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
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
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
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
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
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
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.