"Okay, Moria, or Ettenmoors, or whatever it is you people do in Lord of the Rings Online. The specifics don't matter. But let's say you're in the fourth hour of a six-hour instance, and the cat wants to be petted. What are you going to do?"
"I don't play MMOs. And I certainly don't do six-hour instances."
"Good. See? You're learning. You might consider taking up turn-based strategy games for a while. I hear that Civilization IV is very good. If you're going to play real time strategy games," Trevor says, gesturing at the Age III postgame screen detailing my defeat, "consider one that lets you pause and give orders. Supreme Commander has this feature, I think."
"I'm not playing Supreme Commander for any cat. It's not my cat." The cat doesn't care. It is a sleek dark furry mass of nonchalance. It is on my desk, upright, dignified, and indifferent. In the light of my desk lamp, I can see it's not truly black. It's a sort of dark chocolate brown, with faint stripes on its haunches.
"You can't live here, Cortana," I tell it, "but you can visit." Cortana doesn't sound right. "You know, Cortana doesn't sound right. I'm going to go with BioShock. Its name is BioShock."
"That's a stupid name for a cat," Trevor says. "Plus, you know, not everything is about BioShock."
I tentatively pet it and it sits up even more upright, pushing into my hand. It rolls its head under my palm. The purring starts. But it's a very indifferent purring. It turns around once, still indifferent. It considers me with its yellow eyes.
"I thought you were going to set up Call of Duty 4," Jude says. "Or are you just going to pet your new cat all night."
"Yeah, Call of Duty 4," Trevor says.
"You guys come get me when you play something that won't make me throw up," Peter says. "I'm going back to Viva Pinata."
"Can I take the cat?" Jude asks.
"I think it wants to stay in here. Don't you, BioShock?"
"I can't believe you're going to try to make that name stick," Trevor says. "It won't work."
The cat settles down onto its front paws, Sphinx style, under my desk lamp. We all play Call of Duty 4 and it doesn't care. Then Douglas arrives, announcing that he won three hundred bucks at the poker game he goes to before Shoot Club.
"What are you guys playing? Is that that Battlefield game?" he asks.
"It's Call of Duty 4. You have to make your own profile if you want to play. There's, like, experience and everything."
"Hey, there's a cat on your desk. A cat."
"Ask him its name," Trevor says while trying to snipe Jude, who's on the other team and is really good.
"I don't give a fuck about its name. Keep it away from me."
"You don't like cats?"
"They carry disease."
"Cats carry disease? I don't think so."
"Totally. That's what my wife said. She was all freaked out about it when she was pregnant. Cats have toxic plasma or some shit like that."
We didn't know Douglas' wife was ever pregnant. He never mentioned kids.
"You guys have kids?" Peter says, having wandered in to see if he can talk Douglas into playing Guitar Hero.
"No, she miscarried. Twice."
He undoes two buttons on his shirt and pulls open the collar. On his left breast are tattooed the names Ashley and Douglas Jr.
"The first time she swears it was because of the neighbor's cat. It's why we moved. "
"Jesus, man. I'm sorry, that's really, that's just...Stop fucking shooting me, I'm talking to Douglas."
"Naw, go ahead and play your game. I know, I know, sometimes I think it's kind of morbid," he says, buttoning his shirt back up. "But it helps reminds me of what's important. Let me tell you, I thought it was going to be tough to explain this to girls. But chicks dig that tragic shit. Anyway, it's nothing to get worked up about. It was a long time ago. But I wouldn't touch that cat if I was you."
"I'm not pregnant. I should be okay."
"But what if you touch someone who's pregnant? That's how diseases work, you know."