Allow me to share this, Readrrr. I found this letter, this morning, hidden behind my nightstand, after I had accidentally dropped a prayer pamphlet back there. What a find, and I wasn’t even spying! What a treasure. A love letter between two nuns.
I can hardly believe this. I know this is the work of God, Readrrr! I only worry, now, that Sistrrr Shawnacy never saw Sistrrr Joan’s letter. I am called to help these two sistrrrs. Yes, if we can, we will get this letter to Sistrrr Shawnacy.
The cell I’ve been assigned (nun bedrooms at the SA are called cells– aptly named) belonged to Sistrrr Joan and Sistrrr Shawnacy prior to my arrival and before the two were separated tragically. Shawnacy was transferred (i.e., taken by force) to another abbey and shortly therafter, Sistrrr Joan died in a terrible fire at what was labeled ‘an exorcism gone wrong’ in Lilydale. An exorcism gone wrong? I think not. I have my suspicions about what (ahem: who) caused the fire that was set on Joan at the stump of a yew in the woods on that fateful day in Chautauqua, New York, but I don’t want to get myself worked up any more than I already am. Sistrrr Sackville suspects fowl play was involved. Our theory, after spending many nights piecing together clues, is that Father Danno lured Joan into the woods under the false pretense that she would be reunited with Shawnacy. We know a chicken was involved because when Sistrrr Joan’s sixth-degree burned body was found, The Vat’s inept investigators reported the feathers of a chicken covered the area surrounding her body. Shawnacy had a pet chicken at the abbey when she resided here. She and Joan kept it as a pet. Its name was Chicken. Sweetest chicken ever to live with two nuns, I am told. Our theory is that Joan brought the chicken with her to the Stump at Yew when she went to meet Shawnacy in the Lilydalian woods that day, expecting to meet Shawnacy and to deliver the chicken to her. The chicken escaped; Sistrrr Joan did not.
There is no doubt in our minds that Father Danno murdered Joan. This letter, accompanied by a fifteen-part poem titled ‘The Ruins,’ that I found in Joan’s old nun-stand, is further proof.
We do not have a scanner at the Shabby Abbey and I have no where or way to send these materials to Sistrrr Shawnacy directly, but I have typed up the small parcel of materials from Joan. Shawnacy never saw it, and it is my job to change that. In honor of Sistrrr Joan.
Imagine, Readrrr, that we can help deliver a love letter between nuns, and that we can help to end corruption everywhere by exposing the crimes of the monster in our midst. Perhaps someday Shawnacy will see this! (Readrrr: Trigger warning– rape.)
I know the truth. I knew it then. I know it now. The truth is knowable and known. It is not painful. It is gentle; it is kind. It does not make any of this, this path we’re on, less painful, however.
Father Danno – I fear he will kill me. He already has, by taking you from me. I know my days, even my hours, are numbered, but I want you to know I think of you and worry about you, and, no, Shaw, it does not stop.
Chicken is well. She prances around clucking, and expresses no distress, despite the sorry state I’m in. She should be with you, you know. You always loved Chicken. The two of you had such a special bond. But no. I cannot become sentimental right now, Shaw; I have to let you know what is going on here.
Let us be honest, as this is between us and God: our love is a threat to the church we seek to serve. I don’t know why but it is. It certainly seems to be, for God must be punishing us through the endless trials that we have had to endure since Father Danno came into our lives, and destroyed this abbey.
He has misused his power to imprison me, here, while he takes you to what will be your new prison, away from me. How can I stay here and continue to witness the desecration of abbey life at his hands? I must fight. Against him. And I know this will lead to my demise, but I must do it anyway. I feel it is my duty. To you, Shaw.
It were a bearable Hell with you, but without you? I have begged Father Danno to bring you back to me, to let me speak to you once, even for a moment. There is no mercy, no shred of introspection, in that wretched shriveled soulless man. I have offered to him a vow of secrecy and silence in exchange for a meeting with you. I have offered to cover up all of his lies and deceptions if it means you can return to the abbey. To no effect, Shawnacy. He wants blood. He sent you away because he masochistically enjoys seeing the nuns in pain. It, to him, is satisfaction. He revels in the power to render us broken and silent. Do you not agree?
He put you in a position to say before all of the church that you wished to leave our abbey. He did this because he thought it would break us. Dear God, Shawnacy! To force you to lie! He thought that by getting you to declare your loyalty to his cause and him, betraying your vows to this abbey, that it would make me believe that you had chosen him over the church…
He knows that he cannot control the dictates of your heart, and this is what drives him. You love God and the church! He has sought to punish you by letting you stand by powerlessly and watch as I am made to believe you have betrayed the church of your heart! And have you? He cannot know the contents of your heart, Shawnacy, though he has too much information. I have to hide this very letter for fear that he will discover it.
During our years here, he watched us incessantly and discovered all that we have done together and been to one another. The unhappy man is jealous for he is a hateful tyrant, brought to power by a blind church. We have lifted up the church; we have done good and holy work, but he has destroyed what we, together, built.
He knows how I love the abbey and want what is best for us. He knows I see right through his empty soul and how I despise him for what he has done– for the way he has manipulated us. What can I do but pray for the day that all is revealed: our love for the abbey and for God. And for each other, Shaw. His inner knowledge of that love, his repression of it, and his hate toward the nuns arises out of his jealousy of their ability to be together, while the priests are separated and kept apart.
We know this is not true: his belief about this. We know the priests can and do find one another and manage to love. And we know that Father Danno’s hate and jealousy arise from a place of deep pain and rejection within him. I am a few years older than Danno and knew him when he was a boy. I saw him endure the bullying of other children, and I saw it turn him into the worst bully of all, and the hateful, boring, horrible, terrible-smelling man he is today. We all know he took vows and became a priest to hide his homosexuality, and it is common knowledge that he fell in love with a priest by the name of Father Roberto. It is a very sad story and a terrible fate for all involved, but the evil he has committed against us cannot be justified.
As I remind you, during the three years that Father Danno served alongside of Father Berto at St. Richard’s Church, he became terribly addicted to bourbon. The nuns from that congregation would report to me that he stole from the congregation’s funeral breakfast fund in order to pay for his bourbon. That wasn’t the only fund from which he stole! He and Father Rob would take lavish trips together to Our Lady of Las Vegas. It was well known by everyone that they would run up the congregation’s tab on bourbon, beer, craps, and slot machines. In fact, the debt the congregation went into at the time caused the uproar that had them separated and sent to separate congregations.
Fewer knew, though I certainly did, that Father Danno worshipped Father Berto, well, as much as a person like Father Danno is capable of worshiping someone other than himself. This was a scandal to the church – not on the basis of their sex, given that the church is used to covering up homosexuality between priests. It was a scandal on the basis of the fact that the two of them are related. It was well know that Father Danno would pay Father Berto to allow him to perform terrible acts on him in the sacristy, but this became such an addiction for Father Danno that Father Berto finally put a stop to it. Then he began begging Father Berto to sodomize him in the bell tower. When Father Berto refused, Father Danno could think of nothing else and would sneak across the rectory at night, thumping his you-know-what against Father Berto’s door. It all fell apart when they made a “vocational trip” to Las Vegas and shared a room in a seedy motel after loading up on White Castle. Father Berto was so stuffed with burgers that he nearly passed out on the toilet, while he was having a diabolical case of diarrhea. So the story goes (or so I read in top secret reports among church authorities), Father Danno offered a pill to Father Berto, supposedly to help him with his intestinal distress. But this was not an anti-diarrhea pill; it was a Put a Priest To Sleep pill. Once Father Roberto had passed out, Father Danno dragged his body onto the bed (not an easy feat given the girth of Father Berto’s grumpy personality, a grumpiness so profound that when he sleeps, he becomes weighed down by his grumpiness and weighs four times his usual size). There, in Las Vegas, he had his way with him, their grumpiness merging, FD’s grumpiness penetrating FR, without Berto’s consent!
Father Berto does not remember a thing –not a thing– but it was caught on camera, as the church had the rooms used by the two priests on their “trips to Las Vegas” bugged, after someone had pointed fingers. Apparently the incident made Father Roberto even more grumpy and homophobic, despite the fact that he never knew about it. Immediately after this incident, known to the congregation as simply “White Castle”, the entire ordeal was covered up, and Father Danno was sent to this abbey. Oh, it was terrible when he arrived. He was a bourbon brain to the worst degree and a sad, repressed homosexual with a vendetta. Worse, he hated women with every fiber of his being. The only thing worse than women, to Father Danno, was women who loved each other in secret. And the only thing worse to him than women who loved each other in secret was women who loved one another bravely and brazenly.
All of this, I believe, led to the horrors that he has committed at this abbey. I cannot tell you how many nuns he has raped since his ominous arrival. When it happened to me, I almost expected it. And I fought the entire time. In fact, he never quite succeeded in his violent mission because I bit, clawed, punched, squeezed, flailed, and screamed the entire time he had me locked in the confessional. When he called me in to his side of it, I was hesitant, but he said he had a matter to discuss that I must attend: Shaw Festival (you, of course). He then whispered through the small window, “You will come over to my side of this confessional silently and you will get down on your knees, and you will do whatever I tell you to do, or I will defile the reputation of your beloved Shawnacy and have her sent out of here.”
I haven’t told you this till now, Shaw, because I couldn’t bear it. At that moment, I thought of you. I thought of your gentle, kind eyes, and your sweet smiling mouth, and your softness, and our love– and I couldn’t risk his violence affecting you. I went over into his confessional box, and I got on my knees, and I begged him, in whispers, to please let you stay with me, to please let you keep your position at the abbey. I promised to do anything if it would mean I could remain with you and protect your reputation. He called me words I cannot even repeat to you and grated into my ears, “let’s see how much you love your sister,” as he gagged me with his collar. He then turned me over and he held my head against the wooden seat and tried to force himself on me. For a second, I surrendered to what was happening.
But then, I changed my mind. I could not go through with it, even to keep you with me. I began fighting. I started with elbowing but I was no match for him, being so small-framed and delicate. All I could do was try to fight and moan. Then he stopped. In an eerie way. He stopped and gripped my neck like a wine bottle with his hateful pig-pink hands, and he said, “No, this isn’t the best way to hurt you. The best way to hurt you is to go through your sister whore.” No! My heart erupted in anguish!
It was then that I had regretted that I had not submitted to his treachery. For I knew then that he would take you from me, in all senses, and that I would be doomed to suffer an excruciating fate, for there is no worse fate imaginable to me than losing you. And that is just what happened. He took you from me. He had you travel with him to serve another church, and, there, he raped you. He stole your virginity from you. He desecrated your sacred vows. And then just when you came back to me, bruised and broken and needing my tender love and care most, he sent you away to another abbey. He is a most cruel and vile man.
Has he killed us, my love? Has he?
Where are you now, Shawnacy. You are headed to a place far from me, and Father Danno is seeing to it that I am given no details. For now, I hide under a cloak of darkness, counting the seconds until I can be with you, praying to God for justice, and keeping Chicken safe for you.
But I suffer so without you. I recall how it felt. To read. For you to read my soul. And to read yours. I need my words to enter into you in a way that I cannot. But I doubt these words will ever get to you. Thus, my soul speaks into the void of this page.
Oh, Shaw. I fear I am irreparably damaged. Whatever can be done about it? I hurt, I ache; you are everywhere and nowhere.
We once, if you recall: on the night after your rape, talked of the ruins. Of what has become of our lives. Of how lost we felt.
I am the ruins. You are the ruins. But I don’t know the exact cause of our fall.
I will wait for you. Chicken misses you!
Ever Your Chicken,