In consideration of the trend towards body piercing and the political shift towards the religious right…
Stigmata (bodily marks resembling the wounds suffered by Christ) has historically only been manifested in the holiest and most divine of us. Now, you too can be considered divine and holy by your friends and co-workers for bargain prices at… Stigmata Shoppe! All nails thoroughly sterilized before use!
Special Bargain Bonus!!!
Come in for your very own palm and ankle piercings and get a crown of thorns applied to your head for the low-low price of $29.99!!! What a deal!!
(SORRY, NO SPEAR-IN-THE-SIDE TREATMENT
AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME!)
“Putting the holes in holiness.”
In full-disclosure mode I could begin earlier — how Stigmata Shoppe was inspired by this giant plastic letter “S” that my old-school bud Tim gave me one morning on the drive to school — but once you play that game where do you stop? I might as well say it began with the Big Bang. And before that? But now I am in tangent mode and in danger of losing my point. Which is:
One fine day in February of 1996 I began passing out flyers for Stigmata Shoppe before the homeroom bell. It was my senior year and I knew that I only had a few more months to fuck with people before I left. (Actually, whether or not I would be able to graduate was still up in the air, but for the sake of clean story-telling I will skim over that.) After years of being fucked with I was finally gaining the confidence to fuck back and it was great good fun. So, Stigmata Shoppe.
But rewind a bit. I know I said I wouldn’t do this but it’s necessary. The night before I lay in bed reading the student handbook intently, the whirr and buzz of the DeskJet in the background as it printed a few dozen flyers. Al Capone got busted on tax evasion, after all, and I knew that with only a few more months to go the school administration would do anything they could to crucify me. So, much as I hated the handbook, I read it again and again until I was sure what I could get away with while remaining completely within the letter of the law. When you intend to rape the spirit of the law this is always a good precaution.
So, the next morning, in the twenty minutes before homeroom began, I walked up and down the halls of Beacon High School passing out flyers for Stigmata Shoppe. I thought it made for good satire — it was 1996, recall, when Newt Gingrich’s Contract On America was still in the recent past and raving Bible-thumper Pat Buchanan was thinking of running for president. It was 1996, right at the beginning of the Hot-Topicization of our youth, and multiple ugly body-piercings had become so prevalent that remaining metal-free was the new rebellion. Nobody had thought to tie these two cultural threads together yet, and a decade later I can say with pride that still nobody else has. I thought it made for good satire, as I’ve already remarked.
Once homeroom began I knew the fun-time was over. The handbook had specifically said you couldn’t do anything like passing out flyers during school hours. So I went to my homeroom / first-period physics farce so I could catch a quick nap before gym next period. While my physics teacher (in reality a guidance counselor unfit to teach physics but again that’s a whole other kettle of fish) rambled on about scholarship info (a guidance counselor, remember?) my vice-principal showed up at the door.
“Can I see Noel?” Everyone was used to this drill by now — I got pulled out of some class or another often enough that you could probably set a clock by it if you were so inclined — and I went up to the office to get reprimanded.
To be fair to the vice-principal, she found the whole thing amusing but she had to do her job. Turned out, one of the school rent-a-cops got a flyer (not from me, who had better sense than to throw pearls before swine) and thought I was actually soliciting for a business. Somewhere there’s a great quote about satire being wasted on small minds and if you flip through Bartlett’s you’ll probably find one. So since the security guard had his panties in a twist I had to get reprimanded. My parents would have to be called. The vice-principal told me I had to try to re-collect all the flyers that had been passed out (yeah, right) and sent me back to my class. A class I was failing, by the way. So ten minutes later when the principal himself, a cocksucker whose name I would name if I could only remember it, came to pull me out of class for the second time it seemed a bit of overkill. How was I supposed to learn with all these disturbances?
Back to the office. Me and the principal sat down in the conference room. To me it was all a big joke — because I knew that was the attitude that would piss him off the most. It was working, as far as I could tell — his face was turning redder than a Communist bloc and we hadn’t even exchanged words yet.
“You know,” he said, “if anyone was offended by your little stunt we’ll have to suspend you.” I stayed cool. Suspension meant a few days sitting home playing Super Metroid and would only add to my rep. At this point he pulled out the student handbook, the same one I had pored over last night, and began flipping pages desperately looking for a charge to hang me with. “You’re not allowed to solicit for businesses,” was his first move.
I parried. “It’s not a business, clearly. I already discussed this with the vice-principal.” Unspoken: why are you dealing with a problem that has already been resolved?
If he caught the barb he was unfazed. Flip, flip, flip through the handbook. “Says here you’re not allowed to hang material on the walls without permission.”
He was reaching and I knocked the ball back to him with ease: “That’s fine. I didn’t hang them on any walls.”
Flip, flip. A look of consternation. Flip, flip, flip. “Well, Noel, you’re not allowed to hand out flyers during school hours.” Do I even need to repeat it? It wasn’t during school hours. Seeing as how school hours had only began some twenty minutes earlier this should have been obvious. But he was desperate to find an excuse to punish me — what had I done to offend this petty bureaucrat? I can only assume that my refusal to play anything other than my own game by my own rules was a personal affront to a drone that had traded his soul in for the illusion of material security.
Some more flipping. Okay, a lot more flipping. As I said, I spent the night before covering my ass vis-a-vis the student handbook. There was nothing in that book that could touch me. He must have eventually realized this because finally he closed the book. He folded his hands and said to me, matter-of-factly, “Well, Noel, there are some rules that just aren’t in the book.”
“Then why print one?” I responded sweetly. I always save the sweetness for the end — it’s kept me out of a lot of bad situations that are also stories for other times.
His mouth opened as if he could respond to that. Then it closed. And opened again. And closed again. In this matter he began to resemble a goldfish but I kept a straight face. I knew I had already won and there was no point gloating. Eventually he sent me back to class, telling me that he would call my parents.
“The vice-principal already did.” I couldn’t resist the parting shot, twisting the knife. In my fantasy he took a swig of Pepto-Bismol after I left.
The upshot? Nothing. My parents came in to discuss the situation. They were told a copy of Stigmata Shoppe would go into my Permanent File.
“Why the hell for?” My dad supposedly erupted. “To show he has a sense of humor?” I wasn’t worried about a thing. I was off of school the next day anyway because we were driving to New Jersey to take a look at the college that I would be kicked out of by the end of 1996. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another.