Chapter Eight

The Clergy


The Wisconsin State Journal.

Friday, July 9, 1920.

“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Milwaukee proudly announces the ordination of Father McGuiver  a recent graduate of the Seminary of the Archdiocese in New York.  Growing up in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, Father McGuiver is knowledgeable of the Madison area, and will be right at home at the Cathedral of Saint Raphael here in Madison.”


              Friday morning was a fresh and bright at a morning could be.  Emil woke up a little early, and Rosie was spooned up against him.  His hand already was around her, and she was stirring just a little.  With a little finesse, the spooning was complete, and Rosie awoke to matrimonial bliss.  She had tried to sleep without her little bottle last night, for she knew that she would have to keep her wits about her today.  Matrimonial bliss was welcome last night.  She and Nadia had partook of a bottle of the Sicilian’s finest red wine, a gift from the Swede, who frequently was rewarded for his attention to the vehicles of the Sicilian’s fleet.  The four wine glasses were enough to relax her, and she was welcome to her husbands’ attention.  Sleep came early, and both Nadia and Emil knew enough to not twist fate by meeting in the hallway in the middle of the second floor that night.  Thus, Emil was feeling his oats that morning and sweetness ensued.  The two children had had an extra hour of listening to the radio that night, with the parents and Nadia, and both slept in.  Up in the attic, Nadia was finishing the last chapters of the Jack London book, “The Star Rover” and she was intrigued.  Where could she get some of those button things that the natives had supplied him with?  Laying on the top of the bed, she was not technically naked, but the shirt with no fastened buttons would have been considered merely a tease to any man remotely attached to the Russian.  Hearing the bed directly below make its noise, she silently went over to the floor directly over the light fixture attached to the ceiling.  Looking through the area where a knot hole was, strategically placed over the light fixture, she could see Emil’s butt working away, successfully if the mewing noises from Rosie were any indication.  Feeling a little lonely, due to her forced good behavior the night before, she retired to her bed and took care of her needs. 


              With that out of the way, and sounding like the activity downstairs had drawn to its natural conclusion, Nadia dressed.  Just a dress, nothing else, for that day looked to be a scorcher like so many in July, both here in the United States, and back in mother Russia.  Shoes completed the preparation for the day.  After making her way downstairs, she joined Rosie in the kitchen and set the table while the eggs and bacon did their time in the pay on the gas stove.  Amazing, the kitchen stove got its fuel from a pipe coming out of the wall.  No wood had to be cut, split, fetched, burned, and then emptied.  No wonder there were few cooks employed in the home, there was nothing to do but turn a nob and light a match, and the stove was ready. 


              Emil entered the kitchen, and Rosie turned, handing him a cup of coffee, fresh from the percolator on the back burner.  Nadia noticed that when she spun, the robe opened, and apparently there was nothing under the robe, at least above the waist.  Emil noticed, because that is what a man would do, even though just about 10 minutes ago, he had striped her out of her sleep wear and handed her the robe, with a wink.   Feeling more than a little naughty, Rosie put the robe on over nothing at all, for the robe was sufficient itself for the kitchen. 


              The two children entered, and told the adults of their dreams and adventures.  They had had full dreams after a night of radio adventure, and they remembered details that amazed the older people, not themselves far removed from childhood.


              The morning meal completed, Emil took a fresh cup of java to the front porch.  He always enjoyed the time alone on the porch, where he could organize his day at work.  This was Friday, and he would have to go to the bank to get the cash for the pay envelopes.  Lots of single dollar bills, and a couple of fives would pay the men for their week of work.  He heard Rosie head upstairs, to bath and brush, and to put on her dress for the day.  Nadia came out with her own cup of coffee, and sat on the other side of the table.  There was nothing to say about their enforced propriety the night before.  If no one found out, if no one got hurt, there was much pleasure and no personal expense.  This worked for both of them.  Emil took a five dollar note out of his wallet, and slipped it across the table to Nadia. Whispers had discussed this, and the amount was found to be agreeable to them both for the extra duties the Russian had undertaken.  Nadia smiled, and mouthed thank you, and tucked it into her dress.  Forgetting that she wore nothing under the garment, she took her hand out, with the money still in it, and both smiled at her mistake.  The dress was tailored with several pockets, and she had just tucked it money into one, when the children flew out the door and were gone down the front steps and around the house. 


It was almost time for the train, and they both enjoyed watching it come down the tracks.  Nadia did not have to monitor Artie this time, because his big sister was in attendance.  The noise the steam locomotive made was impressive, and it took several minutes for the peace to return.  Emil stood, empty coffee in hand, Nadia stood also, and much as she wanted to take him in her arms and press her chest to his, she knew that the banker was probably on his porch, and soon, the Swede would be leaving.  So, she took his coffee cup, and said good bye, and watched him get into the Buick Touring Car, start it with the amazing electric starter, select reverse, and roll down the street. 


Sitting back down, she finished her coffee.  Great stuff.  Soon enough, Rosie came down, freshly tubed and scrubbed, not unlike a new potato.  With a whiff of perfume, she was divine, and demurely dressed for public observation.  Sitting down, in the chair recently left by her husband, Emil, she addressed Tania.

“I have an appointment with the good priests at the Cathedral.  We are planning the social for the last Saturday in August.  A full event, there is a lot of planning and discussion.  I will be leaving soon, and perhaps won’t be back until mid-afternoon.  The ice man will be here around noon.  I frequently give him one of Emil’s beers, because it has been so hot.  You may also, if you wish.  Lunch should be easy, the icebox has ham and some chicken for sandwiches, or the children love the peanut butter.  You can wait for the laundry, we will start the Maytag tomorrow morning.”


Nadia nodded.  This was fine.  She had another book to investigate, and she needed to write some letters to the California names she had been given, hopefully to make contacts that would help her if she got there.  She also had found some cards, a deck of 52, and she had some games that she wanted to get used to, as well as handling the cards so that she could shift cards that she needed to the hand she was holding from a secure hiding place.


“Excellent, I will watch the children, and feed them promptly at noon.  Will Artie need a nap today?”


“Only if he wants.  If I try to bed him down, in the heat of the day, he is so cranky, much better to let me take a nap on his own under the bushes at the end of the lot, down by the tracks.  He takes an old horse blanket the Swede gave him down there and makes a tent, and uses another on the grass and seems to be quite content.”


“I see. That will be fine.” 


With that, Rosie picked up the bag she had, with her bible, and some papers in a folder. Making her way down the steps, she soon disappeared around the corner.  Nadia saw the trolley come over the railroad tracks on Harrison Street, using a bridge that looked too small to carry the load.  In just a few minutes it too was gone, and she could hear it start up from in front of the new building which would soon have the pharmacist and the new physician moved in.  Nadia wondered about the need for a doctor this far out.  How could there be enough sick people way out here for a man to keep an office open and make enough to support just himself, much less a family.  Curious, these Americans, but interesting, very, very, interesting.


On the trolley, Rosie shifted.  She was getting that feeling again.  Something between pleasure, excitement, and guilt.  But, that feeling was addictive, as addictive as that Laudanum.  She liked the feeling, and liked the treatment.  The ride went quickly, down Monroe Street, past the business district, and through the Green Bush area, where it was said most of the vice in Madison got its start.  Men and women alike, at this early hour were on the street.  Like yesterday, most of them looked like they were up to no good, but, they knew what they were doing, perhaps.  Onward to the student district, past Park Street and up to the Capital along State Street.  By this time, Rosie was breathing a little heavy, and parts of her body were starting to react to anticipation.  When the trolley was in front of the Park Hotel, she disembarked.  Walking to the corner, she turned right, and walked down West Main Street, past the alley in back of the Hotel, where frequently the laundry girls were taking their breaks and smoking.  Women, smoking, the imagination just went wild thinking what other vices these women took part in.


The Cathedral was in the next block.  Rosie had been coming here since she was a babe in her mother’s arms.  She had known all of the priests, and when she turned fifteen, her mother had arranged for her to do cleaning, laundry, and some cooking for the priests, she was pleased to be able to serve God, in this way, or any other way possible.


The work was light, the priests were not smokers, at least not much.  There were no liquor bottles scattered around the house as a cleaner might find in the houses of other non-cleric bachelors.  The laundry was straight forward, and much of the cooking was just preparing lunch.  Other women of the parish, especially the widows, took their turns, bringing a hot dish from their own home, or showing up early to cook in the priest’s kitchen.  She would be there, finishing the chores of the day, when the women would show up.  The food would be properly stored in the kitchen, in the stoves’ oven to keep warm on a low heat, or in the ice box, to keep safe until cooked.  The women would be offered confession by the priest, Father MacGyver, and the two would retire to the chapel, little more than a first floor formal dining room, with an altar, and kneelers behind which there was one long bench, flat on the bottom, with a cushion that was quite nice, soft, yet firm, stretching the full seven feet along the back wall. Because it would just be the women, and the priest, there was no need for the confessional’s privacy.  In the church, there would be many using the confessional, and the screens within would maintain a certain amount of privacy as the parishioners shared their deepest sins with the good father.  However, after being offered the sacrament of confession, face to face, all agreed that there was no point in hiding behind a screen in secret. 


Rosie had noticed that some of the women, the younger widows, dressed a little less churchlike, and a little more like Saturday night when they arrived for their confessions, to be followed with a meal with the confessor.  All had the smile, and the face of hopefulness, somewhat more looked like a woman on the prowl for a man, that a Catholic going to the man of God to confess their sins, and pronounce their love of God.  One time, Mrs. Gordon, a woman of 30, who had lost her husband suddenly just last year to an argument in the bar at the end of the three hundred block of West Main, just 200 feet from the house that Rosie had grown up in.  The argument was a stupid one.  One of the men was selling tickets for the Irish Sweepstakes, and Mr. Gordon, having bought tickets, announced that the sweepstakes were crooked, and anyone buying a ticket was a fool, and the seller of tickets was a crook, a liar, a thief, out to cheat honest working men of their money, and besides the point, they were probably English Irish, from Northern Ireland.  Now the seller, a local boy, nobody would identify to the police, even though Sargent O’Rourke, had taken meals with the boy and his family.  If nobody would say his name, there was nothing to charge anybody with.  All the people in the bar agreed that Mr. Gordon, although a good man, couldn’t hold his liquor, and even his wife suffered when he got a load of steam on.  This time, Steven, the seller of the tickets, who also was a soda jerk on State Street, and the pride of the neighborhood, for he was a student at the University, in Engineering, took exception to the insults of Mr. Gordon.  Words were exchanged, and those present said that Mr. Gordon through the first punch, a wild haymaker, that had it connected, would have changed the face of Steven, perhaps for all time.  But, unconnected as it was, the weight of the haymaker spun Mr. Gordon around, and he lost his footing and fell, hitting his head on the brass bar that was standard equipment on all saloons at that time.  The sound, like that of a ripe watermelon hitting a cement stoop, signaled to all the signaled to all the men, single, or not, that Mrs. Gordon would be soon on the market for male companionship.  Going next door to the bar owner’s home, the bartender called the police and the cops came around.  Nobody had seen who it was he was trying to hit, they all agreed that he lost his footing and fell, and nobody had seen nobody not hit him.  It was all his doing, and when would the wake and the service be?


Mrs. Gordon had climbed the steps to the rectory promptly at 3, an hour earlier than some of the other women of the parish.  The roasting pan, smelling wonderfully of brined corned beef, with the obligatory potatoes, cabbage, and carrots was carefully deposited in the over, with the heat set at 200 degrees.  Rosie was finishing washing the windows, something the priests looked forward to and insisted on being done in the afternoon, when the sun was low in the horizon, particularly in the spring and fall.  One of the women in the neighborhood, Madonna, freshly married, who was the house girl before Rosie took the position, pointed out to Rosie what the sun, strong if there was not a cloud in the sky, gave a perfect silhouette of a woman’s figure, if that woman was dressed for a warm day, with a thin cotton, or muslin dress.  The priests, men of God, still remained men, even if they were doing God’s work. 


Following that discussion, Rosie obtained a muslin dress from the Sears Catalog, and wore it when she was at the rectory. 


Following the stop in the rectory kitchen, Mrs. Gordon was invited to the chapel, and the priest closed the double doors.  The chapel was used rarely by the parish, and was used most by the priests either praying solely, or with guests.  Rosie had never seen the pocket doors closed.  Sliding silently out of the openings in the walls, she had not even noticed doors being there, being unfamiliar with the concept of doors that disappeared into walls. As they closed, she saw Mrs. Gordon go to the kneeler, wearing a summer dress, a muslin affair with big buttons down the front.  The words of the priest faded as the doors slide shut, but, if you went to the other door to the chapel, the one on the right of the altar, which opened into the side entrance of the rectory, if you went there you would find that there was a split in the wood of the door.  A split that someone had widened a bit, and if you went there, you couldn’t hear the words, for the speakers were almost 18 feet away, and not talking in your direction, but the view was like at the Capital Theater, at the Chaplin movies, where the organ played music, and the words spoken by the players were printed on cards on the screen, alternating with the players. 


The actions of priest and sinner were observable, and that itself was a sin, a sin that she should confess, but to who?  There was an entire rote of penance, and Rosie was herself thinking that this penance was preferred to a dozen “Our Father” prayers to be matched with a dozen “Mail Mary” prayers.  She had seen the neighbors back in the day, through the windows open on a sultry summer’s eve, with a full moon illuminating the southern exposure of the neighbor’s house.  Thinking of this, she almost giggled, thinking that the neighbor man and wife must have been playing priest and sinner, and he was driving the devil out. 


But now, now it was her turn.  No need for lugging a dinner uptown, but, it was her turn to visit the priests, for now there were two.  She wondered if the new priest was a full confessor, or if he used the prayers, and only the prayers to punish the sinners.  Well, time would tell.


As she walked up the stairs of the rectory, she was greeted by the good Father McDonald.  An older man, it was said that he had served the lord in many of the parishes of the Milwaukee diocese.  Rosie thought privately, that if the confessions he heard in those other parishes, were as good as the ones he heard in Madison, there was a good chance that incidence of sinning was up, or at least the reporting of such at the confessional.


Father McDonald greeted her at the door, and she was invited into the parlor to the left of the front door.  The soon to be occupied Chapel was to the right.  In the parlor, she found herself face to face with the now standing Father Flannigan.  She extended her hand in greeting, and he took it gently and smiling said.


“Good morning, I am Father Flannigan, and I will be helping Father McDonald with the tending of his flock.  I hope to see you at mass, we will now have services at 630 and 8 as well at 10 am on Sunday morning, and during the week,  we will have mass at 630 and also at 8 am.”


Father McDonald smiled at his new associate, ever the lord’s worker, letting the flock know when the services would be.  He wondered how soon he would have to share the widows and occasional unmarried woman who came to the rectory for Biblical advice.  For now, he was the spiritual leader, and taking the lead, escorted Rosie to the chapel.  Time enough for some private consultation and confession hearing, and assigning penance.


After almost an hour, the sliding doors opened.  Fr. Flannigan was out in the kitchen, having lemonade with the new housekeeper, another redheaded, green eyed colleen of the hearth.  This was Irish country, and the parents raised their children with a fear and respect for the cloth, even if the wearer was a bare six or seven years older than the child.  This child of god, Enya, by name, was about five foot eight inches in height, and from the looks of her, her mother had been a shapely girl also.  Despite her height, she was slender in the waist, and full in the bosom, although only about 16 years in age.  She listened with rapt attention as Fr. Flannigan discussed the first book of the Old Testament, the story of Adam and Eve, how they were born without original sin, and were pure, and as the purest of God’s children, were not aware of any need for covering their God given bodies.  The girl’s eyes widened as she realized that they went about their daily business, as God made them, with no shame, no clothing and no secrets of their bodies.  She had read this chapter of the bible, as all good students had, but the reality of Adam and Eve, and their acceptance of each other’s nudity was something that she had never thought about.  It was amazing, Eve could see all of Adams body, top to bottom, front and back, and Adam, well, Enya wasn’t sure if she would have been comfortable in the Garden of Eden, with Adam able to see, well, everything.  But as the thought about it, the first time might have been uncomfortable, but, like coffee, and whiskey and cigarettes, the first time was the difficult time, after a while it would probably be acceptable. 


The sound of the pocket doors opening into the central hallway was unmistakable.  Rosie and Father McDonald joined Father Flannigan and Enya in the kitchen.  Enya got two more glasses of lemonade for the new comers, and Rosie pulled a sheaf of papers out of her purse.  The plans were the plans for the same event last year, and Father McDonald noted that last year’s plans were fine for this year.  Thus, the event planning, the reason for the trip uptown, was presented, evaluated, and accepted in under a minute.  Shortly thereafter, pleasantries were again exchanged, and Rosie took her leave, with enough time to get to the stop for the trolley and enjoy an uneventful trip home. 


Over at the convent for the Cathedral of St. Raphael’s, Sister Michael Mary had concluded her afternoon prayers.  During the summer, there was little to do in the convent.  Of the six nuns on assignment to the Cathedral from the Mound at Sinsinawa, over by the junction of the mighty Mississippi River and the state line shared with Illinois, the mother-superior was in Sinsinawa, helping with the administrative paper work, or so they said, two were traveling to see distant family, one in New York City, the other in Seattle.  Of the three remaining, one was writing a book, and only left her room for meals, and bathing.  Of her, her location could always be ascertained by the banging of the typewriter, from sunup to sundown.  Sister Michael Mary had only the company of Sister Marie Clair.  Almost cut of the same bolt of cloth, subtle questions and answers had made it clear to both, that the other was a player.  Like many of the Sisters, in the suitcase under the bed, or on the shelf in the closet, the women had some street clothes.  It was found that Sisters travelling in religious garb were often the targets of drunks, or anti-religious zealots, some non-religious, some just of the belief that the nuns represented the wrong God.  For safety, if they dressed like a secretary, or a business woman, they were left alone.  If someone tried to bother them, they had the paperwork and brochures of the Lady Foresters, a fraternal group of Catholics who met socially, with the background justification of selling life insurance.  An intruder would be introduced to the insurance product being sold by the ladies, and in every case, would find another rail car to relocate to. 


‘Yes Sir, our Single Premium Universal Life Insurance Product is just the ticket for the financial safety we all desire in our lives.  Sir, do you realize just how much uncertainty there is in our lives?”


Sister Michael Mary had never used that line, but, it was there for introspection and potential use.  She and Sister Marie Clair had experimented, and like most women in their 20’s, there were some questions they had to have answered, and there were some experiences that they wanted to experience.  They had found that changing to their “real girl” clothing and sneaking out the convent delivery entrance under the cover of darkness, they could duck into the cathedral’s side door, right next to the convent, and then exit the cathedral by the front door.  Just two young women, perhaps there for choir practice, perhaps there praying to god for deliverance from the life of singlehood.  There must be a couple of men, good marriage material, for two such divine women!


Once out, and on the street, the two would go to the milk bar kitty corner to the cathedral, or sometimes walk down State Street and eye the students, especially during the school year.  Now, in the summer, the options were the milk bar, or taking the trolley down to Regent Street, to the Green Bush, usually to Josie’s speakeasy.  This place was known for having booze that was Canadian, and the beer wasn’t brewed in the basement of the house next door, it was probably from the Faurenbach Brewery just over by the train depot.  You could drink there, and not get sick or die, unless you drank way too much.  Earlier in the week, Sister Marie Claire had a date with a student at one of the soda places halfway down State Street.  Not wanting to stay at home in the convent, and listen to the relentless pounding of the typewriter, Sister Michael Mary had changed to the white blouse and skirt worn by the dozens of telephone switchboard operators who worked at the Commonwealth Edison Telephone Company central switching building, right in back of the Park Hotel. 

That night, after she made her way the roundabout path into the milk bar, down the trapdoor, down the hallway, she had ascended, almost like Jesus, into the liquor side of the milk bar, the speakeasy.  She had a taste of the beer, and decided on the Canadian, with some seltzer from the bottle.  She had spotted the two dandies, and took a liking to either.  Her heart sunk, with they picked up one of the professional women, and the poor woman whose husband always beat her.  Once again, she was in the bar, looking for someone to pay her for her attentions, so that she could pay to bail her husband out of jail.  After some songs, the four disappeared, but within an hour, they were all back. 


Imagine the surprise of Sister Michael Mary, when the shorter, called Michael, came over and bought her the next drink.  Dance was next, and Sister Michael Mary was as good as any other woman in her mid-twenties.  She danced first with Michael, then with the man identified at the older brother, Matthew.  They said something about being in Madison for “Financial Business,” whatever that was.  After dances were concluded for the night, the band packed up, the two financial geniuses invited Sister Michael Mary back across the street to the Park Hotel, where they had a bottle in their room.  More dancing was in order, the first one, then the other singing, rather well, indeed, some of the songs of the day.  Sister had had perhaps too much to drink, when she noticed that her buttons, and those of the dance partners were become unfastened.  Things picked up quickly, and she was soon in the bed, the full sized bed, and the only bed in the room.  Imagine the surprise that she should have felt, when she felt between Michael’s legs, and found only smoothness.  Imagine the surprise, when she looked, and noticed for the first time, that Michael had boobs.  Small breasts, but, quite firm, and well-shaped, with nipples that were firm, and begging for attention, as were Sister’s.  She knew that Michael had been in jail over the weekend, but not for any crime.  They had told her that they were the guardians of the cash that had been raised for the construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright building on the shores of Lake Monona.  Much of the money had been raised, and they had a plan to invest the money with a firm of high reputation that they knew of in New York City.  This firm was a very successful investor, with guaranteed returns of at least 20% per year.  Michael had been secure in the jail at night, and the banker’ house during the day, escorted by the Polish assistant jailer.  Once at the jailer’s house, the left leg was secured with leg irons to the leg of the fainting coach in the living room.  Attended by the banker’s wife during the day, at 5 o’clock sharp, the black truck showed up, and the Polish assistant jailer picked up Michael and returned him to the jail.  This was by agreement, and the duration was only from the time of the transfer of the cash, Thursday, at noon, until noon on the following Monday, when the confirmation of the receipt of the cash was wired to Western Union’s office in Madison, and then bicycled to the office of the banker, where the mayor, the banker, Michael, and the jailer were waiting.  Free at last, Michael went to the Park Hotel, and spent the evening with Matthew.  Interesting times did ensue.

The next morning, Sister Michael Mary awoke in the finest room at the Park Hotel.  She was feeling very sick, from the booze, and also confused about the happenings of the previous night.  She arose, naked from the bed, and saw the empty bottle on the table, holding down a note.  Reading it she saw, “We both enjoyed meeting you last night, and enjoyed you to the fullest.  May your life be as full of joy as our meeting was last  night.    Wishing you a full future of experiences.  Thanks.  Signed. Michelle Ponzi, and Matthew Madoff.”


Making her way down the back stairs, Sister Michael Mary made her way to the Cathedral, entering it just like a sinner would.  After a time in a pew, on a kneeler, she made her way to her room on the third floor of the convent, and collapsed, silent until supper time.  



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