It was Betsy’s thirteenth birthday, which was a bittersweet day for her because it was also Christmas Day. Her parents always told her they gave her twice as many gifts as they would have if her birthday was any other day, one for her birthday and one for her Christmas present. But their hypocrisy became obvious when they gave her a pair of shoes, that is one for each foot they said, or a pair of socks, or the most birthday-ruining gift of all—mother brought home a pair of baby boys. Imagine her surprise and chagrin when Bob and Rob arrived in her personal world on her birthday, which had been upstaged already by baby Jesus. Now her birthday party and gifts would be divided between two more rivals, and probably it would be much worse because their family was already poor, and they claimed it was a stretch of the family finances to get her the new shoes. And for Betsy even the words “new shoes” were a cruel joke because those shoes were always old shoes that were too small for Jesús, the boy next door. Christmas was always boo-hoo day for Betsy.
Their family lived on an ancient street in Rome, Italy, named for the old Roman god Saturn. There was still a pedestal where a statue of Saturn once stood, but that was removed long ago and put into The Vatican, just a short walk from Betsy’s home. It was squeezed into a display room full of other old Roman gods. There they could be safely ignored or occasionally, on special days like Christmas, simply mocked with little gifts placed at the foot of the statues.
The favorite gifts were horse droppings. They were called balls, which was a comic mispronunciation of Baal, the rival god of the Classic Roman gods. Somehow that was considered appropriate and in good taste, but the statue room soon stank of Baal-droppings and even people used to the horsey stench avoided that room later on Christmas night. However, the local boys club had an initiation ceremony that evening where their prospective new members were forced to stay all night with the stinky old gods. It was scary being stuck in a dark smelly room with a bunch of dead gods. It was made even more terrifying for those boys, because the older members would surreptitiously make strange noises from down the long and echoing stone halls designed to scare the younger initiates. And it worked! Sometimes kids would come running out of that ancient god mausoleum screaming in terror and thus they never became members of the Secret Order of Baal Droppings, the “S O O B D” (pronounced “the soob’d”).
All of these things happened on Betsy’s birthday. Well, what’s a girl to do to get even? On the day after Christmas she would inevitably be in trouble and brought before the priests for questioning and repeatedly asked, “and why did you do … that?” Her simple game was to sneak in through a secret door of The Vatican and play mysterious tricks on the older boys who were playing tricks on the younger ones. The old priests were in on her game because she was an otherwise model child and she always confessed in comic detail all the things she did to scare those boys. It was one of those super secrets known only to the most inside of the insiders at The Vatican.
Ultimately little Betsy grew up and did many wonderful things, and later she became canonized and she is now known as Saint Betsy. She is still known to us centuries later as the trickster saint, and sometimes when some little thing happens unexpectedly she is remembered with the words … Heavens to Betsy!
The story was written at the Dudley’s bookstore writer’s group. The prompt was based on a combination of words selected by the other participants: a person’s name, a date, a year, a place, and a prompt. The general prompt was, “Why did you do that?” To make it more fun and personal, each person in our group of six was given a piece of paper and asked to write a person’s name; we each then moved our paper clockwise, and wrote a date, moved again and wrote a year, etc. The timer was set to forty minutes. After it rang, we each read the results of our efforts. The story above was mine. Later, I added the picture from the internet and buffed it up a little.
My personalized writer’s prompts were: Betsy – Christmas Day – Saturn – Why did you do that?