Emily Laughland, The eagle had to go - Jeff Nicoll on Stephen Bodio, Querencia

An Eagle in the Attic

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The epigraph to Querencia, by my friend Stephen Bodio, explains that the title is a term taken from the bullring, denoting the imagined, and illusory, sanctuary sought by a bull entering the ring, where he feels secure, temporarily sheltered in a magical space. A nearly untranslatable word is a good title for an almost unclassifiable book: an autobiographical fragment, evoking a place and a time, and two similarly unclassifiable people, Steve and Betsy.

Steve and Betsy met at a party in Massachusetts in 1979. (As I well knew from experience, having Steve at a party was always a little complicated, but his host had a perch for Steve’s falcon.) This is how Steve describes that first meeting:

When I turned from getting a real drink, a short, athletic woman was standing in front of me. She had a helmet of straight grey-blonde hair, cut in bands at eyebrow level but coming down nearly to her shoulders on the sides and wore a blue-and-white, horizontally striped sailor’s jersey. Despite her trim figure, I could see that she was the oldest person in the room. ‘You’re the “falconer and writer”’ (I could see the quotes). ‘I’m the “woman with the cats who writes”. Give me a Camel.’ If I ever stop drinking it will be because of lost memories. But we lose them anyway; how can we know, at the times that precede conscious decision, that we are at some point in which every word and gesture must change our lives irrevocably?

They ‘smoked all the Camels, drank ourselves cold sober, talked about breeding wildcats, bobcat habits, hunting and falconry and literature both high and low, of the Beatles, and I swear, Cole Porter’. When dawn came they were discussing Goodbye to All That and Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and were tossed out with the buttends and the empties, the last of the guests. I don’t think their conversation ever stopped.

I had met Steve earlier in the Seventies, during that

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About the contributor

Jeff Nicoll is a physicist and lives in Washington, DC.

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