The cat gets up and arches its back casually. It briefly scans the room with bored yellow eyes and then hops down from the desk. It veers towards Douglas and brushes his leg. Douglas kicks it. Well, he doesn't kick it so much as he scoops it away by swinging his leg out. The cat looks briefly confused and then settles on its haunches, indifferent again.
"Dude, you kicked BioShock."
"BioShock? You named it BioShock?"
"You kicked it."
"I didn't kick it, but I will if it keeps trying to rub its fucking disease on my slacks."
"It's a him, not an it," the new guys reminds us.
"BioShock, come back," I call, trying to shoot Jude and running out of ammo instead. We end up losing Call of Duty 4, and not just because Jude has the game at home and plays a lot. He uses the single fire on the G36 to great effect and we hate him for it. Even with Mike on his team, we still lose. We lose because the cat was our good luck charm.
"Come on, man, don't be a dick to the cat."
"Let me tell you something," Douglas tells us. "When I see a cat on the road, I swerve to hit the fuckers."
I think back to a time when I was a kid waiting for the school bus. Some older kids were pulling caterpillars off a tree and throwing them into the road. They laughed as cars ran over the caterpillars. I didn't say anything. I didn't tell them to stop. Seven or eight caterpillars must have died that day. Maybe as many as ten. I did nothing.
"If you kick that cat again, I'm going to ask you to leave. I'm serious."
"Jesus, just be a fucking pussy, why don't you? I didn't kick it anyway. I just pushed it with my foot. It's fine. Look."
BioShock considers nothing in particular with its yellow eyes. It doesn't look like a cat who's just been kicked. So we play more Call of Duty 4, then a little Unreal Tournament 3, then the new guy shows us a funny video on YouTube of two cats meowing at each other like they're having a conversation, then we follow a long trail of funny cat videos while Douglas looks on, disgusted. My favorite is the little kitten that stands on its hind legs and waves its front paws at a big bored orange cat. As people start leaving, Trevor and I play another game of Age III. BioShock sits on the desk, this time off to the side under the desk lamp instead of in front of my monitor. This time I win.
"Okay, congratulations on your new cat," Trevor says as he's heading out the door. "Call me if you have any cat questions."
After everyone's left, the cat watches while I clean up. I throw out beer bottles and half-empty bags of chips. Someone left a half-eaten burrito on the arm of the couch. As I'm washing a few glasses, I talk to BioShock about how you have to make sure to have a lot of wood as soon as you hit the Colonial Age. But you also have to be careful not to pull too many villagers off food. Maybe I do have a cat.
BioShock goes to the front door and makes a yowling sound. I ask him what's up. I open the door and he looks outside, his ears twitching and his eyes going bright and curious. It's getting light out there. He makes a decision and hurries out into the morning without looking back.
Tom Chick has been writing about videogames for fifteen years. His work appears in Games for Windows Magazine, Yahoo, Gamespy, Sci-Fi, and Variety. He lives in Los Angeles. Shoot Club appears in this space every Thursday.