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.”

A Curious Understudy for My Heart’s Desire

“I want mac and cheese!”

I swear the sound of muffled laughter follows my announcement. My neck snaps to look downward to Fat, sitting calmly at my feet by the entryway. I grab my keys off the hall table and shove them in my pocket. The intense eye contact persists throughout the small action.

“What?” Fat’s eyes narrow, trying to dissect the look I give her.

“I’m serious. I want mac and cheese!”

“Boss, calm down. There’s no need to yell.” Fat licks a paw and rubs it against her face.

My eyes widen. Yell? I thought I merely made a statement declaring my strong desire for carbohydrates. I had no idea such a tremendous want came with amplified volume. My voice adjusts to an indoor level. Ever since I started thinking of Bestie’s mac and cheese last week, the memory of its creamy deliciousness haunts me. It’s complete addict behaviour.

“You know what this is, don’t you?” Fat finishes washing her face and gives me a knowing gaze. “It’s addict behaviour.”

“I just said that.”

Fat shakes her head, “No, you didn’t.”

My brain abandons its lust of pasta to pursue recent memory. Maybe I just thought the thing about addict behaviour. Either way, it’s concerning.

“I think I’m going crazy.”

“Stating the obvious, lady. That’s why you made me your therapist.”

I mutter, “You’re a self-appointed therapist. If you were court-appointed I might pay more attention.”

“With your stupid behaviour I imagine that is only a matter of time. You need to distract yourself from this fleeting obsession with cheesy, fatty pasta. Get out of the house.”

My phone lights up to show me the time. “I’m trying. I actually need to get to the bank before it closes.” It’s going to be a close one. I might even have to run.

I open the front door as I wrestle to get my sandals on. While bent over, my untamed hair cascades, putting a divide between Fat and I.

“Well that’s interesting.” The sentence sounds broken the way Fat says it. The odd breaks between her words makes me curious. I part my wild hair like an explorer in an overgrown jungle so I can observe the feline. She looks beyond me and at the doorway, head cocked to the side as though perplexed. I turn and see it too.

A lone box of Kraft Dinner occupies the space within the door frame. Fat and I exchange confused looks and both race to look up and down the hallway for a hint as to who left it for us to find.

Fat eyes Jesse’s door with accusation. I follow her stare and recall the laughter after my initial loud announcement.

“You think?” I watch Jesse’s door for a sign of life. Nothing happens.

“If I may quote myself,” Fat looks from the neighbour’s door to the box of KD, “that’s interesting.” IMG_2672[1]

Bestie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“Do you look sad because it’s raining? On tv, people are always sad when it’s raining.”

I stop staring at the summer thunderstorm and look at Fat. She’s chewing on the ear of a toy mouse with frenzy but she still manages to read my face. The bell inside the stuffed rodent jingles as she thrashes around with it.

“No, Fat. If rain made people sad, Vancouverites would be the most miserable people in the world.” I stare back at the mesmerizing litres of water falling from the sky. Maybe it will turn everything green again. “Not to say that some of them aren’t.”

Fat rolls backward almost losing grip of her mouse, but manages to snag it by the tail with her claws. “Maybe all those miserable people are just on their periods all the time – both women and men. You know, I bet it’s a side effect of the red tide.” Fat freezes dramatically as if struck by an epiphany. “Is that where the phrase ‘surfing the crimson wave’ comes from?”

I almost smile. “That’s from Clueless, Fat.” I watch the puddles forming on the balcony. “And I’m not sad, I was just reminiscing.”

“Oh yeah? About what?” Fat abandons her toy to jump up beside me on the couch. When she purrs, I’m inclined to pet her.

The rain sounds like the rat-a-tat sound of children pretending to shoot guns. “Bestie used to live a five minute walk away. I’m still getting used to her not being right there.”

“I thought you said she moved to East Van.” Fat’s head tilts with misplaced comprehension.

I nod. “Yeah. She did.”

“So she’s like a fifteen minute drive away. Not something to be mopey about.”

“That’s dependent on traffic,” I announce with the dramatic flair usually reserved for teenage angst. “Fifteen minutes when there are no other cars on the road maybe.”

The feline’s jaw falls open and just hangs there for a moment as she assesses my sincerity. “This is a problem for you?” Her eyes light up, “oh my God. You care.” Fat bursts out laughing.

I turn away from her and stare out the window again, “Shut up, Fat.” It’s hard to hide emotion for something so close to my heart.

The good doctor laughs so hard the sound disappears and all I can see are the shudders of her shoulders as she shakes with giddiness.

My phone beeps and I check it as Fat heaves with a massive case of the giggles.

“I completely forgot it was gym day today.” I groan and reply to the message that I can be ready in five minutes.

“Who are you going to the gym with?”

“Bestie.” I almost add ‘duh’ after the mention of her name. I don’t go to the gym with anybody else; you only let true friends see your disgusting, sweaty gym self.

“Problem solved I guess.”

“What problem?” I frown when I realize that I still haven’t washed my gym clothes from last week.

“You said you missed Bestie.”

My nose wrinkles when Fat misunderstands my wistfulness. “I didn’t say that. Don’t misquote me. I miss living near her. It’s raining and I want homemade mac and cheese. That woman makes the best comfort food ever.”

Porker Face

“It would seem there’s a reason this is called Pocket Pie and not Purse Pie.” I’m crouched on the kitchen floor rooting around my oversize purse. I pull my fingers out of the bag, covered in strawberry rhubarb. It makes one wonder about the appropriateness of the name; I can’t imagine the judgemental looks I would get wandering down the street with strawberry rhubarb oozing out the back pocket of my jeans.

“And where were you this evening?” Fat watches as I lick the tangy sweetness from my fingers and fish around my bag for the now-barren pastry shell.

“We went down to that night market. Artisans everywhere. The food was amazing.” In the sticky mess of a brown paper bag I find the remainder of the Pocket Pie, squished and broken into flaky pieces. I fling it upward; Fat flinches when it lands on the kitchen counter with a ‘thwap’ sound.

“Yes I can tell. There’s a garden growing between a few of your teeth.”

I make no move to pick the food from my teeth; there is something far more distressing that commands my attention. I usually lack the tendency to gasp at shocking discoveries, but I suck in breath like I’m preparing to dive into the briny deep.

“And all over the bag of kettle corn too.” I weep when I pull out the small plastic bag that looks like it was shot by 1920s mobsters with machine guns.

Fat’s head pokes into my bag and sees the explosion of pie filling. She pries her eyes off the crime scene and slowly her head turns so I can see her vacant expression. “This reminds me, I’m hungry.”

I hug the bag of popcorn to my chest protectively. “Fat, can’t you see I’m in mourning here?” Pie filling on the outside of the bag adheres to my shirt and hair.

Fat rolls her eyes dramatically. “Of course I do. Did your kettle corn leave behind a widow and children? Where should I send flowers?”

“Oh Christ. You don’t have to be an ass about it.” A few hairs are pulled out of my head when I pull the popcorn out of my embrace. I wipe my berry-dyed hands on my pants and grab the bag of cat food. The kitchen echos with the tinny sound of food filling her dish.

Dinner beckons her like a seductress and Fat dives right in. I undo the twist tie around my popcorn and my purple fingers shovel it quickly into my mouth. Watching Fat mowing down her food like it’s a last meal makes me think only one thing that needs to be shared.

“Puh-puh-puh-porker face, puh-puh porker face.”

She swallows the enormous mouthful of kibble. “Lady Gaga? Really?”

I escort another handful of popcorn in my mouth. “Lady Gaga and calling you a pig at the same time.”

Fat stares at me, making sure she has my full attention before she offers her rebuttal. “You’re not even a savant. Just an everyday idiot.”

Folksy Wisdom and Inaccurate Conclusions

“Why are you eating with your fingers when your fork is right there?” Fat pointedly stares at the fork balanced precariously on the side of my plate before judging me with her expression.

My feet are up on the desk while I eat; I recline further back in the office chair. Our eyes lock while my fingers pinch more of the salad on my plate and shove the mixed greens into my gullet. A stubborn spinach stem pokes out of the corner of my mouth when I defensively answer, “I don’t know.”

“You must have been a rabbit or some kind of rodent in a former life.”

My head tosses from side to side in disagreement while I chew.

“You don’t believe in reincarnation?”

“Oh please. Of course I do. I just disagree on the rabbit front.”

Fat leans over my plate and scopes out the salad. A curious paw reaches out to touch the remaining greens. When I see her going for it, I grip the edges of my plate and reel backward to stop her from molesting my food with litter paws. The reaction is a little too overzealous, and I throw off my own balance. I sacrifice my salad to save my pride; I let the plate fall and grab the edge of the desk so I don’t go ass-over-teakettle like my dinner. Lettuce scatters like confetti, the plate lands upside down on the carpet and my fork ends up under the desk. I wasn’t finished. Damn.

I sit forward in my chair as I reach for the fallen fork. “I wonder who this could be.” I set the unused and now-dirty fork down on the desk.

Fat jumps down to investigate the mess on the floor. “You wonder who what could be?”

“Granny says that if you drop a fork it means a woman is coming to visit. Shame it wasn’t a knife, that means a fellow’s coming over.”

“You’ve dropped enough knives lately. A woman, huh?” She sniffs a piece of arugula and her jaws snap around it like a bear trap. She bites a couple of times until realization hits and her face contorts like she’s licking a donkey hoof. She spits the lettuce back on the floor. “That’s not very good. If you weren’t a rabbit in a former life, you were definitely something that ate grass or chewed a cud. My new hypothesis is a cow.” Fat looks me up and down, “But why would you reincarnate as the same thing?”

“If anything, Fat, I was a flamingo.” I point at the mess on the floor, “You want some more of this?”

Fat shakes her head with great fervour, “Not without dressing or some kind of meat.” There’s harsh judgement all over her face when she squints at me, “Bring the meat back into the house, bitch.”

I raise my hands like she’s pulled a gun on me, “Easy, Fat. We still eat fish.” I feel a little uncomfortable with the threatening tone that just came out of her; she sounded like the frontman in a metal band.

“Why a flamingo?”

“What?” I’m taken aback by the sudden flip of her personality. She’s become nice cat again.

“You said you used to be a flamingo. Explain yourself.”

I finally get out of the chair and kneel on the carpet, putting the floor salad back on the plate, leaf by goddamn leaf. “I don’t know.” I don my thinking face: air passes back and forth between my cheeks as I stare off in the distance. “Got it. If I’m standing still, I like to balance on one leg. Wading in shallow water is a favourite pastime of mine, and if I do say so, I look stunning in pink.” I push myself off the floor, plate in hand. I stop with my knees bend and back curled over so my Face is parked in front of Fat’s. “Pink, is my new obsession. Pink, it’s not even a question…” I serenade Fat with Aerosmith. It seems applicable.

“You know what that song is about, don’t you?”

I straighten up and grab the fork off the desk, using it to spear some of the floor salad. It’s not until I’ve put the lettuce in my mouth that I come to two realizations. The first is that one should not eat food off the floor when one has a cat that sheds as Fat does; I spit the half-masticated greens back on the plate and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.

The second realization, Fat verbalizes for me. “A woman’s coming to visit, huh?”