Friday, May 26, 2017

Clean Dirt

by Jean Roberta

I already discussed “splosh” under a previous topic, so this time, I have to interpret “filth” as a metaphor. This is tricky. If “filth” means immorality, it can be interpreted in various ways. One person’s filth is another person’s revelation.

In my story, “The Battle Lost and Won,”* two nuns form a “special friendship.” The younger one, Sister Mary Agnes, feels horribly guilty about it, even though an androgynous Angel Gabriel has already appeared to her to warn her that entering the convent to avoid the complications of desire was cowardly, not virtuous.

Sister Mary’s lover, Sister Benedict, gives birth to a baby that seems to have supernatural origins. The Reverend Mother, wishing to avoid a scandal, threatens to cut the baby’s throat.

That’s when Sister Mary Agnes grows a spine and starts to develop her own moral code. Like many other single mothers, Sister Mary decides to keep the child alive by any means necessary:

Sister Mary held the child tightly against her bosom, where it mewed like a kitten and moved its little limbs, smearing the woman's habit with blood. Somehow Sister Mary knew the creature was female. "I will find a wetnurse for her and work for her keep. Sister Benedict, you must wait for me!"

Mother Anne tried to block Sister Mary's way. Summoning strength that she hadn't known she had, Sister Mary pushed her aside and strode to her room to collect her few belongings.

Soon, the woman was hurrying down the road that led to the village, holding the baby wrapped in her cloak.

Sister Mary walked past one humble cottage after another. Which dwelling had room for another child? None looked promising. At length she came to the inn, or so it appeared to be. A smiling gentleman strode past her to ring the bell. He was ushered inside by a plump, dark-haired woman in a bright red bodice that revealed the deep valley between her generous breasts. Sister Mary felt sure that she had come to the right place.

The young nun knocked at the back door, as befitted one seeking work as a servant. A maid wearing a saucy yellow gown opened the door, looking as though she had been interrupted while dressing. Her hair hung loose over her shoulders, and she casually bent over to tie one of her garters before acknowledging Sister Mary.

"What have we here?" she sneered. "A fallen sister. Well, it's not my problem. I'll fetch the Mistress."

"Please," begged Sister Mary, "my child is hungry." But the maid had already turned away.

Sister Mary cautiously looked at the face of the baby girl she thought of as hers. The child looked gravely back at her with the eyes of a sad woman. "Whether you come from Above or Below," promised Sister Mary, "I'll take care of you."

The woman in the red bodice swept forward, her petticoats rustling under her gown. This was Mistress Alison of the house known as the Lion Rampant. She laughed aloud at the sight of Sister Mary, who had resolved to take back her old name.

"Mistress, I am Susanna," she said as sweetly as she could. "I would be honored if you could use my services. The hospitality of your house is renowned."

"You needn't tell me that, girl," smiled the Mistress. "I'm sure we can reach an agreement. You're a comely wench and you still have an air of innocence. Are you willing to please me?"

The baby opened her tiny mouth as widely as she could, and screamed in hunger. Her face turned red, and the color spread to the tender scalp under her wisps of dark brown hair.

"You may feed your child, Susanna. You needn't pretend to be modest with me."

"My milk has not come in, Mistress. Is there no one in your house who can suckle a child?"

Mistress Alison laughed and made circles in the air with both hands. Susanna felt a tingling in both her breasts. "Come," ordered the Mistress.

The former nun knew that service would be required of her, and she could guess that housekeeping would not be a major part of it.

The Mistress brought Susanna and the baby to a bedchamber where she told Susanna to lay baby Lilith on the floor and remove all of her clothes. With fear and mounting excitement, Susanna freed her hair from its covering and unplaited it, leaving it to flow in ripples down her back, awkwardly holding the baby in the crook of one arm and then the other. She removed her stained cloak, awkwardly folded it and laid it on the floor as a pallet for the baby.

Mistress Alison watched, looking as though she had just heard a colorful story. She seemed pleased that Susanna had not presumed to hang her cloak from one of the hooks on the wall.

Soon Susanna was pulling off her shift, exposing her hard, round breasts, the charming little pit of her navel, her firm buttocks, gently curved hips and coltlike legs. To her amazement, streams of milk flowed from her nipples down the slopes of her breasts and over her belly.

"The Lord provides, dear," said the Mistress, winking.

Susanna held the baby to each of her breasts in turn, and Lilith drank loudly, slurping and smacking her lips before fastening them tightly on the source of nourishment and sucking with force. Susanna was shocked by the pleasure that flowed through her, and by the answering moisture that gathered between her lower lips. Susanna felt herself melting into her role as the nurse of her child and the servant of her Mistress, bound to both by remorse, gratitude and secret pride.

Susanna is shocked by how much she enjoys her new job in the local “house of ill repute,” yet as a nun, she was expected to be of service to others. Her new form of service also involves living with other women in a spirit of sisterhood. She can’t help rejecting the conventional morality that defines her and all the other wenches in the Lion Rampant as “fallen,” while celibate women are considered holy.

Susanna is also shocked by the pleasure of breast-feeding. Surely mothers aren’t supposed to be turned on while suckling their babies? (This was a controversial issue in the Erotic Readers and Writers lists several years ago.) Yet she feels what she feels, and she can't see what harm it could do. Note that this experience does not turn her into a pedophile; for sexual pleasure lower down, she prefers adults.

Eventually, the convent is destroyed after a cemetery full of baby bones is discovered on its grounds. Susanna is reunited with Sister Benedict, a.k.a. Joan.
To this day, two lesbians raising a child (or several) are not considered “clean” by conservatives, but if they are filthy, it’s worth asking: “Compared to what?”

Regarding the moral nature of young Lilith, the Angel Gabriel answers with exasperation (after being summoned repeatedly to make announcements) that she must decide for herself whether to be good or evil; it’s up to her. Even if the child’s origins are as mysterious as the origins of life itself, she is as human as the rest of us, and she can find her own definition of “filth.”

*This story is in my collection, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press, 2013).


  1. Lilith seems a most appropriate name, Jean. I love the way you've worked in miracles.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisabet. Actually, Susanna's milk is somewhat less than miraculous. Mistress Alison knows how to cast spells, and she helps Susanna to produce nourishment for "her" child. (Whether this kind of thing is possible in real life is a whole other discussion - some claim there are ways.)

    I'm interested in how ordinary human self-centredness (or self-interest) can lead to results that benefit others. This could be another discussion! Or topic.

  3. Nursing has been thought to delay ovulation while the baby needs its mother's complete attention, and to tighten the uterus after being stretched during pregnancy, so it makes a certain amount of sense for nursing to produce sensations that extend to the entire reproductive system. "Thought to," but not to be relied on when it comes to nursing as a means of birth control. I wonder whether anyone who decries being turned on by a baby's suckling considers being turned on by stimulation of the breasts without benefit of a baby to be shameful.

  4. "One person’s filth is another person’s revelation."

    This is the truth of it.

    I really like what you've shared here of the story. In general, I like how your characters always manage to find a way out of societal restrictions that are stifling them. :D

  5. Thank you, Annabeth. I sometimes wonder if I'm enough of a rebel. :)


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