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.”

A Woman Needs Girlfriends

“For a stick and bones frame, you sure jiggle a lot, Boss. Hold still. Stop fidgeting.”

I feel a brush sweep gently across my eyelid. If I was better at being girly I wouldn’t need to enlist the help of the hefty feline. Speaking of whom, my legs are going numb from her weight. Our tiny apartment doesn’t have room for a vanity, so I’m perched on the ledge of the bathtub with Fat balancing precariously on my lap so she can apply layers of makeup to my face. Unfortunately for me, I’m nervous about tonight and that feeling made me jump at the chance for any help. Fat, of course, came to the rescue.

The bathroom is ridiculously bright today. I’m pretty certain she switched out the regular lightbulbs for ones with greater watts. God forbid the feline misses a chance to check out my wrinkles under harsh lighting. Beside the tub, a multitude of products is displayed on the closed toilet lid; I have no idea what most of it is. Where is a good drag queen tutorial when you need one?

“Are you going to miss the spinster life? You were just starting to get good at it. That Chinese restaurant will miss delivering food to this particular shut-in. Their business is going to suffer, you know that right?” She leans over to her make-shift counter to get some more colour on the end of the brush. “Boss, close your eyes. I’m working here.”

The brush goes over the crease of my eyelid. Seems unnecessary; I was more or less hoping for some help with making my skin look better. The situation snowballed pretty fast – Fat’s even wearing one of those makeup tool belts to hold her brushes like the gorgeous people who work at MAC. “What kind of eyeshadow is this? It smells terrible.”

“It’s cigarette ash. I was going for that smoky eye look all the harlots are after. Do I have to tell you to close your eyes again? Honestly, I swear you like being difficult.” Fat cups my face in both paws to assess her work. In the moment I’m entirely dumbfounded, Fat licks the pad of her paw and wipes something away from the corner of my eye with her saliva.

“Could you please stop doing disgusting things to my face?”

Fat doesn’t respond to my, what I consider entirely reasonable, plea. “So tell me about the guy. Where did you meet him?” She grabs one of the bigger brushes out of her waist belt and grabs a small container of blush. God I hope it’s blush. She applies whatever it is to my cheeks.

“He’s a friend of a friend. Funny. Tall.” Remember, self, minimal details are your friend here. You don’t want the cat to get the idea you want to talk. Before you know it you’ll be hugging a pillow while lying on the couch and discussing your mommy issues.

“Gangly doofus. Sounds like a winner.” She goes for my face with something that looks like a hot pink Sharpie.

“Whoa, whoa. What the hell is that?” In an effort to dodge out of her way, I come dangerously close to falling ass backward into the bathtub. I regain balance and hold tight to the off-white edge of the tub.

Her green eyes travel to regard the pen then back to meet my gaze, “Lip liner.”

“Nope. No lip liner. My people don’t do most of this stuff that you’ve attacked me with. I’m taking a stand. This much makeup is unnecessary; I’m neither a pageant queen nor auditioning for a circus. I’m going to dinner and a show tonight. We’re done here.”  I pick her up and drop her on the floor and get on my feet before she can jump back up.

“If you just give me three more minutes…”

When I look in the mirror, I’m entirely horrified. “Fat, I look like the asylum gave me a day pass.”

Only panda bears and Avril Lavigne should have eyes that look like this. The blush is so orange against my pale skin it makes me feel like my face is attempting to outdo a sunset. No is the only word that comes to mind. No. No. No. No. No. No.

“I was trying to give you a look that says, ‘No need to buy the cow’. You don’t think it’s a success?”

I grab the makeup remover wipes. Multiple wipes. A handful. Less than three will not erase the catastrophe that used to be my money maker. I bury my face in the damp cloths and rub vigorously. Paint remover may be necessary. Oh Christ, the audacity.

“Who says concubines get to have all the fun? Excuse me for giving you the Pretty Woman treatment so you can go out and bag us a rich guy.”

When my face emerges from the collection of towelettes, the formerly white cloth is now an absurd rainbow. “I’d rather have a nice guy.”

“Money talks, Boss, and it says, ‘Buy your cat some decent food so she can stop eating the drivel you consider quality.’” Fat grabs a tube of mascara and jumps beside the bathroom sink so she can see herself in the mirror. Her mouth forms an ‘O’ shape as she applies the makeup to her whiskers to make them longer and more voluminous.

I reach for my phone when it beeps. “My cat deserves to starve for what she did to my face.” I read the text, “We can continue this later. He’s parked out front, I’ve got to go.”

“You’re going out like that?” The feline meets my eye in the mirror’s reflection. “No makeup?”

“Au natural.” I nod. “At least I feel like myself.”

“I’m sure it’ll go great and he’ll want to spend all the time in the world with a looker like you. So…see you in about ten minutes?”

 

An Untranslatable Love Language of Jackass Proportions

“Seriously, what is this thing? Be you bovine, sir?”

I swivel in my chair to see Fat near the living room window almost nose-to-nose with the snoozing Mutt.

“He’s a dog, Fat. Hardly bovine.”

Her nose creeps closer to his face and Fat’s eyes squint at Mutt’s floppy ears. “How can you be sure he’s a dog? He certainly is ugly. You’re right though, he’s not bovine – he’s missing horns and/or an udder to be considered part of that herd.” Her tone turns playful, “Aren’t you? Who’s a gross dog?”

Mutt doesn’t open his eyes, but his tail wags in response to Fat’s teasing. I hope his display of happiness is a reaction to a delightful dream and not a response to Fat. She can’t exert mind games on two of us. That would be six different kinds of cruel and unfair.

“Mutt, you idiot.” My feet propel me with just enough force to spin the chair around and face the computer.

“You’re going to need to explain his species a bit further.”

I jump. Damn her padded paw prints. I can never hear her coming and it’s too late to escape. Now she’s here sitting next to me on the desk, appearing out of nowhere like a cartoon villain.

“He’s one part chihuahua–”

“Ay, chihuahua.”

I wave my hand in her face hoping it will serve as an informal cease and desist order. “That’s not necessary. As I was saying, he’s one part chihuaha–”

“And three parts hideous monster.”

I sigh and try to refocus on a revision I’ve been working on for many moons. My left hand rests on the side of my face in a polite effort to ignore the meowing creature tucked neatly into my peripheral who does not take kindly to being ignored.

“Hey, dummy. Pay attention to me when I’m talking to you.”

I click save and forcefully lean backward on my chair, folding my hands in my lap before she sees it as space that needs to be occupied. “Do you know what today is Fat?”

“Wedne–”

“Anti-Bullying Day.” It feels pretty good to interrupt her for a change. Take that, feline menace.

“Auntie Bullying Day? You going to call up your auntie and say hateful things over the phone? Are you trying to seduce me with a house cat/owner bonding experience? Sold. Get her on the horn. Being that I’m so good at it, you want I should feed you some lines like an asshole Cyrano?”

My fingers rub my temples. She’s just being the feline she was when you chose to bring her home from the SPCA. You can’t be upset with her lack of understanding anything to do with tolerance. I visualize an intense tennis match at Wimbledon where Fat replaces the tennis ball. She’s spherical enough. My imagination makes me feel instantly better.

“No, moron. Today is about rallying against bullying.”

Fat nods. “I see you take the message to heart. Kind of a practice what you preach kind of thing you’re serving me here.”

“What?” I’ve misunderstood her dry tone completely. “People wear pink shirts as a symbol of standing up to bullies.”

“So where’s yours?” Fat gives me the once over. “All I see is a black shirt covering albino skin.”

“I only have one pink shirt, Fat, and it’s not exactly appropriate. It’s got my catch phrase from when I was in my early twenties. Actually I think you would really appreciate it.” I push with my feet again and the chair rolls away from the desk.  Fat jumps down but doesn’t follow when I go to the bedroom and fetch the hoodie from the back of my closet.

“When you leave a room, bitch, the polite thing to do is excuse yourself.”

Gone for literally fourteen seconds and this is the response I get upon my return. I bend down to give her my most hateful I-will-bury-you-alive glare. Fat doesn’t wince. I hate not being taken seriously.

I snap, “Hey. You are in a bully free zone.” My hands wave wildly in all directions as if to illustrate the boundaries.

Fat stays quiet for a few long seconds to let my anger diffuse. She steps two and a half feet closer to the hallway. “How about here? Can I call you a bitch here?”

“Bully. Free. Zone.” I feel the erosion of my molars as I clench my teeth.

“How far away to I have to go for that not to be in effect? Maybe we should rope off the areas of the apartment that are bully zones. If we could make them by the food dish and over by my cat post those would be the most convenient for me. Where do you want yours? Then we would both know the zones where we can…” Her sentence loses its end as her gaze shifts to the pale pink bundle in my hands. “Let me see it.”

I hold it up and watch her eyes skim over the words. I watch her melt to the floor and roll on her back; her tiny claws extend in the air with the passion of a mime reciting a love poem. These are the moments that are worth the back and forth struggle between us; her capacity to be cute has saved her life on a multitude of occasions.

“I must have it.”

“I’m not giving this to you because you demand it,” I smile and toss the sweater over to Fat. “Here you are, half-wit. It’s all yours.”

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