Compliments to the Chef

“Oh, honey, you cooked.”

Fat leaps up on the messy desk beside the laptop, ink-smudged journal and sea of post-it notes. The corners of her mouth play at a smirk “You’re going to make your tapeworm so happy.” Her grey head shakes back and forth, dismissing the very idea, “Cooked. That’s rich. You think a frying pan is a weapon thanks to Saturday morning cartoons. Just another child left behind…”

As she tut-tuts my upbringing her stare lands on my face, waiting for me to acknowledge her presence. Impatience shows in her tail as it flicks back and forth, trying to pry my gaze from the screen. Giving up more quickly than is custom for an attention-seeking harlot, Fat redirects her focus back to the plate of half-eaten food.

My dinner sits on the opposite side of the computer, quickly losing heat as I frantically type and attempt to masticate at the same time. Multitasking isn’t a skill in my wheelhouse; I suppose there’s a reason writing and eating don’t generally go hand-in-hand. I feel my brow furrow in concentration. I need to force myself to finish reworking the sentence instead of give in to Fat’s desire for spotlight. Her uncharacteristically diverted attention stares with intense interest at the salmon.

“Actually, that kind of smells good – dare I say edible. Delivery? Care package? Where’s it from?”

I swallow, re-read the dozen-or-so words I’ve written and type a period before pushing the chair away from the desk.

“I made it.” Hands fold in my lap, preemptively impatient and aware of her forthcoming reaction.

Fat cracks a wide smile before throwing her head back in a surplus of laughter. “Good one, Boss. That standup of yours is really coming along.”

For once, not falling prey to her game, I wait. We stare at each other. I can’t believe my own house cat doesn’t take me seriously. I’m a grownup. Sometimes.

“You mean you actually… in the…” Her neck cranes in the direction of the kitchen, entirely baffled at the possibility.

I nod.

She sees the overflowing sink with dirty dishes, which support my claim. “Well, I’ll be damned. Did you alert the press?”

A deep exhale finds its way out of my chest. “No, Fat. The media won’t be stopping by.” Fingers grab the edge of the desk and I roll myself back into writing position. I don’t know why I keep indulging in her jackassery. My head shakes, dismissively. Just because I don’t usually cook doesn’t mean I can’t.

The keyboard rests under my ready fingers. I gently drum my digits across home row, and let my imagination take over. Mouthing the words of my last paragraph to myself, I settle back into where I left off. Reality blurs on the periphery and new words leave my fingertips, adding to the collection on the screen. I might be onto something here.

The noisy clacking of typing falls to background noise when the good doctor pipes up again.

“I like that you’re still able to surprise me, Boss.”

Her voice pulls reality back into focus. In my mental absence, Fat relocated to the other side of the computer, and is whiskers-deep in my dinner.

“Christ, Fat!” I reach to swat her, but the feline is too quick, and bounds to the floor before I can connect my fury with her fur.

She licks her chops from a safe distance. “Well pardon me for being proud of you.”

The Simplistic Nature of the Fred Flintstone Personality

“Ow! Christ!”

I reposition the dish towel and pull the tray from the oven; it clangs on the stove top with haste. I do an instant one-eighty and turn the faucet of the kitchen sink so the cold water blasts my stupidity-inflicted wound.

“Christ… there’s a guy that’s terrible at hide and seek.” Fat saunters into the kitchen and frowns upon her entrance. She opens her mouth with a question on her face. She looks at my hand under the water stream, the feline inhales the scent of baked-goods which leads her gaze to the tray of muffins. She closes her mouth; there’s no need for her to ask, she’s pieced together the storyline of my misfortune.

I try to speak over the sound of rushing water. “What makes you think Christ would be bad at hide and seek?”

“People find that guy everywhere.” Fat gives me an isn’t-it-obvious face. “If he were better at hiding, our world would have no use for Christian Mingle.”

“The dating site?” I twist the tap so the water just trickles over my thumb.

Fat smiles, “Very good, Boss. Sometimes I question your comprehension level, but not today.” Fat balances on her hind legs while her front paws lift up and brace just above my knee. “What’s with the muffins, Betty Crocker?”

In spite of the fact she can’t see the countertop, I point at the motif of spilled ingredients. Apparently I am capable of creating a great mess in a spur-of-the-moment decision to try this domestic thing.

“I had this great desire for a fresh-baked muffin and a latte.” I nod at the countertop espresso machine. “And I got a new book from the library, I was going to sit on the patio and just enjoy quiet indulgence this afternoon.” I don’t get annoyed with Fat leaning against my leg until her claws gently try to pierce my skin. My leg retreats immediately, but it’s not fast enough to make her fall with disgrace. Damn cats and their ability to land on their feet.

“Offence intended, but that’s a lame way to spend a free afternoon.”

“The saying is ‘No offense’–“

Fat cuts me off, “Don’t correct me. I meant it the way it sounded.”

“…And quiet time is highly necessary. I’ve had some massive mad monkeys the last while and I just want chill out.”

“Yeah. Your life is so hard.” It’s a shame Fat’s icy sarcasm can’t be used to soothe my burning thumb.

I lift my hand and inspect the minor burn.

Fat continues in a whiny voice, “I went to a Caribbean Festival and the beach this weekend. Then I took in a night of theatre. Children in third world countries have no idea what rough is. Vancouver life is hard.” Her mock misery face only lasts a few seconds before her fangs make an appearance with her smile. “Somebody save me from my misery.”

“I’m not miserable. Life is lovely right now. That’s what you think my inner monologue sounds like?”

“No. I was merely breathing vocabulary into the Neanderthal grunts you consider intellectual thought.”

The water turns off and I carefully pry one of the muffins out of the baking tray.

“Thanks, Fat.”

Fat swipes a paw across her brow with phony relief. “Phew, I was worried you weren’t going to get the compliment there.”

I say nothing, just eye her with contempt.

“You’re a simple creature, Boss. It doesn’t take much to make you happy. Or as your people would say,” Fat finishes the sentence with screeching monkey sounds.

Vacation: Hour One

Dear Fat,
I took a guess and figured you’d be nosing through my emails while I’m away. I trust you found this letter in the draft folder and just couldn’t help yourself to a peek. Chelsea won’t be by to feed you until she’s off work – can you do me a favour and make sure that I didn’t leave the hair straightener turned on? I know you probably read that and thought something like, “Nothing doing, wench,” but you really should make sure it’s not plugged in; it’s not me that will die if the apartment catches fire. I’m just saying… you’re going to want to take clean up after my carelessness. My apologies, that could have been more sensitive. For the record, I don’t want you to die in a fire. I’m sure your fur is much too flammable.
Listen, I’m sorry that you’re mad that I left without giving you any warning. It’s only a week – enjoy the solitude. Mutt is over at the chef’s house. You can spend the quiet week pouring through the internet reading articles for unlicensed wannabe shrinks. Sorry, that could have come out a little nicer. You’ve been a great help at times. We probably shouldn’t discuss the times you have been less than helpful and I’ve wanted to search Craigslist for a kitty guillotine.
As I’m sure you can guess from the correspondence, I’ve arrived at Mead Manor and I’m in good company. My stepsister and I have both been busted on the cooking front and the parents have decreed that the two of us will be throwing together tonight’s dinner. The fact that she and I both gravitate toward men that know their way around a kitchen isn’t an accident; it’s a sign of intelligent upbringing. But with beer in hand, we’ve got great plans for protein skewers, roasted peppers and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. We’re working the ol’ Mead standby – keep everyone’s drinks full and cook slowly so the alcohol has time to warp judgement. You know, just in case.
Believe it or not, I will actually miss your company this week, Fat. Tell Chelsea I say hi.
Love,
Boss

 


 

Dear idiot Boss,
I expect you’ll find your straightener inside your suitcase. You packed it last night, remember? Obviously not, your ability to be a complete buffoon seldom surprises me anymore. That hair iron is an extra limb to a vain person like yourself; at least the hazard is out of the apartment for the time being – the hazard being you, of course. If I may also go on record, I don’t want you to perish in a fire either – I’d much prefer to get the satisfaction of suffocating you myself.
No, I’m not upset that you abandoned me to go wakeboard or whatever it is you do in Kelowna. One quick thing to note: if you find a hairball in your underwear drawer, it was an accident. Sincerely.
Oh, Boss. This almost seems like a letter to grandma. It’s cute that you think I care about you cooking dinner. I don’t. You left me and my ability to care about your life has also abandoned the apartment. Funny how that works.
I’ll be scooting my ass over as many surfaces as I can in your absence; I know how you love that. Please let that image gnaw at your brain for the duration of your time away.
Regards,
Fat

 

Never the Barn Raiser

“There’s my prize pig. Glad you finally made your way home. Did you nab the blue ribbon at the county fair?”

Fat dryly acknowledges my presence from her place on the carpet in the centre of the living room. She flips the page of the newspaper, feigning indifference to my arrival. If she were more committed to the bit, she would realize she’s pretending to read the paper upside down.

“No, but I didn’t come home empty-handed.” I shake the thick plastic Ziploc baggie that’s so heavy it makes my arm muscles twitch. It’s only now that her comment registers in my brain. “Prize pig? If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black.”

“You’re better than that cliché, boss.” Fat looks up and smiles – as though the cliché is more offensive than labelling me as a porker. She licks the pad of her paw and flips the page dismissively.

Fury overtakes my face, I feel like the vein in my forehead is throbbing with such intensity it might detach itself and retire in the Bahamas – its been so overworked since Fat came into my life. The pulsing just above my temple serves the feline a warning that she needs to retract the insult. “C’mon, you can’t take that seriously with all those workouts you fit in through the week. Stop with this juvenile response. Try a little tenderness.”

It’s not exactly an apology, but I can’t be upset when she quotes Otis. I exude instant calm.

“Now going back to that prize you’re holding. I notice the top-shelf container – or lack thereof – and it tells me that you were at the chef’s house where he cooked you a fine meal. To that end, I would like to make another observation.”

The fridge light fills the kitchen as I put the leftovers in the fridge. Since he doesn’t trust me to return his Tupperware, I should start bringing my own any time I venture to his place for dinner. The lobster risotto deserves better than this.

“Even if I say you can’t make an observation, it won’t stop you from saying things. Go for it.” The fridge shuts and I turn on the lamp so we’re not sitting in near-darkness.

The good doctor beams, “You know me so well.” Fat theatrically flips another page of the paper, “I just can’t help but notice that you cooked chicken the other night and survived. Didn’t even get ill. You also seemed to enjoy the result of you labourous efforts in the kitchen” Fat’s head moves from left-to-right as though she’s trying to make me believe she’s actually reading an article on summer gardening in the lifestyle section.

“What’s your point?”

“It’s just interesting is all.” A sing-song hum comes from Fat. It’s akin to when a slow lullaby plays in a horror movie. Unsettling to say the least.

She continues her made up tune as I open the patio door to let some fresh air in the apartment. It’s actually quite windy. A collection of Mutt’s hair that I brushed off of him earlier gets pushed from outside on the patio through the living room by a sudden gust. The white hair blows like a tumbleweed across the pale carpet and finally stops once it connects with Fat’s face.

The feline sits up straight, surprised and confused as the hair that clings to her chin.

“You look like an Amish man.”

Without freaking out, Fat casually slides her paw across her jaw and removes her fake beard. She delicately drops the dog hair beside her on the floor. “Yeah, well, I was always more of a hell raiser than a barn raiser.”

“Still are.” The humid temperature in our home dissipates and it already feels degrees cooler.

Fat begins to hum her creepy tune again.

“Seriously, Fat. What?”

“You’re just a lot more capable than you let people believe. You’re funny like that, boss.”

“What are you talking about, Fat?”

“Oh nothing.” Fat’s attention goes back to the upside-down paper; she flips the page again. “Would you look at that? The U.S. Open is coming up. That’s neat.”

Office Hours: Feed Bags and D-Bags

“Ordinarily, I’d be pissed that our session was interrupted, but that disgusting bag you’re holding smells amazing.”

I’m pretty sure I left the apartment when Fat was mid-sentence in order to go and get my nosh on. When one receives a text saying that food is at the front door, the non-cook will stop everything, including fake therapy, to investigate. I was gone for five minutes, tops.

Fat has been perched on the backrest of the couch all afternoon. Her phony spectacles are on her face and her paws have disappeared underneath rolls of furry flab. Fat’s tiny nose reaches into the air when the aroma wafts over.

“This disgusting bag,” it’s still hot, so I hold the giant Ziploc firmly by the zipper, “is my alimony lasagna. Ground turkey, obscene amounts and varieties of mushrooms, topped with fresh, sliced mozzarella…” I gaze dreamily at the bag of food that has shifted from the shape of a casserole dish to a sloppy, tomato sauced mess.

Fat, also affected by the intoxicating scent of a home-cooked meal, closes her eyes and licks the sides of her mouth as though she can taste it. Her eyes stay closed and her words come out pointedly, “I still maintain that you should have asked for more than lasagna. A cedar-plank salmon at the very least.”

“In hindsight, yes. But frankly, I didn’t actually expect him to bake me a lasagna and personally deliver it to the apartment.” I think back to last week when I requested the dish – alimony lasagna was asked for in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Ex-boyfriends of years previous weren’t supposed to act at my whim. From experience, ex-boyfriends generally behave like d-bags. This entire endeavor is quite foreign.

“What’s with the presentation, anyways? Certainly he could have given you something better than a Ziploc bag.”

I sigh. “He doesn’t trust me to return his Tupperware.”

“Is he wrong to think that way?”

My head tilts from one side to the other as I weigh his rationale. “No. But to be fair, I always intend to bring plastic containers back to their rightful owners.”

I’m still standing in the middle of the living room, dumbfounded, clutching the plastic bag. In spite of the food looking like ass, it truly does smell like heaven. I leave it on the kitchen counter to cool and resume my spot on the couch, with the feline near my head.

Instead of letting me resume my rant on how April has chapped my ass, Fat continues along the current stream of conversation.

“It’s interesting. You’re not trusted with alimony lasagna in Tupperware, but I can’t help but notice that care packages from your parents come in things like yogurt containers. No Tupperware from them either.”

I sit up, grabbing the pillow from behind my head. I give it a few good whacks, replace it, and recline once again.

“I returned Bestie’s Lord of the Rings movies. That’s something.” That’s kind of the same thing.

Amusement lights Fat’s green eyes. “That’s only because you said that they frustrated you to the point where they needed to be out of your home or you would go psycho killer on those blu-rays.” She looks down at me from her perch with a grin, “if you recall, that’s more or less a direct quote.”

Yes. I remember. It was a good thing carbs were weighing me down that day or my get-up-and-go would have made those movies see their own horrible demise.

“Well excuse me for not comprehending the plot.”

Fat pushes the fake glasses on top of her head and her paw rubs her eye with tremendous aggravation. “Perhaps watching the films in order would have helped build a bridge of understanding.” She takes a moment and composes herself. The wire spectacles find their perch across her grey nose. “We’ve gotten a little off topic. Let’s try to reel this back in. What kind of horrible things did you do in exchange for that lasagna?”

“Nothing!” I shout, trying to convince her of my innocence. Apparently a girl can’t receive a pasta dish from an ex-beau without it meaning something.

“Oh, boss. You can be such a naive fool. Ex-Boyfriends don’t behave this way without a reason.”

Her tone gives me something else to add to the growing list of things I currently hate.

“He’s either attempting to poison you or,” she looks out the window, trying her best to be dramatic, “he’s looking for an opportunity to hit it and quit it.”

A New Kind Of Alimony

“You know I’m not fond of you waking me through the night.”

I frown at Fat while grabbing a handful of Cap’n Crunch from the box. Fat delicately laps from her water dish, oblivious to my sour puss. I change the song playing on my iPhone then continue packing a lunch for work.

Once Fat’s thirst is quenched, she looks up at me. She licks the residual water from the corners of her mouth and blinks more times than needed.

“I told you I’d let you know when I came up with something. Excuse me for not leaving you hanging.”

“That was two days ago. There’s a statute of limitations on how long you have to deliver on a joke. Waking me up after 1:00 a.m. this morning was beyond unnecessary.” I drop the cereal into a plastic container. Fat’s ears lift at the sound, acutely attuned to the noise similar to her food dish being filled. When she realizes that it’s not the tinny sound of her bowl, Fat’s ears revert with disappointment to their previous state.

“It was a compliment. I like the smell of canned tuna.” Fat smiles genuinely. It hurts me that this is considered a compliment in the feline world. When she hears the second handful of dry cereal hit the Tupperware her face briefly lights with hope before she comes to the same realization as before and her anticipation deflates.

I crouch down in front of a lower cupboard to grab a granola bar and cup of ramen noodles. Fat comes and sits beside me while I contemplate grabbing some corn chips as well.

“So…” She draws out the word and looks at the food in my hands. Fat waits for me to read her mind, but after several seconds of silence, she realizes that’s not going to happen. “You ever going to learn how to feed yourself or is this the kind of nutrition,” she nods obviously at my lunch, “you’ll be enjoying for the rest of your cat-lady days?”

“What are you talking about?” She’s staring right at my work lunch. I don’t understand this feline. I remember there are some baby carrots in the fridge. I’ll grab some of those too.

Fat’s eyes follow me as I stand, toss the noodles and granola bar in my lunch bag and root through the fridge until I find the bag of carrots. I grab one and take a bite.

Maybe she didn’t hear my question. “What’s up, doc?”

Fat shakes her head. “What are you doing? An homage to your childhood?” She waits for me to swallow my food before she continues. “We haven’t really discussed much of what happens now that you’re all alone again.” Fat interrupts when I open my mouth to protest. She holds her paw up to force silence upon my vocal cords. Her voice comes out tired, “Yes, girl power. You don’t need a man. You’re a self-sufficient, independent woman, new age hunter/gatherer and whatever other crock pot clichés you’re packing. I mean no offense, but you don’t know how to cook, boss. I don’t desire to perish in a kitchen fire while watching another attempt.”

The feline looks genuinely concerned, though I’m quite certain it’s more for the threat on her life instead of my abysmal domestic skills.

“Fat, have some faith in me. I’ve got it all figured out.”

I swear I see Fat wince at the thought of me in an apron. I do my best to ignore it. I can’t be offended by the truth.

“As you may recall, the less-recent Ex-Boyfriend, with whom I share Mutt, is a red seal chef.” I grab my phone off the kitchen counter and check the time. Four minutes before I have to leave for work or I’ll miss my bus.

Fat shoots me a look of bitch-please-don’t-travel-down-that-road.

“Hear me out. I pay for all of Mutt’s food, vet bills, prescriptions, what have you. I’ve never asked for any sort of compensation for covering all of that. Therefore, I think that if he wants to continue to share Mutt with me, he should provide me with some sort of…” My still-tired brain reaches for some kind of term that will work, “edible alimony if you will.”

“Bitch, you crazy. Nobody would agree to that.”

I look down at the iPhone still in my grasp and go into my messages. There in plain text, is a response to a text I sent in the not-so-distant past.

“A pan of lasagna will be here on Thursday.” I throw my hands in the air like I’m in a nineties rap video and give Fat the you-can-suck-it face before turning the screen in her direction.

Fat’s eyes widen with surprise as she reads the text. “Not sure that I entirely agree with your methods, but if you can get fed properly through use of extortion I suppose I can’t fault you.” Her eyes squint as she reads something else on the screen. “You sent this at 1:13 a.m.?

“For some reason I was awake at that time.” I glare again at Fat, who, out of habit of my morning routine is planted in front of her food bowl. First I make lunch, then feed the good doctor. “It seemed like it was worth a try. Better to ask for something like this when he’s had time to tip back a few bottles, am I right? Alexander Keith’s got my back.”

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.”

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?”

Forming Hypochondria

“What is that rank smell?”

When I hear the judgement in her tone, I pull the turtle move; my head disappears through the neck hole of my t-shirt and I camp out inside hoping she won’t see me. I stay curled up like that for what feels like fifteen minutes. The silence gives me hope that she’s gone off to drink out of the toilet or hide in the closet. I poke the top of my head out, keeping everything below my nose hidden.

“Hello.” She’s on the armrest of the couch, at eye level and less than a foot away.

“Shit.” I pull the collar of my shirt down; no sense hiding anymore.

“That’s one. You went over your limit yesterday, so I’d try not to throw another one out there until the day after tomorrow just to balance out the average of curse words.” Fat’s nose lifts to the air, “Seriously, what is that smell? Did you start an at-home crematorium service?” She catches my guilty glance to the kitchen. “You didn’t? A third fire?”

I cringe, “Not exactly. Oh Christ.” I jump off the couch and rush to the patio door. The background sound of rain becomes louder when I pull the door open. I lean against the doorway and pile my hair on top of my head in a sloppy bun. I flap my fingers back and forth creating the worst makeshift fan in the world. My spine presses into the frame, the coolness making the situation marginally better. Eyelids heavy, my gaze glosses over the grey sphere on the couch. “Fat, I think I’m going through the change.”

She yawns, her mouth so wide it’s like seeing sunrise and sunset at the same time.

“Seriously. That smell? Some of my hair fell out and landed on the stove when I was making soup. I can’t regulate my temperature and my hormones are out of control.” I shriek the last part as I wipe the sweat from my brow.

Fat slumps over and rests her head on the couch. “Perhaps an exorcism is the way to go? Demon be gone!” One of her paws lazily stretches forward, she briefly extends her claws and then gingerly tucks her paw back under her portly self. She chuckles to herself, “Menopause.”

“You think this is funny?”

She offers me a droll expression. “Why are you making soup?”

“Because I’m feeling pretty gnarly. It feels like somebody’s scrubbing my throat with a brillo pad. I may or may not throw up.” Exhausted, I walk two steps and collapse on the chez lounge side of the sectional.

“Uh huh.” She waits, expecting me to come to a logical conclusion – a destination where I never arrive. “Have you looked around this apartment? Your hair is everywhere.”

“As is yours.” The words come out sounding like my throat is dusted in chalk. My head dangles over the side of the couch and I look at her upside-down.

“Uh huh.” She drags it out longer this time, possibly hoping that it will bring me closer to the point she’s trying to demonstrate. My jaw goes slack and hangs open and my eyes drift across the room. “Really?” I vaguely hear the annoyance in her voice. “You have a fever, fool. Take the soup off the stove and go to bed.”

“This menopause is killing me. Fat, to you I bequeath the Mutt. Take good care of him.”

Fat jumps down and crawls under the desk. “I want no part of this anymore. Sickness amplifies your idiocy.”

Culinary Prowess and Fire Drills

“I thought you were going to ‘Gordon Ramsay this mother’,” Fat’s paws form air quotes around the words I uttered an hour ago. She peers into my bowl of yogurt and granola. “That doesn’t look like eggs florentine.” Fat gives me a quick once-over and doesn’t attempt to hide her distaste, “idiot.”

The spoon clangs on the bowl’s edge when I face the bitchy feline. “I didn’t have any eggs–”

“–and by eggs you mean any ability in the kitchen whatsoever.” She scuttles to the next couch cushion over to avoid a smack to her backside. Like I would do that while I have food precariously balanced on my lap.

My mouth opens in protest, but I’m at a loss for a legitimate rebuttal. The silence only gives Fat a platform to keep talking.

“Case and point: you’ve had not one, but two kitchen fires since your ex moved out. Bravo.”

“Nobody was hurt. And two my credit, one of those had nothing to do with a cooking attempt. It was due to negligence while making tea.” I pick up my spoon; instead of using it for the correct purpose, I tap it on my chin thoughtfully then point it at Fat with my question. “That last statement hurt my case a little, didn’t it?”

A giddy smile grows on her face as Fat closes her eyes and nods. At least I gained something from the experience; if you use a tea towel to take the kettle off the stove, make sure it doesn’t dangle and hit the burner. Lesson learned.

“You ever think about actually trying to do good in the kitchen instead of evil?”

“Nope.” The answer is a knee-jerk reaction.

With a slight tilt of the head she shoots me a look of certainty. “We’re going to get sued at some point. I’m calling it now.”

“It’ll be okay. I know some firemen.”

“I know you like to stand by your domestically-challenged guns, but perhaps a little effort on your part to–” Fat’s head twists quickly and her attention snaps to the window. She stares, unblinking.

“What?” I squint at the window to see what she’s scrutinizing.

A few beats of silence pass until Fat lets out a sigh of exasperation. She volunteers an answer to my question, sparing the trouble of having to repeat myself. “Just my reflection in the glass. You’d think I’d know by now.” Her shoulders slouch and she hangs her head.

“Who’s the idiot now?”

Fat’s ears stand up and her head lifts. She jumps down to the carpet, twists onto her back and rolls from side to side while shouting, “Stop, drop and roll. Stop, drop and roll!”