Story: ‘Cat-Brushing’

Jane Campbell

Jane Campbell reads a story about dispossession in paradise.

This morning I was brushing the cat as I watched the rain come across the water towards us. She is a Siamese and smooth-haired and like me quite old, and her fur is not as strong or as resilient as it used to be, but she arched her back with delight and raised her head so that I could reach her throat, the most vulnerable part of her. And seeing her respond like this to the strong smooth strokes, I could see myself in bed with one of the lovers, and my own arching and offering, and wondered, when I had finished with the brushing, whether she felt as I had when it was over: not just brushed/fucked but glad, even grateful, to have been brushed/fucked. In other words, was it only the moment with her, or was there a reflective pleasure as well?

When I had finished she walked away while I stood up with some difficulty. She lies fully extended on the kitchen floor for the brushing process while I kneel beside her. I find these days I have to hold on to the edge of the counter to get to my feet but I tell myself it is good exercise for my thighs. And then, inevitably, the other exercises my thighs once got involved in come to mind.

The kitchen door was open and I could see the water in the Great Sound, which early this morning resembled sheet metal on which the tiny humps of the islands rested. I walked to the door and watched as the whole horizon and all the sea and the land became cloudy with the strengthening rain. The cat sat beside my feet. We both looked out. I know of course that we do not see the same thing. Her perception is different in every respect. I feel the dampness and smell it and hear the raindrops in quite a different way from her. But she sits and watches it with me with just the same degree of satisfaction. It is a tremendous view to have available all the time and I feel very lucky. The kitchen gives onto the veranda, where there is a jumble of chairs and tables and a large corner sofa where I sometimes sit with her for hours. The view from here is like a mobile panorama for old people: there is always some movement somewhere. There are the big regular ferries for the locals, of course, and the huge ungainly liners stuffed with fat tourists moored out at the Royal Naval Dockyard, but apart from these there is the constant traffic of smaller boats. Sometimes, when the sea is a pellucid blue in the sunlight, a little yacht with white sails will float across the mesmerising expanse of colour and I will watch it from one side of the Sound to the other, wondering about the people within, loving its calm progress in the sea breezes. At night the boats turn into patterns of bright green and red and orange lights, and chug back home to anchor alongside the docks of lucky homeowners.

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