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.”

Skype Calls and Fat

“We are so far beyond not interested, pal. Bye-bye now.”

Fat’s paws press the back of the laptop. She uses her girth to close the old computer while I’m mid-Skype conversation. The feline’s abrupt dismissal of our video chat interrupts my story about finally exploring McLeod’s bookstore downtown. I suppose I didn’t need to mention that after an arduous hunt, I finally found a copy of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. My cat is such a bitch cat; there will be no fairy tale endings on her watch – not even in bookstores.

Hinging from the hip, I try to stay in front of the camera and quickly sign off prior to hitting my chin on the desk and before Fat ends the call by clamping the computer shut. The grizzly-faced dude and I talk over each other in the few seconds we have left.

“I’m going to have to call you back.”

“Kat, what’s happening with your computer?” He’s unconcerned. The way he asks makes me feel that when stupidity happens in my presence, it’s not altogether unexpected. That is off-the-charts rude and presumptuous; perhaps I shan’t call him back. It seems jackassery is running rampant today.

The feline lets out a satisfied smirk and sits on the closed VAIO like it’s a throne. “Dodged a bullet there, eh? You’re welcome. I never thought I’d say this, Boss, but you can do better.” Fat’s tail hugs the perimeter of her meaty haunches.

My forehead wrinkles to accommodate the surprised lift of my eyebrows. “What’s that, now?” If she’s saying what I think she’s saying…

“Hate to see my prize pig settle for somebody like that blond schmuck.” Indicatively, a grey paw taps gently on the computer case.

Beyond any measure of comprehension, the term ‘prize pig’ doesn’t register as an insult; instead my thoughts briefly drift to the fridge contents and the possibility of bacon. In my humble opinion, a pre-dinner warmup is never a poor idea.

“There’s no accounting for taste, is there? It’s like he was oblivious to your terrible personality.” Fat’s musings coax my attention back from hunger.

“I’m going to stop you there, Fat.” My traffic cop hand rests inches from her wet nose. “What you’re thinking is eighty-thousand different kinds of disgusting.” I point to the corner of the desk at a framed picture that was taken a couple years ago at my mom’s house.

The feline sidles up beside it, almost pressing her face against the photo. “He’s already met your family?” The tone in her voice registers as revulsion.

“He’s my brother, you moron.”

Fat’s pupils expand and she stares, unblinking in my direction. Her cheeks puff out as her mouth stays shut, feigning a puke-like reaction. Gag sounds come from her throat as the feline oversells the dramatics. “V.C. Andrews really did a number on you, huh? I knew I shouldn’t have let you watch Flowers in the Attic.”

I stare at the ceiling. C’mon, brain, make this a Namaste situation… breathe in, breathe out. Do no harm to the furry idiot on the desk.

“So what’s up with your brother? Did you give him my regards?”

I shrug. “He somehow got the idea that I was plotting to murder my cat. For some reason he was trying to talk me out of it.”

“You know, I always liked that guy.”

Office Hours: The Groom of Childhood Past

“You couldn’t seem more unenthused to be here.”

“That’s because I was getting all set up for an afternoon nap when you rolled in wearing those on your face.” I point to the unprescribed wire glasses across the bridge of the feline’s nose; the plastic Santa in the hall closet looks unfinished without them.

I pout, “Fat, conditions are perfect. The television is at that prime lullaby level.” We both strain to hear the familiar sounds of an ancient Friends episode on the Slice network. “There’s a gentle breeze coming in through the patio door. I’m entirely comfortable.” I’m in the fetal position tucked in my couch nook with a pillow between my knees to properly align my spine. “And then you show up.” One of my hands forms an unamused-but-nonviolent fist.

“I had a thought.” Four words from the cat’s mouth and my brain already hurts.

I don’t cover my mouth when I yawn. “Oh yeah? It must have been important for you to scuttle all the way in here from the bedroom. I’m surprised you’re not wheezing from that cardio.”

The good doctor feigns amusement at my comment before unveiling her tremendous realization: “I never knew you as a child.”

“That’s hardly a revelation, Fat. I didn’t get you from the SPCA until I was in my twenties.” The couch pillow between my hand and my head has flattened and I can almost make out the feeling of each individual finger against my cheek. If I don’t pass out soon, I’m going to need to fluff up the pillow – it’ll become a whole thing; I’ll have to sit up and from there I’ll probably just give up on catching some afternoon winks.

“Were you a happy kid?”

I fight the urge to break out into another yawn. “Happy enough. Sure.”

Fat looks at me sideways as though she’s not satisfied with my effort to answer the questions. “Was your imagination as rampant as it is now, or did it grow as your chemical balance shifted?”

It takes a few seconds for my eyes to open from a blink. I answer with a rhetorical, “What do you think?”

She already has another question in the holster and it fires out. “Did you ever have a fake wedding with a boy on the playground when you were in elementary school?”

My lips purse in genuine thought, “Hmmm. No, I actually didn’t. I played house with a boy who lived on my street. That’s pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?” I think back to my seven-year-old self and the Christian lad from across the way.

“Played house? Like make-believe common-law?” Fat’s eyes narrow as though missing a key part of understanding what I mean.

I shake my head. “No. We were married. Surprisingly, I remember Jacob referring to me as his wife. He’d always be in our pretend house, but I would never make it home because I was much happier and far too busy with my imaginary job. My absence didn’t make him a particularly happy childhood husband. We didn’t last long as a fake married couple.” The moment I say the words, my half-closed eyes open wide and I stare at the feline as she rests her mouth against a paw. “Fat, don’t read into that. Please.”

“I haven’t said anything.”

“I just wanted to nap…”

The whispered voices of Ross and Monica blur the sound of silence that follows. I should have just pretended to be sleeping when the cat gallivanted into the room. My perfect nap conditions are officially ruined.

Fat lays her spectacles on the coffee table beside her tail. “Boss, is it fair to suppose that you are incapable of change? It may have something to do with the fact that you’re alone–”

I interrupt to spare us both a subject that I’m getting tired of defending. “Fat, change is something one gives to the homeless.”

“Deflecting won’t help you here. Your childhood pretend-husband abandoned you because you were unavailable to him. That’s got to hurt.”

“Aren’t hurt feelings supposed to be soothed with a gift of casserole or dessert or something? I wasn’t devastated then, and I maintain that position.” It’s a good thing that childhood divorces were literally as simple as, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’; there was no shame if you couldn’t make it work. I’d forgotten all about Jacob – there were never any genuine feelings there; playing house was just a way to pass the time. He got legitimately married a few years ago to a girl who – I assume – is a great housewife and mother.

As I lie on the couch, still in my nap-stance, I feel her intense stare on the side of my face as I make comparisons to myself as a pretend bride. My independence was only an issue back then because Jacob wasn’t the right pretend husband, right?

After a few seconds of the television bringing the only conversation into the room, Fat speaks. “I love when you do all the work inside your head and I still get to call these billable hours.”

Making Comparisons

“I hear it’s Ken’s birthday tomorrow.”

Fat finds me in the kitchen and watches me down half a handful of dry granola.

“Oh yeah?” I crunch the cereal into paste and swallow it down. “Who’s Ken?”

Fat’s shoulders lift toward her pointed ears. “I don’t know. I thought you were best friends with all the neighbours now.”

The box of granola finds its way back to where it belongs on top of the fridge. “Not making a habit of it, I assure you.” My hands sweep against each other before I brush any stubborn crumbs onto my shorts. I grab a ribbon I left on the counter and start tying a bow around the glass jar beside it.

“You’re telling me you have no affiliation with this Ken or the old lady that was talking to him in the hallway this afternoon?”

I raise my right hand as though swearing an oath. “None whatsoever.”

“Well, you may have ordered a fruit bouquet online for the occasion, so…”

“You’re fibbing.”

“Completely.” Fat finally notices the jar of pickles on the counter that’s now flourished with green ribbon in the style of five-year-old shoelaces. “What’s up with this?” She holds her paw out to gesture at the fancy jar. “You’re not going to tell me this is a gift for Ken on his special day? I’m very confused.”

“I’m seeing a gal pal of mine tonight. She’s got good news coming out the wazoo – she’s rocking at life right now. The pickles are to congratulate her on a particular tidbit of wonderful news.”

“She’s discovered how nicely they go with tuna on high-brow crackers?”

I give Fat the look that tells her not to be an idiot. “Bun in the oven. New house purchased. Month long dream vacation coming up.” I stare at the label on the pickles. “I’m just recognizing the good things in the world by paying tribute with what used to be cucumbers,” I glance over my shoulder to the pink daisies on the hall table, “and also flowers.”

Fat gives me a skeptical sigh and her face gets done over with genuine interest. “You’re not making comparisons are you, Boss? That’s a dangerous game.”

I shrug. “I can drink vodka and she can’t. It all evens out.” The truth is, yes. I can’t help but make comparisons. I’m so far removed from a life such as that, I can’t even fathom what it’s like to live up to the model of adulthood. I’m still in the ‘having fun’ phase.

Fat’s head moves around, taking inventory with birdlike movements. “Can’t help but notice you don’t have any gifts, pickles or otherwise, celebrating significant moments in your life. Why is that?”

“For the precise reason you think, Fat. I’m happy enough, but I’ve got nothing especially significant going on.” In a last-minute decision, I untie the green ribbon and slap a blue bow sticker to the jar lid. That’s how it’s done.

Fat taps her jaw thoughtfully, “How does one fix that, do you think?”

I hurriedly grab the jar of pickles and flowers; I’m going to miss the seabus if I don’t hustle my caboose. “By going out and having a good time with my friend for starters.”

“We’ll figure this life thing out, Boss.”

“Oh goody. A team project.”

How Billy Crystal Saved Fat’s Life

“He got to keep that horse you know.”

Fat’s eyes stayed glued to the television. I don’t see what she’s watching until I heave my ridiculously heavy bag into the living room. Billy Crystal and his best fellows are in the midst of a cattle drive talking about the best days of their lives. I always forget how much Fat adores Billy Crystal.

With great effort, I lift my shoulder bag onto the desk. Carrying it the ten blocks home almost crippled me. Frankly, I’m surprised my back didn’t give out because of the weight.

“Did he actually get to keep the horse or are you just taking a piss at me?” I wipe my brow on the inside of my elbow and turn around; Fat continues to stare at the screen, unblinking, as the trio of middle-aged men lollop along on their ponies. Fat ignores me.

I watch, half-engaged, until the movie breaks with a commercial.

“Genuinely… didn’t you read his book?”

It takes me a moment to realize that Fat is picking up the conversation exactly where it left off a few minutes ago. I shoot a quick look at the spine of Still Foolin’ ‘Em on my bookshelf and then stare guiltily at the about-to-burst satchel sitting on the desk.

Fat rolls onto her side and stares across the room at me.

“You would be a terrible criminal, you know that?”

“That’s a weird thing to say.” I slump in the desk chair and observe at the feline with curiosity.

“Boss, please. You need to be introduced to nonchalance. Never have you ever put on a coat and grabbed a bag to bring Mutt out to your ex-boyfriend’s vehicle. That was red flag number one.”

That thought didn’t occur to me when I was hightailing it out of the apartment an hour ago.

“Next, I noticed that you turned the television on before you left. You always make a point to conserve electricity and make my life miserable when you can. Clearly, you were trying to provide some kind of distraction.” Fat smiles and stretches out her body across the couch cushion. “Naturally, you piqued my curiosity.”

I remember rapidly leashing Mutt and leaving the apartment after the tv came on. At the time, it appeared that Fat was mesmerized by the movement on the screen. I suppose I just saw what she wanted me to, that wily bitch.

“I stuck my head out the window to have a little gander. Usually, you toss Mutt into the car and go about your day, but – and this part I found of particular interest – today you got in the vehicle with them. Which leads me to wonder,” Fat lifts a paw and dramatically stares as her claws slowly appeared out of her grey fur and just as slowly disappeared, “what were you doing getting into your ex’s automobile?”

She’s jumping to a terrible conclusion. I knew this would happen and that’s why I kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell her before I left. “It’s not what you think, Fat. I was getting a ride.”

“I bet you were.” Fat shoots me an obnoxious wink. “Swimming in familiar waters, boss?”

“Gross. No. He took me–”

“In his arms?”

“Stop interrupting. You know I hate that. He took me up the street to the library.” I struggled with the zipper of my bag to show off a collection of borrowed goods. “In hindsight, I should have walked there and asked for a ride home. I think the workout unhinged my spine.”

“Was the workout that the trek home with the hoards of books, or was it bumping uglies in a car like a couple of teenag… Shut up, City Slickers is back on!” Fat’s attention is taken again by the quick wit of Billy Crystal. She laughs uncontrollably at something he says even though she’s seen this movie countless times.

The bad voice in my head has a theory that violence can solve problems – providing the problem is a presumptuous feline.  If the movie hadn’t started at that moment, Fat may have put that theory to the test. Thank you, Billy Crystal, for saving my cat from strangulation; I owe you a fruit basket – one of those nice ones that are cut to look like flowers.

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.”

Pet Names For Humans

“Don’t call me that again.” A sugary sweet smile forces itself across my face. I wave at Boyfriend as a means to excuse him and sent him off to work. The door shuts behind him and I press my spine to the back of it. My head eases backward and clunks against the peephole instead of gently resting against the wood like I was anticipating.

“I’m so happy that I was here to witness that. That’s a much better goodbye than the warm ‘love you’ that most couples half-assedly throw out as they venture off to work. You sure started Boyfriend’s birthday off right.” Fat sits on the green hall table as though it’s a throne. The delight is painted across her face like clown makeup. Bright light from the hallway skews the feline demon’s shadow on the wall. Her tail flicks with evil contentment as she observes my expression. I know my forehead is wrinkled and I am colossally aware that my mouth has formed the classic pursed lips which signal girlfriend discontent.

“Did I say something you didn’t care for,” I know the dramatic pause she takes is just to punctuate the next word, “Honeybear?”

The automatic reaction is for my arms to cross over my chest and deepen my stink face. I look over my shoulder as though the door isn’t there and I’m staring at the foul moment from fifteen seconds previous when Boyfriend called me that wretched name. I don’t, nor have I ever, dabbled in cutesy.

My thumb points in the direction where Boyfriend of fifteen seconds prior almost spoke his last words meant for this earth. “So that actually happened and I didn’t imagine it? Such a shame.” I shake my head. “Pet names? That’s not a prerequisite of a long-term relationship, is it? Because I don’t have enough bile in me to spew all over that situation.”

“I would think that you would be a lot more grateful that somebody out there tolerates you, let alone loves you. I, for one, am tremendously surprised. You were well on your way to becoming a crazy cat lady and he came along and ruined it for me.” She stops, fumbling to rephrase when she realizes she used the wrong word, “ruined it for you.” He grey paw jabs outward to punctuate who she means.

The lock clicks loudly when I turn the bolt in the door. The bad girlfriend ghost can stay in the apartment hallway.

“Why does it bother you so much, anyways?” Fat cocks her head to the side. Were I not accustomed to her, I might have found this cute, however, I’m all too aware that she’s fishing for me to discuss my feelings. That’s generally my no-no zone.

“Clearly, you have never had a pet name you hated.” I scoff as I dig my umbrella out of the closet. It’s typical Vancouver outside, and I’m not willing to forget my bumbershoot two days in a row.

“Really?” Her voice is suddenly sharp and there’s an edge to her voice that’s punctuated by a gentle sarcastic hiss. “You call me Fat and I have no idea what a terrible pet name is like? You’re absolutely right. I don’t understand at all.”

“You’re not my audience. You don’t get it. That’s something else entirely.” Frankly, I forgot that I gave her a real name when I brought her home from the shelter. One botched ovariohysterectomy can change a name in an instant.

“C’mon, boss. You’ve liked pet names in the past, haven’t you?” Fat, displeased with lack of space on her perch, shoves a candle off the side of the table and onto the carpet. Neither of us acknowledge the candle in its new habitat.

I dust off the memory bank and search the archives from a decade prior. I stifle a laugh. I’d long since forgotten one particular pet name I had from a past life. “Hot Pocket. But to my credit, that was an era where I was stoned all the time and hot pockets were the munchie of choice.” Ah, youth. To my cardiovascular system, I do apologize but at I did not and do not regret it.

“Do you think maybe Boyfriend called you Honeybear because you add honey to your tea from that bear-shaped bottle? I noticed something that came up a few times when I was reviewing your case file. I dare suggest, but you might have issues with affection and intimacy, boss.”

My eyes lock in the space directly in front of them. I try to rationalize like Fat tells me. I do like honey in my tea. I’m not a fan of that juvenile bottle though; it’s slightly preposterous. Bears enjoy eating elk too, doesn’t mean there are bottles of elk innards in a bear-shaped bottle out there. At least, God I hope not. I’m getting a little off the tracks, affection issues? Perhaps. I don’t know. I wasn’t aware my dislike of a stupid name could be translated as such. I prop the umbrella against the door as a reminder as I don my thinking face.

I dissect the idea as much as I can on my own, getting frustrated that she made me take a step back and acknowledge my behaviour. Ignorance is my favourite state after California. Was the proper human response to just accept the pet name with reluctant grace and live with it indefinitely? “Nope. Cant’ do it. ‘Honeybear’ lives and dies today, Fat.”

“How nice that you get to veto a pet name. Apparently ‘Fat’ will continue to stick around…”

Because I Love You…

“How’s the V.D. going?” Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and stares at the open window on my laptop. The pictures of shrimp and noodles momentarily capture her attention.

I glare at her. “Can you let that go already? It’s not my fault syllabus and syphilis sound similar. It was 2008; get over it.”

“Let’s reminisce once more for old time’s sake.” Fat snickers as she repeats a quote that has haunted me for the last six years, “I checked out the syphilis from my Marketing professor. That shit sucks.” The feline’s head dips down as she laughs, her forehead rests on the edge of the computer screen. “That poor woman. If only she knew the accidental lies you told about her.”

“You done?” I watch Fat’s belly jiggle as the laugh gradually works its way out of her system. Thankfully, this was a sentence shared with a feline and not another human.

A grey paw dabs the moisture from her left eye. “You are too precious, boss. I meant, how’s the Valentine’s Day going?”

“Huh?” My brain takes a moment to process the fact that her previous question was not, in fact, about venereal disease.

“Today. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uh huh.” My finger uses the touchpad on the laptop to scroll through the page one more time. I’m not sure why, I called twenty minutes ago to order the food. Now I’m wishing I added the spring rolls. Damn it.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

I stop scrolling and my head tilts to look at Fat. “Did you finally give up on the phony therapist thing and decide to become the world’s most annoying calendar instead? I’m aware that it’s Valentine’s Day.” I stress the word for her benefit.

“And you’re here with me waiting for Chinese food to arrive. You must be what they call an old school romantic.” Fat silently moves to sit behind the computer screen.

Fuck it; I’m starving. I get up and open the door to the snack cupboard. Puffy Cheetos. Yes. The bag crinkles as I pinch the sides and pull the plastic open. I don’t respond to Fat. Instead she watches me snack on the toxic orange puffs. After only a couple Cheetos, the fingers of my right hand become coated in a fine simulated-cheese dust.

“Why are you staring at me like that, Fat?”

Her head has lopped to the side, and her mouth hangs slightly open in a disgusted kind of way. “I was so surprised when you landed yourself a man but it would appear that you have no desire in keeping him. And he loves you in spite of the V.D.”

“I don’t have V.D.”

“That’s not the rumour around your old campus.” Fat smiles with that all too familiar evil glint in her eye.

“You’re an asshole.”

Fat shakes her head insistently. “No, you’re the asshole. Today of all days you need to give Boyfriend attention and show some kind of emotion of the loving variety. He puts up with all of your stupid shit and your one redeeming quality is that you call to order Chinese food? Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.” The bitch feline seems genuinely disappointed in my lack of Valentine effort. I close the laptop leaving orange smudges from my fingertips.

“Christ.” I sit and think for a moment. “I have to do something, don’t I?”

Fat quickly nods, “I would.”

“Well fuck me,” As the words come out of my mouth I glare at the cat, “Swallow those words in your mouth right now. The V.D. train has left the station. No more comments. You’re done.”

Fat steps back with fake surprise mimicking a young  ingénue, “I would never…”

“Shut up, Fat.” I wipe my Cheeto fingers on my jeans and grab my purse. I holler in the most romantic tone I’m capable of – something that makes me sound like a bona fide woodsman, “Boyfriend, grab your coat, we’re going out.”

Boyfriend comes out of the bedroom, delightfully surprised that the plan is no longer to stay in tonight doing nothing.

God damn it, Cupid. You win this round.

An afterthought: I forgot about the Chinese food. Probably won’t be allowed to order from there anymore…

Office Hours: I am the Black Knight

“You realize that you spend about one-third of your life acting like a two-year-old.” Fat cozies up beside me on the couch as I fume in front of my laptop.

The computer sits open on the coffee table while I stare over the screen of the teal PC at Boyfriend – who currently occupies my beautiful writing desk playing a game of fictional adventure. Noise cancelling headphones cover his ears and keep Boyfriend safe within his questing bubble. My stiff fingers hover over the keyboard, as they have been doing for the last several minutes as I stare over at Boyfriend who is understandably oblivious to my discontent.

“Am not.”

“You know,” Fat yawns, “he’s a very accommodating guy. If you told him you wanted to work at the desk, he’d be happy to oblige.” Fat tucks her paws under the folds of her fur, staring over at Boyfriend with admiration. “This isn’t a white knight/black knight situation; you’re fighting for a cause that’s not worth it. Back the pony up, put the lance away, and call it a shift.”

Finally, I tap out a quick sentence. “I’m all too well aware of his good nature.” I read the words that result from my lackluster concentration. Utter crap. I backspace until all stupidity is dissolved by the cursor. “I just want him to know what I want without having to tell him what I want, okay?”

Fat throws me a sideways stop-making-yourself-sound-like-a-dumb-ass stare. “Based on that last admission, I’m going to throw a guess out there and suppose you’re surfing the crimson wave.”

That’s a familiar turn of phrase. “Have you been watching Clueless?”

“It’s on Netflix.” Fat smiles sheepishly.

An automatic reflex to being caught lightening up when I’m determined to remain bitchy and cold, the corners of my mouth bend downward and I scowl. “This is ruining my day. He’s purposely trying to sabotage any chance I have at getting some writing done. I should be a knight; I’d pull my sword from its sheath and behead both of you.” My eyes pull themselves into slits as I look at her, “Your head will be thrust on the tip of my sword as a symbol of my victory.”

“Sounds like some weird-ass erotica,” the grey feline mumbles. Fat, annoyed that I’m not listening to her, looks to the heavens to silently ask for help. I see her flash a see-what-I’m-working-with shrug to whatever is up there beyond the ceiling. A moment later she turns back to me, “I may have given you a bad metaphor. The idiot that you are took it to fuel this internal idea of yours that you and Boyfriend aren’t a team and are instead opposing forces. You couldn’t be more histrionic right now.”

“Don’t take that tone with me, Fat.” I angle the laptop away from her eyes and open a new window. I search “histrionic”.

“I’m over-dramatic and tend to be self-centred?” The words fight their way through clenched teeth. My eyes skim another paragraph, and the more I read, the more my armour begins to rust. “Balls.” I close the laptop and sit back on the couch.

“Hey, babe?”

I look up, Boyfriend’s headphones rest around his neck. “You haven’t written yet today, you want to…” Boyfriend points at the desk and mimes frenzied fingers typing. “I’m going to take Mutt out.”

“Reads Dostoyevsky and he’s thoughtful?” Fat snickers, “He might be too good for you, boss.”

I stand and pick up my laptop, “Be a little more sensitive, Fat. I’m on my period.”

Still Waters and Mud Puddles

“I peed on that pillow that’s been under your head for the better part of an hour.”

As if spring-loaded, I bound off the couch; my state of relaxation brutally murdered by the foul words from the feline. Now on the offense, my slapping hand is at the ready, twitching in anticipation of striking the obtuse cat. At this moment I’m certain I’m about to make Zsa Zsa Gabor proud.

“Put those arthritic digits away. I’m fibbing.” Fat jumps onto the coffee table and sticks her head into the empty potato chip bag. Her words mesh with the rustling of the foil, “You were playing possum long enough, I needed to get a show of life out of you.” She backs her face out of the empty snack bag, “What’s rattling around that old bean bag of yours that keeps you so statuesque?”

Slowly and cautiously, my slapping hand lowers. It’s a good automatic reaction to have, but I worry that one day it won’t be so easily controlled. The slapping hand has calmed to an inquisitive state and it grabs the teal couch pillow tentatively. In an uncharacteristic show of bravery, I bring the pillow to my nose and take a quick whiff. No signs of ammonia must mean the grey bitch wasn’t lying about fibbing. This pillow is sans cat pee — she’ll live to annoy me another day. Still, I toss the pillow to the far side of the couch for comfort’s sake. My knees buckle and I flop on the sofa. I recline, not finding zen comfort now that I’m aware my movements are being tracked by unblinking green eyes.

“Just thinking, Fat.” I stare up at the ceiling. What was I thinking about? Everything and nothing all at the same time. Unimportant things that carry the weight of the world and important things that are easily dismissed. I was thinking about moving and staying and/or becoming a roaming gypsy. I think about transporting anchors in wheelbarrows. I start thinking about tea on Sunday mornings. Spending hours telling stories out of my fingers; inventing people and places that don’t exist outside of my head. I think about owning a charmingly strange bookstore with my best friend that isn’t lucrative by any stretch of the imagination, but is one damn good time. I think myself into a strange silence and I don’t even realize until–

“You’re doing it again. If you’re not going to share, just stop. You’re acting freaky.”

I roll onto my side and see Fat sitting on the table licking sour cream and dill crumbs off her paw. “What kinds of things do you think about, Fat?”

She finishes licking the remaining salt off her foot and sets it on the table. “Important things, obviously.”

“Like what?” I know this is a loaded question, but the one thing about not sharing a brain with anyone else is you have no idea what messages their synapses are firing. “What kind of evolved thoughts go through your little cat brain?”

“You know how I love visualization; I think about taking classic saying and breathing life into them. For instance, I literally desire to give somebody butterflies; they’d be dead of course – the butterflies I mean – you know I love to pounce on those things. Not that you let me outside anymore.”

“Not that I ever did. You must be thinking of a former life.” For all I know she was found pouncing on moths in a field before she was brought to the S.P.C.A.

She ignores me to continue. “I’ve also been thinking lately about the great gas mileage you’d get on the highway to hell.”

Laughter takes me by surprise and I start to cough. Once I can breathe comfortably I have to ask, “How do you figure?”

She shrugs as though the answer is obvious, “It’s all downhill.”

I reach over, lifting Fat under the ribcage and put her down beside me. “I’m going to tell you something I don’t say too often; I fucking love you, Fat.”