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CHALLENGE: Written as part of the 24 Hours Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Larkhall Intake Blues
A Sister Mary Grammatica Adventure

By Jillo


The British version of a paddy wagon came to violent halt within the fortress-like walls of HMP Larkhall. A uniformed guard moved quickly to the door at the back of the van and unlocked it.

"Just a few today, darlin'," said the driver, eyeing the pretty matron as he leaned out the door of the cab.

"Well, come on!" shouted a stout blonde woman as she shoved aside the younger guard and reached inside to pull out a hapless new inmate by the arm. "Any slower and you'd be crawlin'! Are ya waitin' for tea?"

"Tea, miss?" asked a barely legal youngster, smirking as she stepped into the prison yard, the overcast day making her squint after the almost utter darkness of the van.

"Oh yes, and crumpets," P. O. Hollamby sneered. "My arse. . . ," she muttered as the young offender passed her, clutching the clear plastic bag containing her possessions.

Officer Hollamby peered into the van. "Well, what have we here?" she asked, stepping back from the opening to allow the next new inmate to emerge from the darkness. The older woman looked up at the ancient stones of Larkhall Prison, taking in the blank windows behind the bars, the water stains blackening the stones near the drain pipes, the muted green of the lawn inside the walls. Curious, thought the woman, it reminds me a bit of the convent . . . .

"Well, yer ladyship! Are you going to stand there all day like a struck heifer or are you going to come down out of there?" Office Hollamby looked over the black and white of the woman's habit, taking in the white of the wimple against the black of the veil.

"You may call me 'Sister'," replied the nun imperiously. "I am called 'Sister Mary Grammatica'."

"You may call me 'Miss Hollamby'," said the P. O., pursing her lips. "And I'll call you what I call the rest of that lot in there—criminal!"

To the raucous laughter of the driver and the other female officer, Sister Mary Grammatica followed Sylvia Hollamby toward her new cell.

She was led through the prisoner intake process, which included a humiliating body cavity search. The shame of revealing her body to these . . . these prison guards was almost more than the poor dear old nun could bear. But as bad as the indignity of lying upon the examination table with her feet in the proverbial stirrups was, even worse were the snide comments about not having had any visitors "down there" for a while or other attempts at humor at her expense. Perhaps the most ignominious was having to endure that crack about "having a go at a 'real' virgin" or some such obscenity. Sister Mary Grammatica sniffed as she straightened her wimple. Hmmmph! If they only knew. She smiled a secret smile at the thought of her "special friend," Sister Mary Participia. But just as quickly her pleasure at the thought of Participia vanished as she realized that her dear, dear friend was far away, safe at the Convent of the Society of Grammarians for Jesus, back home, in America . . . . Oh, if only she had listened to her traveling companions and stayed on the Continent. France, at least, was a Catholic country. But no. She'd had to cross the channel! She'd had to wash ashore on this heathen Protestant island! Tintern Abbey. She'd had to see Tintern Abbey. Or what was left of it. Damn this love of British literature of hers! She crossed herself at her minor oath. If only she'd just opened her Norton and reread the poem! She'd lugged the heavy thing across the Atlantic with her at her own expense. Now, here she was in this God-forsaken hell-hole among who knew what kind of savages. It was all a misunderstanding, really. How was she to know that smoking was still permitted in pubs here? And, really, if the odious man puffing away on that awful cheroot hadn't told her to get her knickers out of their twist and sit back and enjoy her bacon butty, she'd never have hauled off and slugged him with her Norton. Again, a simple lack of communication. The magistrate had seen things differently and, well, here she was.

She sighed as she was led, clutching her meager possessions to her, into the general population of G-Wing. Yet another humiliation! The hoots and cat-calls seemed to go on forever. A tall, blonde, sharp-faced woman wearing a tight-fitting black leather jacket leaning against a cell doorway crossed her arms over her chest and said to a girl sitting at the table near her, "Looks like old Bodybag's found someone with a more pinched face than hers!" More hoots.

"Hey, Sister!" a bottle-blonde woman who was painted like the strumpet she probably was called. "What's black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white and red? A nun falling down a flight of stairs!" Har har.

"All right! Shut it, the lot of you!" cried Bodybag as the laughter rang through the cell block.

Officer Hollamby showed Sister Mary Grammatica into her cell and introduced her to her cellmates, if a smirking "mind yer manners; there's a holy one here now" could count as an introduction.

"Get 'er!" said a slender blonde young woman with startling blue eyes and a perpetual scowl on her thin lips. "Guess yer not 'oldin' any gear."

"Excuse me?" asked Sister.

"Shut it, Zan," said Denny, the girl she'd seen talking to the tall blonde woman in black. Then she turned to look the nun up and down speculatively. "Haven't crutched anything, 'ave you?"

"I'm sorry?" she responded.

"Daft, idn't it?" smirked the blonde girl.

"What are you in for?" The deep, warm tones caused Sister to turn to the cell door. A tall, dark-haired woman in a white cotton hoodie looked at her kindly as she stood in the doorway.

"Assault, I think," replied the nun. "But it's all just a misunderstanding."

"It always is," smiled the tall woman. "I'm Nikki. Come on. I'll show you around."

"I'm Sister Mary Grammatica," replied the nun.

"You're kidding, right?" asked Nikki.

Sister stopped in her tracks and looked up at the dark-haired woman. "Why would I do that?" she asked.

"Right," sighed Nikki as they resumed their walk. This new one was going to be loads of fun. "Come on. Tonight's karaoke night. Let's go get a good seat."

Karaoke. It was worse than teaching those seventh-graders. It was worse than correcting papers. It was hell. Sister Mary Grammatica sighed. Well, another cross to bear. She brightened at the thought that she'd always loved to sing. Perhaps it wouldn't be all bad. She knew she was a knockout at "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" She linked her arm through the startled Nikki's and smiled up at her.

"Tell me, my child. Do you like Wordsworth?"

The End

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