The Dangers of Pumpkin Carving

“Art is not your strong suit, Boss.”

“What are you talking about?” I’m kneeling on the living room floor in front of the coffee table that is covered in a layer of newspaper now slimy with pumpkin innards. My bicep pops out slightly as I finish sawing into another section of the pumpkin. “You are going to effing love this jack o’ lantern.” The primal part of my being totally loves this stuff. I’ve got orange grit under my nails, my hands are slightly sticky and I’ve gutted this pumpkin like a damn trout.

Fat’s balances on her hind legs as her front ones brace the table’s edge. Her grey head tilts slightly to the side like a pompous critic at an art gallery. “Is this a self portrait or what?”

“Fat, it’s pumpkin carving. Be serious.” My thumbs press hard into the pumpkin flesh to dislodge the last piece of the mouth. Some people chisel the statue of David; I dissect pumpkins until they are four kinds of majestic.

“In all seriousness, it looks like a drag queen.” Fat’s paw notes the arched eyebrows and puffy lips. “I thought Halloween stuff was supposed to be scary.”

“First of all, it’s an homage to Tim Curry from Rocky Horror Picture Show. And second, it didn’t turn out as I pictured, but it is scary. What’s more frightening than painfully obvious Botox injections?”

Fat meets my gaze as she throws a dry look over her left shoulder. “Cute, Boss.” She jumps on the table amongst the pumpkin debris to suss out the work of the second pumpkin, now abandoned, on the table. “Your orange friend there must have startled your boyfriend. He hightailed it out of here a half hour ago. Didn’t even finish his bat thing.”

I set the knife down; I need it out of my hand if I’m going to attempt a conversation with the feline. “He’s not my boyfriend, Fat.” One would think she would tire from hearing this, but no.

“Yeah, okay.” She’s quick to interrupt even in the midst of leaning down to sniff a stringy, seed-filled, sloppy pile of pumpkin guts.

“And he’s been gone for like two, maybe three, minutes.” I was too absorbed to register the reason he said he needed to go back to his place. No matter.

“Just another one that couldn’t get away fast enough, lady.” Fat leans in and takes a delicate bite of pumpkin. “Oh god.” Fat spits it out instantly. “Oh no. No. Never again. What kind of devil food is this?” Her tongue darts in and out of her mouth as though licking the surrounding air will dissolve the taste across her palate. “I’m going to throw up. Seriously, right here on this table. Give me some room.”

I lift my pumpkin, saving it from potential cat vomit just as we hear the front door open and close; the sound brings Jesse back into the apartment. His head and arms poke through torn holes in a green garbage bag – his precautionary measure against the anticipated pumpkin mess. Jesse’s come back holding a six-pack of pale ale in one hand and plastic container of cookies in the other.

“Who do you think you are with that stuff, my father?” I’m half-kidding, but my pops would never turn down beer and cookies.

“Possible Daddy issues. Interesting.” Fat notes as her gaze follows the arc of a beer can lobbed through the air and into my awaiting hands. She seems to have forgotten about wanting to throw up. The feline’s neck snaps back to Jesse, doing a delayed double-take. “You’re still wearing your shoes. This is the living room.” She scowls at his lack of manners and her voice becomes a razor’s edge, “We do not wear footwear in the living room.”

“Chill, Miss Fat. I thought we were friends.” Jesse pulls the tab on his beer and the sound sings an anthem of refreshment. As a good woman, I’m already well into mine.

I grab the knife and attempt to cut more details into my wannabe Dr. Frank N. Furter one-handed while maintaining a hold on my beer with my left hand. I do not have the skill set to do this and decide that my pumpkin is finished.

Looking up, Fat stares at Jesse like she’s holding him at gunpoint. “Back up, sir. Remove your shoes, sir.” Her eyes drift to the container of cookies and her demeanor instantly changes. “Whatcha got there, buddy?”

“Woman, your cat is bipolar or something.” Jesse, still in his shoes, pulls the lid off the cookies. “Fat, you like cookies?”

“Don’t feed her cookies.” Curious, I reach over to see what kind of face Jesse’s pumpkin has. We were waiting to unveil our creations when we were both finished, but I’m done, and he’s been working on something. If you round up, we’ve both completed the job.

Fat’s neck cranes, trying to extend to the length of a giraffe’s just to see what kind of treats he’s brought over. “What kind of cookies?”

The pumpkin rotates in my hand as he announces, “Pumpkin cookies with cream cheese icing. I made them myself.”

Fat’s interest dissolves into utter disgust. Her taste only a moment ago was clearly enough of a trial. “Pumpkin?”

“Oh God.” My reaction mirrors that of my cat. “You have to go.”

“You don’t want cookies?” Jesse’s lower lip juts out in an overemphasized pout.

“Yes. What idiot doesn’t want cookies? But this,” I spin the pumpkin around so he can observe his crudely-cut Batman symbol, “is entirely unacceptable. We can’t hang out anymore.”

Jesse looks from Fat to me and back to Fat; by now he knows he’s pleased neither of us with his actions. He wears uncertainty the same way he wears his ghetto hazard suit.

His thumb points in the direction of the door and his slow backward steps masquerade as casual backpedaling, “Maybe I should go…”

The Punishment For a Day at the Beach

“Scarlett O’Hara, you’re home earlier than expected.”

Fat jumps down from the bed when she sees me in the hallway. She shoots a quick look to the window; the tail end of daylight occupies the frame. The grey cat settles herself in front of the bedroom door, watching as I kick off my flip flops and pull my hair from a ponytail.

Fat sniggers loudly from the doorway when I walk past her and into the kitchen.

Sometimes I really don’t get Fat’s humour, but I play along anyway. Playing Frisbee all afternoon at the beach has boosted my mood. My voice elevates to that of a southern ingénue from a decades-old classic film.

“Fat, you are no gentleman.” I open the fridge and talk at the same time. I’m so parched, I just drink the water straight from the pitcher. As is to be expected, it dribbles down my front and gives me the appearance of  a leaky nursemaid.

“And you, Miss, are no lady.” Fat times her Rhett Butler response perfectly. Her voice dips to a lower octave and she fiddles with her whiskers as though they are a glossy moustache.

“In hindsight, a glass might have been a good idea.” The pitcher finds a home on the countertop as the back of my hand brushes across my wet chin and throat.

“In hindsight, something else might have been a good idea today too. Methinks you went a little too heavy on the rouge, Boss.”

My nose crinkles, a sign of incomprehension. “I’m not wearing any makeup, Fat.”

Fat’s index digit shakes at me in a scolding manner, “No sunscreen either, I suppose.”

I most certainly did put on sunscreen, my lily-white albino skin needs it. I made sure to put it on this morning. Right?

There is a moment of doubt when it comes to my memory and I dash to the full-length mirror in the hall. I gaze into the worried ashen face of my mirror twin. I stare at her from head to toe, she pulls off her nursemaid t-shirt and stands in a bikini top and shorts – appearing in front of me with the healthy complexion of an apparition.

Fat has leisurely sauntered over and sits directly at the base of the mirror with a cruel-but-delighted smile on her face.

“Fuck off, Fat.” With the open-handed gesture of a magician’s assistant, I motion to the reflection in the mirror.

The feline licks her lips, as though trying to suffocate her laughter. She looks down to the floor and her shoulders shrug up and down with a silent chuckle. After a moment, she composes herself, meets my angry stare and calmly utters the words, “Turn around.”

The lowered eyebrows of my mirror twin transition and now arch in worried surprise. The thought didn’t occur to either of us to twirl and check out the body’s other hemisphere.

Slowly, my mirror twin and I do a synchronized routine of rotating our bodies as our faces peer over our shoulders with concern. Looks of worried surprise turn to a hybrid of utter self-contempt and sorrow. Stinging pain sets in the moment I acknowledge the damage done. The section from the middle of my back down to my knees looks to have survived nuclear war. The burn has the disposition and hue of Satan’s office. I grab the base of my shorts and pull up to reveal one of my ass cheeks. There is a definitive line of where the bathing suit stopped.

Her laughter can’t contain itself anymore; Fat gives it voice and sets it free. “Stay right there, I need to get a picture of your face for Instagram.”

“Don’t be a jerk, can’t you see that I’m hurting?” How did I successfully lather everything else with sunscreen, but miss so much?

“Frankly, Boss, I don’t give a damn.”

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.”