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.”

Office Hours: The Three a.m. Wildebeest

“I want you to tell me exactly what prompted that reaction.”

I follow the sound of Fat’s voice. She’s to my left, sitting comfortably on the bed pillow, fake therapist glasses adorned and at the ready. The grey feline sits haughtily, waiting for me to offer further evidence that I’ve trekked into mentally-unbalanced territory. Planted in front of her, the familiar mess that is my file sits open; she’s been waiting for me to find consciousness. The light is not in my favour, but my ears twitch with apprehension when I distinctly hear the click of her pen.

“Have you been sitting there all night, waiting to attack me with an impromptu session?” The sleep-filled voice comes out of me, sounding like I’ve spent seventy years in a smoky lounge. My fingertips wipe damp sweat from my sternum and the back of my neck. Without thinking, I relieve my now-moist hands on the recently-laundered duvet. That was a jackass move, self.

“I was merely watching the ebb and flow of your breathing; it didn’t hold my interest until it became tidal. You went into full-on wildebeest mode in your sleep, Boss. Deep frown, grit teeth, angry snorts, tense body. I momentarily thought you’d levitate and your head would spin the full three-sixty. No such luck. Instead, you just bolted upright and gasped for what sounded like your last breath. Again, pity for me that it wasn’t.” She registers the sound of my scowl. “I joke, I joke. The paws are up. I was just hoping for something more interesting than a nightmare.” Her pen succumbs to gravity with a little help from the huffy feline. In the pre-dawn light, the feline flips the file closed with audible disappointment in the form of an annoyed sigh.

I eye the cream-coloured folder, stuffed with a mess of God knows what kind of notions she has of my psyche. At this hour, a closed file is a good sign for my people. “Okay, so we’re done here.” I shuffle around under the covers trying to find space not affected by damp sweat.

“No, no. I’m sure I can manage through whatever boring dreams plague you. Just let me put on my professional I’m-very-interested-in-what-you-have-to-say face.” Her eyes widen and she rests her chin on a paw, international body language for: tell me more. “Now tell me, what monsters interrupt your slumber?”

“You.” It’s not quite a shout as I roll away from the good doctor and pull the blanket over my head. Please, please let her leave me alone so I can get in a bit more sleep before the alarm clock starts the morning ritual of cussing me out in its native tongue.

I expect a retort. This is usually the part where her evil side takes over. In an effort to keep some distance between us, I wrap myself tighter in the blanket fort and try to turn off my brain. Still, Fat uncharacteristically says nothing. Unease plays tug-of-war with exhaustion. Silence during the bedtime hours isn’t supposed to put you on edge. My eyes open to cautious slits and the protective hold on the duvet loosens. With glacial speed, I pull the blanket down until half my face is exposed. When I see her, Fat is quietly hovered over a loose sheet of lined paper, scribbling with the pen.

Sleep abandons me completely as curiosity takes the wheel. My fingers move quickly and snatch the paper out from under the feline’s paws. I hold it close to my face and see a juvenile picture of my nightmare recreated.

“How did you…”

“—Know exactly what you were dreaming?” Fat meets my uneasy and confused expression with glee. “You talk in your sleep, dummy.” A purr echos through the bedroom. “I love how open you are to sharing when you’re not awake. See that?” Fat’s paw taps in the lower corner of the picture to a stick-figure of a smiling cat. “That’s me. Know why I’m happy?”

I’ve already turned my back to her for a second time while she babbles. “Because you’re deranged?”

“Don’t call me deranged because I care.” Fat can’t even finish the sentence without bursting into raucous laughter. “Care.” She shakes her head. “Hilarious. God, I love freaking you out.”

Office Hours: Arts and Crafts

“Are you expecting a kindergarten class?”

I drop my beyond-ripe gym bag on the floor next to the full-body mirror in the hall. Fat, waiting expectantly in her plastic eyeglasses, sits straighter upon my entrance. She perches on the coffee table amongst a throng of construction paper, felt-tip pens, paint, glue sticks, coloured pipe cleaners and white out. She says nothing, just gives me the ‘trust me’ look of a politician in a sweater vest. Her eyes follow me as I disappear into the kitchen and come back with a Corona in hand.

“Seriously, Fat. Is it time for back-to-school shopping already? What’s going on with this stuff?”

I kneel on the ground beside the coffee table and set my beer down in a small area of table not occupied by craft supplies. My idle hands can’t help themselves and I reach over and grab the pipe cleaners. I wind a yellow and blue one together, with no idea of what will become of it.

“No.” Fat snaps when she sees my hands sculpting the wire aimlessly. “That’s not what this stuff is for, Boss.”

I drop the pipe cleaners instantly; they hit the edge of the table and fall to the floor in near-silence. I lift my hands in the air to show I’m at her mercy.

“You’re absolutely right. Clearly these are for the séance you’re hosting this evening. Give the spirits my apologies for disrupting their arts and crafts table.”

“No,” Fat repeats. “I want you to construct a physical representation of your heart.” Fat’s head nods at all the art supplies around her paws. “It’s an exercise in perception. Show me what you think yours looks like.”

I stare, open-mouthed at the art supplies, awaiting further instruction.

The feline’s tail sweeps over the craft materials, knocking the bottle of white out on its side. Her eyes squint at me from behind the wire frames of her spectacles. She sighs with impatience, “You can start now.”

“Oh, well…” I scan the art goods and grab the scissors and a piece of blue construction paper. For some reason, I think this is a timed event and start cutting the shape of a heart as quickly as possible.

I’m so engrossed in the process, I don’t even acknowledge Fat’s stare.

“You clearly were not emo as a youth.”

I look up just as I finish cutting the shape of a lopsided heart from the paper. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

The feline stares as though it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re not good at cutting.”

I don’t know how to respond so I just ignore her comment and focus instead on piercing and cutting several holes of various sizes into my paper heart. Upon completion of the round holes, I set the scissors and lean away from my art project.

“You think your heart looks like Swiss cheese?” Fat appears repulsed by my effort and stares at the barely held-together heart.

“Swiss chee…” My head lops to the side and I have to admit, yes, it does look like that. Unintentionally, of course.

“You think there’s a person out there who wants a heart that looks like that? This isn’t a heart you give to somebody.” Fat judges before she even hears my explanation.

“I have no intention of giving my heart to any one person.”

Fat gives me a look that can’t commit to being either pity or misunderstanding. It’s a face between differing states.

“The holes, Fat. I could never give anybody my entire heart because I’ve already given pieces of it to other people.” I point to a hole, “My folks have this part.” I point to another hole, “Bestie’s.” I point out a few more, “Chelsea’s. My niece. Nephew.” I list off a few more missing parts of my heart that have been given away. “Kind of selfish to get these parts of my heart back just so I can give my whole heart to a single person. I like it better like this. I like having a broken heart. More pieces to give to others for safe keeping.”

Fat sits in silence. Her face twists in what looks to be a pained expression.

“Fat? What’s wrong?”

Fat’s paw bats a few of the felt pens sheepishly and we both watch them fall off the table. “I was expecting to mock your ugly heart and tell you about how nobody wants something so hideous. It is hideous, by the way. But then you go and say something like that and I haven’t prepared any supportive comments.”

A Curious Understudy for My Heart’s Desire

“I want mac and cheese!”

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

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

“I’m serious. I want mac and cheese!”

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

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

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

“I just said that.”

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

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

“I think I’m going crazy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Office Hours: The Trojan Horse

“Is that your interpretation of a Trojan horse?”

My back curves as I peer over Fat’s shoulder; she’s very involved in something open in the Paper app on the iPad. It looks like a kindergarten drawing of a horse-like animal on wheels.

The grey feline scrambles to smother the digital sketch with her gelatinous obesity. The hair down her spine stands rigid.

“Don’t look at this. My eyes only, thank you!” There’s an edge to her voice when she shouts.

I go into defense mode and lift my hands to shield my face in case an angry kitty claw swipe comes my way. Knowing that she doesn’t want me to pry only feeds my curiosity. Now I have to know what she’s hiding.

“So, it’s not a Trojan horse?” I speak slowly and lean backward, still wary. Rightfully so.

Fat’s tiny scowling face twists around as though The Exorcist was a movie based on her unbalanced nature. My muscles tense, not sure what’s going to happen next. I think to cover my eyes, but I’m captivated by her frenzy.

“For your information, boss, this is going to make us a fortune. That’s why it’s so hush hush.” If her boiling blood were a city, what happens next is the equivalent of an ice age in the Sahara. “Okay, I’ll tell you.” It’s a good thing she can’t keep a secret or I’d be going crazy. It’ s like gossip is stress relief for the feline; the more she divulges, the more she calms down. Her fur reveals the horribly drawn picture on the tablet. “It’s a Zampony.”

I play along as though fully informed on the subject at hand. “Yes.” I nod. “A Zampony, of course. I was just looking at it from the wrong angle.”

Fat’s face contorts with disgust. “Don’t do that. Don’t pretend you know what I’m talking about in order to spare yourself from stupidity.”

One sentence and I’ve turned from the boss into an idiot sidekick. Fat can really make me feel insignificant if she tries.

The cat sighs, patience deflates from her chest like a balloon pierced by a bullet. “It’s a Zamboni with a horse head. This is Canada. Every arena will want one. Just you wait.”

“I don’t…” my face scrunches and I squint at the iPad as if distorting it with my vision will help me see how amazing Fat’s idea is. I lose my train of thought and my sentence runs itself off a metaphorical cliff. When Fat stares at me, waiting for me to finish the thought, all I can do is shrug… and then yawn.

“I’m sorry, boss. Do my dreams bore you?” Fat turns in a semicircle and places her paws on top of the iPad. “What are you doing here anyways?”

“Didn’t we,” I shoot a quick glance to the time on the PVR, “have a session today?”

“Oh damn. We did – we do.” The good doctor quickly corrects herself. “I’ve made an observation as of recent, boss: you critique my dreams when you keep yours neatly written and folded up in a small square in your wallet. Tell me which is better, which garners results.”

“You snooped through my wallet?”

Her little grey head bobs up and down with confirmation.“Every Tuesday since you brought me home from the SPCA. Helps you discover a lot about a person. Why do you keep them itemized on a list?”

It never occurred to me that it was strange. “Just as a reminder, I guess. I don’t want to forget what’s on my bucket list.” My memory is akin to a sieve.

“And yet, you hide your dreams away and judge me for what I would like to achieve in this lifetime.” The kitty is ruffled. “I just don’t get how leaping out of a plane doesn’t phase you, but actually trying to accomplish something petrifies you.” Fat sneers, “Pathetic.”

“Are you saying that I should have my ambition on display?”

“Breakthrough.” Her tone is curt and Fat turns her attention back to the iPad. She doesn’t look up with her dismissal, “We’re done for today. Please see yourself out.”

Undiagnosed Condition gets Diagnosed

“You are so entirely busted, young lady.”

The popcorn in my hand doesn’t make it to my mouth. Eyes wide, my focus pans left, away from the television, and zooms in on the feline. Fat smirks from where she sits on the floor.

Love Actually? You’re watching a movie about feelings.” She trots diagonally through the living room and gains enough momentum to easily leap onto the couch beside me.

“Don’t ever tell anyone.” I wipe butter-glazed fingers on my jeans and pause the live TV. “I keep getting hell from my best gals because I haven’t seen it.” I notice Fat eying my bowl of popcorn; I move it to my other side so I don’t have to contend with her trying to take some by force.

“You’re loving this film.”

“You can’t prove that.”

Her head nods in the direction of my remote-clutching hand. “You cared enough to pause it.”

“Pardon me for being polite enough to give you all of my attention.” Who am I kidding? I want to watch Colin Firth fall in love with a girl who doesn’t understand him.

“Are we going to tread down this road? I saw you watching Serendipity a couple nights ago after you got in from a late night with one of your gal pals.” A paw reaches out to nudge me playfully in the ribs, “You love romantic movies.”

It is only after I shamefully bury my face in my hands that I fret about a pimply outbreak from contact with my popcorn fingers. I’ll have to exude my apparent shame another way; like a frightened turtle, my head pops inside my t-shirt and I hide out.

“I don’t. My body must be generating excess estrogen this month.” I observe the sleek butter stains on my shirt. I can’t figure out my own weird behaviour. I’m almost surprised I haven’t stooped to the level of wistfully watching Titanic or The Notebook.

“What’s next? The Notebook? Titanic?

It’s not her judgemental tone that draws me out of the t-shirt, so much as my worry that she’s using some kind of x-ray device that interprets thought patterns. She squints when my eyes peer out of the neck hole. With the movie still paused, the living room almost echos with quiet.

“You’re acting like an idiot.”

“I’m sorry?” I yank the bottom of my entire head and neck come out of hiding.

“No need to apologize for something you’re good at.” Fat crosses my lap to sniff at the ikea bowl half-full of popcorn.

I flick her ear and she stops her advance on my movie snack. Instead, she settles herself on my thighs and stares at my face.

“I’m pretty certain I know why you’re acting like this.”

“Please. Share with the class.” My arms open widely as though I was displaying an entire audience sitting amongst the furniture in my living room. I pick up the popcorn bowl; I’m the kind of full where I’m aware that I’m not hungry anymore, but if the popcorn is beside me, I’m going to keep inhaling it until every kernel is gone.

“Boss, you need to get laid. This behaviour of yours is driving both of us crazy.”

I accidentally drop the bowl on the coffee table, sending some bits flying. Mutt scuttles over and starts gobbling up the little treats as fast as his greedy mouth can manage.

“Fat, we’ve talked about this plenty of times. I’m not dating right now…”

“Ban on Boyfriends, yes, I know.” Fat interrupts and rolls her eyes. “I’m not talking about dating, fool. This whole scene,” Fat points at Colin Firth’s frozen face on the screen, “is not what you’re about. This sappy shit has to end.”

I grab the remote and press play. I don’t even know what to say to Fat right now. I’m aware this isn’t what I would generally watch. Though I suppose I have actually been watching Cosmo TV lately. A Walk to Remember should be on right after this movie. The idea of an afternoon double-feature makes me giddy. And then I realize… I turn to Fat, horrified. She’s right.

“You look like you’re going to throw up. Too much butter on your popcorn or is the therapist’s analysis on the money again?”

I don’t answer. Instead, I greasily slide off the couch, race to the bedroom to change my shirt, slide on some shoes and grab my bag.

“I have to get out of here.”

Fat shouts after my frantic exit, “Don’t come back until you get your freak on.”

The Medusa Effect

“Complete and utter double standard.”

Fat glares at me when I stumble into the apartment well after the witching hour. She’s throwing that kind of glare I used to get from my parents when I was a teenager and out at mysterious locations with strangers for undetermined amounts of time; it’s that kind of frown that expresses displeasure and also has that, you-better-explain-to-me-just-where-you-were-tonight sour mug. This look isn’t foreign to me.

“It probably is.” I drop my keys on the carpet, but they end up sliding slightly under the hall table. I hope I remember where they are in the morning or it’s going to make future me very angry at present me. Present me doesn’t need that pressure right now; I’m having enough trouble taking off what my crazy granny refers to as my shit-kicker boots. And yes, I may have had a difficult time getting my key into the apartment door’s key hole, but knowing where they can be found is a different situation altogether. I collapse backward on my ass, continuing the struggle to free myself from footwear. Don’t fret, future me, I’m confident that my memory will work in the morning.

“Whatever is going through your head right now, you look very proud of yourself. Do you need help taking that second boot off?” Fat watches as I pull on the black heel, but it remains stuck to my foot. Gravity pulls harder than usual and I hear the sound of the buckles rattle when my foot falls on the floor.  Exhaustion teams up with gravity and together they pull my torso until I flop backward; I lie back on the ground, quitting. I don’t even care that I haven’t vacuumed in a long while and I’m currently nesting on a bed of Fat’s sloughed-off, dandruff-riddled excess hair.

“I’m just fine, thanks.” My body turns to stone, and I’m trapped forever with asymmetrical feet.

“Won’t let me catch birds out on the balcony, but she comes home wearing evidence of flamingo homicide. Did you take this drunken display to the zoo?” Fat sits just above my head so when I look up at her she appears upside-down.

“I’m not drunk. I’m just tired and I’ve never even seen a real flamingoo.” Even though I’m pretty certain I don’t care, I try to brush the small pink feathers off my shirt with both hands. The pastel feathers don’t move. My brain may be alert, but my fingers have given in to drunkenness. I know without trying that they lack the finesse to pluck dwarf flamingo quills from my sweater, and I continue my streak of quitting things that are currently difficult.

“Based on the pronunciation of that last word, you’re clearly fine.”

I nod, pleased that I’ve fooled her. I don’t even care that it feels like my face is smiling like a doofus. “I went to a sex toy party and there were boas a-plenty. I wore a pink one.”

“Never would have guessed.” Fat walks around and climbs up onto my chest. She’s heavy, but I rationalize that the effort required to get her off of me is much more unappealing than a cracked sternum. I’ll just duct tape my bones back together in the morning.

“You smell really weird. Like a strange collection of food and lotion.”

“Dangerous stuff, Fat. I’ll tell you now: ‘edible’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘delicious’. When it says ‘edible’ on a bottle of lube it actually means: if you get this in your mouth, it won’t kill you.”

Fat’s face becomes more serious, “Let’s just move beyond that last thing you said. You make it too easy sometimes, boss.”

“Smell this though.” I lift the outside of my wrist like I’d asked her to tell me what time it read. Her wet nose carefully moves forward and she takes a gentle whiff.

“Subtle. What is it?”

“Honey dust for balls.”

“Excuse me?” Fat sits up and her paw goes protectively to her nose.

“Well it’s for a shit ton of other things, sheets, skin, lots of things – it repels moisture and prevents chaffing. Perfect for balls.”

“I don’t care for this game.” Her grey head shakes from side-to-side like I’ve disrespected her with blasphemous indecency. “It would appear you had a good time tonight. I haven’t seen you in such good spirits in a while.”

“Team estrogen tonight, Fat. It’s always the answer.”

“Girl time is good for you. Staying cooped up in this apartment is bound to drive anybody crazy.” Fat walks quietly over to the bedroom doorway. “You going to make it to bed?”

“Going to go out on a limb and opt for a big, fat nope on that one.” I try to roll over onto my side, but it’s hard to move when one feels like they have locked eyes with Medusa. “I will see you in the morning, Fat.”

“I’ll feel better leaving you to pass out if you turn your head to the side.” She watches as I struggle to move my cheek against the floor. “Atta girl.”

Surviving the Flood

“Coffee incident!” I scream like I’m in a bad teen horror movie and it’s my turn to die. The hot liquid races across the desk, attempting to consume everything in its path. My oafish hands do what they can to stave off the coffee and save the insightful anecdotes I’d scribbled throughout the workday on random post-its. The one that reads, ‘You are what you eat: ginger eats ginger” is lost to the caffeinated monster. I’d obviously written that little gem before consciousness kicked in around lunch; it seemed clever at the time, but now reads like a porn title. The small square of pale yellow transforms into brown mess. Better to sacrifice the idiot thoughts and save the intelligent ones.

“I ate too much. My hearteries hurt.” Fat’s whiny voice sounds like it’s coming from the couch, but I can’t waste precious seconds to see if that’s true.

“Arteries, dumb ass. Not hearteries.” The annoyance contributes to the line that’s been slowly etching its permanence into my forehead. “Coffee incident!” I repeat the words with more volume and urgency as I do my damnedest to keep a hold on the books, computer and notes from the desktop. I panic and start saving random things that don’t require rescue: the now-empty coffee cup, an unopened bag of corn chips, thumb tacks. I’m not good in stressful situations. I just hope that prohibition never gets reinstated; I don’t know how I’d fare without my coping mechanism.

Boyfriend runs into the room, as a hero should, grabs a dish towel and tends to my mess. Tense seconds go by and I wonder if there will be any post-it note survivors. Boyfriend hides the remains. I’ve had enough trauma, it’s better to let the thoughts be free than mourn their demise. After close inspection of the surface, I tentatively set my pile of paper and electronics back down. Boyfriend dutifully disappears back into the bedroom to let me continue with my fictional nonsense.

“You know,” Fat kneads the arm of the couch as she buts in, “Yelling ‘Coffee incident’ until the calvary arrives to tend to your spillage issues doesn’t constitute cleaning up after yourself. You need to altar your behaviour.”

“Alter. Altar is a religious thing.” I correct without thinking. “My hands were clearly full. You saw. What else was I supposed to do?”

“Act like a grownup and figure it out for yourself. Use those brains you’re always trying to convince me you have.”

I begin to unstack my notebooks and paper from the unstable tower on the desk. I’m at a loss for rebuttal so I pretend I didn’t hear her.

“He says you’re difficult, you know.” Fat stops pawing the cushion and settles in, resting her head on her front arm. I don’t need to ask who she’s talking about. He just left the room.

“That’s not breaking news, he’s said that to my face.”

“Forgive me for being a bit of a septic, but I’m not certain I believe that. Did he call you anal retentive to your face too?” Fat’s eyes close, as though the conversation is over and it is time for a nap to commence. That’s a good move. I’ll have to steal that the next time I need an out. It’s the perfect balance of bitchy and cute; it’s a difficult hybrid to get away with.

“Skeptic.” I pause, finally realizing what she’s been doing. “You ass hat.”