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.”

Because I Love You…

“How’s the V.D. going?” Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and stares at the open window on my laptop. The pictures of shrimp and noodles momentarily capture her attention.

I glare at her. “Can you let that go already? It’s not my fault syllabus and syphilis sound similar. It was 2008; get over it.”

“Let’s reminisce once more for old time’s sake.” Fat snickers as she repeats a quote that has haunted me for the last six years, “I checked out the syphilis from my Marketing professor. That shit sucks.” The feline’s head dips down as she laughs, her forehead rests on the edge of the computer screen. “That poor woman. If only she knew the accidental lies you told about her.”

“You done?” I watch Fat’s belly jiggle as the laugh gradually works its way out of her system. Thankfully, this was a sentence shared with a feline and not another human.

A grey paw dabs the moisture from her left eye. “You are too precious, boss. I meant, how’s the Valentine’s Day going?”

“Huh?” My brain takes a moment to process the fact that her previous question was not, in fact, about venereal disease.

“Today. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uh huh.” My finger uses the touchpad on the laptop to scroll through the page one more time. I’m not sure why, I called twenty minutes ago to order the food. Now I’m wishing I added the spring rolls. Damn it.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

I stop scrolling and my head tilts to look at Fat. “Did you finally give up on the phony therapist thing and decide to become the world’s most annoying calendar instead? I’m aware that it’s Valentine’s Day.” I stress the word for her benefit.

“And you’re here with me waiting for Chinese food to arrive. You must be what they call an old school romantic.” Fat silently moves to sit behind the computer screen.

Fuck it; I’m starving. I get up and open the door to the snack cupboard. Puffy Cheetos. Yes. The bag crinkles as I pinch the sides and pull the plastic open. I don’t respond to Fat. Instead she watches me snack on the toxic orange puffs. After only a couple Cheetos, the fingers of my right hand become coated in a fine simulated-cheese dust.

“Why are you staring at me like that, Fat?”

Her head has lopped to the side, and her mouth hangs slightly open in a disgusted kind of way. “I was so surprised when you landed yourself a man but it would appear that you have no desire in keeping him. And he loves you in spite of the V.D.”

“I don’t have V.D.”

“That’s not the rumour around your old campus.” Fat smiles with that all too familiar evil glint in her eye.

“You’re an asshole.”

Fat shakes her head insistently. “No, you’re the asshole. Today of all days you need to give Boyfriend attention and show some kind of emotion of the loving variety. He puts up with all of your stupid shit and your one redeeming quality is that you call to order Chinese food? Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.” The bitch feline seems genuinely disappointed in my lack of Valentine effort. I close the laptop leaving orange smudges from my fingertips.

“Christ.” I sit and think for a moment. “I have to do something, don’t I?”

Fat quickly nods, “I would.”

“Well fuck me,” As the words come out of my mouth I glare at the cat, “Swallow those words in your mouth right now. The V.D. train has left the station. No more comments. You’re done.”

Fat steps back with fake surprise mimicking a young  ingénue, “I would never…”

“Shut up, Fat.” I wipe my Cheeto fingers on my jeans and grab my purse. I holler in the most romantic tone I’m capable of – something that makes me sound like a bona fide woodsman, “Boyfriend, grab your coat, we’re going out.”

Boyfriend comes out of the bedroom, delightfully surprised that the plan is no longer to stay in tonight doing nothing.

God damn it, Cupid. You win this round.

An afterthought: I forgot about the Chinese food. Probably won’t be allowed to order from there anymore…