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.”

Morning Glory

“Oh my God. Alice Cooper is in my apartment. Tell me how much you loved my homage to School’s Out on YouTube.”

Fat jumps onto the kitchen counter; she plays the part of a fangirl almost convincingly. The cat stares, unabashedly wide-eyed at my morning face until I pour milk into the bowl beside her. Her nose sniffs the air looking for notes of aromatic deliciousness, but unfortunately for her, healthy cereal smells mostly like the cardboard box it comes in.

I scowl at the feline when I close the dairy carton and put it back in the fridge.

“Seriously, is it costume day at work, or what? Gotta say, Boss, you nailed it.” The end of her sentence turns sing-song. The high note she hits jostles me slightly closer to wakefulness.

Fat’s mockery of my appearance isn’t entirely unfounded. To the detriment of my ego, I’ve already shuffled past my mirror twin this morning. The reflection showed a mess of stringy, unwashed hair and the unforeseen result of accidentally falling asleep before washing my face. Yesterday’s mascara bears the resemblance of a cheap Zorro mask. It’s still too early to care, especially for the beginning of the work week. I lean against the counter and shovel as much cereal as possible into my face. I stare into nothingness, trying to make the leap into alert consciousness. How did I get here already? Time shift? I must have spent the weekend like a teenager spends allowance. Stupid, wasteful fun.

I scarf down the cereal with robotic efficiency. With the speed I get breakfast down my gullet, you would hardly know I woke up just after 2:00 a.m. for a snack. Refuelling with carbs is the halftime show between dreams in my world.

Gentle scratching on my arm asks for attention and I listlessly turn my head to look at the earnest-faced feline. “You know, you could teach a Master’s class on being disgusting.”

“Thanks,” I mumble with a full mouth, sending a dribble of milk down my lip. I meet Fat’s accusatory gaze. “Point proven, Fat.” I use the crook of my elbow as a napkin. To be fair, nobody is the best version of themselves at 6:00 a.m. on a Monday, not even the Queen. Sorry, Elizabeth.

I balance the bowl against my stomach with one hand while the other pushes Fat’s backside off the counter. She lands on her feet as though her intent was to be driven to the ground.

“Huh. In spite of your trance-like state, you’re ahead of schedule.” Fat’s eyes glimpse the digital numbers on the microwave. “You usually don’t shove me off the counter until 6:09. What are you going to do with those extra two minutes?”

Rather than risk another moment of spitting milk everywhere, I point at my mess of a face with the empty spoon.

“Two extra minutes hardly seems like enough, Boss.”

Surviving the Flood

“Coffee incident!” I scream like I’m in a bad teen horror movie and it’s my turn to die. The hot liquid races across the desk, attempting to consume everything in its path. My oafish hands do what they can to stave off the coffee and save the insightful anecdotes I’d scribbled throughout the workday on random post-its. The one that reads, ‘You are what you eat: ginger eats ginger” is lost to the caffeinated monster. I’d obviously written that little gem before consciousness kicked in around lunch; it seemed clever at the time, but now reads like a porn title. The small square of pale yellow transforms into brown mess. Better to sacrifice the idiot thoughts and save the intelligent ones.

“I ate too much. My hearteries hurt.” Fat’s whiny voice sounds like it’s coming from the couch, but I can’t waste precious seconds to see if that’s true.

“Arteries, dumb ass. Not hearteries.” The annoyance contributes to the line that’s been slowly etching its permanence into my forehead. “Coffee incident!” I repeat the words with more volume and urgency as I do my damnedest to keep a hold on the books, computer and notes from the desktop. I panic and start saving random things that don’t require rescue: the now-empty coffee cup, an unopened bag of corn chips, thumb tacks. I’m not good in stressful situations. I just hope that prohibition never gets reinstated; I don’t know how I’d fare without my coping mechanism.

Boyfriend runs into the room, as a hero should, grabs a dish towel and tends to my mess. Tense seconds go by and I wonder if there will be any post-it note survivors. Boyfriend hides the remains. I’ve had enough trauma, it’s better to let the thoughts be free than mourn their demise. After close inspection of the surface, I tentatively set my pile of paper and electronics back down. Boyfriend dutifully disappears back into the bedroom to let me continue with my fictional nonsense.

“You know,” Fat kneads the arm of the couch as she buts in, “Yelling ‘Coffee incident’ until the calvary arrives to tend to your spillage issues doesn’t constitute cleaning up after yourself. You need to altar your behaviour.”

“Alter. Altar is a religious thing.” I correct without thinking. “My hands were clearly full. You saw. What else was I supposed to do?”

“Act like a grownup and figure it out for yourself. Use those brains you’re always trying to convince me you have.”

I begin to unstack my notebooks and paper from the unstable tower on the desk. I’m at a loss for rebuttal so I pretend I didn’t hear her.

“He says you’re difficult, you know.” Fat stops pawing the cushion and settles in, resting her head on her front arm. I don’t need to ask who she’s talking about. He just left the room.

“That’s not breaking news, he’s said that to my face.”

“Forgive me for being a bit of a septic, but I’m not certain I believe that. Did he call you anal retentive to your face too?” Fat’s eyes close, as though the conversation is over and it is time for a nap to commence. That’s a good move. I’ll have to steal that the next time I need an out. It’s the perfect balance of bitchy and cute; it’s a difficult hybrid to get away with.

“Skeptic.” I pause, finally realizing what she’s been doing. “You ass hat.”

 

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.”

The Good Doctor

“What the fuck happened to the apartment?” I let out the growl of a lion, and I begin my hunt for the guilty party. She won’t get away with this, not on this lion’s pride.

In the kitchen, buttery footprints stray across the counter leading away from the butter dish. On closer examination, it appears the butter has entered puberty, as it now has hair where it didn’t before. I’ll kill her. On the opposite counter near the sink, my abandoned morning coffee apparently decided to commit suicide while I was out. The mug thrust itself off the counter, dying instantly upon impact. Cold coffee remains leaking out onto the kitchen floor is a scene few can bear to witness. Mutt cowers under the desk as I circle from the kitchen and stalk into the living room. The corner of the couch has become the victim of merciless claw marks. The plant on the coffee table, now uprooted, has left dirt all around the pot and on the carpet.  I peek in the bedroom and the only thing I notice is an indent on my pillow, likely where the great pest decided to take an afternoon siesta.

Today I write a book: Feline Homicide: A DIY ProjectInternational Bestseller guaranteed. Were I a beefed-up goon, this is the part where I ball a hand into a fist and crack all the knuckles simultaneously.

Coming out of the bedroom, I catch sight of Fat in my peripheral. She sits on the closed lid of the toilet seat, paw raised as though she’s testifying in court. I look down at the floor to see the Charmin, unrolled and covering the floor in a sea of white ribbon.

“Fat. Seriously? I was gone for two hours.”

Fat’s raised paw moves almost too quickly to see. She reaches out, gives the remaining toilet paper a swat and we both watch another few layers of ass paper slide to the ground.

Unapologetic, the feline shoots me a judgemental look. “Tsk tsk.” She shakes her head. “I suppose this is what happens when you leave Mutt in charge. If you recall, this sort of nonsense doesn’t happen on my watch.” A malicious smile contentedly resides on her face.

I think back to my departure. As is normal before I shut the door behind me, I tongue-in-cheek make the first animal I see the deputy of the apartment. Today, it happened to be Mutt. I proclaimed that the little doofus was in charge in my absence and left without a second thought. It would seem that it struck a sore spot with the good doctor.

Fat looks down, contentedly, at her mayhem. “Still, we’re in better shape than when you’re the one in charge, oh fearless leader.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I crouch down to start gathering up the unravelled toilet paper.

Fat jumps down and rubs her side along my kneecap. “Bad decisions decline when you’re out of the home, boss. One does have to admit, it is easier to succumb to boredom when your dumb ass isn’t around, hence…” Her eyes glance at the mess I’ve managed to bundle together before she proceeds to lick a paw that still gleams from the butter.

Tremendous silence reverberates off the bathroom walls. I’m the kind of mad where it’s uncertain if I’m going to lash out verbally or physically. It’s the tip of the precipice where one more jerk remark from Fat will declare which side I’m on. Her fate is in her own hands. I’m kind of hoping that this ends with me drowning her in the toilet.

I see something hidden on the floor behind the toilet. Curiosity is anger’s kryptonite; inquisition is to rampage as a fire extinguisher is to anything I attempt to cook. Reaching out, I grab the wire object: eyeglasses from a plastic Santa who is either stuffed in a plastic bag and hidden in the hall closet, or stuffed in a plastic bag and taken to the garbage bin out back.

I point the spectacles in Fat’s direction when I ask: “This is a play to get me to stay home with you more? Are you suggesting that this poor behaviour is an attempt to extort therapy sessions where I play the part of your dim-witted patient? You are a terrible shrink, Fat.”

Fat taps her nose when I figure out the motivation behind her afternoon asshole endeavors. “But I’m an awfully good listener.”

Porker Face

“It would seem there’s a reason this is called Pocket Pie and not Purse Pie.” I’m crouched on the kitchen floor rooting around my oversize purse. I pull my fingers out of the bag, covered in strawberry rhubarb. It makes one wonder about the appropriateness of the name; I can’t imagine the judgemental looks I would get wandering down the street with strawberry rhubarb oozing out the back pocket of my jeans.

“And where were you this evening?” Fat watches as I lick the tangy sweetness from my fingers and fish around my bag for the now-barren pastry shell.

“We went down to that night market. Artisans everywhere. The food was amazing.” In the sticky mess of a brown paper bag I find the remainder of the Pocket Pie, squished and broken into flaky pieces. I fling it upward; Fat flinches when it lands on the kitchen counter with a ‘thwap’ sound.

“Yes I can tell. There’s a garden growing between a few of your teeth.”

I make no move to pick the food from my teeth; there is something far more distressing that commands my attention. I usually lack the tendency to gasp at shocking discoveries, but I suck in breath like I’m preparing to dive into the briny deep.

“And all over the bag of kettle corn too.” I weep when I pull out the small plastic bag that looks like it was shot by 1920s mobsters with machine guns.

Fat’s head pokes into my bag and sees the explosion of pie filling. She pries her eyes off the crime scene and slowly her head turns so I can see her vacant expression. “This reminds me, I’m hungry.”

I hug the bag of popcorn to my chest protectively. “Fat, can’t you see I’m in mourning here?” Pie filling on the outside of the bag adheres to my shirt and hair.

Fat rolls her eyes dramatically. “Of course I do. Did your kettle corn leave behind a widow and children? Where should I send flowers?”

“Oh Christ. You don’t have to be an ass about it.” A few hairs are pulled out of my head when I pull the popcorn out of my embrace. I wipe my berry-dyed hands on my pants and grab the bag of cat food. The kitchen echos with the tinny sound of food filling her dish.

Dinner beckons her like a seductress and Fat dives right in. I undo the twist tie around my popcorn and my purple fingers shovel it quickly into my mouth. Watching Fat mowing down her food like it’s a last meal makes me think only one thing that needs to be shared.

“Puh-puh-puh-porker face, puh-puh porker face.”

She swallows the enormous mouthful of kibble. “Lady Gaga? Really?”

I escort another handful of popcorn in my mouth. “Lady Gaga and calling you a pig at the same time.”

Fat stares at me, making sure she has my full attention before she offers her rebuttal. “You’re not even a savant. Just an everyday idiot.”

The Only Acceptable Thing to Throw is a Fit

“It makes me uneasy when you don’t meet me at the door begging for food.” As I shout, I wonder what the chances are that Fat ran away. Perhaps she died while I was at work. I hope so. That’s mean; I only half-hope so.

I kick my shoes off in the middle of the hallway, pull my cellphone from my back pocket and toss it in a cavalier manner onto the hall table. It lands with enough force to add another scuff on the iPhone case. No matter.

It’s Friday; I survived another week, and in celebration of that fact I throw everything that I carried home onto the bed. The jacket that I wore for ten minutes this morning leaps through the air like a graceful dancer; my bag is more like a stout wannabe ballerina that can’t get off the ground – it makes it to the edge of the mattress then rolls backward off the bed. The sound of a tidal wave inside my water bottle punctuates the failed landing. The most brilliant part of this choreographed dance is my coffee that has also been mistakenly set free; I watch in horror as it too sails through the air.

“Balls.” I forgot about my stop at Starbucks on the way home.

“Not the latte!” I hear Fat as I dive onto the bed to try to catch it several seconds too late. A warm, steamed milk and espresso puddle bleeds out onto my unmade bed.

I kneel on the mattress. My hands perform a magic act and transform into fists that I shake to the heavens. “Why?” I bellow until I hear a muffled shout from my upstairs neighbour informing me to shut the hell up.

“What’s his problem?” I scowl at the peaceful face of the long-haired siren on the front of the cup after I pluck it from the caffeinated mess. She seems like a good candidate to blame this debacle on.

At the sound of a familiar throaty chuckle I turn my head. Lying in a laundry basket of clean, folded clothes, Fat sprawls, her amusement apparent in the playful flicking of her tail.

“You better not be serious right now.” I drop the cup, jump off the bed and lift Fat from the basket. I hold her under her armpits; her hind legs and tail dangle midair.

“You’re an idiot.” Fat doesn’t even squirm, this is old hat by now.

“Says the jerk that was having a nap in my clean laundry.” I shoot a look down and see what I expect; grey hair sticks to the hoodie and black tights that are at the top of the pile.

In place of an apology, Fat’s teeth show with a smile that I take to mean, ‘my bad’. “It just smelled so good.” Her neck cranes forward as she stretches to look over my shoulder. “Yeah, that latte is one hundred percent on your bed now. Dropping that cup a second time really did the trick.”

“Fuck.” My hands immediately cease their grip on Fat; she falls, landing on her feet. I pick up the Starbucks cup from the bed a second time. There’s maybe a half-ounce left in the grande cup.

“Is it everything you thought it would be?” Fat leaps on to the night table.

I pinch the bridge of my nose. “Is what everything I thought it would be, Fat?”

“With the amount of things you throw and drop around here, I thought it was perhaps practice building up to this moment of misery. I, for one, am really enjoying it. Thanks for letting me share this journey with you.”

“I hate you so much right now.”

“You’re the ambassador for the look-something-shiny generation.” Fat bounds from the table to the bed. She struts over to the mess. “At least you’ll learn from this. It’s important to place objects with purpose. You react much too quickly and today your flighty behaviour and carelessness has rewarded you with soiled sheets.” Fat’s nose dips down and she presses it to the puddle, “Do I detect some cinnamon in there?” Her tongue laps at the remaining foam, “Oh, most definitely. This is friggin’ delicious.”

Before I can offer a response or refute her accusation with furious debate skills, we hear the Marimba ringtone from my iPhone. It beckons me. I do a backwards somersault off the bed and follow the music into the hall.

The sound of the Starbucks cup hitting the floor doesn’t register in my brain until I’ve answered the call. Balls. I hate when that bitch is right.