You Ain’t No Friend of Mine

“Breaking news, Boss. May I have your attention please.”

Fat sits in the apartment entryway like she’s been waiting quite a while for me to arrive home. She doesn’t twitch when my purse flings dangerously close to her face before it rolls to an ungraceful stop in the middle of the hallway.

“Today I have decided that I love Elvis Presley.” She waits for my acknowledgement of her less-than-grand declaration, when none comes, she assumes ignorance on my part. “You know, the King of Rock n’ Roll.”

A groan squeezes its way out of my lungs as I try to both manipulate an object bigger than a door through the doorway and force the uncooperative angle from the hallway to be my friend. I’m sweating; it’s not that glistening, dainty sweat that as a child I believed was the only kind of sweating a lady was capable of. I’m sweating like a lumberjack on an August day. My back cries like it’s thrice its age and my current desire is gaining access to a sledgehammer in order to turn this bulky beast of a thing into a manageable pile of shrapnel.

“It’s like you don’t even hear me. Hello, I’d like a response. Big day over here.” Fat’s paw taps with impatience on the carpet.

Frustrated, I set the giant board down and brush loose strands of hair out of my dewy face. “You’re going to have to move, Fat.” Hands find their way to my hips as I stare down at the unmoving feline.

“And if I refuse?” Green eyes glower in my direction and then quickly flip to a more curious state. “What do you have there?”

“This,” I grab an edge of the imitation antique frame and try again to coax the monstrous and unforgiving board around the corner and through the apartment doorway, “is a ginormous chalk board.” I push, pull, pivot and perspire without progress. Piss. My arms and sanity, demanding a break, refuse another attempt. “And of course I couldn’t fit it in the elevator so I wrestled this beauty up the stairs.” I force a smile and there are a couple hearty thuds as I bang my hand against the frame. “I kind of want to die right now.”

“You look like you could use some help, kid.”

Fat’s voice turns sing-song as she peers at the new arrival. “Awk-ward.”

I turn to address the owner of the voice. Jesse stands with a grocery bag, staring at the hallway obstruction. “So, am I supposed to hurdle over this thing or…”

“I’m trying to move it. Trying being the operative word. Just uh…yeah. Jump it.”

Fat interrupts, her head jutting toward the chalkboard. “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

“Don’t.” I swivel and hold up a warning finger to the feline. I feel very like my mother right now.

“If I try to jump it, I might wreck my junk. Can I help you maneuver this mother of all chalkboards inside?”

“Boss, he still wants a piece,” the feline winks grossly. “Don’t mess it up,” she pauses, “again.”

“Stop. Stop it now. This is a no-interest situation.” Unless less than no-interest is a thing. I sigh, reminiscing about former decisions. Bad call, former self.

While I talk, Fat starts to hum and eventually the tune carries lyrics.

“Wise men say only fools rush in
but I can’t help falling in love with you.”

“Seriously, Fat. I’m going to kill you.”

Jesse sets his grocery bag on the floor. “Miss Fat, always with something to meow about. You know, sometimes I swear you two understand what the other is saying.” He points back and forth between me and Fat as though we can’t figure out who he is talking about. “Match made in heaven, I think.”

“What?” Fat’s head snaps upward to eye the neighbour with contempt. “How dare you, sir?”

I must shoot Jesse some kind of awful scowl too because he holds his hands up defensively. “Easy. Legitly, though. You two are some kind of pair.”

“Legitly isn’t a real word, fool.” Fat and I speak in unison and then regard at each other uncomfortably. It’s always uneasy when she and I are on the same page; we seldom get each other.

“Just trying to help here, girls.”

“Uh, thanks for the offer, Jesse, but I really don’t think the board is going to fit without breaking it. Damn. Guess it’s going back to the store.” I start unwedging the board from the doorway. Pity.

“You sure?” Jesse sees the confirmation on my face and takes it as a cue to grab his groceries and dig keys out of his coat pocket. “Alright, well, it was good running into you. See ya.”

I offer him a lazy wave as I wipe forehead sweat on the sleeve of my sweater.

Fat and I both watch as he saunters the ten feet to his door and disappears inside.

Silence.

I carefully lean the chalkboard against the wall.

And then it starts.

“Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It’s down at the end of lonely street
at Heartbreak Hotel.”

“Shut up, Fat.”

Office Hours: New Skills and Old News

“If you made regular appointments I’d have relevant notes.”

Fat, fur askew from a frenzied search through the unkempt file folder in front of her on the coffee table, shoots me a look of distain. Heavy rain hits the balcony, offering a reprieve from total silence.

“Maybe just catch me up on where you’re at with this mess you call a life.”

I sip my wine, carelessly rolling back on the couch with confidence the cushions will catch me. I don’t know why it took her so long to realize that wine and fake therapy go hand in hand. You never question motive when offered complimentary Malbec.

My right hand moves quickly; learning to sign the alphabet took no time at all. F-A-T. Y-O-U. A-R-E. S-T-U-P-I-D. I laugh to myself and take another plunge into the red wine. W-I-N-E. L-O-V-E. Y-E-S.

“Is your limb possessed?” Fat sees my hand clenched in the‘s’ formation. “A hand that does the devil’s work, it would seem. Beelzebub doesn’t recruit the smart ones, does he? Pity for the underworld.”

My hand changes to let my index finger extend in the direction of the yellow book on my desk. “Check it out. Signing for Dummies!” My other hand swirls the wine in the glass before I swallow it down. “More please.” The empty glass clinks when I set it on the coffee table.

Fat, with toy spectacles perched on her nose, scribbles on one of the random pieces of paper in front of her. I try to read what she writes, but let’s be honest: she’s a cat and cats aren’t known for their penmanship.

“Sign language. Weird choice, but communicating in silence is quite a good decision for you, Boss. People might actually like you if they don’t hear that barnyard sound that you call a voice.” Fat’s pencil crayon drops when she looks up at me with her signature satanic smile. “What else is going on? How’s work?”

“S’good.” I stare at my glass, then at Fat, then my purposeful gaze drifts back to the glass – which should hold wine, but does not. I huff with discontent and flop backward on the couch. My fake doctor is such an ass.

Fat doesn’t show any sign of recognizing my needs. Undeterred, she continues conducting her session. “And you saw your family over the holidays. How are things with them?”

“Cuh-razy.” I see fat lift an eyebrow in question. “That’s right, the broken syllable kind.” My foot lifts, and my toes inch the empty glass toward the feline. She still pays it no attention.

“Broken syllable kind of crazy,” she nods. “It’s nice that some things don’t change. Consistency is good for you, Boss.” Fat picks up a pencil crayon and draws what looks like a check mark on one of the papers by her paws.

“How are your friendships maintaining?”

“Deeeeeelightful.” I see Fat’s head tilt sideways with uncertainty. “Yes, you heard that correctly. Write that down.”

My toes stretch as long as they can until my glass falls over; it rolls lazily until it collides with the feline’s meaty haunches.

Fat looks downward with a slight frown. “Subtlety isn’t your strong suit, is it?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

The feline rolls her eyes emphatically then it’s right back to business. “And how is your neighbour boyfriend doing?”

“Ughhhhhh.” Leave it to the feline to remind me of that. It’s been long enough that I forgot about that weird I-don’t-want-to-see-you-anymore conversation I had to have with him.

“How many ‘h’s is that?” She looks up from her paper, “you know, for posterity’s sake.”

“I don’t know. Nineteen.” I look out the window at the downpour. Belatedly, I react, “And he wasn’t my boyfriend.”

“But you’re still seeing him?”

“Oh no. Nope. We… no thanks. We shine at banal small talk, but actual conversation is quite painful.”

Fat adds more to her nonsense scribbling. Without looking up, she mutters, “Preach on, sister. A conversation with you that has any depth is like seeing a giraffe with two heads.” Fat doesn’t even try to disguise her laughter. “And he lives across the hall. You know I’m a fan of awkward run-ins. Let me know how it goes.”

I feel my face morph into ugly grimace.

“Good catching up with you, Boss.” Fat’s paws sweep all of her papers back into the folder. “Bottle’s under the couch if you still need a refill.”

Picking Up the Pieces While Fat Falls Apart

“When I look in the mirror I look like a cat. Am I actually a middle-aged man?”

There was a shift in Fat’s mood only a moment ago when her purring stopped. I’m lying with my stomach on the carpet, petting her. Fat’s eyes, which were closed with happiness, are now wide-eyed with concern. Her head tilts to the side, impatient that I haven’t answered her question within the half-second of silence that followed her voice.

“I don’t generally spend afternoons brushing and petting middle-aged men on the floor of my living room, Fat.” I scratch the top of her head; she remains nonplussed.

“Plenty of fetishes out there, boss.” The feline’s face sparks with realization. “Oh. Was your sarcasm because you’re an old hag that nobody wants? Sorry. So insensitive of me.”

I sigh, not because I’m exasperated, but because I’m still waiting for her to tire of casting me in the part of an old maid. Her understanding of my self-imposed ban on boyfriends lapses from time to time.

“What makes you question your outward appearance?” My fingers rake through the hair on her back. If she’s been trying to Freaky Friday one of our male neighbours into a body-switching incident, I’d like to know about it.

The corners of the feline’s mouth point downward, pouting. “Because I’m going bald. My hair is coming out in clumps like I’ve been going through chemotherapy.”

With almost precise timing, my hand lifts off her spine with rouge grey hairs clinging to my fingers. Fat’s gaze shifts to my fur-filled hand and I can almost see her ego shatter.

“We can always give you a comb-over.”

Fat hisses.

I blow on my hand and Fat and I both watch the short cat hair scatter into the air like dandelion seeds.

Fat’s chin lifts up and she follows the aerial acts of disconnected pieces of herself. “That was a pretty dumb move, boss.”

Damn hindsight. “I’m going to have to re-vacuum. And dust.”

“Yup.” Fat’s broken ego seems to have been momentarily patched back together. She sits up straighter and she looks around the rearranged living room and newly-hung pictures. “You really got everything here changed around pretty quickly after the ex-boyfriend moved out. Looks like when you’re properly motivated, you actually get things done.”

“Well,” I push up to a kneeling position and rest my hands on my hips, it was a bit of therapy. Needed to reclaim the space as my own. Moving would have been the ideal option, but I’m poor. And lazy.”

“Except even though you needed it, you didn’t ask for help.”

My upper lip curls into an I-didn’t-need-help sneer. No words accompany the face I give the feline, she knows what I’m asking.

“Boss, please. Even though it was hilarious watching you struggle, it took you forever to move that mammoth couch.”

“I did it though, didn’t I?”

“I just worry that the next time you need to do something like that, your hip is going to pop out of its socket. Yes, clearly you can manage on your own, but you should ask for help when you need it.” There’s a brief pause where the feline looks at me with concern, she starts to say something, then stops herself, then second-guesses her decision not to say whatever it is and says it anyways. “You get that I don’t just mean the changes in the apartment physically, right? And when I say ask for help…”

“I got that, Fat. I’ll take that advice like you did when I suggested a comb-over for your bald patches. It’s making you crazy that I haven’t fallen to pieces.”

“Watch yourself, old lady.”

“Mind your baldness, old man.”

Office Hours: Permission to Act Like a Jerk

“Before you sit down, I’m going to need you to grab an alcoholic beverage.”

Knees bent and ass hovering mere inches above the sofa, I freeze.

“Why?”

Fake glasses are slightly askew across Fat’s tiny, wet nose. Her face has a subtle glow from the iPad positioned in front of her on the couch. It illuminates her whiskers.

“The reviews are in.” Her tone carries a serious edge and she nods in the direction of the liquor cabinet.

“You’re going to need a cushion.”

Though I’m not sure what’s going on, I’m not going to dismiss Fat’s insistence that I need to consume alcohol. If she’s blessed my union with booze, I’m sure as hell going to have a loved one at my side when she breaks whatever bad news she’s holding on to. My legs, burning from the squat, sigh with relief when I stand up. I grab a liquor bottle at random and plunk it on the coffee table. I sit down in my nook where the sectional intersects.

Repulsion crosses Fat’s face. “No mix with that vodka?”

I fight the urge to groan as I lean forward and spin the bottle so the label points in Fat’s direction. “Raspberry vodka. It’s practically juice. Whatcha got going on my iPad?”

Her mouth draws into a straight line. “Have you been on Facebook lately?”

My back is still arches over to the coffee table where my hand still hasn’t released its grip on the bottom of the vodka bottle. My visceral gut tells me to pick up the vodka and keep it close.

“No, why?” The lid of the bottle becomes unscrewed as I turn it to the left, then I turn it back to the right. Then again to the left and back and forth a few more times as a means to deal with the silence that Fat has let settle into the living room.

“A certain ex-boyfriend has taken to social media to garner some sympathy and make himself look like a victim of your cold-hearted ways.”

The lid turns to the left and I remove it from the bottle; I hold it between my fingertips.

“Uh huh.”

Her paw sweeps across the iPad going over comments of people who have no idea how the relationship actually ended.

“There’s a fun little bit where he refers to being here a waste of time. My favourite has to be a thread that starts with a post that says, ‘They say time heals all wounds why am I angrier.’ Punctuation issues aside, that’s some refreshing prose he’s got going on there, don’t you think? Quite the poet, that one. Quite the poet indeed.” The feline does her best to hide her sarcastic smile. “Hang on,” Fat presses the comment section where several people have weighed in with opinions that are fed by his pity-me pretense, “I want to read you some things that are here.”

I take a tiny nip from the bottle, getting lost in thought as Fat searches the page.

He went out the door still professing love for me. Saying that we failed because I didn’t try. The reality is, we are on two different life trajectories and I don’t know if mine involves being Mrs. So-and-so and birthing babies. I like my alone time. I need it. He is the opposite of me, and from his watchtower, I’m perceived as a bad person because I don’t want the same life he does. I can live with that. I’m not a cheater. I didn’t treat him badly. I just didn’t love him.

I revisit the long fights and challenging debates of this suffocating relationship that’s currently on exhibition in my memory bank. A hearty gulp of vodka warms the inside of my chest and brings me back to present.

Fat squints at the tablet screen and starts reading off random comments.

“I moved 4000 klm away, and was given up on”

I suppose that means I don’t get to play the part of the protagonist in this story. Damn.

“Feels like I wasn’t worth the effort”

This is a clever trick I learned at PMS camp; feelings can’t be wrong. Boys shouldn’t be privy to how we manipulate language.

“Some people just really are ass holes”

I suppose that would be me. I’m not exactly Joseph Stalin, but with enough practice…

“The people that made you feel like that are the one that aren’t worth the effort”

Not worth the effort and a waste of time. This is a terrible day for my ego.

“I want to annihilate him.” I toss the bottle cap on the table and take another swig from the bottle.

“That’s interesting. I’ve always thought you were heartless, but it seems like you got a transplant from a super villain at some point.”

I shoot Fat an angry look.

“Boss, I’m kidding.”

“He’s making me look like an asshole.”

“You are an asshole.” She raises a paw when she sees me reach for a pillow to throw at her. “Not in the way you’re being depicted here, but you are an asshole. Everybody knows the internet is full of lies. Calm down.”

I take another sip of vodka. My anger tries to compose itself as Fat continues.

“He’s just fishing for somebody out there to show that they care about him. He’s mad because you didn’t love him forever like he hoped you would.”

“Dating isn’t a promise of forever. Marriage is a fucking promise of forever.” I yell and squeeze a fist around the glass neck of the bottle.

“You’re just going to let this charade play out, boss. He’ll come around and realize that you’re not the girl for him, and when that happens this will all go away.” As if to illustrate that fact, Fat shuts off the iPad and the lit screen goes black.

“And in the meantime.”

Fat ponders potential outcomes before she shrugs and gives me the answer I want to hear.

“Give him a reason to think you’re an asshole.”

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.”

The Runaway Train

“You’re running away from home now? That’s rather overdramatic.” The feline eyes my black vinyl tote with white stitching. “Classy bag, boss.”

Fat’s judgemental tone just bounces off me. I don’t look up from dropping a few items in my overnight bag.

“What did you expect?” There’s a moment of hesitation. I know that I know the word I’m looking for, but vocabulary completely fails me, “a hobo handkerchief on a stick?” I shake my head at my own stupidity; it would have been better to just keep my trap shut.

So far, I haven’t packed much. I told myself I would have been ready to go almost an hour ago. Then I could just simply chill out and wait to be picked up without the last-minute stress-dash that is usually the result when preparing for a weekend away.

I mentally go through a list of unforgettables in my head. I can live in the same clothes for the entirety of the long weekend, but I will not live without my stash of Mini Eggs over Easter. That’s a non-negotiable.

Fat crawls less-than-gracefully across the unmade bed. “Bindle.” When she sees the surprised look on my face she sighs with frustration, “A hobo’s satchel. It’s called a bindle.”

Damn it. Bindle. How did I not remember that?

“How in hell do you know that?” I always find it unsettling when my portly furball knows things that I can’t readily come up with.

She ignores my question and peers inside my bag. “You pack some weird shit for a weekend with your kinfolk. I really need to meet your parents.”

I shoot her a look that says nothing other than ‘what else does one bring on a weekend getaway to her hometown?’ It dawns on me immediately after I scrunch my face at Fat in an attempt to make her feel stupid that all that’s tucked inside that tote is a bulk bag of Israeli couscous, some Cuban cigars and a small fortune worth of Mini Eggs.

“Only the chocolate is mine. I’m serving as a pack mule with those other things.”

“That only raises more questions, boss. But I don’t care enough to travel down that road.” What one might consider a worried look crosses the feline’s face. “You’ll miss me, won’t you?”

“It’s only three days, Fat. I’m sure you’ll manage just fine. Mind the sitter.”

She rolls her eyes, “I always do.”

We catch eye contact and both burst out laughing. Good behaviour is usually out of stock when it comes to this kitty.

Fat composes herself and becomes serious again. “You’ll write, won’t you?”

I grab my well-loved journal off the night stand. Holding it in both hands I hold it by my face with what should translate as a cherub-like smile. “I’m going to try to scribble down a few ideas when I can.”

Her grey ears fold backward. “I meant write to me.”

I toss the journal in the bag beside the couscous. “Do you have any idea what stamps cost these days?” I turn my back on Fat to address my dresser and what I should pack as far as clothes go.

“I know you’re being facetious but I don’t care. I don’t like when you go away. The intelligence level of the apartment skyrockets in your absence, but in turn,” I hear her movement behind me, “I realize how much  your Neanderthal antics keep me amused.”

I turn around with a handful of shirts, underwear and pyjama pants, almost dropping them when I see Fat sitting happily inside the vinyl bag.

“You’re not coming this weekend, Fat.”

The feline glares, then softens almost immediately. “You’re right, boss. You need this time away from everything. Enjoy the time-out. I’ll take care of things around here.”

I wait for her to move, but she remains planted in the overnight bag. I grab her around the gelatinous stomach and heave Fat out of the way.

“Thanks, Fat. I appreciate the support.”

The Other Side of the Door

“It’s about damn time you let me in. I’ve been waiting out there for the last forty minutes.”

“I’m aware; you haven’t shut up about it for the last forty minutes. I’m at the point where I want to kill you just to be free of your incessant requests for entry.” I clear my throat. It feels like I’ve been doing shots of glass fragments.

Fat squeezes through the few inches of open doorway before I shut the door behind her. I push the knob in and turn it to the right as the feline turns in a slow circle, taking a survey of the bathroom. Her penetrating gaze settles on my face and her eyes grow large.

“Whoa, boss. You look like shit.”

“Thanks.” I don’t want to look in the mirror. I can say with upmost certainty that I’m red-faced and puffy with mascara in all of the wrong places. I touch a spot on my jaw line. When I pull my fingertips away, they’re painted with black.

“I gotta ask, why here of all places? If I were in the middle of a breakdown, I’d rather have it in the comfort of my bedroom. At least then you can make a blanket fort.”

I resume my post: legs extended across the laminate, spine pressed against the bathroom door, ass uncomfortably numb but manageable if the alternative is leaving my fortress of solitude. Though, I suppose now it’s more the fortress of busybody feline.

“Two reasons, Fat. One,” I hold up an index finger, “It’s the only room in the apartment that I can lock to keep others out. And two,” my middle finger raises, “people seldom follow distraught others into a bathroom; nobody wants to gamble on walking in on another person dropping a deuce.”

Fat’s grey head bobs up and down with comprehension. “Sound logic, boss. Want to tell me why you’re throwing this fit of rage? What happened with Ex-Boyfriend out there?” She tosses her head in the direction of the living room beyond her shoulder.

I can feel the unsettled bile churning in my stomach. When I realize I’m still holding my hand up in the shape of an ironic peace sign, I fume. I clench it into a white-knuckled fist instead.

“He was watching my iPad last night when I was texting with a friend of mine.”

Fat settles her hindquarters on the bath mat and stares at me with inquisition.

I offer the explanation without further prompt. “My iPad is synched to my phone – texts appear on both.”

“I knew that.” Fat touts the obvious signs of pretending to be aware.

“The iCloud afforded Ex-Boyfriend a certain opportunity. I’m pretty sure you can piece together what happened.”

Fat nods, “Sure, yeah. Tale as old as time. Girl gets metaphorically sodomized by technology and in turn, girl’s trust gets metaphorically sodomized by the person who answered the door when opportunity knocked.”

“More or less, yes. Ass-raping all around.” I finally open my clenched fist to see deeply-imbedded nail prints across my palm.

“I get why you’re so hurt by that. You’re a private person…” Her words drift and Fat’s tail flips side-to-side, thudding against the bath mat in thought. “You’re like the Wizard of Oz.”

“That simile requires a little more explanation.” I really hope this isn’t going to be one of her set-ups where I end up getting insulted. Since she didn’t go for the brainless jab of comparing me to the Scarecrow, I’m definitely curious.

Fat rolls her eyes and jumps up onto the lid of the toilet. She stares at me from her perch.

“You only show people what you want them to see. It’s nobody’s business what’s behind the curtain.”

I tap my nose. I hate when she gets it because it makes me all the more frustrated those times when she doesn’t seem to.

“Sometimes you surprise me, Fat. I never think you get it, but you do.”

Fat jumps down from her porcelain podium and crawls onto my lap. My fingers get covered in her shedding coat in seconds, but I don’t care. Surprisingly, she’s giving me exactly what I need right now.

“Of course I get it. You’re my human. I’m here for you, boss.” She purrs and her eyes close as her head lolls to the side. “Just say the word. I’ll scratch the hell out of him for you.”

An Unmarked White Van is not a Disguise

“This is my nightmare.” As I say the words, the rickety van lurches forward of its own accord. I caress the steering wheel like it will make a difference. “That’s a good automobile. I like you very much.” I sound like a complete phony psycho. If any of the neighbours see, I’ll tell them I was talking to my co-pilot, Mutt. For some reason talking to an animal makes one less crazy than if one talks to a vehicle or themselves.

Of course, when I pull up in front of the apartment, there is only one place to park on the street. Most people would be overjoyed to see a space free in front of their building; unfortunately for me, parallel parking is not where I shine – especially in a commercial van with no side windows or sense of dimension. Balls.

After several angry outbursts and attempts to park, I quit. I raise my hands in defeat after I pull the key from the ignition. The van is parked on a hideous angle and the back right tire is jammed into the curb. Whatever. I grab the door handle and push. It doesn’t swing open as doors are supposed to. I pull the handle harder and shove the door with my shoulder. That beast is stuck. Without considering the possibility of other doors as an exit I yank the handle so hard my bicep protrudes and heft my body at the door. The door swings open violently and I half-fall out of the unmarked white van, catching myself just before I collide with the street.

“Pity. I was really hoping to see you eat that pavement.” I follow the direction of the familiar bitchy shout and see Fat’s grey head sticking through the bars of my apartment’s balcony. “Nice park job by the way. How much did you pay under-the-table for a driver’s license?” I answer her by slamming the van door closed. “Did any unsuspecting young victims believe that you had puppies in that thing?”

“I do have a puppy in here.” I holler as I open the passenger-side door with no difficulty to let Mutt out. He bounds to the grass to lift a leg.

“I have to admire you commitment to the bit.” Fat cocks her head to the side. “It is a bit, right? You didn’t actually use Mutt as bait to lure children away from their parents?”

After I slam the second door, I pull open the sliding door to take out a case of wine.

Fat leans as far forward as she can through the railing until her stomach roll stops her. She looks past me and into the van before I shut the door. “Oh God. Their bodies aren’t in the van. You got them drunk off wine and killed them in the woods, didn’t you?”

I rest the weight of the wine on my hip and use my free hand to shield my eyes from the sun as I look up at her. “We’re officially no longer watching ‘Criminal Minds’ together.”

“I need to. How am I supposed to take on a patient who is a sociopath like yourself if I don’t do my research?” Fat’s smile is vindictive. “What’s with the perve van anyways?”

I whistle for Mutt to follow me to the front door. Fat’s eyes trace my movement the whole way. “It’s the ex’s van; he didn’t want Mutt to walk home in this heat.”

“But he’s a dog.” She regards me suspiciously, “Did you do any “favours” to get use of this vehicle?” I practically hear the air quotes around “favours.”

I balance the case of wine against my body as I wrestle around my pockets for house keys. “Fat, don’t even get me started. No, I did not do any “favours” to get the van. At least I can use it to run errands.” I finally find keys in the third pocket I try.

“If your errands include getting wine and picking up children off the street, you’re going to need to come in for another session.”

The juggling act continues until I’ve opened the front door. “I’ll be sure to get in touch with your receptionist to arrange an appointment time.”

Fat misses my sarcasm. “Good. Because this whole not-dating thing you have going on has you trolling around town in a perve van acting out ways that will land you in prison. Don’t think I’m unaware as to why you’ve cut down on your,” She pauses to think of the right words, “extracurricular activities.”

Mutt finally trails behind me and through the door I’ve been holding open for him. Even though Fat can’t see me anymore, I scowl. My life is so much easier and private when I don’t limit her consumption; Fat’s diet ends today.

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.”