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.”

Vacation: Hour One

Dear Fat,
I took a guess and figured you’d be nosing through my emails while I’m away. I trust you found this letter in the draft folder and just couldn’t help yourself to a peek. Chelsea won’t be by to feed you until she’s off work – can you do me a favour and make sure that I didn’t leave the hair straightener turned on? I know you probably read that and thought something like, “Nothing doing, wench,” but you really should make sure it’s not plugged in; it’s not me that will die if the apartment catches fire. I’m just saying… you’re going to want to take clean up after my carelessness. My apologies, that could have been more sensitive. For the record, I don’t want you to die in a fire. I’m sure your fur is much too flammable.
Listen, I’m sorry that you’re mad that I left without giving you any warning. It’s only a week – enjoy the solitude. Mutt is over at the chef’s house. You can spend the quiet week pouring through the internet reading articles for unlicensed wannabe shrinks. Sorry, that could have come out a little nicer. You’ve been a great help at times. We probably shouldn’t discuss the times you have been less than helpful and I’ve wanted to search Craigslist for a kitty guillotine.
As I’m sure you can guess from the correspondence, I’ve arrived at Mead Manor and I’m in good company. My stepsister and I have both been busted on the cooking front and the parents have decreed that the two of us will be throwing together tonight’s dinner. The fact that she and I both gravitate toward men that know their way around a kitchen isn’t an accident; it’s a sign of intelligent upbringing. But with beer in hand, we’ve got great plans for protein skewers, roasted peppers and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. We’re working the ol’ Mead standby – keep everyone’s drinks full and cook slowly so the alcohol has time to warp judgement. You know, just in case.
Believe it or not, I will actually miss your company this week, Fat. Tell Chelsea I say hi.
Love,
Boss

 


 

Dear idiot Boss,
I expect you’ll find your straightener inside your suitcase. You packed it last night, remember? Obviously not, your ability to be a complete buffoon seldom surprises me anymore. That hair iron is an extra limb to a vain person like yourself; at least the hazard is out of the apartment for the time being – the hazard being you, of course. If I may also go on record, I don’t want you to perish in a fire either – I’d much prefer to get the satisfaction of suffocating you myself.
No, I’m not upset that you abandoned me to go wakeboard or whatever it is you do in Kelowna. One quick thing to note: if you find a hairball in your underwear drawer, it was an accident. Sincerely.
Oh, Boss. This almost seems like a letter to grandma. It’s cute that you think I care about you cooking dinner. I don’t. You left me and my ability to care about your life has also abandoned the apartment. Funny how that works.
I’ll be scooting my ass over as many surfaces as I can in your absence; I know how you love that. Please let that image gnaw at your brain for the duration of your time away.
Regards,
Fat

 

The Good Doctor

“What the fuck happened to the apartment?” I let out the growl of a lion, and I begin my hunt for the guilty party. She won’t get away with this, not on this lion’s pride.

In the kitchen, buttery footprints stray across the counter leading away from the butter dish. On closer examination, it appears the butter has entered puberty, as it now has hair where it didn’t before. I’ll kill her. On the opposite counter near the sink, my abandoned morning coffee apparently decided to commit suicide while I was out. The mug thrust itself off the counter, dying instantly upon impact. Cold coffee remains leaking out onto the kitchen floor is a scene few can bear to witness. Mutt cowers under the desk as I circle from the kitchen and stalk into the living room. The corner of the couch has become the victim of merciless claw marks. The plant on the coffee table, now uprooted, has left dirt all around the pot and on the carpet.  I peek in the bedroom and the only thing I notice is an indent on my pillow, likely where the great pest decided to take an afternoon siesta.

Today I write a book: Feline Homicide: A DIY ProjectInternational Bestseller guaranteed. Were I a beefed-up goon, this is the part where I ball a hand into a fist and crack all the knuckles simultaneously.

Coming out of the bedroom, I catch sight of Fat in my peripheral. She sits on the closed lid of the toilet seat, paw raised as though she’s testifying in court. I look down at the floor to see the Charmin, unrolled and covering the floor in a sea of white ribbon.

“Fat. Seriously? I was gone for two hours.”

Fat’s raised paw moves almost too quickly to see. She reaches out, gives the remaining toilet paper a swat and we both watch another few layers of ass paper slide to the ground.

Unapologetic, the feline shoots me a judgemental look. “Tsk tsk.” She shakes her head. “I suppose this is what happens when you leave Mutt in charge. If you recall, this sort of nonsense doesn’t happen on my watch.” A malicious smile contentedly resides on her face.

I think back to my departure. As is normal before I shut the door behind me, I tongue-in-cheek make the first animal I see the deputy of the apartment. Today, it happened to be Mutt. I proclaimed that the little doofus was in charge in my absence and left without a second thought. It would seem that it struck a sore spot with the good doctor.

Fat looks down, contentedly, at her mayhem. “Still, we’re in better shape than when you’re the one in charge, oh fearless leader.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I crouch down to start gathering up the unravelled toilet paper.

Fat jumps down and rubs her side along my kneecap. “Bad decisions decline when you’re out of the home, boss. One does have to admit, it is easier to succumb to boredom when your dumb ass isn’t around, hence…” Her eyes glance at the mess I’ve managed to bundle together before she proceeds to lick a paw that still gleams from the butter.

Tremendous silence reverberates off the bathroom walls. I’m the kind of mad where it’s uncertain if I’m going to lash out verbally or physically. It’s the tip of the precipice where one more jerk remark from Fat will declare which side I’m on. Her fate is in her own hands. I’m kind of hoping that this ends with me drowning her in the toilet.

I see something hidden on the floor behind the toilet. Curiosity is anger’s kryptonite; inquisition is to rampage as a fire extinguisher is to anything I attempt to cook. Reaching out, I grab the wire object: eyeglasses from a plastic Santa who is either stuffed in a plastic bag and hidden in the hall closet, or stuffed in a plastic bag and taken to the garbage bin out back.

I point the spectacles in Fat’s direction when I ask: “This is a play to get me to stay home with you more? Are you suggesting that this poor behaviour is an attempt to extort therapy sessions where I play the part of your dim-witted patient? You are a terrible shrink, Fat.”

Fat taps her nose when I figure out the motivation behind her afternoon asshole endeavors. “But I’m an awfully good listener.”

Culinary Prowess and Fire Drills

“I thought you were going to ‘Gordon Ramsay this mother’,” Fat’s paws form air quotes around the words I uttered an hour ago. She peers into my bowl of yogurt and granola. “That doesn’t look like eggs florentine.” Fat gives me a quick once-over and doesn’t attempt to hide her distaste, “idiot.”

The spoon clangs on the bowl’s edge when I face the bitchy feline. “I didn’t have any eggs–”

“–and by eggs you mean any ability in the kitchen whatsoever.” She scuttles to the next couch cushion over to avoid a smack to her backside. Like I would do that while I have food precariously balanced on my lap.

My mouth opens in protest, but I’m at a loss for a legitimate rebuttal. The silence only gives Fat a platform to keep talking.

“Case and point: you’ve had not one, but two kitchen fires since your ex moved out. Bravo.”

“Nobody was hurt. And two my credit, one of those had nothing to do with a cooking attempt. It was due to negligence while making tea.” I pick up my spoon; instead of using it for the correct purpose, I tap it on my chin thoughtfully then point it at Fat with my question. “That last statement hurt my case a little, didn’t it?”

A giddy smile grows on her face as Fat closes her eyes and nods. At least I gained something from the experience; if you use a tea towel to take the kettle off the stove, make sure it doesn’t dangle and hit the burner. Lesson learned.

“You ever think about actually trying to do good in the kitchen instead of evil?”

“Nope.” The answer is a knee-jerk reaction.

With a slight tilt of the head she shoots me a look of certainty. “We’re going to get sued at some point. I’m calling it now.”

“It’ll be okay. I know some firemen.”

“I know you like to stand by your domestically-challenged guns, but perhaps a little effort on your part to–” Fat’s head twists quickly and her attention snaps to the window. She stares, unblinking.

“What?” I squint at the window to see what she’s scrutinizing.

A few beats of silence pass until Fat lets out a sigh of exasperation. She volunteers an answer to my question, sparing the trouble of having to repeat myself. “Just my reflection in the glass. You’d think I’d know by now.” Her shoulders slouch and she hangs her head.

“Who’s the idiot now?”

Fat’s ears stand up and her head lifts. She jumps down to the carpet, twists onto her back and rolls from side to side while shouting, “Stop, drop and roll. Stop, drop and roll!”