Self Defense

Two black-robed nuns walked back to their convent. They had come from Mercy Hospital where they worked the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. One nun was little, 5’2”, with a merry face; the other was taller, 5’6”, with a quiet, serene look. They loved their work, but sometimes felt their lives were just a bit dull.

As they were passing an alley, a big, odorous lout reached out and grabbed one of them in each hand. He pulled them into the alley. “I’ve been watching you two,” he muttered, “one of you will do for a bit of fun.” He pulled a knife from his pocket.

Sister Marie, the little nun, looked at Sister Celeste and nodded. She chopped the side of her hand down on the hand holding the knife and it dropped to the pavement. Sister Celeste put her fist into the man’s stomach as hard as she could. As he expelled air and bent over, she brought her knee up to meet his nose. The man sat on the pavement and wiped at his bloody nose.

“You shouldn’t pick on helpless women,” said Sister Marie.

“Huh,” said the man. Sister Marie pocketed the knife.

“I’m glad we had a chance to test our training with Buster,” said Sister Celeste. “Do you think we should get a cop?”

“He’s not hurt much, he’ll be gone before one gets here,” replied Sister Marie.

“I suppose we’ll have to let him go, then,” sighed Sister Celeste. “Our first collar, too.

The nuns reported their adventures to Mother Superior the next morning. She had thought it was a good idea for the two nuns to train in self-defense. They walked through a bad section of the city after dark. She was proud of them for handling the situation so well. She agreed with their decision to not call the police. “The monsignor wouldn’t care for the publicity,” she said.


The big, odorous lout was a forty-year-old man named Arnold. He had small squinty eyes and bristly hair that stood up like porcupine quills. His clothes bagged on him and his shoes, two sizes too big, caused him to shuffle. He smelled boozy, among other unpleasant odors. His large nose had recently been squashed. He was a mean-looking man, which caused people to sidestep him. For several days, Arnold had been tailing the sisters as they walked home from work. His deficient brain and smoldering temper had caused him to forget his punishment at the hands of the nuns; he just felt he had to hurt them. He carried a baseball bat in a shopping bag.

The sisters stopped by a parking meter as they watched two cars headed for a collision. Arnold removed the bat from the bag, took a huge swing and hit the meter where Sister Marie had been standing before she moved toward the cars that had just crashed. The noise of the crash cancelled out the crack of the bat hitting the meter. The nuns hurried to see if they could help the occupants of the cars. Arnold sat on the pavement looking at a two-foot sliver of bat sticking in his thigh. “Huh,” he said.

Sisters Marie and Celeste said a prayer because no one was badly hurt in the car collision and walked on to the convent.


A week went by; the nuns worked and bemoaned the lack of excitement in their lives. Arnold healed; he bought another knife.

Arnold stepped in front of the sisters as they were passing the movie theater on their way home. He waved the knife in their faces. ”It’s your turn now,” he said. The late movie ended and people started leaving. One woman bumped into Arnold and he tripped over his too-big shoe and his knife nicked the knuckle of one of a group of young men. Arnold disappeared in a thicket of legs.

Sister Marie asked, “Do you think we should try to stop it?”

“Oh, I don’t think so. Boys will be boys,” replied Sister Celeste.


Arnold could think of nothing but revenge. It took nearly two weeks for the swelling of his eyes to go down and the split in his lip still bled, making it hard to talk. This time, he meant business; he stole a gun from his cousin.

He chose a quiet stretch of sidewalk and hid behind a telephone pole. He let the women get close as he wanted to see their faces as he shot them. The nuns looked at the telephone pole, looked at each other, and shook their heads. As Arnold stepped out and pointed the gun at them, Sister Marie threw Arnold’s knife and it stuck in his gun hand. As the gun dropped, Sister Marie snatched it up while Sister Celeste snapped handcuffs on Arnold. They walked him to the police station. Excitement was fine, but Arnold was getting a little too playful.


“Your knife throwing practice was useful,” said Sister Celeste.

“You’re the one who thought to carry the handcuffs,” responded Sister Marie. “I suppose it will be dull again with the big lout locked up.”

“Mother Superior said someone has been stealing money from the collection basket,” said Sister Celeste.

“We’ll get him,” said Sister Marie, happily.


Betty J. Sayles is a retired librarian. She has been writing for years, but only tried for publication a year ago. Writing has made her retirement a happy time of life.


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