What Feels Like Starvation on a Wonderful Day

“Good Morning, isn’t it a wonderful day?”

Sunlight filters in through the window; I’m never up early enough to see bright rays in my bedroom. The sun is usually much higher in the sky when I fall out of bed. I pull the sheet up over my head and camp out. Fat walks across the mattress and her paw touches my exposed foot.

The whole limb recoils at her touch and I pull the edge of the sheet under my body so she can’t burrow under and find me in my sleep fort. “No. Bedtime.” Surprisingly, my own shouting does not wake me up further.

“Wakey, wakey.” There is a two-second reprieve from her talking. “What kind of death whiskey were you drinking last night? I can smell your breath from here.”

Fat heaves herself up onto my hip and walks down onto my ribs. Her weight crushes my bones; I throw the sheet off my body and she gets lost underneath it. “You know I’m recovering from a late night. What is your deal, Fat?”

I watch the mound of her body move under the sheet in a half circle before doubling back around. “It’s time to greet the day and fill my bowl.” Her head becomes exposed when she finds the edge of the sheet, she shimmies the rest of her big self out. “Don’t you think you’re a little old for these kind of nights?”

Before I can enter outrage mode, iPhone beeps with a text message. I reach to grab it off the nightstand and read a message from my friend in Ontario. The suspicion is at home on my face when I eye Fat. “Are you in cahoots with our future roommate already? Both of you are asses for waking me up. I don’t think I like the idea of you two united under the same roof.” I look at the message still displayed on the phone screen and growl at the phone as though it’s connected to his ear. “You know how early it is here, jerk.” There is a loud clunking noise when iPhone hits the nightstand.

Fat waits a moment as if giving me the opportunity to come to a realization. “You know he can’t hear you, right?”

I lie back down and intelligible words disintegrate into a sleepy mumble. “I know.” Easily, my eyelids shut and I’m back on the cusp of falling back to sleep. The blackness behind my eyelids encompasses me and I drift…

A familiar paw touches my cheek and pulls me back to the land of the conscious. “Still neglected over here. Stomach’s grumbling.”

“No, Fat.” I yell again and hide my face in my arms.

Fat’s claws tap on my elbow. “We both know how this ends. Save yourself the trouble.”

“Fine.” Exasperation is ever-present in the single-syllable. My feet hit the ground and Fat leaps off the bed as like a tennis champion hurdles over the net. “After you,” I gesture with my hand at the doorway.

Fat prances through. “Thank you.”

After many attempt to make this happen in the past, I shut the door tight behind her and flop back into bed.

“Hey.” I hear the pathetic scrape of her nails on the wall outside my bedroom.

“You said we both knew how this would end. I know it ends with starvation. Enjoy your fabulous morning, wretched beast.”

A Short Conversation and a Long Fight

“You know why you’re so likable?” Fat purrs. We just woke up from an accidental nap on the couch. I scratch behind her ears.

I’m oddly comfortable considering this hefty feline is probably making my ribs bow to the point of breaking as she lies on my chest, eyes still closed.

A yawn rolls off my tongue with my relaxed speculation. “Because I’m nice–”

Her eyes snap open as she sharply talks over me. “Because you’re stupid. People enjoy feeling smart, so they keep stupid company.”

Like an idiot, I keep petting her. The background noise, the backwards clock ticking like a metronome from the kitchen, fills the foreground. After what must have been a revolution by the minute hand, I lick my lips. “No wonder why I put up with you. You make me feel smart.”

“And a delayed response like that will make you sound even more stupid. My food dish is a better raconteur than you.”

Like the good loser that I am, I shove Fat off of me and onto the floor. Note to self: post-nap mental sharpness is a myth.

Both Personalities and a Mountain of Drugs

“Whatcha got there? Groceries for the week?”

Pinched in between my thumb and index finger is a white paper bag with a pharmacy sticker sealing it shut. “You can’t be serious. How does this read as anything but clinical?” I tear into the bag with vigor that drops a small box of maropitant citrate tablets and a bottle of sulcrate suspension on the ground. Another pill bottle, small box and liquid administrators land on the counter.

Fat hustles over to sniff the box of tablets. “This is like the best piñata I’ve ever seen.”

“Don’t. Those aren’t for you, Fat.” I swipe both fallen meds off the floor.

She frowns. “I just want to bat them around a little. I like that the pill bottles sound like maracas.”

Out of habit, I look at the wall where a calendar used to hang. “What’s with the references? Is it Cinco de Mayo?”

“What’s the deal? Finally go see a shrink that is able to prescribe medication to you over the table?” Fat’s tone is a hybrid of judgemental and hurt.

Frustrated, I puff out the air in my lungs to quietly vent my annoyance. “You never listen to me, do you? Mutt has pancreatitis and this cocktail,” I display the drugs like an old school Barker Beauty, “is his new best friend.”

“I thought I was his best friend,” Fat mumbles to herself as she leaves the kitchen to jump onto the office chair.

“Huh?”

Fat scowls. “Was I talking to you? No. I was talking to myself.” Her eyes narrow into an angry squint, “Mind your business, bitch.”

“Christ, Fat.” My hands lift up as I resign from the conversation, “Calm down.”

I grab Mutt’s epilepsy medications and add them to the new arsenal. This dog’s collection rivals any pharmacy. I read the labels and arrange them into an order that will help me administer them properly.

It’s a damn math problem: Two medications have to be taken every eight hours but one on a full stomach and one on an empty one. Two meds every twelve hours on a full stomach, another one first thing in the morning also on a full stomach and the last one every nine hours. In making sure Mutt gets all the required medication, solve the rate of next-morning pleasantness. If this were actually a math problem, there would be grey eraser streaks all over the place. Thankfully it’s a take-home test and I have time to figure it out.

“You look like your mother when you make your thinking face.”

The air in my mouth pushes from my left cheek to the right as I concentrate; I turn to the side and see that Fat once again has an approachable demeanor.

“Henry Jekyll, you old sod. How are you?”

“That’s Doctor to you.” Fat actually breaks out a smile as we fall into the familiar routine.

“My mistake.” I run my fingers through my hair, and though I wrestle with knowing how this will turn out, I can’t help the words that come out of my mouth. “Can I ask you something?”

Fat’s forehead rises with intrigue. “Are we turning this into a session?”

“No.” My right hand shoots up like I’m a traffic cop forcing cars to slam on their brakes. “I’m just spitballing here, but,” just thinking about it makes my chest tighten, “where does one draw the line when it comes to Mutt’s health?” My throat becomes a desert that words have to cross; they barely make it. “This isn’t exactly a lifestyle choice.” I nod with my head to the collection of medications sitting on the counter.

“Maybe not for you.”

“Fat.” The heaviness of her name brings her around to answering my question.

“Angel of Death is the role of a lifetime for you,” Fat sees that I want to interject. “Let me finish. Providing you don’t have to pull the cord, as it were, on one of the few people or animals you’re emotionally tied to. Anybody else, fuck, they’re dead the moment they have the sniffles.”

I look at the backwards clock, time to go grab Mutt from the vet. “So what do you suggest I do?”

“Easy,” Fat’s smile changes from sweet to sociopathic, “Let me be the Angel of Death.”

“Edward Hyde. Welcome back.”

Warning Bells of Bad Things Yet to Come

“Oh, hell.” The urgent alarm clanging in my head and imaginary flashing red lights behind my irises alert me to the danger zone that I’m about to enter. I briefly wonder if I’m fated to become a casualty in my own apartment.

Fat sits, waiting for me, directly in front of the door with her shrink spectacles on. My hands, one still on the doorknob and the other with the key in the lock, move as fast as they can. I pull hard on the handle and lock the door. I feel akin to a fighter pilot using their ejector seat.

“Well that was a bit much.” Fat has somehow appeared on this side of the door. For a portly gal, she sure can move when inspired.

What a waste of a frenzied exit. “I thought I was in the wrong apartment.”

Fat stares at me dryly until I can’t take the silence.

“Fine.” I add a few extra “I”s to make the word sound longer than it needs to be. “I’ve just had a long day, Fat. I’ve been going since,” I check my phone and see that it’s closing in on midnight, “way too early this morning. My rhythm with the universe is off; timing especially, I missed two buses today for no reason. Mutt’s broken again, and the vet doesn’t know what’s up. It’s stressing me out and not even a workout cured the fried wires in my head.” My phone beeps in my hand as if on cue; I show Fat the screen with a former bachelor’s name on it. “This guy.” An icy tone accompanies the words as I delete the text and send the message off to Bell Mobility’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. I look down at Fat again. “All I want to do is throw some food at you and enjoy a few minutes of decompression before I crawl into bed.” I unlock the door for the second time in a minute.

“Very well.” Fat walks back into the apartment before me. She makes a right after the kitchen and crawls under the desk without another word.

My head tilts to the side, dumbfounded by this uncharacteristic behaviour. Then it happens again; inside my head sounds like a boxing match where somebody keeps ringing the bell and an ambulance with flashing lights tours my cerebral cortex. Pissing off a cat is always a dangerous gamble; their range of passive-aggressiveness ranges from petty annoyance to murder.

To be on the safe side, I close the bedroom door behind me. I don’t want that she-devil eating my face off when I’m unconscious.

Not in the Business of Minding Her Business

“Dusting for prints?” Fat comes into the bathroom and sits on top of the toilet tank to watch me fiddle with my makeup.

Face power sits loosely across my nose, unblended in response to a reminder of gravity’s existence. My hands, as well as the counter, are dusted in a layer of pale makeup particles. I do what any intelligent pet owner would; my face leans down near the sink, and I blow the loose powder in Fat’s direction. It clings softly to her fur.

She paws to get the colour of Tim Burton pallor off her nose. “Somebody needs to teach you to resist those impulses. You are such an id.”

“Id…iot?” I look up from collecting the remaining makeup disaster into my hands. I let it fall like snow over the small garbage can in the bathroom. The remaining powder that sticks to my hands gets wiped on my black shorts without any forethought. I look from the art project on my shorts to Fat, waiting for her to explain what I just did to myself.

Fat groans, already exasperated with our thirty second exchange. “Never mind. Just go back to putting on your human face.”

I grab the coffee mug from its temporary home beside the sink and drain the remaining liquid into my mouth. The mug rattles a little when I set it back down on the countertop.

“What’s your deal?” Fat watches my unsteady hands reach for the makeup brush and finally do something about the powder speckled across my nose which makes me look like I’ve had a rough go at inhaling cocaine.

I take a second swing at picking up the makeup container with the remaining face powder. My hands twitch uncontrollably, but not enough for anyone to notice – however, a portly feline with a make-believe PhD in Nonsense Jackassery always seems to notice everything.

“Okay. How much coffee have you had?”

The soft bristles graze my face. “Since when?”

“You’ve only been up for an hour.”

“I made a pot.” I pick up the eyeliner and drag the pencil across my lid; my fingers, however, embrace the pioneer spirit and make an unscheduled journey south. “Balls.” The eyeliner falls into the sink and I cover the piercing pain with the palm of my hand.

“That’s a good look for you, Captain Hook.”

“Captain Hook didn’t wear an eye patch, doofus.”

Fat chortles at my self-inflicted misfortune and unsuccessfully tries to cover a hoggish snort.

“Pig.” I grab the pencil from the sink and throw it like a ninja star. Thanks to skewed depth perception, I miss hitting her by more than half a foot.

Fat jumps out of the way and creates a new settlement on the bath mat. “Ass.”

Reluctantly, I take my hand off my eye and check out the damage in the mirror. One eye is pink from being sodomized by the makeup pencil and both are hyper-alert from jolts of caffeine. It appears like a kindergartener drew on my eyeliner.

“You look sexy.” Fat’s tail flicks in the air in playful sarcasm.

“Shut up, Fat.” I grab a cotton pad and the makeup remover, wiping the disaster from my face. New plan: no eyeliner today.

Fat kneads the bathmat and one of her claws gets stubbornly stuck. “Who are you getting all dolled up for anyways?” She pulls hard to free her talon, but the mat lifts up with her pull.

“Nobody.”

“Like I believe that. You and your secret-keeping. You know what’s going to happen, don’t you? This mystery person is going to piss you off in some way and you’re going to vent to me about their short-comings and tell me all about them anyways.” Fat continues her struggle for freedom, getting nowhere closer to unhooking herself. “I didn’t even know you were engaged in a flirtation a couple of weeks ago until you told me it was over because he perpetually mixed up words like lose and loose.”

“Idiocy is a deal breaker, Fat.”

Fat attempts to retract her claw from the mat with no avail. “Don’t tell me it’s the ‘When Harry Met Sally’ guy.” Her shoulders slouch and her tone becomes pathetic and whiny, “Little help?”

“I told you, that guy’s just a friend. This scenario is kind of different, Fat. I’m still trying to unravel my own thoughts on the situation. I’m not in the sharing hearts kind of place, but thanks.” I bend down and disengage her nail from the bath mat.

Fat smiles. “I bet you I can figure out what’s going on before you tell me.”

“Please mind your business, Fat.”

She rubs her body against the door frame. “We both know I can’t do that.”

The Abra Cadabra Fallace

“Must have been a long day at work.” Fat rouses from a nap on my pillow; one of her green eyes drifts open when I flop on the bed.

The shirt I wore to work didn’t quite make it to the laundry basket. It’s in the middle of the bedroom floor. Unbothered, I curl up on the bed, still in a bra and pants. I sweetly palm Fat’s face and then shove her off my pillow.

“It’s getting harder to stay up late and wake up early, Fat. Apparently it’s all downhill after twenty-five.” An animalistic grunt falls out of me when I see the grey hair she’s shared with my bedding. “I told you to keep your ass off my pillow.”

Fat shakes her head quickly, as if trying to look alive after her ungraceful tumble. She blinks until wakefulness finds her, and the square wheels in her head work to catch her conscious up to speed. With jealousy, she watches as I flip the pillow over and tuck it behind my head. She stares with bitterness when her eyes trace down to where she was pushed from her stolen throne. Slowly, Fat’s line of vision travels left where she stares at my pants with an intrigue that is not a look one usually gets when wearing black dress pants.

“I admire your initiative.” Her sentence is deliberate, knowing how these four words will ignite inquiry on my part.

“Initiative with what?” I feel the confused frown take over my face. Craning my neck I regard the lazily thrown shirt, seeing nothing but lack of effort on my part to finish getting changed.

Fat directs her attention at my crotch where the dress pants have created something of a trouser bulge; the zipper arches from the way I’m sitting, and Fat can’t stare at it enough. “Growing your own penis is a genius way to get around not having a man in your life.”

“It’s a pants penis. Get over it.” I straighten my legs on the bed and the curved seam flattens out again. “Abra Cadabra,” the pants penis disappears.

“You could teach drag queens a thing or two, you know that?”

“That is the dream.” My dry reply is short-lived. I hear my phone beep with a text message, pulling me away from my lethargic state and its whore dance of seduction. With renewed energy I jump of the bed and dig through my bag for the iPhone.

“Quite the Pavlovian response.” Fat watches me pull out my wallet, a sweater and journal from my bag before I find what I’m looking for. I feel her penetrating stare until I look up from the screen.

“What?”

“I’m just getting the impression that you won’t be needing that pants penis after all.”

Timeless Classics and Friendships of the Opposite Sex

“How was your date?”

It’s late when I come into the living room to see Fat lying across the back of the couch with one leg draped seductively over the back cushion.

“Wasn’t a date, Fat.” I tug the elastic out of my ponytail and shake my fingers in my hair until the dark tresses become a lion’s mane.

Fat licks her front paw; her coolness infuriates me. I try to keep my temper in check because I know she’s just baiting me for an angry outburst. Her paw hangs midair in front of her mouth as she regards me with disbelief. “Please.”

“Don’t you ‘please’ me.”

The bitchy feline smiles, “I never do.”

I focus on a slow inhalation and exhalation, trying sure not to look at her; that smug expression paints my vision in scarlet. Fat takes my lack of contribution to the conversation as a prompt for her to continue.

“The two of you, alone, at a late movie after dinner together? That’s got classic American date written all over it.”

With two quick flicks of my feet, my flip flops propel across the living room, landing somewhere in the hallway. “Just stop. A dude and a chick are allowed to be friends. Why are you trying to make this into something it isn’t?”

Fat mulls over my words as she finishes washing her face. “Because you’re acting like a naive fool.”

“Huh?” I sit on the carpet, kick my feet out and lean back on my hands.

“‘When Harry Met Sally’? It set the cultural precedent for friendly relationships between men and women. They can’t just be friends. You’re too preoccupied living in your own head that you don’t register the obvious signs around you.”

I resist the impulse to let my forehead wrinkle when I consider this. “The basis of your advice today is from a movie from the late eighties?”

Fat holds up a paw. “Whoa. A classic, and still relevant movie from the eighties, thank you very much.” Her eyes narrow into serious slits. “I will not have you use that tone when discussing the work of the fabulously talented Billy Crystal.” Fat rises from her relaxed pose on the couch to sit straight. She towers over me with an ignited passion I’ve never seen from her before.

“Uh,” I stare up at her with uncertainty, “alright.”

As quickly as her fuse was lit, it is extinguished. She settles back down, tucking her paws beneath her well-insulated body. “Who paid for dinner?” She comes back down to a cordial, conversational level.

“He did. But–”

She doesn’t let me explain. “Date.”

“It wasn’t a date.” I push myself up off the ground.

“Who paid for the movie?” When I sigh in defeat she repeats herself. “Date.”

Arms crossed over my chest, I observe her. “He wouldn’t let me pay, Fat. He scared the server into putting the whole bill on his debit card. And at the movies, he bought both tickets with ninja-like speed. Can’t people just do nice things anymore without expectation?”

Fat shakes her head. “Tsk tsk. You really don’t get it do you, dumb ass?”

“Get what?”

With a backwoods drawl, she drags out the words, “You done got yourself another boyfriend.”

A Metaphor Instead of Soup Stock

“It worries me that you have in-home carcass storage.” Fat eyes the freezer-burnt contents of the Ziploc bag in my hand.

The freezer door stays open, cooling the cramped kitchen while Fat and I investigate the aged food inside. I grip the mystery animal’s ribs like I’m holding a baby in a sagging diaper. “Me too. I think at one point this was some kind of bird.”

“Can I have it?”

I answer with a look of disgusted judgement. The coldness becomes unbearable to hold onto, I pivot at the waist and release the expired poultry into the already half-full trash bag on the floor. “Not sure why ex-boyfriend kept this.”

“To make his own soup stock, moron.” Fat starts to roll her eyes and happens upon another thought before the eye roll can have the desired effect. “Unless he was planning on using it to put some kind of voodoo whammy on you. I wonder if that works.” Fat’s feet pad silently on the kitchen floor as she goes to examine the bag of frozen meat. She lifts her chin to look up at me. “I’m sorry, I still don’t entirely understand what’s going on here.”

“I’m trying to make rice again.” I point to the pot on the stove; the lid is covered in condensation. “I’ve decided that things go awry in the kitchen because I cook with a crock pot mentality – throw it in a pot and let it take care of itself for six hours. So now,” I reach into the almost-empty freezer, “I’m staying in the kitchen to make sure I don’t fuck it up again. Figured since I was here I’d finally clean out the cupboards and freezer.” I pull out another Ziploc bag, this one with only two frozen hot dogs and toss it instantly into the black plastic bag.

Fat leers at the bag. “What are those Ziploc bags near the bottom? I didn’t see you toss those out.”

I crane my neck to see what she’s referring to. “Ah. The mystery spices. The ex didn’t have an idiot-friendly system. Don’t.” I hold up my index finger to stop her insult before it finds a voice. “They’re all unlabeled in plastic bags. I can’t tell the cinnamon from the paprika. It was either garbage or spice roulette. I don’t gamble on things I know nothing about.”

“Please. You would get the cinnamon confused with dill.”

My eyebrows lower. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

There are two plastic-wrapped mounds labelled “stew beef” that I pull out last. They’re almost black. Two sturdy clunking sounds engulf the kitchen when they join the others in the trash bag.

Fat jumps up on the counter and stares into the freezer. “So you’re left with an empty ice cube tray and some kind of fish. Can I have that?”

I shake my head. “Of course no–”

“–Tell me that smell is your burning loins.” Fat interrupts. Her tiny nose twitches as she traces the scent.

“Shit.” I race to the stove and pull the lid off the pot. The edges of the rice lining the pot are charred and crisp. “How did this happen? I was in the kitchen the whole time.”

“You honestly have no idea how cooking works, do you?” We lock eyes, and I see something on her face that can actually be construed as pity. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll eventually find something you’re good at. With the likely chance you won’t, have you ever considered marrying for money?”

Porn Star Lines and Naked Truth

“It’s way too hard.” The couch catches me when I fall back, exasperated and exhausted. Fat is at the end of the sectional, staring intently out the window. I nudge her with my foot, trying to get her to pay attention to me.

Her eyes stay alert and focused at something across the street, but her head tilts when she talks to me. “Things a porn star would say.”

“I’m not playing this game, Fat.” I cross my legs at the ankles and lean back comfortably with my hands behind my head. “You don’t even try to be clever anymore, do you?”

“Just trying to stay at the intellectual level of my audience.” She clears her throat, “Take two: Things you say when trying to figure out how to use a can opener.”

I offer a slight shrug of indifference. “That’s better? Besides, I figured it out eventually.” I hate that she always catches me during those moments when my brain functions with the capacity of a cave woman. “I was really rather hoping you’d ask what is so difficult – perhaps offer a little of that shrink cred you keep boasting about.”

“Very well.” Fat’s focus stays glued to the view outside. “How was your day, dear?”

I wait a couple of seconds for her to offer me some look of recognition, even repulsion. Nothing. “Thanks for phoning it in, Doc.” I sigh. “It’s this whole house hunting fiasco. We’ve seen so many places and not finding the right one. It’s frustrating.” I grab one of the turquoise couch pillows and hug it to my chest. “I’m ready for change.”

“So change.” She says it like it’s obviously apparent. The words reverberate through my brain enough times that I’m brought to the brink of an epiphany. “Get off your ass and force something to happen, fool.”

“You’re probably the most helpful when you’re not giving me your full attention, you know that?”

“Dude. You’ve got to check this out.” Fat’s eyes grow wide and she leans back as if to put more distance between herself and whatever she’s been staring at outside. “Somebody’s returning your favour from the other day.”

“My favour from the other…?” I push myself to my knees and my stomach presses against the back cushions of the couch. The unattractive neighbour waves, naked, from the balcony window of his living room. It’s the dude that saw me in my nothingness on Wednesday morning when I ran from the shower to answer the phone I left on the desk. I fight the polite Canadian part of me that has a compulsion to wave back. Instead I just wilt to the floor and hide behind the couch with my head in my hands. I really hope I never run into that man on the street.

“We have to fucking move. ASAP.”

Proud Cat Mom… No Thanks

“I saw the stupidest thing on my way home today.” I take off my work I.D. badge and throw it and my cardigan on the hall table as I pass directly into the bedroom.

“Finally get a sober look at your reflection?” Fat trots into the room after me and jumps up onto the bed.

I’ve already taken my shirt off; I scrunch it into a ball and throw it with all the strength and instant outrage I can muster. Were it not an article of clothing, my vigorous pitch would have granted her a concussion. Unfortunately for me it was a thin, cotton tank top with polka dots; sadly, this doesn’t have the brutal force of a shot put. The shirt unravels itself upon soft impact with Fat’s head.

Fat stares at the tank top for several seconds. “Well that was anti-climactic.” Her green eyes sweep up to my face, lit with intrigue. “Tell me about the stupidest thing you saw today.”

I finish changing out of work pants and into some shorts. A gigantic smile takes up half my face; as I speak, laughter seeps in between some of the words. “I was behind a car that had a blinding blue bumper sticker that read, ‘Proud Cat Mom’.”

Fat’s face changes; her mouth hangs open as her eyes rattle around searching her brain for understanding. “I don’t get it. How is that stupid?”

My laughter ceases instantly. “You’re kidding, right? It’s right up there with Crazy Dog Lady’s terrier stroller.” I bend down into the lowest dresser drawer to find a different top to wear.

The feline gives up trying to comprehend the absurdity of such a display. “You flagged them down to ask where they bought it I assume. Did you go right out and buy one?”

“Where would you suggest I put it? On my ass?” I stop flipping through folded shirts long enough to turn and see Fat blatantly staring at my backside as I’m bent over.

“It would be a nice gesture.” Her eyes remain fixed as I rummage and grab a green tank top from the drawer. “Awful lot of real estate back there.”

I slip the shirt over my head. “Do you consider yourself more of a kettle or pot, Fat?”

Fat jumps off the bed and makes her way to the kitchen, knowing the after work routine well: change clothes, feed cat, walk dog. “You really don’t like to advertise your feelings, do you? I’ll make a note of that in your file.”