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06 December 2007 @ 03:10 pm

When I was in the 6th grade we used have something called 'Story Time'. Every random Friday the mother of one of the students would come in and read to us a selected piece of writing. I never knew who decided on the material whether it was the teacher or the student’s mother, but it was always unknown to the class what would be read. I don’t think it was meant to be a mystery, they just didn’t have much respect for us as people. Still it was something I always looked forward to. When you go to a nun-infested school like I did, any time a woman without a habit on stood in front of the class it was always a less intimidating and friendlier environment.


There was one particular Story Time that has always stayed with me because of what it taught me about how information is presented.  On this Friday the guest speaker was Mrs. Burns. Mrs. Burns was the mother of 2 students in my school, but not in my class. The school had eight grades and as I recall both of the Burns boys were younger than me, so I didn’t know them. I had just ‘seen them around’. And I had never met their mother and had no idea what she looked like.


It was around 2:00 that afternoon when the teacher said, “Class I’d like to introduce you to our guest for this afternoon, Mrs. Burns. She will be reading our story for today.” As I looked up, this woman walked in. She was about 5’ 3”, dark haired, short dress, blue-eyed, and absolutely, unbelievably, indescribably, stunningly, beautiful!! You have to remember, I was in a building where most of the women were nuns, and outside of Hollywood nuns are NEVER beautiful. NEVER! The Audrey Hepburn/Deborah Kerr/Sally Field/Mary Tyler Moore/Julie Andrews nun is a complete lie! Women who look like that are NEVER nuns! NEVER, NEVER, NEVER! I know! I went to Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, and Catholic college. ALL had nuns and NONE were prettier than a dog’s ass!


Anyway, I was sitting in the very front of the class, and I just recall being transfixed by this woman’s beauty. She had a real Jackie Kennedy/Suzanne Pleshette quality about her. Sophisticated, graceful, and HOT!


And her EYES! As penetrating and brilliant as two stars shooting out of a dark night sky. I was absolutely enraptured by her! Good God Almighty was she beautiful!.. did I mention she was HOT?!


She politely walked to the podium with a book in her hand, opened it to a selected section and began to read. At first I couldn’t get beyond Mrs. Burn’s beautiful face and her soft-spoken, disarming voice, to actually hear the story she was telling us. But as I started to pay attention I heard her describing a “sunny day”, where “children were playing”, and “people were going about their daily routine”.  She was describing to us a tranquil and ordinary setting, not unlike the town and people where we were living.


Then the serene picture she described began to change.


Suddenly, she told us, a plane was flying over head.  Then, she told us, the plane opened it’s hatch. Next there was something falling downwards toward this serene location and these peaceful people. And all the people below could do was to look above helplessly.


It soon became clear what it was that was falling, as the whistling of the free-falling bomb got louder, plunging furiously to the town and people below.


The story Mrs. Burns was reading to us was the story of Hiroshima. At 12 years of age, it was a story I had never heard before. And as she continued to describe the situation, of the people who had their “shadows burned into the ground”, who had “instantly been evaporated”, or those who were “watching as their skin fell off”, I couldn’t help but visualize the images she described. She made it seem as common place as if it was happening right in our town. Yet she showed no emotion, showed no horror in her voice; she just related to us what happened very matter-of-factly.


I never stopped staring at this woman. Not from the second she entered the room. First it was because of her enormous beauty that to this day I’ve never forgotten and then because of her shocking story which also has stayed with me in such an impressionable and formidable way. As she left, I stared at her smiling face as she thanked us all for allowing her to visit.


And then she was gone.

And we never saw Mrs. Burns again.


I don’t know if there’s a lesson to be learned from the Mrs. Burns incident. If there is, it probably has something to do with discovering a powerfully unpleasant truth, while simultaneously being distracted by something on an extremely pleasurable level. I’m sure it wasn’t the school’s intention to have such a gorgeous woman relate to us such a horrific reality about our government (as sort of a sugar-with-medicine way of making it palatable), but I have never, ever forgotten what a disorienting mindfuck that was!


Mrs. Burns, tell me another story…


Current Music: James Brown: The Singles Volume 3: 1964-1965