A FAREWELL TO MAT,
Bodacious Scurvy is dead. Bodacious is an alley cat that appears in my book, Heart Land. He was my neighbor’s cat in truth, saved from the streets ten years ago. I heard the tears in the woman’s voice when she phoned to say she’d had to put him down. She was grieved by his loss, understandably, as he was a member of her family, and I admit a lump formed in my throat when I heard the news.
When Mat the cat first appeared in our neighborhood all those years ago, everyone on the block knew he had been abandoned. He was probably between 3-4 years old. Not yet scrawny, but the dust of the streets and the leaves of the underbrush had left him looking unkempt. Forced to fend for himself, his depression was understandable. But he had not entirely given up on humans. A quiet call would draw him a few cautious steps toward us. A dish of food left on a porch was graciously accepted.
Something in his stride endeared him to all of us. He was down but not defeated; he was abandoned but hadn’t given up hope. Seeing his courage, a conclave of residents was called. He suited the neighborhood and after searching for his previous owner, we decided one of us should give him a home. My neighbor agreed to adopt him and the rest of us chipped in for his trip to the veterinarian and to have him spayed. The latter proved to be unnecessary. Someone had already seen to that, though one would never have guessed he was neutered by his swagger.
The cat settled into his new home and new owner instinctively, following the trail of food I suppose. He remained loyal to her, though he made perches of every porch along the street in his effort to follow the sun that he loved so much. He was always welcome wherever he landed. He knew us all and would raise his head with sleepy eyes when he saw us, expecting an ear to be scratched. He was never disappointed.
Still, seeing bravado in his slow migration to cross a street, his ability to stop an on-coming car with a stare, a passerby might think the animal was an alley cat, his bulky form notwithstanding. There was no mistaking his independence even though he always came when his owner called. Like the rest of us, he wasn’t the loner he pretended to be. He needed people. He needed love and happily he got it.
Mat led a good life and continues to live Heart Land, though by a name that better suited him. People who have read the book often remark on Bodacious Scurvy. I can tell they’ve fallen in love with him. Why not? So did I.
(First published July 6, 2010)