GOING NOWHERE NO TIME SOON
SLY DEMANDED to be allowed to withdraw from the public eye, arguing that a show of level-headedness on Jakome’s part, in the form of a carefully staged epiphany resulting in an explosive banishment, would salvage the situation. He proposed he jaunt to the collection of small states that we today call Italy, to visit an old friend.
. . . . . Jakome nixed that idea. Way too far.
. . . . . “Across the border,” countered the cat. “Into France. Great food. Vineyard snails in butter. Heaven.”
. . . . . “You’ll never come back,” shrieked the king. On that basis, he rejected a number of excursions that the animal would have enjoyed to take.
. . . . . Watching Jak worry his rosary, he fingered it frantically in times of stress, an idea birthed itself. “The monastery of San Fermin,”1 urged the cat. Not far, wretched food – Bittor was known to dump his experimental production on those uncomplaining men, who looked upon its consumption as a penance. Rather than offer it to the needy for a pittance – the prestige of the item must be maintained – it was unloaded on the religious community, who in turn shared it with those same unfortunates under the guise of Christian charity.
. . . . . Bittor would have been shocked to know what portion of his gift was passed along, a dispersal that could hardly be disapproved of, though he would have done so, definitely. He was not one to assist the disadvantaged. It encouraged them to beg, even more of a nuisance.
. . . . . Sly was a resolute nonbeliever, Jakome, his polar opposite. The king had tried to set the animal on the right path. They’d had many a confrontation concerning his immortal soul, the existence of which the critter disputed vehemently.
. . . . . Jakome was pleased with the latest idea. Away from the bawdy atmosphere of the court, surrounded by godly companions, the snot might be inspired to rethink his disturbing stance. The king had long hoped to have the critter baptized. Loony, I know. Animals are not baptized. But they are often blessed. Same thing almost, right?
. . . . . Uh, oh. Cause for excommunication, I’m reading. Animals were not created in the Almighty’s image. They have not the intellect, able to receive and to understand and, above all, to choose to obey, or not, the teachings of the church.
. . . . . That bit of dogma Jakome rejected from personal experience. Sly was proof of the fallacy of that particular belief. He had as much brain as anyone. Therefore, he could and should be given the opportunity to weasel his way into heaven, if ever he found faith.
. . . . . What if? That’s what the man asked himself. What if the scamp, shyster, a sinner, aren’t we all, but of good heart, knowing right from wrong and able to articulate his views better than most, what if he perished without having been sprinkled with the holy water, condemned to hellfire on a technicality?
. . . . . The man’s determination to have the cat baptized can surely be attributed to the fact that Sly had never been given even an inferior Anglican ceremony. Spiritually, he was as vulnerable as could be. The king considered wrapping the critter in swaddling, a shaved forehead exposed, and passing him off as a babe in arms to a priest with poor eyesight. A tight swaddle would prevent a clawing, but eyes shooting daggers and, instead of gurgles, unnatural hisses, might result in a scheduled baptism being replaced by an impromptu exorcism.
. . . . . The cat would not stand for it, of course. He had made his position abundantly clear. The sacrament would have to be administered with the critter unaware of the ritual splash and accompanying prayer. The baptismal font would be a dead giveaway. A presiding religious, same deal. If a lay person dared do the job, would the act be valid?
. . . . . It occurred to the king that he might pass an edict naming himself the head of a nationalized church, as Henry Tudor had done, awarding himself the authority to perform certain ecclesiastical offices in the bargain. In the end, he dismissed that incendiary idea. But something must be done, the cat on the verge of bolting. Anything could befall on such a journey.
. . . . . He’d consult a professional, the particulars as vague as possible. The term cat could not figure in the conversation. Down the hill, the animal would not be hovering, or lurking. Jakome sent a runner to the Cathedral of the Holy Shepard with a note:
My dear Zag,
I shall attend you this evening. I am in the mood for your jovial presence,
and in dire need of your wise counsel.
- San Fermin: A Basque saint, the first Bishop of Pamplona. It is said that he met his death by being dragged through the streets by bulls.