“Why’d you become a nun?” asked Mr. Ram.
“Well, when I was a kid, my mother got me to enjoy all the music she and my father had listened to when they were kids, you know, Big Band, Glenn Miller, and she’d get me to watch all the movies she used to go see with my father when they were growing up. I really liked the movies and music from back then. They had a certain optimism, a joie de vivre, almost a naivety about life, all of which it seems like we’ve lost since then. While I was in college, there was Watergate and Viet Nam and the CIA and racial problems, and Berkeley wasn’t exactly a hotbed of contentment. If people in other countries liked our movies and music, they hated our government, and everyone around me at college was either cynical or distrustful or, or…it just all seemed so different from the movies and music my mother had shown me. It seemed to me that there had to be a better way to live life than being distrustful and cynical about everyone and everything, and besides, I thought someone had to carry the torch of American optimism, especially when everyone else was trying to put it out. And I decided that person would be me.
“I decided that what I wanted to do was to go abroad and show others that America was still a country that wanted to help people. I had thought about going into the Peace Corps, but I didn’t want to be connected with the government because if I worked for them, I was afraid that the people in the country I was going to wouldn’t trust me. So instead I became a Maryknoll nun, purposing to go down to Central America to help others and show them what America could be. My parents were Catholic, and I had met a couple of Maryknoll nuns in California. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was in the convent. My parents didn’t like the idea at first since they were Methodist, but after a while they accepted my decision.” Sister Carla had turned away from the table and was studying the floor beneath her intensely.
“What’s she doing?” asked Mrs. Ram.
“She’s trying to judge how far it is to the floor. Penguins are terribly nearsighted because their eyes are adapted to seeing underwater. So it takes them a while to judge distances. They’re quite good jumpers though. Some can jump better than they can walk.”
“So what happened in the convent?”
“Being there was quite an adjustment those first few months. Though I had taken on the idealism of the thirties, I had not taken on the Hayes Commission’s morality. I had always had boys chasing after me, but I really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. You know, men are funny because it’s so easy to manipulate them. I took cues from the movies and from friends and learned to act coy and shy, or aggressive and spunky as the situation demanded. Most of them never realized how I was controlling them. They were so happy to be with me, they didn’t seem to care. What happened at the end of the date was their main concern. Not that I didn’t enjoy it either. In fact, I probably enjoyed it more than they did, but I also made sure the evening itself was just as fun.” Sister Carla jumped off the chair and started to explore the Ram’s house at her leisure.
“Anyway, the convent changed my dating habits drastically, but I adjusted quickly enough. A lot of the nuns I met there were nice, optimistic, and even idealistic, though often for different reasons from my own. Nuns are not the simplistic Debbie Reynolds types that movies make them out to be. Most of them are probably more vivacious and thoughtful than the average person. You know, they say clothes make the person, and it’s the same with nuns. Most people only see the black and white outer habits nuns wear before the world without ever thinking about what nuns wear under their habits. But to some of the more liberal nuns, their nightgowns were their pride and joy. Why, I myself had a veritable rainbow of brilliant gowns to sleep in. Under a nun’s habit lies her true nature, not in it.
“But that’s beside the point. In due time I was down in Central America, and I must admit, it turned out to be something quite different from what I had imagined. I was sent down there to work with Sister Carla, that’s whom I named our penguin after. She had already been down there for two years, and she believed in helping people’s bodies as well as their souls and went out of her way to do so. She made sure she had done everything she could for the people she was working with, and she never gave up. Whether someone woke her up in the middle of the night seeking refuge, or came to her at the church, she went out of her way to help them. It wasn’t always easy either. We were taken advantage of many times and we knew it, but we stuck by our jobs nevertheless.
“Unfortunately, Sister Carla did too good of a job,” continued Regina more solemnly. “She helped everyone regardless of whom they were and that was her fatal mistake. The government of the country we were in was rather brutal and the leftists often did their best to be as inhuman as the people they were trying to overthrow. There were rumors about some of the things that happened to people the government didn’t like. They told me about the ‘flying nun’ incidents. Government soldiers would take some nun who wouldn’t cooperate with them up in a helicopter, fly over the ocean, and then push her out the window and tell her to fly. None did. Both sides had told Sister Carla to stay in the Church where she belonged, but she and I ignored them. I guess we just figured it wouldn’t happen to us, or if it did, it was God’s will.” Regina paused.
“It was a Wednesday when it happened. I was walking home when some of the people in the village ran up to me and told me some men had taken Sister Carla away. They didn’t know who the men were or what side they were on, but she was gone. Two days later someone found her body. She had been shot twice. As soon as I heard, I went to see her body to make sure her remains were taken care of.
“I don’t know. The whole situation was just too real. Sister Carla would have wanted me to stay on, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. My heart wasn’t in it. I stayed down there a while and read the Bible every day. But everything seemed so wrong. If Paul wasn’t preaching at me, the priests were laying down rules and regulations for me. I knew how to live without some man telling me what to do. And the men in the Bible were bigger chauvinists than the men down in Central America. Just read the Bible and see how the Jews treated women back in Old Testament times. The Israelites killed all the men in battle, but raped the women they captured or made them their mistresses. Their women were just furniture. And then I realized Israel was just like Honduras or some other Center American country. Every few years there was a coup, an assassination, a war, or something like that. Nothing had changed in three thousand years.
“After Sister Carla got killed, I tried reading the Bible for solace, but everywhere I read there was nothing but death and destruction from man and from God. You read in one place where the Israelites kill 500,000 men in a few days. In another place an angel kills 185,000 men. I guess God would justify that like we justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but what I never could understand was Childermas, the Slaughter of the Innocents. God sent an angel to Joseph so he would save His Son Jesus, but He let all the other children die. Why didn’t God tell the other fathers that Herod’s men were coming to massacre their children? Why did He save His Son and not the other children? I never could understand that. Of course now I’m an agnostic, so I think it’s all a bunch of nonsense, but I never could reconcile Childermas.
Nuns just want to have fun! But when three former Catholic nuns have too much fun and get in trouble with the law, they become nuns on the run.
Driving back to Washington D.C. where they work at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Parts, the three sisters are arrested in Tennessee. After defeating the local deputy in strip poker, they escape from jail, and are pursued by the zealous Detective Schmuck Hole, who has personally offered a $10,000 reward for their capture on The 700 Club. Little do they know that when the three sisters visit the Washington Monument, their lives will change forever.
Set in 1979, The Three Sisters is a sacrilegious satire that skewers not only organized religion, but the government, the media, intellectuals, corporate greed and every other part of the establishment. Maybe not the greatest story ever told, but possibly the funniest.
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Genre – Humor, Satire, Catholicism, Politics
Rating – R
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