Milestones and Missed Cues

“Happy Birthday, you old son of a bitch.”

The black office chair swivels around to reveal Fat in the power seat, appearing like a Bond villain. Her paws thrust into the air in celebration and unleash a sad supply of multi-coloured confetti that slowly drifts to the ground.

Propping the fridge door open with my elbow, I down some more juice from the carton and shake my head. “Son of a bitch?” I know there are times I look a little androgynous and all, but I identify as a woman and also lack the parts to be classified as a man. I like my ovaries, thanks.

Fat stares at me from the patchwork office space beside the tiny kitchen as she silently processes the tone of my voice.

“You’re right. How callous of me. You’re nobody’s son. From the top, people.” Fat grips the edge of the desk to turn the chair so it faces the wall again. “Take another guzzle from the O.J. The sound tipped me off to your entrance.”

Well, I am still a little thirsty. I slug back some more orange juice. Fat responds to the cue as I wipe my mouth in the crook of my arm.

“Happy Birthday, you old bitch.” Fat shoves off the desk too hard and instead of coming to a graceful stop facing me directly, the chair spins in an entire circle to only give me a fleeting glimpse of the ungraceful feline before she disappears from view. I love that chair.

“Shit.”

I imagine she’s on the opposite side of the faux leather chair sulking at her poor second entrance. Failure on two counts. That’s got to affect your self-esteem. I put the juice back in the fridge and approach the feline’s seat. I grab the backrest and pivot the chair in a semicircle.

“I didn’t even get more confetti for the second go-around.” Fat leans back in defeat until her head rests against the fabric. “I let you down, Boss. This was going to be the highlight of your day.”

“It’s a little early to be calling the best part, isn’t it?”

Fat waves her paw dismissively, “You don’t have friends; this was the biggest acknowledgement you could hope for. I wanted to point out the honour of accumulating another year’s layer of decay and disappointment. Oh hey,” Fat brightens momentarily when she digs between her pockets of grey fur and produces another pawful of paper confetti that she tosses with lackluster, “Congratulations on keeping up with the Crypt Keeper.”

“Uh, thanks?”

Fat scratches her head, clearly perplexed. She zeros in on my face.

“Boss, how old are you?”

I pick up the feline from on the chair and struggle to keep her in my arms. “That’s a rude thing to ask.” Thankfully she doesn’t get aggravated enough to use her claws.

“People only respond like that when they’re super ancient and ashamed of their age.” Fat squirms and twists for another fifteen seconds before entirely giving up and submitting to the housecat treatment.

“I’m not ashamed of my age. I’m thirty and perfectly fine with that.” I pet her head softly and scratch behind her pert ears.

“Thirty, huh? That means you’re about due for your first mid-life crisis.”

“Does that mean I can start a life anew and be as impulsive and crazy as I want?”

Fat slightly purrs, “You bet it does.”

“Fantastic. It’s settled then. I’m going to buy a taco stand.” I smile. That sounds awesome. I could eat a burrito every single day if I wanted. Cool.

“That is a terrible way to unravel into a mental breakdown. You don’t know how to do anything right, do you?”

Refunds at the Freak Show

“What do you reckon that ugly stick looks like? You know, the one from the phrase, ‘so-and-so looks like they’ve been hit with an ugly stick’. It must have a distinctive shape to be a definitive ugly stick. Right?”

Of course this is the useless drivel I wake up to. Why wouldn’t it be? Fat and nonsense might just be synonymous. I love being gifted many words from the idiot cat and no context to align them. I have no idea what time it is, I just know that this is more of a conversation for after the wake-up period. I adjust the blankets to cover the limbs exposed from the restless kicking and acrobatics that occurred in last night’s fight to find comfort.

The light from the bedroom window blinds me and, I say this in a hyperbolic hand-to-God kind of way, my retinas are definitely affected. I squint at the uncharacteristic November sunshine gracing this early Vancouver morning before I roll away from it and toward the absolute opposite: I come face-to-face with the she-devil feline who is deep in speculation mode. Our noses rest a fraction of an inch away from each other. Fat strokes her whiskers with a paw as she contemplates.

Her plastic shrink glasses are on. She’s been waiting for me. Ambush therapy, Fat’s specialty.

“If I were to suppose, I would say that ugly stick is shaped like a hand. Makes for a really great mark when you get hit across the face with it.” Her warm, sour breath accosts my face. This really isn’t a great start to the morning.

“Been awake for a while hey, Fat?” I mumble and try to push her a good arm’s length away. I don’t know what she’s been eating that makes her mouth smell like decay, but my face needs to be given some literal breathing room.

“Long enough to make you coffee, you ungrateful and wretched woman.” The grey feline sashays to the side to gesture with both paws, in a ta-da fashion, at the steaming mug on the bedside table.

Amazing. Good kitty. I reach with utter delight, so tickled at how the morning has turned around in mere seconds. Goodbye to the grumbling I-don’t-do-mornings version of myself, hello to the caffeinated little-miss-sunshine side of my personality. Before my fingers grasp the handle of the porcelain mug I stop. My arm remains suspended in midair as a panicked alarm echoes through my head. Fat did a deed that was both nice and unsolicited. Something isn’t right here; something is terribly, terribly wrong.

I brace for incurable news when I ask, “Why?”

“Wow, trust issues.” Fat’s paw clutches her chest as though I’ve violated the sanctity of her character. “Can’t a feline just do something nice for her caretaker?”

“Seriously, Fat, why?” My body remains rigid like a cartoon character frozen in place. I’m not about to grab that coffee mug just yet.

She reaches to grab her pen, almost like she’s expecting something noteworthy to occur. “Because at some point last night you were struck with the ugly stick, Boss. You deserve to be coddled a little bit. Life gets pretty hard when you’re the owner of a messed up face.”

I can’t sit up fast enough. I wrestle with the duvet that’s trying to keep me away from a mirror. What does she mean messed up face? My face doesn’t feel any different. What happened last night? The faint click of Fat’s pen punctuates this moment where I’m scrambling out of bed. I run over to the dresser mirror to see the damage.

A perfect scarlet image of my own hand rests across my cheek – it looks like I recently crossed Zsa Zsa Gabor. Because the moment calls for it, I lift my hand and press it against the mark on my face. Yup, story checks out. Looks like I was just sleeping with my face against my palm. Nothing to see here, folks, the freak show is a hoax; go see the world’s fattest twins for your refund.

“It’s just a sleep mark, you idiot.” I turn back to the bed, graced by the view of my shrink scribbling excitedly in one of my old college notebooks. “What’s so interesting?”

“We just had a eureka moment. Your reaction just confirmed something I’ve long since suspected, Boss. You’re a Narcissist, whom I also speculate suffers from Grandiosity.” She points to the coffee mug, still untouched, on the night stand. “Drink up. I’m going to need you to be fully alert. Prepare yourself for a long session.”

I can’t prove it, but I assume she learned these words from daytime television between her soap operas. Narcissist? How can she say that about somebody as humble as I am? I am the most humble, charming, sweet, thoughtful person you’ll ever meet. I dare say I might just be the best human alive.

I’m going to drink that coffee. Then I’m going to kill her. And then I’m going to go back to bed. Later I’ll find a nice taxidermist and have her stuffed. And we will finally live happily ever after.

The expression on my face prompts another tidbit from the feline. “Don’t worry, I brewed a whole pot. We’re set for a while.”

Sadism and Hygiene

“Sadist! You’re a sadist!”

Fat kangaroo-kicks me with her back legs as she tries to yank her left paw from my grip. We wrestle on the living room floor shouting expletives at each other. I feel at least a couple fresh scratches across my clavicle – they’ll match the ones that were delivered to my bicep when I was trimming the nails on her other paw. I get close to clipping another one of her talons when the grey feline sources Hulk-like strength to rip her paw from my grasp and scrambles out of my grip for the fourth time this morning. Her low-hanging belly sways side-to-side as she runs. I would rather spend eighteen hours doing intensive Crossfit in a down-filled parka than try to trim Fat’s claws. Current conditions are frustrating; we’ve seen moments of hatred throughout the day.

In a flash, the good doctor is down the hall shooting me a look of slight panic before turning into the bedroom. I trail behind and I lunge at her as I approach the bed where she’s stopped to catch her breath.

Fat scampers out of the way and across the mattress fast enough that I only graze her tail with my outstretched fingers.

“Christ, Fat. Get back here.”

“Willingly submit to torture? You must be insane if you think I’d get on board with that.” She stays low to the ground and slips past my ankles and into the hallway.

The routine is all-too familiar, a scene we’ve already played out a few times today. Fat’s ears fold backward in displeasure, and she darts through the kitchen. If feline parkour were a thing, what Fat does next would foot the bill. She runs, bounds from the leather chair to the desk and instantly leaps from the desk edge to the height of the bookshelf. She grabs hold of the high edge and kicks off the side of the shelf to boost her up to the very top. If I wasn’t so exhausted and annoyed I would have filled the apartment with applause.

Instead my reaction is: “Get back down here so I can kill you, Fat.”

“Yeah, okay, Boss. I’m all over that idea.” At least from her lazy sarcasm I can feel okay knowing that I’m not the only exhausted one here. I wheel the chair over to the shelf, bracing the glossy wood as I step onto the seat with the finesse of a senior citizen with a walker. Fat gets another wind as I reach for her and she does a Mission Impossible-style jump onto the couch, landing with momentum that propels her forward.

I groan as I step back down and violently shove the office chair aside. If Fat didn’t scratch me so much, I would have less desire to cut her nails.

As she sprints from the living room down the hall to the bedroom, Fat screams over her shoulder, “Your parents didn’t raise you right!”

Giving chase, I bellow, “I’ve been telling you that for years!”

“Clearly they saved the good parenting for the kids that showed promise. We can stop this chaotic nonsense and have a session about it.” Her words come out between huff-and-puff breaths.

“If I may quote you, Fat,” I gasp for air; my lung supply seems to be failing with all this cardio, “Willingly submit to torture? You must be insane.”

Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

Morning Glory

“Oh my God. Alice Cooper is in my apartment. Tell me how much you loved my homage to School’s Out on YouTube.”

Fat jumps onto the kitchen counter; she plays the part of a fangirl almost convincingly. The cat stares, unabashedly wide-eyed at my morning face until I pour milk into the bowl beside her. Her nose sniffs the air looking for notes of aromatic deliciousness, but unfortunately for her, healthy cereal smells mostly like the cardboard box it comes in.

I scowl at the feline when I close the dairy carton and put it back in the fridge.

“Seriously, is it costume day at work, or what? Gotta say, Boss, you nailed it.” The end of her sentence turns sing-song. The high note she hits jostles me slightly closer to wakefulness.

Fat’s mockery of my appearance isn’t entirely unfounded. To the detriment of my ego, I’ve already shuffled past my mirror twin this morning. The reflection showed a mess of stringy, unwashed hair and the unforeseen result of accidentally falling asleep before washing my face. Yesterday’s mascara bears the resemblance of a cheap Zorro mask. It’s still too early to care, especially for the beginning of the work week. I lean against the counter and shovel as much cereal as possible into my face. I stare into nothingness, trying to make the leap into alert consciousness. How did I get here already? Time shift? I must have spent the weekend like a teenager spends allowance. Stupid, wasteful fun.

I scarf down the cereal with robotic efficiency. With the speed I get breakfast down my gullet, you would hardly know I woke up just after 2:00 a.m. for a snack. Refuelling with carbs is the halftime show between dreams in my world.

Gentle scratching on my arm asks for attention and I listlessly turn my head to look at the earnest-faced feline. “You know, you could teach a Master’s class on being disgusting.”

“Thanks,” I mumble with a full mouth, sending a dribble of milk down my lip. I meet Fat’s accusatory gaze. “Point proven, Fat.” I use the crook of my elbow as a napkin. To be fair, nobody is the best version of themselves at 6:00 a.m. on a Monday, not even the Queen. Sorry, Elizabeth.

I balance the bowl against my stomach with one hand while the other pushes Fat’s backside off the counter. She lands on her feet as though her intent was to be driven to the ground.

“Huh. In spite of your trance-like state, you’re ahead of schedule.” Fat’s eyes glimpse the digital numbers on the microwave. “You usually don’t shove me off the counter until 6:09. What are you going to do with those extra two minutes?”

Rather than risk another moment of spitting milk everywhere, I point at my mess of a face with the empty spoon.

“Two extra minutes hardly seems like enough, Boss.”

Being Neighbourly

“It’s okay, just keep plugging along like I’m not even here.”

I shoot a quick glance away from the mirror, eyes wide and mouth open as the mascara brush remains suspended mid-air. Fat sits on top of the toilet tank; the candles that usually occupy the small space have been shoved haphazardly aside by the feline to accommodate her rump.

“Fat, I–”

“I’ll have none of your excuses, jackass. It’s fine. I see how it is. We’ve got ourselves a black-and-white roommate situation. Should I start labelling which food in the fridge is mine?” The feline’s sarcasm is unmistakable. “Don’t take advantage of the elastic band on the doorknob privilege.”

My mirror twin shows a minor crease in her forehead. People do that in real life? I feign nonchalance as I go back to applying my makeup. “That’s a non-issue, Fat. A pervert like you generally finds herself in the room whenever I have company over.”

“I live here too!” Fat’s ears flatten and her green eyes narrow into slits.

I twist the mascara tube shut and put it away, looking in the mirror at the hideous bags under my eyes as I do so. I’d rather scrutinize the age on my face than chance a look to the grey feline. She radiates scariness right now.

Before I have a chance to manoeuvre my way out of her watchful eye, there’s a quick succession of three short knocks at the door. A beat of silence, then one more quick knock. The familiar sound has become a secret handshake of sorts and the right side of my mouth uncontrollably lifts into a smirk. Thankfully, the chef has Mutt for the night and the knocking is met with silence and not the excessive yips of a grumpy rotund dog.

“Wait,” Fat’s face changes back to her normal expression, “What gives? Who’s at the door?” The feline jumps down and near-gallops to the apartment entrance. She assumes a regal stance as she sits, waiting for the door to open of its own volition. She watches, transfixed, as the visitor turns the knob from left to right. “State your name and business, trespasser.” The demand booms from the cat’s lungs as the person continues to try the doorknob.

“For Christ’s sake, Fat.” I nudge her aside to gently flick the lock and the door is pushed open by the person on the other side.

A paw lifts, claws extended. “You’re far too accommodating to this intruder.”

Jesse swings the door open with a fake scowl. He points at my face with the enthusiasm of a shipwreck survivor seeing land. “You. I hate you so much right now.”

I swat his accusatory fingers until they recoil.

The feline’s claws retreat. “Take a number pal; I was mad at her first. She’s just in a place to piss everyone off it would seem.”

Jesse’s head swings down to acknowledge the cat near his feet. “Miss Fat, how do you do?” He tips an imaginary hat in her direction. “I just need a moment of time with your mistress; she’s done me wrong in a very cruel way.”

“Preach on, sister.” Fat glares in my direction then back to Jesse. “We should start a club.” She purrs, happy to have a cohort in her fight to bring me down.

Jesse bends to pick her up, petting Fat like he’s a Bond villain. The beard he’s grown out over the summer looks like it’s ready for a trim. It’s on the fringe of unruly.

“And how have I wronged you?” I look up as I bend over to put on my boots. “Between you and the monster you’re holding, I should open up a compliant department.”

“Pfft.” Jesse flips his hair as if he thinks it’s long enough to get into his eyes. The pomade keeps his brunette locks suspended in place. “You told Hobo Tenant down the hall that I would help him set up his pvr. I just spent the last twenty minutes in his apartment. He kept trying to feed me grapes.”

Fat and I speak at the same time and apparently share the same thought.

“Is that a–”

“That’s a total euphemism for balls.” Fat looks directly at Jesse’s face as if trying to discern truth from his expression.

I didn’t get to finish my question, because Jesse interrupts to edit his statement.

“Green grapes. Literal grapes.” He pats the top of Fat’s head, entirely unaware that she thought the same thing I did, and her eyes close happily. “Why you always gotta take it to that place? Damn, woman.” He smiles.

I shrug into my bomber jacket. “He asked me to help him and I said I thought you were the better man for the job.” Effort to hide my cruel laughter is wasted and I can’t help but chuckle at his misfortune. “I didn’t want to be in his apartment by myself. I won’t apologize for throwing you under the bus. I’d do it again too.”

Fat’s eyes open to look at Jesse again. “Boss is like that. She’s a hideous bitch who’s only capable of looking out for herself.”

Jesse lets out an easy laugh. “I’d have done the same to you if he asked me first.” He bends to let Fat down and steps closer to me with a pity-me face. “That guy smells so bad.”

I nod, thinking of Hobo Tenant’s signature scent of unwashed clothes with a lingering hint of dumpster debris. I mime throwing up. Fat sits on the floor between Jesse and me staring up at us with a calculating look.

“Something’s up.” Her head tilts from me to him and back again.

Jesse’s hands grab the bottom of my jacket and he fastens the zipper on my behalf like I’m a child. “It’s cold out there today.” He grabs my hood and lifts it onto my head.

“Something is definitely different. Didn’t I say something like this was going to happen?”

“Thanks. So thoughtful of you.” I shrug the hood off and respond to Jesse’s offended expression at the action. “We’re still inside, dork.”

“Where are you going?”

Before I answer, Fat dons a mock voice that I think is supposed to be me. “It doesn’t matter where I go so long as I’m with you, sugar face.”

I make the fake throw-up face again, pretending to hurl all over the feline. Sugar face? We don’t say that in my apartment. Not even in jest.

“I’m just responding to these gross vibes you and the neighbour boy are putting out there.” Fat offers a judgemental gaze of I-told-you-so.

The wise decision is to ignore the cat. If I start getting into it with her, Jesse will be correct in thinking I’ve gone off the deep end. “I’m not sure. I was just going for a wander, see where I end up. Wanna come with?”

Fat shoots me a not-so-subtle wink. “You sly devil.”

“Cool. I need to grab a coat. C’mon.” Jesse grabs my hand and pulls me out of the apartment. I barely grab keys from the hall table before we’re in the apartment hallway. I hear Fat’s voice from the other side as I’m locking up.

“Make good decisions, Boss. We all know how prone you are for the opposite.”

Unfinished Business of My Future Ghost

“You’re dead! You’re so dead!”

It’s like Fat’s voice blasts through a bullhorn. She shouts as she jumps from the liquor cabinet to the television stand to the top of the war-torn scratch post.

“Are you threatening me?” I tie my hair into a messy bun to avoid brushing it.

Fat leaps back beside the television and onto the coffee table. “The ground is lava. You’re long since dead; prepare to live as a poltergeist, Boss.” Fat stops when she bounds onto the arm of the couch to contemplate the idea. “No. You’re too ambivalent to be a poltergeist. Instead you’re one of those unfinished-business-wandering-the-earth-forever kind of spirits. Off you go. Haunt away.” She directs me as though she expects I’ll pretend to be weighed down by chains like Marley’s ghost.

Instead, I pull a small key ring from my pocket and drop the keys on the coffee table. They jingle when they hit the ikea surface.

“Man-slut neighbour still isn’t home to get his keys back, huh?”

“Fat, that’s the third time I’ve gone over to Jesse’s to give him those keys. That kid is never around when I am. Has he come by while I’ve been at work?”

Fat’s eyes roll upward in thought. “There was wheezy panting at the door yesterday. That seems like him, right?”

“Christ, I hope not.” I cringe at the thought and silently hope that the panting was from the pug in the apartment around the corner. “Well, I tried. From here on out, fuck it.”

Fat nods in mock understanding, “Ah, the whore’s mentality. Suits the situation.” Fat eyes the keys on the table and stares up at me with a crafty grin. “Want to go snoop around his apartment? It’s not breaking and entering if we have keys.”

“I certainly do not.”

“Because you’re afraid of getting caught?”

“Because his business isn’t my business and the interaction we have right now suits me just fine. If we humanize Jesse by finding things in his apartment, I won’t want to talk to him anymore. So,” I close the curtains as daylight has long since gone, “we’ll just wait for him to come and get his keys when he remembers I have them.”

“Make him come to you, eh? Boss, you sly devil.” Fat shoots me an exaggerated wink.

I point to her eye, “What was that about?”

“Oh, please. Mutt and I both know what’s going on here.” Pulled from sleep, Mutt lifts his head at her mention of his name. He becomes quickly disinterested and settles back in his bed. “This is your signature move for dating; you bait him with personality and then give him a reason to come by the apartment. Not exactly subtle, but it works.”

I say nothing, but raise skeptical eyebrows.

“Mark my words, Boss. Something is going to happen here. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the similarities between you and Jesse’s crazy bitch one-nighter. Same demographic.” Fat’s voice lilts in a sing-song way to be extra annoying.

“We didn’t see her face.”

“Didn’t have to. Porcelain skin, tall, dark unkempt hair, prone for bad decisions…” Fat pauses to catch my eye and she nods, “Seems somewhat familiar, doesn’t it?”

I shake my head as if the motion will make her go away.

“It would be an awful shame if this unfinished business with the neighbour boy is what keeps your future ghost unsettled.” Fat points to my feet which are still standing in the imaginary magma.

I cross my arms and perch on the end of the couch, making sure that my feet are off the carpet. “Fat, I can say with the utmost certainty that nothing will ever happen in that respect with me and Jesse.”

A devilish smile lifts the corners of her mouth, “Wanna bet?”

The Punishment For a Day at the Beach

“Scarlett O’Hara, you’re home earlier than expected.”

Fat jumps down from the bed when she sees me in the hallway. She shoots a quick look to the window; the tail end of daylight occupies the frame. The grey cat settles herself in front of the bedroom door, watching as I kick off my flip flops and pull my hair from a ponytail.

Fat sniggers loudly from the doorway when I walk past her and into the kitchen.

Sometimes I really don’t get Fat’s humour, but I play along anyway. Playing Frisbee all afternoon at the beach has boosted my mood. My voice elevates to that of a southern ingénue from a decades-old classic film.

“Fat, you are no gentleman.” I open the fridge and talk at the same time. I’m so parched, I just drink the water straight from the pitcher. As is to be expected, it dribbles down my front and gives me the appearance of  a leaky nursemaid.

“And you, Miss, are no lady.” Fat times her Rhett Butler response perfectly. Her voice dips to a lower octave and she fiddles with her whiskers as though they are a glossy moustache.

“In hindsight, a glass might have been a good idea.” The pitcher finds a home on the countertop as the back of my hand brushes across my wet chin and throat.

“In hindsight, something else might have been a good idea today too. Methinks you went a little too heavy on the rouge, Boss.”

My nose crinkles, a sign of incomprehension. “I’m not wearing any makeup, Fat.”

Fat’s index digit shakes at me in a scolding manner, “No sunscreen either, I suppose.”

I most certainly did put on sunscreen, my lily-white albino skin needs it. I made sure to put it on this morning. Right?

There is a moment of doubt when it comes to my memory and I dash to the full-length mirror in the hall. I gaze into the worried ashen face of my mirror twin. I stare at her from head to toe, she pulls off her nursemaid t-shirt and stands in a bikini top and shorts – appearing in front of me with the healthy complexion of an apparition.

Fat has leisurely sauntered over and sits directly at the base of the mirror with a cruel-but-delighted smile on her face.

“Fuck off, Fat.” With the open-handed gesture of a magician’s assistant, I motion to the reflection in the mirror.

The feline licks her lips, as though trying to suffocate her laughter. She looks down to the floor and her shoulders shrug up and down with a silent chuckle. After a moment, she composes herself, meets my angry stare and calmly utters the words, “Turn around.”

The lowered eyebrows of my mirror twin transition and now arch in worried surprise. The thought didn’t occur to either of us to twirl and check out the body’s other hemisphere.

Slowly, my mirror twin and I do a synchronized routine of rotating our bodies as our faces peer over our shoulders with concern. Looks of worried surprise turn to a hybrid of utter self-contempt and sorrow. Stinging pain sets in the moment I acknowledge the damage done. The section from the middle of my back down to my knees looks to have survived nuclear war. The burn has the disposition and hue of Satan’s office. I grab the base of my shorts and pull up to reveal one of my ass cheeks. There is a definitive line of where the bathing suit stopped.

Her laughter can’t contain itself anymore; Fat gives it voice and sets it free. “Stay right there, I need to get a picture of your face for Instagram.”

“Don’t be a jerk, can’t you see that I’m hurting?” How did I successfully lather everything else with sunscreen, but miss so much?

“Frankly, Boss, I don’t give a damn.”

Killer Instincts and Survival Skills

“Is that the jackass who yelled at you this morning?”

I let Fat’s words distract me from the massive House, M.D. marathon I’ve got going on. I’m not sure why I didn’t watch this show a decade ago when everyone else did. Dr. Gregory house is one of those intelligent assholes that are entirely my type – such a shame he’s fictional. Groaning from the interruption, I pause Netflix and melt off the couch. I crawl over to Fat’s vantage point by the patio door.

Fat hasn’t budged; her stare is fixed down at the sole occupant at the patio table out front of the apartment building.

“That’s him, isn’t it?”

I squint in the direction of her gaze and try to discern if he was the one that injected his verbose rudeness into my morning walk with Mutt. Yes. No. Maybe. I shrug.

“They all look the same to me.” I glare down at him – my own form of justice – holding that loud-mouthed bastard in contempt. He has no idea we’re talking about him. If he were to just look up to the second floor at the window, he would see both Fat and I with our noses near-pressed to the glass giving him the universal face of ‘you crossed the line, son’.

“Oh.” Fat makes a tiny jolt as her head turns to the left, noticing another fellow not two metres away from us. “I’m more inclined to think this is the guy we’re upset with.” Her voice becomes a little slurred as she talks out of the side of her mouth so he can’t read her lips, “Seriously, they all really do look the same.”

My eyes sweep to the left and my heart lurches when I see another crow perched on the rail of the balcony. Unafraid, the bird stares at me. Its dark eyes glower in a ‘die, bitch’ kind of a way. I get chills like he’s taken over the role of the Grim Reaper. Crows following you around your neighbourhood can’t be a good omen. This is definitely the dude that stood on the mailbox beaking me off this morning. Or he’s just another random jerk of his species.

“Yep. It’s this guy.” I point like I’m a victim on the witness stand showing everyone in the courtroom my attacker. “Do you see the look he’s giving me?” I do the only thing I can think of and stick my tongue out at him.

“Wow, boss. He’s definitely not afraid of you.” Fat turns again to look at me with a fleeting smile that warns me that she’s about to do something that I’m not going to enjoy.

“Hey, fucker!” Fat whips around and bangs her paw hard against the window pane. “This is my human. You got something to say, you go through me.” She hisses and props her front paws against the glass door so she grows much taller. “Nobody gets to verbally abuse this human except me. You got that?”

The black bird tilts its head inquisitively at the feline’s outburst.

“YOU GOT THAT? I’m crazy, man. I’ll take you out.” Fat’s eyes bulge and her movements become jerky. A guttural growl sounds in the back of her throat. I’m getting that uneasy feeling of somebody who just realized their roommate is a psychopath.

Without thinking, my arm swoops down and picks up the grey feline. She twists frantically in my grasp so as not to lose sight of the bird outside. The crow stays on the iron handrail, but its feet shuffle a half-foot farther away from us.

“Hold me back, boss. There’s about to be a homicide at our homestead.”

Fat’s back legs kick and she makes it tricky to hold on to her. The claws extend out of her fur and she slashes wildly in the air. Every few seconds she lets out another war cry. I give up the effort and drop her – she’s gone full primal. I do the only thing I can think of: I slide open the patio door and give her the opportunity to commit murder. Oddly enough, I feel flattered that she cares so much to unleash her Hyde side in order to rid me of my bird problem.

Fat bounds out-of-doors, cussing nonsensically like she has advanced Tourette Syndrome.  Sailors would blush at some of the angry phrases that fused with the feline’s voice. The bird took off immediately, no caws or ruffled feathers or anything else to draw attention to himself – his exit was swift like he was running out on a bill.

On the patio, Fat instantly calms, her on-end hair smoothes. She turns on the spot like a pageant queen, becoming the sane version of herself again. She flashes an arrogant smile. “Problem solved. That wasn’t so hard.”

I do the only thing I can think of. I slide the door shut, trapping Fat out on the balcony.

Her nice demeanor melts away as quickly as she composed herself. I hear the low-growling sound coming from the other side of the door. Fat pounces at the glass door, slamming her paw against the glass.

“Hey, fucker!”

I do the only thing I can think of. I close the curtain and get as far away from the window as possible. Good thing Dr. House is accessible on my iPad because he and I need to leave the apartment immediately.

 

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.”