Burn Billy Burn

Back in the day in your heyday in your thirties a wild man between marriages a disastrous first marriage married too young and so on and so forth and before you found S. you had friends and you had girlfriends you had the time of your life as the song goes and then yes S. the love of your life and marriage and thirty years of tumultuous but steadfast love through many family deaths mothers brothers only son and still together until the thunderbolt struck and S. was gone and you were alone and one by one for whatever reason the few relatives you had left and the fewer friends abandoned you and you were totally alone in an empty house with ghosts and Bella the cat a sweet companion but limited conversation and you knew that if you opened the back door she would be off like a shot bounding through the woods at the back of the house and you knew what you would do when the time came

you would open the back door and let the cat free and you would burn the house down

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Beowulf the Cat

My cat Bella had a traumatic day at the vets on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve — poked and prodded, ear drops, rabies shot, a needle the size of a harpoon plunged into her backside, but she did not utter a cry or bat an eye. To paraphrase Seamus Heaney in line 11 of his translation of Beowulf, referring to the Danish warrior Shield Sheafson, That was one good cat.*

Bella was brave, as my Susan was brave in those last days in Intensive Care. So, on this New Year’s Eve, as firecrackers exploded outside, I had this crazy 80-proof idea that Bella is now Susan or Susan is now Bella, not sure which way it goes, but she, Bella/Susan is all I have left in this lowly bungalow on County Road 9 and so she becomes my life—(obviously an over-exaggerated and melodramatic way to put it, but prithee, dear reader, permit me)—as Susan was for thirty years, and since Susan has been gone, a year now, an endless gods-torture of loss, I hang onto Bella/Susan with a crazy kind of madness and hope.

She is one good cat. Henceforth, despite the gender difference, she is now my Beowulf.


* Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf begins thusly:
So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. W
e have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes. This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
beyond the whale-road had to yield to him and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.


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