Milestones and Missed Cues

“Happy Birthday, you old son of a bitch.”

The black office chair swivels around to reveal Fat in the power seat, appearing like a Bond villain. Her paws thrust into the air in celebration and unleash a sad supply of multi-coloured confetti that slowly drifts to the ground.

Propping the fridge door open with my elbow, I down some more juice from the carton and shake my head. “Son of a bitch?” I know there are times I look a little androgynous and all, but I identify as a woman and also lack the parts to be classified as a man. I like my ovaries, thanks.

Fat stares at me from the patchwork office space beside the tiny kitchen as she silently processes the tone of my voice.

“You’re right. How callous of me. You’re nobody’s son. From the top, people.” Fat grips the edge of the desk to turn the chair so it faces the wall again. “Take another guzzle from the O.J. The sound tipped me off to your entrance.”

Well, I am still a little thirsty. I slug back some more orange juice. Fat responds to the cue as I wipe my mouth in the crook of my arm.

“Happy Birthday, you old bitch.” Fat shoves off the desk too hard and instead of coming to a graceful stop facing me directly, the chair spins in an entire circle to only give me a fleeting glimpse of the ungraceful feline before she disappears from view. I love that chair.

“Shit.”

I imagine she’s on the opposite side of the faux leather chair sulking at her poor second entrance. Failure on two counts. That’s got to affect your self-esteem. I put the juice back in the fridge and approach the feline’s seat. I grab the backrest and pivot the chair in a semicircle.

“I didn’t even get more confetti for the second go-around.” Fat leans back in defeat until her head rests against the fabric. “I let you down, Boss. This was going to be the highlight of your day.”

“It’s a little early to be calling the best part, isn’t it?”

Fat waves her paw dismissively, “You don’t have friends; this was the biggest acknowledgement you could hope for. I wanted to point out the honour of accumulating another year’s layer of decay and disappointment. Oh hey,” Fat brightens momentarily when she digs between her pockets of grey fur and produces another pawful of paper confetti that she tosses with lackluster, “Congratulations on keeping up with the Crypt Keeper.”

“Uh, thanks?”

Fat scratches her head, clearly perplexed. She zeros in on my face.

“Boss, how old are you?”

I pick up the feline from on the chair and struggle to keep her in my arms. “That’s a rude thing to ask.” Thankfully she doesn’t get aggravated enough to use her claws.

“People only respond like that when they’re super ancient and ashamed of their age.” Fat squirms and twists for another fifteen seconds before entirely giving up and submitting to the housecat treatment.

“I’m not ashamed of my age. I’m thirty and perfectly fine with that.” I pet her head softly and scratch behind her pert ears.

“Thirty, huh? That means you’re about due for your first mid-life crisis.”

“Does that mean I can start a life anew and be as impulsive and crazy as I want?”

Fat slightly purrs, “You bet it does.”

“Fantastic. It’s settled then. I’m going to buy a taco stand.” I smile. That sounds awesome. I could eat a burrito every single day if I wanted. Cool.

“That is a terrible way to unravel into a mental breakdown. You don’t know how to do anything right, do you?”

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.”

After the Warehouse

“From what I hear, it wasn’t a successful mission in the warehouse. Fat fail.”

My friend has long since departed after bringing her back home and I’m making dinner. Fat sulked in, crawled on top of the desk and has been quietly facing the corner since her less-than-triumphant return to the apartment.

“That wasn’t a mouse.” Fat shudders, still facing the camel-coat colour of the wall. “Mouse is a colossal understatement. That fucker was big enough to hold me like a teddy bear and spoon me all night long.” Her head turns to look at me in the kitchen, I strain noodles over the sink and then return them to the pot on the stove. “I’m not going back there, Boss. Ever.”

“I’d be embarrassed to let you.” There are no words as I mix butter, milk and powdered cheese into the noodles. I heap some of it into a bowl and sit on the computer chair near the feline. The smell of food prompts Fat to spin around and finally face me.

She attempts to change the conversation. “Anything interesting happen here while I was out?”

I hold up my finger, buying myself a moment to swallow the food in my mouth. “I took a Zumba class.”

“I bet you were awful.” Fat leans on her elbows as her paws cup her face, feigning interest – anything to distract from the search for her missing dignity.

“That’s the obvious conclusion. It was fun though. I also went to Bard on the Beach. I love theatre.”

Fat pouts, “It sounds like I really missed out. I suppose it’s nice that you had fun.”

I ignore her statement and frown into my bowl of bright orange. “This does not hit the spot at all.”

I scoop a bunch of the neon noodles onto a fork, lift them out of the bowl and then watch I tilt the utensil and the noodles slide off and land back amongst their clones.

“What do you expect from hallway Kraft Dinner?”

“I was too lazy to go grocery shopping, okay?” I put the bowl on the desk and push it as far away from me as possible. What I need to do is order some Chinese food.

Fat’s face disappears in the bowl and she helps herself to a taste of white-trash cuisine. “Oh, yeah. Not good.” There’s some fake cheese sauce stuck to the fur around her mouth.

I laugh.

“What?”

“Nothing at all, Fat.”

Fat tips her head in the direction of the bowl beside her. “What are we going to do about this?”

“I was thinking about getting some Chinese food deliv–“

“That’s not what I meant, idiot.” What I assume is annoyance gurgles at the back of the feline’s throat. “I meant the source of tonight’s terrible dinner. What are you going to do about the friendly neighbour?”

I reach to the iPad, which is beside the printer, and start looking up online menus. “There’s nothing to do about Jesse. He’s gone into a ghost state. I haven’t seen him in,” I think on it and can’t come up with a definite date, “a long time.”

Fat jumps beside me on the couch. “I’m not convinced. Trust me, I’m a therapist. I know these things. He’s going to knock on that door one day soon and make you an offer you won’t refuse.”

“The only thing he’ll be looking for when he finally does come a-callin’ is his extra set of keys. I still have them. That’s weird, isn’t it? If it were me, I’d be getting my keys back as soon as possible. Seriously, how long has it been since we saw that guy?” It bothers me that I can’t even ballpark his strange visit to my apartment that morning. It was a weekend. This much I know.

Fat answers without a second of contemplation. “It’s been two weeks since we locked up after the dearly departed harlot. I say hold on to the keys as long as possible.”

I look up from the iPad; the tone of her voice lets me know that Fat’s moxie has come back in full force. “What makes you say that?”

“You managed to get Kraft Dinner from him, let’s see what other presents we can extort. Next time you hear footsteps in the hall, say, ‘I want a floor-to-ceiling scratching post.’”

“Something for you?” The feline is regarding Jesse’s original sweet action as a shopping spree of sorts.

“Play fair, Boss. You got what you wanted last time.”

From One Starving Artist to Another

“Whoa, wait up there, woman.”

I look over my shoulder from the top of the stairs to see one of the down-the-hall neighbours whose company I actually enjoy. Jesse’s around my age and we know a few of the same people; he’s one of the rare breed of easily likeable people. He jogs effortlessly up the stairs as though he weighs nothing. Like a gentleman, I hold the door open for him so we can exit on our floor. He offers a hillbilly curtsy in exchange. Fuck you, gender stereotypes.

“Hey, pal. Haven’t seen you since spring thaw.” I take a quick surveillance of the hallway to make sure that the crazy dog lady and the awkwardly loud octogenarian humpers aren’t around to see my nice side. That would only invite conversation and that’s a bad idea – I’d be stopped for small chats all the time. No, no. Better they think I’m a bitch.

Jesse smiles; he has one of those genuine smiles that triggers an automatic grin on my face. He just exudes niceness. “Yeah, I’ve been busy. What’s going on with you? Haven’t seen your boyfriend in a long time too, is he…” Jesse watches my eyes widen and emphatic shake of the head, “Oh. Well, I’m sure it was for the best.”

This is one of the reasons I enjoy Jesse as a neighbour. He doesn’t pry; he just accepts things as they are.

We wander down the hall to my door. I’ve been here so long, the crooked apartment number doesn’t even register as annoying anymore. I start digging for my keys.

“How’s your game coming along?” I look at him through wisps of my hair as I rummage around the bottom of my bag. Several months back he showed me a phone app game he was building. It was pretty impressive then, and that was just a prototype.

“Stalled project, we’re waiting to get some more funding before we can push forward.”

I shake my purse and hear my keys jingle at the same time as a familiar voice demands attention.

“Boss, I’m so hungry, get in here.” Fat moans from the other side of the door.

I ignore the voice of the feline. “That’s too bad about your funding. I’m sure something will come along for you.” Finally, my hand fishes out my keychain. I clench it in my fist as if to say: success.

“Yeah, there are a few lines in the water right now. I’m not worried.” Jesse shrugs and casually puts his hands on his hips. “Hey, speaking of projects, how’s that book of yours coming along?”

“Progress is slow to non-existent at the moment. That’s because I’m getting in my own way and isn’t a result of lack of funding – unfortunately as a writer, I can’t use that as an excuse.”

An easy laugh falls out of his mouth and runs down the hallway.

“Who is that?” Fat’s voice draws out the words, filling them with innuendo. “Should I light some candles to set the mood?”

“Fat, shut up.” I gently kick the bottom of the door in hopes to scare her away.

“I didn’t know you had a cat.”

I exhale audibly. “I try not to talk about her. She’s…” I pause to come up with an appropriate word to describe my self-appointed therapist, “a character.”

“If you’re not going to bang him, come inside and feed me. Boss, do you hear me?” Her words are pointed. We hear a scratching sound as Fat claws the paint on the back of the door.

“Kind of a loudmouth, isn’t she?”

“Boss.”

“You were wondering why I don’t mention her…” I point my thumb at the door in the direction of the pathetic scratching and mewing.

“Booooooooooss.” She knows whining drives me insane.

Christ. I quickly unlock the door and open it. Fat peers up at both of us. She glazes over me and looks directly at Jesse.

“Hi Kitty.” He bends and reaches a hand out toward her.

Fat stares at the palm in front of her and follows the arm to Jesse’s unshaven face. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are, sir, but I don’t respond to empty offerings. Once you’ve gotten your freak on, we’ll need you to leave immediately.”

I stare up to the ceiling, hoping to whatever is up there to strike me down. I really hope he doesn’t understand what Fat is saying.

“She doesn’t seem to like me much, does she?” His fingers fold back and he points at Fat’s face, “Looks like a sneer, doesn’t it?”

I try to contain a laugh because Fat is clearly not impressed by this neighbourly imposition. “Sure does.”

“Well,” Jesse stands, “I should get going. I have a ton of work to do at home before I leave for my other job. Ladies, it’s been a pleasure.” He pretends to tip an imaginary cap at Fat and then at myself before sauntering down the hall. “Oh hey, Kat?” He swivels on his feet like a dancer.

“What’s up?”

Fat pokes her head out the doorway to listen in.

Jesse points at me as if to hold me accountable, “Make time for that book. It’s important.”

“You’re not my mom. You don’t get to tell me what to do.” Again, I smile but get serious when I realize that he wasn’t searching for a flippant answer. “I’ll try.”

I scoot Fat back inside and shut the door behind us.

“I really needed to hear that.” I press my spine against the back of the door and feel my eyes dart back and forth with realization. So simple, but incredibly helpful.

Fat rolls her eyes dramatically. “Writing is important if you’re a writer? If you couldn’t come to that conclusion on your own, you’re a bigger idiot than I thought.”

Warning: Finger Pistols Don’t Shoot Blanks

“Are those your metaphoric brains all over the cork board and running down the wall?”

Fat leaps up onto the desk and regards my idea board littered with scribbled-on cue cards and pictures of inspiration. Like a CSI agent, Fat assesses the imaginary damage. With the intense scrutiny she displays, I would swear that she was actually investigating the devastation done to my hypothalamus. The feline offers me what appears to be a look of pity when she gazes higher and discovers imaginary traces of what used to be my cerebral cortex.

It’s my own fault. Nobody forced me to pretend my hand was a gun, put the finger barrel to my temple and make a gunfire noise. There was no other way to deal with the frustration. I’ve been in the same position since the imaginary pistol went off. Ass in the computer chair, head leaning so far forward it rests on the desk. Eyes unfocused, it appears that I’m staring in the direction of the window. Sunlight drifts in casually – atypical for Vancouver. Today I miss the rain. It’s rather unfair that weather in movies always aligns perfectly to the protagonist’s mood.

“Are you still moping over the finale of How I Met Your Mother? Time to get over it, boss.”

Fat’s so invested in what’s going on with my imagination, she actually leans down to sniff at my hallucination of what I’m pretty certain is a mixture of broken skull and cerebellum. My coordination prior to the incident just goes to show that my cerebellum was defective anyways. I might be better off without it.

I don’t answer her and continue my empty stare at nothing. It’s not what’s in front of my eyeballs that holds my concentration. There are some things that need figuring out and I’m stuck in the haze about how to solve anything.

Fat, disinclined to leave anything be, walks over to my computer and stares at the screen. She reads the few words that I’ve written thus far. All I have to do is wait.

The feline clears her throat daintily.

“You stopped writing mid-sentence. You going to finish that thought?”

I don’t move, I’m still fixated on the search for the right words. The ones that came out of my fingertips are all wrong. They’re not the words I should be writing. I just have to figure out what I’m feeling before I can convey the emotion properly on paper.

I feel her green eyes searching my face for some kind of response.

“I know you want to be left alone. I get the impression if I attempt to get you to open up I’m going to regret it.”

“Yup.”

“No matter, I’ve got an elegant solution.”

I hear her press a button on laptop and my attention shifts. She’s added a period to transform my half-sentence into a fragment. That might be overly complimentary to the swill that I ditched like an unwanted pregnancy.

“That’s still not a sentence, idiot.”

“I’m not finished, Cruella.” I hate when she calls me that.

My cheek rests against the desk and I watch her hit the same button again and again.

“An ellipsis?” My stomach growls on my behalf.

“There’s more to come. When you’re ready, of course.” Without any harassment, Fat jumps down and scuttles over to the television stand. She drops to her belly and crawls like a marine underneath it. Her voice calls from under the wood stand, “Don’t think about it so much. You’ll figure it out. You always do.”

It might not be raining, but this might have been better…

Seeking the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

“Awfully quiet around here.”

I don’t see Fat until the light from the fridge casts its light across the kitchen floor; she sits right in the middle of the laminate. Like a startled old lady, I clutch my chest with fright. Perhaps not so much fright as an attempt to uphold decency, my lilac robe isn’t exactly tied tightly and my birthday suit needs to be ironed. I’d rather be confronted by the four horsemen of the apocalypse than this feline with self-appointed shrink cred. I grab what I need, and Fat vanishes from sight when the fridge door closes. God bless darkness.

I unscrew the cap of the bottle of orange juice. “Boyfriend’s gone for the weekend. Off on a quick road trip to see some of his boyfriends.” With more momentum than I expect from myself, I tip the bottle backward down my throat. Twin rivers of OJ pour out the corners of my mouth, dribble down my chin, neck and non-cleavage and get absorbed by my house coat. Shit, that’s cold. Once it dries it’ll be sticky too. I need to switch to water when I wake up thirsty at two a.m. “I’m surprised you weren’t aware of his departure. You’re always eavesdropping and scrutinizing everything. Feels like this whole apartment is under surveillance.” As a classy dame would, I gently dab my face on the sleeve of my oversize house coat.

“It’s behavioural observation.”  There’s a break in her speech where I hear what sounds like a yawn. “Speaking of, I can’t help but wonder why you shuffle around stubbing your toes in the dark when there’s nobody here to disturb.”

The sound of a small click causes the entire kitchen to light up. My fingers pull away from the switch. “Habit, I suppose.” The throb in two of my left toes is well-founded; they’re on the verge of being classified as maroon. I’m the proud owner of one normal-looking foot and one damn ballerina’s foot. Gross.

“Any plans while he’s away?” Fat hopefully goes and sits next to her food dish. She looks at her skewed reflection in the bottom of the metal bowl and up at me. Your subtle persuasion won’t work on me this time, Fat.

Making sure the lid is secure on the juice, I put it away. “Estrogen-fuelled weekend.”

“Lesbian time. Got it.” One of Fat’s eyes shoots me a quick wink. She’s still under the strong impression that in the past I’ve been sweet on the ladies as well as the fellas. This wonderful miscommunication is due to an unfortunate story I once shared with her about a time I took a pie to the face. Fat is under the strong impression that this is a euphemism. I’ve given up trying to correct her; it would make her theory all the more concrete to find out it was a cream pie I took to the kisser. Coconut cream if I recall correctly, I was too busy trying to salvage my makeup to press the detail of flavour into the pages of my memory.

“I’m just hanging out with my best gals, we’re in need of a good pow-wow. Nice to see them in person as opposed to texting or Facebook.”

“Call it what you will.”

I sigh, and try to get the conversation away from sexuality. “The only fellow I’ll be spending any time with this weekend is Mutt.”

“Yeah. Where is he?” She doesn’t even whip her head around to pretend to care.

“I don’t know. Sleeping. Lazy bastard, that one.” I tighten the tie on my house coat.

Fat doesn’t respond. Instead she looks helplessly at her still-empty bowl. She’s almost instantly struck with another idea to get what she wants. Playing nice is difficult for Fat.

She scuttles over and weaves in a figure eight around my ankles. “Boss, you deserve a weekend to yourself. You should make yourself a massage appointment or a pedicure or–” She stops abruptly and starts screaming, “MY EYES, MY EYES!”

Full of concern, I kneel beside Fat.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong with your eyes?” I look up at the kitchen light; the bulbs were just changed. Those energy-saving bulbs are fucking bright. How many watts are those?

Her voice sounds weak, like she’s on her deathbed muttering her last words, “I… I shouldn’t have looked up. I’ve never been fond of pie.”

Hear no Evil

“Oh, God. I’ve gone deaf.”

I look up from my book. Fat is parked at the edge of the sectional, while I’m cozy in the corner where the couch becomes perpendicular.  I watch the back of her head bob and weave as she watches Boyfriend’s fingers fly across the ivory keys of the no longer pristine upright piano.

Fat’s voice becomes increasingly fraught with worry, “Oh, God. Oh my fucking damn. I’ve been struck deaf. I don’t have the thumbs or the patience to learn sign language; I’m not a monkey for Christ’s sake.” I see her spine straighten as the metaphoric lightbulb appears above her pointed ears. “Hold up. I can hear my own voice. Wait. Is that the voice in my head? I can’t tell. Hey. Hey, guy,” Fat’s paw reaches out in the direction of Boyfriend as if to will him to pay attention to her, “can you make some noise so I can tell if I’m deaf or not?” Her paw pathetically sweeps side-to-side in the air. Boyfriend plays on, letting his body lean into the notes he plays, completely oblivious to the feline behind him.

“For a self-appointed shrink, you’re a colossal dumb ass.”

Fat jumps with shock and comes heartbreakingly close to bailing off the couch. Unfortunately, I’m not so lucky as to bear witness to one of my dreams coming true. “I forgot you were there. Book without pictures, I see. I’m proud of you.” Fat momentarily regains her charming demeanor. She blinks twice when my words finally become sound in her brain. “I can hear you.”

“And goody for me, I can hear you too. Seriously, Fat, what’s your deal? We agreed it was time to take a break from the catnip.” I reach my hand between two couch cushions and pull out my bookmark.

“Kicked the stuff. Cold turkey. Don’t need it. Nope. Fine without.” Fat throws looks over her shoulder at Boyfriend between her chopped sentences. “I don’t understand it, boss. The whole thing reeks of voodoo. He’s like the Charlie Chaplin version of King Midas; everything he touches turns to mute. Guess that explains why I never hear you two having–”

“I will pay you fifty dollars not to finish that sentence.” I cut her off, even though it doesn’t matter if she finishes the sentence or not. The next time Boyfriend and I find ourselves on the cusp of a XXX throw down, I’m just going to picture Fat with her pervy ear pressed against the other side of the door. At least we have the forethought to lock her out of the bedroom. Who knows what kind of advice would spring up at our next therapy session if she had a front row seat to that show.

“Aw, hell, Fat. His headphones are plugged into the piano.” I silently hoped I could ride out her potential deafness a little longer for amusement’s sake, but the conversational path we stumbled upon is one that certainly does not need to be travelled. I toss the library book onto the coffee table.

Fat invites herself to curl up against my sternum. Her ears flick as they absorb the surrounding noise. She lets out a contended sigh, “Creepo downstairs is listening to old school Alanis Morissette. Neat.”

I scratch the back of her ears, “You can hear that?” Aside the hum from the refrigerator, I don’t hear anything.

“Believe me, boss, when I’m not having a deaf day I hear lots of things.”

I’m instantly uncomfortable. If she can hear the downstairs neighbour’s music… I crane my neck to look down at the feline, she has some sort of nervous tic with one of her eyes. I watch it rapidly close and reopen. Almost like it was intentional.

She repeats the end of her last sentence, “Lots of things.”

Curse Words in the Kitchen

“Your mother clearly didn’t raise you right. I should film this.” Fat perches on the edge of the computer desk and watches me while I turn the kitchen into what looks like a Tasmanian devil mating ground. The feline brushes her paw against her jaw line, “Hey dumb ass, you’ve got a little something there.”

“Huh?” I crouch in front of a lower cupboard shoving pots back inside haphazardly. It’s so hot in here; it’s menopausal woman spending a summer’s day at the equator kind of hot. I can’t guarantee that the cookware is free of perspiration – the magical combination of my busted-ass oven and inept culinary skills have created a portal to the surface of the sun. I have no desire to open that oven door again. I’m not so much worried about the sweat on the pots so much as I am about whatever dirt coats my Fred Flintstone feet, but I’m at that fuck-it stage of the whole process. If I’m being completely honest with myself, the next time these pots are used for cooking and not accidental indoor soccer, forty thousand other domestic debacles will have erased this particular incident from memory. With violent and brute force, the cupboard door slams shut. The back of my wrist wipes the side of my face, and this is how I discover the flour that Fat was trying so graciously to point out.

I hear the gentle thud of Fat jumping off the desk. Oh hooray, the lumpy feline with the loud opinion is coming to get a closer look.

“Let me see if I understand,” Fat attempts to stifle a laugh by playing it off as a cough, “You offered to make breakfast.”

I nod.

“And somehow you thought that cookies were the way to go.”

I nod again. A few seconds tick by until I come to the realization that I’m supposed to say something. With the multitude of words accessible in the English language, I offer a response in as much as one syllable, “Uh…”

“Surely you could have gotten away with toast and tea or even soggy cereal? You seldom shine, but when it comes to adding milk to cereal, you almost always get it right. Please,” another phony cough escapes her mouth, “please help me understand your thought process here.” Fat sits upright and clears her throat to bury more laughter from joining us in the kitchen. She acknowledges my you’re-not-fooling-anyone glare. “Dry cough. I must have caught it from that commercial for Tylenol Cold and Flu with that wheezy kid in the loser glasses.”

“You can’t catch–” Is this really something I want to debate with my cat? “Never mind, Fat.” An incessant beep blasts from the stove top. After strangling the sound into silence, I grab a dish towel and open the oven.

Fat’s tiny nose sniffs the air, “So, why the cookies for breakfast?”

“I panicked after I offered to–oh fucking balls!” I drop the pan on the stove top and it makes a clanging sound so loud I hear Boyfriend, still in bed, ask if I’m inflicting any self-harm. “Mostly psychological,” I shout over my shoulder as I run cold tap water over the burn on my hand. Maybe oven mitts really aren’t some crazy fad the hipsters made up.

“Psychological harm is my specialty.” Fat jumps up beside the dish rack and looks from my hand to my face. I feel the burning intensity of her eyes. “It’s okay to quit. You’re really not good at this. Failure on all fronts. I hope I’m not being intrusive when I say that you’re better off just making the man some toast.”

My brain clumsily gallops like a lame horse from one idea to the next. There has to be some way to salvage this fiasco. “Mimosas.” I finally look Fat in the face, “I’ll get him so hammered off mimosas he won’t know the difference between a cookie and a pancake.”

Fat’s forehead lowers, “It scares me to think you actually consider this a constructive and viable idea. It’s hilarious that you think this plan will make yourself feel like less of a failure.” She leans forward and focuses on my third eye, “What in the hell goes on in there? Don’t get me wrong, you are one of my more interesting cases to observe. I’m quite interested to watch how this plays out.”

I shake the water from my hand and dash to the fridge. Fat follows at my heels and we both are hugely disappointed to discover–

“You’re a couple ingredients shy of mimosas.” Fat pokes her head further into the fridge, “You’ve got some vine tomatoes here. There’s still that vodka. A little can-do attitude and Martha Stewart do-it-yourself incentive and you’ve got yourself… well, something to get Boyfriend drunk. Sunday, Bloody Sunday, right?”

“Not the time for this attitude of yours, Bono.” I slam the fridge door shut and drum my fingers on the outside of the freezer compartment. “Help me think.”

Fat watches my nails clack-clack-clack on the appliance. Her gaze hardens and becomes serious. When I feel that she’s onto something, my fingers stop to feed the silence.

Immense quiet.

She’s bound to have some sage advice that will help me. A paw touches lightly to her mouth and Fat clears her throat. I stand at attention waiting for the feline to come forth with anything.

Her jaw opens.

Cruel laughter plays the part of empathy this morning as the worst understudy in the history of the world. Her boisterous chuckle races through the kitchen like a streaker – I can’t not pay attention to it. “Your face,” the laughter does a duet with her words, “you look like you’re trying to disarm a bomb and don’t know which wire to cut.”

We both look over to my sad cookies, still on the pan, embarrassed of themselves.

“Boyfriend,” I call and grab my keys off the wall hook. In unison, Fat’s voice joins mine as I finish my thought, “We’re going out for breakfast.” I scowl at her, and again she speaks my words at the same time I do, “Stop that. You don’t know me.”

“Boss, Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

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?”

A Short Conversation and a Long Fight

“You know why you’re so likable?” Fat purrs. We just woke up from an accidental nap on the couch. I scratch behind her ears.

I’m oddly comfortable considering this hefty feline is probably making my ribs bow to the point of breaking as she lies on my chest, eyes still closed.

A yawn rolls off my tongue with my relaxed speculation. “Because I’m nice–”

Her eyes snap open as she sharply talks over me. “Because you’re stupid. People enjoy feeling smart, so they keep stupid company.”

Like an idiot, I keep petting her. The background noise, the backwards clock ticking like a metronome from the kitchen, fills the foreground. After what must have been a revolution by the minute hand, I lick my lips. “No wonder why I put up with you. You make me feel smart.”

“And a delayed response like that will make you sound even more stupid. My food dish is a better raconteur than you.”

Like the good loser that I am, I shove Fat off of me and onto the floor. Note to self: post-nap mental sharpness is a myth.