A Guidebook for the Ill

“Brace yourself, pal, here comes the stewardess spiel.” Fat tilts her head in Boyfriend’s direction. She’s sitting in the office chair; it’s the perfect place for her to see me, hunched in the light of the refrigerator, in the kitchen and Boyfriend, in the fetal position, on the couch in the living room.

“There is orange juice here and another bottle on the bottom shelf if you need it.” I point at the items as I mention them, then kick the fridge door shut as I move down my list. I open the cupboard above the kettle, “Should you require tea it’s in the cupboard along with plenty of honey if you’re in a hot water with lemon kind of mood.” The cupboard slams shut with force after I ensure there is enough of both to withstand the next few days.

Fat watches as I enter the living room with purpose.

“If you’re going to throw up,” both hands point to the bathroom like it’s an emergency exit, “you know where the bathroom is located. If it’s a dire situation,” my index fingers extend to their full length as I indicate the glass door opposite, “please avoid ruining the furniture, carpet or my appetite and eliminate your stomach contents over the banister.” Seems disgusting, but it’ll give Creepo downstairs something to observe that won’t require him to employ his binoculars.

Boyfriend sniffles and nods. Fat buries her face under her paws to silence the laughter trying to escape.

I pick up the can of disinfectant and spray enough of it to sting my eyes and harm my lungs; it tickles my esophagus enough to solicit an irritated cough.

“While you’re in this state, please remember the following: don’t sneeze on me, don’t kiss me, don’t touch me, avoid breathing my air, don’t talk to me – text me if you need more orange juice, don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t exaggerate your condition. When you change your pyjamas, burn the infected ones. Don’t expect any sort of sexy nurse role playing. I don’t give sponge baths, I don’t administer cough syrup, I don’t take temperatures. I won’t call your mother. I won’t baby you and I’ll be out the door before I put up with any infantile behaviour.” I see Boyfriend’s eyes glaze over as he tries his damnedest to listen. “Chin up, I’m almost finished.” I scratch my head, trying to remember where I left off. “Right. The best meal you can expect is a can of soup and/or toast. I will not pity for you or lavish you with affection because neither will generate a result that will improve your condition; it just puts me closer to sharing your plague and I absolutely refuse.” My eyes look up to search the archives of my brain – everything that was there has moved out. “That about does it then. Stay hydrated and best of luck to you.”

I spin on my heel and head into the bedroom. I hear the gentle sound of scurrying footsteps behind me. Fat jumps up onto the bed as I grab the iPad off the night stand.

“Your bedside manner is really quite cold, isn’t it?”

I tap my finger on the icon to check my email. “Fat,” I look at her for a fraction of a second, “If I wanted to nurse people back to health, I’d have gone into a healthcare field.”

Fat cozies up to my pillow and curls herself into a grey ball of flabby fur with a cat face. “No empathy in you at all, is there?”

“This is the first time Boyfriend has been sick since we’ve been dating. I have to set a precedent for future illness. You’ve heard of how men become babies when they’re sick; if I’m all nice and Stepford to him, he’ll always expect it.” I shake my head emphatically, “No, no, Fat. If I wanted an infant right now I’d be somebody’s baby mama.”

The feline stares up at me, appalled.

“What, doc? Clearly you have an opinion. I’m not going to apologize for what just happened in there. He’s not dying, to my knowledge he hasn’t become a recent amputee.” I delete a bunch of junk mail.

“Your lack of compassion is astounding, boss. Makes me wonder why I didn’t consider you a sociopath sooner.”

“We’re not doing this right now, Fat.” I drop the iPad on the bed and grab Fat under her armpits and carry her into the living room.

Boyfriend stares at me, not risking a syllable to ask what I’m doing – he knows not to verbally prod the unbalanced. With a gentle lob, Fat sails over the coffee table and lands beside Boyfriend’s hip. “Here’s the cat for company. Use her as you would a hot water bottle or punching bag. Cough on her, vomit on her, she’ll just purr and be a sweetheart the whole while you’re infected. She’s compassionate like that.”

More Like the Backwards Clock in the Kitchen

“Could you look more unattractive?”

With sluggish effort, I raise my hand. “Fat, I can’t do this right now. I’m exhausted.” I look down at my feet. Damn runners. Should’ve gone with flip flops.

“Hot date?”

I cast a sour gaze in her direction. “You know I was babysitting.” I stand flamingo-style and tug the first shoe off. The second runner takes a tad more coercion; the extra effort throws me more than a little off-balance. I brace for impact with the hall closet.

Fat snorts when I collide sideways. “Always the class act. How was the baby?”

I push disheveled hair out of my face before I answer. “Fine. He ate. He cried. Played. Slept. Probably peed. Typical baby stuff.”

Fat follows me into the kitchen and watches as I uncork the Merlot. She stares at the side of my face; I make no acknowledgment, hoping she’ll get bored and trot off. I swill directly from the bottle; no dishes tonight. Breath exhales loudly from my nose. I look at the backwards clock, stare at the ceiling, cast my gaze on the to-do list on the whiteboard, anything to avoid dealing with Satan’s porky feline on the floor. Fat’s silent gaze is comparable to being jabbed in the face with an invisible stick. I set the bottle down with annoyed force.

“Just say whatever it is that you’re thinking.” My elbows lean on the counter and finally I look down at her.

“I’m just wondering…” Her sentence slows to a stop then sips from the water dish. I nudge her with my bare foot and when she looks up, water drips from her chin, “Excuse me, I’m parched.” Her infamous sadist grin returns, “Where are you at biological clock-wise?”

Christ. I snatch up the wine bottle with the kind of urgency you use when rescuing a baby from a burning building. Between sips I answer.

“My clock says it’s still early.” Sip. “I’m not even close to ready for babies.” Sip. “One day, not now. Most definitely not now.” Guzzle.

Fat jumps up on the counter. It doesn’t even occur to me to push her off. She parks herself beside the espresso machine.

“Not the reaction I was expecting.”

I hug the bottle to my chest. “Fat. It’s bad. I have to… bachelor number two has got to go.”

“You told me to ‘fuck off’ last night when I asked about your date. I knew something was going on.” Her head whips from side-to-side, “Where’d I put my notepad?”

“You barged in while I was taking a shower to demand food. You didn’t even ask about last night.”

Fat abandons the lackluster search for her therapist prop. Her eyes widen with surprise. “I didn’t? That’s funny. I meant to. Things get a little foggy when I’m ravenous. No matter. So what happened with your boyfriend bachelor?”

I swig from the bottle and nod when she mentions the bachelor. After wiping my mouth with the back of my hand I point at her. “Exactly. You were right, Fat.” I watch her startled expression, “I know, it threw me for a loop too. He does think he’s my boyfriend.”

“I knew–”

My index finger raises and cuts off her words. “Not done, Fat. He wants me to be his baby mama.” I take another sip. “Yeah. Wrap your head around that. My uterus is not in the market to rent out space for nine months. Especially to some dude that I’ve only gone out with three–”

“–Five.”

“–Five times.” I feel the crease in my forehead, “Five?” Fat nods. “Still. Too soon. Even for a dude who’s thirty.” I set down the wine bottle and rub my tired eyes. When my head lifts back up my cracking voice serves as a reminder of how tired I am, “Is it too late to call him and tell him it’s ove–”

Fat bursts out laughing.

“What the fuck?”

Between chuckles, she bellows, “You’ve got eyes like a damn panda, idiot. Good call on the mascara. I was wrong; you can look more unattractive.”

“Screw you.” I swipe the bottle off the counter. “I’ll come up with a way out of this on my own.”