Achieving Sainthood
Bev Vines-Haines
Hayward Fault Line Winner
I think the truly devout long for sainthood, preening for it in that way young girls plan for a wedding. But really, how glorious is it? You have to die to achieve it. And yet...the lovely Bettina Scalari rose beautifully to the challenge.

She loved cats. And she had so very many. The streets of Naples provided an endless supply as she scoured them deep into the night. There were issues of course. Say a wife plucked her kitty from in front of the hearth and put it outside for the night. There was a good chance that kitty would join the hoard in Bettina's back garden.

Kitties never got away once they belonged to Bettina. She'd had a walled section constructed of marble built around the garden's borders. She fed her charges like furry royalty. And royalty they became. Bettina sculpted a rendition of each kitty and placed pillows and food bowls to create small territories. Each kitty slept only in its own space.

During the day the animals lounged on rocks and chased mice Bettina purchased for their pleasure. In the beginning, she'd quite fancied dogs but by the time she had more than a hundred of them in that garden paradise she could not deal with the fecal debris left by Saint Bernards, Labradors and other large breeds. So she decided to fancy cats instead.

I am her neighbor Isabella Capesio. My quarters are small but located in the turret section of an old mansion just behind Bettina's yard. I am able to watch the goings on as much as I like. Kitties here and there and everywhere. And the devoted mistress catering to their every need.

A few weeks ago Bettina began to cause me much alarm. Her whim, her collecting, her obsession if you will, began to morph yet again. I noticed the kitties began to disappear. Slowly at first but then the process picked up speed. I saw disturbed soil in the former play areas and mice were no longer released for the chase. Eventually I could find no more than five or six felines no matter how hard I looked. The little sculptures were stacked in rows beside the garden wall.

More alarming, I saw she'd begun collecting play pens, strollers and small cribs. Oh no! Not a child would be safe in the markets and the stores. Children left sunning in the yard would disappear. I did what I had to do. Now Bettina's yard is quiet. No dogs. No kitties. No babies.  

And Bettina is my personal saint. We visit in my garden and I can almost hear her speak.

First published: November 2015
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