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.”

Skype Calls and Fat

“We are so far beyond not interested, pal. Bye-bye now.”

Fat’s paws press the back of the laptop. She uses her girth to close the old computer while I’m mid-Skype conversation. The feline’s abrupt dismissal of our video chat interrupts my story about finally exploring McLeod’s bookstore downtown. I suppose I didn’t need to mention that after an arduous hunt, I finally found a copy of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. My cat is such a bitch cat; there will be no fairy tale endings on her watch – not even in bookstores.

Hinging from the hip, I try to stay in front of the camera and quickly sign off prior to hitting my chin on the desk and before Fat ends the call by clamping the computer shut. The grizzly-faced dude and I talk over each other in the few seconds we have left.

“I’m going to have to call you back.”

“Kat, what’s happening with your computer?” He’s unconcerned. The way he asks makes me feel that when stupidity happens in my presence, it’s not altogether unexpected. That is off-the-charts rude and presumptuous; perhaps I shan’t call him back. It seems jackassery is running rampant today.

The feline lets out a satisfied smirk and sits on the closed VAIO like it’s a throne. “Dodged a bullet there, eh? You’re welcome. I never thought I’d say this, Boss, but you can do better.” Fat’s tail hugs the perimeter of her meaty haunches.

My forehead wrinkles to accommodate the surprised lift of my eyebrows. “What’s that, now?” If she’s saying what I think she’s saying…

“Hate to see my prize pig settle for somebody like that blond schmuck.” Indicatively, a grey paw taps gently on the computer case.

Beyond any measure of comprehension, the term ‘prize pig’ doesn’t register as an insult; instead my thoughts briefly drift to the fridge contents and the possibility of bacon. In my humble opinion, a pre-dinner warmup is never a poor idea.

“There’s no accounting for taste, is there? It’s like he was oblivious to your terrible personality.” Fat’s musings coax my attention back from hunger.

“I’m going to stop you there, Fat.” My traffic cop hand rests inches from her wet nose. “What you’re thinking is eighty-thousand different kinds of disgusting.” I point to the corner of the desk at a framed picture that was taken a couple years ago at my mom’s house.

The feline sidles up beside it, almost pressing her face against the photo. “He’s already met your family?” The tone in her voice registers as revulsion.

“He’s my brother, you moron.”

Fat’s pupils expand and she stares, unblinking in my direction. Her cheeks puff out as her mouth stays shut, feigning a puke-like reaction. Gag sounds come from her throat as the feline oversells the dramatics. “V.C. Andrews really did a number on you, huh? I knew I shouldn’t have let you watch Flowers in the Attic.”

I stare at the ceiling. C’mon, brain, make this a Namaste situation… breathe in, breathe out. Do no harm to the furry idiot on the desk.

“So what’s up with your brother? Did you give him my regards?”

I shrug. “He somehow got the idea that I was plotting to murder my cat. For some reason he was trying to talk me out of it.”

“You know, I always liked that guy.”

Office Hours: New Skills and Old News

“If you made regular appointments I’d have relevant notes.”

Fat, fur askew from a frenzied search through the unkempt file folder in front of her on the coffee table, shoots me a look of distain. Heavy rain hits the balcony, offering a reprieve from total silence.

“Maybe just catch me up on where you’re at with this mess you call a life.”

I sip my wine, carelessly rolling back on the couch with confidence the cushions will catch me. I don’t know why it took her so long to realize that wine and fake therapy go hand in hand. You never question motive when offered complimentary Malbec.

My right hand moves quickly; learning to sign the alphabet took no time at all. F-A-T. Y-O-U. A-R-E. S-T-U-P-I-D. I laugh to myself and take another plunge into the red wine. W-I-N-E. L-O-V-E. Y-E-S.

“Is your limb possessed?” Fat sees my hand clenched in the‘s’ formation. “A hand that does the devil’s work, it would seem. Beelzebub doesn’t recruit the smart ones, does he? Pity for the underworld.”

My hand changes to let my index finger extend in the direction of the yellow book on my desk. “Check it out. Signing for Dummies!” My other hand swirls the wine in the glass before I swallow it down. “More please.” The empty glass clinks when I set it on the coffee table.

Fat, with toy spectacles perched on her nose, scribbles on one of the random pieces of paper in front of her. I try to read what she writes, but let’s be honest: she’s a cat and cats aren’t known for their penmanship.

“Sign language. Weird choice, but communicating in silence is quite a good decision for you, Boss. People might actually like you if they don’t hear that barnyard sound that you call a voice.” Fat’s pencil crayon drops when she looks up at me with her signature satanic smile. “What else is going on? How’s work?”

“S’good.” I stare at my glass, then at Fat, then my purposeful gaze drifts back to the glass – which should hold wine, but does not. I huff with discontent and flop backward on the couch. My fake doctor is such an ass.

Fat doesn’t show any sign of recognizing my needs. Undeterred, she continues conducting her session. “And you saw your family over the holidays. How are things with them?”

“Cuh-razy.” I see fat lift an eyebrow in question. “That’s right, the broken syllable kind.” My foot lifts, and my toes inch the empty glass toward the feline. She still pays it no attention.

“Broken syllable kind of crazy,” she nods. “It’s nice that some things don’t change. Consistency is good for you, Boss.” Fat picks up a pencil crayon and draws what looks like a check mark on one of the papers by her paws.

“How are your friendships maintaining?”

“Deeeeeelightful.” I see Fat’s head tilt sideways with uncertainty. “Yes, you heard that correctly. Write that down.”

My toes stretch as long as they can until my glass falls over; it rolls lazily until it collides with the feline’s meaty haunches.

Fat looks downward with a slight frown. “Subtlety isn’t your strong suit, is it?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

The feline rolls her eyes emphatically then it’s right back to business. “And how is your neighbour boyfriend doing?”

“Ughhhhhh.” Leave it to the feline to remind me of that. It’s been long enough that I forgot about that weird I-don’t-want-to-see-you-anymore conversation I had to have with him.

“How many ‘h’s is that?” She looks up from her paper, “you know, for posterity’s sake.”

“I don’t know. Nineteen.” I look out the window at the downpour. Belatedly, I react, “And he wasn’t my boyfriend.”

“But you’re still seeing him?”

“Oh no. Nope. We… no thanks. We shine at banal small talk, but actual conversation is quite painful.”

Fat adds more to her nonsense scribbling. Without looking up, she mutters, “Preach on, sister. A conversation with you that has any depth is like seeing a giraffe with two heads.” Fat doesn’t even try to disguise her laughter. “And he lives across the hall. You know I’m a fan of awkward run-ins. Let me know how it goes.”

I feel my face morph into ugly grimace.

“Good catching up with you, Boss.” Fat’s paws sweep all of her papers back into the folder. “Bottle’s under the couch if you still need a refill.”

The Ol’ Fishin’ Hole

“You seem lighter.”

I lower my book, revealing Fat’s face. It’s difficult resisting the urge to jump with surprise at her unannounced presence. Fat’s front paws hug the edge of the couch as she stands with her back legs on the carpet. She’s close enough that I almost hit her face with the hardcover when I moved. Pity I didn’t; it would have served as a lesson to not sneak up on an old lady. And for a woman at such an advanced age, I don’t know how many beats my heart has left.

I have no idea how long she’s been beside me – my nose has been pressed inside The Night Circus for the first time in a fortnight so I’m taking full advantage of this rare quiet moment. I rest the open book across my stomach and acquiesce to the interruption.

“Thanks. I’ve been going to the gym.” I feel my non-chest puff out with pride and flex my arm muscles just because I can.

With finesse, Fat jumps up beside me.  Somehow, even though she’s much smaller than I am, she hip-checks me until I offer up a half-foot of the couch. The grey beast sprawls across the camel-coloured cushion. The Night Circus takes a tumble when she pushes me aside; I pout not only because I’ve lost my place but because I sense impending conversation with the feline. I knew I couldn’t dodge Fat forever.

“Not what I meant, boss.” She stares at my taut bicep, “You can stop that now.”

My arms deflate, once again, to jelly.

“What did you mean then?” My only compliment of the day and it was worth less than nothing. No matter. When you have a memory that reinvents itself every twelve hours, hurt feelings are generally a non-issue.

Fat shuffles over a bit more to pin my arm down with her body. I would almost swear she knew my next move was to retrieve the novel from the floor.

“It was an observation on how laid back you seem today in comparison to say, any other day as of late.” She stares deeply into my eyes as though she’s trying some form of hypnosis.

With my free hand, I grab another couch pillow and stuff it behind my shoulders so I don’t have to crane my neck so much to see her. “You know what happened, Fat.”

“I am well aware of what happened, yes. You threw away another chance at the house with the white picket fence. I’m sure there’s room for discussion there.”

My arm awkwardly pulls out from beneath her hefty frame and my hands rest behind my head. “What is so desirable about this fucking house with the white picket fence? Maybe what I want is an open-concept loft in a cool neighbourhood. Or a passport and devil-may-care relationship with Visa. Or both.”

“And Boyfriend – I suppose Ex-Boyfriend – was more into the metaphoric real estate in the suburbs. I wondered how that would all play out. If I may pull from the advice of somebody very clever, you two were operating on two very separate energy levels. Frankly, I’m surprised it lasted so long.”

“Ah Fat, the eternal optimist.” My tension may have subsided, but the pain in the ass is ever-present.

“You know I’m joking,” she turns her head to the side and stage whispers to Mutt, asleep in his dog bed, “half joking anyways.”

Her head turns back to me with a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth smile. “What happens now? He clearly hasn’t moved out yet.” Her voice returns to a loud whisper, though I can’t figure out why she’s whispering, “Unless you’re keeping those guitars.”

“I’m not an asshole, Fat.” I eye her with apprehension, “There are logistics to figure out still. He’ll move out when he finds a place. We’re keeping it amicable. I just don’t want the kind of relationship he wants. If I may be cliché, I’m a lone wolf.”

“More of a sport fisherman.” Fat’s hind legs kick me until I roll on my side and relinquish more space for her fat self on the couch.

“Fisherwoman.” There’s a moment of silence where I realize that I don’t actually understand what she means; I’m just inclined to be contrary in spite of comprehension. “Wait, what?”

“Fish in a bowl lead boring lives. You’re all about catch and release and the stories that accompany each one you reel in. You need the fight.” Her paws stretch out a great distance from one another. “Remember the time you caught one that was this big? He was almost too big for the ol’ fishin’ hole.”

I laugh because I’m immature and find dick jokes hilarious and then stop abruptly because my slow brain belatedly realizes what she called my vagina. “Too far, Fat. Too far.”

“I’m just here to let you know I’m here for you.”

“You’re always here for me. You never go away.” I reach over the feline’s body to grab my book off the floor. “Thanks for checking in, Fat. I’m fine.” I start flipping through the pages to find where it was that I left off.

“Yes. Good. You read. I’m just going to sit here and think of other relevant fishing-related anecdotes. Stay tuned for something about a snapper, fishing pole and chum.”

Oh goody for me.

A Feline’s Idea of Playtime

“Can’t help but notice that you don’t play like that with me.”

The back of my neck prickles with familiarity when Fat’s resentful voice echoes a similar point of contention Boyfriend recently brought up. I look over, and she smiles at me innocently, seemingly unaware of my mental association to her complaint. Coincidence, I suppose.

Fat sits directly in front of the television; her grey head obstructs the rerun of RuPaul’s Drag race that plays on a low volume. The sound of queens throwing some shade should be in the background of everyone’s houses all the time. It’s that entertaining. I live to watch Snatch Game.

Fat leers while I play tug-of-war with Mutt on the living room floor. I offer cruel taunts while his white tail flicks from side-to-side like Dr. Seuss’ metronome.  He smiles his doofus canine grin as he grips the end of the rope between his teeth. My hold on the frayed ends loosens enough to let him think he’s actually going to pull it out of my hands.

“Fat, I play with you all the time.” Just when Mutt thinks he’s about to take the rope from me, I yank it quickly out of his mouth. “Getting slow in your old age, Mutt.”

“I suppose mind games count as playing. Although, you’re more of an unwilling participant than anything else.” The bright colours of the television show behind Fat do nothing to distract her. She squints at the dog as if to gesture with her gaze. “You don’t do any of this stuff with me.”

“Okay, fine.” I look around and see a pink tennis ball tucked into the corner where the bookshelf intersects with the wall. After a backward summersault to get within reaching distance, I have the neon ball in my grasp. “Here, Fat. Go get it.” A flash of pink sails across the living room, down the hallway and hits the apartment’s front door with a rubbery thwack sound. Fat watches until it’s out of her line of sight. I hold tight to Mutt’s collar so he won’t race after it like he wants to.

She sighs, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Go. Fetch.” I point as the ball stops bouncing and slows to a lazy roll. “Bring it back and I’ll throw it for you again.”

“No. That seems stupid.”

Mutt starts whining and I let him go so he can chase the ball. He trips over his clumsy feet because of his excitement and once the sphere has been retrieved, Mutt victoriously trots under the desk with the pink tennis ball in his mouth. I love that it doesn’t take much to make him happy, not like the feline.

I try to contain my exasperation. “Of course it’s stupid. Have you met Mutt? You were the one that said you wanted me to play with you. That’s how Mutt and I play. Pardon me, your highness. What did you have in mind?”

“Actually, nothing. I’m probably just going to nap.” Fat stares in the direction of the kitchen and the room goes quiet with the exception of RuPaul’s girls sassing each other. “Maybe you should make a cup of tea for yourself and Boyfriend. It might be a nice peace offering.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, trying to figure out where she’s going with this. The idea seemed to come out of nowhere. Tea is always a good idea though.

I push off the ground and Fat follows me into the kitchen. I turn the kettle on and grab two mugs from the cupboard. I set the plain red one to the left of my fancy teal mug. As I flip through the containers of David’s tea, Fat stares at the mugs.

I follow the line from her focused eyes to my mug; she doesn’t even glance at Boyfriend’s. “What, Fat?”

“Just interesting.”

“Sure.” I flip through until I find the chocolate tea and nearly slam the container on the counter. I drum my fingers on the tea container until the question bursts out of me like projectile vomit. “What is interesting?”

Her head tilts in the direction of my mug, “As with everything else, you always have to be right.”

Spitefully, I move my mug to the other side of the red one.

Fat smiles, but it’s a definite evil grin this time. She plays with her whiskers in the manner a cartoon villain would twirl his moustache. This move of mine clearly entertains her.

“Thanks for the playtime, boss. Enjoy your tea.”

Different Kinds of Liars

Since I’m a skeptical person I would call your cat out as
the cappuccino 
wasn’t really that common until the 1950’s.
And in fact didn’t even exist until the 1930’s…

I look up from the Facebook message on my phone and scan the room until I see the fat feline curled into a ball as sleeping on top of her scratch post. This message contradicts what she told me just the other day.

“Hey. Wake up, liar.” I grab Mutt’s green stuffed dog off the floor and whip it with the force of a MLB pitcher in her direction. It hits the wall behind her and the wall-mounted candle holders shift from the impact. The fact that they don’t fall off the wall makes me feel proud of my DIY skills. The alien dog ricochets, landing cozily on Fat’s hip.

She stirs and opens one eye to look in my direction.

“See this?” I hold up my phone from my nook in the couch, flashing the screen at her.

Fat speaks through a yawn. “You’ve had that phone for two years. Cavemen have better technology. Time to stop being proud of that thing.”

I keep the phone extended, “Read the message, dumb ass.”

“Boss, a couple things,” Fat rolls onto her stomach and her second eye opens, “One, that screen that’s causing you to act a fool is blank.”

I flip the iPhone over in my hand; the screen is black. I punch in my passcode and the words light up again. I turn the message back in Fat’s direction. She doesn’t even pretend to look at it.

“And two, I know I’m so awesome you think I’m bionic, but nobody can read those piddily words from fifteen feet away. For all I can tell, you’re showing me some kind of internet porn.”

I read aloud the message from Aaron and try not to lose my patience when she interrupts by ripping her claws into the scratching post.

“You seem remarkably cavalier for a liar.”

Fat’s claws dig deep into the post as she stretches out, ass pointed into the air. “Quite the majestic high horse you ride on, boss. Clydesdale, is it?”

I toss the iPhone onto the wood coffee table. “What are you getting at, Fat?”

“I just find it interesting that you’re quick to call me a liar when you’ve done some damn fine work to decorate this apartment with lies.” She finally sits, regally atop her worn post. She looks at the Remington typewriter that sits on the cupboard above my desk and the framed tin ceiling tiles on the walls. “Well, lies and old lady shit. Boyfriend really buys this charade, huh?”

“I like my old lady shit, thank you.” My arms cross over my chest. I don’t lie. Can’t, actually. Too many tells. It would have been a waste of my time to learn to play poker.

Fat clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “I know what you’re doing.” She shakes her head. “You always do this, anytime somebody steers the conversation somewhere you don’t want to go you subtly relocate the conversation to different ground. You, boss,” the feline smiles, “are like a magnet on a compass.”

“What does that even mean?”

Fat’s green eyes brighten as if I’d proven something, “See? Doing it again. Tricky, tricky.” Fat’s fangs show just slightly. She jumps down, races across the floor and Fat hops up gracefully onto the coffee table.

“What’s this, then?” Her eyes skim over the black and white news print.

“The paper.” I try to sound as obvious as possible.

“Something seems odd about it though… this is the paper you brought into the apartment today?”

She knows.

“It’s funny, some of the words that are in here – t hey don’t even seem like words at all.”

She’s just dragging this out to hurt me.

“I have to hand it to you, boss. I never thought you could finish a crossword puzzle all on your own.”

I can’t. I’ve come close and failed time and time again.

“If somebody, say, Boyfriend, were to come into the room and see all the squares filled in with letters, that somebody might think that you managed to figure out all the answers. One generally doesn’t look too closely.” Her eyes skim over a clue and she reads the word that I’ve written vertically. “OZYMET. Where in the world did you hear of that? College?”

“It’s a…” I lean in an attempt to read the clue and come up with something that sounds both feasible and works with the written hint, “type of Polynesian…suit…for…tib-en-dor…fff…” I can’t lean any further without falling over.

“One more time with feeling. Maybe skip the random syllables you added at the end.”

“I’m feeling hungry. Fat, are you hungry?” Damn it. I am a magnet on a compass.

Fat brightens, and the metaphorical interrogation light dims. “Starving.”

We both rise and she trails behind as I walk into the kitchen.

The kibble fills her bowl with tinny sounds. She speaks between enormous bites.

“Lying by omission is still lying. Love the placement of Faulkner and Burroughs on your bookshelf, by the way. Evidence of intelligence. Brilliant, boss. Just brilliant.”

Seeking the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

“Awfully quiet around here.”

I don’t see Fat until the light from the fridge casts its light across the kitchen floor; she sits right in the middle of the laminate. Like a startled old lady, I clutch my chest with fright. Perhaps not so much fright as an attempt to uphold decency, my lilac robe isn’t exactly tied tightly and my birthday suit needs to be ironed. I’d rather be confronted by the four horsemen of the apocalypse than this feline with self-appointed shrink cred. I grab what I need, and Fat vanishes from sight when the fridge door closes. God bless darkness.

I unscrew the cap of the bottle of orange juice. “Boyfriend’s gone for the weekend. Off on a quick road trip to see some of his boyfriends.” With more momentum than I expect from myself, I tip the bottle backward down my throat. Twin rivers of OJ pour out the corners of my mouth, dribble down my chin, neck and non-cleavage and get absorbed by my house coat. Shit, that’s cold. Once it dries it’ll be sticky too. I need to switch to water when I wake up thirsty at two a.m. “I’m surprised you weren’t aware of his departure. You’re always eavesdropping and scrutinizing everything. Feels like this whole apartment is under surveillance.” As a classy dame would, I gently dab my face on the sleeve of my oversize house coat.

“It’s behavioural observation.”  There’s a break in her speech where I hear what sounds like a yawn. “Speaking of, I can’t help but wonder why you shuffle around stubbing your toes in the dark when there’s nobody here to disturb.”

The sound of a small click causes the entire kitchen to light up. My fingers pull away from the switch. “Habit, I suppose.” The throb in two of my left toes is well-founded; they’re on the verge of being classified as maroon. I’m the proud owner of one normal-looking foot and one damn ballerina’s foot. Gross.

“Any plans while he’s away?” Fat hopefully goes and sits next to her food dish. She looks at her skewed reflection in the bottom of the metal bowl and up at me. Your subtle persuasion won’t work on me this time, Fat.

Making sure the lid is secure on the juice, I put it away. “Estrogen-fuelled weekend.”

“Lesbian time. Got it.” One of Fat’s eyes shoots me a quick wink. She’s still under the strong impression that in the past I’ve been sweet on the ladies as well as the fellas. This wonderful miscommunication is due to an unfortunate story I once shared with her about a time I took a pie to the face. Fat is under the strong impression that this is a euphemism. I’ve given up trying to correct her; it would make her theory all the more concrete to find out it was a cream pie I took to the kisser. Coconut cream if I recall correctly, I was too busy trying to salvage my makeup to press the detail of flavour into the pages of my memory.

“I’m just hanging out with my best gals, we’re in need of a good pow-wow. Nice to see them in person as opposed to texting or Facebook.”

“Call it what you will.”

I sigh, and try to get the conversation away from sexuality. “The only fellow I’ll be spending any time with this weekend is Mutt.”

“Yeah. Where is he?” She doesn’t even whip her head around to pretend to care.

“I don’t know. Sleeping. Lazy bastard, that one.” I tighten the tie on my house coat.

Fat doesn’t respond. Instead she looks helplessly at her still-empty bowl. She’s almost instantly struck with another idea to get what she wants. Playing nice is difficult for Fat.

She scuttles over and weaves in a figure eight around my ankles. “Boss, you deserve a weekend to yourself. You should make yourself a massage appointment or a pedicure or–” She stops abruptly and starts screaming, “MY EYES, MY EYES!”

Full of concern, I kneel beside Fat.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong with your eyes?” I look up at the kitchen light; the bulbs were just changed. Those energy-saving bulbs are fucking bright. How many watts are those?

Her voice sounds weak, like she’s on her deathbed muttering her last words, “I… I shouldn’t have looked up. I’ve never been fond of pie.”

Surviving the Flood

“Coffee incident!” I scream like I’m in a bad teen horror movie and it’s my turn to die. The hot liquid races across the desk, attempting to consume everything in its path. My oafish hands do what they can to stave off the coffee and save the insightful anecdotes I’d scribbled throughout the workday on random post-its. The one that reads, ‘You are what you eat: ginger eats ginger” is lost to the caffeinated monster. I’d obviously written that little gem before consciousness kicked in around lunch; it seemed clever at the time, but now reads like a porn title. The small square of pale yellow transforms into brown mess. Better to sacrifice the idiot thoughts and save the intelligent ones.

“I ate too much. My hearteries hurt.” Fat’s whiny voice sounds like it’s coming from the couch, but I can’t waste precious seconds to see if that’s true.

“Arteries, dumb ass. Not hearteries.” The annoyance contributes to the line that’s been slowly etching its permanence into my forehead. “Coffee incident!” I repeat the words with more volume and urgency as I do my damnedest to keep a hold on the books, computer and notes from the desktop. I panic and start saving random things that don’t require rescue: the now-empty coffee cup, an unopened bag of corn chips, thumb tacks. I’m not good in stressful situations. I just hope that prohibition never gets reinstated; I don’t know how I’d fare without my coping mechanism.

Boyfriend runs into the room, as a hero should, grabs a dish towel and tends to my mess. Tense seconds go by and I wonder if there will be any post-it note survivors. Boyfriend hides the remains. I’ve had enough trauma, it’s better to let the thoughts be free than mourn their demise. After close inspection of the surface, I tentatively set my pile of paper and electronics back down. Boyfriend dutifully disappears back into the bedroom to let me continue with my fictional nonsense.

“You know,” Fat kneads the arm of the couch as she buts in, “Yelling ‘Coffee incident’ until the calvary arrives to tend to your spillage issues doesn’t constitute cleaning up after yourself. You need to altar your behaviour.”

“Alter. Altar is a religious thing.” I correct without thinking. “My hands were clearly full. You saw. What else was I supposed to do?”

“Act like a grownup and figure it out for yourself. Use those brains you’re always trying to convince me you have.”

I begin to unstack my notebooks and paper from the unstable tower on the desk. I’m at a loss for rebuttal so I pretend I didn’t hear her.

“He says you’re difficult, you know.” Fat stops pawing the cushion and settles in, resting her head on her front arm. I don’t need to ask who she’s talking about. He just left the room.

“That’s not breaking news, he’s said that to my face.”

“Forgive me for being a bit of a septic, but I’m not certain I believe that. Did he call you anal retentive to your face too?” Fat’s eyes close, as though the conversation is over and it is time for a nap to commence. That’s a good move. I’ll have to steal that the next time I need an out. It’s the perfect balance of bitchy and cute; it’s a difficult hybrid to get away with.

“Skeptic.” I pause, finally realizing what she’s been doing. “You ass hat.”

 

Parenting Tactics of a Non-Mom

“This is going to do terrible things to Boyfriend’s uterus.” Fat sits on my lap as we stare at him playing with my eighteen-month-old godson, Jonah. “If his biological clock wasn’t ticking before…”

My nostrils flare out. I wish I had more control over my external responses. “This is terrible.” I shake my head. This is exactly how people get ideas about procreation. Introduce the perfect child to a want-to-be parent and thoughts begin to grow. Jonah is such a cute, well-behaved, clumsily hilarious baby – this stupid kid is going to ruin my life.

Fat and I watch, both appalled at the sheer enjoyment on Boyfriend’s face as he throws Jonah up into the air. Both the child and the man squeal like they’re estrogen-enriched. In unison, Fat and I shake our heads. I feign a dry-heave and Fat offers a judgemental, “Tsk tsk.” I scratch behind her ears. Good kitty.

“Get ready to have the talk with him after the parents come to retrieve their litter.”

“That’s not what it’s called for humans, Fat. We don’t birth in bulk nearly as often as your species.” I pet the length of her spine and she does that weird ass-in-the-air thing that cats do when you pet them just right. “Bet you fifty bucks his first sentence after the kid is gone has to do with us having children.”

His phone rings in the bedroom and Boyfriend leaves to go answer it.

“You’re on, boss. Except that will be his second sentence. His first will be some kind of comment about this specific child. You shouldn’t bet on human behaviour against a therapist.”

“Tanta, Tanta!” Jonah’s exuberance shows in his happy feet as he runs across the room with the tap-dancing finesse of Fred Astaire. That might be an oversell, but he moves quick, Fat jumps out of the way before the toddler collides into my knees. He laughs, and a gross line of drool flows out of his mouth and pools onto my jeans.

“As cute as you are disgusting.” I grab him under my arm like a football and grab a wet wipe from the diaper bag.

“I know what you’re thinking, Fat. I didn’t want to be called Auntie, so I opted for Tanta.” Fat follows behind us at a leisurely feline pace.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Kitty.” Jonah points as Fat jumps up on the desk beside the neon green bag that is so bright I try not to look at it directly; I don’t want to risk damaging my retinas. The kid he hangs like a stuntman under my arm and flops around, arching his back at impossible angles to avoid the wet wipe to the face.

“Stay still. Stop. Stop this.” I end up dropping to my knees and putting Jonah in a baby headlock. “They should come out with a line of chloroform wipes for children. They’ll be clean and well-behaved. After all, they are even cuter when they’re unconscious. I’m sure any parent would agree.”

“You’re really good at this.” Fat cringes when I haphazardly throw the wipe and it lands beside her. “Maybe you should consider growing your own.”

“I’m not really into science projects, Fat.” I set the kid down and he tap-dances over to a plastic track with a ball fixed to a track and a scratch pad in the middle. Jonah reaches out and even with a gentle touch, gives the ball enough force to go around the track a couple times.

“That’s mine! Don’t let that slobbery miniature human touch my things!” Fat’s hair stands on end and her claws dig into the carpet with her displeasure. Her eyes fixate on the small white ball; it’s hard to take her outburst seriously when her head follows the circular motion of the toy’s movement.

Boyfriend comes back in the room and sees a familiar car out the window. “Mom and Dad are back. I’ll run him out to them.” Boyfriend scoops the tyke up into his arms and grabs the diaper bag and Jonah’s coat. Fat scuttles over and sits on the cardboard scratch pad on the cat toy as if to assert her ownership.

“Later, M.B.” I get up to give him a quick hug and the little bastard plants a wet kiss on the side of my face.

After they leave, Fat looks up at me as I wipe the slobber from my face. “M.B. as in…?”

“Mini Bestie, of course.”

Fat nods. “Right. Right. For future reference, he is never to touch my things.”

“Sure, Fat. Sure.”

We turn when we hear the door open and shut. Boyfriend smiles contentedly as he kicks off his shoes. “Isn’t he the best? I can’t wait until we have kids of our own.”

Fat’s displeasure instantly morphs into a winner’s smile. Looks like I’m out fifty bucks.

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.”