‘Pity poor Heidi Kohlenberg,’ I said, my mouth full of nuts.
Four or five wise heads nodded in agreement.
‘I refer,’ I added hastily, ‘not to the woman, but to the cat.’
The same heads continued their steady up-and-down, as I reminded them of how the Norwegian novelist Edmund Ek (aka ‘Blumin Ek’/ ‘Edmund the Honest’) had retired to the wilderness and lived in near solitude, saved from complete loneliness only by small white cat, which he had named after his ex-wife, the literary critic Heidi Kohlenberg (follow the early stages of the controversy here).
‘I pity that poor pussy for many reasons,’ I explained. ‘First, as its very name attests, it is destined to live in the shadow of the woman it was intended to replace. As if this wasn’t bad enough, this shadow-living must take place in the middle of nowhere. Cats may be quiet creatures, but a desire for peace does not always indicate a desire for complete silence. Even the most sour-faced mog needs requires a smidgen of social interaction. The cat Heidi, however, has nothing of the sort. It is a slave, quite simply, to the whims of its muddle-headed master. Like all pets, it must go wherever the owner goes. It has no say in the situation. It must merely follow.’
More nods and – dare I say it? – one or two glistening eyes. I was touching something – and who knows? – it might well have been a nerve.
‘This cat is not a cat, but a living symbol; a simple piece of writing apparatus; a physical manifestation of the writer’s warped mind. Any purpose it serves it is not the purpose for which it was intended. This is, in essence, a true pet.’
At this I stamped my fist upon the table, sending a lone peanut flying into space, to be caught, nimbly, by the man sitting on the left of me.
‘What did you say the cat’s name was again?’ asked someone.