Broadswords and Moving Nuns

A couple times back when I was in graduate school I decided to freak out my students and try to drive my roommate insane.

For reasons I still don’t understand, a friend from my fraternity acquired a large Norman broadsword. It wasn’t sharpened and was probably intended for use with the Society for Creative Anachronism. My friend, of course, was not a member of SCA which made the sword’s presence even more mysterious.

Me being me, I immediately though it would be a good idea to take the sword to class.

I carried the sword unsheathed across campus–note to people under a certain age: there used to be time in the USA when people weren’t whiny chickenshits and you could carry swords across campus without attracting too many funny looks or a SWAT team.

Once in class, I set the sword across the front of my desk. I then taught class normally (well, in so far as anything I do is normal) and at the end of class I picked the sword up and carried it back to my friend.

It took a couple classes before one of my students got the nerve to ask me why I’d brought a sword to class. I responded by saying “That’s a good question. Take out a piece of paper and describe how you felt about that.” Several students groaned in a way that seemed to say “Can’t you just kill us with the sword instead?”

A year later, the friend with the broadsword would be my roommate. During a trip to England, at the Petticoat Lane Market, I found a rubber nun. The nun had a cloth habit and when you squeezed her, a pair of anatomically correct breasts inflated and poked out under the habit. It was childish, blasphemous, and profane. I knew my roommate, who happens to be a staunch Catholic, would love it.

Sure enough, it earned a prominent place on the shelf near our television and every now and then I’d pick it up and give it a squeeze and marvel at how silly it was. I always made sure to set it down slightly turned from where it was before, especially when I noticed my roommate studying it. If he set it facing forward, I would always move it slightly the next day.

I did that a few times until he asked me if I’d been moving it. I played dumb for a while until his Catholic belief in demons and the afterlife came to the fore and became early signs of panic and I felt guilty and suddenly remembered he owned a broadsword. I told him I’d been messing with him and we had a good laugh.


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  1. Pingback: You Don’t Have to be Crazy But it Helps | Mere Blather

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