The Nature of the Beast

“This woman is on the pot. There is no other explanation.” Fat sits on the carpet where the coffee table normally lives, staring at the television screen. A scrawny blonde chick in a teal unitard folds herself in half and I try to reconcile my body into a similar shape. Fat’s head turns and her matter-of-fact tone burrows into my ear, “You’re doing it wrong. That aligned spine you’re so proud of is getting wrenched into the shape of an ampersand because of this shit.”

I shake my head until my frizzy hair parts and I follow the movement on the screen with a time delay that’s two steps shy of disabled. As my hands swoop above my head and I unhinge at the hip, I respond to the feline — the ship sailed on proper breathing technique within the first fifteen seconds. “Am I unaware that I’ve been bragging about my straight spine?”

“You’re either proud of your spine or you’ve quite the stick up your ass. What say you?” Fat’s back arches in an almost impossible curve and then she flops on her side.

My legs shake as I try to focus on keeping my knee directly over my foot as I bend. Hamstrings burning, I gamble with maintaining balance and steal a glance at Fat. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out why you don’t just say what’s on your mind.”

Fat and I pause while the blonde yogi’s airy voice tells us to take the tension built up through the day, push it out of the body and compost it.

“Compost tension? Terrible idea for fertilizer. Stay away from that garden.” Fat notices that I’m still waiting on an explanation. “This whole yoga thing,” Fat rolls over so she occupies the space that I’m trying to extend into, “it worries me.”

I nudge her aside with my foot, bend my knees and do my best to hold steady, “Go on.”

“First this, then you’ll be in lululemons meeting some bitches for cappuccinos in West Vancouver to talk about fashion. After that, you’ll have an extravagant engagement, over-the-top wedding, dramatic divorce, a second wedding, second divorce, then a third.”

“That’s not going to happen, Fat.” My body can’t sustain the pose, and I collapse on the floor beside her.

“Yoga is a gateway activity into a lifestyle that you’re not meant for.”

In the background, the yogi imparts more wisdom in the form of a voice over.

“Face it, boss. You’re not zen enough to make a go of this. You’re more of a bloody-knuckles-solve-problems kind of gal. Just yesterday you were talking about wanting to junk-punch some dude in Nevada.”

I reach for the remote and turn the television off. “Action gets results,” I shrug as if extreme measures are the social norm.

“Thank you. This hippy nonsense, it’s not for you.” Fat’s face leans toward my calf and I feel her wet nose briefly touch my leg. “Just keep being your normal asshole self and stop freaking me out, okay?”

At some point, I zone out when Fat speaks and I hone in on a desire that’s overtaking my ability to think straight. “I need chinese food.”

Fat smiles. “That’s my girl.”

Awful Quips and Sinking Ships

“It’s not the best news, but compared to the alternative, it’s pretty good.” The woman peers at me from behind thick lenses as I round the corner. She and her cohort don’t budge; I can tell that they’re both very into whatever conversation they’re having, but, c’mon.

“Excuse me,” I jingle my keys, hoping the neighbours will take the not-intended-to-be-subtle hint and waddle their conversation down the hall and out of my doorway. The old lady does what can only be described as a backward goose step and the man she’s with does a sideways shuffle until they’re a couple feet out of my way.

The deadbolt clicks as it unlocks, granting me passage to the sanctuary of my apartment… and Fat. Her attempt at a baritone voice sounds, “You may enter–” the door collides, interrupting Fat’s disguised voice with a ‘donk’ sound. Unlike the neighbours, I can easily push Fat aside without the pretense of feigning politeness.

“Motherfucker.” Fat’s paw touches her nose, as if to ensure that it’s still there. “You hit my face, asshole.”

“What are you doing behind the door, anyways?”

Fat motions with a nod of her head to the murmured voices on the other side of the now-closed door. “Turns out, it’s benign. I waited for the better part of a half hour to hear that anticlimactic news.”

My arms cross over my chest, “Then why waste your time listening?”

Fat exhales in an unamused huff. “Somebody refuses to leave the television on when she leaves the house. Where were you, again?”

“Boat show.” My curt reply doesn’t affect her whatsoever. I go into the kitchen and open the fridge. I grab a chilled bottle, pull the wine cork out with my teeth and proceed to throw back a few ounces of pinot gris. It strikes me as odd that Fat’s remained in the hallway, uncharacteristically silent.

Her head tilts, minutely. “So…” Even in the dim light of the hallway, I can see on her face how difficult this is for her to grasp, “One can’t help but speculate that boat show is a terribly disguised code for AA meeting.”

“Nope, just a boat show.”

“Ay, Ay, Captain.” I watch her eyes read the label on the bottle in my hand.

I sigh and set it on the counter, “Why is it so hard for you to believe I was at a boat show?”

Fat throws me a you-must-be-joking half smile. “”Because you don’t know a damn thing about boats.”

“Oh but I do. Actually, I was inquiring with a rep about a 2007 Marquis 59 Markum Edition that he’s got in stock.”

Fat’s pupils dilate, an indication that she’s taken aback. “I learn more about you every day, boss.” Fat begins to give herself a bath, then stops abruptly. She thinks on it for a moment and stares with accusation, “Aside from planning a viking funeral, you have no business with vessels. You’re yanking me, aren’t you?”

With the grace of a clown college valedictorian, I swipe the bottle off the counter. “You better believe it.”

As I saunter away, Fat yells at me, “We either need to work on making your untruths sound plausible, or stop you from being the world’s worst pathological liar. Look up Pseudologia Fantastica online and you’ll be given some tremendous insight.”

I stop in my tracks, “How in the bloody hell did you come up with Pseudologia Fantastica?”

Fat smiles and breaks out a purr. “You might not leave the television on when you leave the house, but on occasion you do forget to turn off the computer.”

Not a Good Time

“What is that, a gag gift?” Fat rolls onto her back when I come out of the bedroom. I spare my mirror twin the wet-heave reaction of seeing the remnants of yesterday’s makeup on my face; I walk by the hall mirror using my right hand as a blinder.

I don’t even need to look down to know why the rotund kitty explodes with a case of the giggles. I did too when I first saw it, and these lovely pyjamas are truly a gift that keeps on giving. It wasn’t until after I untied the pink bow and unfolded the tank top that I saw the metallic script across the purple fabric that reads, “Maybe Later.” This, this, is what one might call a gift of opportunity.

“Gag gift? Please. It’s a damn super power. Just wait, Fat,” I grab a hoodie off the floor, and zip it up over my pyjamas as Boyfriend comes out of the washroom, his hair wet from the shower.

“Good Morning,” Boyfriend leans in for a kiss.

Fat groans. “You might not want to do that, fella. Her breath smells like a retirement home.”

I hate Fat so much sometimes; my internal feeling becomes a physical outburst.

“Babe, why are you kicking the cat? Poor Fat,” he bends to down to give the bitch feline unneeded attention. She looks up at me with a smirk.

“He won’t fall for this act forever, porky.”

Boyfriend turns and I once again have his attention, “What?”

My eyebrows jump like they’re trying out for the Olympic team. I always forget that he can hear what I say to Fat. For some reason, the most effective answer to his question is to ask the same question with an underlying tone of you’re-crazy-I-didn’t-say-anything. “What?”

Absolute confusion resides on Boyfriend’s face until he succumbs to the undertone of my retort and shakes off the exchange. “You still good to take the car to get washed this morning?” He follows me into the living room.

With the finesse of Clark Kent pulling open his shirt to reveal the “S” on his chest, I unzip the hoodie and proudly show off the two favourite words of any woman. Boyfriend reads “Maybe Later” and his reaction is unamused to say the least.

Fat smiles.

Boyfriend points with his thumb backward to the kitchen. “Coffee?”

Fat leans to the side and whispers, “That’s your cue. Do it again.”

My hands grab the sides of the sweater and I wrap it over my tank top. “No, Fat. I want coffee now.” I nod at Boyfriend who is already in the kitchen pulling the hazelnut roast from the cupboard. “Maybe we just have a lazy day today and watch some more Breaking Bad? I’m going through withdrawals.” It’s suitable that everybody becomes addicted to this show.

Boyfriend flashes a smile. “Yeah. Gives me the chance to clip Fat’s nails.”

“Show him your shirt, show him now!” Fat screams and runs, quickly jumping onto the couch and up onto the bookshelf where she seems to forget that she’s not out of reach.

“Maybe Later” remains hidden under the hoodie and I shoot Fat a look of you-don’t-tell-me-what-to-do.

“That came out of nowhere,” Boyfriend looks up at Fat. “It’s almost like she understands us sometimes. Hey, since we’re staying home, we should do some of that laundry.” The mountain of clothes in the bedroom has already swallowed the hamper, there may or may not be coal miners trapped inside — it’s all kinds of freaky.

“I think…” My hands grab tight to the sides of the hoodie and I hold them wide open so the words on my shirt are clearly displayed. I hear the chortle of a cat when I assume the stance.

“I think those neigbours that have seen you naked in the past,” Fat motions to the window behind me where one of my neighbours stands at their balcony window staring over, “now think you’re a flasher of your non-boobs.”

Still Waters and Mud Puddles

“I peed on that pillow that’s been under your head for the better part of an hour.”

As if spring-loaded, I bound off the couch; my state of relaxation brutally murdered by the foul words from the feline. Now on the offense, my slapping hand is at the ready, twitching in anticipation of striking the obtuse cat. At this moment I’m certain I’m about to make Zsa Zsa Gabor proud.

“Put those arthritic digits away. I’m fibbing.” Fat jumps onto the coffee table and sticks her head into the empty potato chip bag. Her words mesh with the rustling of the foil, “You were playing possum long enough, I needed to get a show of life out of you.” She backs her face out of the empty snack bag, “What’s rattling around that old bean bag of yours that keeps you so statuesque?”

Slowly and cautiously, my slapping hand lowers. It’s a good automatic reaction to have, but I worry that one day it won’t be so easily controlled. The slapping hand has calmed to an inquisitive state and it grabs the teal couch pillow tentatively. In an uncharacteristic show of bravery, I bring the pillow to my nose and take a quick whiff. No signs of ammonia must mean the grey bitch wasn’t lying about fibbing. This pillow is sans cat pee — she’ll live to annoy me another day. Still, I toss the pillow to the far side of the couch for comfort’s sake. My knees buckle and I flop on the sofa. I recline, not finding zen comfort now that I’m aware my movements are being tracked by unblinking green eyes.

“Just thinking, Fat.” I stare up at the ceiling. What was I thinking about? Everything and nothing all at the same time. Unimportant things that carry the weight of the world and important things that are easily dismissed. I was thinking about moving and staying and/or becoming a roaming gypsy. I think about transporting anchors in wheelbarrows. I start thinking about tea on Sunday mornings. Spending hours telling stories out of my fingers; inventing people and places that don’t exist outside of my head. I think about owning a charmingly strange bookstore with my best friend that isn’t lucrative by any stretch of the imagination, but is one damn good time. I think myself into a strange silence and I don’t even realize until–

“You’re doing it again. If you’re not going to share, just stop. You’re acting freaky.”

I roll onto my side and see Fat sitting on the table licking sour cream and dill crumbs off her paw. “What kinds of things do you think about, Fat?”

She finishes licking the remaining salt off her foot and sets it on the table. “Important things, obviously.”

“Like what?” I know this is a loaded question, but the one thing about not sharing a brain with anyone else is you have no idea what messages their synapses are firing. “What kind of evolved thoughts go through your little cat brain?”

“You know how I love visualization; I think about taking classic saying and breathing life into them. For instance, I literally desire to give somebody butterflies; they’d be dead of course – the butterflies I mean – you know I love to pounce on those things. Not that you let me outside anymore.”

“Not that I ever did. You must be thinking of a former life.” For all I know she was found pouncing on moths in a field before she was brought to the S.P.C.A.

She ignores me to continue. “I’ve also been thinking lately about the great gas mileage you’d get on the highway to hell.”

Laughter takes me by surprise and I start to cough. Once I can breathe comfortably I have to ask, “How do you figure?”

She shrugs as though the answer is obvious, “It’s all downhill.”

I reach over, lifting Fat under the ribcage and put her down beside me. “I’m going to tell you something I don’t say too often; I fucking love you, Fat.”

Dyslexic in an ICBC/CIBC Kind of Way

“Where are we at with China patterns and awful bridesmaid dresses?” Fat scrutinizes me as I scrub a charred pan in the sink. She squints, as if deciding, “Yeah. You’re definitely spiteful enough to put your best friends in circus freak get-ups so you look better by comparison.”

The pan slips from my hands, landing back in the sudsy water with a tidal wave that drowns the bacterial inhabitants on my tank top. I stare over at Fat in surprise.

Fat watches from where she’s settled on the office chair. She looks to my stomach where the pink shirt adheres to my skin with dishwater. “I hope that isn’t practice for an amateur wet t-shirt contest, because, baby, you don’t got it.” She half shrugs and gives me a sorry-to-be-the-bearer-of-bad-news frown, “Probably wouldn’t even make the podium.”

Abandoning the idea of cleaning the pan, I grab a tea towel and dab the soapiness with lackluster enthusiasm. “Uh. Bridesmaid dresses? What — why do you ask?”

Fat’s claws casually seep into the leather seat and she stretches her front legs out. “With this whole situation of Boyfriend moving in and your colossal gayness together, one can’t help but ponder the next step. Marriage? Babies? Are you pregnant now?”

“Sidestepping the ‘gayness’ comment…” I concede to the fact that the teatowel isn’t helping and drop it on the countertop.

“Take a lesson from ye olde english and what the word actually means, dumb ass. Get some culture.” She takes a breath to calm herself after a knee-jerk response. “I am at peace with the world and the idiots around me,” an airy and offensive mantra comes out of her mouth. Fat blinks hard and looks at me with renewed attention. “You were saying about being pregnant,” her paw extends outward as if to prompt me to deliver some scandalous news.

My index finger taps the wet fabric outside my uterus — at least, in the approximate vicinity of where my uterus is located. In a recent viewing of some educational television, I learned that the stomach is much higher than I was led to believe, so I could have been mislead on other facets of the human body as well. It would be a hell of a thing to learn that your uterus is actually located in your armpit; when you give birth it’s one hell of a birth canal in order to push your kid out of the holy land. “I better not be pregnant. I paid for this thing in full.” I realize that I’m still jabbing my lower gut and my insistence to portray how very barren I am has caused me to poke myself way too hard to prove a point.

“What thing is that?” Fat watches, curious, as my hand closes to a fist and I put it in my pyjama pants pocket to refrain from any more potential self-created bruises.

My head tilts to the side in a why-don’t-you-listen-to-me kind of way. I sigh. “My UTI, Fat. I told you all about it.”

Fat’s face scrunches with her recollection. “I remember a very confusing conversation when you shared too many details of a trip to the gynecologist wherein you compared yourself to a car being taken in for a tune-up.”

I nod, excited that this damn feline does have the capacity to retain information as well as water. “Exactly. You kept telling me to drink cranberry juice for some goddamn reason.”

“Because you said you had a urinary tract infection.” Fat’s short-lived sense of calm melts into exasperation.

I feel my jaw tighten and my teeth slowly erode as they grind against each other. “I never said I had that.”

Fat hangs her head and legitimately claws the office chair, “You said you had an UTI. What do you think a UTI is, you moronic soul?” Her tone has a salty edge to it and I’m getting annoyed that she doesn’t realize how stupid she sounds.

“Fuck, Fat. That little T-shaped thing that was put inside my uterus to stop babies from happening…”

“-IUD you twat. IUD. I. U. D. How do you not comprehend the difference between that and a UT-” She pauses, closing her eyes. Fat breathes out, “I am at peace with the world and all idiots around me.”

Office Hours: Inappropriate Show and Tell

“Are those your sodomy pants?” Fat’s smile widens as my attention suffers a minor breakup from the full-length hall mirror in order to throw a disgusted look at her over my shoulder.

“I really don’t understand your sense of humour, Fat.” I turn back to my mirror twin. She’s looking decent for a change; her hair is down and out of the frizzy I-don’t-give-a-fuck bun, makeup is given a little effort today — not just a hit of mascara and some concealer to disguise the war zone breaking out on the forehead, and the icing on the cake is that my mirror twin is wearing a cute outfit. I give the mirror-twin an overenthusiastic up-and-down, the knit scarf with the cardigan, antique necklace and the jeans. This chick has my approval. I spin slowly, like a vertical rotisserie, to check out the backside in the mirror. In the background, Fat muffles a laugh that is truly difficult to ignore. My mirror twin looks shocked and appalled; it appears I’m a lot more classy coming than going. Right in the seam of my beloved jeans is a hole, and not just a little hole; it’s big enough to serve as invitational porn-star pants.

Fuming, I look over to the couch, where the hearty chuckle of a certain feline booms from watching me discover the wardrobe malfunction. “How long were you going to wait before you told me?” I unzip my fly and wrestle the jeans off my thighs. Hunched with my pants around my knees, I look up again, “You were going to tell me, right?”

“Hey, I called them sodomy pants. What more could I have done? Boss, with the movies you’ve watched lately, I wasn’t about to judge.” Her tail curls around her body when the laughter finally subsides.

“Not sure what that has to do with anything,” I mutter and kick the deceased boot cuts into the middle of the living room.

Her voice follows me to the bedroom closet where I flip through hanger after hanger until I come across another pair of dark wash jeans. “The Hangover II? This is the end? Tell me what else those two movies have in common other than backyard playmates.”

Once again in pants, I re-enter the living room. “Backyard playmates? That’s the euphemism you go with?”

She smiles, “I was going to get into a metaphor about swing sets, but thought backyard playmates was strong enough to stand on its own. If you want I can keep going.”

“We’re good. I’m picking up what you’re throwing down.”

Fat taps the couch cushion with her paw. “Come, sit. Let’s have a chat.”

I can spare a couple minutes. I acquiesce and flop onto the couch beside her.

“Why are you being a nude prude?”

I cross my legs, “Fat, I’m not being a…” In the moment I fail to come up with a better way to phrase it, so I parrot her vernacular with an alarming amount of self-hatred, “nude prude. Pardon me for lacking the desire to share my ass with the world.”

“What ass?” She catches my stare, “Don’t give me that look, I’m kidding. Sort of.” Fat shakes her head in a taunting way, “You’ve changed; a couple years ago you would have laughed about showing off your brown eye by accident. Now, look at you. Running to the bedroom to cover up in something appropriate.”

“Please. I’m still inappropriate. In a classy kind of way.”

Fat rolls onto her side, hinting that she wants her belly rubbed. “How’s that, now?”

“I don’t do nudity. Not unless I’m accidentally showing off to the neighbours when I’m wandering around naked after a shower when the curtains are open.”

“Ah yes, Taco Tuesday. Always hilarious, never a crowd pleaser, but hilarious.”

I can’t help myself, I smile at the embarrassing memory. “We almost moved when that happened. If it wasn’t summertime I doubt there would have been such an audience on that balcony.”

“Cue breakthrough.” Fat moves to sit on my lap.

“Huh?”

Fat looks at me, slightly annoyed that she needs to explain. “You need to spend more time naked.”

“Not with you on my lap, I don’t. There are few things more unsettling than a cat lady that pets her feline whilst donning her birthday suit. It’s weird.”

“I meant metaphorically, ass face. I’m trying to inspire some growth from you.”

The conversation replays in my head. Fat watches as I play back the tapes, think on it, and consult the memory bank again.

After a couple minutes of waiting on a reply, Fat jumps down and wanders over to her cat bed. “It’s not really the think piece you’re making it out to be. Just let the message sink in and you’ll be fine.”

Write and Wrong

Tombs, hidden in plain sig[=/o0n tc w\`…

“You couldn’t walk around the keyboard? There’s plenty of desk for your heftiness.” I click backspace, punching the button with deliberate distaste to punctuate each character I delete.

“Would you have paid attention to me otherwise?” Fat rubs the corner of her mouth on the corner of the laptop screen. She tilts her head to read the words upside down; her lips move as she deciphers the story from her vantage point. She slowly turns to look at me. “I’ve read this before. Well,” she confirms with the word document before she firmly decides, “more or less. A different version, perhaps?”

“Yeah. You have.” I flip through the notebook full of scribbles of additions and facts that need to be rechecked. The pen beside the book beckons for me to change something. Instead, I recline in the office chair and fold my hands on my lap.

“Been working on it for a while, haven’t we?” Fat shuffles her lumpy ass around so she can sit and read the screen properly.

My ribcage squeezes my vital organs as she reads the page. I look out the window, then at the mess in the kitchen, to the corkboard full of notes. I have no rebuttal, so I stay quiet and fidget uncontrollably.

What feels like forty minutes goes by before she clears her throat. “You realize that at a certain point you just have to let it go; editors exist for a reason. Why haven’t you tried harder to get this published?”

“I don’t know. I’m busy.” I hear the flimsy excuse and curse myself for not being a better liar.

“Bitch, please. You’re more of a pussy than I am. It’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Grow a pair and make it happen, boss.” Fat smirks, “Busy. You’re hilarious.” Fat jumps, landing on the carpet softly. “Keep me abreast of your non-progress, okay, sunshine?”

The Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boyfriend Situation

“You act like you’ve never seen a magic wand before. I’ll thank you to leave me to my business.” Fat struts through the bedroom holding a blue plastic stick in her teeth. Frayed string, still connected to the dissected toy, trails behind her.

I press the bookmark icon and move the iPad beside me on the bed. “That’s a rather whimsical idea for a self-proclaimed therapist, isn’t it?” Never one to forgo a game of pretend, an invisible wand appears in my hand and a terrible accent takes over, “Now, by my magic, you will not be lousy and instead be transformed into the cat I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Abracadabra.” With a flick of the wrist and infinite imaginary sparkles, the dowdy S.P.C.A rescue becomes a bengal tiger.

“Never in my life have I heard of a French-Canadian Fairy Godmother,” and poof, midnight arrives; my gorgeous tiger devolves into the sad reality who is struggling to jump on top of the night stand with the eviscerated cat toy. She stops, clearly annoyed that the long piece of plastic isn’t cooperating and her fangs finally release it. Fat scowls, jumps up beside me on the bed and hisses her words as she regretfully stares at the stick, “Fairy Godmothers also don’t say ‘Abracadabra’, fool.” She turns, seeing that my invisible wand still points in her direction. She gingerly pushes my hand away with her paw, minutely shaking her head. “Don’t embarrass yourself.” She looks and sees the boxes stacked on the dresser. “Are we going to discuss this Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boyfriend Situation further?”

“Whatever are you talking about, Fat?”

“Pfft. You don’t think I notice the extra human has already moved into our one bedroom apartment… or am I supposed to refer to him as Prince Charming?”

At this point I have to say that I really thought she’d take a little longer to notice. He didn’t come with much stuff; yes, Boyfriend had, in fact, moved in.

“Does that make me Cinderella in this whole bit you’re doing, Fat? I mean, Hairy Oh-My-Godmother.”

“Hairy Godmother will be fine.” Fat elongates her body, getting a good stretch. “Don’t draw too many parallels to Cinderella, she took care of a household all the while putting up with the verbal and mental abuse from inside the walls of the homestead. You only slightly manage the latter.”

I can’t help it; I reach over and scratch behind her ears. There is nothing to say because I can’t disagree.

Fat’s happy cat face takes over and she kneads the cotton comforter. “How have the first few days been having him here? I know how possessive you are about your space.”

“It’s been lovely. I mean, of course it’s been lovely, he hasn’t seen my irrational side yet.”

Fat’s head lolls to the left, “You mean the crazy side of you? That insane chromosome that your mother seems to think skips a generation?” A paw comes up beside her mouth as though Fat is wary of somebody reading her lips. Her voice sinks to a whisper, “I’d bet all my catnip that the crazy hits every generation with the strength of Sugar Ray Leonard.”

I bite the inside of my cheek. What’s going to happen when Boyfriend realizes that I’m out of my God damn head? I feed my crazy as much as I feed Fat — it’s like having another eccentric house pet.

“Don’t fret,” Fat’s eyes close with content, “I’m qualified to mediate couple’s therapy as well.”

Social Experiments of an Unbalanced Shrink

“Hey there, look who’s home. My most fabulous boss, that’s who.” Fat purrs and her green eyes gleam with zealous delight when I come through the door. “Did you have a wonderful time with Bestie out and about enjoying the world? Can I help you with your coat?” In spite of the offer, Fat doesn’t attempt to move from her spot on the carpet. She smiles as I shrug off my rain-drenched jacket. “Need me to put the kettle on for you? Looks treacherous out there.” Fat’s head tilts in the direction of the patio to watch the Vancouver weather pelt the window but still doesn’t get up to make good on her offer. Instead, her purr continues and her neck tilts downward and Fat goes back to reading the book open on the floor in front of her.

My mouth starts talking before my brain catches up, “What the hell is goi-” Fat’s head snaps to look at me with a penetrating gaze and the happy purr ceases immediately. The rational voice in my head sends a warning to keep a proverbial white flag at the ready. I tread lighter on my feet, almost to a tiptoe so I can plug in the kettle. “Uh. You’re in a better mood.”

“You know, I realized something after our scheduling conflict the other day,” her paw slides under the front cover of the book and she slams it closed. I jump at the sound. “It’s not your fault you’re so terribly, terribly flawed. I need to exercise more patience when dealing with you.”

Generally when I open the tea cupboard, it’s a voyage through countless canisters of David’s Tea, and indecision weighs on my palate. Today was a reach in, grab tea at random and get out experience. I don’t like how Fat looks at me and the feeling of her stare makes me feel like somebody is walking over my grave. “Well geez, Fat, I-”

“Plus I gobbled up some of Mutt’s drugs and was crashing pretty hard the other day. Mixing the Valium with the Phenobarbitol was not the best idea.”

“You know that’s rectal vali…” My voice trails when I catch another sharp look from the feline, “You know what, that’s not important.” I start spooning tea into the infuser, clumsily spilling Organic Sweet Dreams over the counter and under the microwave. I drop the infuser into a cup and carefully enter the living room to investigate what it is that Fat eyes so intently.

Fat stares at the cover of How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you by The Oatmeal, giving me enough time to read the title and then she looks up at me. “I was worried that this was going to give away all our secrets. The good news is I have nothing to worry about in that department,” Fat’s paw taps the bottom where it says “#1 New York Times Best Seller” under a picture that looks like a cartoon version of Fat. Her slow tapping continues for an uncomfortably long amount of time, we just stand there locked in this miniature version of hell until we hear the click of the kettle. “Have you read this? These bobcats are hilarious.” As though the line is cue that I can be dismissed without repercussion, I back away slowly from the bipolar feline to pour the hot water into my mug.

“It’s a gift from a friend of mine.” I smell the lemongrass and fennel of the tea; chamomile was a lucky choice. Makes me think in an actual pistol-to-the-forehead situation I’ll be able to make a good impulse decision. “Hey, Fat? About the other day, I’m sorry I forgot. We’re…we’re good, right?”

“Of course we are.” Fat’s smile melts away the tension in the room.

“Good.” I watch lines of steam rise from my mug.

She shakes her head and burrows her nose in the book again, “Idiots are so easy to manipulate.”

“Did you say something?”

“No, boss.”

Office Hours: Cold as (Vanilla) Ice

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that I was running a drop-in centre.” Fat doesn’t blink when her mouth forms the words. I can only assume whatever she says is sarcastic judging by the look on her bespectacled face and the oh-no-you-didn’t neck bob.

Music becomes an audible fixture in the living room when I yank the earbuds from my ear. “What was that?” I drop kick my gym bag; it rolls, landing in the middle of the bedroom doorway. I quietly sing the song lyrics as I kick off my runners and dance into the living room, “Yo, VIP, let’s kick it.”

Fat offers an over-the-top defeated sigh and hangs her head. “Vanilla Ice? Really?” The indent she occupies on the couch tells me how long she’s been sitting there.

“Don’t even pretend you weren’t fangirling when we watched the Vanilla Ice Goes Amish marathon. When that Amish bloke sang Ice Ice Baby I thought you were going to die of happiness.” She’s not hitting me with her usual verbal bitch slap. That’s strange. I pull my iPhone out and turn the music off before I can check out the hook while the DJ revolves it. Pity for me. “Well pardon the nineties for making great music to work out to,” I mumble to my myself.

“I have been waiting for you for hours. I cleared my schedule to be here.”

I eye the scratch post, empty food dish and strewn about catnip-filled toys, “Yes. Quite the sacrifice of a day for you. Thanks for showing up.” My hands rest on my hips as I wait for her to explain her uncharacteristic behaviour.

“You’ve forgotten, haven’t you?”

My forehead creases. I puff air into my left cheek until I’m sure my profile looks like a chipmunk salvaging nuts for winter. The air passes across to my right cheek, which puffs out, and then back to the left, repeating the motion for several seconds. Outwardly, it’s like watching a strange game of ping-pong being played inside of my mouth. I’ve done the face in front of a mirror, and that’s really the best way to describe it. Unfortunately, my thinking face hasn’t helped me recover any lost information whatsoever. My eyebrows lift and my mouth becomes an awkward compressed smile, which I direct to the grey cat. Apparently all I can offer are weird faces when I have no idea what’s going on.

“You truly are the worst. You don’t even have an account at the memory bank, do you? I would love to have you remember something for longer than twenty-four hours. Really, boss. This is just ridiculous. You hate when people are late because you think it’s rude, but forgetting appointments entirely, that’s atrocious and hard to forgive.” Her tiny paw pushes the faux spectacles off her face and they land with a muted thud on the couch cushion. Fat hisses and struts away. She doesn’t even call me a bitch, obese, stupid or anything. I’m not really sure what to do.

I pick up the tiny glasses Fat clawed off an old, plastic Santa in order to lend credibility to her therapist charade. “Where did you find these?”

Her sharp voice comes from the bedroom, “I dug them out of the trash can, you self-obsessed ass hat.”