Susan Mannix :: The Nun’s Lounge ::


Southern Legitimacy Statement: The most legit thing I can say is I’m not originally from the south and don’t pretend to be. I’ve lived [barely] below the Mason-Dixon Line most of my adult life and this is now home. My daughters are born and raised Maryland girls. We’ve hauled horses from here to Chatt Hills, Aiken, and Southern Pines and have fallen in love with each place. My daughter’s horse is a Louisiana-bred thoroughbred who came to us with the name of the LSU mascot and we call him Hugh; he thrives in the heat and humidity. I do not, but am no fan of the cold. I love South Carolina winters.

The Nun’s Lounge

I didn’t think we’d make it. I was sure one of us would slip up, especially me. I’m a terrible liar.

My classroom had been on the first floor. Twentieth Century American Lit was every Monday evening, right next door to the nuns’ lounge. The place was normally quiet, low on activity. As you’d expect. I mean, how much noise can someone make praying to the saints, organizing bingo cards, and planning ways to torture students?

Brynn and I never told a soul what we saw that night a couple of months into our freshman year. As I walked past the den of inactivity, its door was cracked open just enough for me to see Sister Pontifica pulling a cushioned chair around to face the back of the room. Odd, but I shrugged it off to her doing some compulsive cleaning. What else would she have in her life? 

I laughed to myself at the entrance to my classroom. Once again, somebody had stuck a big wad of pink bubble gum into the old holy water font. Unused for decades, the little iron half-cups still hung on the walls outside every room of the Humanities Building. Constructed of brick, mortar, and lots of wood, everything creaked and the smell of must hung in the air. The campus’ prized centerpiece — the Baltimore College of Notre Dame Chapel — anchored the building’s two wings.

Not long after I settled at my desk along the wall next to the lounge, my roommate slipped into the one beside mine. 

“My manager at Safeway is the worst, always keeping me late”  Brynn pulled her curly red hair up into a bun. “Gawd, I smell. I really need a shower.” She then leaned in closer to me. For the record, she didn’t smell. “Jules, did you notice how busy the nunny bunnies were tonight? I saw two of them scuffle in and out of their lounge with some heavy bags.”

“I saw Sister Pontifica moving around furniture.”

“Hiding a dead body?” She gave me a sinister grin and then laughed.

Halfway through class, a door slamming made me jump and Dr.  Killigan wrinkle his brow during his lecture. I heard someone say, “Shhhhhh! They’ll hear you!” Through the wall.

Brynn leaned over and whispered, “Something is going on. I say we find out.”

After class we slipped unseen into the darkened classroom on the other side of the lounge that had a connecting door.

“Yes! Make ‘em pay!” was followed by foot stomping. 

“What is going on in there? Human sacrifice?” I said. 

We got to the door and slowly opened it, just enough to peer inside. What we saw was shocking.

A sea of purple. Habits were replaced by Baltimore Ravens jerseys and sweatshirts; wimples traded in for ball caps. Chairs were set up facing a big screen TV tuned to Monday Night Football. On a long table were bowls of snacks and a tub of ice with beers stuck in it.

“That’s my quarterback!” yelled Sister Pontifica as Lamar Jackson scored a touchdown.

“O.M.G. I was not expecting this!” Brynn whispered.

“In Tucker we trust!” Sister Augusta hollered when the kicker made the extra point.

“That boy is money every time,”  Sister Mary-Grace said. Then she belched. Loudly. And long.

“Blessed Mother in heaven, MG. That is digusting. You cannot drink anything carbonated. Somebody keep her away from the beer and soda,” Sister Pontifica scolded.

That did us in. Brynn and I bust out laughing. The entire room turned in our direction.

“Can we help you, ladies?” Sister Pontifica said. Her tiny frame grew to the size of a linebacker as she approached us.

“Uhhh…we heard weird noises coming out of here…and, and…” I stammered.

She put her hands on her hips. “And you thought you’d sneak around?”

“Sister P,” Brynn stepped in. “It’s cool. We heard a couple of loud thuds and thought someone had fallen.”

“Only thing falling are the Steelers. Amiright, girls?” Sister Augusta said to the room.

“Darned straight!” Mary-Grace shouted before putting her hand to her mouth, no doubt suppressing a burp.

“My name is Sister Pontifica. I suggest you remember that, Brynne.”

“Relax, Tiffy,” Augusta said as she twisted the cap off her beer. “Why don’t we invite them in? You two like football?”

Brynn and I nodded.

“Gussie. We can’t let them in here,” Pontifica said to Augusta.

“Sure we can. But no beer.” She winked and directed us to a couple of empty chairs.

Brynn offered up knuckles. “Pound it, Sister. Can I call you Gussie?”

“No,” she said, then tapped her knuckles to Brynn’s. 

“Seriously, Brynn? Gussie?” I whispered.

“Worth a shot.”

We stayed until half-time and then decided to leave the gals to themselves. Sister Pontifica walked us to the door. 

“Do you do this on Sunday game days?” I asked.

“Right after Mass,” she answered. “And if either of you breathe a word of this to anybody, I’ll see to it you both don’t graduate until you’re collecting social security. Got it?”

“Yes, Sister Pontifica,” we said in unison.

We kept that promise and graduated two weeks ago. After the ceremony, Sister Augusta came up to us. 

“Now you can call me Gussie.”