Milestones and Missed Cues

“Happy Birthday, you old son of a bitch.”

The black office chair swivels around to reveal Fat in the power seat, appearing like a Bond villain. Her paws thrust into the air in celebration and unleash a sad supply of multi-coloured confetti that slowly drifts to the ground.

Propping the fridge door open with my elbow, I down some more juice from the carton and shake my head. “Son of a bitch?” I know there are times I look a little androgynous and all, but I identify as a woman and also lack the parts to be classified as a man. I like my ovaries, thanks.

Fat stares at me from the patchwork office space beside the tiny kitchen as she silently processes the tone of my voice.

“You’re right. How callous of me. You’re nobody’s son. From the top, people.” Fat grips the edge of the desk to turn the chair so it faces the wall again. “Take another guzzle from the O.J. The sound tipped me off to your entrance.”

Well, I am still a little thirsty. I slug back some more orange juice. Fat responds to the cue as I wipe my mouth in the crook of my arm.

“Happy Birthday, you old bitch.” Fat shoves off the desk too hard and instead of coming to a graceful stop facing me directly, the chair spins in an entire circle to only give me a fleeting glimpse of the ungraceful feline before she disappears from view. I love that chair.

“Shit.”

I imagine she’s on the opposite side of the faux leather chair sulking at her poor second entrance. Failure on two counts. That’s got to affect your self-esteem. I put the juice back in the fridge and approach the feline’s seat. I grab the backrest and pivot the chair in a semicircle.

“I didn’t even get more confetti for the second go-around.” Fat leans back in defeat until her head rests against the fabric. “I let you down, Boss. This was going to be the highlight of your day.”

“It’s a little early to be calling the best part, isn’t it?”

Fat waves her paw dismissively, “You don’t have friends; this was the biggest acknowledgement you could hope for. I wanted to point out the honour of accumulating another year’s layer of decay and disappointment. Oh hey,” Fat brightens momentarily when she digs between her pockets of grey fur and produces another pawful of paper confetti that she tosses with lackluster, “Congratulations on keeping up with the Crypt Keeper.”

“Uh, thanks?”

Fat scratches her head, clearly perplexed. She zeros in on my face.

“Boss, how old are you?”

I pick up the feline from on the chair and struggle to keep her in my arms. “That’s a rude thing to ask.” Thankfully she doesn’t get aggravated enough to use her claws.

“People only respond like that when they’re super ancient and ashamed of their age.” Fat squirms and twists for another fifteen seconds before entirely giving up and submitting to the housecat treatment.

“I’m not ashamed of my age. I’m thirty and perfectly fine with that.” I pet her head softly and scratch behind her pert ears.

“Thirty, huh? That means you’re about due for your first mid-life crisis.”

“Does that mean I can start a life anew and be as impulsive and crazy as I want?”

Fat slightly purrs, “You bet it does.”

“Fantastic. It’s settled then. I’m going to buy a taco stand.” I smile. That sounds awesome. I could eat a burrito every single day if I wanted. Cool.

“That is a terrible way to unravel into a mental breakdown. You don’t know how to do anything right, do you?”

The Fictional Man of My Dreams Speaks French

“I don’t understand what you’re saying!”

Fat yells at the television as I burst through the door with a basket of needing-to-be-folded laundry. I hear the sounds of somebody speaking what can be referred to as the ugly sister of Canadian English… also known as Canadian French. When I left, we were watching Cutthroat Kitchen; a show that should be on the comedy channel as well as the food network. I’m not entirely sure what happened in the time it took to get my clothes from the laundry room in the building’s basement.

“What’s going on, Fat?” The blue basket drops on the coffee table with a cracking sound. I hope I didn’t break the plastic wicker that’s holding my clothes. Oafishness just becomes me I suppose.

“The television went crazy out of nowhere. They’re speaking in some kind of made up language.” My presence seems to sedate her freak out.

I shove Fat aside, grab the remote from beneath her and toss the clicker to the end of the sectional. “Your lard ass changed the channel.”

Green eyes watch the remote fly gracefully three feet away. She makes no effort to chase it. I return my attention to the basket, back facing the television and ears deaf to the quick-pace of those that parler francais.

I lift a pair of jeans from the basket and start folding. The French voices continue to inhabit the apartment. I take up residence inside my head and whatever is going on external to my brain, fades into oblivion.

The time that passes reflects in the growing pile of folded clothes on the table. I grab a teal sweater and fold it like an origami master.

Finally, Fat speaks.

“This guy. This is the one for you.” Fat’s eyes are locked on the television screen.

I add the sweater to the rising mountain and turn toward the screen. “Benedict Cumberbatch?” I’m so taken aback, I snort with laughter. “This guy,” I point to the charming man on the screen who is currently pretending to be a waiter at what I can only presume is the dinner where Watson is going to ask his lady for her hand, “is Sherlock Holmes. He’s not even real.”

I haven’t seen this episode; it must be from season three. I’m not sure why, but I turn the volume up, as though that will help me understand the language dubbed over their fabulous English accents.

“He is quite dashing though, isn’t he?” The flimsy coffee table groans with warning as I sit down on a corner.

“He’s not even my species, but I would definitely hit that.” She meets the disgusted look on my face with a sheepish expression and quickly moves beyond the awkwardness. “Shame you’ve got this ban on boyfriends.”

“Yes, because that is the only thing standing in my way of getting Benedict Cumberbatch to be my man. Although,” My sarcasm fades away and my tone becomes wistful, “My sisters and I are going to London next summer. But,” I waver, “I doubt he’s actually an intelligent asshole in real life.” I turn to Fat, “You know that’s my type. One can always dream.”

“So not all hope is lost. Hopefully the ban is lifted by the time you leave for the U.K.”

I reach and grab a pillowcase from the basket and fold it into a tiny rectangle. “Again, that is the only thing…”

Fat’s laughter overtakes my repetition.

“You’re absolutely right, boss. You two don’t even speak the same language. It’ll never work out between the two of you.”

Mr. Clean is my Homeboy; He Keeps His Opinions to Himself

“Plumber’s crack aside, I admire the way you scrub that tub,” Fat takes a break from lapping up toilet water. “These no-nonsense skills you exhibit are reminiscent of a German grandmother.”

I blink hard and stare at my surroundings with the surprise of a sleepwalker waking up in the order line at an unfamiliar McDonald’s. There must be some reasonable explanation to my actions – a body snatcher’s incident perhaps. I become instantly aware of the pain in my lower back from being hunched over the edge of the bathtub. I briefly worry that the tension in my forehead is an angry unibrow that resulted from a prolonged frown. The skin of my fingerprints is almost white and resembles many a resident’s face of the retirement village. Two fingernails are broken and in my hand is a sponge with a green scouring pad… what kind of weird ass fight club did I get sucked into while my mind was elsewhere? I reach up and touch the sides of my head to make sure I didn’t give myself a mohawk while the autopilot was on.

“Bitch, you are one hefty grossmutter.” Fat continues, seemingly oblivious to my out-of-body experience. I look up at her and she misinterprets  the look on my face as offense. “What? That’s grandmother in German. Get some culture. Learn the language of your people.”

I say nothing, but continue to compile questions in my head as to why I’m playing the part of a domicile and why I’m harvesting an abundance of She-Hulk anger.

“With gruff strength like that you would make a mighty fine shot putter.”

The anger momentarily subsides and I drop the sponge in the tub’s basin. “You know, I did throw shot put in high school. Not well, mind you, but I did compete.”

“Last place?”

“No.” It hurts me that my cat doesn’t think of me as a winner. “Second to last place.”

Fat leans her face into the toilet again and her voice echos in the bowl, “My mistake, boss.”

The smell of the Mr. Clean cleanser brings me back to the present and the Pavlovian response is a scowl. Fat’s grey head emerges dutifully at the irritated expulsion of my breath.

“As a keen observer of human behaviour, I notice that you’re rather out of sorts today. What’s making you so vexed, meine grossmutter?” Fat looks around at the glistening bathroom, “Don’t get me wrong, a clean apartment is a nice change of pace. I have noticed though, that you only unleash the elbow grease when something is making you mad.”

“I–”

“For the record,” Fat interrupts, “I mean mad in the irate way and not mad as a hatter. You’ve cornered the market on the latter; nobody’s going to stop the presses for that headline.” She takes a split second to mull over her words, “Unintentional rhyme. Cool.”

I wait. Fat stares as I move from the floor and sit on the edge of the tub.

“You go mute or something?”

“You know I hate being interrupted. It’s very rude.”

“Manners from the one who threatened the life of a movie concession worker for over-buttering her popcorn.” Fat’s sarcasm is my least favourite thing in the world after Nicolas Cage.

“I stand by that.” I point at Fat in a ‘you-can’t-handle-the-truth’ kind of way. “It was attempted homicide; you know butter’s not good for the heart.” I sigh and let my sudden outburst deflate. It’s  not Fat I’m mad at. “My weekend got ruined. Boyfriend and I were supposed to go to Kelowna and highway conditions cancelled our plans.”

A few beats of silence pass. Fat still sports her absurd listening face – an insincere smile and creepily wide eyes.

“This is where you offer some kind of insight, doc.”

“Just making sure you were finished.” She goes quiet again until I nod. “In which case, all I really have to say is: so what?”

Way to shoulder my disappointment and resentment in Mother Nature, Fat. I need to do something with my hands or I’m going to strangle her. I opt for picking up the sponge and squeeze it with as much pressure as possible.

“Can I finish?”

Hooray. Fat has more she’d like to say. Damn it, an untintentional rhyme. This cat has gotten into my head. “Fine.”

“Waiting a couple weeks when the roads are clear isn’t going to kill you, but driving in winter conditions where you lack practice will. Who will feed me then?” Fat accurately reads the expression on my face. “Right, it’s not about me. I digress. Your problem, boss, is that you are a control freak. And since you’re not equipped with an arsenal of feelings like normal people, your go-to response is anger.” The feline watches my hands as they ease up on the sponge. “You set up camp inside your head and have this compulsion to physically do something while your mind is elsewhere – hence the frenzied cleaning with a product whose spokesman is either a genie or a man going through chemotherapy. Is it bad that I can’t tell the difference?”

I squint Fat as she wets her whistle with toilet water again. “You think you’ve got me all figured out, don’t you?”

“Why do you suppose I piss you off more on days where I need the litter box cleaned?”

The Good Doctor

“What the fuck happened to the apartment?” I let out the growl of a lion, and I begin my hunt for the guilty party. She won’t get away with this, not on this lion’s pride.

In the kitchen, buttery footprints stray across the counter leading away from the butter dish. On closer examination, it appears the butter has entered puberty, as it now has hair where it didn’t before. I’ll kill her. On the opposite counter near the sink, my abandoned morning coffee apparently decided to commit suicide while I was out. The mug thrust itself off the counter, dying instantly upon impact. Cold coffee remains leaking out onto the kitchen floor is a scene few can bear to witness. Mutt cowers under the desk as I circle from the kitchen and stalk into the living room. The corner of the couch has become the victim of merciless claw marks. The plant on the coffee table, now uprooted, has left dirt all around the pot and on the carpet.  I peek in the bedroom and the only thing I notice is an indent on my pillow, likely where the great pest decided to take an afternoon siesta.

Today I write a book: Feline Homicide: A DIY ProjectInternational Bestseller guaranteed. Were I a beefed-up goon, this is the part where I ball a hand into a fist and crack all the knuckles simultaneously.

Coming out of the bedroom, I catch sight of Fat in my peripheral. She sits on the closed lid of the toilet seat, paw raised as though she’s testifying in court. I look down at the floor to see the Charmin, unrolled and covering the floor in a sea of white ribbon.

“Fat. Seriously? I was gone for two hours.”

Fat’s raised paw moves almost too quickly to see. She reaches out, gives the remaining toilet paper a swat and we both watch another few layers of ass paper slide to the ground.

Unapologetic, the feline shoots me a judgemental look. “Tsk tsk.” She shakes her head. “I suppose this is what happens when you leave Mutt in charge. If you recall, this sort of nonsense doesn’t happen on my watch.” A malicious smile contentedly resides on her face.

I think back to my departure. As is normal before I shut the door behind me, I tongue-in-cheek make the first animal I see the deputy of the apartment. Today, it happened to be Mutt. I proclaimed that the little doofus was in charge in my absence and left without a second thought. It would seem that it struck a sore spot with the good doctor.

Fat looks down, contentedly, at her mayhem. “Still, we’re in better shape than when you’re the one in charge, oh fearless leader.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I crouch down to start gathering up the unravelled toilet paper.

Fat jumps down and rubs her side along my kneecap. “Bad decisions decline when you’re out of the home, boss. One does have to admit, it is easier to succumb to boredom when your dumb ass isn’t around, hence…” Her eyes glance at the mess I’ve managed to bundle together before she proceeds to lick a paw that still gleams from the butter.

Tremendous silence reverberates off the bathroom walls. I’m the kind of mad where it’s uncertain if I’m going to lash out verbally or physically. It’s the tip of the precipice where one more jerk remark from Fat will declare which side I’m on. Her fate is in her own hands. I’m kind of hoping that this ends with me drowning her in the toilet.

I see something hidden on the floor behind the toilet. Curiosity is anger’s kryptonite; inquisition is to rampage as a fire extinguisher is to anything I attempt to cook. Reaching out, I grab the wire object: eyeglasses from a plastic Santa who is either stuffed in a plastic bag and hidden in the hall closet, or stuffed in a plastic bag and taken to the garbage bin out back.

I point the spectacles in Fat’s direction when I ask: “This is a play to get me to stay home with you more? Are you suggesting that this poor behaviour is an attempt to extort therapy sessions where I play the part of your dim-witted patient? You are a terrible shrink, Fat.”

Fat taps her nose when I figure out the motivation behind her afternoon asshole endeavors. “But I’m an awfully good listener.”

A Metaphor Instead of Soup Stock

“It worries me that you have in-home carcass storage.” Fat eyes the freezer-burnt contents of the Ziploc bag in my hand.

The freezer door stays open, cooling the cramped kitchen while Fat and I investigate the aged food inside. I grip the mystery animal’s ribs like I’m holding a baby in a sagging diaper. “Me too. I think at one point this was some kind of bird.”

“Can I have it?”

I answer with a look of disgusted judgement. The coldness becomes unbearable to hold onto, I pivot at the waist and release the expired poultry into the already half-full trash bag on the floor. “Not sure why ex-boyfriend kept this.”

“To make his own soup stock, moron.” Fat starts to roll her eyes and happens upon another thought before the eye roll can have the desired effect. “Unless he was planning on using it to put some kind of voodoo whammy on you. I wonder if that works.” Fat’s feet pad silently on the kitchen floor as she goes to examine the bag of frozen meat. She lifts her chin to look up at me. “I’m sorry, I still don’t entirely understand what’s going on here.”

“I’m trying to make rice again.” I point to the pot on the stove; the lid is covered in condensation. “I’ve decided that things go awry in the kitchen because I cook with a crock pot mentality – throw it in a pot and let it take care of itself for six hours. So now,” I reach into the almost-empty freezer, “I’m staying in the kitchen to make sure I don’t fuck it up again. Figured since I was here I’d finally clean out the cupboards and freezer.” I pull out another Ziploc bag, this one with only two frozen hot dogs and toss it instantly into the black plastic bag.

Fat leers at the bag. “What are those Ziploc bags near the bottom? I didn’t see you toss those out.”

I crane my neck to see what she’s referring to. “Ah. The mystery spices. The ex didn’t have an idiot-friendly system. Don’t.” I hold up my index finger to stop her insult before it finds a voice. “They’re all unlabeled in plastic bags. I can’t tell the cinnamon from the paprika. It was either garbage or spice roulette. I don’t gamble on things I know nothing about.”

“Please. You would get the cinnamon confused with dill.”

My eyebrows lower. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

There are two plastic-wrapped mounds labelled “stew beef” that I pull out last. They’re almost black. Two sturdy clunking sounds engulf the kitchen when they join the others in the trash bag.

Fat jumps up on the counter and stares into the freezer. “So you’re left with an empty ice cube tray and some kind of fish. Can I have that?”

I shake my head. “Of course no–”

“–Tell me that smell is your burning loins.” Fat interrupts. Her tiny nose twitches as she traces the scent.

“Shit.” I race to the stove and pull the lid off the pot. The edges of the rice lining the pot are charred and crisp. “How did this happen? I was in the kitchen the whole time.”

“You honestly have no idea how cooking works, do you?” We lock eyes, and I see something on her face that can actually be construed as pity. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll eventually find something you’re good at. With the likely chance you won’t, have you ever considered marrying for money?”