to write it. I have, however come up with a couple of titles that I like. I do that sometimes. Even as far back as my twenties and thirties when I wrote songs, that was a method I used. Write the title first and get an idea of where to go. So, I’ve been trying to create a logo for my blog, and I came up with this saying which I think is also a good book title:

“Life is Uphill in All Directions.” I really like that as a logo statement, but is it story material? We will soon see. The other title I like is: “The Sanity of My Insanity.” So, I don’t know, I like them both and I guess that means they will both be given a chance to live and escape my mind and jump onto a written page. They should feel good about themselves, because now, they will no longer be inanimate thought in the ethers of my mind but gain a certain amount of life and fluidity. Certainly, it sounds like I might have a small amount of insanity floating around in there, but I also have imagination and coax it to push out ideas.

The last couple of days have not gone so well for my writing. I’ve been frustrated, not with my ability to write new things but with the technical aspects of computers, websites and blogging. All I want to do is write and talk about what I feel and think and what stories are lurking around in my head, seeking a release into the world. Then the little things and secretarial issues jump out and kick me around. I’m just an old man that used to do construction work and tell other workers what to do. What do I really know of this techie stuff? Well more than many my age, this is true. But, lordy mercy great globs less than today’s kids.

Life is Uphill

Not only that but when times are tough I tell myself that life is uphill in every direction. That also is a good reason to take a fork in the road. Broaden my horizons with new discoveries. One of my best finds has been what I like to call “The river of Love and Knowledge. ” if you can match your vibratory rate to that vibration that is delivered in the ethers…you can float in that marvelous river. Inspiration flows through me and onto the written page so easily in that state. I imagine that most creative persons have similar experiences.

Randy Cobleigh