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.”

Not a Hallmark Card

“That settles it; you clearly don’t care about your friends.”

I stop writing, mid-Facebook message and focus my attention from my phone to the pudgy feline on my lap. Her lazy half-mast eyes sweep from my phone to my face and her whiskers twitch with purpose. I can’t decide if her expression is offense or contempt or a new devilish expression I haven’t yet been introduced to.

We were having such a nice, cozy afternoon. The fog has devoured the neighbourhood so Fat and I hunkered indoors today. Sweats on, hoodie up, a purring and wordless cat content and lounging on my thighs; the last hour was (not to oversell it) lovely. I read some more of a book, did a little writing, and am just now catching up on my correspondence – by correspondence I clearly mean Facebook and Twitter.

“Where in the world would you get an idea like that, Fat?” I press the illuminated screen of the iPhone against her wet nose. The motion is quick and I pull the device away from her face before her eyes can bring the text into focus. “My girlfriend had her baby a few weeks early and I’m sending her a note of congratulations.” I wipe Fat’s nose smudge from phone on the sleeve of my faded blue hoodie. Good as new.

“Yes. Thank you, Boss. I already read that. It took me a moment because I thought when you used the word ‘kid’ you were writing about an infant goat. Don’t worry, I pieced it together.”

“Then what’s your issue?”

“You’re making the message all about the baby. You haven’t written anything to this girl about how she’s doing. Gimme.” A grey paw makes a sweeping motion at my phone to draw it closer. I acquiesce.

The good doctor scratches her chin with her claws in contemplation and her eyes brighten when an idea hits her. The familiar clicking as she presses the buttons in quick succession sounds like an offbeat drum line. “There.” She sits back proudly letting me see what she’s written.

I clear my throat, and read aloud. “’I hope your nether region didn’t get ruined during childbirth; bear in mind, it’s had much more practice being an entrance than an exit.’” A heavy sigh falls out of my mouth but I finish reading, “’Here’s to a speedy recovery.’ Fat, I’m not sending this.” I hold the delete button until all the words are consumed by white space. “You just called my friend a harlot.”

Fat extends her arms down to my knees and her nails dig into my skin as she stretches. “But that’s the kind of comment that says, ‘I care.’ It’s doesn’t offer that smarmy, have-some-special-treatment-because-you-just-reproduced sentimentality. Frankly, I think she’d appreciate it.”

“I think you’re wrong.” I shove Fat hard enough to encourage her to leap off my lap. “I should probably go get her something for her baby shower this weekend. Dare I ask if you have any ideas?”

“Give the new mom a gift that will help the baby sleep. Chloroform. Lots and lots of chloroform.”

2015: The Year of What Might be an Achievable Resolution

“What New Year’s resolution are you going to fail at this year, boss?”

Fat’s head tips on a curious angle, a paper top hat perches on her head with the number 2015 splayed on the side in swirly, silver glitter. We’re well into New Years Day by now, and yet the chapeau persists. Part of me wonders if she hasn’t removed it just to make me crazy — when the countdown is over, the confetti is thrown and the kazoos have sounded, it’s time to take off the hat.

“I didn’t make any.” My eyes roll upward, to quickly consult my brain for any previous thoughts on the matter. “Nope. Nothing there.” iPhone shrieks from the hall table to let me know I’ve received a text message.

“You make it sound like breaking news; that brain of yours has been vacant of both memory and intelligence for years. C’mon, boss, think of something you can aspire to fail at this year.” Fat’s grey tail flicks playfully from side to side. “I have ideas if you fall short. For instance,” The feline clears her throat for what I assume will begin a tedious and insulting list. All too quickly this thought is proven correct. “Learn to act your age, purchase a new cat toy every week, fix that crooked English smile of yours, give up reading so you have more time to pursue more important things like making your cat happy, clean the skeletons out of your closet and get back to therapy, write a poem about me every day, spend effort in looking less like a hobo so maybe a man will want to be with you,” Fat pauses, making me think she’s finished, but that last idea has bridged itself to another thought. “Hmm, it’s not just the outside that’s the problem. Do you reckon you’re capable of a personality overhaul over the course of the year? Well, they do say a person’s reach should exceed their grasp. I’ll do what I can to help on that one, but you’ve been a work in progress since I met you. You might have to face the fact that you’re going to end up old and alone. Maybe your resolution can be about coming to terms with that harsh reality…”

I’ve stopped listening as Fat natters on about what she perceives to be my various personality and appearance defects. Checking my phone, the latest text is essentially the same as the last few I’ve received. Another ode to the New Year. The phone clicks rapidly as I text a reply, and respond to another two iMessages. I stand, holding my phone in midair, thinking about how positive everybody is at New Years. There has to be a way to harness this prolific outlook amongst the people; figuring that out could be my resolution. After all, I’m no stranger to the nickname Optimist Prime.

A few seconds pass and my attention transitions from the free-floating thoughts in my head back to the outpouring of words from my housecat. Fat’s monologue continues as her paw scratches her chin in thought. “…but then we’d have to find somebody that is competent in attaching brain electrodes and behavioural manipulation.” The feline’s green eyes refocus on me. “What if we just pick something for you that is vague enough to be achievable?”

I humour Fat with the illusion of caring. “What do you suggest, Fat?”

Triumph in the form of a sinister smile grows across her small face. Even her whiskers stand at attention for the good doctor’s decree. “Boss, your New Year’s resolution is to generally suck less at everything.”

A Good, Ol’ Fashioned Phone Call

“Your telepathy’s broken.”

Fat almost shouts from where she’s curled up behind my head on the armrest of the couch. Not expecting a break from the silence I was enjoying, I jump with surprise and swear simultaneously. The iPhone gets lost in the nonsense and falls to the floor with the dull thud of landing with gusto on the carpet.

“Christ, Fat. What is your problem?” I turn around to glare at her. When I glare, it feels like my face gets upstaged by my gigantic forehead. Now I’m pretending to be upset but genuinely self-conscious. I purse my lips instead. Within seconds, I’m bored of feigning annoyance. In spite of Fat testing how unanticipated shouting affects my heart, it’s a good day.

Fat looks fiercely at me like I’ve done something to piss her off. Her eyes become small slits. “You signed off from that conversation almost ten minutes ago and have been staring at your phone ever since. Time that would have been better spent petting me and telling me how pretty I am.” Fat shoots a quick glance down to the floor as if anticipating my rescue mission for my iPhone. Her luminous eyes regain full roundness with her surprise. “Aren’t you going to get that?”

“No.” Content, I turn away from her and tuck my arms behind my head. Truth be told, I wasn’t staring at my phone; I was lost between my ears enjoying the random thoughts of a lunatic.

The feline wanders up the armrest and down the back of the couch until she’s in my line of vision again.

“Who was that you were talking to for so long?” She reads the upward lift at the corners of my mouth. “Tell me you haven’t started dating again. Was that a new beau on the horn?” Fat’s head tilts south toward my abandoned phone as though she doesn’t expect me to understand her question without the physical prompt.

I say nothing – not because I don’t have anything to say, but because silence is one of the feline’s most hated forms of torture.

“Oh God, boss. How serious is it?” When I don’t answer, her eyes grow wider like we’re gossiping at the beauty parlour. “Really serious.”

I nod. It’s not a lie.

“Can’t be that serious. It’s not like they asked you to marry you or anything.” Fat starts to laugh, then realizes I’m not laughing alongside her. She ceases immediately.

Fat’s eyes penetrate mine. She’s curled up like a runner at the beginning of a race, if I leave her hanging too much longer, she’ll fall off of her little perch. Her tail taps the tan cushion with impatience.

“She proposed to me at a farmer’s market amongst a throng of grey-haired onlookers. Her MMA training had taken a toll on her ability to properly get down on bended knee that day, but she managed to do it. We exchanged hand-made beaded flower rings and toasted the advent of forever with hot dogs…”

As I nattered on, Fat’s mask of great expectation deflated.

“Your fake lesbian fiancé? That’s who you’re talking to?” The feline became instantly bored. “I heard this story years ago when you two went to that farmer’s market together. You can spare me the details.”

“Not fake.” My spine stiffens when she dismisses the relationship as phony. “Emotional lesbians. Dudes never treated us as well as we treated each other. Wined and dined the hell out of each other those years ago.” I snort with a short laugh. “Kind of a pity that both of us are into the males. It’s a match made in heaven, otherwise.”

I catch Fat rolling her eyes, but say nothing to encourage or reinforce the behaviour. I feel my guard come down. “I miss her, Fat.”

Fat nods thoughtfully and her words are soft spoken. “That’s understandable.”

“One in seven billion, that girl.”

“Huh?” Fat’s gentle voice becomes brassy again. “Time to be a grown up, boss. People move, get married, have careers, some of them have babies – things change for everyone.” Her tone turns to icy sarcasm. “It’s a shame we don’t live in a time where airplanes exist. Or video chat. Or texting. Or Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Snapchat. There are no excuses to be out of touch.”

I hug the teal couch pillow to my chest. “But you said you understood that I missed her…”

“I meant, it’s understandable because there are few people on this earth foolhardy enough to enjoy your company. And it’s no wonder. I’m still waiting for you to pet me and tell me I’m pretty.”

Off the Personality Charts

“It’s been a long while since you’ve returned to the apartment doing the three a.m. donkey shuffle. Thanks for coming home, Clip Clop. I presume estrogen night was a success.”

It would seem the hitch in my giddy-up is readily apparent to a busybody feline. I take baby steps, still in disbelief that not fifteen minutes ago I was sprinting down the middle of a street, through the rain to Bestie’s car. The current state below my ankles is comatose; my feet are beyond the point of pain, they’ve long since checked out.

“It’s maybe quarter after two. Three a.m.? You exaggerate.” I groan, but strangely enough, it’s for celebration. I’ve spent hours in these shoes, I made it; I’m still alive.

Fat frowns with the familiar look of a parent that has denied themselves sleep in order to ensure their kin arrives home safe from a night out. I expect her to be in a housecoat and curlers with a glare like that.

“I’m rounding up, but it’s still late. I suppose it was more than just going out for dinner like you would have me believe. You should always call if you’re going to be late. It’s the courteous thing to do, boss.”

“Sure, yeah.” I stumble into the bedroom and collapse, face first, onto the mattress. I’m getting too old for late nights, but it was the birthday of one of my best gals, and it was delightful. Many of my favourite ladies breaking bread together, sharing some laughs. I snort, remembering Bestie’s face when the subject of vajazzles came up.

I try to kick off my shoes without turning over and sitting up, but the result of this decision is kicking my ankle, scuffing my shoes against each other and scraping my skin against the dark heels. I feel like a wind-up toy that keeps colliding with a wall – I imagine the feeling is more or less the same. My black pumps are fused to my feet like they’ve been melted to my soles with lava. Stupid swollen feet.

“Tut, tut.”

The fur of Fat’s tail drags across my shins. Because of the sound she makes, this action can only be interpreted as condescending. I lift my stomach off the duvet and roll over.

“You seem surprisingly alert, boss. Not wearing the askew eyeballs of one that is drunk and bumbling around.”

One of my feet stirs in its coma; it’s starting to register that it feels pain. I’m not sure which is preferable – numbness or agony. At least with agony you know it’s still alive. My knee pulls up to my chest and I reef on the shoe as hard as I can. That bastard stays put.

Fat jumps up beside me on the bed and watches me struggle as I try to free myself.

“Thought I’d keep it classy tonight and watch my intake.” I growl. “What is going on here? This kind of crap never happened to Cinderella.” I yell at my shoe, try to divorce it from my foot with more force then whine and huff in aggravation. I’m a prisoner to my footwear. How does this happen?

“I always pegged you as more of an ugly stepsister type anyways.”

I shoot Fat the dirtiest look I can muster.

“Kidding.” Fat smiles insincerely. “Seriously though, you might have to amputate.” She leans close enough to my leg that her whiskers touch my foot. She leans back quickly – they must smell terrible.

I give up on my right foot and lift my left foot. My arm muscles firm and a veritable war cry bursts from my lungs as I wrench the pump off my foot in a fluid motion. It frustrates me how much easier this shoe was to remove. I throw the shoe across the room and it lands in a pile of laundry beside the dresser. Okay. Half way there.

Fat laughs, “The best part about this is that there are flats in your purse, remember? You thought you were so smart bringing those along for when your feet tapped out for the evening.” Her laugh continues until it turns into a quiet wheeze.

“Of course I remember.” I talk over her raspy laughter. “I gave them to Bestie because her feet were crying.”

Fat instantly stops and she dons the face of genuine surprise. “Self-sacrifice, boss? This isn’t something I’ve marked on any of your personality charts.”

I stop grappling with my shoe and walk with one bare foot and one high-heeled foot to grab my purse from the hallway. I unzip it and flip the purse over to empty the contents onto the bed. The black flats, of course, are absent.

Fat takes a long time to blink. Her mouth hangs open, slightly-ajar as she looks at the wallet, lip gloss, compact, iPhone, small journal, pens and other purse crap.

“Nothing to say, Fat? That’s surprising.”

The feline gives her head a shake. It offends me that she’s so shocked at my capacity to put others first. If I weren’t so tired, I’d be making one hell of a scene – pulling tails, spouting verbal abuse, putting her in the toilet bowl and flushing, the whole nine.

“I guess there’s only one thing that comes to mind at the moment.”

I watch her green eyes remain on the items from my purse. She scans over everything as though she’s taking inventory.

“A single girl on the town should carry condoms in her purse.”

“I’m going to go to bed and pretend you didn’t just say that.”

Different Kinds of Liars

Since I’m a skeptical person I would call your cat out as
the cappuccino 
wasn’t really that common until the 1950’s.
And in fact didn’t even exist until the 1930’s…

I look up from the Facebook message on my phone and scan the room until I see the fat feline curled into a ball as sleeping on top of her scratch post. This message contradicts what she told me just the other day.

“Hey. Wake up, liar.” I grab Mutt’s green stuffed dog off the floor and whip it with the force of a MLB pitcher in her direction. It hits the wall behind her and the wall-mounted candle holders shift from the impact. The fact that they don’t fall off the wall makes me feel proud of my DIY skills. The alien dog ricochets, landing cozily on Fat’s hip.

She stirs and opens one eye to look in my direction.

“See this?” I hold up my phone from my nook in the couch, flashing the screen at her.

Fat speaks through a yawn. “You’ve had that phone for two years. Cavemen have better technology. Time to stop being proud of that thing.”

I keep the phone extended, “Read the message, dumb ass.”

“Boss, a couple things,” Fat rolls onto her stomach and her second eye opens, “One, that screen that’s causing you to act a fool is blank.”

I flip the iPhone over in my hand; the screen is black. I punch in my passcode and the words light up again. I turn the message back in Fat’s direction. She doesn’t even pretend to look at it.

“And two, I know I’m so awesome you think I’m bionic, but nobody can read those piddily words from fifteen feet away. For all I can tell, you’re showing me some kind of internet porn.”

I read aloud the message from Aaron and try not to lose my patience when she interrupts by ripping her claws into the scratching post.

“You seem remarkably cavalier for a liar.”

Fat’s claws dig deep into the post as she stretches out, ass pointed into the air. “Quite the majestic high horse you ride on, boss. Clydesdale, is it?”

I toss the iPhone onto the wood coffee table. “What are you getting at, Fat?”

“I just find it interesting that you’re quick to call me a liar when you’ve done some damn fine work to decorate this apartment with lies.” She finally sits, regally atop her worn post. She looks at the Remington typewriter that sits on the cupboard above my desk and the framed tin ceiling tiles on the walls. “Well, lies and old lady shit. Boyfriend really buys this charade, huh?”

“I like my old lady shit, thank you.” My arms cross over my chest. I don’t lie. Can’t, actually. Too many tells. It would have been a waste of my time to learn to play poker.

Fat clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “I know what you’re doing.” She shakes her head. “You always do this, anytime somebody steers the conversation somewhere you don’t want to go you subtly relocate the conversation to different ground. You, boss,” the feline smiles, “are like a magnet on a compass.”

“What does that even mean?”

Fat’s green eyes brighten as if I’d proven something, “See? Doing it again. Tricky, tricky.” Fat’s fangs show just slightly. She jumps down, races across the floor and Fat hops up gracefully onto the coffee table.

“What’s this, then?” Her eyes skim over the black and white news print.

“The paper.” I try to sound as obvious as possible.

“Something seems odd about it though… this is the paper you brought into the apartment today?”

She knows.

“It’s funny, some of the words that are in here – t hey don’t even seem like words at all.”

She’s just dragging this out to hurt me.

“I have to hand it to you, boss. I never thought you could finish a crossword puzzle all on your own.”

I can’t. I’ve come close and failed time and time again.

“If somebody, say, Boyfriend, were to come into the room and see all the squares filled in with letters, that somebody might think that you managed to figure out all the answers. One generally doesn’t look too closely.” Her eyes skim over a clue and she reads the word that I’ve written vertically. “OZYMET. Where in the world did you hear of that? College?”

“It’s a…” I lean in an attempt to read the clue and come up with something that sounds both feasible and works with the written hint, “type of Polynesian…suit…for…tib-en-dor…fff…” I can’t lean any further without falling over.

“One more time with feeling. Maybe skip the random syllables you added at the end.”

“I’m feeling hungry. Fat, are you hungry?” Damn it. I am a magnet on a compass.

Fat brightens, and the metaphorical interrogation light dims. “Starving.”

We both rise and she trails behind as I walk into the kitchen.

The kibble fills her bowl with tinny sounds. She speaks between enormous bites.

“Lying by omission is still lying. Love the placement of Faulkner and Burroughs on your bookshelf, by the way. Evidence of intelligence. Brilliant, boss. Just brilliant.”

Breakthroughs in the Wee Hours of Morning

“If Boyfriend wakes up to cat anus in his face, he’s going to be pissed.” My index finger digs at the corners of my eyes to remove the sleep and residual mascara clumps. Fat remains precariously poised on Boyfriend’s shoulder as he remains dead to the world, asleep on his side.

Driven by thirst and now sixteen percent awake, my torso rolls off the bed so I can reach down to grab my water bottle from the floor. Must tread carefully before I reach fifty percent wakefulness — there’s no return to the land from nod after that level of alertness is obtained. In order to operate on lower wakeful percentage, my eyes close as I drain the bottle and rehydrate. I hear the empty polyethylene bottle hit the ground. Satiated, I once again collapse backward onto my flattened pillow.

Silence. Eerie silence.

Robotically, my eyes open and I stare at the ceiling. Slowly, my neck rotates and I turn to the right. Fat is exactly where she was when my mumbled warning intercepted the nighttime serenity several seconds ago.

Twenty-two percent awake, and more comprehensive than my last statement, I try again. “Fat. Ass out of his face. Now.” She’s a country away on the other side of the king size bed. The feline merely stares, a muted taunt to prompt some kind of action on my part.

“No.”

“Fat.” Somehow my vocal cords are overtaken by what sounds like my ma does when I tell stories and forget to filter for parental ears. Twenty-nine percent awake.

“I’m not done yet. I’m going to make it all the way to the top.”

I follow her line of vision through the darkness and see her intended goal. “He’s not Mount Everest, Fat. Shoo. Go on.” Still in the stages of sleepiness, the last two words mesh together and come out sounding like “Gwon.” Warning sirens go off in my head, we’re at thirty-eight percent wakefulness. Gear down now or wake up at — I roll to the left and lift my iPhone off the bed to check — 3:58 am. “Ugh.” A beat of silence before the sound of the iPhone case connects with the water bottle.

“Typical.”

I turn back over to the right and trade in my desire to yell for a stage whisper. “What’s typical?” Forty-five percent wakefulness. Stop now. Just stop. Red lights are flashing in my brain and imaginary screams of exhausted brain cells scream in agony. I sit up, losing another three percent to the side of the living. “You got something to say, fluffy?”

Fat’s paw tentatively reaches over and seeks support from Boyfriend’s cheekbone. He stirs. She pauses, waiting for him to settle. “It’s typical; when you see something you don’t like, is too inconvenient, or seems difficult you push it away. Just interesting when it happens literally.” Fat’s body drapes around Boyfriend’s neck like a hideous scarf, “You shouldn’t be so careless with your phone, by the by.”

I skip beyond fifty percent wakefulness and right to eighty-one percent awake. Hot damn. The dream of a full eight hours is over; frankly, it never had a chance. “This is about more than just the iPhone.” I kick the blankets off and crawl over to Boyfriend’s side of the bed. Picking up Fat by the scruff of her neck, I keep her hostage in midair. “Explain yourself.”

Fat’s front legs extend like Frankenstein’s monster and her back legs kick, searching for something sturdy to stand on. “Your book, dummy. Where’s the effort? You were so gung-ho to prove me wrong with that one. I have seen no progress on that front. Boss, your goals won’t realize themselves.” Fat turns to look over at the crown of Boyfriend’s head and I already see her eager to have another try at resting on his head like Davy Crockett’s hat. “Having dreams is free, but realizing them requires an output of energy from you, remember? You lazy son-of-a-bitch.”

“That’s uncalled for.”

“Daughter-of-a-bitch. My apologies.”

I toss her into the pile of my iPhone and water bottle. “That’s not what I meant, clown. For your information, I’m taking a workshop with a book agent. So you can suck it.”

Fat shoots me a say-whaaaaaat expression. She nods. “That was a motivational technique, doofus. Don’t act like I should be proud of you; you want to get published for your sake, not mine.”

This is not a good time for a breakthrough. I hate her so much right now.

Warning Bells of Bad Things Yet to Come

“Oh, hell.” The urgent alarm clanging in my head and imaginary flashing red lights behind my irises alert me to the danger zone that I’m about to enter. I briefly wonder if I’m fated to become a casualty in my own apartment.

Fat sits, waiting for me, directly in front of the door with her shrink spectacles on. My hands, one still on the doorknob and the other with the key in the lock, move as fast as they can. I pull hard on the handle and lock the door. I feel akin to a fighter pilot using their ejector seat.

“Well that was a bit much.” Fat has somehow appeared on this side of the door. For a portly gal, she sure can move when inspired.

What a waste of a frenzied exit. “I thought I was in the wrong apartment.”

Fat stares at me dryly until I can’t take the silence.

“Fine.” I add a few extra “I”s to make the word sound longer than it needs to be. “I’ve just had a long day, Fat. I’ve been going since,” I check my phone and see that it’s closing in on midnight, “way too early this morning. My rhythm with the universe is off; timing especially, I missed two buses today for no reason. Mutt’s broken again, and the vet doesn’t know what’s up. It’s stressing me out and not even a workout cured the fried wires in my head.” My phone beeps in my hand as if on cue; I show Fat the screen with a former bachelor’s name on it. “This guy.” An icy tone accompanies the words as I delete the text and send the message off to Bell Mobility’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. I look down at Fat again. “All I want to do is throw some food at you and enjoy a few minutes of decompression before I crawl into bed.” I unlock the door for the second time in a minute.

“Very well.” Fat walks back into the apartment before me. She makes a right after the kitchen and crawls under the desk without another word.

My head tilts to the side, dumbfounded by this uncharacteristic behaviour. Then it happens again; inside my head sounds like a boxing match where somebody keeps ringing the bell and an ambulance with flashing lights tours my cerebral cortex. Pissing off a cat is always a dangerous gamble; their range of passive-aggressiveness ranges from petty annoyance to murder.

To be on the safe side, I close the bedroom door behind me. I don’t want that she-devil eating my face off when I’m unconscious.