Why, one is entitled to wonder, would God be unaware of anything, much less why His cat has chosen the name Doctor Tattersail? More importantly, one might ask, why in Timothy Edgewick’s name is God living in a house with a cat and a dog on Heaven’s Gate—which used to be named Lawrence Avenue?
And why, one would almost certainly ask in confusion, is God so…so…boring?!
All excellent questions!
But, as they say, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
One person on the block substantially more interesting than God was the dark-haired, forty-something Stanley Drake, who, as it so happened, lived just across the street from Mr. Edgewick in a tan, two-story house of unclear architectural origin, and who always introduced himself as Stan, or at least something sounding very much like it.
The Devil always was a bit too clever.
In any case, Mr. Drake had come to the neighborhood only days after Mr. Edgwick, something the whole block had found rather interesting since it had been the better part of two decades since a new face had arrived, much less two in the course of as many days.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Drake, who always dressed impeccably—often in perfectly fitted, expensive-looking dark slacks and a smoking jacket—quickly made himself a favorite of Heaven’s Gate, nearly universally introducing himself with an endearing comment. “It’s been such a long time since I’ve had a slice of heaven like this one,” was a favorite of his. And then he would smile—say what you will, the man had a lovely smile, and quite the whitest teeth anyone in the neighborhood had ever seen outside of dental commercials—and from there it was a simple matter of inviting the neighbors over for dinner and his place was secure.
The one thing that did, in fact, surprise the neighbors was how speedily Mr. Drake and Mr. Edgewick became acquainted. Within days, the two had become, in the words of Mrs. Congrave, “as close as the pot and the kettle!” When Mr. Congrave—who worked as a lawyer at the rather famous Stafford, Sherman & Millbank—pointed out to his wife that they often left the pot in the study to catch the rainwater that seemed to eternally drip from the room’s northeast corner, and that this often resulted in quite a considerable distance, not to mention walls, between the pot and the kettle, he was met with an ominous silence which he correctly translated as meaning that his rest that evening would be taken on the Congrave’s red leather sofa, and not in their mutual bed, located on the next floor.
Stanley Drake knocked three times on the door of 7882 Heaven’s Gate—the residence of Mr. Edgewick—then waited patiently for his neighbor to answer, idly whistling one of his favorite songs, written by a fat but jolly fellow named Charlie Daniels. The man has no idea what he’s talking about. Fiddle indeed! thought Mr. Drake dismissively, idly adjusting his silver. Still, he was forced to admit, it is rather catchy. His mind paused momentarily.
I wonder if I should pick up the accordion again…
Lovely instrument the accordion. Many people conjecture that it was, in fact, invented in the bowels of Hell, and that no just God would allow such a horror to exist, much less have actively inspired its creation, but many people are idiots.
The accordion was a human invention. It was the platypus that had been Mr. Drake’s.
That’s not to say, of course, that great evil was not perpetuated by the accordion, which in fact accounts for the most deaths by bludgeoning of all music instruments, but rather that it was an evil of mortal, rather than divine, creation.*
Just as he was about to weigh the pros and cons of resuming his musical practices, the pristine white door opened, its lion’s head door-knocker tinking as it did so, revealing Mr. Edgewick’s slim, gray-haired form. His spectacles—as was their habit—looked as if they might attempt at any moment to leap from his not-insignificant nose.
With an enormous smile, God bid the Devil enter his humble home.
“Stanley!” he exclaimed in a voice suggesting his guest’s appearance was a complete surprise and had not been scheduled a mere two days before over lunch in that lovely café on Main Street. “Come in, come in! The tea will be ready in just a moment, and I’ve got a tray of sandwiches waiting in the den.”
Stepping over the threshold—this was not a problem for the Devil, whatever legend might say about the matter. Invitation or no, if you built an entrance, he could enter freely**—Mr. Drake smiled and thought for perhaps the hundredth time that this house was altogether too wholesome. It made him…itchy, rather as if he had been slathered with peanut butter than left in the cold.
“Not vegetarian again, I hope? You know how I need protein at my midday meal,” he said.
“Chicken this time. I may be a bit forgetful, but I don’t forget anything that might discommode my guests. Why just last week—” Mr. Edgewick would have spoken further, but Mr. Drake chose that moment to interrupt, knowing the length of the story that would inevitably follow.
“How,” he began solemnly, “is your cat?”
“Doctor Tattersail? Well, he’s excellent thank you for asking. I’ve managed to teach him a trick in fact! Here, I’ll show you.” The Lord of All Creation beckoned His Eternal Adversary into the kitchen, where the good doctor was sitting lazily, eyes focused on a butterfly near the window, but showing no inclination to do anything about it.
The Devil liked cats. Liked most animals really. They were often, he reflected, better company than most humans, who had this miserable tendency to whine at, and about, him a great deal. He’d take an animal over a human, would Mr. Drake. Except for opossums, which he found distasteful. Horrible conversationalists the lot of them. Not like egrets, whose calls were often actually rather profound philosophical discourse.
Egrets aside, the theological Ruler of the Universe strode smartly across his tiled kitchen floor to stand approximately a foot in front of the aforementioned cat, whereupon he produced from his pant’s pocket a bit of catnip, which he held in a plastic bag.
Placing the bag on the kitchen counter—within Doctor Tattersail’s line of sight but out of his reach—Mr. Edgewick coughed, then smiled at his guest.
And the Lord looked upon His pet, Doctor Tattersail, and the Lord, extending forth His hand, said: “Shake.”
But lo, Doctor Tattersail moved not. And the Lord frowned, somewhat embarrassed in front of His guest, but hopeful that it might work on the second try.
“Shake,” said the King of Kings and Host of Hosts.
And Doctor Tattersail did roll over, idly scratching his furry belly.
Mr. Drake coughed.
“Perhaps,” he suggested in a helpful tone, “you might try the dog?”
—————————————————————————————————————————— *In all fairness to accordions, they do have some positive effects. Namely, they are quite capable of scaring off all sorts of animals when one is lost in the woods, and are positively wonderful for tormenting visiting in-laws.
**The only person to have ever successfully barred the Devil (who didn’t really like house calls anyway all told) from his home was one Thomas Temperance Chastity Patience, whose name notwithstanding was an alcoholic, a father, and quite ill-tempered. He did it by building his house out of concrete and not leaving any windows or doors. He suffocated, needless to say, but still, he did accomplish what he set out to do, which must account for something.