Being Neighbourly

“It’s okay, just keep plugging along like I’m not even here.”

I shoot a quick glance away from the mirror, eyes wide and mouth open as the mascara brush remains suspended mid-air. Fat sits on top of the toilet tank; the candles that usually occupy the small space have been shoved haphazardly aside by the feline to accommodate her rump.

“Fat, I–”

“I’ll have none of your excuses, jackass. It’s fine. I see how it is. We’ve got ourselves a black-and-white roommate situation. Should I start labelling which food in the fridge is mine?” The feline’s sarcasm is unmistakable. “Don’t take advantage of the elastic band on the doorknob privilege.”

My mirror twin shows a minor crease in her forehead. People do that in real life? I feign nonchalance as I go back to applying my makeup. “That’s a non-issue, Fat. A pervert like you generally finds herself in the room whenever I have company over.”

“I live here too!” Fat’s ears flatten and her green eyes narrow into slits.

I twist the mascara tube shut and put it away, looking in the mirror at the hideous bags under my eyes as I do so. I’d rather scrutinize the age on my face than chance a look to the grey feline. She radiates scariness right now.

Before I have a chance to manoeuvre my way out of her watchful eye, there’s a quick succession of three short knocks at the door. A beat of silence, then one more quick knock. The familiar sound has become a secret handshake of sorts and the right side of my mouth uncontrollably lifts into a smirk. Thankfully, the chef has Mutt for the night and the knocking is met with silence and not the excessive yips of a grumpy rotund dog.

“Wait,” Fat’s face changes back to her normal expression, “What gives? Who’s at the door?” The feline jumps down and near-gallops to the apartment entrance. She assumes a regal stance as she sits, waiting for the door to open of its own volition. She watches, transfixed, as the visitor turns the knob from left to right. “State your name and business, trespasser.” The demand booms from the cat’s lungs as the person continues to try the doorknob.

“For Christ’s sake, Fat.” I nudge her aside to gently flick the lock and the door is pushed open by the person on the other side.

A paw lifts, claws extended. “You’re far too accommodating to this intruder.”

Jesse swings the door open with a fake scowl. He points at my face with the enthusiasm of a shipwreck survivor seeing land. “You. I hate you so much right now.”

I swat his accusatory fingers until they recoil.

The feline’s claws retreat. “Take a number pal; I was mad at her first. She’s just in a place to piss everyone off it would seem.”

Jesse’s head swings down to acknowledge the cat near his feet. “Miss Fat, how do you do?” He tips an imaginary hat in her direction. “I just need a moment of time with your mistress; she’s done me wrong in a very cruel way.”

“Preach on, sister.” Fat glares in my direction then back to Jesse. “We should start a club.” She purrs, happy to have a cohort in her fight to bring me down.

Jesse bends to pick her up, petting Fat like he’s a Bond villain. The beard he’s grown out over the summer looks like it’s ready for a trim. It’s on the fringe of unruly.

“And how have I wronged you?” I look up as I bend over to put on my boots. “Between you and the monster you’re holding, I should open up a compliant department.”

“Pfft.” Jesse flips his hair as if he thinks it’s long enough to get into his eyes. The pomade keeps his brunette locks suspended in place. “You told Hobo Tenant down the hall that I would help him set up his pvr. I just spent the last twenty minutes in his apartment. He kept trying to feed me grapes.”

Fat and I speak at the same time and apparently share the same thought.

“Is that a–”

“That’s a total euphemism for balls.” Fat looks directly at Jesse’s face as if trying to discern truth from his expression.

I didn’t get to finish my question, because Jesse interrupts to edit his statement.

“Green grapes. Literal grapes.” He pats the top of Fat’s head, entirely unaware that she thought the same thing I did, and her eyes close happily. “Why you always gotta take it to that place? Damn, woman.” He smiles.

I shrug into my bomber jacket. “He asked me to help him and I said I thought you were the better man for the job.” Effort to hide my cruel laughter is wasted and I can’t help but chuckle at his misfortune. “I didn’t want to be in his apartment by myself. I won’t apologize for throwing you under the bus. I’d do it again too.”

Fat’s eyes open to look at Jesse again. “Boss is like that. She’s a hideous bitch who’s only capable of looking out for herself.”

Jesse lets out an easy laugh. “I’d have done the same to you if he asked me first.” He bends to let Fat down and steps closer to me with a pity-me face. “That guy smells so bad.”

I nod, thinking of Hobo Tenant’s signature scent of unwashed clothes with a lingering hint of dumpster debris. I mime throwing up. Fat sits on the floor between Jesse and me staring up at us with a calculating look.

“Something’s up.” Her head tilts from me to him and back again.

Jesse’s hands grab the bottom of my jacket and he fastens the zipper on my behalf like I’m a child. “It’s cold out there today.” He grabs my hood and lifts it onto my head.

“Something is definitely different. Didn’t I say something like this was going to happen?”

“Thanks. So thoughtful of you.” I shrug the hood off and respond to Jesse’s offended expression at the action. “We’re still inside, dork.”

“Where are you going?”

Before I answer, Fat dons a mock voice that I think is supposed to be me. “It doesn’t matter where I go so long as I’m with you, sugar face.”

I make the fake throw-up face again, pretending to hurl all over the feline. Sugar face? We don’t say that in my apartment. Not even in jest.

“I’m just responding to these gross vibes you and the neighbour boy are putting out there.” Fat offers a judgemental gaze of I-told-you-so.

The wise decision is to ignore the cat. If I start getting into it with her, Jesse will be correct in thinking I’ve gone off the deep end. “I’m not sure. I was just going for a wander, see where I end up. Wanna come with?”

Fat shoots me a not-so-subtle wink. “You sly devil.”

“Cool. I need to grab a coat. C’mon.” Jesse grabs my hand and pulls me out of the apartment. I barely grab keys from the hall table before we’re in the apartment hallway. I hear Fat’s voice from the other side as I’m locking up.

“Make good decisions, Boss. We all know how prone you are for the opposite.”

Behavioural Predictions From a “Therapist”

“This is the most domestic thing I’ve seen you do successfully.” Fat leaps up on the bed as I secure the last corner of the fitted sheet. She kneads the still-warm, soft fabric and languidly sprawls across the fresh linens.

“I’d love to dispute that, but,” I pick up one of the pillows off the floor, pound it into a fluffy state and exert as much force as I can into throwing the pillow at the cat, “sadly, you’re right. Domesticity is not where I shine.” Fat dodges the pillow and repositions herself on the far edge of the king-size bed. I reach across the bed to grab the pillow back. With the finesse of fitting a sumo into spandex, I do my damnedest to shove that pillow inside a pillowcase.

“Perhaps I spoke too soon,” Fat watches as I hold the sides of a pillowcase and using the same action as when one puts on a boot, I shove my foot on top of the pillow and force it into its rightful home.

I feel my face flush with exertion and stare, unenthusiastically, at the other three pillows still to wrangle. The playful flicker of Fat’s tail catches my attention and I get the feeling that I need to justify doing laundry. “You know I’ve got a soft spot for clean sheets.” I see it; the twinkle in the feline’s eye. Her mouth opens, but before she can even get a syllable out I point at her like I’m outing her in a police line-up and my voice finds volume, “Don’t.”

Her pupils grow large, innocent-looking. “Don’t what?”

“You’re going to make some kind of trashy remark about how I’ve got a soft spot for dirty sheets too, or something like that. Just once, can we not?” I ignore the trio of pillows and instead begin unfolding the next sheet.

Fat makes a sound that’s akin to a guffaw. “You think you know me so well.” The tail stops twitching and she catches my “oh really?” gaze. She crosses one of her front paws over the other and casually responds to the accusation, “For your information it was going to be something more about your soft spot – or your sweet spot as you have so quaintly referred to it in the past.” Her gaze pointedly drifts south of the border so there’s no misunderstanding that she means my lady business. Someone is in dire need of some manners. “Speaking of,” Fat’s attention returns to my face, “any suitors on the horizon?”

“Fat, you know I have a boyfriend.”

“Just fact checking to make sure I’m caught up on current events.”

“By the way, he’s going to live in my apartment.” My fingers grab the edge of the sheet and with skills learned in kindergarten playing with a giant parachute, the sheet fans out and comfortably lowers over Fat.

I watch the lump in the bed move around under the sheet searching for escape. “He’s moving into the vacant apartment on the third floor? That’s convenient.”

“No, he’s going to live in my apartment.”

“As a roommate?” The lump in the sheet circles around as Fat doubles back to where she started. “We’re going to need another bedroom.”

“We don’t need another bedroom.” I grab the duvet and spread it out overtop of the sheet that still has Fat trapped.

“As in…here?” Her voice is more muffled, but she somehow manages to tunnel her way out at the same time she grasps the news. A delinquent smile lights up her face.

“I hate when you have that look. What now?” I haphazardly shove the remaining pillows into their cases and toss them one-by-one onto the bed.

“This situation pleases me.” She baits me with the sentence and waits for my undivided attention before she explains herself. “A control freak like yourself? You don’t have it in you to live amicably, You’re going to need therapy sessions with me more than ever.”

Warning Bells of Bad Things Yet to Come

“Oh, hell.” The urgent alarm clanging in my head and imaginary flashing red lights behind my irises alert me to the danger zone that I’m about to enter. I briefly wonder if I’m fated to become a casualty in my own apartment.

Fat sits, waiting for me, directly in front of the door with her shrink spectacles on. My hands, one still on the doorknob and the other with the key in the lock, move as fast as they can. I pull hard on the handle and lock the door. I feel akin to a fighter pilot using their ejector seat.

“Well that was a bit much.” Fat has somehow appeared on this side of the door. For a portly gal, she sure can move when inspired.

What a waste of a frenzied exit. “I thought I was in the wrong apartment.”

Fat stares at me dryly until I can’t take the silence.

“Fine.” I add a few extra “I”s to make the word sound longer than it needs to be. “I’ve just had a long day, Fat. I’ve been going since,” I check my phone and see that it’s closing in on midnight, “way too early this morning. My rhythm with the universe is off; timing especially, I missed two buses today for no reason. Mutt’s broken again, and the vet doesn’t know what’s up. It’s stressing me out and not even a workout cured the fried wires in my head.” My phone beeps in my hand as if on cue; I show Fat the screen with a former bachelor’s name on it. “This guy.” An icy tone accompanies the words as I delete the text and send the message off to Bell Mobility’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. I look down at Fat again. “All I want to do is throw some food at you and enjoy a few minutes of decompression before I crawl into bed.” I unlock the door for the second time in a minute.

“Very well.” Fat walks back into the apartment before me. She makes a right after the kitchen and crawls under the desk without another word.

My head tilts to the side, dumbfounded by this uncharacteristic behaviour. Then it happens again; inside my head sounds like a boxing match where somebody keeps ringing the bell and an ambulance with flashing lights tours my cerebral cortex. Pissing off a cat is always a dangerous gamble; their range of passive-aggressiveness ranges from petty annoyance to murder.

To be on the safe side, I close the bedroom door behind me. I don’t want that she-devil eating my face off when I’m unconscious.

Trapping Cats and Catfishing

“I wonder how long until there’s a candlelight vigil outside the apartment.” Fat jumps off the desk, where I’m typing a reply to a Facebook message, and she trots over to the window. I minimize Facebook and spin around in my chair and see her staring outside with great concern.

“Vigil for what?” I join her at the window, preparing for the onslaught of tragic news. Any number of things could have happened with all the upgrades they’ve been doing to our old building. Contractor mishaps aren’t entirely unheard of. Twilight takes over the sky, but there is no crowd of mourners on the street; there is, however, a senior walking his golden retriever, but that’s about it. I look as far down the road as I can before I stare down to Fat to explain the absent vigil.

Her nose almost presses against the glass; it’s so close the warm exhale from her nose forms short-lived condensation on the cool windowpane. “I just expected there would be a memorial for your common sense out there by now.”

A tight fist latches onto the flimsy curtain and I pull it shut, trapping Fat temporarily between the fabric and the window. I watch the feline lump behind the curtain move right, then left as she searches for escape. Were I a cruel person, her entrapment would be a wonderful opportunity. It takes Fat a moment, but she gradually figures out that she can just crawl under the bottom of the curtain. By the time she’s made her escape, I’m back at my desk, annoyed.

I click on the Word icon on my desktop and watch the lap top screen fill with over two hundred pages of my nonsense. When I hear a minute blip sound, I open Facebook again to read the message.

“What’s the story, catfish?” She leaps up and watches my fingers type a quick sentence and I feel her stare when I pause to read then delete and write a completely different sentence.

“Catfish?” I hit send and log out of Facebook. I really need to get some kind of writing done if I ever plan to finish this book. I open the word file again, searching for where I left off.

Fat shrugs, and lies down across the desk, “I love MTV.” Before I can open my mouth her head tilts sharply and she greets me with the same kind of intense eye contact she gave that time I tread too close to her Billy Crystal obsession. “Love it,” Fat repeats, clipping the words.

“Okay, fine,” I feel myself on edge. Shaking it off, I turn back to the computer screen and read over sentences I’ve read a multitude of times before. Even with the familiarity of my own written words, I’m still unsure about what exactly I’m trying to say.

Flopping onto her side, she grows more relaxed. I feel the laser-intensity subside from her stare. “So are we going to talk about this guy you’re hustling online, or what?”

I’ll take any excuse for a distraction right now; I push the office chair away from the desk. “Clearly, you’ve been misinformed, old girl.” I kick my feet up beside my laptop. “When have I ever hustled anyone?”

“The spring of fourteen ninety-eight, you were a young girl and poker had just been invented by the Swiss–”

“You’re idiocy never ceases to take me by surprise.”

Fat’s mouth opens to protest, but I hold up my hand to silence her, which somehow stops a single syllable from finding a home in sound. “He and I met a long time ago, Fat. I’m not catfishing anyone.”

“I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing then,” Fat licks a paw and rubs behind her ear as she languidly splays across the desktop, “according to Facebook he lives across the country. Now you’re just trying to fail at relationships before they happen; it’s textbook. Distance doesn’t last.” Her eyes glower, she’s trying to get a rise out of me, “You of all people should know that.”

I smile, and trade her bitchy expression for a smirk of my own. “You’re absolutely right, doc.”

Fat stops grooming herself, her paw hovers in midair above her head. “Something’s going on.” As soon as her sentence ends, a window pops up on my laptop. I forgot I had Skype open.

My index finger taps my nose while I point at her. “Clever, Fat. For being so rotund, you’re awfully sharp.” I click to answer the video call, trying to signal to Fat that the conversation is drawing to a close.

“What’s the news, then?”

“He’s moving here.”

A Fantastic Coping Mechanism, Ruined

“This apartment is so damn hot.” Somebody just woke from her second afternoon nap.

I’m tucked into the intersecting corner of the sectional, my eyes lift off the page briefly when I hear Fat complain from the bedroom. I exhale loudly and go back to the sentence I was pulled out of.

Two pages later I catch a glimpse of her head peeking around the corner into the living room. I pretend not to have seen her and I flip the page. Usually there’s some kind of background noise, music, television, loud neighbours, but today is oddly serene in the apartment. Were it a normal day, I might not have heard the low sounds of Fat humming her own theme music.

I steal a glance over the top of the book to see Fat sleuthing across the carpet as though engaged in some kind of high-stakes espionage. I’ve stopped reading, but act as though I’m entirely engrossed in the novel. Fat makes it to the coffee table. Her paws grasp the tabletop, and her head slowly lifts so she can scope the situation. She’s on high alert; her head tilts minutely to the left as though she hears something that may impeded her mission. Once satisfied that the imaginary sound is not of consequence, Fat slowly lowers her head and paws back to the floor. She risks a bold move, jumping right on the tabletop. Her humming starts to sound more like “Mission Impossible” music, as her imagination disintegrates to the familiar and cliché. My eyes roll back and forth over the book in my hands to make it look like I’m still consuming the story. Fat’s stare stays on me for a while, eventually she feels safe to go for it. Fat sidesteps. She sidesteps again, conveniently placing herself directly beside my short glass.

She’s oblivious to my actions now. I slowly lower the book to watch her gingerly lift a paw. She places it delicately into my glass, then obliterates the calm surface of liquid by slapping it like a bongo drum. Once her paw has been immersed in refreshment, she lifts it to her mouth, licking hurriedly a few times in case she gets caught and needs to make a run for it.

“This water is disgusting.” Fat peers into the glass and eyes the clear contents with distrust.

I pick up the glass by the rim and pull it out from under her face. “That’s because this is vodka.” I eye the contents myself and seeing no foreign matter, proceed to knock back a mouthful.

Fat’s face scrunches up. “That’s gross, woman.”

“Yeah, well,” I set the glass down again and open the book.

“What?” She becomes distracted when my iPhone lights up with a new text. We both see who it’s from, but I make no move to respond.

I look up, “Huh?”

“Yeah, well… what?” Fat moves closer to the vodka again. She reaches over to it again, this time with a different purpose. The glass tips to the side, and a slow stream of vodka runs across the table and off the edge to the carpet.

“Wow.” I shut the book. “That was three different kinds of awesome, wasn’t it?” I watch the unfinished Kettle One drip onto the floor. I inhale and exhale again, trying to maintain a grip on my calm. “Did you hate it that much?” I crawl off the couch, and make the gradual journey to the kitchen and back, towel in hand.

My knees crack when I bend them and I sit cross-legged on the floor to dab the mess the damn feline made.

“At least it’s clear.” Fat’s still perched on the coffee table, handing her optimism down to me.

“Right.”

There’s a pause, Fat licks her chops before trying again. “No mutt tonight, what kind of trollop behaviour can I expect to hear about tomorrow?”

“None.” I briefly consider putting the towel in the laundry basket. Instead I just set it on the table and I creep back onto the couch.

“Ew. Does that mean that I can expect to hear half of a gross and graphic phone conversation instead? Let me know now so I can start sucking on that towel. I can’t live through that again.”

“What are you talking about?” I curl my legs up and wrap my arms around them.

“That time you were talking to your friend about when you attempted to cook a turkey without supervision. Blood draining on the floor, sticking your hand in the wrong cavity looking for giblets. Just gross.”

I feel my eyes narrow and I shoot her a sideways look. “That happened a long time ago. That’s not the conversation you’re referring to.”

Instead of a confirmation or denial, Fat extends a cheeky smile. She turns and jumps off the table, wandering over near the television. She starts clawing the carpet like a scratch post.

“Oh no, bitch.” I grab the remote and throw it in her direction. Not a direct hit, but I skimmed her stomach roll. Where I come from, we call that a win.

Fat looks at the remote on the ground beside her. She swings her head and beams at me. “Finally, some normal behaviour. What’s your deal today?”

“Nothing.” I roll over on the couch so she gets my back instead of my face.

She doesn’t pick up on my body language. Instead, Fat jumps up on the couch, and heaves her oversize self up onto my hip where her claws dig in to maintain her mediocre balance. I burrow my face into the couch cushions because there is nowhere to run.

“Tell Doctor Fat.” When I offer no answer, her claws drum along my leg. After a moment, she figures it out and her voice becomes a softer kind of insincere. “What happened with the bachelor?”

I pull my head out of the couch cushions not for any other reason than it’s difficult to breathe in there. “He doesn’t want to see me anymore.” Before she can say what I know she’s going to I hold my hand up. “No. I don’t want to talk about it right now. Fuck off.”

Exclusivity is an Exclusive Club

“What’s up with your cat?”

Fat’s sitting front-and-centre on the fella’s lap. With intimidating fixation, she watches his face. She’s been gawking for almost a full minute now. Finally, she breaks her statuesque presence and momentarily drops her I-could-kill-you-while-you-sleep demeanor.

“I don’t know this one.” To be entirely certain of this fact, Fat invades the precious few inches of buffer that remain between her nose and his. She scrutinizes him like an alien species. She doesn’t back away, but instead turns her head toward me in question. “We haven’t seen this one before, have we? No shameless photo of him in your phone.” If possible, her face gets even closer to his, “…or is there?”

“Sorry. She’s kind of curious and also kind of a bitch.” I grab under Fat’s armpits and lift her off of him. She leaves behind evidence in the form of grey hair on his dark denim pants.

Fat’s ears fold backward, “That little jab will cost you your final free curse word for the day.” She mumbles as I carry her to the bedroom and set her down on the bed.

I check over my shoulder to make sure he didn’t get off the couch and follow suit. I whisper so he won’t overhear me talking to the cat. “What are you doing to me?” My hands ball into fists and press against my temples

She speaks at her normal volume, “That’s interesting.”

My mouth opens at the same time my right hand lifts in the air like I’m a cocktail waitress holding an invisible tray of drinks. The pose is meant to say, “What do you mean by that?”

“The quieter your mouth, the more obnoxious your movements. I’ve noticed it before. One might speculate that it speaks to your need to be heard.”

Both hands press against my face, offering me the brief illusion of being alone. Fingers still across my eyes, the bottom of my hands pull apart so my words won’t be muffled by flesh. “You’re not a therapist.” I groan. First my corkboard and now my psyche; this one won’t stop until everything of mine is ruined.

“So who’s this, anyways? Bachelor number four?” She jumps off the bed and struts toward the hall. My reaction to her exit is delayed, that is, until my hands melt down my face and I can see over my fingertips.

I dash and catch her just before she makes the turn to go back into the living room. Fat gets tossed not-so-nicely back onto the bed. “Can we not give them numbers?” I throw another look over my shoulder just to be safe.

“I thought you were down to one bachelor. What happened? Didn’t you like him?”

I nod emphatically. “I most definitely do like him,” I read the look Fat shoots in my direction and answer her muted question, “Don’t give me that look. We’re both seeing other people as well as each other.”

When she doesn’t have a quick response I turn to leave the room. Two words hit me in the back of the head; I now know how cartoons feel when they’re walloped in the noggin with a frying pan. “Because why?”

I freeze. Why am I never prepared to answer her simple-yet-complicated questions? I slowly rotate my body around to face her as I try to construct an answer that makes sense in the world outside my head.

“Uh, hey.” The fella stands in the doorway of the bedroom. “The movie starts in fifteen minutes, we should probably…” He points to the front door. His eyebrows pull together when he sees the relief on my face at his entrance.

I grab my sweater off the dresser and throw Fat a huge grin when I pass her, “Sorry, Fat. We have to go.”

“Oh no, don’t worry about me. I’ve got a nice, quiet evening at home planned. You go out there and be the best polyamorous harlot you can be.”

The Dismissal of Bachelor Number Two

“She wants to tell you that she’s in love with you!” Fat shouts as I press the screen to answer the call and lift the phone to my ear.

I shout back at Fat, who is still trapped on top of the bookshelf, “I’m most definitely not in love.”

“Um… hi.” I hear bachelor number two’s voice and quickly realize what just happened.

“Hey,” I drag out the word as I make a mad dash to the kitchen and retrieve a spray bottle of water from under the sink. “About time you called me back.” I charge at Fat like I’m leading a cavalry. She tries to hide her obesity behind a photo that she hasn’t knocked over. A few misfires shoot aqua at a picture of my twenty-two year old self, I’ve become a casualty from my own weapon. Tragic.

“That wasn’t the most polite way to answer a phone call. What’s going on?” When he says “polite” I dry heave. His perceived gentlemanly behaviour has disintegrated to the notion that he needs to see a proctologist to remove the stick up his ass.

Fat responds before I do, “We’re planning a wedding in the country for you two crazy kids. Tell me you have a straw hat and beige chinos.” She leans forward, challenging me with her look, and continues in a loud whisper, “You’ll be in lace and carrying a parasol. It will be so romantic.”

“If you think I’m getting married, fuck you, bitch.”

“I didn’t say–” the bachelor stammers on the other side of the phone call. I get right close to Fat’s face and spray her again. My unfriendly fire pushes her backward until she’s pressed up against the wall. Fat’s paws wave in the air and I grant her a brief reprieve to offer a retraction.

Fat quickly licks her paw and corrects her askew whiskers. A quick smile tells me Fat isn’t finished. “She’s changed her mind; she wants to have your babies after all.” Fat’s wet fur clings to her body as she jiggles with laughter.

“No babies.” I turn the spray bottle sideways and shoot her gangster-style. Realization hits; I drop the bottle on the floor and finally think to pull the iPhone away from my face and cover the microphone. “What is wrong with you?” The question finds its way through the barricade of clenched teeth.

Of course, now that he can’t hear us, Fat remains silent and in answer to my question, she merely shrugs.

“You don’t know? Of course. Too busy trying to figure out my psychoses that you don’t even recognize your own.” I groan and put the phone back to my ear. “Hi.”

“This seems like a bad time. I can call back.”

“No.” The words rush out of my mouth. “Don’t call back. I need to tell you that I don’t want to see you anymore.”

“Yes, I kind of got that.” He’s using that flustered tone. My memory flashes to the last time we hung out and he used that same tone when he tried to censor my “offensive language”. Shellack just sounds foul; it’s used in art projects, you uppity prick.

I pull the phone away from my face while I sign off. “Good, so we’re done here. Over and out.” I press end immediately and crane my neck to see the pleased-as-piss expression on my domestic feline’s face. “Care to explain what that little freak show was about?”

“I was helping you.”

I cock my head to the side, “How do you figure?”

“Well, now he doesn’t think you’re a bitch. He just thinks you’re crazy – which isn’t entirely wrong.” She snickers.

“In that case, let me return the favour. I’m going to help you figure out a way to get off the bookshelf using your own devices. You’re welcome.” I huck my phone at the couch and stomp out of the room. I’ll kill her. One day, so help me, it will happen.

Aspirations

“This is not weekend behaviour.” The mumbled words mix with the drool on my pillow.

With purpose, Fat reaches out and again touches my cheek, this time lightly pressing her claws against my skin.

My eyes snap open. With Bruce Lee reflexes I snatch Fat’s paw in my hand before her brain can even transmit a signal to her claws to retract themselves. Our eyes lock and I give her the intense death glare. “Stop,” My free hand reaches for my phone on the night stand and I check the time, “It’s 5:16 on a Saturday. Some consider what you’re doing grounds for homicide. You know this, yes?” I release my grip and shove her with my foot until she’s forced to jump off the bed. I roll over, flip my pillow to the dry side and clamp my eyelids together.

“But,” From beside the bed, her tone becomes pleading and pathetic, “So hungry.”

Damn.

I throw back the covers. “I’ll feed you now, but believe me, you’ll be short a paw if you wake me up again this morning. That’s your first and last warning.”

Pre-dawn light already fills the apartment. I rip the corner off the new bag of cat food and pour into her dish. Between the full bag and the groggy hour I overfill Fat’s dish. Kibble spills across the floor. Of course; coordination doesn’t wake up this early. I regard the mess, wishing for telekinetic powers to put it all back in the bag. My brain comes up with a better solution: I pick up Fat’s bowl and pour the contents back into the bag.

“What on earth are you doing?” Fat comes over and looks into the once-again empty bowl.

I point at the mess I made, “Breakfast is served. Enjoy yourself.” I bow in the style of a maitre d’ and take my leave of the kitchen. Fat scowls. Within seconds, I hear her eating off the floor. That’s my girl. I climb into bed and collapse.

The instant my eyes close, I get an idea for a short story. I need to write the premise down before it becomes misplaced in a dream. I reach over to my nightstand, forgetting that I left my notebook on the desk.

Damn.

Frustrated with myself, I kick the blanket off. Ideas like this always shake me from sleep. I rush past Fat, who is essentially making out with the linoleum by licking crumbs off the floor. I sit on my desk, press my back against the wall, and use the office chair as a footstool.

Thumbing through the notebook to an empty page I construct the bones of the story. After the initial outburst of pen to paper I go to the kitchen and put the kettle on the stove. I sit on the desk again and mull over what I’ve written. I cross out parts and draw arrows to others. Some words I rewrite because I won’t remember what they say when I come back to this place. After the frenzied brain detonation, I put the pen down and re-read my sloppy script. What a delightfully messed up premise. I flip through previous pages of ideas and words. I stop at something I wrote a few weeks ago and go over it again with fresh eyes.

Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and peers at the book in my hands.

“How can you read that?” She tilts her head from side to side before trying to see if it’s more legible upside down.

I flip to the next journal page, covered with scribbles and smudged ink.

“It’s the beginning of a story I wrote in Mexico. I might play around with this today.” My index finger taps the middle of the page I’m reading.

“Way to enjoy that vacation.” She flashes a quick smile, then jumps onto the printer and out of hitting range. “Why are you procrastinating, anyways?”

She knows by the look on my face that I don’t follow. Fat sighs and motions with her head at the board on the wall behind me. I turn around and regard it like a stranger; paper cards of plot points and ideas cover the corkboard.

“I’m getting back to it, Fat. There’s just never enough time.”

“Don’t be an idiot. Hunker down and write it. Besides, dating doesn’t have to be a full-time sport. Take some time and finish that story. You love that place.”

“You don’t know what I love. You were yelling at the ex-bachelor on the phone yesterday that I loved him.” I feel the my nose wrinkle at the memory.

There’s movement from the other side of the desk, and I turn to catch Fat strongly nodding her head up and down. “What?”

“Trying out some subliminal messaging.”

“I don’t know if that really works.” The water in the kettle bubbles. I get up and pour it into a teapot. I throw a bag of David’s Tea inside. While it steeps, I stare at the board.

“New idea: If you don’t do something with this in the next week, I’m going to claw the hell out of it.”

“I appreciate the motivation.”

Walk of Unashamed

“Walk of Shame! Walk of Shame!” Not the ideal welcome home after a night out.

I pull off my hoodie, “Please. I’m not ashamed.” I look down at my feet. Fat’s not there. When I throw my sweater on the bed, I don’t find her in that room either.

“Fat?”

“In here.”

I traipse into the living room and catch movement in my periphery. “How in the hell did you get up there?” I crane my neck to see her perched on the top of the bookshelf. “That thing’s like six feet high.”

She’s momentarily sheepish. “It’s kind of a thing. I was watching some urban ninja videos on YouTube and thought I’d try it. Made it from the couch up here no problem, but now I’m stuck. You may or may not get a noise complaint from the neighbours, I was wailing pretty loud for a while.” Her head hangs over the edge as she peers at me. “So how was your night? I assume that will lead into you telling me about your morning.”

“Well, since you’re already up there, I’m going to need a high-five for the night,” I raise my palm level to her face, “and the morning.” She pulls away like my hand is a biohazard.

“That depends on what I’m high-fiving you for,” Fat’s eyes dart from my palm, to me, and back to my palm. “Did you break up with boyfriend bachelor or engage in gross behaviour with bachelor number one?”

“The grossest of behaviours.” My arm tires and I force my high-five upon her wet nose. “Though I wish both of those things happened. Can’t seem to get a hold of bachelor number two since he brought up the subject of procreation. Maybe he knows how severely unamused that made me.”

“You handled it well. Knocked back that bottle of Shiraz like a champ.”

I shake my head, “Merlot, Fat. Shiraz is not a race-to-the-bottom-of-the-bottle kind of wine.”

There is a brief pause where she stares, dumbfounded, before she answers, “My mistake.” When she turns, her large hindquarters knock over a picture frame, she regards it unapologetically before ignoring it altogether. “I wonder how your boyfriend is going to feel about you philandering with another fellow.”

“Couple things, Fat.” I hold up my index finger, “He’s not my boyfriend, but that’s old news. Two,” I flash her the peace sign, “he’d likely be mortified because that’s how he reacted to most of my shenanigans and turns of phrase.” I lean on the arm of the couch and wait for her two cents.

“It’s interesting. I don’t know much about this bachelor number one and you want me to high five you for,” She drums her claws on the top of the bookshelf trying to come up with the right phrase and is able to say the following with a straight face, “hittin’ that.”

Not what I was expecting her to say at all. I fold over, laughing so hard I feel asthmatic.

“What’s so funny?”

“Sometimes you say the most perfect things.”

Fat starts purring. “What’s the deal with bachelor number one anyways? I don’t know anything about him.”

“Really?” I grab my phone from my back pocket.

Her happy sound loses volume, “You’ve been missing your sessions. Tsk tsk. How am I supposed to provide therapy when I don’t know who you’re doing?”

“We don’t have scheduled sessions,” I scroll through until I find the picture I’m looking for. “Who I’m doing? Way to be professional, doc.” I lift my iPhone so Fat can see from the top of the bookshelf.

Fat leans as far forward as she can without falling. “You definitely have a type.” She acknowledges and answers my look of confusion, “The dark hair, athletic build, tattoos. Is that a nose ring?” She pulls herself away from the picture ask forthright, “What is up with guys sending you shirtless photos?” I leave the phone on the shelf beside her and go stand in front of the full-length mirror in the hall. She looks back at the iPhone screen, “This one is a total selfie too. However, you do pick attractive men.”

“Yeah. But they’re all very self-involved.” I turn and look over my shoulder into the mirror to check out my rear view. I love these pants. “Those pictures, by the way, completely unsolicited. They all like to show off what they’ve got.”

“I’ve seen what some of them have got, but those particular photos don’t include their faces.”

I pry away from my reflection, “You’ve got to stop snooping. I didn’t delete those?”

My phone rings; Fat jumps. She reads the call display and looks up.

“Boyfriend bachelor finally calls you back. Answer it and stomp on his feelings. I’ll listen quietly from up here.”

Clinginess Be Damned

“Fuck you, cling wrap.” It folds and adheres to itself again. Glad? Worst name for a brand ever. I’m feeling much the opposite, thank you. I grit my teeth as I try to pry the thin plastic apart; this is the jeckle and hyde of inventions. I just want to wrap my wrap. Fat struts into the kitchen while I struggle and shout, “Why can’t I get this to work?”

“A worthy title for your autobiography.” Fat saunters over to her bowl, and doesn’t stop walking or hide her disappointment when she sees that it’s empty. She jumps onto my desk chair and crouches down.

I ball up what was supposed to be a cooperative square of cling wrap and toss it in the recycling bin under the sink. “Beg pardon?”

Fat ignores the question. She stretches her arms out and lifts her ass. After a few seconds, she abandons the yoga pose and splays her large body across the chair.

“What’s the attitude for?” I rip a new piece of cling wrap with the precision of a surgeon.

She shoots me a look of contempt. “You locked me out of the room last night.”

“It was warranted.” Finally, some teamwork from the filmy plastic. I suffocate my wrap and put it into the fridge before the cling wrap decides to fail me for a fourth time.

“Did you call the boyfriend bachelor?”

I pull the tab on a can of lime Perrier and set it back on the counter. “I tried to.”

Fat’s ears perk up and the potential for gossip dissolves her disinterested expression. “You either called him or you didn’t.” Fat pats the chair with her grey paw, indicating I should sit with her.

“I called him,” I sit on the desk and spin the chair around so she faces me, “he just didn’t answer.”

Fat’s eyes widen, “You broke up with him on voicemail?” She belts out with hearty laughter.

I smack the backrest of the chair, sending it spinning in circles; the momentum mutes Fat’s obnoxious cackling and she jumps down after a revolution.

“I did not.” I get up, grab my drink and return to my post at the desk. “Maybe I should have.” I pull my phone out of my pocket and get to the screen that has his number on it. I hit send.

Fat and I both listen to the phone ring and then go right to voicemail. Everybody knows what that means.

I listen to the recorded message. Primed like a marathon runner anticipating the sound of the starting pistol, I wait for the beep. “Are you fucking kid–” Fat jumps up on the desk and knocks over my Perrier. “Shit.” I end the call mid-sentence and run to grab the dish towel hanging from the stove. “Christ, Fat.” The towel drinks more of the soda than I did.

“You don’t want to do it on his voicemail,” I’m upset, but surprised at her newfound compassion. She finishes her thought, “at least if you do it over the phone you’ll be able to hear him cry.” There’s the bitch cat I know and love.

“You bring up a helluva point, Fat. Though, if he’s ignoring my call, maybe he doesn’t want to see me anymore either.”

She mulls it over. “That’s likely. You have the capacity to be quite difficult.”

I whip her with the wet towel. She hisses and swipes at me when I try it again.

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” She looks at the backwards clock. “Or are you early?” Her head leans to the side, “Maybe late?” I glance at the clock too, see the time and quickly pull my shirt off when I cut through the kitchen. She calls after me, “I fucking hate this clock.”

I return a moment later in a different top and shoes in hand. “I’m a little late.”

“Bachelor number one again?”

“Yes ma’am.” I check myself out in the hall mirror.

“Since we’re putting the kibosh on boyfriend bachelor, does this mean the one you’re going out with now is the one you’re choosing?”

I grab my keys, “Fat, just because there’s an elimination does not necessarily mean there’s been a selection. Gotta say though, bachelor number one is one decent fella.” I quickly tousle her head, “Besides, there are many other potentials out there. Why pick if I don’t have to?”