The Dangers of Pumpkin Carving

“Art is not your strong suit, Boss.”

“What are you talking about?” I’m kneeling on the living room floor in front of the coffee table that is covered in a layer of newspaper now slimy with pumpkin innards. My bicep pops out slightly as I finish sawing into another section of the pumpkin. “You are going to effing love this jack o’ lantern.” The primal part of my being totally loves this stuff. I’ve got orange grit under my nails, my hands are slightly sticky and I’ve gutted this pumpkin like a damn trout.

Fat’s balances on her hind legs as her front ones brace the table’s edge. Her grey head tilts slightly to the side like a pompous critic at an art gallery. “Is this a self portrait or what?”

“Fat, it’s pumpkin carving. Be serious.” My thumbs press hard into the pumpkin flesh to dislodge the last piece of the mouth. Some people chisel the statue of David; I dissect pumpkins until they are four kinds of majestic.

“In all seriousness, it looks like a drag queen.” Fat’s paw notes the arched eyebrows and puffy lips. “I thought Halloween stuff was supposed to be scary.”

“First of all, it’s an homage to Tim Curry from Rocky Horror Picture Show. And second, it didn’t turn out as I pictured, but it is scary. What’s more frightening than painfully obvious Botox injections?”

Fat meets my gaze as she throws a dry look over her left shoulder. “Cute, Boss.” She jumps on the table amongst the pumpkin debris to suss out the work of the second pumpkin, now abandoned, on the table. “Your orange friend there must have startled your boyfriend. He hightailed it out of here a half hour ago. Didn’t even finish his bat thing.”

I set the knife down; I need it out of my hand if I’m going to attempt a conversation with the feline. “He’s not my boyfriend, Fat.” One would think she would tire from hearing this, but no.

“Yeah, okay.” She’s quick to interrupt even in the midst of leaning down to sniff a stringy, seed-filled, sloppy pile of pumpkin guts.

“And he’s been gone for like two, maybe three, minutes.” I was too absorbed to register the reason he said he needed to go back to his place. No matter.

“Just another one that couldn’t get away fast enough, lady.” Fat leans in and takes a delicate bite of pumpkin. “Oh god.” Fat spits it out instantly. “Oh no. No. Never again. What kind of devil food is this?” Her tongue darts in and out of her mouth as though licking the surrounding air will dissolve the taste across her palate. “I’m going to throw up. Seriously, right here on this table. Give me some room.”

I lift my pumpkin, saving it from potential cat vomit just as we hear the front door open and close; the sound brings Jesse back into the apartment. His head and arms poke through torn holes in a green garbage bag – his precautionary measure against the anticipated pumpkin mess. Jesse’s come back holding a six-pack of pale ale in one hand and plastic container of cookies in the other.

“Who do you think you are with that stuff, my father?” I’m half-kidding, but my pops would never turn down beer and cookies.

“Possible Daddy issues. Interesting.” Fat notes as her gaze follows the arc of a beer can lobbed through the air and into my awaiting hands. She seems to have forgotten about wanting to throw up. The feline’s neck snaps back to Jesse, doing a delayed double-take. “You’re still wearing your shoes. This is the living room.” She scowls at his lack of manners and her voice becomes a razor’s edge, “We do not wear footwear in the living room.”

“Chill, Miss Fat. I thought we were friends.” Jesse pulls the tab on his beer and the sound sings an anthem of refreshment. As a good woman, I’m already well into mine.

I grab the knife and attempt to cut more details into my wannabe Dr. Frank N. Furter one-handed while maintaining a hold on my beer with my left hand. I do not have the skill set to do this and decide that my pumpkin is finished.

Looking up, Fat stares at Jesse like she’s holding him at gunpoint. “Back up, sir. Remove your shoes, sir.” Her eyes drift to the container of cookies and her demeanor instantly changes. “Whatcha got there, buddy?”

“Woman, your cat is bipolar or something.” Jesse, still in his shoes, pulls the lid off the cookies. “Fat, you like cookies?”

“Don’t feed her cookies.” Curious, I reach over to see what kind of face Jesse’s pumpkin has. We were waiting to unveil our creations when we were both finished, but I’m done, and he’s been working on something. If you round up, we’ve both completed the job.

Fat’s neck cranes, trying to extend to the length of a giraffe’s just to see what kind of treats he’s brought over. “What kind of cookies?”

The pumpkin rotates in my hand as he announces, “Pumpkin cookies with cream cheese icing. I made them myself.”

Fat’s interest dissolves into utter disgust. Her taste only a moment ago was clearly enough of a trial. “Pumpkin?”

“Oh God.” My reaction mirrors that of my cat. “You have to go.”

“You don’t want cookies?” Jesse’s lower lip juts out in an overemphasized pout.

“Yes. What idiot doesn’t want cookies? But this,” I spin the pumpkin around so he can observe his crudely-cut Batman symbol, “is entirely unacceptable. We can’t hang out anymore.”

Jesse looks from Fat to me and back to Fat; by now he knows he’s pleased neither of us with his actions. He wears uncertainty the same way he wears his ghetto hazard suit.

His thumb points in the direction of the door and his slow backward steps masquerade as casual backpedaling, “Maybe I should go…”

Curse Words in the Kitchen

“Your mother clearly didn’t raise you right. I should film this.” Fat perches on the edge of the computer desk and watches me while I turn the kitchen into what looks like a Tasmanian devil mating ground. The feline brushes her paw against her jaw line, “Hey dumb ass, you’ve got a little something there.”

“Huh?” I crouch in front of a lower cupboard shoving pots back inside haphazardly. It’s so hot in here; it’s menopausal woman spending a summer’s day at the equator kind of hot. I can’t guarantee that the cookware is free of perspiration – the magical combination of my busted-ass oven and inept culinary skills have created a portal to the surface of the sun. I have no desire to open that oven door again. I’m not so much worried about the sweat on the pots so much as I am about whatever dirt coats my Fred Flintstone feet, but I’m at that fuck-it stage of the whole process. If I’m being completely honest with myself, the next time these pots are used for cooking and not accidental indoor soccer, forty thousand other domestic debacles will have erased this particular incident from memory. With violent and brute force, the cupboard door slams shut. The back of my wrist wipes the side of my face, and this is how I discover the flour that Fat was trying so graciously to point out.

I hear the gentle thud of Fat jumping off the desk. Oh hooray, the lumpy feline with the loud opinion is coming to get a closer look.

“Let me see if I understand,” Fat attempts to stifle a laugh by playing it off as a cough, “You offered to make breakfast.”

I nod.

“And somehow you thought that cookies were the way to go.”

I nod again. A few seconds tick by until I come to the realization that I’m supposed to say something. With the multitude of words accessible in the English language, I offer a response in as much as one syllable, “Uh…”

“Surely you could have gotten away with toast and tea or even soggy cereal? You seldom shine, but when it comes to adding milk to cereal, you almost always get it right. Please,” another phony cough escapes her mouth, “please help me understand your thought process here.” Fat sits upright and clears her throat to bury more laughter from joining us in the kitchen. She acknowledges my you’re-not-fooling-anyone glare. “Dry cough. I must have caught it from that commercial for Tylenol Cold and Flu with that wheezy kid in the loser glasses.”

“You can’t catch–” Is this really something I want to debate with my cat? “Never mind, Fat.” An incessant beep blasts from the stove top. After strangling the sound into silence, I grab a dish towel and open the oven.

Fat’s tiny nose sniffs the air, “So, why the cookies for breakfast?”

“I panicked after I offered to–oh fucking balls!” I drop the pan on the stove top and it makes a clanging sound so loud I hear Boyfriend, still in bed, ask if I’m inflicting any self-harm. “Mostly psychological,” I shout over my shoulder as I run cold tap water over the burn on my hand. Maybe oven mitts really aren’t some crazy fad the hipsters made up.

“Psychological harm is my specialty.” Fat jumps up beside the dish rack and looks from my hand to my face. I feel the burning intensity of her eyes. “It’s okay to quit. You’re really not good at this. Failure on all fronts. I hope I’m not being intrusive when I say that you’re better off just making the man some toast.”

My brain clumsily gallops like a lame horse from one idea to the next. There has to be some way to salvage this fiasco. “Mimosas.” I finally look Fat in the face, “I’ll get him so hammered off mimosas he won’t know the difference between a cookie and a pancake.”

Fat’s forehead lowers, “It scares me to think you actually consider this a constructive and viable idea. It’s hilarious that you think this plan will make yourself feel like less of a failure.” She leans forward and focuses on my third eye, “What in the hell goes on in there? Don’t get me wrong, you are one of my more interesting cases to observe. I’m quite interested to watch how this plays out.”

I shake the water from my hand and dash to the fridge. Fat follows at my heels and we both are hugely disappointed to discover–

“You’re a couple ingredients shy of mimosas.” Fat pokes her head further into the fridge, “You’ve got some vine tomatoes here. There’s still that vodka. A little can-do attitude and Martha Stewart do-it-yourself incentive and you’ve got yourself… well, something to get Boyfriend drunk. Sunday, Bloody Sunday, right?”

“Not the time for this attitude of yours, Bono.” I slam the fridge door shut and drum my fingers on the outside of the freezer compartment. “Help me think.”

Fat watches my nails clack-clack-clack on the appliance. Her gaze hardens and becomes serious. When I feel that she’s onto something, my fingers stop to feed the silence.

Immense quiet.

She’s bound to have some sage advice that will help me. A paw touches lightly to her mouth and Fat clears her throat. I stand at attention waiting for the feline to come forth with anything.

Her jaw opens.

Cruel laughter plays the part of empathy this morning as the worst understudy in the history of the world. Her boisterous chuckle races through the kitchen like a streaker – I can’t not pay attention to it. “Your face,” the laughter does a duet with her words, “you look like you’re trying to disarm a bomb and don’t know which wire to cut.”

We both look over to my sad cookies, still on the pan, embarrassed of themselves.

“Boyfriend,” I call and grab my keys off the wall hook. In unison, Fat’s voice joins mine as I finish my thought, “We’re going out for breakfast.” I scowl at her, and again she speaks my words at the same time I do, “Stop that. You don’t know me.”

“Boss, Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.”