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.”

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.”

Office Hours: Permission to Act Like a Jerk

“Before you sit down, I’m going to need you to grab an alcoholic beverage.”

Knees bent and ass hovering mere inches above the sofa, I freeze.

“Why?”

Fake glasses are slightly askew across Fat’s tiny, wet nose. Her face has a subtle glow from the iPad positioned in front of her on the couch. It illuminates her whiskers.

“The reviews are in.” Her tone carries a serious edge and she nods in the direction of the liquor cabinet.

“You’re going to need a cushion.”

Though I’m not sure what’s going on, I’m not going to dismiss Fat’s insistence that I need to consume alcohol. If she’s blessed my union with booze, I’m sure as hell going to have a loved one at my side when she breaks whatever bad news she’s holding on to. My legs, burning from the squat, sigh with relief when I stand up. I grab a liquor bottle at random and plunk it on the coffee table. I sit down in my nook where the sectional intersects.

Repulsion crosses Fat’s face. “No mix with that vodka?”

I fight the urge to groan as I lean forward and spin the bottle so the label points in Fat’s direction. “Raspberry vodka. It’s practically juice. Whatcha got going on my iPad?”

Her mouth draws into a straight line. “Have you been on Facebook lately?”

My back is still arches over to the coffee table where my hand still hasn’t released its grip on the bottom of the vodka bottle. My visceral gut tells me to pick up the vodka and keep it close.

“No, why?” The lid of the bottle becomes unscrewed as I turn it to the left, then I turn it back to the right. Then again to the left and back and forth a few more times as a means to deal with the silence that Fat has let settle into the living room.

“A certain ex-boyfriend has taken to social media to garner some sympathy and make himself look like a victim of your cold-hearted ways.”

The lid turns to the left and I remove it from the bottle; I hold it between my fingertips.

“Uh huh.”

Her paw sweeps across the iPad going over comments of people who have no idea how the relationship actually ended.

“There’s a fun little bit where he refers to being here a waste of time. My favourite has to be a thread that starts with a post that says, ‘They say time heals all wounds why am I angrier.’ Punctuation issues aside, that’s some refreshing prose he’s got going on there, don’t you think? Quite the poet, that one. Quite the poet indeed.” The feline does her best to hide her sarcastic smile. “Hang on,” Fat presses the comment section where several people have weighed in with opinions that are fed by his pity-me pretense, “I want to read you some things that are here.”

I take a tiny nip from the bottle, getting lost in thought as Fat searches the page.

He went out the door still professing love for me. Saying that we failed because I didn’t try. The reality is, we are on two different life trajectories and I don’t know if mine involves being Mrs. So-and-so and birthing babies. I like my alone time. I need it. He is the opposite of me, and from his watchtower, I’m perceived as a bad person because I don’t want the same life he does. I can live with that. I’m not a cheater. I didn’t treat him badly. I just didn’t love him.

I revisit the long fights and challenging debates of this suffocating relationship that’s currently on exhibition in my memory bank. A hearty gulp of vodka warms the inside of my chest and brings me back to present.

Fat squints at the tablet screen and starts reading off random comments.

“I moved 4000 klm away, and was given up on”

I suppose that means I don’t get to play the part of the protagonist in this story. Damn.

“Feels like I wasn’t worth the effort”

This is a clever trick I learned at PMS camp; feelings can’t be wrong. Boys shouldn’t be privy to how we manipulate language.

“Some people just really are ass holes”

I suppose that would be me. I’m not exactly Joseph Stalin, but with enough practice…

“The people that made you feel like that are the one that aren’t worth the effort”

Not worth the effort and a waste of time. This is a terrible day for my ego.

“I want to annihilate him.” I toss the bottle cap on the table and take another swig from the bottle.

“That’s interesting. I’ve always thought you were heartless, but it seems like you got a transplant from a super villain at some point.”

I shoot Fat an angry look.

“Boss, I’m kidding.”

“He’s making me look like an asshole.”

“You are an asshole.” She raises a paw when she sees me reach for a pillow to throw at her. “Not in the way you’re being depicted here, but you are an asshole. Everybody knows the internet is full of lies. Calm down.”

I take another sip of vodka. My anger tries to compose itself as Fat continues.

“He’s just fishing for somebody out there to show that they care about him. He’s mad because you didn’t love him forever like he hoped you would.”

“Dating isn’t a promise of forever. Marriage is a fucking promise of forever.” I yell and squeeze a fist around the glass neck of the bottle.

“You’re just going to let this charade play out, boss. He’ll come around and realize that you’re not the girl for him, and when that happens this will all go away.” As if to illustrate that fact, Fat shuts off the iPad and the lit screen goes black.

“And in the meantime.”

Fat ponders potential outcomes before she shrugs and gives me the answer I want to hear.

“Give him a reason to think you’re an asshole.”

Office Hours: Inappropriate Show and Tell

“Are those your sodomy pants?” Fat’s smile widens as my attention suffers a minor breakup from the full-length hall mirror in order to throw a disgusted look at her over my shoulder.

“I really don’t understand your sense of humour, Fat.” I turn back to my mirror twin. She’s looking decent for a change; her hair is down and out of the frizzy I-don’t-give-a-fuck bun, makeup is given a little effort today — not just a hit of mascara and some concealer to disguise the war zone breaking out on the forehead, and the icing on the cake is that my mirror twin is wearing a cute outfit. I give the mirror-twin an overenthusiastic up-and-down, the knit scarf with the cardigan, antique necklace and the jeans. This chick has my approval. I spin slowly, like a vertical rotisserie, to check out the backside in the mirror. In the background, Fat muffles a laugh that is truly difficult to ignore. My mirror twin looks shocked and appalled; it appears I’m a lot more classy coming than going. Right in the seam of my beloved jeans is a hole, and not just a little hole; it’s big enough to serve as invitational porn-star pants.

Fuming, I look over to the couch, where the hearty chuckle of a certain feline booms from watching me discover the wardrobe malfunction. “How long were you going to wait before you told me?” I unzip my fly and wrestle the jeans off my thighs. Hunched with my pants around my knees, I look up again, “You were going to tell me, right?”

“Hey, I called them sodomy pants. What more could I have done? Boss, with the movies you’ve watched lately, I wasn’t about to judge.” Her tail curls around her body when the laughter finally subsides.

“Not sure what that has to do with anything,” I mutter and kick the deceased boot cuts into the middle of the living room.

Her voice follows me to the bedroom closet where I flip through hanger after hanger until I come across another pair of dark wash jeans. “The Hangover II? This is the end? Tell me what else those two movies have in common other than backyard playmates.”

Once again in pants, I re-enter the living room. “Backyard playmates? That’s the euphemism you go with?”

She smiles, “I was going to get into a metaphor about swing sets, but thought backyard playmates was strong enough to stand on its own. If you want I can keep going.”

“We’re good. I’m picking up what you’re throwing down.”

Fat taps the couch cushion with her paw. “Come, sit. Let’s have a chat.”

I can spare a couple minutes. I acquiesce and flop onto the couch beside her.

“Why are you being a nude prude?”

I cross my legs, “Fat, I’m not being a…” In the moment I fail to come up with a better way to phrase it, so I parrot her vernacular with an alarming amount of self-hatred, “nude prude. Pardon me for lacking the desire to share my ass with the world.”

“What ass?” She catches my stare, “Don’t give me that look, I’m kidding. Sort of.” Fat shakes her head in a taunting way, “You’ve changed; a couple years ago you would have laughed about showing off your brown eye by accident. Now, look at you. Running to the bedroom to cover up in something appropriate.”

“Please. I’m still inappropriate. In a classy kind of way.”

Fat rolls onto her side, hinting that she wants her belly rubbed. “How’s that, now?”

“I don’t do nudity. Not unless I’m accidentally showing off to the neighbours when I’m wandering around naked after a shower when the curtains are open.”

“Ah yes, Taco Tuesday. Always hilarious, never a crowd pleaser, but hilarious.”

I can’t help myself, I smile at the embarrassing memory. “We almost moved when that happened. If it wasn’t summertime I doubt there would have been such an audience on that balcony.”

“Cue breakthrough.” Fat moves to sit on my lap.

“Huh?”

Fat looks at me, slightly annoyed that she needs to explain. “You need to spend more time naked.”

“Not with you on my lap, I don’t. There are few things more unsettling than a cat lady that pets her feline whilst donning her birthday suit. It’s weird.”

“I meant metaphorically, ass face. I’m trying to inspire some growth from you.”

The conversation replays in my head. Fat watches as I play back the tapes, think on it, and consult the memory bank again.

After a couple minutes of waiting on a reply, Fat jumps down and wanders over to her cat bed. “It’s not really the think piece you’re making it out to be. Just let the message sink in and you’ll be fine.”

Write and Wrong

Tombs, hidden in plain sig[=/o0n tc w\`…

“You couldn’t walk around the keyboard? There’s plenty of desk for your heftiness.” I click backspace, punching the button with deliberate distaste to punctuate each character I delete.

“Would you have paid attention to me otherwise?” Fat rubs the corner of her mouth on the corner of the laptop screen. She tilts her head to read the words upside down; her lips move as she deciphers the story from her vantage point. She slowly turns to look at me. “I’ve read this before. Well,” she confirms with the word document before she firmly decides, “more or less. A different version, perhaps?”

“Yeah. You have.” I flip through the notebook full of scribbles of additions and facts that need to be rechecked. The pen beside the book beckons for me to change something. Instead, I recline in the office chair and fold my hands on my lap.

“Been working on it for a while, haven’t we?” Fat shuffles her lumpy ass around so she can sit and read the screen properly.

My ribcage squeezes my vital organs as she reads the page. I look out the window, then at the mess in the kitchen, to the corkboard full of notes. I have no rebuttal, so I stay quiet and fidget uncontrollably.

What feels like forty minutes goes by before she clears her throat. “You realize that at a certain point you just have to let it go; editors exist for a reason. Why haven’t you tried harder to get this published?”

“I don’t know. I’m busy.” I hear the flimsy excuse and curse myself for not being a better liar.

“Bitch, please. You’re more of a pussy than I am. It’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Grow a pair and make it happen, boss.” Fat smirks, “Busy. You’re hilarious.” Fat jumps, landing on the carpet softly. “Keep me abreast of your non-progress, okay, sunshine?”

Office Hours: Cold as (Vanilla) Ice

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that I was running a drop-in centre.” Fat doesn’t blink when her mouth forms the words. I can only assume whatever she says is sarcastic judging by the look on her bespectacled face and the oh-no-you-didn’t neck bob.

Music becomes an audible fixture in the living room when I yank the earbuds from my ear. “What was that?” I drop kick my gym bag; it rolls, landing in the middle of the bedroom doorway. I quietly sing the song lyrics as I kick off my runners and dance into the living room, “Yo, VIP, let’s kick it.”

Fat offers an over-the-top defeated sigh and hangs her head. “Vanilla Ice? Really?” The indent she occupies on the couch tells me how long she’s been sitting there.

“Don’t even pretend you weren’t fangirling when we watched the Vanilla Ice Goes Amish marathon. When that Amish bloke sang Ice Ice Baby I thought you were going to die of happiness.” She’s not hitting me with her usual verbal bitch slap. That’s strange. I pull my iPhone out and turn the music off before I can check out the hook while the DJ revolves it. Pity for me. “Well pardon the nineties for making great music to work out to,” I mumble to my myself.

“I have been waiting for you for hours. I cleared my schedule to be here.”

I eye the scratch post, empty food dish and strewn about catnip-filled toys, “Yes. Quite the sacrifice of a day for you. Thanks for showing up.” My hands rest on my hips as I wait for her to explain her uncharacteristic behaviour.

“You’ve forgotten, haven’t you?”

My forehead creases. I puff air into my left cheek until I’m sure my profile looks like a chipmunk salvaging nuts for winter. The air passes across to my right cheek, which puffs out, and then back to the left, repeating the motion for several seconds. Outwardly, it’s like watching a strange game of ping-pong being played inside of my mouth. I’ve done the face in front of a mirror, and that’s really the best way to describe it. Unfortunately, my thinking face hasn’t helped me recover any lost information whatsoever. My eyebrows lift and my mouth becomes an awkward compressed smile, which I direct to the grey cat. Apparently all I can offer are weird faces when I have no idea what’s going on.

“You truly are the worst. You don’t even have an account at the memory bank, do you? I would love to have you remember something for longer than twenty-four hours. Really, boss. This is just ridiculous. You hate when people are late because you think it’s rude, but forgetting appointments entirely, that’s atrocious and hard to forgive.” Her tiny paw pushes the faux spectacles off her face and they land with a muted thud on the couch cushion. Fat hisses and struts away. She doesn’t even call me a bitch, obese, stupid or anything. I’m not really sure what to do.

I pick up the tiny glasses Fat clawed off an old, plastic Santa in order to lend credibility to her therapist charade. “Where did you find these?”

Her sharp voice comes from the bedroom, “I dug them out of the trash can, you self-obsessed ass hat.”

Behavioural Predictions From a “Therapist”

“This is the most domestic thing I’ve seen you do successfully.” Fat leaps up on the bed as I secure the last corner of the fitted sheet. She kneads the still-warm, soft fabric and languidly sprawls across the fresh linens.

“I’d love to dispute that, but,” I pick up one of the pillows off the floor, pound it into a fluffy state and exert as much force as I can into throwing the pillow at the cat, “sadly, you’re right. Domesticity is not where I shine.” Fat dodges the pillow and repositions herself on the far edge of the king-size bed. I reach across the bed to grab the pillow back. With the finesse of fitting a sumo into spandex, I do my damnedest to shove that pillow inside a pillowcase.

“Perhaps I spoke too soon,” Fat watches as I hold the sides of a pillowcase and using the same action as when one puts on a boot, I shove my foot on top of the pillow and force it into its rightful home.

I feel my face flush with exertion and stare, unenthusiastically, at the other three pillows still to wrangle. The playful flicker of Fat’s tail catches my attention and I get the feeling that I need to justify doing laundry. “You know I’ve got a soft spot for clean sheets.” I see it; the twinkle in the feline’s eye. Her mouth opens, but before she can even get a syllable out I point at her like I’m outing her in a police line-up and my voice finds volume, “Don’t.”

Her pupils grow large, innocent-looking. “Don’t what?”

“You’re going to make some kind of trashy remark about how I’ve got a soft spot for dirty sheets too, or something like that. Just once, can we not?” I ignore the trio of pillows and instead begin unfolding the next sheet.

Fat makes a sound that’s akin to a guffaw. “You think you know me so well.” The tail stops twitching and she catches my “oh really?” gaze. She crosses one of her front paws over the other and casually responds to the accusation, “For your information it was going to be something more about your soft spot – or your sweet spot as you have so quaintly referred to it in the past.” Her gaze pointedly drifts south of the border so there’s no misunderstanding that she means my lady business. Someone is in dire need of some manners. “Speaking of,” Fat’s attention returns to my face, “any suitors on the horizon?”

“Fat, you know I have a boyfriend.”

“Just fact checking to make sure I’m caught up on current events.”

“By the way, he’s going to live in my apartment.” My fingers grab the edge of the sheet and with skills learned in kindergarten playing with a giant parachute, the sheet fans out and comfortably lowers over Fat.

I watch the lump in the bed move around under the sheet searching for escape. “He’s moving into the vacant apartment on the third floor? That’s convenient.”

“No, he’s going to live in my apartment.”

“As a roommate?” The lump in the sheet circles around as Fat doubles back to where she started. “We’re going to need another bedroom.”

“We don’t need another bedroom.” I grab the duvet and spread it out overtop of the sheet that still has Fat trapped.

“As in…here?” Her voice is more muffled, but she somehow manages to tunnel her way out at the same time she grasps the news. A delinquent smile lights up her face.

“I hate when you have that look. What now?” I haphazardly shove the remaining pillows into their cases and toss them one-by-one onto the bed.

“This situation pleases me.” She baits me with the sentence and waits for my undivided attention before she explains herself. “A control freak like yourself? You don’t have it in you to live amicably, You’re going to need therapy sessions with me more than ever.”

God Damn Symbiosis

“Holy mother of God, would you look at who’s here.” Surprise on the cat’s face is paramount as she does the best she can to hide the ziplock bag of cookie crumbs that inexplicably reappeared from the garbage can. Sounds of the once-crisp plastic drown out the quiet kitchen as Fat sits, then lies down on a sandwich bag that has my name neatly written by my mother’s hand. I toss my keys on the counter as I watch her depiction of nonchalance.

“Yes. Twice in one week if you can believe it. Whatcha got there, Fat?” My head nods in the direction of the clawed plastic poking out under her fur. Crumbs from former christmas cookies litter the floor.

“Just a little organizational thing. Don’t even worry about it. We’ve all got to do our part, right?” Fat’s claws pierce the plastic again, she knows I’m coming for it.

It was a gentle bend, but for some reason an old lady groan comes out of my mouth and I grip the plastic sticking out from under her right side.

“Easy, Granny.” Fat’s eyes narrow in a you-really-don’t-want-to-do-that kind of a way. I see the look, but I rip the plastic out from under her anyway. In my head it seemed like it would be one of those neat moves like when a tablecloth gets pulled out from beneath a set table and the dishes remain undisturbed. It was not like that at all. Fat, still connected to the plastic by the talons of her left paw, does a sideways roll… that is until instead of pulling to the side like I started to, I change course and pull upward. Fat’s paw lifts up like she’s praising the heavens, but the devil is all over her face. Some might refer to that look as vengeance.

“Let go!” We shriek to each other at the same time, but now, both in a state of disrepair we do things we shouldn’t. She starts striking her free paw out at me and I start shaking the plastic bag to free her. Turns out the shaking pisses Fat off more so she lashes out like a wild lioness which freaks me out so I jostle the strung feline with more urgency. I shook her like a busted Etch-a-Sketch. It was a viscous cycle until the plastic gave way and Fat landed on her side on the kitchen floor.

We glare at each other for minutes, maybe sixty hours. It’s hard to tell when the only clock in the kitchen runs backward. The tension slowly dissipates until we’re both certain that no one will die in this apartment today and we both relax. Fat watches as I toss the shredded ziplock into the trash again.

Finally, she speaks.

“You’ve got problems bigger than you know, lady. What was that all about?” Her paw goes up to halt the answer from coming out of my mouth. “No need; that was rhetorical. You just got all kinds of crazy roaming that cavern between your ears. You need help. This can’t be breaking news, I tell you all the time: you’re a crazy bitch with problems. Own it.”

“Please. The only problem I have is not knowing where I put my phone.”

Her gaze lands directly on the front of my shirt. “You might want to consult that rectangle you’ve got hanging out in your bra. I don’t think you understand how stuffing works.”

My hand reaches in and pulls out my iPhone. “Well I’ll be damned. You helped. Thanks, Fat.”

“Face it, boss. You need me. God damn symbiosis.” She watches as I zip up my coat and grab my keys. “You’re going to feed me before you go, right?”

Aspirations

“This is not weekend behaviour.” The mumbled words mix with the drool on my pillow.

With purpose, Fat reaches out and again touches my cheek, this time lightly pressing her claws against my skin.

My eyes snap open. With Bruce Lee reflexes I snatch Fat’s paw in my hand before her brain can even transmit a signal to her claws to retract themselves. Our eyes lock and I give her the intense death glare. “Stop,” My free hand reaches for my phone on the night stand and I check the time, “It’s 5:16 on a Saturday. Some consider what you’re doing grounds for homicide. You know this, yes?” I release my grip and shove her with my foot until she’s forced to jump off the bed. I roll over, flip my pillow to the dry side and clamp my eyelids together.

“But,” From beside the bed, her tone becomes pleading and pathetic, “So hungry.”

Damn.

I throw back the covers. “I’ll feed you now, but believe me, you’ll be short a paw if you wake me up again this morning. That’s your first and last warning.”

Pre-dawn light already fills the apartment. I rip the corner off the new bag of cat food and pour into her dish. Between the full bag and the groggy hour I overfill Fat’s dish. Kibble spills across the floor. Of course; coordination doesn’t wake up this early. I regard the mess, wishing for telekinetic powers to put it all back in the bag. My brain comes up with a better solution: I pick up Fat’s bowl and pour the contents back into the bag.

“What on earth are you doing?” Fat comes over and looks into the once-again empty bowl.

I point at the mess I made, “Breakfast is served. Enjoy yourself.” I bow in the style of a maitre d’ and take my leave of the kitchen. Fat scowls. Within seconds, I hear her eating off the floor. That’s my girl. I climb into bed and collapse.

The instant my eyes close, I get an idea for a short story. I need to write the premise down before it becomes misplaced in a dream. I reach over to my nightstand, forgetting that I left my notebook on the desk.

Damn.

Frustrated with myself, I kick the blanket off. Ideas like this always shake me from sleep. I rush past Fat, who is essentially making out with the linoleum by licking crumbs off the floor. I sit on my desk, press my back against the wall, and use the office chair as a footstool.

Thumbing through the notebook to an empty page I construct the bones of the story. After the initial outburst of pen to paper I go to the kitchen and put the kettle on the stove. I sit on the desk again and mull over what I’ve written. I cross out parts and draw arrows to others. Some words I rewrite because I won’t remember what they say when I come back to this place. After the frenzied brain detonation, I put the pen down and re-read my sloppy script. What a delightfully messed up premise. I flip through previous pages of ideas and words. I stop at something I wrote a few weeks ago and go over it again with fresh eyes.

Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and peers at the book in my hands.

“How can you read that?” She tilts her head from side to side before trying to see if it’s more legible upside down.

I flip to the next journal page, covered with scribbles and smudged ink.

“It’s the beginning of a story I wrote in Mexico. I might play around with this today.” My index finger taps the middle of the page I’m reading.

“Way to enjoy that vacation.” She flashes a quick smile, then jumps onto the printer and out of hitting range. “Why are you procrastinating, anyways?”

She knows by the look on my face that I don’t follow. Fat sighs and motions with her head at the board on the wall behind me. I turn around and regard it like a stranger; paper cards of plot points and ideas cover the corkboard.

“I’m getting back to it, Fat. There’s just never enough time.”

“Don’t be an idiot. Hunker down and write it. Besides, dating doesn’t have to be a full-time sport. Take some time and finish that story. You love that place.”

“You don’t know what I love. You were yelling at the ex-bachelor on the phone yesterday that I loved him.” I feel the my nose wrinkle at the memory.

There’s movement from the other side of the desk, and I turn to catch Fat strongly nodding her head up and down. “What?”

“Trying out some subliminal messaging.”

“I don’t know if that really works.” The water in the kettle bubbles. I get up and pour it into a teapot. I throw a bag of David’s Tea inside. While it steeps, I stare at the board.

“New idea: If you don’t do something with this in the next week, I’m going to claw the hell out of it.”

“I appreciate the motivation.”

Office Hours: No. No. Wrong.

“He called me heartless.” My grip on the pillow is so tight I think my fingers are going to break through the fabric and come free with fistfuls of feathers.

Fat leans forward over her notepad and scratches her chin before she replies. “Are you?”

I don’t have to worry about ruining the pillow anymore. It flies at Fat and knocks her off the table. Home run.

“You really have to stop doing that.” Fat leaps back onto the table and stares at her empty legal pad.

“Why do you have that anyways? You can’t write. You don’t even have a pen.” I cross my arms over my chest and sit back.

“It’s a prop that offers me a certain amount of credibility I like to think.” Fat readjusts the phony spectacles on her nose, “Now then, where were we? Yes. Heartless. Go.” She silently extends a paw though she were a director giving a cue for action.

“It happened not five minutes ago. You were here for the whole thing.”

She snickers. “I know. I just want to hear how it happened from your perspective.”

“What’s to tell? Bachelor number two was here. We were playing some Dutch Blitz (it’s a vonderful goot game) and he attempted to say something sweet. For some reason, what he came up with in the moment was an earnest look while he said, ‘I think you’re perfect.'” Fat bursts out laughing. “That was my initial reaction too, Fat.”

“I know,” She’s laughing too hard to catch her breath. “It was awesome.”

“See? I’m not a complete jackass. Who says that?”

“And then,” Fat tries to breathe through her nose to calm down, “and then that’s when he calls you heartless and bids you good night.” Another round of laughter bursts out of her.

I can’t stifle it anymore and I catch the giggles all over again; the laughter shakes me so hard I fall sideways on the couch. When that happens, we both laugh louder and the momentum continues for a few minutes.

When it finally subsides, Fat cranes her neck around like an owl. “Damn. Lost my glasses at some point. Oh well.” She curls up and resembles a furry sphere, “If it’s so hilarious, why were you pissed off by the comment?”

“His implication being that I don’t have a heart. Just because I haven’t let him have it doesn’t mean he should doubt its existence.” I push myself back up to sitting and sit cross-legged on the sofa.

“He does seem upset that you haven’t at least shown it to him. He just wants you to trust him with it.”

“It’s not a cheap knick knack at a garage sale, Fat. It can stay in the cage right now.”

“Cage is the metaphor you’re going with?” Her head tilts to the side with misunderstanding.

I point at my sternum. “Rib cage. Literal.”

“You can’t hoard it forever you know. It’s meant to be shared.” Fat gets up and goes over to the scratch post. Her nails dig and scrape the side a few times before she looks at me over her shoulder knowingly. “I told you so.”

“Told me what?”

“He thinks he’s your Boyfriend.”

Well shit.