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.”

The Simplistic Nature of the Fred Flintstone Personality

“Ow! Christ!”

I reposition the dish towel and pull the tray from the oven; it clangs on the stove top with haste. I do an instant one-eighty and turn the faucet of the kitchen sink so the cold water blasts my stupidity-inflicted wound.

“Christ… there’s a guy that’s terrible at hide and seek.” Fat saunters into the kitchen and frowns upon her entrance. She opens her mouth with a question on her face. She looks at my hand under the water stream, the feline inhales the scent of baked-goods which leads her gaze to the tray of muffins. She closes her mouth; there’s no need for her to ask, she’s pieced together the storyline of my misfortune.

I try to speak over the sound of rushing water. “What makes you think Christ would be bad at hide and seek?”

“People find that guy everywhere.” Fat gives me an isn’t-it-obvious face. “If he were better at hiding, our world would have no use for Christian Mingle.”

“The dating site?” I twist the tap so the water just trickles over my thumb.

Fat smiles, “Very good, Boss. Sometimes I question your comprehension level, but not today.” Fat balances on her hind legs while her front paws lift up and brace just above my knee. “What’s with the muffins, Betty Crocker?”

In spite of the fact she can’t see the countertop, I point at the motif of spilled ingredients. Apparently I am capable of creating a great mess in a spur-of-the-moment decision to try this domestic thing.

“I had this great desire for a fresh-baked muffin and a latte.” I nod at the countertop espresso machine. “And I got a new book from the library, I was going to sit on the patio and just enjoy quiet indulgence this afternoon.” I don’t get annoyed with Fat leaning against my leg until her claws gently try to pierce my skin. My leg retreats immediately, but it’s not fast enough to make her fall with disgrace. Damn cats and their ability to land on their feet.

“Offence intended, but that’s a lame way to spend a free afternoon.”

“The saying is ‘No offense’–“

Fat cuts me off, “Don’t correct me. I meant it the way it sounded.”

“…And quiet time is highly necessary. I’ve had some massive mad monkeys the last while and I just want chill out.”

“Yeah. Your life is so hard.” It’s a shame Fat’s icy sarcasm can’t be used to soothe my burning thumb.

I lift my hand and inspect the minor burn.

Fat continues in a whiny voice, “I went to a Caribbean Festival and the beach this weekend. Then I took in a night of theatre. Children in third world countries have no idea what rough is. Vancouver life is hard.” Her mock misery face only lasts a few seconds before her fangs make an appearance with her smile. “Somebody save me from my misery.”

“I’m not miserable. Life is lovely right now. That’s what you think my inner monologue sounds like?”

“No. I was merely breathing vocabulary into the Neanderthal grunts you consider intellectual thought.”

The water turns off and I carefully pry one of the muffins out of the baking tray.

“Thanks, Fat.”

Fat swipes a paw across her brow with phony relief. “Phew, I was worried you weren’t going to get the compliment there.”

I say nothing, just eye her with contempt.

“You’re a simple creature, Boss. It doesn’t take much to make you happy. Or as your people would say,” Fat finishes the sentence with screeching monkey sounds.

Neighbour Favour

“I can’t believe this is what kept you up the other night. So simple: press buttons, make words.”

Fat sits beside me on the floor of the living room. I couldn’t get comfortable at the desk or on the couch, so we’ve found a good workspace on the floor. It took several cups of tea to work up the gumption to open my book. I haven’t worked on it in a long while; I feel like I’m starting from zero.

“It’s not just that, Fat.” My eyes digest a sentence. I press delete and write something else in its place. “It needs to be engaging, needs to have some intrigue and above all else,” I hit delete again, “it needs to make some fucking sense.”

“Let’s do something fun.”

“Fat, I’m not going to get distracted from actually working on this thing today.”

“But I’m so pretty. Pet me.” Fat rolls onto her side playfully.

A quick succession of raps on the door interrupts the writing process. My head and Fat’s head twist in succession to face the apartment door. At the sound of the knocking, Mutt goes crazy and yaps incessantly.

“You expecting somebody?” Fat’s eyes stay glued to the back of the door as if looking away will make the mystery guest disappear.

“Nope.” I push off the ground and slowly come to standing.

Fat holds up a paw, and points to her ear, indicating that I should mimic her. Her head tilts slightly sideways as she listens.

“Shh. Shh.” Whoever it is tries to silence Mutt’s barking.

“Weird.” I bend to pick up the porky dog and look through the door’s peephole. Jesse stands in the hallway, hands in his pockets and looking in the direction of his apartment down the hall. He’s wearing work clothes – must be on his way to the restaurant since he’s obviously not working on his game in server blacks.

“Hey,” Jesse drags out the vowel sound as I swing the door open.

I rest my hand on the doorknob and look to the approximate area of the door Jesse’s knuckles banged against. He’s never knocked on my door before; it’s foreign to me.

“What’s up?” I face him and an impish smile grows across his face.

He clasps his hands in front of his heart in a pleading manner. “I need a favour.”

Fat saunters over just in time to see Jesse stand on alert. A door opens near the end of the hall. His neck whips to see who is leaving which apartment; it’s the middle-aged single mom with the endless supply of kids on her way out. Jesse relaxes.

“I kind of brought a chick home last night and she’s still sleeping. I have to go to work.” He fishes an extra set of keys from his pocket and holds them up with feigned sweetness. “Could you be a dear and lock my place after you hear that crazy bitch leave?”

Fat pushes her way into the hall and plants herself at Jesse’s feet. “What’s in it for us?”

“Fat, shut up.” I hold a hand out for Jesse to drop his keys into my palm. “Sure, Jesse. No problem.”

“Ask him what her deal is.” Fat stares up at me wide-eyed and insistent. “Ask him. There’s got to be something up if he’s sneaking out and giving you keys to lock the door. If we’re setting a precedent for future behaviour, I want him to tell us the defect of every one-nighter we lock up after.”

Jesse stares down at Fat almost as though he can understand her too. “This one, always with the meowing, huh?”

“It’s a constant.” Fat catches my eye and nods her head in his direction. I smile and try not to act like I’m under the orders of the feline, “What’s the deal with her, anyways?” I nod in the direction of Jesse’s apartment.

“Super hot.”

“All the crazy ones are.” Fat talks over him as I shift Mutt’s weight to my other hand.

“But she’s looking for husband material. I shit you not, she went on for twenty-five minutes last night about the kind of wedding she plans on having and asking my opinion. I met her at a bar and it was a good idea to bring her home last night. This morning however…”

I try my best not to laugh right in his face, but Fat doesn’t spare Jesse’s feelings. Her laughing makes the inside of my chest rumble and I choke on the giggles as they force their way out.

“It’s not funny.” In spite of the sentence, Jesse cracks a smile.

Fat and I reply in unison, “It’s really funny.”

His voice turns to a whisper and he looks over his shoulder again to make sure he’s still in the clear. “Woman, you have to shut up or the crazy bitch will find us in the hallway and we’ll both be in for it.”

I salute with a smirk. “You can count on me, chief. I’ll lock your bad decision out of the building. But just so you know, my jurisdiction ends at your front door. If she doesn’t leave of her own free will, she’s your problem.”

“We don’t do exorcisms.” Fat chimes in and looks up to Jesse.

Jesse checks his phone, “Shit. I gotta go. Thanks. I owe you big time.” He takes off, tiptoeing past his own door on the way out.

“Funny one, that one.” Fat struts back into the living room and resumes her spot on the floor.

“Sure is.” I put Mutt on the ground and go sit next to Fat on the floor in front of my computer.

I resume my reading and manage to put in a few edits before we hear a door shut in the hallway. Fat and I both perk up and look at each other with delight.

“You think that’s her?”

“Think we can get a glimpse of her before she leaves?” Fat and I race to the hall door seconds too late. The door to the stairs was just shutting behind her.

“The balcony!” Fat runs in front of me and we go out on the balcony to see if we can get a glimpse of what hot/crazy looks like. We only catch the back half of her walk of shame as she stumbles away from the building.

Fat smirks, “Remember that time you said you wouldn’t get distracted from your writing?”

Office Hours: The Good Doctor’s Bedside Manner

“Boss, I don’t want to make this sound like a rapist situation, but please stop touching me. How many times do I have to say no?”

In the darkness of the bedroom, small sparks of static shoot between grey fur and my fingertips as I pet the feline. It’s really quite something when one is overt-tired and in need of a distraction.

“Fat, you’re like a miniature fireworks display. It’s interesting. And since I can’t sleep, neither will you.”

Fat’s patience finally reaches its limit; she stands up and walks to the far end of the bed and out of the extended reach of my gorilla arms. The feline flops down, annoyed. The fireworks show is over.

“This upsets you? Now you know how it feels to be kept awake when you’d rather be sleeping. Welcome to my life every morning, Fat.”

I hear a snort of derision in the almost-darkness. “It actually hurts. I shouldn’t have to tell you – I’ve heard you swear loud enough from static shock that churches have moved neighbourhoods.”

“I’d put up with the zaps if mine got all electric in the night like yours do. It’s like an unharnessed super power.” I reach out to Fat pathetically as if the pitiful effort will convince Fat to return to my clutches.

I hear the kitty inhale and exhale as if to gather patience. “What’s keeping you awake anyways? Let me in on the Mad Monkey situation.”

“I’m not writing. Why aren’t I writing?” I think on the love/mostly hate relationship with the YA novel I’ve been writing for what feels like longer than my lifetime. It’s turned to ash and resurrected more times than a phoenix.

There is a pause and in the darkness, I hear what I assume is the good doctor licking a paw; squinting doesn’t offer any clarification.

“Oh poor you.” Fat’s sarcastic voice finds me. “You and your complaining. Life must be pretty good if this is what keeps you up at night.” The cat mumbles to herself, “Don’t have my patient notes or glasses and this idiot wants an after-hours session.”

I kick the sheet off my legs, exposing my lower limbs to the night air filtering in through the open window. “That’s not advice.”

“Astute observation, Boss. Go to bed. Write in the morning. Simple.”

“As my fake shrink, shouldn’t you be concerned with why I do or do not do something? All you do is attempt to make me feel stupid.” My spine lifts up off the mattress as I balance on my elbows and stare in Fat’s approximate direction.

“You want to do something, you’ll do it. No need to make the situation any more or less than it is. You’re just looking for me to give you a hall pass on making writing a priority. As for why you’re not writing,” Fat clears her throat, “you’re lazy, and uncertain with how to proceed. Since you don’t have anything especially noteworthy going on in your pathetic little life you’re letting this teeny tiny issue cast a long shadow. Get a life, Boss.”

“Wow, Fat. That’s surprisingly helpful.”

“Good. Now roll over, close your eyes, shut your face and go to sleep.”