SHORT FICTION - By Jane Genova
Hard times had come to liberal arts colleges in rural areas.
That hardened the once-charitable ethos of Our Lady of Many Many Sorrows in Pennsylvania. The coveted award for outstanding alumna at that women's Roman Catholic institution of higher learning mutated into recognition of the meanest girl from each graduating class.
Every five years the graduates of each class had a reunion. Before it, The Committee battled it out who would be the lucky girl. For our 50th reunion, the Dean at Our Lady of Many Many Sorrows appointed me to The Committee for the Class of 1967.
Yes, girls could nominate themselves. Some did. One boasted she had replaced diet cola with the 100-calorie real stuff for her husband for 36 years. LOL. Like that was supposed to impress The Committee.
Eventually we narrowed it down to three girls.
One we called The Saint. She had labored among the handicapped tirelessly. Off the job her hobby was to keep improving her ability to mow down the unsuspecting with her mouth. Her most effective tactic was inviting those from a distance for a long weekend at her vacation home. Indeed it took a while before the guests caught on. Paralyzed with shock, they could never put it together to just up and leave.
The second we labeled Beware The Greek Bearing Gifts. From the get-go, no one ever liked her. For years she was isolated. Then her husband acquired wealth. She began to shop for presents for those not so wealthy. I had been on the receiving end. Usually it was after the second one that the mean-spirited advice, unsolicited, would come.
The third was widely known as The Unstable Trying To Pass For Stable. To survive, those kind have to turn mean. Back in college when the rest of us were full of wild hope she contemplated jumping off the dorm roof. On Facebook her affect was continually inappropriate. In the 1990s, I had lunch with her in Manhattan. Like a Greek Chorus she presented me with a list of my tragic flaws.
The Saint won. Our's is a visual age. It was such fun to imagine in our mind's eye how the spirit of her guests kept shriveling, hour after hour. The photographers from the gossip tabloids caught the meanness in her face. Our Lady of Many Many Sorrows obtained permission to use those photos in its admission material.