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.”

No Secrets from Housecats

“Where were you? Do you have any idea what time it is?”

I’m greeted by the feline’s backside. Fat doesn’t show any sign that she’s noticed me aside from the questions that sound remarkably distant. She’s preoccupied; something on the computer desk holds her attention far more than my entrance ever could.

I drop my yoga bag on the floor and throw a look at the digital clock on the PVR. The crisp white numbers show that it’s not quite seven-thirty. I feel my lip curl in uncertainty as I free my mane from a frizzed-out, sweaty bun.

“Prayer meeting.” I wait for Fat’s head to snap and look at me with alarm and intrigue, but it doesn’t happen. She’s busy reading something on the laptop.

“Well if I know anything about you, Boss, it’s that you love the Jesus.” I see her brow furrow as she leans closer to the screen. Her mouth moves as she silently reads a couple more sentences on the virtual document in front of her. Eventually she turns to give me her consideration. “Sorry, did you say something else?”

“Thanks for listening,” I mutter. “What are you reading anyways?” My head lazily tilts toward the computer.

The feline’s mouth opens with a smile so wide I can see her fangs. Her paw goes to the wireless mouse and scrolls up until I see the familiar banner of my blog. Oh god.

My chest constricts as I do my best impression of somebody who is able to maintain their composure. “I… uh… how did you stumble upon that?” My fingertips drum on the desktop for lack of anything better to do. I’m fighting the urge to drop-kick the good doctor off the balcony in a fit of panic. I’m really not sure if there is any other remedy for the situation.

“It’s on the internet, you idiot. How was I not supposed to find it?” Fat clicks on a post from April 2014. “Really, it’s quite amazing that you don’t even realize how psychologically destructive you are to yourself.”

Taken aback, I abandon my discomfort of the situation when curiosity takes over. I walk closer and crouch beside Fat so we can both read the post. “What do you mean?”

“Suppose the words I say… see, here,” a grey paw bats the screen to a paragraph where I’ve written about her verbally tearing me a new one, “suppose these cynical, bitchy, loathsome things aren’t actually me speaking to you – it’s how you feel about yourself manifesting in a bizarre situation where you talk to your cat and you think the cat talks back.” Fat snickers at something my past self wrote, “I wish I said that.”

My mouth falls open. Agape, I mull over conversations with Fat that I can remember the hateful and bitchy things she has definitely said in the past. At least, I’m pretty certain she actually said them.

“That’s a nice hunchback you’re growing. Trying to get Quasimodo’s job when he retires from the bell tower?”

“Your brain is so full of stupid the excess is coming out your mouth.”

“I thought ugly people were supposed to have great personalities.”

I slowly turn toward Fat and our eyes meet. I falter, questioning what I always assumed was true. “Fat, I–”

“BAHAHAHAHA!”  She buries a delighted kitten face in the crook of her elbow, “I’m just yanking you, Boss. You’re not clever enough to come up with a fraction of this stuff on your own.”

The April Showers/May Flowers Phenomenon

“I’m going to hazard a couple guesses.” The yellow flecks in Fat’s eyes become more noticeable when she happily drinks in my disheveled appearance.

“Digging for buried treasure.”

I shake my head.

“Hmm. Should have gone with my original instinct: grave robbing.”

I shake my head again, groan as I bend over and undo the clasp on Mutt’s leash.

“I fear I just gave you an idea for a future hobby. That’s the price you pay with guessing games, I suppose. Alright, one more and I’ll give up,” Fat’s paw taps thoughtfully against her chin. “The roadrunner outsmarted you again? Tell me you held up a hilarious sign before falling down that cliff.”

I shake my heads and kick off my puddle-soaked runners. My jeans cling to my skin from being so wet; I wrestle myself out of my pants and stand in the hallway in my boy shorts and coat. The hood still covers my hair, though it didn’t save me from the harrowing journey I just faced. I stand there for a few minutes, feeling Fat stare, knowing she’s still waiting to hear what happened.

“That was a debacle.” I finally speak and toss the leash I’m still holding on top of my sopping pants that are now curled in a heap on the carpet.

Fat leans her neck out from the kitchen counter, giving me a face that prompts me to explain.

“It seemed like an easy enough favour: go down to the marina and take some pictures.” My friend, who does the social media for the marina, was out of town. I stare inwardly, oblivious to Fat leaning even closer and almost falling off the counter. “The sun was shining when I left.” I pull out of my abyss and my pupils dilate to see Fat come into focus, “Right?”

Fat slowly comes to realize that what I’m looking for is confirmation. She nods. Yes, the sun was indeed shining.

“I made my tea, leashed Mutt and went for a wander down by the water.” In the ten minutes it took for me to get to the marina, an evil wizard cast a spell to overtake the blue sky with black cloud. Once I got there, things just didn’t fall into place.

“The marina office was closed.”

I close my eyes again feel the frustration of when I found out that I’d missed their hours of being open for business. I had a great plan to sweet talk somebody into letting me inside the locked gates to get some decent pictures. Since the weather had turned, the other sea dogs had hunkered down indoors somewhere. The marina was a ghost town. I had to get creative if I was going to get some shots of the boats, float homes and ship yard.

“Then the rain started.”

It was a light patter for about a minute or two before it really came down. Puddles from the night previous still littered the parking lot and areas between the paved walkways. Unfortunately, the only vantage points for pictures from the marina’s perimeter were off the walkways – lacking forethought and graceful movement, I sloshed my way through a baker’s dozen of those miniature lakes. As I balanced to take pictures with one hand, my other hand held Mutt’s leash and my tea tucked neatly into the crook of my elbow.

“I had to climb a fence.”

I peel off my jacket and roll up my shirt sleeve. Across my forearm are several purple marks that will inevitably turn into bruises. When I arrived at the shipyards, I had to pull myself above the chain-link fence to snap a couple pictures. It’s a good thing there wasn’t anybody at the marina – I’m sure it didn’t look like my actions were on the up-and-up.

“Mutt went crazy.”

The dog, tired of this horrid adventure tried to escape his leash. In doing so, he got it tangled around three of his legs and one of mine. I bent down to unknot the mess, leading to the next incident.

“I spilled tea all over my pants.”

I forgot that my tea was tucked in my arm and as I bent down, the scalding, honey-sweetened liquid gushed out at my mid-thigh and ran all the way down to my ankle. I hadn’t had a sip of it as it was too hot to drink, so my pants became delicious and left me burning in a non-STI kind of way. The grotesque weather changed the temperature of my wet leg instantly. It went from bloody hot to freaking cold. With the cold came misery. But misery didn’t come alone, it came with a handful of random curse words that flew screaming from my mouth; misery loves company, after all.

“It started to hail.”

I was getting a few pictures of float homes before Mutt and I departed. The rain had stopped, Mutt and I were both more wet than dry and then we were getting pelted by Mother Nature’s icy spitballs. I took that as the last sign that it was time to come home.

“Then the rain really started.”

Walking uphill in torrents of rain after such a terrible time seems like the kind of tale a grandparent would tell of when they were a kid. But it’s true; it was awful.

“The pictures I got aren’t very good.”

Fat, surprisingly, has not abandoned her interest in my simplistic recounting. It’s one of those moments that I don’t hate her. She’s still sitting on the kitchen counter, tail curled tight around her body, head cocked slightly to the side. It makes me uncomfortable when she actually listens. I was expecting jack-ass style laughter to burst out of her.

“You should make yourself a fresh cup of tea and have a bath, boss. Today isn’t your day.”

“It hasn’t been my month, Fat.”

Fat ponders this and nods in agreement. “Yeah, April really blew chunks for you, didn’t it? No worries. A new month starts in a matter of hours. Chin up. Also, it’s about time to get an umbrella. This is Vancouver, fool.”

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.”