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.”

Lowering the Bar

“You’ve got a little something there.”

Fat’s paw gesticulates in a circular motion in front of her furry chest.

Compared to the glorious weather outside, the apartment is immersed in darkness. I peel off my sunglasses and look down at what was, when I left for work fourteen hours ago, a flawless cream tank top. The shirt has since been violated and scandalized by a crusty smattering of brown something. From its location, the mysterious substance looks like alien areola on my shirt.

“Damn. Can’t keep it classy, can I?” I mumble and pull my top taut with one hand while the thumbnail of the opposite one picks at the dried-on smudge. I’m looking down at such an intense angle my neck folds like an accordion and becomes a double chin. At least that’s what it feels like.

“What is it?” Fat moves to sit at my heels. Her double chin flattens as she lengthens her neck to stare upward. Such juxtaposition.

I don’t think, I just act. Pinching the cotton fabric from either side of the mess, I lift the stain to my mouth.

“Boss, no!” Fat shields her eyes as though there will be some terrible backlash from my actions.

My tongue presses against the stain. It is just as I thought.

“Barbeque sauce.”

Fat carefully lowers her paw and peeks out. When she realizes that neither of us are going to die, her paw touches down to the floor and the feline sits straighter as her spine becomes rigid.

“You’re an idiot. Barbeque sauce? A brown smudge could have been any number of gross things.”

“I was at a barbeque after work, Fat. There is nothing else it could have been. Besides, if you look at the trajectory,” I mime eating and draw an invisible line from my imaginary burger to the stain on my right boob, “the angle checks out.” This is where high school math class pays off; I was wondering when this crap would come in handy.

Fat doesn’t think I notice her claws slowly digging into the carpet. “You’re so frivolous with stupid things. Nothing on your face showed sign of second thought to sticking unknown dried sludge in your mouth.” Her voice screeches with frustration.

“What’s your problem, Fat?”

“This devil-may-care attitude of yours. I just don’t understand why that’s not a blanket mentality. The therapist in me is curious, but the roommate in me is beyond tired of your moronic nature.”

“What do you mean?” I stick the soiled section of shirt in my mouth and suck the mesquite flavour.

The feline snaps, “Get that out of your mouth; you’re not a child.” She waits for me to obey before she continues. “You’re so carefree with all the stupid stuff in your life, but when it comes down to things that are important, you hesitate and drag your heels until the decisions are made for you. You lack instinct. I can’t think of a time when you’ve been attuned to your visceral gut.”

“That time in Mexico when everybody else ate at that gnarly dive bar and I had a bad feeling about it. They all ended up sick in the ‘it’s coming out of both ends’ kind of way.” I pair the anecdote with a cheeky smile. I’m pretty proud of that decision two years ago. Though, it may have been the voice in my head screaming about how it seemed like a bad idea; if I recall correctly, my gut was hungry at the time.

“Boss,” Fat draws out the word so she sounds like a serpent, “That’s not what I meant. But clearly your brain got busy rubbing elbows with the beer at the barbeque, so it’s kind of a lost cause talking to you right now. I get it. You don’t think things through. But for the sake of my sanity, can you be that way with everything in your life so I know not to have any hope?”

“I can’t promise that, Fat.” My eyes drift back down to the stain. I don’t know how I’m still hungry.

“It’s just not fair to me to know that you have the capacity to make informed decisions. If I always expect you to be a buffoon I can’t ever be disappointed.”

Parenting Tactics of a Non-Mom

“This is going to do terrible things to Boyfriend’s uterus.” Fat sits on my lap as we stare at him playing with my eighteen-month-old godson, Jonah. “If his biological clock wasn’t ticking before…”

My nostrils flare out. I wish I had more control over my external responses. “This is terrible.” I shake my head. This is exactly how people get ideas about procreation. Introduce the perfect child to a want-to-be parent and thoughts begin to grow. Jonah is such a cute, well-behaved, clumsily hilarious baby – this stupid kid is going to ruin my life.

Fat and I watch, both appalled at the sheer enjoyment on Boyfriend’s face as he throws Jonah up into the air. Both the child and the man squeal like they’re estrogen-enriched. In unison, Fat and I shake our heads. I feign a dry-heave and Fat offers a judgemental, “Tsk tsk.” I scratch behind her ears. Good kitty.

“Get ready to have the talk with him after the parents come to retrieve their litter.”

“That’s not what it’s called for humans, Fat. We don’t birth in bulk nearly as often as your species.” I pet the length of her spine and she does that weird ass-in-the-air thing that cats do when you pet them just right. “Bet you fifty bucks his first sentence after the kid is gone has to do with us having children.”

His phone rings in the bedroom and Boyfriend leaves to go answer it.

“You’re on, boss. Except that will be his second sentence. His first will be some kind of comment about this specific child. You shouldn’t bet on human behaviour against a therapist.”

“Tanta, Tanta!” Jonah’s exuberance shows in his happy feet as he runs across the room with the tap-dancing finesse of Fred Astaire. That might be an oversell, but he moves quick, Fat jumps out of the way before the toddler collides into my knees. He laughs, and a gross line of drool flows out of his mouth and pools onto my jeans.

“As cute as you are disgusting.” I grab him under my arm like a football and grab a wet wipe from the diaper bag.

“I know what you’re thinking, Fat. I didn’t want to be called Auntie, so I opted for Tanta.” Fat follows behind us at a leisurely feline pace.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Kitty.” Jonah points as Fat jumps up on the desk beside the neon green bag that is so bright I try not to look at it directly; I don’t want to risk damaging my retinas. The kid he hangs like a stuntman under my arm and flops around, arching his back at impossible angles to avoid the wet wipe to the face.

“Stay still. Stop. Stop this.” I end up dropping to my knees and putting Jonah in a baby headlock. “They should come out with a line of chloroform wipes for children. They’ll be clean and well-behaved. After all, they are even cuter when they’re unconscious. I’m sure any parent would agree.”

“You’re really good at this.” Fat cringes when I haphazardly throw the wipe and it lands beside her. “Maybe you should consider growing your own.”

“I’m not really into science projects, Fat.” I set the kid down and he tap-dances over to a plastic track with a ball fixed to a track and a scratch pad in the middle. Jonah reaches out and even with a gentle touch, gives the ball enough force to go around the track a couple times.

“That’s mine! Don’t let that slobbery miniature human touch my things!” Fat’s hair stands on end and her claws dig into the carpet with her displeasure. Her eyes fixate on the small white ball; it’s hard to take her outburst seriously when her head follows the circular motion of the toy’s movement.

Boyfriend comes back in the room and sees a familiar car out the window. “Mom and Dad are back. I’ll run him out to them.” Boyfriend scoops the tyke up into his arms and grabs the diaper bag and Jonah’s coat. Fat scuttles over and sits on the cardboard scratch pad on the cat toy as if to assert her ownership.

“Later, M.B.” I get up to give him a quick hug and the little bastard plants a wet kiss on the side of my face.

After they leave, Fat looks up at me as I wipe the slobber from my face. “M.B. as in…?”

“Mini Bestie, of course.”

Fat nods. “Right. Right. For future reference, he is never to touch my things.”

“Sure, Fat. Sure.”

We turn when we hear the door open and shut. Boyfriend smiles contentedly as he kicks off his shoes. “Isn’t he the best? I can’t wait until we have kids of our own.”

Fat’s displeasure instantly morphs into a winner’s smile. Looks like I’m out fifty bucks.