Fathers and First Dates

“Help. It’s an emergency!” Fat’s voice shouts on the other end of the line.

My back hunches over as I hold the cell phone up to my ear and turn to look out the passenger side window at the storefronts we drive past. There really is no way to get privacy in a car other than turn your back to the other person and pretend to be alone. Gentle thuds from the rainy and grey day patter against the roof of the Mazda – way to be cliché, Vancouver. I’m delighted that we’re planning on going to dinner and a movie tonight; a stroll by the ocean is less romantic during a monsoon.

“Calm down. What’s wrong?” The silver lining to an emergency: James only picked me up from my place ten minutes ago – it won’t take long to get back home to fix whatever catastrophe has befallen the apartment. I go through the rolodex in my head of all the possibilities of things that could go awry leaving Fat at home without supervision. Any number of disasters could have occurred in my absence. For some reason, I’m quick to assume arson – and if that’s my first assumption, why on earth would I ever trust the feline home alone? She’s called me an idiot before. I’m sad to report that it could be true; maybe I am an idiot.

It’s our first time hanging out and here I am taking a personal call from my housecat. Awesome. Depending on how this goes could really affect how things move forward with this fella. I’m not really sure how I’m feeling about him yet. Better keep the ol’ pro/con list on standby.

“Is everything okay?” James turns down the car stereo and the Foo Fighters are forced into near-silence. In a normal circumstance, this would never happen. Foo Fighters are meant to be loud; if this guy is willing to mute a great band for my benefit – that’s a tally in the pro column.

I glance over my left shoulder and shrug. James alternates between navigating the busy street and throwing quick looks of concern my way before his attention returns to the road. His blue eyes widen with questions. He cares – another pro for the gent.

“I don’t know.” I turn back to my phone, “Faaa…” I can’t say her name, this date will be over instantly if he finds out who’s ringing me at this moment, “…ather, what’s going on?”

“Father? Is that what you call me behind my back? It’s my wisdom, isn’t it?” I hear the smile in her voice. “You didn’t have a fancy English childhood, just call me dad like a normal Canadian.”

My concern evaporates instantly. If something was actually wrong, she wouldn’t be dicking me around like this. “What’s the emergency, Fat?”

“Should I find a place to pull over?” James shoulder checks in preparation to get to the next side street. He makes no mention of me calling my pretend father Fat. That speaks to his overabundance of politeness – con. I need a dude that shoots from the hip.

I pull away from my phone, albeit briefly, and minutely shake my head, “You can just keep heading to the restaurant.” Good driver – pro.

“So how’s the date going?” Fat’s words are weighted with intrigue and gossip.

“Tell me why that’s not the reason you’re calling.” I wave my hand forward, reassuring James that he’s good to keep driving. The windshield wipers move in their rhythmic pattern. “I’m kind of busy at the moment.”

“Boss. I’m giving you an out here if it’s not going well. I noticed he was blond. If you need this phone call to be an emergency to get away from the man bimbo, take it.” The feline makes a point: blonde – con.

“It’s only been a few minutes,” my words hiss into the phone, and I adjust course when I catch the look on James’ face at my sudden change of tone. “It’s hard to tell so soon…father. Stay positive. I’m sure your team will win.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Fat’s words are clipped and she clearly does not understand what I’m trying to do. “You hate sports. There isn’t even a game on right now, dumb ass.”

I roll my eyes and try to spell it out for her. “The game (massive emphasis to let her know we’re not discussing something on TSN) just started. Anything can happen. I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Have I told you recently that you’re an idiot?” The sound of buttons accidently being pushed on her end rings in my ears.

“I love you too. Bye.” I end the call, turn the ringer off and drop the phone in my lap. “I’m really sorry about that. I shouldn’t have answered.”

James searches for a tactful thing to say, “Your dad sounds like an… interesting guy.” There’s that politeness again – con.

Another call from Fat lights up my phone. I hit ignore.

“Huh? Oh yeah. My dad is a real cupcake.”

No Secrets from Housecats

“Where were you? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

I’m greeted by the feline’s backside. Fat doesn’t show any sign that she’s noticed me aside from the questions that sound remarkably distant. She’s preoccupied; something on the computer desk holds her attention far more than my entrance ever could.

I drop my yoga bag on the floor and throw a look at the digital clock on the PVR. The crisp white numbers show that it’s not quite seven-thirty. I feel my lip curl in uncertainty as I free my mane from a frizzed-out, sweaty bun.

“Prayer meeting.” I wait for Fat’s head to snap and look at me with alarm and intrigue, but it doesn’t happen. She’s busy reading something on the laptop.

“Well if I know anything about you, Boss, it’s that you love the Jesus.” I see her brow furrow as she leans closer to the screen. Her mouth moves as she silently reads a couple more sentences on the virtual document in front of her. Eventually she turns to give me her consideration. “Sorry, did you say something else?”

“Thanks for listening,” I mutter. “What are you reading anyways?” My head lazily tilts toward the computer.

The feline’s mouth opens with a smile so wide I can see her fangs. Her paw goes to the wireless mouse and scrolls up until I see the familiar banner of my blog. Oh god.

My chest constricts as I do my best impression of somebody who is able to maintain their composure. “I… uh… how did you stumble upon that?” My fingertips drum on the desktop for lack of anything better to do. I’m fighting the urge to drop-kick the good doctor off the balcony in a fit of panic. I’m really not sure if there is any other remedy for the situation.

“It’s on the internet, you idiot. How was I not supposed to find it?” Fat clicks on a post from April 2014. “Really, it’s quite amazing that you don’t even realize how psychologically destructive you are to yourself.”

Taken aback, I abandon my discomfort of the situation when curiosity takes over. I walk closer and crouch beside Fat so we can both read the post. “What do you mean?”

“Suppose the words I say… see, here,” a grey paw bats the screen to a paragraph where I’ve written about her verbally tearing me a new one, “suppose these cynical, bitchy, loathsome things aren’t actually me speaking to you – it’s how you feel about yourself manifesting in a bizarre situation where you talk to your cat and you think the cat talks back.” Fat snickers at something my past self wrote, “I wish I said that.”

My mouth falls open. Agape, I mull over conversations with Fat that I can remember the hateful and bitchy things she has definitely said in the past. At least, I’m pretty certain she actually said them.

“That’s a nice hunchback you’re growing. Trying to get Quasimodo’s job when he retires from the bell tower?”

“Your brain is so full of stupid the excess is coming out your mouth.”

“I thought ugly people were supposed to have great personalities.”

I slowly turn toward Fat and our eyes meet. I falter, questioning what I always assumed was true. “Fat, I–”

“BAHAHAHAHA!”  She buries a delighted kitten face in the crook of her elbow, “I’m just yanking you, Boss. You’re not clever enough to come up with a fraction of this stuff on your own.”

Breakthroughs in the Wee Hours of Morning

“If Boyfriend wakes up to cat anus in his face, he’s going to be pissed.” My index finger digs at the corners of my eyes to remove the sleep and residual mascara clumps. Fat remains precariously poised on Boyfriend’s shoulder as he remains dead to the world, asleep on his side.

Driven by thirst and now sixteen percent awake, my torso rolls off the bed so I can reach down to grab my water bottle from the floor. Must tread carefully before I reach fifty percent wakefulness — there’s no return to the land from nod after that level of alertness is obtained. In order to operate on lower wakeful percentage, my eyes close as I drain the bottle and rehydrate. I hear the empty polyethylene bottle hit the ground. Satiated, I once again collapse backward onto my flattened pillow.

Silence. Eerie silence.

Robotically, my eyes open and I stare at the ceiling. Slowly, my neck rotates and I turn to the right. Fat is exactly where she was when my mumbled warning intercepted the nighttime serenity several seconds ago.

Twenty-two percent awake, and more comprehensive than my last statement, I try again. “Fat. Ass out of his face. Now.” She’s a country away on the other side of the king size bed. The feline merely stares, a muted taunt to prompt some kind of action on my part.

“No.”

“Fat.” Somehow my vocal cords are overtaken by what sounds like my ma does when I tell stories and forget to filter for parental ears. Twenty-nine percent awake.

“I’m not done yet. I’m going to make it all the way to the top.”

I follow her line of vision through the darkness and see her intended goal. “He’s not Mount Everest, Fat. Shoo. Go on.” Still in the stages of sleepiness, the last two words mesh together and come out sounding like “Gwon.” Warning sirens go off in my head, we’re at thirty-eight percent wakefulness. Gear down now or wake up at — I roll to the left and lift my iPhone off the bed to check — 3:58 am. “Ugh.” A beat of silence before the sound of the iPhone case connects with the water bottle.

“Typical.”

I turn back over to the right and trade in my desire to yell for a stage whisper. “What’s typical?” Forty-five percent wakefulness. Stop now. Just stop. Red lights are flashing in my brain and imaginary screams of exhausted brain cells scream in agony. I sit up, losing another three percent to the side of the living. “You got something to say, fluffy?”

Fat’s paw tentatively reaches over and seeks support from Boyfriend’s cheekbone. He stirs. She pauses, waiting for him to settle. “It’s typical; when you see something you don’t like, is too inconvenient, or seems difficult you push it away. Just interesting when it happens literally.” Fat’s body drapes around Boyfriend’s neck like a hideous scarf, “You shouldn’t be so careless with your phone, by the by.”

I skip beyond fifty percent wakefulness and right to eighty-one percent awake. Hot damn. The dream of a full eight hours is over; frankly, it never had a chance. “This is about more than just the iPhone.” I kick the blankets off and crawl over to Boyfriend’s side of the bed. Picking up Fat by the scruff of her neck, I keep her hostage in midair. “Explain yourself.”

Fat’s front legs extend like Frankenstein’s monster and her back legs kick, searching for something sturdy to stand on. “Your book, dummy. Where’s the effort? You were so gung-ho to prove me wrong with that one. I have seen no progress on that front. Boss, your goals won’t realize themselves.” Fat turns to look over at the crown of Boyfriend’s head and I already see her eager to have another try at resting on his head like Davy Crockett’s hat. “Having dreams is free, but realizing them requires an output of energy from you, remember? You lazy son-of-a-bitch.”

“That’s uncalled for.”

“Daughter-of-a-bitch. My apologies.”

I toss her into the pile of my iPhone and water bottle. “That’s not what I meant, clown. For your information, I’m taking a workshop with a book agent. So you can suck it.”

Fat shoots me a say-whaaaaaat expression. She nods. “That was a motivational technique, doofus. Don’t act like I should be proud of you; you want to get published for your sake, not mine.”

This is not a good time for a breakthrough. I hate her so much right now.