the short story project


Linda Kwong

Three Persons

Oh no. Her itchy grey wool knee socks were rolling down her thin legs. Again. Everyone’s socks stayed up. Why not hers.

The veil on her head was made of the same itchy red and black tartan plaid as her uniform, a jumper. She was only in 3rd grade. In 7th grade she would be able to wear a skirt of the same awful tartan plaid, but with a plain white blouse. This was because the girls at this age were growing breasts and wearing bras, her best friend Monica’s big sister once told he. This seemed both impossible and terrifying at the same time.

The spring air was sweet and breezy that morning in 1969. They all stood in two lines as the Arch Bishop walked between the students softly tapping the bottom of his staff on the grass with each long step.

“Oh, I get it,” said the girl in a hushed whisper to Monica. “He’s like a Shepard.” 

“Shhhh Anne,” Monica warned, looking down and sideways for any sign that Sister Marie had heard them.

Anne liked their teacher, Sister Marie, and didn’t want to disappoint her by misbehaving. Sister wore so many layers of clothes that Anne could only see her freckles and her warm, friendly brown eyes. Sister’s face was completely framed in a square of black and white.

And oh boy. Sister Marie could really play kick ball. She was the only nun who played with the students at recess. She could really kick that ball far, rounding the bases in a blur of black and white.

“I’d better listen now,” Anne thought, as a bee buzzed by, “Does the Bishop know I’m not listening. I know God does. He hears everything,” she whispered to herself, feeling guilty.

She truly wanted to watch, but feared trying to stand on her tippy toes, lest she attract the attention of Sister Marie, or worse, the principal, Sister Ignatius. All Anne could see was the top of the Bishop’s pointed purple and gold crown. He was talking in a low voice. 

Suddenly, he cleared his throat loudly and spoke in deeper tones so all could hear, saying, “A reading from the Holy Bible, Isaiah Chapter 28, Verse 16. ‘Therefore, this says the Lord God: Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.'”

Anne felt proud. This was her church and her school being blessed by the Bishop. Her Dad made corn-on-the-cob for the spring picnics. He used fishing nets to grab the corn from a huge vat of boiling water in the church kitchen. The other Dads lifted their cans of beers and told him, “Here’s to you Bob! Smart thinking!”

Finally, the ceremony was over and the Bishop got into a big black car. Sister Marie instructed the children to file back into their classroom in a neat row, shortest to tallest. No talking. Stand straight. Eyes ahead.

Back in the classroom, Anne and her friends quickly untied their veils, folded them neatly and tucked them inside their desks. Sister told them they could have some quiet reading time, eat their lunches from their lunch boxes and then have an extra 10 minutes of recess for behaving so well at the ceremony.

Anne pulled out her book, “Harriet the Spy.” She loved this book because Harriet’s everyday lunch was tomatoes and mayonnaise on white bread. Anne asked her Mom to make that sandwhich for her every day too, but her Mom said, “No, once a week is enough.”

As Anne tried to read, she noticed that something was wrong with her brain. She kept reading the same line over and over again, “Life is a struggle and good spy goes in there and fights.” But she really couldn’t focus on what it meant.

A God question was bothering her. Sister had told them this week that God was three persons in one: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. How could this be?

She read the line again in her book, “…a good spy goes in there and fights.” Okay, so Anne was going to fight by being brave and asking Sister her God question.

At recess, she ran up to Sister. But, standing before her, she couldn’t quite get the words out. Sister Marie looked at her with concern, instinctively scanning for skinned knees. 

“What’s wrong Anne? Did you get hurt?”

“No, Sister,” Anne replied, looking down at her scuffed up black-and-white saddle shoes. “I have a question to ask you.”

“Anne, look at me and ask your question,” Sister said not unkindly.

“I don’t understand how there are three persons in one God,” Anne told her.

Sister looked at her, “I will tell you a story. A long time ago, there was a little boy on a big beach. As the sea surged and the waves curled under, the little boy was going back and forth with a cup. He would fill the cup with sea water and then empty it into a hole he had dug in the sand. He was trying to put the sea in the hole. Back and forth. Back and forth.”

When Sister stopped, Anne said solemley, “My Daddy grew up near a big beach in Maine. We go every summer to see my Grandma and Grandpa.”

“Yes,” said Sister. “So you know how big the sea is, Anne. And we will never understand how there are three persons in one God. Just like that little boy who kept trying to put the big sea into a hole. God asks us to believe, so we do.”

Anne replied politely, “Thank you Sister,” and ran off to join a game of tag still quite uncertain of the truth. 

That next weekend was Anne’s turn to pick where they would go for their “Daddy Adventure.”  She and her little brother Greg took turns each week choosing somthing fun to do with Dad.

I want to go the beach,” declared Anne, when her Dad asked them at dinner on Friday. Dad said, “Of course, but it’s still too cold to swim, Anne.”

On Saturday morning, they arrived at the beach and Greg took off, running up and down the beach looking for shells and rocks and horseshoe crabs. Anne carefully unfolded a crumpled dixie cup from her pocket, dug a hole in the sand and went back and forth to the sea, filling the hole with water. Back and forth.