The Net Net Home


















Contribute Masthead About Home

Phil and Ed, Batching It

by Scott Ellis

Ed's favourite cat game equipment is this: He has his own diningroom chair, covered with his hair and with two cushions on the seat. It has a cloth sling back that he is just big enough to lean over and reach down to the level of the seat cushion if he stretches. There is a space at the bottom of the canvas back big enough for him to jump through or claw under.

What Phil does is keep his hand lurking behind the chair back, coming out of concealment to tap Ed on the head, stroke him quickly on one of his hindfeet, slap him gently on a hip. Ed tries to guess whether Phil is going to come at him from the top or bottom, though occasionally it's the side.

They play this a lot and Ed has become quite a tactician. He often stages his own preemptive strikes, rapidly batting under the cloth when he sees Phil's arm start to move.

Phil likes to lure him into making a big spring out of a crouching position. This usually leaves Ed with his feet close together and Phil grabs his hindlegs and pulls him through the gap underneath till Ed grabs on to the canvas of the chair back. Then, while Ed is trying to right himself, Phil takes a few soft whacks at his hindquarters.

Ed has become very resourceful, quickly shoving his head and foreleg through so that usually Phil gets only a few shots, then deking back when he sees the arm go over to attack him from the other side.

Phil's specialty is timing and barrages. He'll fake little moves and get Ed to snatch and leap at nothing a number of times. Then he'll throw everything he's got at Ed, two on the right hip, a soft slap on the head, a tweak on the tail, a poke at the belly, another slap on the head, a stroke at the right foot, then both hips alternately in rapid succession.

You'd think with his speed and flexibility, Ed would give as good as he got most of the time. But Phil can always see which way Ed is looking and no matter how many angles Ed covers, there is one he isn't prepared for.

Mostly, Ed retaliates with his claws well in. But occasionally, when he's frustrated with the essential unfairness of the game, he'll draw blood when he gets the chance, grabbing on with desperate zeal, biting and giving Phil's arm some raking, disembowelling kicks. When this happens Phil often shouts, pins Ed and deals him a few stinging slaps. Ed runs and hides. Then, usually within the hour, he jumps back on the chair, ready to play. Phil slides his own chair over and they begin again. *

Phil's last steady girlfriend was very concerned with talking about feelings. Phil felt that the only feeling she was very good at talking about was the feeling that they should be talking more about feelings.


When Phil is at work he often thinks of Ed. When Phil is at work, Ed drinks from the toilet and chews up the plants.


Sunday morning, when Phil is just sitting down with the paper and his coffee, the phone rings. Hello, he says. Did I get you up, the woman asks. No, I've been up for a little while, he reassures her. She wants to know: Do you still want me?

Phil takes some time to answer. Yes, he decides, yes I do.

After this there is a certain interval. Finally, she wants to know: Is this Tony?


The way Ed wakes Phil up in the morning is he gets on Phil's chest and purrs while he kneads the blanket, stretching and clenching his claws through the thin wool. When Phil reaches up to pet him he allows a few strokes. Then he moves slightly out of reach.


When Phil does the dishes Ed watches him, as Ed often watches what Phil does. He does this crouched by the doorway, because when one or both of them was being a jerk, Phil has occasionally tossed water on him from the sink.

Finally, Ed's nerve breaks. Alarmed by Phil's glances, he scoots out of the room. Don't be a slave to your imprinting, Phil yells after him.


At a party Phil listens to a woman saying that all good men are sentimental about women. They don't gossip about them, or make fun of their weaknesses to other men. That's funny, he says, feeling argumentative, I know a lot of women who aren't sentimental about men that way. That's alright for women, she says. I know it's a double standard but that's just the way things are. Look at what happened in Montreal. Mike, Phil's friend, nods. Later, Mike leaves with her.


Ed catches a lot of birds. He doesn't make presents of them very often, for which Phil is grateful. But he usually gets them when Phil is late for his night course and has come outside to take him in. He doesn't fight Phil for them or anything. But Phil has to block him off them and stampede him inside, all the while feeling guilty and disgusted. Ed doesn't seem to get angry. Just hurt and bewildered, an artist denied his calling.


At work, Phil listens to two of his co-workers talking in the lunchroom. They are talking about male infidelity. One woman thinks that it's a result of men's upbringing, the other leans more toward a biological explanation.

Their tone and references suggest that they have had this discussion before. Phil has heard this from other women as well. It's a real staple.

Phil has been cheated on by women on at least twice that he knows of. Is that part of their training or their genetics, he wonders. No one else ever seems to ask this question, at least not out loud.


Phil brings a date home one night and she takes a real shine to Ed, playing with him and cooing. Later, in bed, Ed keeps trying to get between them. He finally leaves when they start fucking. But he's back as soon as they stop. The woman giggles, but it's a hot night and Ed keeps trying to get beneath the covers. Finally Phil puts him out and shuts the door. Ed scratches at the door and yowls for quite a while before he gives up.


Phil is on a volunteer committee for a local charity. At one meeting there is just Phil and four women and they need an overdue report from another man. Finally, the fellow shows, gives an incomplete report and says he has to leave. Phil waits for the chair to ask the man more questions about missing material. When she doesn't, Phil asks the man, who is just about to leave, what about this? and that? Finally, the man admits that he hasn't done the work. The chairwoman assigns it to someone else and the man leaves, giving Phil a hard look.

Phil apologizes for overstepping his place. No, no, you did the right thing, the others tell him.


Ed has been smelling pretty gamy lately. Phil thinks he's going to have to give him a bath soon. He's not looking forward to it.


A woman at work flirts with Phil a lot. Everyone says that she's a lesbian and he's seen her walking hand in hand with another woman. She keeps touching him though. He's not sure how he feels about this.


When Phil comes home from work Ed wants out. Then usually wants right back in again, because he hasn't eaten since Phil left.


The apartment is usually full of cat hair, lying under chairs and tables like small, gray, cirrus clouds. It doesn't bother Phil much, though he occasionally vacuums and lint-brushes furiously. Mostly he lets it pile up and work in until it starts to dull the carpet.

It concerns him, this habit, in a small, nagging way. A lot of people are allergic to cat hair, including his ex-wife.


One evening after work Phil runs into a lawyer he had gone out with a few times. They had gotten on very well, he had thought while he was still asking her out, but she had told him that she needed a friend more than a lover.

She said this in much the same way she had talked about many things; she was practised, reasonable, diplomatic. It hadn't left him anything to gripe about, or so he told himself. He had called a few times afterwards, leaving messages on her answering machine. She didn't call back. After that he saw her at parties occasionally. They had given each other big hellos at first, which dwindled, but were still cordial.

Now she wants to talk, mostly about the man she is going out with and how badly he treats her. Her friend from work joins them and soon both women are talking about men's failings, in between margaritas. Phil is growing bored and hungry. He gets up to leave.

At this the friend decides that she should be going too. The lawyer asks them both to stay. Her friend acquiesces easily. Both women join in cajoling Phil. Against his better judgment, he stays.

The cafe's food really isn't very good, but they are all fairly well oiled and they have a fine time. Phil loosens up, doing impressions of people they know, talking about books, movies and politics with glancing irreverence. His companions laugh till they gasp at some of the things he says. The lawyer looks at him speculatively and says they will have to get together sometime. Phil just starts another story.

By the time they have finished desert things have quieted down. Phil is remembering Ed and hoping the cat hasn't knocked anything over in pique. He thanks the lawyer for the meal and says he has to go. The other woman blows him a kiss. The lawyer catches his eye and tells him to call her sometime. He smiles, nods noncommittally and turns to leave.

While he is getting into his coat, both women come up the hall. Smiling, the friend goes on ahead. The lawyer stops and again says that he should phone her.

Phil sighs and stops doing up his buttons. "Look," he says, quietly, "Let's review things. You gave me the air. You did it gently, gracefully. I've got no complaints. I don't mind you saying that once. But twice, making a big deal out of it... I did phone you, while we were going out and after. You want to talk to me, go out with me, whatever: You can pick up a phone."

By this time the other woman has come back. Both are staring at him, glancing at each other. Phil turns back to buttoning his coat. He bites his lip. How did I get to be someone else's object lesson, he wonders.


When Ed comes in after a few hours he'll wait for Phil to scoop him up and scratch him behind the ears. While Phil holds him cradled he leans his head back into Phil's hand and purrs loudly.

Phil always takes his time and gives Ed a good rubbing and stroking. He watches the pulse and breath move through Ed's long, arched windpipe. He can't see Ed's eyes in this position, just the offered throat and the fangs on either side of the delicate, powerful jaw.


Phil went out once with a nurse who was working in a terminal care ward. After talking about a lot of other things, Phil asked her about dying people. I don't want to get mystical about it, he said. Get mystical, she said, sometimes you know, you just know. You can see the death in some people. You can't understand it, it's unimaginable, but somehow it seeps into you. They don't want to die, no one wants to die. Though sometimes people have been sick for so long, they're just tired. That's not acceptance. We are creatures of cells; so many things can go wrong.

They talked a long time about this and other things. They danced between conversations.

Phil asked her to phone him the next time. Fine, she said, I really enjoyed myself. That was a couple of months ago.


Ed gets into a lot of fights in the neighbourhood. Phil is concerned by this, because he has never seen Ed win. Ed and the other cat will be squatting quite close together, looking off to the side in elaborate, murderous nonchalance. One tough cat actually rolls and stretches while Ed keeps up his deep-voiced, ominous yowling.

Ed has a really terrifying voice but doesn't seem to be that big a presence in the neighbourhood. He regularly gets chased by cats who seem much less formidable to Phil. When he does stand his ground the thing ends inconclusively. Or the other cat gets tired of Ed's threats and imprecations, and bats him one. Ed's screams are bloodcurdling, but Phil has never seen him retaliate.

Despite this, Ed survived for a month in a wild area of the riverbank where he had been abandoned before Phil took him in. He had a number of scratches and was thin. But he was quite healthy, according to the vet, even though it had been a cold and snowy November. Phil thinks that there is something here that he really doesn't know anything about.

The Net Net is affiliated with
All contents of this Web site are copyright © 1996 - 2001 The Net Net and individual artists and authors. Do not reproduce contents of this site without permission of The Net Net and the artist or author. You may link to this site freely.
Design by Marmoset Media. Illustrations by Les graphiques Grenade. Hosted by The Anteroom.