We have a rec room right next to the dining area. It's nothing special. It's got a television, some board games, a few decks of cards, and a bookcase filled with novels. After breakfast, Sherman wheels me into the rec room, which is where I will hang out until lunch. Sherman usually stays close to me, in case I want to go somewhere, and also he has to tilt me back in my chair every hour or so to keep me from getting a pressure sore. A pressure sore means that I would be stuck in bed for days or even weeks. The staff doesn't care about that, but I do, and thankfully, I've got Sherman to help me.
Finch wants to play poker. There aren't any poker chips, so we just keep track of it all in our heads. It's not real money anyway, which is a good thing, because Finch cheats.
Finch puts out the cardholder for me, and deals five cards to me. Sherman wanders away to listen to the television, because he can't see the cards, and it would ruin it if we told him our hands. I could use my stick to get rid of the cards I don't want, but if I had the mouthpiece in my mouth, I wouldn't be able to talk. So I just tell Finch which cards I want to get rid of and he deals new cards to me.
"Maybe Sister Elizabeth will drop dead," Finch says he contemplates his hand. "And maybe the church will send over some little honey to replace her."
"I'm sure that will happen,” I say, rolling my eyes.
Finch grins his lopsided smile at me. "I could really go for a conjugal visit right now."
I would be lying if I said I didn't miss women. I'm not bragging or anything, but I am incredibly good-looking. I have the silky blond hair (now prison short), the chiseled jaw, the penetrating blue eyes, everything you see in those insipid romance novels. Before I got hurt, getting women wasn't a challenge. My girlfriends were all model hot.
The girl I was dating when I got hurt didn't stick around for my arraignment and I don't blame her. Aside from the whole prison thing, I don't see any girls falling head over heels for a guy paralyzed from the neck down. So I would say my chances of a conjugal visit here is in the negative numbers. As I said, my dick is becoming pretty much a relic.
But there's nothing wrong with fantasizing.
"Nuns are really hot," I say. "They're like us. Locked up all day in the convent, without any exposure to the opposite sex. Most of them are pretty damaged. You talk to a nun the right way, you can get anywhere with her."
Spoken from experience.
Finch is always drooling a little from the right side of his mouth, but I think I made it worse. "Man, they send in any halfway decent girl, I'm going to be all over her."
"Sherman might beat you to it," I tell him.
"I’ll just trip that blind asshole," Finch says.
"Then he can't push me over to translate for you," I say with a grin. "How will she understand you?"
"We'll speak the universal language of love," Finch says.
The universal language of love. Finch is an idiot sometimes.
When the nun arrives from the convent, I am already reading. While I was so messed up on drugs, I didn't read much, but before that, I used to really like books, and now I have nothing but time to read. As a kid, my favorites were Roald Dahl and Louis Sachar, and as I got into my teenage years, I started reading Philip Roth and Kurt Vonnegut. I am slowly working my way through the bookcase in the rec room.
I can read on my own with the help of a book holder and my stick with the mouthpiece. I usually get Finch or Sherman to set it up for me, and I can mostly manage on my own. It's not the easiest thing in the world to turn pages with a stick, but I make it work.
Finch used to kick up a fuss when I wanted to read. He called me a sissy boy, or some other uncreative insult. I don't think Finch can read that well, and Sherman can't read at all anymore. Sometimes I read out loud to the other guys, but it's hard because I get out of breath more easily than I used to. It's too bad, because I can tell that they like it a lot.
Right now, I’m reading Middlesex, a book about an androgynous person who is raised as a girl and converts to a male later in life. I find it fascinating, especially the background of growing up in Greece and the incest that led to the narrator’s disorder. I actually read it twice before, but I liked it so much, I'm reading it again. I am deeply enmeshed in the plot when I hear a voice above my head:
"I love that book."
The voice startles me so that I drop the stick from my mouth. The voice was female, which is shocking in itself, but moreover, it is a young female voice. The voice that lilts, like a beautiful song. I haven't heard a voice like that in a very long time.
I look up to find the face attached to the voice. I swallow hard, realizing that the face is even more beautiful than the voice. Wide brown eyes, naturally pink cheeks, and full red lips. And her hair… Well, that's where my description must end because the rest of her is draped in the most concealing nuns’ habit I've ever seen. It covers her hair and makes a tent out of her body.
It seems unfair that this beautiful woman is concealed while Sister Elizabeth showed up in a fucking skirt and blouse.
"My name is Sister Catherine," she says.
I just stare at her for a minute, like I've forgotten how to speak.
"Can you talk?" she asks gently.
"Yes," I say, quickly finding my voice. I clear my throat. "I'm Philip. I… live here."
"It's nice to meet you, Philip," Sister Catherine says. To my simultaneous horror and excitement, she reaches over to shake one of my clenched fists. If I were capable of it, I'm sure I would have a huge tent in my pants right now.
"Nice to meet you too," I say.
"I'm here to read to you," she says. Then she laughs lightly. "Well, not just you. At least, I hope not. Not that there's anything wrong with it just being you or anything…"
And now she starts blushing. I think I'm in love.
Fortunately for her, the other men have taken notice of her entrance and are making their way over to us. It looks like she's going to have a big crowd for her reading.
"What are you going to read to us?" I ask her.
"You'll never believe it." She reaches into the large handbag on her shoulder and pulled out a dog-eared copy of Middlesex. "You don't mind, do you?"
Yes, I'm definitely in love.
I've never seen this big crowd for a reading. Usually, it's just Sherman and a handful of other guys. But today, it seems like nearly every guy who has anything going on upstairs, and an ounce of blood left in his dick has shown up to see Sister Catherine read.
Finch is really excited. He gets a spot right up in front of her chair, and Sherman pushes me over into the spot next to him. "It's just like in my dreams," Finch says.
I shrug, which is about all I can do with my lower body these days. "It's just a girl."
Finch looks down at my lap, and we both notice my stick is still lying there. I forgot all about it, which I never ever do. I am really protective of my stick with the mouthpiece on it. I know if it gets lost, I won't get it replaced so fast. Nobody is hopping around to get a murderer adaptive equipment.
"Why aren’t you yelling at me to pick up that stick and put in your pocket?" Finch asks me.
"I forgot," I admit.
Finch grins lopsidedly at me as he replaces the stick in my pocket. "Yeah, just a girl. Right."
The crowd hushes him as Sister Catherine sits on a stool in front of us. She crosses her legs so that I can see that she's wearing ballet shoes, which strikes me as incredibly sexy. She picks up her book, and begins to read the first chapter.
Everyone is captivated. Partially it's probably the story, which as I said, is one of my favorites, but in all honesty, it's Catherine. She's the prettiest thing any of us have seen in months, maybe years, maybe even a decade for some of this crowd. She enunciates each word so carefully, it makes me wonder if she's a graduate of prep school like I am. That makes her all the more sexy. The only person who doesn't seem happy is Sherman, who mumbles under his breath, "I liked Sister Elizabeth better."
I don't know if she's been reading 15 or 20 minutes when Finch, whose jaw is hanging open, can't stand it another second. He blurts out, "Shut up and show us your tits!”
I hear snickering from the one or two other guys who understood him. But it's obvious that Sister Catherine had no clue what he said to her. She puts down the book and smiles benevolently at him. "Do you have a question about the book?" she asks him.
"Show us your tits!" Finch repeats, with more urgency this time. It looks like he's about to cream his pants.
"I'm sorry," Catherine says gently. "I didn't understand you. Can you say that again please?"
I've been editing Finch’s words ever since I first met him, both to avoid pissing people off and also to mess with him. I do it almost automatically. So I'm not quite sure what possessed me to do what I did. I guess Sister Catherine had somehow scrambled my brain.
"He said to shut up and show him your tits," I say.
Catherine's neck turns red first, then the scarlet creeps up into her cheeks. She blinks her brown eyes a few times, as if she can't believe that a prisoner would say such a thing to her. Stop being so naïve, Catherine.
"Oh," she says quietly.
My own cheeks are now starting to feel very warm.
"Yeah!" another prisoner, an old guy, yells out. "Let's see them, honey!"
Somehow the comment from Finch has opened up the floodgates. She tries to go back to reading, but it's no use. Every minute or so, there's a new comment about her breasts or her ass. When she gets to the end of the chapter, she puts down the book.
"That'll be all for today," she says quietly.
I don't know how long she had been planning to read to us, but I have a feeling that the session was cut short.
She receives another round of boos and heckling from the crowd, but she ignores it as she hurries away from us to where she hung up her coat and bag. I feel a tightness in my chest, a sort of panic. Sister Catherine is never coming back here. I'll never see this girl again.
"Sherman," I say urgently. "You need to push me."
"Huh?” Sherman says, in typical Sherman style.
"I need you to push me over to Sister Catherine, straight ahead," I say. "Right now. Before she leaves."
"I need to talk to her."
Thankfully, Sherman doesn't ask any further questions, although he takes his sweet time getting to his feet. He grabbed the handles of my chair, and I feel myself moving forward. Unfortunately, Sherman can't feel his feet and he can't see anything more than shadows, so he walks with these shuffling steps. Catherine already has her coat on, and I don't think we can make it over to her before she gets out the door.
I watch her taking broad steps towards the exit. I know Sherman and I aren’t going to make it. Finally, in an act of desperation, I yell out, "Sister Catherine! Wait!”
At first I think she isn’t going to stop. I certainly wouldn't blame her. But then she slows down, drops her shoulders, and turns around.
Sherman slowly pushes me toward Catherine. I try to imagine what she is seeing when she looks at me. Is she looking at my crippled body, with my curled up fists, knobby knees pressed together, the bulge of the leg bag obvious under the thin layer of my sweatpants? Or is she looking at my face, which is still handsome, albeit thinner than it was before?
"Sister Catherine," I say.
She shakes her head. "What is it?"
I look her straight in her brown eyes. "I'm really sorry," I say.
I hold my breath, watching her pink cheeked face, waiting for her response. She's a nun, so that means she has to forgive me. Isn't that what being a nun is all about? My father couldn't forgive me, but she has to.
Sister Catherine finally says to me, "You smell like shit.”
I sniff the air and realize that she's right. Sometime while Catherine was reading, the laxatives took effect, and I soiled my diaper. Not just that, but when I look down at my lap, I can see that the stool is leaking, spreading brown onto my sweatpants. I not only shit myself, but I have done so spectacularly, and at the worst possible moment.
"Goodbye," Sister Catherine says, and she spins on her heels and walks out, leaving me sitting in my shit.
I guess she doesn't forgive me.