The convent strictly forbade reading newspapers, watching television, or listening to the radio. Postulants concentrated instead on learning how to leave behind ”the secular world.” Annette and I had willingly done so but sorely missed the news.
So those papers, which professed nuns had left behind after washing their stained scapulars, tempted us. The scapulars covered the front and the back of the ankle-length, long-sleeved tunic—or habit—they wore. The nuns would roll the wet scapulars in newspapers to absorb the wash water then dispose of these blotched papers in the lavatory trashcan.
Reading them would be against the rules, but not reading them seemed impossible. If caught, we’d probably get in trouble. Maybe even asked to leave. We didn’t know for sure. We knew only that news awaited us if we could be inventive. If we but dared.
We decided to risk it, but deceit was essential. We came up with a surefire, two-part plan. Picture this:
It’s my turn to read.
I stand on the toilet stool and steady myself.
I stoop with a foot balanced on each side of the seat.
I squat low so I’m well below the top of the locked stall door.
I quickly scan the news.
I finish and trade places with Annette.
The second part of our ingenious plan dealt with a troubling contingency:
A nun tries to open the locked stall in which my feet are straddling the toilet.
I hold still as a statue perched atop a stool plinth.
Annette explains that the door is locked because of a faulty toilet.
She nonchalantly keeps cleaning.
Not a care in the world.
Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
The visitor, totally deceived of course, uses the other stall and departs. She’s puzzled because the door’s locked on the inside, but after all one of those nice postulants said the toilet wasn’t working. They wouldn’t fib. Surely not.
Annette and I trade places, secure in our perfect plan: Stand. Stoop. Straddle. Squat. Read. Clean. We did it for an entire year with nary a word from anyone.