Off the Personality Charts

“It’s been a long while since you’ve returned to the apartment doing the three a.m. donkey shuffle. Thanks for coming home, Clip Clop. I presume estrogen night was a success.”

It would seem the hitch in my giddy-up is readily apparent to a busybody feline. I take baby steps, still in disbelief that not fifteen minutes ago I was sprinting down the middle of a street, through the rain to Bestie’s car. The current state below my ankles is comatose; my feet are beyond the point of pain, they’ve long since checked out.

“It’s maybe quarter after two. Three a.m.? You exaggerate.” I groan, but strangely enough, it’s for celebration. I’ve spent hours in these shoes, I made it; I’m still alive.

Fat frowns with the familiar look of a parent that has denied themselves sleep in order to ensure their kin arrives home safe from a night out. I expect her to be in a housecoat and curlers with a glare like that.

“I’m rounding up, but it’s still late. I suppose it was more than just going out for dinner like you would have me believe. You should always call if you’re going to be late. It’s the courteous thing to do, boss.”

“Sure, yeah.” I stumble into the bedroom and collapse, face first, onto the mattress. I’m getting too old for late nights, but it was the birthday of one of my best gals, and it was delightful. Many of my favourite ladies breaking bread together, sharing some laughs. I snort, remembering Bestie’s face when the subject of vajazzles came up.

I try to kick off my shoes without turning over and sitting up, but the result of this decision is kicking my ankle, scuffing my shoes against each other and scraping my skin against the dark heels. I feel like a wind-up toy that keeps colliding with a wall – I imagine the feeling is more or less the same. My black pumps are fused to my feet like they’ve been melted to my soles with lava. Stupid swollen feet.

“Tut, tut.”

The fur of Fat’s tail drags across my shins. Because of the sound she makes, this action can only be interpreted as condescending. I lift my stomach off the duvet and roll over.

“You seem surprisingly alert, boss. Not wearing the askew eyeballs of one that is drunk and bumbling around.”

One of my feet stirs in its coma; it’s starting to register that it feels pain. I’m not sure which is preferable – numbness or agony. At least with agony you know it’s still alive. My knee pulls up to my chest and I reef on the shoe as hard as I can. That bastard stays put.

Fat jumps up beside me on the bed and watches me struggle as I try to free myself.

“Thought I’d keep it classy tonight and watch my intake.” I growl. “What is going on here? This kind of crap never happened to Cinderella.” I yell at my shoe, try to divorce it from my foot with more force then whine and huff in aggravation. I’m a prisoner to my footwear. How does this happen?

“I always pegged you as more of an ugly stepsister type anyways.”

I shoot Fat the dirtiest look I can muster.

“Kidding.” Fat smiles insincerely. “Seriously though, you might have to amputate.” She leans close enough to my leg that her whiskers touch my foot. She leans back quickly – they must smell terrible.

I give up on my right foot and lift my left foot. My arm muscles firm and a veritable war cry bursts from my lungs as I wrench the pump off my foot in a fluid motion. It frustrates me how much easier this shoe was to remove. I throw the shoe across the room and it lands in a pile of laundry beside the dresser. Okay. Half way there.

Fat laughs, “The best part about this is that there are flats in your purse, remember? You thought you were so smart bringing those along for when your feet tapped out for the evening.” Her laugh continues until it turns into a quiet wheeze.

“Of course I remember.” I talk over her raspy laughter. “I gave them to Bestie because her feet were crying.”

Fat instantly stops and she dons the face of genuine surprise. “Self-sacrifice, boss? This isn’t something I’ve marked on any of your personality charts.”

I stop grappling with my shoe and walk with one bare foot and one high-heeled foot to grab my purse from the hallway. I unzip it and flip the purse over to empty the contents onto the bed. The black flats, of course, are absent.

Fat takes a long time to blink. Her mouth hangs open, slightly-ajar as she looks at the wallet, lip gloss, compact, iPhone, small journal, pens and other purse crap.

“Nothing to say, Fat? That’s surprising.”

The feline gives her head a shake. It offends me that she’s so shocked at my capacity to put others first. If I weren’t so tired, I’d be making one hell of a scene – pulling tails, spouting verbal abuse, putting her in the toilet bowl and flushing, the whole nine.

“I guess there’s only one thing that comes to mind at the moment.”

I watch her green eyes remain on the items from my purse. She scans over everything as though she’s taking inventory.

“A single girl on the town should carry condoms in her purse.”

“I’m going to go to bed and pretend you didn’t just say that.”

Office Hours: Feed Bags and D-Bags

“Ordinarily, I’d be pissed that our session was interrupted, but that disgusting bag you’re holding smells amazing.”

I’m pretty sure I left the apartment when Fat was mid-sentence in order to go and get my nosh on. When one receives a text saying that food is at the front door, the non-cook will stop everything, including fake therapy, to investigate. I was gone for five minutes, tops.

Fat has been perched on the backrest of the couch all afternoon. Her phony spectacles are on her face and her paws have disappeared underneath rolls of furry flab. Fat’s tiny nose reaches into the air when the aroma wafts over.

“This disgusting bag,” it’s still hot, so I hold the giant Ziploc firmly by the zipper, “is my alimony lasagna. Ground turkey, obscene amounts and varieties of mushrooms, topped with fresh, sliced mozzarella…” I gaze dreamily at the bag of food that has shifted from the shape of a casserole dish to a sloppy, tomato sauced mess.

Fat, also affected by the intoxicating scent of a home-cooked meal, closes her eyes and licks the sides of her mouth as though she can taste it. Her eyes stay closed and her words come out pointedly, “I still maintain that you should have asked for more than lasagna. A cedar-plank salmon at the very least.”

“In hindsight, yes. But frankly, I didn’t actually expect him to bake me a lasagna and personally deliver it to the apartment.” I think back to last week when I requested the dish – alimony lasagna was asked for in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Ex-boyfriends of years previous weren’t supposed to act at my whim. From experience, ex-boyfriends generally behave like d-bags. This entire endeavor is quite foreign.

“What’s with the presentation, anyways? Certainly he could have given you something better than a Ziploc bag.”

I sigh. “He doesn’t trust me to return his Tupperware.”

“Is he wrong to think that way?”

My head tilts from one side to the other as I weigh his rationale. “No. But to be fair, I always intend to bring plastic containers back to their rightful owners.”

I’m still standing in the middle of the living room, dumbfounded, clutching the plastic bag. In spite of the food looking like ass, it truly does smell like heaven. I leave it on the kitchen counter to cool and resume my spot on the couch, with the feline near my head.

Instead of letting me resume my rant on how April has chapped my ass, Fat continues along the current stream of conversation.

“It’s interesting. You’re not trusted with alimony lasagna in Tupperware, but I can’t help but notice that care packages from your parents come in things like yogurt containers. No Tupperware from them either.”

I sit up, grabbing the pillow from behind my head. I give it a few good whacks, replace it, and recline once again.

“I returned Bestie’s Lord of the Rings movies. That’s something.” That’s kind of the same thing.

Amusement lights Fat’s green eyes. “That’s only because you said that they frustrated you to the point where they needed to be out of your home or you would go psycho killer on those blu-rays.” She looks down at me from her perch with a grin, “if you recall, that’s more or less a direct quote.”

Yes. I remember. It was a good thing carbs were weighing me down that day or my get-up-and-go would have made those movies see their own horrible demise.

“Well excuse me for not comprehending the plot.”

Fat pushes the fake glasses on top of her head and her paw rubs her eye with tremendous aggravation. “Perhaps watching the films in order would have helped build a bridge of understanding.” She takes a moment and composes herself. The wire spectacles find their perch across her grey nose. “We’ve gotten a little off topic. Let’s try to reel this back in. What kind of horrible things did you do in exchange for that lasagna?”

“Nothing!” I shout, trying to convince her of my innocence. Apparently a girl can’t receive a pasta dish from an ex-beau without it meaning something.

“Oh, boss. You can be such a naive fool. Ex-Boyfriends don’t behave this way without a reason.”

Her tone gives me something else to add to the growing list of things I currently hate.

“He’s either attempting to poison you or,” she looks out the window, trying her best to be dramatic, “he’s looking for an opportunity to hit it and quit it.”

How Billy Crystal Saved Fat’s Life

“He got to keep that horse you know.”

Fat’s eyes stayed glued to the television. I don’t see what she’s watching until I heave my ridiculously heavy bag into the living room. Billy Crystal and his best fellows are in the midst of a cattle drive talking about the best days of their lives. I always forget how much Fat adores Billy Crystal.

With great effort, I lift my shoulder bag onto the desk. Carrying it the ten blocks home almost crippled me. Frankly, I’m surprised my back didn’t give out because of the weight.

“Did he actually get to keep the horse or are you just taking a piss at me?” I wipe my brow on the inside of my elbow and turn around; Fat continues to stare at the screen, unblinking, as the trio of middle-aged men lollop along on their ponies. Fat ignores me.

I watch, half-engaged, until the movie breaks with a commercial.

“Genuinely… didn’t you read his book?”

It takes me a moment to realize that Fat is picking up the conversation exactly where it left off a few minutes ago. I shoot a quick look at the spine of Still Foolin’ ‘Em on my bookshelf and then stare guiltily at the about-to-burst satchel sitting on the desk.

Fat rolls onto her side and stares across the room at me.

“You would be a terrible criminal, you know that?”

“That’s a weird thing to say.” I slump in the desk chair and observe at the feline with curiosity.

“Boss, please. You need to be introduced to nonchalance. Never have you ever put on a coat and grabbed a bag to bring Mutt out to your ex-boyfriend’s vehicle. That was red flag number one.”

That thought didn’t occur to me when I was hightailing it out of the apartment an hour ago.

“Next, I noticed that you turned the television on before you left. You always make a point to conserve electricity and make my life miserable when you can. Clearly, you were trying to provide some kind of distraction.” Fat smiles and stretches out her body across the couch cushion. “Naturally, you piqued my curiosity.”

I remember rapidly leashing Mutt and leaving the apartment after the tv came on. At the time, it appeared that Fat was mesmerized by the movement on the screen. I suppose I just saw what she wanted me to, that wily bitch.

“I stuck my head out the window to have a little gander. Usually, you toss Mutt into the car and go about your day, but – and this part I found of particular interest – today you got in the vehicle with them. Which leads me to wonder,” Fat lifts a paw and dramatically stares as her claws slowly appeared out of her grey fur and just as slowly disappeared, “what were you doing getting into your ex’s automobile?”

She’s jumping to a terrible conclusion. I knew this would happen and that’s why I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell her before I left. “It’s not what you think, Fat. I was getting a ride.”

“I bet you were.” Fat shoots me an obnoxious wink. “Swimming in familiar waters, boss?”

“Gross. No. He took me–”

“In his arms?”

“Stop interrupting. You know I hate that. He took me up the street to the library.” I struggled with the zipper of my bag to show off a collection of borrowed goods. “In hindsight, I should have walked there and asked for a ride home. I think the workout unhinged my spine.”

“Was the workout that the trek home with the hoards of books, or was it bumping uglies in a car like a couple of teenag… Shut up, City Slickers is back on!” Fat’s attention is taken again by the quick wit of Billy Crystal. She laughs uncontrollably at something he says even though she’s seen this movie countless times.

The bad voice in my head has a theory that violence can solve problems – providing the problem is a presumptuous feline.  If the movie hadn’t started at that moment, Fat may have put that theory to the test. Thank you, Billy Crystal, for saving my cat from strangulation; I owe you a fruit basket – one of those nice ones that are cut to look like flowers.

There and Back and None the Saner

“Did Mutt serve as a pack mule for your travels?”

Fat has a brief moment to spy the mud-spattered dog before he charges into the apartment leaving me in the hall with my bag of dirty laundry and his bag of prescriptions, food and toys. I honestly think I packed more stuff for Mutt than myself. By the time I lazily kick the bags into the apartment and shut the door, Mutt has Fat pinned on the carpet. Her back legs kick out in protest as he chews on her ear.

“He’s happy to see me. Why is he happy to see me?”  Fat’s grey face pokes out from being smothered by Mutt’s cream-coloured fur. “Get this thing off of me. Get him off.” Urgency fills her sentences and the good doctor sounds on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

My hands grab around the dried mud of Mutt’s hind legs and I propel him off Fat with a wheelbarrow manoeuvre. Mutt’s face turns over his shoulder, giving me a look of pathetic misunderstanding as to why his front legs keep getting forced forward in awkward steps. He then sees his travel bag of goodies tipped over in the hall and he dashes out of my grasp to chew on his stuffed alien dog.

“Fat, don’t deny his affection. You should be grateful that somebody in this apartment cares so much about you.” I pull off my hoodie and drop it on the hall table. “How did things go well I was away.”

“How did it go?” Fat slowly repeats the question to buy herself time to remember. “I watched that movie Bernie – I dare say it is Jack Black at his finest, I had a sleepover with my cuddle buddy on Saturday – I didn’t think you would mind. Oh. And I spent the entire weekend drinking out of the toilet.” She smiles at me, but it doesn’t appear to be a happy smile.

“Why did you–”

“It’s a whole thing and I don’t want to get into it. Just for the record, you are never to leave me again, okay?” It’s phrased like a question, but this is clearly a demand. Fat, annoyed, licks her paw and attempts to remove traces of Mutt’s saliva from her fur. She shoots me a quick glance. “At least you seem to be doing better. You’re not wearing that stress all over your face. I trust that your trip to the home land served you well.” Fat scowls as she brushes flecks of dry mud from her fur. “Seriously, where did this come from?”

“We went for a hike with my parents before we drove home.” I press the dark pink colour on my shoulder, watch the patch of skin turn momentarily white and then turn pink again.

The feline lets out an obnoxious, insincere laugh that comes to a halt when she sees my sunburnt arms. “I’m sorry. You said hike and I thought it was a joke. You don’t hike.”

“I think I might start… I liked it.” Though, I might consider sunscreen on my next time out to change it up a bit.

Fat seems to have completely forgotten about cleaning her fur. She assesses me for sincerity and the pause in conversation stretches out into sixteen hours. “No you didn’t. You just think you did. I’d bet many dollars that you’ll drop this idea of wanting to be a hiker within a week. I’ve heard stories of your parents – howling at the moon types that they are. Frankly, you probably only liked this morning’s hike because you were still drunk from the night before.”

“You can’t prove that.” The fact that we were up until almost sunrise drinking and shooting pool the night previous is only further evidence to her claims. I keep that information inside my head and smile. I love my parents. They’re a couple of rock stars.

“We’ll see, boss. You’re more of a sayer than a doer. And those times you are a doer, it’s usually done half-assed on the effort scale.”

“I beg your pardon?” Instant rage fills me, then subsides when I decide that I need a shower. Also, I’m kind of hungry. I might want some tea and some quiet time on the couch reading. My thoughts go full circle until I’m back at my stance of being offended.

“Boss. Really?” Fat rolls her eyes, catches sight of the dog as she does so and then looks disgusted. “You even dropped the ball on going on an actual vacation. You were talking about that months ago. You were talking about going to Ontario.”

Oh yeah. I forgot about that.

“Maybe it’s not my fault that I’m a sayer and not a doer. I have intentions, but I lack the memory to remind myself to see things through. Fat, after I shower, I’m going to start doing some things.” I wander into the bathroom and turn on the water.

I can hear Fat still talking in the hallway.

“Do what you want. However, you won’t be going on that vacation. Did you not hear me say you’re never leaving me again?”

The Runaway Train

“You’re running away from home now? That’s rather overdramatic.” The feline eyes my black vinyl tote with white stitching. “Classy bag, boss.”

Fat’s judgemental tone just bounces off me. I don’t look up from dropping a few items in my overnight bag.

“What did you expect?” There’s a moment of hesitation. I know that I know the word I’m looking for, but vocabulary completely fails me, “a hobo handkerchief on a stick?” I shake my head at my own stupidity; it would have been better to just keep my trap shut.

So far, I haven’t packed much. I told myself I would have been ready to go almost an hour ago. Then I could just simply chill out and wait to be picked up without the last-minute stress-dash that is usually the result when preparing for a weekend away.

I mentally go through a list of unforgettables in my head. I can live in the same clothes for the entirety of the long weekend, but I will not live without my stash of Mini Eggs over Easter. That’s a non-negotiable.

Fat crawls less-than-gracefully across the unmade bed. “Bindle.” When she sees the surprised look on my face she sighs with frustration, “A hobo’s satchel. It’s called a bindle.”

Damn it. Bindle. How did I not remember that?

“How in hell do you know that?” I always find it unsettling when my portly furball knows things that I can’t readily come up with.

She ignores my question and peers inside my bag. “You pack some weird shit for a weekend with your kinfolk. I really need to meet your parents.”

I shoot her a look that says nothing other than ‘what else does one bring on a weekend getaway to her hometown?’ It dawns on me immediately after I scrunch my face at Fat in an attempt to make her feel stupid that all that’s tucked inside that tote is a bulk bag of Israeli couscous, some Cuban cigars and a small fortune worth of Mini Eggs.

“Only the chocolate is mine. I’m serving as a pack mule with those other things.”

“That only raises more questions, boss. But I don’t care enough to travel down that road.” What one might consider a worried look crosses the feline’s face. “You’ll miss me, won’t you?”

“It’s only three days, Fat. I’m sure you’ll manage just fine. Mind the sitter.”

She rolls her eyes, “I always do.”

We catch eye contact and both burst out laughing. Good behaviour is usually out of stock when it comes to this kitty.

Fat composes herself and becomes serious again. “You’ll write, won’t you?”

I grab my well-loved journal off the night stand. Holding it in both hands I hold it by my face with what should translate as a cherub-like smile. “I’m going to try to scribble down a few ideas when I can.”

Her grey ears fold backward. “I meant write to me.”

I toss the journal in the bag beside the couscous. “Do you have any idea what stamps cost these days?” I turn my back on Fat to address my dresser and what I should pack as far as clothes go.

“I know you’re being facetious but I don’t care. I don’t like when you go away. The intelligence level of the apartment skyrockets in your absence, but in turn,” I hear her movement behind me, “I realize how much  your Neanderthal antics keep me amused.”

I turn around with a handful of shirts, underwear and pyjama pants, almost dropping them when I see Fat sitting happily inside the vinyl bag.

“You’re not coming this weekend, Fat.”

The feline glares, then softens almost immediately. “You’re right, boss. You need this time away from everything. Enjoy the time-out. I’ll take care of things around here.”

I wait for her to move, but she remains planted in the overnight bag. I grab her around the gelatinous stomach and heave Fat out of the way.

“Thanks, Fat. I appreciate the support.”

The Other Side of the Door

“It’s about damn time you let me in. I’ve been waiting out there for the last forty minutes.”

“I’m aware; you haven’t shut up about it for the last forty minutes. I’m at the point where I want to kill you just to be free of your incessant requests for entry.” I clear my throat. It feels like I’ve been doing shots of glass fragments.

Fat squeezes through the few inches of open doorway before I shut the door behind her. I push the knob in and turn it to the right as the feline turns in a slow circle, taking a survey of the bathroom. Her penetrating gaze settles on my face and her eyes grow large.

“Whoa, boss. You look like shit.”

“Thanks.” I don’t want to look in the mirror. I can say with upmost certainty that I’m red-faced and puffy with mascara in all of the wrong places. I touch a spot on my jaw line. When I pull my fingertips away, they’re painted with black.

“I gotta ask, why here of all places? If I were in the middle of a breakdown, I’d rather have it in the comfort of my bedroom. At least then you can make a blanket fort.”

I resume my post: legs extended across the laminate, spine pressed against the bathroom door, ass uncomfortably numb but manageable if the alternative is leaving my fortress of solitude. Though, I suppose now it’s more the fortress of busybody feline.

“Two reasons, Fat. One,” I hold up an index finger, “It’s the only room in the apartment that I can lock to keep others out. And two,” my middle finger raises, “people seldom follow distraught others into a bathroom; nobody wants to gamble on walking in on another person dropping a deuce.”

Fat’s grey head bobs up and down with comprehension. “Sound logic, boss. Want to tell me why you’re throwing this fit of rage? What happened with Ex-Boyfriend out there?” She tosses her head in the direction of the living room beyond her shoulder.

I can feel the unsettled bile churning in my stomach. When I realize I’m still holding my hand up in the shape of an ironic peace sign, I fume. I clench it into a white-knuckled fist instead.

“He was watching my iPad last night when I was texting with a friend of mine.”

Fat settles her hindquarters on the bath mat and stares at me with inquisition.

I offer the explanation without further prompt. “My iPad is synched to my phone – texts appear on both.”

“I knew that.” Fat touts the obvious signs of pretending to be aware.

“The iCloud afforded Ex-Boyfriend a certain opportunity. I’m pretty sure you can piece together what happened.”

Fat nods, “Sure, yeah. Tale as old as time. Girl gets metaphorically sodomized by technology and in turn, girl’s trust gets metaphorically sodomized by the person who answered the door when opportunity knocked.”

“More or less, yes. Ass-raping all around.” I finally open my clenched fist to see deeply-imbedded nail prints across my palm.

“I get why you’re so hurt by that. You’re a private person…” Her words drift and Fat’s tail flips side-to-side, thudding against the bath mat in thought. “You’re like the Wizard of Oz.”

“That simile requires a little more explanation.” I really hope this isn’t going to be one of her set-ups where I end up getting insulted. Since she didn’t go for the brainless jab of comparing me to the Scarecrow, I’m definitely curious.

Fat rolls her eyes and jumps up onto the lid of the toilet. She stares at me from her perch.

“You only show people what you want them to see. It’s nobody’s business what’s behind the curtain.”

I tap my nose. I hate when she gets it because it makes me all the more frustrated those times when she doesn’t seem to.

“Sometimes you surprise me, Fat. I never think you get it, but you do.”

Fat jumps down from her porcelain podium and crawls onto my lap. My fingers get covered in her shedding coat in seconds, but I don’t care. Surprisingly, she’s giving me exactly what I need right now.

“Of course I get it. You’re my human. I’m here for you, boss.” She purrs and her eyes close as her head lolls to the side. “Just say the word. I’ll scratch the hell out of him for you.”

Boss is Unavailable Today

I’m not entirely certain as to what’s going on.  As usual, boss came home from work and fed me right away – as I’ve trained her to do. There was a heated conversation between her and Ex-Boyfriend. I missed a lot of what was said. Most of their words were drowned out because my food is too crunchy. I need some of that wet stuff… that sounds somewhat erotic as well as delicious. Nevertheless, something happened during mealtime that made boss act like I’ve never seen. She’s currently locked herself in the bathroom. There’s a massive disconnect going on in our home. I need to investigate.

I politely knock on the bathroom door.

“Go away.” Her broken words couldn’t sound worse if they were trying to escape the chaffed area between thunder thighs.

Well that’s certainly strange. She clearly doesn’t know it’s me.

“Boss, it’s Fat.” I figure if I use my slave name she’ll be more apt to let me in. My words become lost within a loud rapping noise. I look up to see Ex-Boyfriend withdraw his knuckles from the bathroom door.

There’s a sniffle from the other side. A gentle thudding sound makes me think she’s sitting on the floor in there, letting the back of her head rest against the door. She’s using herself as a barricade so nobody can get in. Oh, boss. It’s weird that you’re wearing feelings.

Her voice sounds so tired, “Please go away.”

Manners. This is very curious. Ex-Boyfriend hesitates, as though there’s something that he wants to say or do to reverse whatever damage has been done. Seriously, what the fuck is going on in this place?

I shall stand watch until answers are provided for the strange behaviour of this eve. That twat in the bathroom seriously needs some therapy.

My Life in Limbo: A “Documentary”

“Post break-up, day seventeen. The air remains thick with frustration as well as the rotten scent of old garbage that needs to be taken out. Both camps seem to promote an ever-increasing distance while portraying to the outside world that the situation remains okay. The indigenous peoples of the fuck-my-life tribe remain unaware that we’ve managed to interpret their muted language.”

I explode into the apartment, catching only Fat’s last two sentences as her voice travels from somewhere beyond my line of vision. This phony documentary crap needs to stop immediately. My keys scratch the hall table with a forced landing and with the bowling skill of John Goodman, my gym bag travels recklessly down the hallway. It lands at the base of the scratching post and there it shall remain until I kick it nearer the laundry pile.

Fat’s glowing green eyes stare as I make my entrance into the kitchen, but the obese cat persists with her natter. She sits on the counter eyeing Ex-Boyfriend who’s watching a movie on his computer – oblivious to her monotonous droning. It is unclear as to the length of time her voice has granted sound to her observation. If I were to venture a guess, I would suppose she’s been going on for about seventeen days.

“Houseflies become abundant as both camps neglect showering and housework. They’ve silently entered a competition to establish their alpha standing through stench and decay. The local housecat grows increasingly despondent, and considers stooping to the level of using the bathtub as a litter box.”

“Fat, if you so much as joke about pissing in the tub again…”

“Calm down, boss. You know I avoid places where your gross naked body has been.”

This is true. The places she knows about anyhow. I pat her tiny head and then scratch behind her ears. My stomach rumbles, offering a silent threat that it will make my life absolutely miserable unless I fill it with some kind of carbohydrate.

A thunderous purr comes out of the feline, and her eyes close for the next few seconds until I stop petting her. “I’m just tired of all this transition business, boss. I know you are too. Normal life is impossible until he moves into his new place. This isn’t breaking news to you though.” She eyes me knowingly.

Despite my best efforts to withhold my emotions, a heavy sigh propels out of my lungs. I shoot a tired look over to my – for lack of a better word – roommate.

“You guys walk around each other like you’re both wearing inner tubes around your waists. Tell me how you seem to think this is okay.”

The plastic bag of bread crinkles as I take out two pieces and pop them in the toaster.

“We’re not walking around each other, Fat. It’s the situation we’re trying not to disturb. He’s here for another three weeks and we’ve agreed that we’re going to handle this like grownups.”

“And freezing each other out is the way to do that? We’re all living in limbo here. On a side note, I’m going to take it as a compliment that you didn’t wash your hands between petting me and handling food. Thanks.” Fat’s face leans in when I take out the butter dish. Delight warms her eyes. I flick her wet nose and a paw goes protectively to where she got hit.

“Uh… you’re welcome?” It is gross that I hadn’t considered that. No wonder her hair ends up in my food. That’s my epiphany for the day. There’s always at least one.

I peer into the toaster and see the bright orange lines turning my bread light golden brown. The decade-old appliance buzzes with age. “Breakups are weird, Fat. There’s no definitive how-to manual to deal with things. There should be though. I could write it…” My focus briefly turns inward while I consider the idea.

“Sure. Yeah. It could serve a dual purpose: how to survive a break up while simultaneously decorating your house as a pig sty.” Fat’s tone changes from a winning sales pitch to a balking jerk. “Penning a stupid advice book that won’t sell is one way to go.” Fat’s gaze slips back to the butter with longing.

“And the other way to go would be…?” The toast pops and my skeleton almost bounds out of my flesh. Even though it was expected, I’m still surprised.

“Get a limbo stick and make the best of the situation, of course. It would be great footage for my documentary.”

A New Kind Of Alimony

“You know I’m not fond of you waking me through the night.”

I frown at Fat while grabbing a handful of Cap’n Crunch from the box. Fat delicately laps from her water dish, oblivious to my sour puss. I change the song playing on my iPhone then continue packing a lunch for work.

Once Fat’s thirst is quenched, she looks up at me. She licks the residual water from the corners of her mouth and blinks more times than needed.

“I told you I’d let you know when I came up with something. Excuse me for not leaving you hanging.”

“That was two days ago. There’s a statute of limitations on how long you have to deliver on a joke. Waking me up after 1:00 a.m. this morning was beyond unnecessary.” I drop the cereal into a plastic container. Fat’s ears lift at the sound, acutely attuned to the noise similar to her food dish being filled. When she realizes that it’s not the tinny sound of her bowl, Fat’s ears revert with disappointment to their previous state.

“It was a compliment. I like the smell of canned tuna.” Fat smiles genuinely. It hurts me that this is considered a compliment in the feline world. When she hears the second handful of dry cereal hit the Tupperware her face briefly lights with hope before she comes to the same realization as before and her anticipation deflates.

I crouch down in front of a lower cupboard to grab a granola bar and cup of ramen noodles. Fat comes and sits beside me while I contemplate grabbing some corn chips as well.

“So…” She draws out the word and looks at the food in my hands. Fat waits for me to read her mind, but after several seconds of silence, she realizes that’s not going to happen. “You ever going to learn how to feed yourself or is this the kind of nutrition,” she nods obviously at my lunch, “you’ll be enjoying for the rest of your cat-lady days?”

“What are you talking about?” She’s staring right at my work lunch. I don’t understand this feline. I remember there are some baby carrots in the fridge. I’ll grab some of those too.

Fat’s eyes follow me as I stand, toss the noodles and granola bar in my lunch bag and root through the fridge until I find the bag of carrots. I grab one and take a bite.

Maybe she didn’t hear my question. “What’s up, doc?”

Fat shakes her head. “What are you doing? An homage to your childhood?” She waits for me to swallow my food before she continues. “We haven’t really discussed much of what happens now that you’re all alone again.” Fat interrupts when I open my mouth to protest. She holds her paw up to force silence upon my vocal cords. Her voice comes out tired, “Yes, girl power. You don’t need a man. You’re a self-sufficient, independent woman, new age hunter/gatherer and whatever other crock pot clichés you’re packing. I mean no offense, but you don’t know how to cook, boss. I don’t desire to perish in a kitchen fire while watching another attempt.”

The feline looks genuinely concerned, though I’m quite certain it’s more for the threat on her life instead of my abysmal domestic skills.

“Fat, have some faith in me. I’ve got it all figured out.”

I swear I see Fat wince at the thought of me in an apron. I do my best to ignore it. I can’t be offended by the truth.

“As you may recall, the less-recent Ex-Boyfriend, with whom I share Mutt, is a red seal chef.” I grab my phone off the kitchen counter and check the time. Four minutes before I have to leave for work or I’ll miss my bus.

Fat shoots me a look of bitch-please-don’t-travel-down-that-road.

“Hear me out. I pay for all of Mutt’s food, vet bills, prescriptions, what have you. I’ve never asked for any sort of compensation for covering all of that. Therefore, I think that if he wants to continue to share Mutt with me, he should provide me with some sort of…” My still-tired brain reaches for some kind of term that will work, “edible alimony if you will.”

“Bitch, you crazy. Nobody would agree to that.”

I look down at the iPhone still in my grasp and go into my messages. There in plain text, is a response to a text I sent in the not-so-distant past.

“A pan of lasagna will be here on Thursday.” I throw my hands in the air like I’m in a nineties rap video and give Fat the you-can-suck-it face before turning the screen in her direction.

Fat’s eyes widen with surprise as she reads the text. “Not sure that I entirely agree with your methods, but if you can get fed properly through use of extortion I suppose I can’t fault you.” Her eyes squint as she reads something else on the screen. “You sent this at 1:13 a.m.?

“For some reason I was awake at that time.” I glare again at Fat, who, out of habit of my morning routine is planted in front of her food bowl. First I make lunch, then feed the good doctor. “It seemed like it was worth a try. Better to ask for something like this when he’s had time to tip back a few bottles, am I right? Alexander Keith’s got my back.”

The Ol’ Fishin’ Hole

“You seem lighter.”

I lower my book, revealing Fat’s face. It’s difficult resisting the urge to jump with surprise at her unannounced presence. Fat’s front paws hug the edge of the couch as she stands with her back legs on the carpet. She’s close enough that I almost hit her face with the hardcover when I moved. Pity I didn’t; it would have served as a lesson to not sneak up on an old lady. And for a woman at such an advanced age, I don’t know how many beats my heart has left.

I have no idea how long she’s been beside me – my nose has been pressed inside The Night Circus for the first time in a fortnight so I’m taking full advantage of this rare quiet moment. I rest the open book across my stomach and acquiesce to the interruption.

“Thanks. I’ve been going to the gym.” I feel my non-chest puff out with pride and flex my arm muscles just because I can.

With finesse, Fat jumps up beside me.  Somehow, even though she’s much smaller than I am, she hip-checks me until I offer up a half-foot of the couch. The grey beast sprawls across the camel-coloured cushion. The Night Circus takes a tumble when she pushes me aside; I pout not only because I’ve lost my place but because I sense impending conversation with the feline. I knew I couldn’t dodge Fat forever.

“Not what I meant, boss.” She stares at my taut bicep, “You can stop that now.”

My arms deflate, once again, to jelly.

“What did you mean then?” My only compliment of the day and it was worth less than nothing. No matter. When you have a memory that reinvents itself every twelve hours, hurt feelings are generally a non-issue.

Fat shuffles over a bit more to pin my arm down with her body. I would almost swear she knew my next move was to retrieve the novel from the floor.

“It was an observation on how laid back you seem today in comparison to say, any other day as of late.” She stares deeply into my eyes as though she’s trying some form of hypnosis.

With my free hand, I grab another couch pillow and stuff it behind my shoulders so I don’t have to crane my neck so much to see her. “You know what happened, Fat.”

“I am well aware of what happened, yes. You threw away another chance at the house with the white picket fence. I’m sure there’s room for discussion there.”

My arm awkwardly pulls out from beneath her hefty frame and my hands rest behind my head. “What is so desirable about this fucking house with the white picket fence? Maybe what I want is an open-concept loft in a cool neighbourhood. Or a passport and devil-may-care relationship with Visa. Or both.”

“And Boyfriend – I suppose Ex-Boyfriend – was more into the metaphoric real estate in the suburbs. I wondered how that would all play out. If I may pull from the advice of somebody very clever, you two were operating on two very separate energy levels. Frankly, I’m surprised it lasted so long.”

“Ah Fat, the eternal optimist.” My tension may have subsided, but the pain in the ass is ever-present.

“You know I’m joking,” she turns her head to the side and stage whispers to Mutt, asleep in his dog bed, “half joking anyways.”

Her head turns back to me with a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth smile. “What happens now? He clearly hasn’t moved out yet.” Her voice returns to a loud whisper, though I can’t figure out why she’s whispering, “Unless you’re keeping those guitars.”

“I’m not an asshole, Fat.” I eye her with apprehension, “There are logistics to figure out still. He’ll move out when he finds a place. We’re keeping it amicable. I just don’t want the kind of relationship he wants. If I may be cliché, I’m a lone wolf.”

“More of a sport fisherman.” Fat’s hind legs kick me until I roll on my side and relinquish more space for her fat self on the couch.

“Fisherwoman.” There’s a moment of silence where I realize that I don’t actually understand what she means; I’m just inclined to be contrary in spite of comprehension. “Wait, what?”

“Fish in a bowl lead boring lives. You’re all about catch and release and the stories that accompany each one you reel in. You need the fight.” Her paws stretch out a great distance from one another. “Remember the time you caught one that was this big? He was almost too big for the ol’ fishin’ hole.”

I laugh because I’m immature and find dick jokes hilarious and then stop abruptly because my slow brain belatedly realizes what she called my vagina. “Too far, Fat. Too far.”

“I’m just here to let you know I’m here for you.”

“You’re always here for me. You never go away.” I reach over the feline’s body to grab my book off the floor. “Thanks for checking in, Fat. I’m fine.” I start flipping through the pages to find where it was that I left off.

“Yes. Good. You read. I’m just going to sit here and think of other relevant fishing-related anecdotes. Stay tuned for something about a snapper, fishing pole and chum.”

Oh goody for me.