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Carriers and Transference

16×20″ oil on linen

Vita

When the plague arrived in the town of Loxi, the landowners and merchants fled to their villas by the lake; assured that the purity of vast orchards and water would save them. The harbor was sealed, and fires were lit. As the town burned, young Vita, the chief magistrate’s daughter, grew diseased. Fleas were carried on the backs of rats and through the wind. Vita was bathed in rose water. She took it all in stride, receiving her meals locked in the attic while her bed sheets were boiled daily and lavender sprigs were chewed to ward off further infection. It was well known that several physicians had tried a successful method — first with a puppy, and then a frog — of transference. Vita’s favorite cat would do nicely, she was ordered to hold it to her stomach, and transfer the disease unto it. For 3 days she kept it close to her skin, but the cat did not inherit her sickness. And thus, little by little, the footsteps and voices of the home went quiet. The stillness would on occasion be broken by the flutter of leaves on the trees, the breeze on the waters, and the purrs of a black cat.

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