Cinderella Would Understand

“Fat, what are you doing in here?”

The gentle snoring ceases. Her grey head shifts a half-inch to the right when my words rouse her from what is likely hour six of an afternoon nap. One of the feline’s eyes opens a tiny fraction and sees me kneeling above her.

“What are you doing here? This is my fortress.” After a couple blinks, both her eyes find their way to half-open. Her neck rolls backward so she can look up to the rest of the contents of the overstuffed closet. “It’s impossible to find anything in here; the perfect place to hide out.”

She’s managed to flip the lid off one of the shoe boxes in the closet and wedged her rotund body into the box amongst the summer heels. A lion’s yawn escapes her gigantic mouth.

“You’re sleeping with my brunch shoes. What’s the matter with you?”

“I think the better question is: what kind of person has brunch shoes? I’ve never even seen you wear these.” She redistributes her weight around the champagne heels, settling back into slumber with both eyes once again closed.

I hold up an index finger pointedly. “Okay, first of all, those are summer brunch shoes. Second, you have enough places to flop around here, get out.” I shake the blue shoebox until the displeased feline jumps out.

“Hey!” The word is blanketed by a hiss. “I don’t force you out of hiding when you’re avoiding somebody. That’s just rude, is what that is.”

“Who are you avoiding?”

“Mind your business, Boss.”

“Fine.” I kneel and continue my rummaging through the mountain of boxes, opening each one to see if they hold the footwear I’m looking for. Eventually, box eight or nine has them. I pull out boots that match the feline in colour, with a black wedge heel.

“You haven’t worn those either, it looks like. S’funny.” Fat squeezes her way back into the small space that has exceeded capacity. She nudges close to her recently vacated nap space.

“What’s funny?”

Fat plays with the string handle of another shoebox, batting it with a Serena William’s style swing. “The fact that you identify yourself as a minimalist.”

“It doesn’t make it untrue. I don’t need much to live.”

“The fluffy ones are always the most adorable.” Her forehead elongates as if lifting her eyebrows and Fat gives me the gift of her signature you-are-some-kind-of-stupid look. She mutters under her breath, “It’s like that time you thought you were a feminist because you bought tools.”

“What?” I’m holding the boot in my hand like an oversize pistol.

With a matter-of-fact tone, Fat’s words are clipped and succinct. “You have summertime brunch shoes.”

Mutt saunters into the bedroom in a cavalier manner. He does a double-take when he sees the good doctor out of hiding. His mouth opens wide in a dog smile and his tail becomes a frantic metronome.

“Oh crap.” Fat looks left to right, searching for her best possible exit. She leaps up onto the dresser, and Mutt gives chase. The feline bounds to the bed then races out the door. I hear both of them sprint down the hall as Fat cusses at the simple-minded dog.

I daintily place the boot down on the floor amongst the boxes, now littered across the carpet, and quietly contemplate Fat’s insight.

That bitch is crazy. Even a minimalist needs summertime brunch shoes.

Mornings in the Buff

“I’m not sure what makes you think this is acceptable behaviour. Mutt and I took a vote and we’re both offended.”

Fat hisses from the top of the bookshelf as I saunter into the living room.

My skin is still red and blotchy from the shower. I brush my wet hair with my fingers, pulling several strands out with the attempt; it’s a wonder I haven’t gone bald.

“Mutt isn’t here, Fat.”

“I have implied consent from him that I can speak on his behalf. Put some clothes on. You’ve got nothing to show off, Boss.”

Excess water from my hair collects on my shoulder and the beads run down my ribcage. My still-pruned fingers brush them away when the water reaches my hip.

“I’m air-drying, obviously. It’s a thing.”

The feline leans back as though trying to put more distance between us. “I don’t want to attack your fragile ego here, but your naked human form is all kinds of disgusting. By the way, that mole looks cancerous; you should probably get that checked out.”

I feel my nose wrinkle as I follow her probing stare to my lower stomach. I point at the dark mark and look at the feline, who nods her affirmation.

“That’s a tattoo, you knob.”

She squints, “Are you sure?”

“Entirely.” I pick up a lighter and candle from the coffee table.

As my thumb flicks to ignite the lighter, there’s the distinct sound of jingling keys. I think nothing of it; Crazy Dog Lady across the hall has been coming and going all day as she relocates to the first floor. Then I actually hear it; the sound comes from my lock. Before I can think to smash through the glass door and jump off the balcony, the apartment entrance bursts open and Mutt runs. The Chef follows, oblivious to the unintentional skin show as he turns to shut the door behind him. There are too few seconds before he will turn around and see me in my full glory.

“Cover your shame!” Fat shouts over the din of Mutt’s excitement.

The dog jumps gleefully at my feet as I do my best to cover my member’s only areas while screaming the word “Naked!” repeatedly at a high-pitched frequency. I realize I’m still holding tight to the lighter and candle; they immediately kiss the floor with twin thuds.

“When I said, ‘cover your shame,’ I meant your face. Sick burn!” Fat’s paw lifts into the air like she expects a high five. “Anyone? Chef?” She eventually lowers her paw when she concludes nobody’s going to meet her extended five.

At this time, the Chef has faced the living room and gotten quite an eyeful. He pauses, suddenly struck by the awkward realization that I’m home – in the buff – and he quickly turns to face the door and shield his eyes as though both are necessary. This is a very flattering moment for me.

“Shouldn’t you be at work?” His weight shifts with unease from side to side, illustrating that his discomfort matches my own. He hangs the small bag containing Mutt’s drugs on the handle of the hall closet.

“I took a personal day!” I’m still screaming because I’m trapped in this mortifying position. I grab one of the couch cushions and press it against my front. I feel like my crazy uncle just saw me naked. How do I normalize this situation? “My friend’s boyfriend has a guy crush on Derek Jeter.”

Fat, repulsed and taken aback, does that slow twist of the neck as her eyes bulge, giving me plenty of time to realize I picked the strangest thing to say.

“What?” The chef turns around, momentarily forgetting my lack of shame in the living room to acknowledge my stupidity and sees me hiding behind the tan cushion. “Whoa. That’s gross. I gotta go.” He blushes and races out of the apartment.

That’s gross? I frown, slightly offended.

Fat chuckles, settling herself into a napping position on her throne on top of the bookcase. “So what did we learn today?”

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.”

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.”

Through the Woods

“Well if it isn’t that wretched shrew who abandoned me.” Fat doesn’t even get off the bed pillow to great me at the door. She must be pissed. Mutt gallops through the apartment until he finds his stuffed animal and collapses in the living room with the green alien dog in his teeth and a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I knew I should have brought that thing with us; Mutt was a bastard the whole time without it.

“Hey, Fat.” When my backpack hits the floor, my shoulders rejoice. “What’s been going on?” I finally notice the dirt under my fingernails and grime all over my knuckles and palms. If my hands are a tell-tale sign, I really need to avoid looking in any mirrors.

Fat squints at me with accusation. When I walk into the bedroom she reels backward, scrambling with urgency to get to the far side of the bed.

“What’s your deal?”

A grey paw waves as if to dismiss me from the boudoir. I stop my advance, momentarily forgetting that she’s not the boss of me.

“A couple things, shrew–”

“–You going to keep calling me that?”

“I like it,” she flashes her teeth at me with a smile that is the poster child for evil. “One, you smell like donkey bile, and two, you also look like donkey bile.”

Instinctively, my fingers immediately try to run through my hair, but get tangled amongst the woodsy debris. “Nobody looks or smells good after camping.” When my fingers free themselves from the mess atop my head, I pull a mittful of brunette locks to my nose. The only scent I catch is campfire.

“Camping, how fancy.” She overplays the mocking tone and her devil grin returns.

“How was your time with Bestie? Pretty good I would suppose, you’re looking a little meatier, she fed you pretty good while I was away.”

“Vile bitch.” Her claws extend and puncture the duvet.

“Colossal ass.” My retort is more of a knee-jerk reaction as she and I fall into our familiar, and oddly missed, routine. There is a large pause, and the scope beyond our heated stare blurs. I could wring her neck, I could so easily reach right out and–

The imaginary switch flips and Fat’s scowl becomes a Stepford wife smile. “Had a great time with Bestie. We watched the shopping network, oohed and ahhed over the sparkly jewellery, shared a little gossip, lunched. Lovely woman, that one. Treats me like royalty.” Fat bats her eyes sweetly and deliberately, I almost expect that ‘plink plink’ sound that cartoons have when they do the same thing.

Uneasiness resides in my furrowed brow as well as my speech. “That’s… nice.”

“Tell me, how was camping?” Fat gives me the up-and-down, slowly taking in my wildebeest exterior, “How was the peyote?”

My brow arches deeper and becomes a full-blown frown. “Peyote? I was with my family, idiot.”

“You were gone an awfully long time.” Fat tilts her paw to gaze at an imaginary wristwatch.

“Long enough to watch my little brother turn into a crotchety old man,” I shrug, “It was a few days, tops.”

A sigh of exasperation escapes as her eyes trace the perimeter of their enclosure. “It’s September, moron.”

“I stand by what I said.” I kick off my sneakers and pull off my sweater. It’s going to be nice to emerge from a shower feeling human again. I get tangled inside of my t-shirt when pulling it off, “I love September, so much transition and new adventure starts at the beginning of Autumn.” I throw the shirt to the ground once I free myself from its grasp.

“Did you do some writing for Hallmark during your hiatus?” Fat scoffs. “I’m greatly looking forward to catching up on our sessions, boss.” Her smirk fades and becomes a hardened stare. “You’re seriously just going to pretend you were gone only a few days?”

“Yeah, Fat, I am.” The last of my sweaty-campfire scented clothes hit the ground; the shower beckons.

Fat rolls over, offering an eyeful of her plus-sized rear view as she mutters, “It’s your crazy-ass delusion.”

Both Personalities and a Mountain of Drugs

“Whatcha got there? Groceries for the week?”

Pinched in between my thumb and index finger is a white paper bag with a pharmacy sticker sealing it shut. “You can’t be serious. How does this read as anything but clinical?” I tear into the bag with vigor that drops a small box of maropitant citrate tablets and a bottle of sulcrate suspension on the ground. Another pill bottle, small box and liquid administrators land on the counter.

Fat hustles over to sniff the box of tablets. “This is like the best piñata I’ve ever seen.”

“Don’t. Those aren’t for you, Fat.” I swipe both fallen meds off the floor.

She frowns. “I just want to bat them around a little. I like that the pill bottles sound like maracas.”

Out of habit, I look at the wall where a calendar used to hang. “What’s with the references? Is it Cinco de Mayo?”

“What’s the deal? Finally go see a shrink that is able to prescribe medication to you over the table?” Fat’s tone is a hybrid of judgemental and hurt.

Frustrated, I puff out the air in my lungs to quietly vent my annoyance. “You never listen to me, do you? Mutt has pancreatitis and this cocktail,” I display the drugs like an old school Barker Beauty, “is his new best friend.”

“I thought I was his best friend,” Fat mumbles to herself as she leaves the kitchen to jump onto the office chair.

“Huh?”

Fat scowls. “Was I talking to you? No. I was talking to myself.” Her eyes narrow into an angry squint, “Mind your business, bitch.”

“Christ, Fat.” My hands lift up as I resign from the conversation, “Calm down.”

I grab Mutt’s epilepsy medications and add them to the new arsenal. This dog’s collection rivals any pharmacy. I read the labels and arrange them into an order that will help me administer them properly.

It’s a damn math problem: Two medications have to be taken every eight hours but one on a full stomach and one on an empty one. Two meds every twelve hours on a full stomach, another one first thing in the morning also on a full stomach and the last one every nine hours. In making sure Mutt gets all the required medication, solve the rate of next-morning pleasantness. If this were actually a math problem, there would be grey eraser streaks all over the place. Thankfully it’s a take-home test and I have time to figure it out.

“You look like your mother when you make your thinking face.”

The air in my mouth pushes from my left cheek to the right as I concentrate; I turn to the side and see that Fat once again has an approachable demeanor.

“Henry Jekyll, you old sod. How are you?”

“That’s Doctor to you.” Fat actually breaks out a smile as we fall into the familiar routine.

“My mistake.” I run my fingers through my hair, and though I wrestle with knowing how this will turn out, I can’t help the words that come out of my mouth. “Can I ask you something?”

Fat’s forehead rises with intrigue. “Are we turning this into a session?”

“No.” My right hand shoots up like I’m a traffic cop forcing cars to slam on their brakes. “I’m just spitballing here, but,” just thinking about it makes my chest tighten, “where does one draw the line when it comes to Mutt’s health?” My throat becomes a desert that words have to cross; they barely make it. “This isn’t exactly a lifestyle choice.” I nod with my head to the collection of medications sitting on the counter.

“Maybe not for you.”

“Fat.” The heaviness of her name brings her around to answering my question.

“Angel of Death is the role of a lifetime for you,” Fat sees that I want to interject. “Let me finish. Providing you don’t have to pull the cord, as it were, on one of the few people or animals you’re emotionally tied to. Anybody else, fuck, they’re dead the moment they have the sniffles.”

I look at the backwards clock, time to go grab Mutt from the vet. “So what do you suggest I do?”

“Easy,” Fat’s smile changes from sweet to sociopathic, “Let me be the Angel of Death.”

“Edward Hyde. Welcome back.”

Office Hours: Death Wishes and Ice Cream

“You actually showed up?” Fat looks up to the clock on the wall, “And early too.”

I fight the urge to roll my eyes. “You still don’t know how to read that backwards clock, huh?”

Fat ignores my rhetorical question. “Come. Sit. I just finished with my last session. Your timing couldn’t be better.” Her stomach roll dips so low when she sits on the couch that I can’t see her hind feet.

I sidle over and curl up into my favourite corner of the sectional. “Fat, let’s be real. There are no other patients.”

“Who do you think that is then?”

I lean to the left so I can see who she pointedly stares at. He’s curled up on the floor. His eyes dart around beneath his closed eyelids; he’s completely impervious to our presence.

“Sleeping Mutt does not a patient make.” I throw my head back onto a turquoise pillow. My thumb and index finger form a gun that I hold against my temple; pressing the trigger splatters imaginary brain matter across the newly painted wall. Balls. I’m still mentally and physically present; terrible day for my fingers to be shooting blanks.

Fat gives me a knowing glance before I can reload for attempt number two. “Hypnosis. Poor thing has terrible anxiety. Apparently his adoptive parents think it’s a most wonderful arrangement to have shared custody. It’s causing irreparable problems to his psyche.” Fat looks over her shoulder before she whispers in a conspiratorial manner, “Not to mention the fact that his mother’s a drunk.” Fat goes one step further, looks me up and down making that disrespectful, “tsk tsk” sound, “It would seem that she’s also a hobo.”

Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to escape Fat in the apartment; cutoff pyjama pants and a bandeau aren’t intended for public consumption. I either change out of my clothes and race out the door or sit through this charade and reward my patience with ice cream. Ice cream it is. I do a sideways roll off the couch.

“The session’s not over.”

“Calm down.” I return seconds later with a carton of cookie dough ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other. “By the by, Fat–”

“–Doctor Fat.”

“Isn’t there some sort of patient/fake shrink confidentiality that you just violated by telling me about Mutt’s session?” I pry the lid off the ice cream and toss it on the coffee table.

Fat lazily shrugs, “I don’t know. Maybe. Does that mean I should stop telling my other patients about your so-called ‘fun decisions’?” With dessert in hand, I could care less about her words and air quotes. “Ever hear of a bowl?” I’m already a couple bites in by the time I return to the mental torture chamber that was formerly my favourite spot on the couch.

I pull the spoon from my mouth. “Why start the charade now? Who do I need to impress?”

Fat scrutinizes me, coming to a conclusion that seems to baffle her. “You’re really okay with being alone, aren’t you?”

I scoop more cookie dough than ice cream onto the spoon, “I always have you, Fat.” I catch the annoyance on her face. “I beg your pardon. Doctor Fat. Besides,” I eat the melting mess from my spoon taking my time to swallow before I finish the sentence, “if I wanted to be with somebody for the sake of not being alone I would have settled a long time ago. I deserve better than that, you know?”

“It’s nice you think you deserve better. Living outside of reality must be a trip, huh?” I extend my reach and flick her in the nose with my spoon. Her long tongue touches the tip of her grey nose, and she purrs at the sweet taste of ice cream residue.

“Worst case scenario, it’s you and me until the end, kitty.” Fat’s purring ceases immediately. I set the small amount of ice cream that’s left on the table and my arms wrap around my already-bloated stomach.

Fat sighs with exasperation and looks up beyond the ceiling, “You see what I’m dealing with here? Strike me down at your leisure. Please.”

Neuroses From My Parents

“I think I lost the dog.” I mumble to myself. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Fat in a while either. My number of missing animals just doubled. Clearly, I’m nowhere close to parenthood. “Mutt?” I check the usual places in a precise order. I hike around to the far side of the bed. Nope. Not in the closet or beside the dresser. I walk down the hall and do a perimeter check of the living room. He’s not found there either.

I walk into the bathroom. “Mutt?” Not certain why the idea comes to me but I grab the shower curtain and pull it back.

Fat lounges in the middle of the tub. She lifts her chin when the bathroom light shines on her face; the dark shower curtain no longer filters the amount of light that permeates her hiding spot.

“Oh, Fat. Hey.” She glowers when she picks up on the disappointment in my voice. “Have you seen Mutt? I can’t find him anywhere.”

Her face scrunches up in distaste. “I’m ecstatic and overjoyed to see you too.” She licks a paw and runs it across her face. “Why must you find him?”

“Because… I love him? Because I care.”

Fat’s unamused expression breaks when she hoots with laughter. “Convincing. You say those words like English isn’t your first language. Also, when you lie the corners of your eyes curl up as though you think you’re getting away with something. What’s the real reason you’re looking for Mutt?”

My head hangs in shame; I need to become a better liar. “I want to go for a walk and play at the park.”

Her ears twitch at the mention of the park. “How much wine have you had?” She’s definitely tuned into my vices.

“None. I’m just antsy. Need to do something. Can’t stay cooped up inside.” I catch the smirk on her face. “I don’t need to go to the park every time I get hammered.” I stress the word “need”; she can infer my enjoyment for running barefoot in the grass and climbing on a playground. “So where’s Mutt?”

“He’s not here, stupid. If you recall, your ex-boyfriend picked him up yesterday… you forgot to give him the leash.” Fat tries to prompt me with the detail of Mutt’s leash. “You don’t need to constantly be doing something. Try sitting still for a few minutes. You might really take to it.”

I don’t acknowledge whatever she said after mentioning the leash. I feel the all too familiar wrinkle form in my forehead as I search the archives of my memory. Yesterday… I’ve got nothing. I pull at a strand of my hair and mindlessly pull it between my upper lip and nose like it’s a moustache. Yesterday. Nope. It’s gone. What do I remember from today? Breakfast. What did I have for breakfast?

“Hey, Yosemite Sam. You’ve been staring off into space for a couple minutes now. Lose the hair across your lip unless you’re looking to join a barbershop quartet.” Her words wash over me. She plugs her voice into an amplifier, “Blink if you can hear me.”

I’m pulled from my reverie, and remove the faux moustache from my face. “Huh?”

“You get lost in there?”

I tap my temple, “Mad monkeys.” I stare down at Fat, as if just realizing where I’ve discovered her. “Why are you in the bathtub?”

Fat stretches, elongating her plump body. “It’s cool in here. On another note, it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle at the office.”

“You’re not a shrink, bitch.” Slamming a shower curtain closed does not bring the same effect as a door. When I stomp into the hall I notice Mutt’s leash on the hall table. Maybe he’d like to go for a walk.

I check the far side of the bed, in the closet and beside the dresser. Not there. I wander down the hall and investigate the living room. I find myself in the bathroom again. For some reason I pull the curtain back. Fat stirs from a nap she’s having in the bathtub when the light wakes her.

“What?” The word is curt; It would seem I’m interrupting at a bad time.

“Have you seen Mutt?”

“Go. Leave. I can’t deal with you today.”

A Shot of Compassion With a Chaser of Sociopathic Behaviour

“Stop that, Fat. Unfair advantage!” Carpet burns mark my elbows when I dive to wrestle Fat off of Mutt. She squirms in my arms, clawing the air as though she’s trying to swim her way back to the dog.

“Let go. I was winning.” Fat does her best to evade my grip; I hook an arm around her ribcage and pat Mutt’s head with my free hand. He’s shaking like a damn maraca.

“You only started winning because he’s having an epileptic episode.”

Fat frowns and stops fighting me, “Still counts.” Her claws remain extended.

Tremors shoot through Mutt’s body, and his eyes glaze over. It looks like he’s had too much caffeine and is nodding with tremendous enthusiasm.

“Mutt, should we have you put down?” Fat hollers from the crook of my arm. We watch the uncontrollable nod of his head and Fat gives me a knowing look, “That settles that. Who are we to refute his wishes? I for one, think being an angel of death is the compassionate thing to do in this situation. Euthanize away.”

“We’re only going that route if I can swing a two for one deal.” I watch as her claws finally retract though her glare perpetuates. I cautiously set her down so I can tend to Mutt. I lie down beside him, watching his blank face while I pet him. “It’s okay, buddy.” My pillowy tone changes to barbed wire when I talk to the feline. “Why are you so full of piss and vinegar, anyways?”

“He ate my breakfast.”

“You started eating your breakfast before I even finished filling your bowl.” I take my eyes off of Mutt briefly to see the caught-in-a-lie look on her face.

“Okay, fine. He ate his breakfast before I could get any of it.”

Lines of drool come out of mutt’s mouth. I wipe it with the sleeve of my shirt. “You’re upset because you both got to eat breakfast today?”

“That is correct, madame.”

I move to sit cross-legged and rub his empty belly. “You asshole, Fat. You know he needs to take his meds with food.”

“I also know when I’m hungry and my needs come first.”

Mutt’s jittering becomes a softer sway. “Atta boy, you’re doing very good.”

“Love when he moves like that. Reminds me of Ray Charles.” Fat closes her eyes and imitates Mutt’s movements. “Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through–”

I try to hide my amusement but do a terrible job of it. I continue petting the busted dog, “Devil be damned. Guess I was wrong; you got soul, kitty.”

I watch Mutt blink hard, becoming present once again. He starts licking his chops – a sign that the seizure is coming to an end. Just a small one today.

I look up to see Fat’s head tilted, staring at me like she’s trying to determine the definitive value of pi.

“What, Fat?”

“I’m just astounded at the rate your compassion comes and goes. Perhaps on our next in-office session, I’ll perform tests to assess for bipolar disorder. How do you feel about being a case study?”

“Compassion is waning, Fat. Better get away before I rub tuna into your fur and let Mutt have his way with you.”

“Cruel and unusual punishment. Screw the bipolar diagnostics; you might be a complete sociopath. May I suggest you deal with your exasperation in your traditional fashion instead? Unless… oh God. Are we out of vodka?”