After the Warehouse

“From what I hear, it wasn’t a successful mission in the warehouse. Fat fail.”

My friend has long since departed after bringing her back home and I’m making dinner. Fat sulked in, crawled on top of the desk and has been quietly facing the corner since her less-than-triumphant return to the apartment.

“That wasn’t a mouse.” Fat shudders, still facing the camel-coat colour of the wall. “Mouse is a colossal understatement. That fucker was big enough to hold me like a teddy bear and spoon me all night long.” Her head turns to look at me in the kitchen, I strain noodles over the sink and then return them to the pot on the stove. “I’m not going back there, Boss. Ever.”

“I’d be embarrassed to let you.” There are no words as I mix butter, milk and powdered cheese into the noodles. I heap some of it into a bowl and sit on the computer chair near the feline. The smell of food prompts Fat to spin around and finally face me.

She attempts to change the conversation. “Anything interesting happen here while I was out?”

I hold up my finger, buying myself a moment to swallow the food in my mouth. “I took a Zumba class.”

“I bet you were awful.” Fat leans on her elbows as her paws cup her face, feigning interest – anything to distract from the search for her missing dignity.

“That’s the obvious conclusion. It was fun though. I also went to Bard on the Beach. I love theatre.”

Fat pouts, “It sounds like I really missed out. I suppose it’s nice that you had fun.”

I ignore her statement and frown into my bowl of bright orange. “This does not hit the spot at all.”

I scoop a bunch of the neon noodles onto a fork, lift them out of the bowl and then watch I tilt the utensil and the noodles slide off and land back amongst their clones.

“What do you expect from hallway Kraft Dinner?”

“I was too lazy to go grocery shopping, okay?” I put the bowl on the desk and push it as far away from me as possible. What I need to do is order some Chinese food.

Fat’s face disappears in the bowl and she helps herself to a taste of white-trash cuisine. “Oh, yeah. Not good.” There’s some fake cheese sauce stuck to the fur around her mouth.

I laugh.

“What?”

“Nothing at all, Fat.”

Fat tips her head in the direction of the bowl beside her. “What are we going to do about this?”

“I was thinking about getting some Chinese food deliv–“

“That’s not what I meant, idiot.” What I assume is annoyance gurgles at the back of the feline’s throat. “I meant the source of tonight’s terrible dinner. What are you going to do about the friendly neighbour?”

I reach to the iPad, which is beside the printer, and start looking up online menus. “There’s nothing to do about Jesse. He’s gone into a ghost state. I haven’t seen him in,” I think on it and can’t come up with a definite date, “a long time.”

Fat jumps beside me on the couch. “I’m not convinced. Trust me, I’m a therapist. I know these things. He’s going to knock on that door one day soon and make you an offer you won’t refuse.”

“The only thing he’ll be looking for when he finally does come a-callin’ is his extra set of keys. I still have them. That’s weird, isn’t it? If it were me, I’d be getting my keys back as soon as possible. Seriously, how long has it been since we saw that guy?” It bothers me that I can’t even ballpark his strange visit to my apartment that morning. It was a weekend. This much I know.

Fat answers without a second of contemplation. “It’s been two weeks since we locked up after the dearly departed harlot. I say hold on to the keys as long as possible.”

I look up from the iPad; the tone of her voice lets me know that Fat’s moxie has come back in full force. “What makes you say that?”

“You managed to get Kraft Dinner from him, let’s see what other presents we can extort. Next time you hear footsteps in the hall, say, ‘I want a floor-to-ceiling scratching post.’”

“Something for you?” The feline is regarding Jesse’s original sweet action as a shopping spree of sorts.

“Play fair, Boss. You got what you wanted last time.”

The Loan-er Personality

“Stop following me!”

Fat screams and lunges at her tail. She ninja rolls across the carpet and chases her hindquarters in a circle until her front claws catch her tail and the miniature lioness bites herself.

“Ow.” Fat immediately releases her tail and recoils as though the appendage is her enemy. She gives it the death stare.

I look up from a book I’m racing to finish; it’s due back at the library today and I can’t renew it again.

“You’re an idiot.” I resume the sentence that I let get interrupted by kitty nonsense.

“I will never apologize for my killer instinct.” Fat flexes her claws as if the action is evidence to support her statement.

“Crap.” The book claps shut on my lap and I sit up as my defective memory shorts out. “What day is this?”

“Monday…” Fat’s green eyes narrow with uncertainty. “Why are you asking a question reserved for a character from A Christmas Carol? You lack the acting chops to play Dickens’ Scrooge, Boss.”

“Monday, okay. I almost forgot; you have somewhere to go tomorrow.” I hold the hardcover novel in front of my face like a shield, expecting the feline to lash out.

Fat offers a short hiss. “I have no reason to go see the vet, I’m the model of perfect health.” She sprawls on the carpet and her gut takes up real estate on the floor.

My head shakes with vigour. “Nope. No vet. Your killer instinct just reminded me that I told a friend of mine you would go spend a night at his warehouse.”

I’m met with a disdainful gaze as Fat smoothes out her whiskers. “I don’t know if you’re starting a new career in animal pimping, but I’m going to throw you a big fat no on that one. You can’t just loan me to somebody. That’s cruel.”

I swing my legs over the side of the couch and sit up properly, abandoning the comfort of my reading nook. “You misunderstand. He’s got a mouse in his warehouse and was looking for a great huntress that will take care of the problem. I could think of no finer than you to come to the lad’s aid.”

Fat contemplates, scrutinizes for sincerity, then slowly nods. “I know you’re stroking my ego, but yes, tell him I will be the hero he is looking for.”

Of course, over-the-top compliments would convince her, but the truth of the matter is she never had a choice. There’s a reason she calls me Boss.

Fat taps her paw against her chin, “It’ll be like a fishing vacation. An eat-what-you-catch outing. Finally, some real meat.” Fat brightens, finding a true reason to cooperate. “What are you going to do upon my departure?”

I shrug as though I have nothing to hide. “Enjoy the silence, probably.”

Fat shakes her head. “I kind of hope you take the time to do something foolish. It’s been far too long.”

Office Hours: Arts and Crafts

“Are you expecting a kindergarten class?”

I drop my beyond-ripe gym bag on the floor next to the full-body mirror in the hall. Fat, waiting expectantly in her plastic eyeglasses, sits straighter upon my entrance. She perches on the coffee table amongst a throng of construction paper, felt-tip pens, paint, glue sticks, coloured pipe cleaners and white out. She says nothing, just gives me the ‘trust me’ look of a politician in a sweater vest. Her eyes follow me as I disappear into the kitchen and come back with a Corona in hand.

“Seriously, Fat. Is it time for back-to-school shopping already? What’s going on with this stuff?”

I kneel on the ground beside the coffee table and set my beer down in a small area of table not occupied by craft supplies. My idle hands can’t help themselves and I reach over and grab the pipe cleaners. I wind a yellow and blue one together, with no idea of what will become of it.

“No.” Fat snaps when she sees my hands sculpting the wire aimlessly. “That’s not what this stuff is for, Boss.”

I drop the pipe cleaners instantly; they hit the edge of the table and fall to the floor in near-silence. I lift my hands in the air to show I’m at her mercy.

“You’re absolutely right. Clearly these are for the séance you’re hosting this evening. Give the spirits my apologies for disrupting their arts and crafts table.”

“No,” Fat repeats. “I want you to construct a physical representation of your heart.” Fat’s head nods at all the art supplies around her paws. “It’s an exercise in perception. Show me what you think yours looks like.”

I stare, open-mouthed at the art supplies, awaiting further instruction.

The feline’s tail sweeps over the craft materials, knocking the bottle of white out on its side. Her eyes squint at me from behind the wire frames of her spectacles. She sighs with impatience, “You can start now.”

“Oh, well…” I scan the art goods and grab the scissors and a piece of blue construction paper. For some reason, I think this is a timed event and start cutting the shape of a heart as quickly as possible.

I’m so engrossed in the process, I don’t even acknowledge Fat’s stare.

“You clearly were not emo as a youth.”

I look up just as I finish cutting the shape of a lopsided heart from the paper. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

The feline stares as though it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re not good at cutting.”

I don’t know how to respond so I just ignore her comment and focus instead on piercing and cutting several holes of various sizes into my paper heart. Upon completion of the round holes, I set the scissors and lean away from my art project.

“You think your heart looks like Swiss cheese?” Fat appears repulsed by my effort and stares at the barely held-together heart.

“Swiss chee…” My head lops to the side and I have to admit, yes, it does look like that. Unintentionally, of course.

“You think there’s a person out there who wants a heart that looks like that? This isn’t a heart you give to somebody.” Fat judges before she even hears my explanation.

“I have no intention of giving my heart to any one person.”

Fat gives me a look that can’t commit to being either pity or misunderstanding. It’s a face between differing states.

“The holes, Fat. I could never give anybody my entire heart because I’ve already given pieces of it to other people.” I point to a hole, “My folks have this part.” I point to another hole, “Bestie’s.” I point out a few more, “Chelsea’s. My niece. Nephew.” I list off a few more missing parts of my heart that have been given away. “Kind of selfish to get these parts of my heart back just so I can give my whole heart to a single person. I like it better like this. I like having a broken heart. More pieces to give to others for safe keeping.”

Fat sits in silence. Her face twists in what looks to be a pained expression.

“Fat? What’s wrong?”

Fat’s paw bats a few of the felt pens sheepishly and we both watch them fall off the table. “I was expecting to mock your ugly heart and tell you about how nobody wants something so hideous. It is hideous, by the way. But then you go and say something like that and I haven’t prepared any supportive comments.”