Sister Rachel Armageddon
Late on a Saturday afternoon, Ralphie and Quentin sat in a back booth at Johnny’s Place in South Philly, drinking whiskey out of straight glasses. They’d had to move to the back, since more and more the boozehounds who always hung around the bar had started to bug Ralphie and ask him for favors.
For a few minutes, Quentin had been trying to convince Ralphie of the superiority of the Beatles over the Rolling Stones.
“I really don’t give a shit,” said Ralphie.
“Both Lennon and McCartney were great songwriters,” said Quentin. “Either one of them could write a great tune, a great lyric, and it would be a hit song.”
“So the fuck what?”
“So what? So, I’ll tell you so what—the Stones are a one note band. All their songs sound the same—it’s fucking Mick Jagger prancing around, pretending like he’s some nigger, pouting his huge ugly lips, and whining.”
Ralphie sighed and took another drink of straight whiskey.
“I keep telling you,” he said, “I don’t give a fuck. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the fucking Beach Boys, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass for any of them. They all mean shit to me.”
Quentin winced like he’d tasted something terrible. “The Beach Boys? Are you kidding me? We’re talking about the Beatles versus the Rolling Stones. The Beach Boys don’t even enter the picture.”
“Let me make it plain,” said Ralphie. “I don’t give a shit.”
Quentin frowned and took a drink of whiskey. “You’re funny, Ralphie, you know it? You don’t like any of the things everybody else likes. You know what I was thinking? That you’re sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only without the Dr. Jekyll part.”
“You say some stupid shit sometimes,” said Ralphie. “We’ve been friends a long time, but once in a while I just want to beat your fucking head in with a baseball bat.”
Quentin nodded. “Yeah, that’s kind of what I was talking about just now.”
Ralphie looked over to see a blond girl with whorish make up staring at him from across the room. She wore a jean skirt and a black tube top. Ralphie frowned.
“Who’s that?” he said to Quentin.
Quentin shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Why’s she staring at me?”
“I don’t know that either,” said Quentin.
Ralphie waved to her to come over to the table. The girl looked around, then pointed to herself. Ralphie nodded, and the girl started across the room.
“What’s your name?” said Ralphie, as she stepped up to them.
“Sheri-Lynn,” she said, and she had a cute Southern accent.
“Where you from?” said Quentin. “Delaware?”
She shook her head. “I was born and raised in North Carolina,” she said. “I been here a few years now.”
“What do you want?” said Ralphie.
“Well,” she said. “I heard you’re the guy to come to around here, you know, when you can’t go to the cops.”
Ralphie grinned and nodded and leaned back in the seat. “What if I am?” he said.
“I was kind of wondering,” she said, looking at the floor.
“Wondering what?” said Ralphie. “Spit it out.”
“I was wondering if you wanted to be my manager.”
“You know, my pimp,” she said, glancing around.
“Shit,” said Ralphie, grinning wider. He looked at Quentin. “You imagine that? Me, a pimp?”
Quentin laughed. “Hell, yeah, you’d make a great pimp! Why don’t you do it, Ralphie?”
Ralphie looked back at the girl. “I don’t know anything about pimping.”
“There really ain’t nothing to it,” said the girl. “You just got to look out for me and make sure nobody takes advantage of me or hurts me, that kind of thing, and I give you a cut of my earnings.”
“Yeah?” said Ralphie. “How much?”
“That’d be up to you, but it’s usually about half.”
“Hey, that ain’t bad,” said Quentin.
“Plus, you get to fuck me whenever you want,” said the girl.
Ralphie looked her up and down. “Yeah, I don’t know.”
“And you can beat me if I get out of line,” she said.
“Yeah?” said Ralphie. “That’s part of the arrangement?”
She nodded. “Sure is. It’s part of the pimp/whore relationship. Has been for ages.”
“That sounds pretty good,” said Quentin.
“It’s tempting,” said Ralphie. “But I don’t think so. I got too much other shit to do right now.”
“Okay,” said the girl, hanging her head.
Ralphie let out a sigh, looking at her. “Tell you what.”
“Yeah?” she said, looking up at him.
“If anybody bothers you, just let me know. Maybe I’ll run them off for you.”
“Oh, thanks, Ralphie. Thanks.”
She hurried back to the front bar.
“I really think you ought to go into pimping,” said Quentin. “I’d give you a hand with it. I know Pete would love to help out, too.”
“Nah,” said Ralphie, waving his hand. “Too much trouble.”
“Uh-oh,” said Quentin, looking across the room. “Look who’s here.”
Ralphie glanced over to see a guy they grew up with, Sam, standing in the same spot the prostitute had been standing in, scanning the room. As soon as he spotted Ralphie, he came hurrying over.
In high school, Sam had been in the marching band and played chess, and the rumor had always been that the gym teacher sodomized him. Ralphie hated his guts.
“Hey Ralphie!” said Sam, walking up to the table.
Quentin jumped out of his seat and blocked Sam from getting any closer.
“Just hold up there, Sam,” he said.
“I want to talk to Ralphie,” said Sam.
“Well, maybe Ralphie don’t want to talk to you.”
“It’s important,” said Sam.
Ralphie drank down the whiskey in his glass.
“If you waste my time, Sam,” he said. “I’m going to beat the hell out of you.”
“I swear, it’s not a waste of your time,” said Sam.
“Okay,” said Ralphie with a wave of his hand. “Let him by.”
Quentin stepped aside, and Sam approached the table.
“It’s about a job,” said Sam. “You know my Uncle Ulysses, the pharmacist?”
“What about him?” said Ralphie.
“He’s got this extra large shipment of pain medication in his store right now. I forget what they’re called, but they’re popular on the street. He lives overtop the store, but he went to the Poconos this weekend, so I thought we could break in there and steal them, you and me. They’d be worth a lot of money!”
“I told you not to waste my time,” said Ralphie, sliding out of the booth.
He punched Sam in the face, sending him to his knees. Ralphie bashed him on the side of the head, and kicked him in the guts as he lay on the floor. Sam curled up in a fetal position, whimpering. Ralphie stomped on his hand, breaking several fingers.
Ralphie sat back down in the booth, breathing hard.
“Get him out of here,” he said to Quentin.
Quentin waved to Al, one of the boozehounds, to help him, and the two of them lugged Sam out of the bar.
Ralphie signaled to Charlie the bartender, and Charlie brought a bottle of whiskey to the table and refilled their glasses.
Quentin came back inside, rubbing his hands together, and sat back down at the table.
“Give Pete a call,” said Ralphie. “Tell him to get over here.”
“He’s supposed to be taking his mother to her doctor’s appointment,” said Quentin, taking out his phone.
“That’s okay,” said Ralphie. “He can do that later.”
“Why you want to get him over here?”
“We’re going to rob that pharmacy,” said Ralphie. “It’s a good idea, and I know a guy we can sell that stuff to and make a nice profit.”
“Great,” said Quentin.
“We’ll need Pete to drive us,” said Ralphie.
As Quentin phoned Pete, someone approached the table. Ralphie looked up to see Rachel Almaghetti, the nun. Everyone around the neighborhood called her Sister Rachel Armageddon.
The nun wore ordinary street clothes, a sweater and a pair of jeans, like she always did. No one had ever seen her in her nun’s habit outside of church. Thin and petite, she had chestnut hair that came down to her shoulders.
“I saw what you just did to poor Sam,” said Sister Rachel Armageddon.
“Fuck off,” said Ralphie.
“You boys are really cruel,” she said. “Sam’s had a hard life, the way he was molested in high school and everything.”
Ralphie hated the way she’d called them ‘boys’, since the nun was their age. She might even have been younger, still in her twenties. It was like she thought she was better than they were, like she had a calling in life, from God or the Pope, or one of those jerk offs, and she could lord it over you and tell you what to do.
“Fuck him,” said Ralphie. “If he comes around, bothering me, I’ll kick his ass.”
“Well,” said the nun, putting her hands on her hips. “You boys are unrepentant sinners, full of vice—that’s what you are, vicious characters, proud, slothful, angry…”
“Don’t forget lustful, covetous, envious, and gluttonous,” said Ralphie. He’d been to mass enough times as a boy to know the deadly sins.
“That’s right!” said the nun.
“Pete’s on his way,” said Quentin, turning off his phone. “You want another drink?”
Ralphie nodded, and Quentin got up and walked over to the bar.
“So you really think you know what vice is, huh?” Ralphie said to Sister Rachel.
“Of course I do,” said the nun. “As every good Christian should.”
“Bullshit,” said Ralphie. “I don’t think you have a fucking clue. I bet you’ve never really sinned in your life.”
“Maybe so,” said the nun, shaking her head. “But everyone knows what vice is.”
“Yeah?” said Ralphie, taking a drink of whiskey. “If you’re so sure you know what it is, then tell me.”
“I’d be happy to,” said the nun, and she grabbed a chair from another table and sat down next to the booth. “Vice is just what we said a minute ago—lustfulness, pride, sloth, and so on.”
Ralphie sneered. “I wanted to know what vice is,” he said, “and all you did was give me a list of vices. So, it’s like if you wanted to know what a pistol was, and I said, there are Smith and Wesson’s, and Brownings, and Colts, and there are revolvers and automatics, and shit like that. I wouldn’t have told you what you wanted to know.”
“I don’t think that’s the same thing,” said the nun.
“Sure, it’s the same fucking thing,” said Ralphie. “There are other vices besides the seven deadly sins, right?”
“Yes,” said Sister Rachel, nodding her head.
“So you got to know what vice itself is, so that if you run into some other kind, you can still know that it’s a vice. How the hell are you suppose to avoid wickedness, if you don’t even know what the hell it is?”
Quentin came back to the table and sat another glass of whiskey in front of Ralphie. Ralphie grabbed the glass, nodded at Quentin, and took a drink.
“So tell me what it is,” said Ralphie. “Prove to me you know what the fuck you’re talking about, or get the hell out of my face.”
“Okay,” said the nun. “You got it—it’s a kind of habit, or characteristic, part of your character, you know, to act in a certain way.”
She sat back in the chair, satisfied with her answer.
“It’s a habit of acting how?”
“You know,” she said, “to act lustfully, or proudly, or angrily…”
Ralphie laughed, shaking his head. “You dimwit,” he said. “You just said lust, pride, and anger are vices.”
“Yes, so?” she said, her cheeks reddening.
Ralphie looked at Quentin, and then back at the nun. “So your definition of vice is a tendency to act viciously?”
“Yeah? So what?” she said.
“You’re running in a circle and not telling me shit,” said Ralphie.
“I think you’re pulling my leg, Ralphie McNear!”
Quentin laughed out loud, spit flying from his mouth.
“No, I ain’t,” said Ralphie. “I wanted to know what vice is, and you haven’t told me dick.”
“Well, then, smart guy, you tell me what a pistol is,” said the nun, her cheeks burning.
Ralphie shrugged and he reached under his jacket and pulled out a blue-steel automatic pistol and laid it on the table in front of him.
“A pistol is a small firearm that was made to be held and discharged with one hand.”
He turned the automatic on the table until the barrel was pointed at Sister Rachel.
The nun swallowed hard, looking at the gun.
“I think you know exactly what vice is,” she said. “I think you know better than I do.”
“Of course I know,” said Ralphie. “I only said you got no clue about it.”
Sister Rachel Armageddon got up from the table, and backed away, without saying anything else.
“You know,” said Quentin, watching her. “I’d sure like to fuck her.”
Ralphie frowned at him, and put the pistol back in its holster under his jacket. “What the fuck are you talking about? She’s a goddamned nun.”
“I know,” said Quentin. “But, shit, she’s got a pussy, don’t she?”
Ralphie nodded, thinking about it. “You’re right. She’s got a pussy, same as any other woman.”
Quentin grinned. “Sure—it’s all pink on the inside!”
Ralphie laughed. “Yep—all pink on the inside!”
They clinked their glasses together and drank and laughed even harder, thinking about the nun and her pussy.
On the afternoon of the next day, Ralphie and Quentin sat in the back of the bar, in the same booth, drinking whiskey, when the door to the bar opened and Pete came in. He spotted the two of them and walked over to the table.
“Jesus,” he said. “You won’t fucking believe what I’ve been through.”
“You’re late,” said Ralphie.
“Really late,” said Quentin. “Like a whole day late.”
“I know, I know all that,” said Pete. “You want to hear what happened, or not?”
“Not really,” said Ralphie.
“All we know is, you blew our deal,” said Quentin. “We were going to knock over a pharmacy and sell a bunch of medication, but now the pharmacist is back from the Poconos, and we can’t do it.”
“It wasn’t my fault!” said Pete. “Goddamn it, Charlie!” he said to the bartender. “Bring me a Wild Turkey—make it a double!”
Charlie the bartender nodded to him, and reached for a glass.
“I got fucking pulled over by a cop—for speeding, can you believe it?”
Ralphie and Quentin looked at each other, like they were trying to decide if Pete was telling the truth.
“He what?” said Quentin.
“Yes, no shit,” said Pete. “This cop, and he’s not even a real cop, he’s a traffic cop, if you can believe that. He fucking pulls me over for speeding, finds out with his stupid computer that my license is suspended, and then halls my ass to jail!”
“So what did you do?” asked Quentin.
Charlie walked up and set Pete’s double Wild Turkey on the table.
“Do? Nothing I could do,” said Pete, taking a sip. “I had to spend the fucking night in jail. My mother came and finally bailed me out this morning. She missed her doctor’s appointment.”
“Well, our whole plan was shot to hell,” said Ralphie, and he finished his drink.
“It’s not my goddamned fault!” said Pete.
“He’s right,” said Quentin. “It’s not his fault. It’s that goddamned cop’s fault.”
Ralphie thought about it for a moment.
“Shit, you’re right,” he said. “It is that fucking cop’s fault.”
“So what do we do, Ralphie?” said Pete.
“Yeah, what do we do?” said Quentin.
“We get that cop,” said Ralphie. “That’s what we do.”
“It’s decided then,” said Quentin.
“What’s his name?” asked Ralphie.
“Dickson,” said Pete. “Officer Dickson.”
“Dickinson?” said Quentin.
“No,” said Pete. “Not Dickinson. It’s Dickson.”
“What the fuck kind of a name’s that?” said Quentin. “Dickson?”
“Yeah,” said Ralphie. “I heard of guys called Dickinson before, but never Dickson. Shit, that’s just plain stupid.”
Pete laughed. “Yeah, what a stupid fucking name.”
He drank the rest of the Wild Turkey and let the glass slam against the table, then he belched.
“So what’re we going to do about this cop?” he said.
“First we got to find out where he lives,” said Ralphie.
“We could follow him home from work,” said Pete.
“Yeah, or we could just look in the fucking phonebook.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s a good…wait a minute, we don’t know his first name.”
“How many people have a stupid name like ‘Dickson’?” said Ralphie.
“Can’t be too many,” said Quentin.
“Hey, Charlie,” Ralphie said. “You got a phonebook?”
Charlie nodded and pulled the phonebook from under the bar. Pete got up from the table and walked over and took the book from Charlie. He set it down then started flipping through the pages.
“Hey guys,” he said. “Get this—there’s a guy named ‘Dick’! Arthur P. Dick—I’m not shitting you!”
Quentin said, “Let me see that.”
He grabbed the phone book.
“Well, I’ll be damned. He’s right—Arthur P. Dick. Art Dick—can you imagine? Look at this Ralphie.”
“I don’t give a shit,” said Ralphie. “Is Dickson listed?”
Quentin scanned further down. “Yeah,” he said. “There’s two of them: M. Dickson and Steve Dickson.”
“Either of those sound familiar, Pete?” said Ralphie.
“Nope, I didn’t hear his first name.”
Quentin said, “Well, we could just call up and ask if this is the Dickson who’s a cop, right?”
“Yeah,” said Ralphie. “Good idea. Don’t use your cell, though. Use the payphone. Who’s got a quarter for the call?”
“I do,” said Pete, digging into his pocket. He pulled out two quarters. “Look, this one’s from Delaware,” he said. “The other is an older one, before they started putting states on them.”
“Go on over to the payphone and call the number for M. Dickson,” said Ralphie. “Ask if he’s a cop.”
Pete stood up, taking the phone book from the table.
“And Pete?” said Ralphie. “For fuck’s sake, make sure you use the old quarter, not the Delaware quarter for the call.”
Pete looked at him, frowning, and looked down at the two quarters. He picked one, and put the other back in his pocket and walked over to the payphone.
“God, he’s dumb,” said Quentin.
“Yeah,” said Ralphie. “He’s really dumb.”
“I wonder sometimes if he didn’t fall on his head when he was a kid or something.”
“Yeah, or maybe his mother smoked a lot of dope when she was pregnant.”
“Not likely,” said Quentin. “She’s so fucking uptight she won’t even let Pete drink beer at home.”
“What the fuck?”
“Tell me about it,” said Quentin. “There’s just something fundamentally wrong with that.”
“Sounds like she’s just plain stupid,” said Ralphie. “So maybe Pete caught it from her.”
“Nah, she’s not dumb like him, at least not in the same way. She’s just uptight.”
Pete walked back over to the table. “There was nobody there except some old lady.”
“Did you ask her if her son or grandson was a cop?” said Quentin.
“I asked her if she knew Officer Dickson.”
“What’d she say?”
“She acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about.”
“Well,” said Ralphie, “I hope you left your name and number, so someone can call us back with that information.”
“Oh, shit,” said Pete. “I didn’t think of that.”
Ralphie and Quentin looked at one another and broke out laughing. Pete started laughing too.
“I was just fucking with you,” said Ralphie, still laughing.
“Shit,” said Quentin. “You really believed that! That’s the funniest fucking thing I ever seen!”
It took almost a minute for the three of them to stop laughing.
“Go on and call the other number,” said Ralphie.
Pete started back towards the phone, but turned around. “Ralphie—I only got that Delaware quarter left.”
“Well, just ask Charlie for some change,” said Ralphie.
“Oh, yeah,” said Pete. “Good idea.”
He walked to the bar, pulling out some bills.
“God, he’s dumb,” said Quentin.
“Yeah,” said Ralphie, nodding. “He’s really dumb.”
Pete called the number for Steve Dickson. No one answered, and he got the machine. In a moment, he hung up the phone and came back to the table.
“Steve Dickson is the guy,” he said.
“You sure?” said Ralphie.
Pete nodded. “I heard his stupid voice on the machine. That’s him all right.”
“Okay,” said Ralphie. “He’s the one we’re going to get.”
Near closing time at Johnny’s Place, Sister Rachel Armageddon approached Ralphie, who sat alone at his back booth.
“You need to come with me,” said the nun.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” said Ralphie. “Come with you where?”
“To the back office,” she said, inclining her head towards the rear of the room.
“Why would I do that?”
The nun looked around. “It’s Marcie,” she said. “She needs you.”
Ralphie frowned. “Marcie’s not here. She went home.”
The nun laid her hands flat on the table. “I’m telling you, she’s in the office, and she needs you!”
“All right,” said Ralphie, sliding out of the booth. “But I don’t know why the fuck she didn’t just come out here and see me.”
The nun hurried him along to the office. They entered the room, Ralphie going in first. Sister Rachel followed him, clicking on the light, and closing the door behind her.
The office contained a desk and chair, two filing cabinets, and boxes of liquor stacked in the corner.
“What the fuck?” said Ralphie, turning to face the nun. “Where is she?”
“Marcie isn’t here,” said the nun, her back against the door.
“Yeah, I can see that,” said Ralphie. “What the fuck’s going on?”
“I needed to see you in private,” she said. “I’m worried.”
“Worried about what?”
“About the state of your soul!”
“Get the fuck out of here,” said Ralphie, stepping forward.
“No, don’t leave!” said Sister Rachel. “Just give me a few minutes. You never come to church, and you never let me talk to you about serious things.”
“Yeah, because I don’t want to listen to your bullshit,” said Ralphie.
“There’s still time,” she said. “Still time to save your soul, but you have to repent! You have to give yourself over to Jesus.”
Ralphie grabbed her by the shoulders, and started to push her aside, away from the door. She took hold of his arms and held onto him fast.
“You know what they call me?” said the nun.
“Yeah, Sister Rachel Armageddon.”
“No, no, no, that’s not what I mean,” said the nun. “Wait—who calls me that?”
Ralphie shrugged. “Everybody, as far as I know.”
“Well, that’s a terrible nickname.”
“Seems right to me,” said Ralphie.
“Anyway,” said Sister Rachel. “I meant what they call me in the church, officially? I’m called a Bride of Christ.”
“Yeah, so what?”
The nun still clung to him, her arms around his waist now.
“So I took a vow. I married our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
“Good for you,” said Ralphie, rolling his eyes.
“You knew me when I was a teenager,” she said. “I was having religious experiences at that time, glorious, ecstatic experiences. I would look at a picture of Jesus, and electric shocks ran through my body.”
“Probably just getting your period,” said Ralphie.
“I was so moved,” said the nun. “So transformed, that I had to give myself to Christ.”
“Look, you’re really starting to bore the hell out of me,” said Ralphie.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt those shocks,” said Sister Rachel.
Ralphie tried to push her aside, but she locked her arms tight around him.
“I’ve been feeling them again!” she said.
She reached up and kissed him with a wet, slobbery kiss, her tongue bouncing against his lips.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he said.
“I can save you,” she said.
She started rubbing her crotch against his leg. She let out a moan.
“Fucking stop that,” said Ralphie.
“You’re so much stronger than me, Ralphie,” she said. “You could overpower me so easily.”
He kept trying to push her away.
“I took a vow of celibacy,” she said. “But I know you want to have your way with me.”
“Get the fuck away from me,” said Ralphie.
“I see the way you look at me. You’re so strong! I can’t stop you!”
Ralphie twisted her arm hard, and she cried out and let go of him. He dropped her onto the floor, but she grabbed him around the legs.
“I’m helpless, Ralphie,” she said, her face pressed against his thighs. “There’s no way I could stop you from taking me!”
Ralphie smacked her hard against the side of the head. She let go of him and fell onto her side. He walked out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
Quentin stood by the back booth. “Where were you?” he said.
“You won’t fucking believe it,” said Ralphie, walking over to him. “But that idiot nun tried to get me to fuck her.”
Quentin raised his eyebrows. “No shit? Did you do it?”
“No, fuck no,” said Ralphie.
“Yeah, but we said it’s all pink on the inside,” said Quentin, scratching his head.
“I changed my mind,” he said.
[An earlier version of this story appeared on TheRogueReader.com]