The cat chased a leaf under the sofa, then hunkered there, watching for it to escape. He would lose interest soon enough, but for the moment he was perfectly satisfied with being unsatisfied. An orange marble with proud lights in his hazel eyes, he had simple likes and dislikes, as any self-respecting animal ought.
Edgerton watched the animal for a moment, thought about how the leaf had gotten in the house. It was a shame that no one wiped their feet properly on the front mat. It was a new one, sturdy and absorbent, well made for its purpose. Yet they all tore in with the manic panic of an asthmatic going for his inhaler. He rolled his eyes now at the thought; why was everyone on the face of a earth a perfect twat?
Hilly had not been one. Rather, she had been what old bards used to call a rose. Yet her perfect rosiness went al the way to her core. She was not merely the petals, the red trimmings, but was the green hips and the sturdy stem and even the thorns. Hilly was certainly the thorns. Had he pointed out to her the new door mat and made a point of why it was so good just now, with the autumn rain making such a mess of the front walk, she’d have nodded in agreement. And she’d have been good about wiping her feet.
Well, another girl I’ve sent packing, he thought. Edgerton was in just the kind of morose mood that the time of year perfectly evoked. As a personality, he always walked the line that separated jolly sorts from gloomy ones. He liked happy little rituals, like making a snack for himself before and after work, and he loved nothing more that to sit with a close friend and discuss the meaning of things. He was not a man for hitting the pub with a rowdy group; he was not one for drunken, lusty singing on the walk home; he found riding on the tube in the thick of rush hour absolutely abhorrent. He was not unlike his cat.
Although he had contemplated more than once, while getting himself outside a cup of tea and a little plate of cheese and bread, that if a cat had the ability to think existentially, it might slip into the dark realms of depression or near-depression. What might the cat think now, he wondered, if he paused to contemplate the futility of life? The leaf might well represent the inevitable death of summer.
It was all very well to exalt the splendor of the seasons when the first buds and sprigs of spring were come to brighten hill and dale and to point out the birds one hadn’t seen since last year. He had succumbed frequently himself to the April-time temptation to wax poetic about the return of life to wildwood and barnyard. Yet who could deny that it was a much gloomier truth to acknowledge come October, when that same endless cycle of birth and death was merely spinning one toward the bland grey weeks of mid-winter, with only a brief, colorful pause at Christmastime, those fragile days of desperate giddiness?
“If you had a mind, cat,” he said into the gloomy little parlor. “You’d find Christmas the worst spoke on this ancient wheel of life.”
The animal glanced up at him, abandoning its post at the edge of the sofa. It rubbed itself along his pant leg, littering his brown wool with ginger hair. This made Edgerton turn up his lip bitterly.
“Count yourself lucky then that you’re a stupid creature,” he added. The cat liked Edgerton’s voice, which was deep and resonant, despite its fairly constant air of bereavement. It jumped up and stood on his lap.
“Settle down then, you silly cow,” he said. Still, he rather liked it when the thing curled up on his lap. There was always a lint brush for such matters.
He glanced about the parlor, the space he’d thought of as his own since they first took the lease, and wondered how in all this big old house, he had taken ownership of the comings and goings room, the room in which his roommates were most likely to show their tit-ness. He might have fallen for the little sitting room on the third floor, a space quiet and self-contained much like himself, where no one would have ever thought to go, except that Alec, when he made it sort of his own love, had set it up for television and gaming. Now it was the hub of the house. And how the poor old rug in there had taken a beating, Edgerton thought, getting a quick mental image of three grown ups competing at that game where one tries to dance to disco music like the cartoon of a fool on screen.
“We don’t care much for shenanigans, do we, kitty?”
If one took away the television, Alec’s haven would become what it had been designed to be: a dim little cavern at the top of the house where a gentleman might sit with Tennyson and the company of stuffed birds. It was honest and mildewy up in there. Yet Edgerton had allowed himself to be seduced by the fading floral wallpaper of his own front room. With its hint of femininity, its lovely decay and mellow gloom, it made him think of Ms. Haversham. And he had always and secretly fancied himself Darcy, and so with them a marriage of two literary misunderstood souls was formed. Hilly had sort of grasped this, though near the end, she said there wasn’t room for two loves in his life. Adieu, La Haversham, she had sort of said, backing out of the front door with her bag straps sliding off her shoulders.
Still, he thought, missing her dreadfully, she’d always have used the mat.