The nuns I live with are well attuned to the fact that I am an unabashed, self-proclaimed, full-blown wicked witch. And I am quite sure you, Dear Readrrr, share deeply in that awareness. When they learned of my wickedness, catching me emptying vials of abbey holy water into my cauldron in the chapel basement, they were neither shocked nor afraid. They did not turn me in to the bishop. Not at all did they do what ‘good’ nuns should. Forgive me for coming right out with it: they practically had a party. Some of them even danced.
You see, Dear Readrrr: nuns –real nuns, at least– live in terrible conditions of poverty, conditions they often accept without question, conditions that are deplorable. This is part of their vocation. They are servants of God and the church, trading a lifetime of potential material comfort for an afterlife of divine fulfillment. It is a choice they make. But from whence did this “choice” come and how does nun-life compare to priest-life? We’ll be sure, Dear Readrrr, to muse wickedly on that another time!
For now we’ll focus on how my wicked life was discovered by the nuns. The joyous effect of my caught-red-handed cauldron on the nuns did not quite come ‘out of nowhere,’ but it was rather alarming. You see, when they caught me, I claimed that a witch from a nearby coven had held me hostage down there and dashed off when she heard them coming (not an altogether untrue story!). Oh did the nuns laugh at me. Dear Readrrr, had you been there, in front of my makeshift cauldron, you would have laughed, too.
The nuns acted as if they had never seen anything like it. Perhaps they had not. Nuns are not allowed to have mirrors around, you know. Except, oddly, for fun house mirrors. Well, I had shed my habit in the heat of the cauldron and was wearing only my slip (more like a tunic, if you ask me) and I did not, I repeat: did not, see them coming. But they came. In droves, it seemed. Sauntering, saintly, until they got a good look at me– and that is when, amidst their laughter, Headmothrrr (I call her Headfathrrr, Dear Readrrr, because …well, reasons, but only after midnight chapel) placed herself firmly between my novice cauldron and the front of my tunic of a slip.
Many nuns my size would find this bear of a nun intimidating: true, but not this wicked little sistrrr. Why, to the contrary; I was not the least bit afraid of her overbearing build nor her stately yet ominous expression. The shadow she cast over my tiny frame emboldened me to stand barefoot on her monstrous moccasins and push my face right up into her wimple. Now, I am convinced that I frightened her into a kind of submission, for she, Dear Readrrr, would you believe, could barely produce a syllable from those perpetually down-turned lips of hers.
I had, indeed, done something powerful in the convent; I knew then. Headmofo (pray, forgive my sordid sense of humor) practically melted into my mouth (we were that close) her heavy admonishment, “Just what, Sistrrr Grimmm, is the meaning of this?” Hovering over me, her hag breath ran along my neck and her chin’s whiskers brushed my nose, and while I felt myself growing faint, I was determined to remain lodged against her, unafraid of opening my mouth to whisper, “With no disrespect to the abbey intended, I must confess, I felt I could no longer survive on porridge and Sister Danita’s sardine stew. I took matters into my own hands. Or, cauldron. Headmothrrr, forgive me for saying this, but it seems you’re the one who’s turned green.” Oh, how gayly, Dear Readrrr, did the nuns laugh. At the two of us, smooshed together in a deeply unraveling confrontation, getting steamed together, by the cauldron, like two apostolic clams.
And then I did the unthinkable: I wrapped my worshipful arms around HeMo’s wimple and I pleaded with every fiber in my being, “I am not wic-ked! I swear I am not wic-ked! It is only that I thought that perhaps God could work through this cauldron and make for us something not-tongue-numbing to eat. For once.” Oh, I knew how ungrateful I had sounded, but I had only said what all the other nuns had been thinking, night after night, Dear Readrrr, having to stomach Sister Danita’s mealy excuse for meatloaf. It is the stuff of ramps and roadkill, I tell you. Not edible.
It was then, however, that all of the nuns grew silent, anticipating what harshness would arise from the iron bosom of our dear, beloved HeMo. What happened then, no one could have predicted. Headmothrrr, my arms still locked around her wimple, cracked one. Not a whip, Dear Readrrr! A joke! She attempted wit for the first time in her very, very long expiry-less life. She blurted, “Yes, I suppose you’re right; I’ve been starting to feel as if I am sinning whenever I sit down to supper. Sister Danita’s meatloaf is, I’m afraid, all oaf and no meat.” The nuns howled, including Sister Danita, and that is when HeMo snapped back into her usual marble stoicism, sending me flying into some of the other nuns. She barked, “What are you; a pack of wolves? You are in the presence of your heavenly father! Pull it together, sistrrrs.” Sister Danita, gawky, small-eyed, and snake-oily as a salesman, then spoke up, “So am I off the hook?” “Yes,” HeMo snapped, “we will find a replacement.” “Who?” I asked, without much thought at all. “Why, you, of course, Sistrrr Grim. Given your bold behavior this evening, I think you have made it obvious that you have a passion for cooking. Cooking up trouble, that is. Your punishment will be to use your cauldron for Godly purposes. You, Sistrrr Grimmm, will now run our kitchen. Full time. You will prepare all meals for the entire convent and it will be up to you to decide upon our menu. Since you have such confidence in your skilled palate, this should be no problem for you.”
Oh, Dear Readrrr. I know it sounds bad, but HeMo is not what she seems. She did not turn toward me once, but climbed the stairs in silence. As soon as the coast was clear, the nuns grew banshee-hysterical again. You would have thought it was the most exciting event they had experienced in the last decade! I laughed and shrieked along, but internally I knew I had a real problem to solve. First: though what I said about Sister Danita’s meatloaf was absolutely true, I had no experience whatsoever with cooking a meal. I had long been averse to meat and I had never once enjoyed a gag-less meal at the convent up to that point. Secondly: I had no interest in using my cauldron for anything other than the holy combination of heaven and hearth. Hearth being witch craft. I thought perhaps I could improve the atmosphere of the abbey by boiling some apples, cinnamon and orange peel with a bit of holy water for good luck (consider that these are, mostly, Irish-Catholic nuns, except for HeMo, who is Slavic).
I knew full-well that my culinary skills were limited, at best. I have always been great at talking the ears off of the nun in the kitchen, Dear Readrrr, as well as lounging cat-like on her counter, and getting in her way, while she works, yet Head Cook? This did sound preposterous to me. But nuns are in the business of preposterous punishments, and so I endeavored to be in the business of preposterous potions. Thus began my wick’ed life in (or, move from the basement to) the kitchen. I can’t say I’ve performed any miracles, at least not yet, but I do take pride in my work as the Wicked Witch of the Eat and, grandest of all, Sister Danita’s meatloaf went, where it always belonged, to the dogs.
Dear Readrrr, do take pity on me; if you were presented with Sister Danita’s meatloaf, you would turn into a wicked witch, too!