Wherein Da Silvio, the artist, tucks eight-year-old Charlie Buck into bed. Both of these characters hail from an earlier iteration of the novel I am currently revising, Sabra the Astonishing or The Virgin of Ararat. They have been cut, but the following remains one of my favorite exchanges. And, for the record, I have known a couple of people who, as children, firmly believed that nuns had wheels instead of feet. I did not make this up.
“Is it hard to be a nun?” asked Charlie.
“Well,” said Da Silvio, “it does mean cutting off your feet.”
“I thought everyone knew that,” said Da Silvio. “Nuns don’t have feet. When have you ever seen a nun’s feet?”
“But they wear those long dresses!”
“Exactly! To hide their wheels!”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Well, little wheels,” conceded Da Silvio. “Casters, really.”
“But Da Silvio,” Charlie persisted. “If nuns have casters instead of feet, how do they sleep?”
“That is a very good question,” said Da Silvio. “At bedtime the sisters roll into the dormitory and line up facing the walls. They are waiting for the novices, who don’t yet have their wheels. (The Mother Superior only lops off their feet at final profession.) It is a most unusual sort of dormitory. There are no beds, only hooks, and each nun waits below one hook — her hook, like in school. Then novices roll ramps on wheels into the dormitory and position these ramps in front of the nuns. Up the ramps the nuns rolls, pushed by the novices. Then the nun turns around, throws her long veil over one shoulder, to reveal a harness. The veil, you see, is to hide the harness. That’s what it’s there for. I mean, think about it. Why else would you wear a veil? Anyway, the novices hook the nuns’ harnesses to the wall, then roll the ramps away. And there all the nuns hang, until the morning and the return of the novices.”
“They hang there all night?” asked Charlie.
Da Silvio nodded. “All night. Like Bats.”
Having seen Nuns “float” across the floor, I can believe this young boy’s thinking they travelled on wheels! Well described.