A Day in the Life of a Hammer
Forty-seven ninth graders found their places against the wall. One of them, a stranger to all here, had already decided she’d be changing her name. Here she could recreate herself. She felt the cool of the painted cinder block wall press through the crisp white cotton of her oxford shirt. Her wool-blend kilt
“Good morning, darling freshmen.”
The nun’s voice came as a shock. She had a southern accent? Up here, just north of Philadelphia?
“My name is Sister Dinah, and I teach seniors. Why they put me here advising your homeroom I am sure I shall never know. Now, as I am to take roll on this here your first day, won’t y’all humor me as I put your disorderly, immature selves into ascending alphabetical order?”
The newest of the new girls watched her new classmates and waited herself to be called. Jocks with broad shoulders that practically screamed “JV football” sauntered to their aluminum desks. They were followed by high-haired girls, their kilts rolled up as high as they could go without getting demerits–at least on this the first day. Nobody but the new girl seemed to have razor nicks on the knees showed of between the raised hems and the slouchie socks.
A tall, slender girl–the only black girl in class–stood away from the wall and took a seat. Her kilt hem was right at her knee, but she walked as if there were three men walking behind her. Emanuelle Valcour looked everyone she passed in the eye–and smiled at them as if she knew something they didn’t and she certainly was not going to tell.
A few more names were called, then the new girl’s turn came.
“Mary Cate,” she heard herself blurt.
The nun’s eyebrows shot up beneath the border of her black veil.
Blushing, she corrected herself. “I mean, I go by Mary Cate.”
Brown eyes glittering. Mouth contorting into a shape that followed the curve and jut of a hammerhead.
Blushing even harder, she added, “I mean… Sister?”
Everyone laughed, even, unlike Mary Cate’s grade school principal, the nun.
“Have a seat, then, Mary Cate.”
The next seat was next to Emanuelle.