Vacation: The Compression of 30 Hours

Hey Wilbur,
Thank you for your last Facebook message, but no, I will not stop calling you Wilbur, and no, that man’s voice in the hallway is not mine. I’m still at the airport; my flight was delayed. Just a heads up, Fat, I’m exhausted and I just want to have a chill night after I get home, okay? Anything you want to get unreasonably dramatic about can wait.
Yesterday and today are a blur and my mind and muscles are suffering from fatigue. The last moment that felt real-time was yesterday morning when I was lying in the sunshine of my parent’s backyard. The doorbell rang and it may as well have been the sound of the starting pistol at a foot race.
My bro arrived, he rolled his eyes as I put on my prom dress again to show off, we did some shooters of coffee in the kitchen and then we were off. I proved my multitasking ability by simultaneously driving my dad’s mountain of a truck and yelling at Google maps for guiding us the wrong way to the Godfather’s house. The argument may give the illusion that I knew where we were going – I hadn’t been to the Godfather’s new palace, but I can ballpark. Somewhat. You know me; I hate being told what to do, so I took it out on the digital woman’s voice who was directing us along.
If this was a movie you could fast forward and watch my bro, the Godfather and myself laughing in his backyard tipping back bottle after bottle of beer as the blue sky turns to a slate of grey. Enter dad, who pedaled up the mountain on his bicycle. If you keep fast forwarding you’ll see another round of beers, a trip to the liquor store to stock up for the night, we stopped somewhere else – but as I don’t remember where it was, it probably wasn’t important. We ended up at the parent’s house at the top of another mountain, did a little urban exploration going into houses currently under construction and guessing what each room would be when the construction was complete. After sunset we stumbled back to the house, tipped back a few more and engaged in a marathon of Speed Scrabble.
It should be noted that my bro is a damn poet with Speed Scrabble. He sewed together words that became slam pieces of sad fellows drinking gin and different kinds of lies. Granted, in hindsight, we had all been drinking most of the day so his eloquence is lost in history and botched Mead memory. Such a pity that one of the most soulful minds I’ve come across only becomes genius under the influence of booze. That’s the artist’s life, I suppose. Ask Hemmingway.
You can fast forward some more, we tipped back a collection of bottles and made word after word for many hours. Afterward, there was an early morning hot tub and collapse of the entire collective.
After K.O.ing for too few hours, we rose early to get on the lake for some kayaking. Note: one can paddle faster when their bladder is full and a public washroom is in sight. Maybe that’s where the blisters on my thumbs came from. The morning was amazing. I mean, yes, we lost one of the kayaks off the roof rack on the truck on the way to the water, but it was a great time. After trading the kayaks at the house for the power boat the adventure continued.
Since there was a wakeboard and since I haven’t done been on one in years, it had to be done. They mocked me for wussing out and wearing a wetsuit, but nobody else went in the water at all. I’m just saying…
So here I am, shorts still damp, sitting at the airport and noticing from the screen on the wall is showing that my flight is delayed another half hour. I’m going to hunt out a sandwich or something. I’m starving.
See you in a few hours,
Boss 

 


 

Boss,
The chef dropped off Mutt. I don’t what the man fed the beast, but he smells really bad. If the chef was a gracious man, he would have at least cracked a window to let the Mutt’s toxins escape. Also, he left you something on the counter in the kitchen. Hopefully you get home fast before something bad happens to it.
You’ll be happy to know I took your advice and looked up some “wannabe shrink” stuff online. You’re going to love it – I’ve scheduled you a session next week. Be excited. Welcome back to real life, sucker.
Love,
Fat

Vacation: Memory Lane

Hey Fat,
I’m not being a bitch and ignoring your Face Time request. I’ll call you back later – if you’re calling because Chelsea isn’t giving you enough treats in my absence, you don’t have my sympathy.
Inclement weather means it’s family night and we’re watching a video of a man-wolf thrust provocatively while singing that Gloria Estefan song, ‘Bad Boy’. Hilarious comments of his prowess have long since been made and his dry-humping teeters on ubiquitous so we’ve wandered into an awkward family silence. We’re sitting here eating our pizza and looking from one another wondering who will reach for the remote and fast-forward to anything other than this sad man who probably anticipated this role would be his ticket to stardom. It seems like a good time to casually take out my phone and email you in order to distract myself from this prolonged moment from a strange 1994 home movie.
I suppose this email has thus far offered more questions than answers – Dad had our old camcorder footage transferred to DVD and we’re taking a trip down memory lane. Believe it or not, this wolf-man who ripped off the moves of a Chippendale’s dancer is actually performing in a Beetlejuice show we saw at Universal Studios back in the mid-nineties. I can only imagine what Yo Gabba Gabba and the Doodlebops allow at their children’s shows… complimentary LSD with admission, perhaps. Kids today are much more advanced.
Also in watching movies of us in Disneyland, I can’t help but notice the bright orange hat I wore in the California sunshine. Across the front it reads, Sweet Thing. It’s almost a beacon to a pedophile, isn’t it? Dodged a bullet on that one. Ah, the nineties.
Speaking of old times – I found my prom dress tucked away in one of the closets when I was looking for a sunhat. You know me; I love to play dress up. Get this, the dress still fits.

IMG_2303[1]Putting it on, I feel exactly like I did at seventeen when I tried the dress on for the first time. The saleslady must have watched too many bride shows because when I came out of the dressing room, she handed me a tissue and said I was having my ‘perfect dress’ moment. Unfamiliar with how the process normally occurs, I dabbed my armpits with the Kleenex and handed it back to her – it was sweltering out after all. I later realized she anticipated a single dramatic tear when I saw my reflection in the wall of mirrors; I’d be too choked up to make a sound and I’d just nod emphatically as if to say, “This is it. It’s perfect.” Nobody teaches you how to deal with situations like this, what was I supposed to do?
I’m so delighted to be able to wear my princess gown again, I made an afternoon of sashaying around and pretending to be somebody majestic (I’ll pause to let you make some kind of sarcastic comment, Fat). Of course, when meandering down memory lane and wearing a prom dress, my aunt asked me about my prom date. I could maybe pick him out of a crowd, but his name eludes me. I want to say it was something ordinary like Paul or Josh or something. Clearly, he was special.
It’s funny; I never really spend time thinking about the faraway past. It’s kind of fun, like witnessing somebody else’s life because I’m so far removed from it.
Update: The man-wolf has disappeared and we’ve cut to some footage of cannonball contests at the hotel pool. And – oh crap. I just got hit in the face by an overenthusiastic stepsister. This film just turned around, I’ve got to watch this. Hope everything is well at home, Fat. See you soon.
Love,
Boss

 


  

 Boss,
We’ve got a code red situation. Chelsea brought her boyfriend over to feed me tonight and he called me Wilbur (which, by the way, is the name of a gelatinous pig in case you were wondering). Things are falling apart here. Take leave of your home movies and old-ass prom dress from a graduation dance that occurred before the birth of Christ. I’m serious. Get out of the past and come home NOW.
Fat

Vacation: Hour One

Dear Fat,
I took a guess and figured you’d be nosing through my emails while I’m away. I trust you found this letter in the draft folder and just couldn’t help yourself to a peek. Chelsea won’t be by to feed you until she’s off work – can you do me a favour and make sure that I didn’t leave the hair straightener turned on? I know you probably read that and thought something like, “Nothing doing, wench,” but you really should make sure it’s not plugged in; it’s not me that will die if the apartment catches fire. I’m just saying… you’re going to want to take clean up after my carelessness. My apologies, that could have been more sensitive. For the record, I don’t want you to die in a fire. I’m sure your fur is much too flammable.
Listen, I’m sorry that you’re mad that I left without giving you any warning. It’s only a week – enjoy the solitude. Mutt is over at the chef’s house. You can spend the quiet week pouring through the internet reading articles for unlicensed wannabe shrinks. Sorry, that could have come out a little nicer. You’ve been a great help at times. We probably shouldn’t discuss the times you have been less than helpful and I’ve wanted to search Craigslist for a kitty guillotine.
As I’m sure you can guess from the correspondence, I’ve arrived at Mead Manor and I’m in good company. My stepsister and I have both been busted on the cooking front and the parents have decreed that the two of us will be throwing together tonight’s dinner. The fact that she and I both gravitate toward men that know their way around a kitchen isn’t an accident; it’s a sign of intelligent upbringing. But with beer in hand, we’ve got great plans for protein skewers, roasted peppers and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. We’re working the ol’ Mead standby – keep everyone’s drinks full and cook slowly so the alcohol has time to warp judgement. You know, just in case.
Believe it or not, I will actually miss your company this week, Fat. Tell Chelsea I say hi.
Love,
Boss

 


 

Dear idiot Boss,
I expect you’ll find your straightener inside your suitcase. You packed it last night, remember? Obviously not, your ability to be a complete buffoon seldom surprises me anymore. That hair iron is an extra limb to a vain person like yourself; at least the hazard is out of the apartment for the time being – the hazard being you, of course. If I may also go on record, I don’t want you to perish in a fire either – I’d much prefer to get the satisfaction of suffocating you myself.
No, I’m not upset that you abandoned me to go wakeboard or whatever it is you do in Kelowna. One quick thing to note: if you find a hairball in your underwear drawer, it was an accident. Sincerely.
Oh, Boss. This almost seems like a letter to grandma. It’s cute that you think I care about you cooking dinner. I don’t. You left me and my ability to care about your life has also abandoned the apartment. Funny how that works.
I’ll be scooting my ass over as many surfaces as I can in your absence; I know how you love that. Please let that image gnaw at your brain for the duration of your time away.
Regards,
Fat

 

Conversations That Ease Abandonment

“I thought you said you were going to putter around the house today? What’s this nonsense you’ve got going on?”

Fat sits right in front of the plastic cup I’ve placed on its side on the carpet. She looks to where I’ve repositioned the coffee table — out of the way, beside the cloudy window of the patio door so I have more room.

I briefly take my eye off the brilliant pink of the Volvik ball in front of my feet. Instead of answering, I let my arms swing back and there’s the nice sound of the golf club connecting to the ball. Our heads move in unison as Fat and I both watch the pink sphere roll across the carpet. If my aim were better, I wouldn’t have missed her by a foot. However, this ball lands closer to the cup than my first one; the latter found a new home under the couch.

“So again I ask, what on earth are you doing?”

“Putting.” I give the feline an exasperated look with my answer, “Obviously.”

“And the outfit?”

“Pretty, yes?” The putter becomes a fancy cane that I lean on and strike a pose. I’m wearing my white golf skirt, teal shirt, matching shoes and glove that ties the ensemble together in a neat little bow. I figure if I’m going to play terribly and get drunk off beer at the golf course, I might as well look good doing it. I use the putter to manoeuver another ball from the remaining three into position.

“Sure, Boss.” Fat doesn’t move. She’s seen my skills and she’s clearly not worried about me hitting my target. Fat is smart like that sometimes.

Concentration and intention pour from my brain into my hands. My head tilts to Fat, then to the ball, then to Fat, then back to the ball. The golf club lifts gently off the ground, the hips swivel slightly, eye on the ball and…

“The dress-up thing doesn’t surprise me.”

I sigh and lower the putter to the ground. The sun comes out and light drifts into our dismal living room. I offer her my silence in exchange for an explanation.

The good doctor smiles as though she’s won something, and maybe she has. “You like to dress for occasions, don’t you? There’s this golfer outfit you’ve got here, when you fixed the closet door handles you gussied yourself up in coveralls, the rare times you bake there’s always an apron and the matching oven mitts, you even have a bandana for changing oil in a car. It kind of gives a clue as to why you’re old and alone.” Fat pauses, giving me time to make some sort of realization.

I twirl the putter around since I have nothing I should contribute to the conversation. I want to make a comment about being self-sufficient, but I’ve fallen into her traps before. It keeps my rage in check if I don’t give her a reason to make me feel like an idiot.

“There’s no kind of costume or Personal Protective Equipment for being in a relationship with you. It’s a wonder anyone has ever signed up to be your boyfriend.”

“PPE? Like goggles and safety vests?” I hesitate to ask, because I worry Fat will take the conversation to a XXX kind of place. Those S&M folk play dress-up too.

“More like a metaphoric jock strap. It’s almost like you truly don’t want to find somebody. Ever.”

I revoke my full attention and line up once again with the golf ball. “You think I’m a lot more harsh than I actually am.” I hit the ball without forethought, and it ricochets off the wall with much too much force. “Why don’t you think I’m fine without a man, Fat? This isn’t a hundred years ago. I’m not even close to old maid status.”

“But you would be such a beautiful bride. And, if you don’t mind my saying so, a great mother too.”

I frown and my mouth puckers like I’m tasting pink grapefruit. “You’ve supported my single life in the past. Whose agenda are you pushing?”

The feline scratches her temple and she bears a confession face. “I was maybe corresponding via text with your parents under the guise of your identity.” Her sheepish face switches to scorn, “When were you going to announce that you’re leaving me for a week?”

“My parents, of course. They can see my older brother about more grandkids, he’d love to add to his brood.” He’s planning a wedding next year too; that should take the heat off of me for a couple more years at least. “And stop playing on my phone.” I’m going to need to change my passcode.

In all honesty, I had no intention of telling Fat I was leaving, she would figure it out once Chelsea showed up to fill her food dish. I think euphorically of my plane ticket and lazy Okanagan plans. A week of freedom starting tomorrow. G’bye, Fat.

The feline squints at me. “What is that ridiculous smile for?”

The Punishment For a Day at the Beach

“Scarlett O’Hara, you’re home earlier than expected.”

Fat jumps down from the bed when she sees me in the hallway. She shoots a quick look to the window; the tail end of daylight occupies the frame. The grey cat settles herself in front of the bedroom door, watching as I kick off my flip flops and pull my hair from a ponytail.

Fat sniggers loudly from the doorway when I walk past her and into the kitchen.

Sometimes I really don’t get Fat’s humour, but I play along anyway. Playing Frisbee all afternoon at the beach has boosted my mood. My voice elevates to that of a southern ingénue from a decades-old classic film.

“Fat, you are no gentleman.” I open the fridge and talk at the same time. I’m so parched, I just drink the water straight from the pitcher. As is to be expected, it dribbles down my front and gives me the appearance of  a leaky nursemaid.

“And you, Miss, are no lady.” Fat times her Rhett Butler response perfectly. Her voice dips to a lower octave and she fiddles with her whiskers as though they are a glossy moustache.

“In hindsight, a glass might have been a good idea.” The pitcher finds a home on the countertop as the back of my hand brushes across my wet chin and throat.

“In hindsight, something else might have been a good idea today too. Methinks you went a little too heavy on the rouge, Boss.”

My nose crinkles, a sign of incomprehension. “I’m not wearing any makeup, Fat.”

Fat’s index digit shakes at me in a scolding manner, “No sunscreen either, I suppose.”

I most certainly did put on sunscreen, my lily-white albino skin needs it. I made sure to put it on this morning. Right?

There is a moment of doubt when it comes to my memory and I dash to the full-length mirror in the hall. I gaze into the worried ashen face of my mirror twin. I stare at her from head to toe, she pulls off her nursemaid t-shirt and stands in a bikini top and shorts – appearing in front of me with the healthy complexion of an apparition.

Fat has leisurely sauntered over and sits directly at the base of the mirror with a cruel-but-delighted smile on her face.

“Fuck off, Fat.” With the open-handed gesture of a magician’s assistant, I motion to the reflection in the mirror.

The feline licks her lips, as though trying to suffocate her laughter. She looks down to the floor and her shoulders shrug up and down with a silent chuckle. After a moment, she composes herself, meets my angry stare and calmly utters the words, “Turn around.”

The lowered eyebrows of my mirror twin transition and now arch in worried surprise. The thought didn’t occur to either of us to twirl and check out the body’s other hemisphere.

Slowly, my mirror twin and I do a synchronized routine of rotating our bodies as our faces peer over our shoulders with concern. Looks of worried surprise turn to a hybrid of utter self-contempt and sorrow. Stinging pain sets in the moment I acknowledge the damage done. The section from the middle of my back down to my knees looks to have survived nuclear war. The burn has the disposition and hue of Satan’s office. I grab the base of my shorts and pull up to reveal one of my ass cheeks. There is a definitive line of where the bathing suit stopped.

Her laughter can’t contain itself anymore; Fat gives it voice and sets it free. “Stay right there, I need to get a picture of your face for Instagram.”

“Don’t be a jerk, can’t you see that I’m hurting?” How did I successfully lather everything else with sunscreen, but miss so much?

“Frankly, Boss, I don’t give a damn.”

Not Something Scrawled on a Prescription Pad

“You really know how to give Saturday the Jack the Ripper treatment, don’t you?”

I open my mouth to protest but Fat silences me by holding up a paw.

“That was rhetorical. You would know that if there was any intelligence stored behind your retinas.” She licks her raised paw and wipes the saliva across her brow.

I feel strange being angry while wearing nothing but a towel. Fat bombarded me when I exited the washroom post-shower. My hair drips onto the floor, leaving slipping hazards I’ll only notice after it’s too late.

“Saturday is only half-begun, Fat.” I point through the bedroom doorway to the bright daylight streaming in through the window. “Besides,” I nudge her aside with my heel so I can walk past, “It’s my Saturday and I’ll do what I want.”

The sarcasm in Fat’s voice is so dry she sounds tired when she asks, “How can you possibly make today any better?” Her head tilts to the side as she hears Jesse’s voice moving along the building hallway. “Your boyfriend is outside.”

I roll my eyes; there’s really no point in correcting her; she’ll think what she wants. “Once I do my hair and throw a face on, I’m going to go get myself a coffee and read in the sunshine. After that, I’m not really sure. Maybe clean the apartment…”

“And you got up early to prance off to the gym? Honestly, boss. Tut-tut. Weekend fail.” Her paunchy belly sways as she trails me into the bedroom and then out of the bedroom and then we loop through the kitchen into the dining/living room. “Don’t you dare run away from me. This place isn’t big enough for you to give me the slip.”

I stop in the living room beside Fat’s well-loved scratch post. The old lady crease in my forehead deepens. “I’m not trying to get away from you. I can’t find my hairbrush.” My fingers try to comb through my hair, but the knots are too intense. God damn curly hair.

Fat shrugs. “Can’t find a hairbrush, can’t assemble a proper weekend, what’s going on with you?”

“I just need some me time right now, Fat.” I bite the inside of my cheek and my eyes devour every inch of the room while I mentally retrace my steps since I last brushed my hair.

“Are you sad?”

“What? No.” I get on my hands and knees. My face touches down to the carpet as I look under the couch. Not there either.

Fat jumps up on the armrest of the couch, settling into a familiar pile of her previously shed fur. “Did your friends finally figure out that you’re a loser?”

I kneel and rest my hands on my thighs. “Not to my knowledge.”

“You just want to act like a hermit today?”

“That is correct.”

“Please explain yourself. I don’t get it.”

“Don’t use that haughty tone with me. Sometimes I just need a little alone time to recharge my batteries. I deal with people every day – there’s nothing wrong with taking a time out.” The metaphorical light bulb flashes above my head – my hairbrush is in my gym bag. I’m almost too distracted with self-congratulations that it takes me a moment to notice Fat’s whiskers twitching.

The feline’s face puckers slightly as she consorts with her inner dialogue.

“What’s with the face, Fat?”

“Time to yourself. It’s so simple it’s genius. I’m going to have to use that prescription on my other patients.”

My hands push of the ground so I tower over the cat. “You mean Mutt?”

Fat makes a point to turn away from me and direct her gaze to the opposite wall. “As a professional, I can’t discuss my other cases.” She watches me move toward the hallway. “Oh, hey, boss?”

I pause, “yeah?”

“Please send Mutt in to see me. He’s about to have a breakthrough.”

What Happens at 6:00 a.m…

“Six a.m., time for drugs!”

My daily outburst overshadows the urgent sound of the blaring alarm. Sane people would head to the nearest bomb shelter at the deafening siren. I, on the other hand, heartily announce that prescription medication is to be served in the dining hall.

Fat waits until I turn of the ubiquitous clanging of the alarm on my phone. She rolls over and looks at me with one slightly open, squinty eye. “Junkies of the world unite; happy hour is upon us.”

I throw back the blankets and grab Mutt off the bed – I tuck him under my arm like a football. The morning exclamation stirs him from sleep and he rouses jubilant and happy. This is the perfect condition for shoving a pill and medicated liquid down his throat in the morning. It’s definitely preferable to the morning chase around the apartment to catch the little bastard. Although, I would rather have to deal with catching the wild beast than watch him twitch with an epileptic seizure. Fat would disagree; at one point during a particularly bad episode, she complimented Mutt’s twerking – then asked if I had dollar bills so she could ‘make it rain’. She’s sensitive like that.

“Strange Pavlovian response,” Fat has closed her scornful eye and would appear to be asleep if her mouth weren’t moving with yet another unnecessary feline opinion. “Pavlov’s dog produced saliva at the sound of a bell, you hear a bell and your first response is to happily give out drugs. I guess in this house, that’s just how we do.”

I blink the sleep from my eyes. Every morning there is a split second where I dream of hitting the snooze button, but that button is like self-administered morphine – hitting it once will never be enough. Look alive, self. I lightly slap my cheek to keep with the energy of the wakeup call. “Need to do it at the same time every day, Fat. Consistency is important for the meds to work properly.”

“Where was this mentality when you were taking birth control pills?” Fat’s cynical tone is undercut as she attempts to fight off a yawn; it takes away from the kitty’s verbal left hook. A lazy smile crosses her face as a sliver of sunlight casts itself between the curtains, “I wish I was alive to see how you were raised. I have so many questions on how you came to be this way.”

I flip Mutt over and hold him like a baby so I can rub his belly. His tongue hangs out of his mouth; it doesn’t take much to make the little monster happy.

“Who wants drugs? Mutt wants drugs.” My fingers tap rhythmically on his pink belly like he’s a bongo drum. He loves it; frankly I’m too tired to even notice that I’m acting like a moron.

“I don’t even want to know what the neighbours think about you yelling ‘time for drugs!’ twice a day. Maybe you’re not the only one avoiding the weird neighbours – maybe we are the weird neighbours. Did you ever think of that?” Fat shuffles over to occupy my spot on the bed and enjoy the warmth of my residual body heat.

Mutt’s wagging tail whips my back every couple seconds; it amazes me that an excitable tone will trick him day after day into taking his medication. Oh to be a lovable, hideous idiot.

I bite the inside of my cheek in contemplation, keeping a firm grip around Mutt’s ribcage as I flip him over and put him on the ground. “I’m okay with being the weird neighbours. I’m cool with whatever keeps things as they are with the other tenants.”

Fat curls into a ball while lying on her side; it’s how she always falls asleep.

“Go forth, weird neighbour. Drug thine mongrel. If you change your mind and want to be neighbourly this morning, go check with the chick in apartment 14B – she might be interested to hear that it’s time for drugs.”

Lowering the Bar

“You’ve got a little something there.”

Fat’s paw gesticulates in a circular motion in front of her furry chest.

Compared to the glorious weather outside, the apartment is immersed in darkness. I peel off my sunglasses and look down at what was, when I left for work fourteen hours ago, a flawless cream tank top. The shirt has since been violated and scandalized by a crusty smattering of brown something. From its location, the mysterious substance looks like alien areola on my shirt.

“Damn. Can’t keep it classy, can I?” I mumble and pull my top taut with one hand while the thumbnail of the opposite one picks at the dried-on smudge. I’m looking down at such an intense angle my neck folds like an accordion and becomes a double chin. At least that’s what it feels like.

“What is it?” Fat moves to sit at my heels. Her double chin flattens as she lengthens her neck to stare upward. Such juxtaposition.

I don’t think, I just act. Pinching the cotton fabric from either side of the mess, I lift the stain to my mouth.

“Boss, no!” Fat shields her eyes as though there will be some terrible backlash from my actions.

My tongue presses against the stain. It is just as I thought.

“Barbeque sauce.”

Fat carefully lowers her paw and peeks out. When she realizes that neither of us are going to die, her paw touches down to the floor and the feline sits straighter as her spine becomes rigid.

“You’re an idiot. Barbeque sauce? A brown smudge could have been any number of gross things.”

“I was at a barbeque after work, Fat. There is nothing else it could have been. Besides, if you look at the trajectory,” I mime eating and draw an invisible line from my imaginary burger to the stain on my right boob, “the angle checks out.” This is where high school math class pays off; I was wondering when this crap would come in handy.

Fat doesn’t think I notice her claws slowly digging into the carpet. “You’re so frivolous with stupid things. Nothing on your face showed sign of second thought to sticking unknown dried sludge in your mouth.” Her voice screeches with frustration.

“What’s your problem, Fat?”

“This devil-may-care attitude of yours. I just don’t understand why that’s not a blanket mentality. The therapist in me is curious, but the roommate in me is beyond tired of your moronic nature.”

“What do you mean?” I stick the soiled section of shirt in my mouth and suck the mesquite flavour.

The feline snaps, “Get that out of your mouth; you’re not a child.” She waits for me to obey before she continues. “You’re so carefree with all the stupid stuff in your life, but when it comes down to things that are important, you hesitate and drag your heels until the decisions are made for you. You lack instinct. I can’t think of a time when you’ve been attuned to your visceral gut.”

“That time in Mexico when everybody else ate at that gnarly dive bar and I had a bad feeling about it. They all ended up sick in the ‘it’s coming out of both ends’ kind of way.” I pair the anecdote with a cheeky smile. I’m pretty proud of that decision two years ago. Though, it may have been the voice in my head screaming about how it seemed like a bad idea; if I recall correctly, my gut was hungry at the time.

“Boss,” Fat draws out the word so she sounds like a serpent, “That’s not what I meant. But clearly your brain got busy rubbing elbows with the beer at the barbeque, so it’s kind of a lost cause talking to you right now. I get it. You don’t think things through. But for the sake of my sanity, can you be that way with everything in your life so I know not to have any hope?”

“I can’t promise that, Fat.” My eyes drift back down to the stain. I don’t know how I’m still hungry.

“It’s just not fair to me to know that you have the capacity to make informed decisions. If I always expect you to be a buffoon I can’t ever be disappointed.”

Never the Barn Raiser

“There’s my prize pig. Glad you finally made your way home. Did you nab the blue ribbon at the county fair?”

Fat dryly acknowledges my presence from her place on the carpet in the centre of the living room. She flips the page of the newspaper, feigning indifference to my arrival. If she were more committed to the bit, she would realize she’s pretending to read the paper upside down.

“No, but I didn’t come home empty-handed.” I shake the thick plastic Ziploc baggie that’s so heavy it makes my arm muscles twitch. It’s only now that her comment registers in my brain. “Prize pig? If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black.”

“You’re better than that cliché, boss.” Fat looks up and smiles – as though the cliché is more offensive than labelling me as a porker. She licks the pad of her paw and flips the page dismissively.

Fury overtakes my face, I feel like the vein in my forehead is throbbing with such intensity it might detach itself and retire in the Bahamas – its been so overworked since Fat came into my life. The pulsing just above my temple serves the feline a warning that she needs to retract the insult. “C’mon, you can’t take that seriously with all those workouts you fit in through the week. Stop with this juvenile response. Try a little tenderness.”

It’s not exactly an apology, but I can’t be upset when she quotes Otis. I exude instant calm.

“Now going back to that prize you’re holding. I notice the top-shelf container – or lack thereof – and it tells me that you were at the chef’s house where he cooked you a fine meal. To that end, I would like to make another observation.”

The fridge light fills the kitchen as I put the leftovers in the fridge. Since he doesn’t trust me to return his Tupperware, I should start bringing my own any time I venture to his place for dinner. The lobster risotto deserves better than this.

“Even if I say you can’t make an observation, it won’t stop you from saying things. Go for it.” The fridge shuts and I turn on the lamp so we’re not sitting in near-darkness.

The good doctor beams, “You know me so well.” Fat theatrically flips another page of the paper, “I just can’t help but notice that you cooked chicken the other night and survived. Didn’t even get ill. You also seemed to enjoy the result of you labourous efforts in the kitchen” Fat’s head moves from left-to-right as though she’s trying to make me believe she’s actually reading an article on summer gardening in the lifestyle section.

“What’s your point?”

“It’s just interesting is all.” A sing-song hum comes from Fat. It’s akin to when a slow lullaby plays in a horror movie. Unsettling to say the least.

She continues her made up tune as I open the patio door to let some fresh air in the apartment. It’s actually quite windy. A collection of Mutt’s hair that I brushed off of him earlier gets pushed from outside on the patio through the living room by a sudden gust. The white hair blows like a tumbleweed across the pale carpet and finally stops once it connects with Fat’s face.

The feline sits up straight, surprised and confused as the hair that clings to her chin.

“You look like an Amish man.”

Without freaking out, Fat casually slides her paw across her jaw and removes her fake beard. She delicately drops the dog hair beside her on the floor. “Yeah, well, I was always more of a hell raiser than a barn raiser.”

“Still are.” The humid temperature in our home dissipates and it already feels degrees cooler.

Fat begins to hum her creepy tune again.

“Seriously, Fat. What?”

“You’re just a lot more capable than you let people believe. You’re funny like that, boss.”

“What are you talking about, Fat?”

“Oh nothing.” Fat’s attention goes back to the upside-down paper; she flips the page again. “Would you look at that? The U.S. Open is coming up. That’s neat.”

Humility Check

“You smell effing delicious. What is that intoxicating aroma?” Fat nods with certainty, “Carnival. Definitely carnival.”

I’ve long since shut the door, taken off my shoes, removed my bag, and collapsed on the couch in front of the television. I’m currently struggling to undo the death grip a dangly earring has on my lobe. The feline has spent the last several minutes silently observing me with a wide-eyed frustrated look; up until a moment ago, the word ‘carnival’ was setting up house on the tip of her tongue. She’s clearly relieved that she could finally serve an eviction notice.

“The Shipyards night market. Like I told you.” With a great tug, the back and front of the earring finally unlock from their embrace. The masquerade of put-togetherness is too difficult sometimes. “I swear, Fat. For a self-proclaimed therapist, you never listen.” I gently toss the earrings on the coffee table beside my purse.

Fat, being her tactless self, ignores my complaint.

“So that scent of heaven lingering in the air? What would that be exactly?”

My hands move independent of my mind. I unzip the oversize purse on the coffee table and turn it upside down, not anticipating gravity’s affect on everything. Instead of just the kettle corn and artisan chocolate tumbling out, forty thousand other things litter the table in a heap. Random post-it notes to myself, a journal, Ghosting by Kirby Gann, six pens, a toothbrush, receipts, Amelia Earhart’s missing plane, a broken magnet from my niece, a scarf, other random paper scraps and a handful of other lost things. It would appear that this bag is the Bermuda Triangle; I’m not entirely certain who the proper authorities are to report this dangerous discovery.

“That delightful aroma you’re so keen about is buried in this pile somewhere. In hindsight, I probably should have just told you that I had kettle corn and saved myself this mountain of work I’ve created.” Reluctantly, I reach forward and start sorting it all out; might as well do it now.

“You’re messy nature could be a great source of job creation for the whole country. Does Canada need more maids?” Fat muses, batting at one of my earrings until it gets caught in her claw and causes the kitty distress. “Why does this happen to me?” Fat wails, hoping to get my attention.

Unfortunately for her, I’m taking a mosey down memory lane. I haven’t used this bag since January. I read through a few ridiculous notes to myself about planning a vacation that didn’t materialize and a disregarded brochure on cooking classes that were never signed up for. I sift through a few more odd scraps and find a ticket stub to Mary Poppins from when it was playing at the Stanley.

Fat shakes her paw and the tapered silver earring moves with it. After enough shaking, the ‘tink’ sound of the jewellery landing on the table tells me that she’s free. I don’t look up.

“What’s with the doofus grin?” Fat leaps from the table to the couch and sidles up beside me. She reads the ticket. “Lame.”

“Fuck you. Mary Poppins is one of my favourite childhood stories. She’s the reason my brothers and I tried to climb up the chimney when we were younger.” I laugh inwardly at the memory of the three of us covered in soot and no closer to dancing on the rooftop. Such a pity. “As a young thing, I wanted to grow up to be Mary Poppins.”

Fat pushes her head against my arm until I acquiesce and scratch behind her ears. “Is that ‘practically perfect in every way’ nonsense your mantra or what? Because I’ve gotta tell you, boss, perfection on you makes as much sense as a goldfish eating a t-bone steak.”

My nose wrinkles as I scoff. “Doc, I’ll have you know that my mother raised me with the saying: You don’t want to be perfect, it’s a hard thing to live up to.”

“Well at least she didn’t raise you with the false hope that perfection was a possibility.” I can read the unflattering assessment on Fat’s face as she looks me over, “Not a pony I would bet on. You’re a nice lady, boss, but perfection is a bit far-sighted. Your mother was right.”

“Thanks, Fat.” I stop petting her and reach for the remote. If I turn the sound up loud enough I can drown her out.

Realizing that I won’t be able to hear her in a couple seconds, Fat shouts over the noise. “Perfection is a hard thing to live up to, but with enough effort I’ll bet you could be quite mediocre.” And then she smiles. Because in her world this is considered a compliment.

I reach out for a pen and scribble at the bottom of one of the post-its: Acquire tranquilizer gun.