January 2024


Michael Bettencourt | Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt

One of our backdeck feral regulars, B2, seems to have gone missing. We are worried; we are resigned.

We named him B2 because he is an echo of our Banquo: both are large-bodied, thick-furred black cats with striking green eyes.

We also believe he is the father of our Seamus and Fiona and another member of our backdeck bunch named Calaca (now-neutered) by way of the (now-neutered) Bandida.

He wasn't (isn't? is the present tense still warranted? I shall use the present tense as a form of hope). He isn't a chummy cat; as a tom, he occupies space with his heavy body as if it belongs solely to him, though the two females (Calaca and Bandida) do not hesitate to whap him a few good strokes if he gets too close or hogs the food too long.

There are non-feeding times, though, when all by himself, he comes to the back deck for what we call his retreat. He settles himself into one of the deck chairs or, if it's a sunny winter day, he stretches out on top of one of the shelters and just sleeps. For hours. Of course, we can't know what he's thinking (if there is a cat form of that process), but we surmise that, street life being tough and unforgiving, he values a safe and secure place where he doesn't have to be vigilant and combative with cortisol fragging his veins.

He has never once let us near him; when we come out to do the feeding, he retreats to what he considers a safe distance and watches the proceedings. What he has been able to do, over time, is to retreat closer: his version of domestication with benefits.

There are times he appears looking very much the worse for wear: a hank of hair dislodged, a nasty scratch on the cheek, a bloodied eye. But he seems to have an industrial-strength immune system – lesions heal, fur returns, he's on deck for a meal.

We have no way to find out has happened to him. When he is not here, we don't know where he hangs out. We have seen him on top of the garages that back a row of apartments on the street level below us, but he hasn't appeared there at all. Because cats are such creatures of time and place (especially if the food comes along often and abundantly), we can only conclude that he's no longer around: either because he headed out to other pastures or because he has passed away (there are so many damages that can happen to street cats). We hope the former; we fear the latter.

If he has died, then we should properly mourn him, let grief and sadness inhabit our days for a time, certify that this sentient creature existed in our hearts and was not just a cipher, a DNA whimsy, a discard. And so we have been doing that, letting the loss sift into us and settle.

We guess that Calaca and Bandida, being cats, haven't noticed his absence or, if they have, have not bothered themselves about it. But, of course, we can't confirm that, not being fluent in cat ourselves. So this pang is just for us, this weight is just for us, this absence, redolent of the advent of our
own, is just for us.


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Michael Bettencourt is an essayist and a playwright.
He writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate"
and wife, Marķa-Beatriz.
For more of his columns, articles, and media,
check the Archives.

©2024 Michael Bettencourt
©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine




and creates


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