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.”

Unfinished Business of My Future Ghost

“You’re dead! You’re so dead!”

It’s like Fat’s voice blasts through a bullhorn. She shouts as she jumps from the liquor cabinet to the television stand to the top of the war-torn scratch post.

“Are you threatening me?” I tie my hair into a messy bun to avoid brushing it.

Fat leaps back beside the television and onto the coffee table. “The ground is lava. You’re long since dead; prepare to live as a poltergeist, Boss.” Fat stops when she bounds onto the arm of the couch to contemplate the idea. “No. You’re too ambivalent to be a poltergeist. Instead you’re one of those unfinished-business-wandering-the-earth-forever kind of spirits. Off you go. Haunt away.” She directs me as though she expects I’ll pretend to be weighed down by chains like Marley’s ghost.

Instead, I pull a small key ring from my pocket and drop the keys on the coffee table. They jingle when they hit the ikea surface.

“Man-slut neighbour still isn’t home to get his keys back, huh?”

“Fat, that’s the third time I’ve gone over to Jesse’s to give him those keys. That kid is never around when I am. Has he come by while I’ve been at work?”

Fat’s eyes roll upward in thought. “There was wheezy panting at the door yesterday. That seems like him, right?”

“Christ, I hope not.” I cringe at the thought and silently hope that the panting was from the pug in the apartment around the corner. “Well, I tried. From here on out, fuck it.”

Fat nods in mock understanding, “Ah, the whore’s mentality. Suits the situation.” Fat eyes the keys on the table and stares up at me with a crafty grin. “Want to go snoop around his apartment? It’s not breaking and entering if we have keys.”

“I certainly do not.”

“Because you’re afraid of getting caught?”

“Because his business isn’t my business and the interaction we have right now suits me just fine. If we humanize Jesse by finding things in his apartment, I won’t want to talk to him anymore. So,” I close the curtains as daylight has long since gone, “we’ll just wait for him to come and get his keys when he remembers I have them.”

“Make him come to you, eh? Boss, you sly devil.” Fat shoots me an exaggerated wink.

I point to her eye, “What was that about?”

“Oh, please. Mutt and I both know what’s going on here.” Pulled from sleep, Mutt lifts his head at her mention of his name. He becomes quickly disinterested and settles back in his bed. “This is your signature move for dating; you bait him with personality and then give him a reason to come by the apartment. Not exactly subtle, but it works.”

I say nothing, but raise skeptical eyebrows.

“Mark my words, Boss. Something is going to happen here. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the similarities between you and Jesse’s crazy bitch one-nighter. Same demographic.” Fat’s voice lilts in a sing-song way to be extra annoying.

“We didn’t see her face.”

“Didn’t have to. Porcelain skin, tall, dark unkempt hair, prone for bad decisions…” Fat pauses to catch my eye and she nods, “Seems somewhat familiar, doesn’t it?”

I shake my head as if the motion will make her go away.

“It would be an awful shame if this unfinished business with the neighbour boy is what keeps your future ghost unsettled.” Fat points to my feet which are still standing in the imaginary magma.

I cross my arms and perch on the end of the couch, making sure that my feet are off the carpet. “Fat, I can say with the utmost certainty that nothing will ever happen in that respect with me and Jesse.”

A devilish smile lifts the corners of her mouth, “Wanna bet?”

Missing the Huntress

“Late one today, boss. Were you soliciting at the high school for underage boys?”

I toss my ID badge at Fat; it grazes her fur before skidding across the green hall table. She jumps in fear of other flying objects and scampers several feet down the hall to establish a buffer zone between us. My shoulder bag drops to the floor and I kick off my shoes with the finesse of a karate master.

“That’s a bitchy way to greet me after a long day.” If she were any other house cat she would be purring and slutting herself out for attention right about now. “And FYI, I didn’t even chase after high school boys when I was in high school.” She doesn’t need to know that fact is mostly true. There are exceptions to everything.

Fat shrugs, as though her question of seducing young men was the most obvious one in the world. “I was listening to what your shirt was saying, Mrs. Robinson.”

I look in the hall mirror at my mirror twin’s blouse. Leopard print. Of course. The telltale sign of the cougar. I pull the shirt off over my head and hang it on one of the empty key hooks on the wall; it will find its way to the laundry hamper eventually.

“Young ones really aren’t my thing, Fat.” The look on her face calls me a liar. “Anymore. And just to clarify, that particular fellow you’re thinking about was in his early twenties for Christ’s sake.”

I trudge into the bathroom to grab a hair tie to restrain my frizzy locks. Fat follows, jumping up on the counter to watch me wrestle my hair into submission.

“Besides, I told you I’d be late.” I mumble and run my tongue over my polished teeth. The feeling is always so foreign without the grit. However, that new dental assistant reefed on my gums when she flossed – they’re still bleeding. I frown when I think of her brute strength and her clumsiness with the water pick. I definitely did not care for her.

Leaning forward, I spit into the sink and Fat watches the blood-infused saliva wash down the drain when I turn the tap on.

Curious green eyes lift upward to my face.

“Are you menstruating out of your mouth? Hopefully you’re not out of tampons.” She brightens, “The good news is whatever cork you need to put in that hole will muffle the nonsense that’s always flooding out.”

“Shut up, Fat.”

Silence soaks up the conversation like a sponge. We both take a moment to compose ourselves. I suppose both of us get a little heated from nothingness sometimes.

The good doctor finally supersedes the silence, speaking in a cavalier tone, “So, we good?”

I nod, and punctuate the confirmation with, “Yup. Perfectly fine.” She follows me to the living room and watches me open the patio door to let the slight breeze join us. “You weren’t serious about thinking I’d be after teenagers, right?”

Fat steps out on the balcony and lies down in the shade. “You know me, I don’t judge…”

Without conscious thought, my left eyebrow shoots upward. I cross my arms and stare at her.

“Anymore.” She smirks and shoos the statement away with a brush of her paw. “If I’m being honest, I don’t judge currently. You’ve got a free pass until you’ve gotten back out there.”

I must look confused, because Fat rolls her eyes when she has to explain.

“Dating, doofus. I’m serious, it’s time and you need to. I miss the retellings of your bad decisions.”

How to Acquire Technicolour Bruises

“Get off your lazy ass out of bed and go get some water.”

I sigh after I utter the sentence to myself. It provides laughable motivation, but it sort of works. It almost scares me how much like Fat I can sound sometimes. She can’t ever find out that she motivates my subconscious; she’d never let me live it down. I let my internal voice take over so I don’t have to tolerate my own death breath – gangrene would offer a better aroma.

What’s worse? Getting up now or hurting with hangover pain in the morning?
Yes. It sucks. You can’t bounce back like you used to.
Get up. You can do it. Get up. You can do it.

I’m a sucker for a good rhythmic chant; my brain cranks up the volume on my last thought and puts it on repeat. My head bobs along, making me feel like I’m shouting the words and dancing around a fire. Get up. You can do it. I push up to sitting, and with the grace of a mummified corpse, my feet eventually find their way to the floor.

It is at this point I realize that I’ve been sleeping on the couch. I don’t even remember getting home. However, any time I don’t pass out on the coolness of the bathroom floor after a night out is a win. No matter; I’ll shuffle off to bed after hydrating and kick Fat off my pillow; tonight she must love all the extra room for her bulky posterior.

My hip makes a popping sound as I stand up and snatch my empty wine glass off the coffee table. I sidle through the dark toward the kitchen. I don’t flick the lights on. I’ve got this; If I ever lose my sight, I could totally get by as a blind person.

Immediately after that last thought courses through my brain, karma happens. The top of my foot snags the bottom of my loitering broomstick and instinctively my hands brace the counter before I can lunge face-first and eat it. I breathe a sigh of relief that my crooked teeth didn’t take a bite out of the kitchen floor. Suck it, gravity, you missed.

The fridge opens, and I expect the scurry of feline feet, but they never arrive. I grab the water jug and fill my wine glass. I chug the whole glass and fill it again so I can take it with me to bed and avoid a second episode of forcing my body to stop being comfortable and make another trek to the kitchen. The jug gets put away and as I turn to go to bed, the drunken spins catch up with me.

I knowingly pause, hoping to wait it out, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, the hand clutching the glass stops working and the full glass crashes to the floor. It doesn’t just crash, it obliterates itself. I hear the crash echo in the dark apartment and I know I’ve just caught myself in a trap. Likely anywhere I step is an invitation for glass shards to pierce my skin. Happy 2:09 a.m. to me.

I make a move toward the light switch and my step doesn’t connect so well on the now-slick-with-water surface of the floor. Not that I don’t remember it happening, it was all very quick, but needless to say I fall, landing on my back on the booby-trapped floor. The fact that I don’t currently feel any pain is quite reassuring to the fact that the fall was graceful. A ballerina fall if ever there was one. The drunken spins vanish, but I make no effort to rise. The light switch is so far away, and currently, I feel unscathed; I’d like to keep it that way.

After a few minutes, a voice in the doorway breaks the silence.

“Go to bed. You’re drunk.”

“Shut up, Jeffry.” I scowl in the direction of the voice.

“Is that my new pet name?” The feline’s voice retorts.

I become instantly aware of two things: 1) The voice belongs to Fat and not Bestie’s husband, Jeff, and 2) My ass is soaked. I need to reassure myself: had I pissed my pants, it would have been warm wetness. What I’m experiencing is undoubtedly the water that goes in instead of the liquid that flows out.

“Sorry, Fat. Impulse. Just something my friend Jeff has said to me before.”

“You okay, boss?” I know she’s assessing the damage with her darkness-trained eyes.

“I actually think so.” Finally, I sit.

“Good. I’m going back to bed. Keep it down in here.” She’s silent on her feet, so I can’t tell if she’s still at the doorway or has padded her way back to the bedroom.

I call out, “What, no sage advice from my therapist?” I hang my head. I’m so tired, and now I have a huge mess to deal with. I must start making better decisions.

I jump when I hear Fat still in the doorway.

“I’d use a plastic cup next time.”