Cinderella Would Understand

“Fat, what are you doing in here?”

The gentle snoring ceases. Her grey head shifts a half-inch to the right when my words rouse her from what is likely hour six of an afternoon nap. One of the feline’s eyes opens a tiny fraction and sees me kneeling above her.

“What are you doing here? This is my fortress.” After a couple blinks, both her eyes find their way to half-open. Her neck rolls backward so she can look up to the rest of the contents of the overstuffed closet. “It’s impossible to find anything in here; the perfect place to hide out.”

She’s managed to flip the lid off one of the shoe boxes in the closet and wedged her rotund body into the box amongst the summer heels. A lion’s yawn escapes her gigantic mouth.

“You’re sleeping with my brunch shoes. What’s the matter with you?”

“I think the better question is: what kind of person has brunch shoes? I’ve never even seen you wear these.” She redistributes her weight around the champagne heels, settling back into slumber with both eyes once again closed.

I hold up an index finger pointedly. “Okay, first of all, those are summer brunch shoes. Second, you have enough places to flop around here, get out.” I shake the blue shoebox until the displeased feline jumps out.

“Hey!” The word is blanketed by a hiss. “I don’t force you out of hiding when you’re avoiding somebody. That’s just rude, is what that is.”

“Who are you avoiding?”

“Mind your business, Boss.”

“Fine.” I kneel and continue my rummaging through the mountain of boxes, opening each one to see if they hold the footwear I’m looking for. Eventually, box eight or nine has them. I pull out boots that match the feline in colour, with a black wedge heel.

“You haven’t worn those either, it looks like. S’funny.” Fat squeezes her way back into the small space that has exceeded capacity. She nudges close to her recently vacated nap space.

“What’s funny?”

Fat plays with the string handle of another shoebox, batting it with a Serena William’s style swing. “The fact that you identify yourself as a minimalist.”

“It doesn’t make it untrue. I don’t need much to live.”

“The fluffy ones are always the most adorable.” Her forehead elongates as if lifting her eyebrows and Fat gives me the gift of her signature you-are-some-kind-of-stupid look. She mutters under her breath, “It’s like that time you thought you were a feminist because you bought tools.”

“What?” I’m holding the boot in my hand like an oversize pistol.

With a matter-of-fact tone, Fat’s words are clipped and succinct. “You have summertime brunch shoes.”

Mutt saunters into the bedroom in a cavalier manner. He does a double-take when he sees the good doctor out of hiding. His mouth opens wide in a dog smile and his tail becomes a frantic metronome.

“Oh crap.” Fat looks left to right, searching for her best possible exit. She leaps up onto the dresser, and Mutt gives chase. The feline bounds to the bed then races out the door. I hear both of them sprint down the hall as Fat cusses at the simple-minded dog.

I daintily place the boot down on the floor amongst the boxes, now littered across the carpet, and quietly contemplate Fat’s insight.

That bitch is crazy. Even a minimalist needs summertime brunch shoes.

Mornings in the Buff

“I’m not sure what makes you think this is acceptable behaviour. Mutt and I took a vote and we’re both offended.”

Fat hisses from the top of the bookshelf as I saunter into the living room.

My skin is still red and blotchy from the shower. I brush my wet hair with my fingers, pulling several strands out with the attempt; it’s a wonder I haven’t gone bald.

“Mutt isn’t here, Fat.”

“I have implied consent from him that I can speak on his behalf. Put some clothes on. You’ve got nothing to show off, Boss.”

Excess water from my hair collects on my shoulder and the beads run down my ribcage. My still-pruned fingers brush them away when the water reaches my hip.

“I’m air-drying, obviously. It’s a thing.”

The feline leans back as though trying to put more distance between us. “I don’t want to attack your fragile ego here, but your naked human form is all kinds of disgusting. By the way, that mole looks cancerous; you should probably get that checked out.”

I feel my nose wrinkle as I follow her probing stare to my lower stomach. I point at the dark mark and look at the feline, who nods her affirmation.

“That’s a tattoo, you knob.”

She squints, “Are you sure?”

“Entirely.” I pick up a lighter and candle from the coffee table.

As my thumb flicks to ignite the lighter, there’s the distinct sound of jingling keys. I think nothing of it; Crazy Dog Lady across the hall has been coming and going all day as she relocates to the first floor. Then I actually hear it; the sound comes from my lock. Before I can think to smash through the glass door and jump off the balcony, the apartment entrance bursts open and Mutt runs. The Chef follows, oblivious to the unintentional skin show as he turns to shut the door behind him. There are too few seconds before he will turn around and see me in my full glory.

“Cover your shame!” Fat shouts over the din of Mutt’s excitement.

The dog jumps gleefully at my feet as I do my best to cover my member’s only areas while screaming the word “Naked!” repeatedly at a high-pitched frequency. I realize I’m still holding tight to the lighter and candle; they immediately kiss the floor with twin thuds.

“When I said, ‘cover your shame,’ I meant your face. Sick burn!” Fat’s paw lifts into the air like she expects a high five. “Anyone? Chef?” She eventually lowers her paw when she concludes nobody’s going to meet her extended five.

At this time, the Chef has faced the living room and gotten quite an eyeful. He pauses, suddenly struck by the awkward realization that I’m home – in the buff – and he quickly turns to face the door and shield his eyes as though both are necessary. This is a very flattering moment for me.

“Shouldn’t you be at work?” His weight shifts with unease from side to side, illustrating that his discomfort matches my own. He hangs the small bag containing Mutt’s drugs on the handle of the hall closet.

“I took a personal day!” I’m still screaming because I’m trapped in this mortifying position. I grab one of the couch cushions and press it against my front. I feel like my crazy uncle just saw me naked. How do I normalize this situation? “My friend’s boyfriend has a guy crush on Derek Jeter.”

Fat, repulsed and taken aback, does that slow twist of the neck as her eyes bulge, giving me plenty of time to realize I picked the strangest thing to say.

“What?” The chef turns around, momentarily forgetting my lack of shame in the living room to acknowledge my stupidity and sees me hiding behind the tan cushion. “Whoa. That’s gross. I gotta go.” He blushes and races out of the apartment.

That’s gross? I frown, slightly offended.

Fat chuckles, settling herself into a napping position on her throne on top of the bookcase. “So what did we learn today?”

Unfinished Business of My Future Ghost

“You’re dead! You’re so dead!”

It’s like Fat’s voice blasts through a bullhorn. She shouts as she jumps from the liquor cabinet to the television stand to the top of the war-torn scratch post.

“Are you threatening me?” I tie my hair into a messy bun to avoid brushing it.

Fat leaps back beside the television and onto the coffee table. “The ground is lava. You’re long since dead; prepare to live as a poltergeist, Boss.” Fat stops when she bounds onto the arm of the couch to contemplate the idea. “No. You’re too ambivalent to be a poltergeist. Instead you’re one of those unfinished-business-wandering-the-earth-forever kind of spirits. Off you go. Haunt away.” She directs me as though she expects I’ll pretend to be weighed down by chains like Marley’s ghost.

Instead, I pull a small key ring from my pocket and drop the keys on the coffee table. They jingle when they hit the ikea surface.

“Man-slut neighbour still isn’t home to get his keys back, huh?”

“Fat, that’s the third time I’ve gone over to Jesse’s to give him those keys. That kid is never around when I am. Has he come by while I’ve been at work?”

Fat’s eyes roll upward in thought. “There was wheezy panting at the door yesterday. That seems like him, right?”

“Christ, I hope not.” I cringe at the thought and silently hope that the panting was from the pug in the apartment around the corner. “Well, I tried. From here on out, fuck it.”

Fat nods in mock understanding, “Ah, the whore’s mentality. Suits the situation.” Fat eyes the keys on the table and stares up at me with a crafty grin. “Want to go snoop around his apartment? It’s not breaking and entering if we have keys.”

“I certainly do not.”

“Because you’re afraid of getting caught?”

“Because his business isn’t my business and the interaction we have right now suits me just fine. If we humanize Jesse by finding things in his apartment, I won’t want to talk to him anymore. So,” I close the curtains as daylight has long since gone, “we’ll just wait for him to come and get his keys when he remembers I have them.”

“Make him come to you, eh? Boss, you sly devil.” Fat shoots me an exaggerated wink.

I point to her eye, “What was that about?”

“Oh, please. Mutt and I both know what’s going on here.” Pulled from sleep, Mutt lifts his head at her mention of his name. He becomes quickly disinterested and settles back in his bed. “This is your signature move for dating; you bait him with personality and then give him a reason to come by the apartment. Not exactly subtle, but it works.”

I say nothing, but raise skeptical eyebrows.

“Mark my words, Boss. Something is going to happen here. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the similarities between you and Jesse’s crazy bitch one-nighter. Same demographic.” Fat’s voice lilts in a sing-song way to be extra annoying.

“We didn’t see her face.”

“Didn’t have to. Porcelain skin, tall, dark unkempt hair, prone for bad decisions…” Fat pauses to catch my eye and she nods, “Seems somewhat familiar, doesn’t it?”

I shake my head as if the motion will make her go away.

“It would be an awful shame if this unfinished business with the neighbour boy is what keeps your future ghost unsettled.” Fat points to my feet which are still standing in the imaginary magma.

I cross my arms and perch on the end of the couch, making sure that my feet are off the carpet. “Fat, I can say with the utmost certainty that nothing will ever happen in that respect with me and Jesse.”

A devilish smile lifts the corners of her mouth, “Wanna bet?”

Neighbour Favour

“I can’t believe this is what kept you up the other night. So simple: press buttons, make words.”

Fat sits beside me on the floor of the living room. I couldn’t get comfortable at the desk or on the couch, so we’ve found a good workspace on the floor. It took several cups of tea to work up the gumption to open my book. I haven’t worked on it in a long while; I feel like I’m starting from zero.

“It’s not just that, Fat.” My eyes digest a sentence. I press delete and write something else in its place. “It needs to be engaging, needs to have some intrigue and above all else,” I hit delete again, “it needs to make some fucking sense.”

“Let’s do something fun.”

“Fat, I’m not going to get distracted from actually working on this thing today.”

“But I’m so pretty. Pet me.” Fat rolls onto her side playfully.

A quick succession of raps on the door interrupts the writing process. My head and Fat’s head twist in succession to face the apartment door. At the sound of the knocking, Mutt goes crazy and yaps incessantly.

“You expecting somebody?” Fat’s eyes stay glued to the back of the door as if looking away will make the mystery guest disappear.

“Nope.” I push off the ground and slowly come to standing.

Fat holds up a paw, and points to her ear, indicating that I should mimic her. Her head tilts slightly sideways as she listens.

“Shh. Shh.” Whoever it is tries to silence Mutt’s barking.

“Weird.” I bend to pick up the porky dog and look through the door’s peephole. Jesse stands in the hallway, hands in his pockets and looking in the direction of his apartment down the hall. He’s wearing work clothes – must be on his way to the restaurant since he’s obviously not working on his game in server blacks.

“Hey,” Jesse drags out the vowel sound as I swing the door open.

I rest my hand on the doorknob and look to the approximate area of the door Jesse’s knuckles banged against. He’s never knocked on my door before; it’s foreign to me.

“What’s up?” I face him and an impish smile grows across his face.

He clasps his hands in front of his heart in a pleading manner. “I need a favour.”

Fat saunters over just in time to see Jesse stand on alert. A door opens near the end of the hall. His neck whips to see who is leaving which apartment; it’s the middle-aged single mom with the endless supply of kids on her way out. Jesse relaxes.

“I kind of brought a chick home last night and she’s still sleeping. I have to go to work.” He fishes an extra set of keys from his pocket and holds them up with feigned sweetness. “Could you be a dear and lock my place after you hear that crazy bitch leave?”

Fat pushes her way into the hall and plants herself at Jesse’s feet. “What’s in it for us?”

“Fat, shut up.” I hold a hand out for Jesse to drop his keys into my palm. “Sure, Jesse. No problem.”

“Ask him what her deal is.” Fat stares up at me wide-eyed and insistent. “Ask him. There’s got to be something up if he’s sneaking out and giving you keys to lock the door. If we’re setting a precedent for future behaviour, I want him to tell us the defect of every one-nighter we lock up after.”

Jesse stares down at Fat almost as though he can understand her too. “This one, always with the meowing, huh?”

“It’s a constant.” Fat catches my eye and nods her head in his direction. I smile and try not to act like I’m under the orders of the feline, “What’s the deal with her, anyways?” I nod in the direction of Jesse’s apartment.

“Super hot.”

“All the crazy ones are.” Fat talks over him as I shift Mutt’s weight to my other hand.

“But she’s looking for husband material. I shit you not, she went on for twenty-five minutes last night about the kind of wedding she plans on having and asking my opinion. I met her at a bar and it was a good idea to bring her home last night. This morning however…”

I try my best not to laugh right in his face, but Fat doesn’t spare Jesse’s feelings. Her laughing makes the inside of my chest rumble and I choke on the giggles as they force their way out.

“It’s not funny.” In spite of the sentence, Jesse cracks a smile.

Fat and I reply in unison, “It’s really funny.”

His voice turns to a whisper and he looks over his shoulder again to make sure he’s still in the clear. “Woman, you have to shut up or the crazy bitch will find us in the hallway and we’ll both be in for it.”

I salute with a smirk. “You can count on me, chief. I’ll lock your bad decision out of the building. But just so you know, my jurisdiction ends at your front door. If she doesn’t leave of her own free will, she’s your problem.”

“We don’t do exorcisms.” Fat chimes in and looks up to Jesse.

Jesse checks his phone, “Shit. I gotta go. Thanks. I owe you big time.” He takes off, tiptoeing past his own door on the way out.

“Funny one, that one.” Fat struts back into the living room and resumes her spot on the floor.

“Sure is.” I put Mutt on the ground and go sit next to Fat on the floor in front of my computer.

I resume my reading and manage to put in a few edits before we hear a door shut in the hallway. Fat and I both perk up and look at each other with delight.

“You think that’s her?”

“Think we can get a glimpse of her before she leaves?” Fat and I race to the hall door seconds too late. The door to the stairs was just shutting behind her.

“The balcony!” Fat runs in front of me and we go out on the balcony to see if we can get a glimpse of what hot/crazy looks like. We only catch the back half of her walk of shame as she stumbles away from the building.

Fat smirks, “Remember that time you said you wouldn’t get distracted from your writing?”

Vacation: The Compression of 30 Hours

Hey Wilbur,
Thank you for your last Facebook message, but no, I will not stop calling you Wilbur, and no, that man’s voice in the hallway is not mine. I’m still at the airport; my flight was delayed. Just a heads up, Fat, I’m exhausted and I just want to have a chill night after I get home, okay? Anything you want to get unreasonably dramatic about can wait.
Yesterday and today are a blur and my mind and muscles are suffering from fatigue. The last moment that felt real-time was yesterday morning when I was lying in the sunshine of my parent’s backyard. The doorbell rang and it may as well have been the sound of the starting pistol at a foot race.
My bro arrived, he rolled his eyes as I put on my prom dress again to show off, we did some shooters of coffee in the kitchen and then we were off. I proved my multitasking ability by simultaneously driving my dad’s mountain of a truck and yelling at Google maps for guiding us the wrong way to the Godfather’s house. The argument may give the illusion that I knew where we were going – I hadn’t been to the Godfather’s new palace, but I can ballpark. Somewhat. You know me; I hate being told what to do, so I took it out on the digital woman’s voice who was directing us along.
If this was a movie you could fast forward and watch my bro, the Godfather and myself laughing in his backyard tipping back bottle after bottle of beer as the blue sky turns to a slate of grey. Enter dad, who pedaled up the mountain on his bicycle. If you keep fast forwarding you’ll see another round of beers, a trip to the liquor store to stock up for the night, we stopped somewhere else – but as I don’t remember where it was, it probably wasn’t important. We ended up at the parent’s house at the top of another mountain, did a little urban exploration going into houses currently under construction and guessing what each room would be when the construction was complete. After sunset we stumbled back to the house, tipped back a few more and engaged in a marathon of Speed Scrabble.
It should be noted that my bro is a damn poet with Speed Scrabble. He sewed together words that became slam pieces of sad fellows drinking gin and different kinds of lies. Granted, in hindsight, we had all been drinking most of the day so his eloquence is lost in history and botched Mead memory. Such a pity that one of the most soulful minds I’ve come across only becomes genius under the influence of booze. That’s the artist’s life, I suppose. Ask Hemmingway.
You can fast forward some more, we tipped back a collection of bottles and made word after word for many hours. Afterward, there was an early morning hot tub and collapse of the entire collective.
After K.O.ing for too few hours, we rose early to get on the lake for some kayaking. Note: one can paddle faster when their bladder is full and a public washroom is in sight. Maybe that’s where the blisters on my thumbs came from. The morning was amazing. I mean, yes, we lost one of the kayaks off the roof rack on the truck on the way to the water, but it was a great time. After trading the kayaks at the house for the power boat the adventure continued.
Since there was a wakeboard and since I haven’t done been on one in years, it had to be done. They mocked me for wussing out and wearing a wetsuit, but nobody else went in the water at all. I’m just saying…
So here I am, shorts still damp, sitting at the airport and noticing from the screen on the wall is showing that my flight is delayed another half hour. I’m going to hunt out a sandwich or something. I’m starving.
See you in a few hours,
Boss 

 


 

Boss,
The chef dropped off Mutt. I don’t what the man fed the beast, but he smells really bad. If the chef was a gracious man, he would have at least cracked a window to let the Mutt’s toxins escape. Also, he left you something on the counter in the kitchen. Hopefully you get home fast before something bad happens to it.
You’ll be happy to know I took your advice and looked up some “wannabe shrink” stuff online. You’re going to love it – I’ve scheduled you a session next week. Be excited. Welcome back to real life, sucker.
Love,
Fat

Not Something Scrawled on a Prescription Pad

“You really know how to give Saturday the Jack the Ripper treatment, don’t you?”

I open my mouth to protest but Fat silences me by holding up a paw.

“That was rhetorical. You would know that if there was any intelligence stored behind your retinas.” She licks her raised paw and wipes the saliva across her brow.

I feel strange being angry while wearing nothing but a towel. Fat bombarded me when I exited the washroom post-shower. My hair drips onto the floor, leaving slipping hazards I’ll only notice after it’s too late.

“Saturday is only half-begun, Fat.” I point through the bedroom doorway to the bright daylight streaming in through the window. “Besides,” I nudge her aside with my heel so I can walk past, “It’s my Saturday and I’ll do what I want.”

The sarcasm in Fat’s voice is so dry she sounds tired when she asks, “How can you possibly make today any better?” Her head tilts to the side as she hears Jesse’s voice moving along the building hallway. “Your boyfriend is outside.”

I roll my eyes; there’s really no point in correcting her; she’ll think what she wants. “Once I do my hair and throw a face on, I’m going to go get myself a coffee and read in the sunshine. After that, I’m not really sure. Maybe clean the apartment…”

“And you got up early to prance off to the gym? Honestly, boss. Tut-tut. Weekend fail.” Her paunchy belly sways as she trails me into the bedroom and then out of the bedroom and then we loop through the kitchen into the dining/living room. “Don’t you dare run away from me. This place isn’t big enough for you to give me the slip.”

I stop in the living room beside Fat’s well-loved scratch post. The old lady crease in my forehead deepens. “I’m not trying to get away from you. I can’t find my hairbrush.” My fingers try to comb through my hair, but the knots are too intense. God damn curly hair.

Fat shrugs. “Can’t find a hairbrush, can’t assemble a proper weekend, what’s going on with you?”

“I just need some me time right now, Fat.” I bite the inside of my cheek and my eyes devour every inch of the room while I mentally retrace my steps since I last brushed my hair.

“Are you sad?”

“What? No.” I get on my hands and knees. My face touches down to the carpet as I look under the couch. Not there either.

Fat jumps up on the armrest of the couch, settling into a familiar pile of her previously shed fur. “Did your friends finally figure out that you’re a loser?”

I kneel and rest my hands on my thighs. “Not to my knowledge.”

“You just want to act like a hermit today?”

“That is correct.”

“Please explain yourself. I don’t get it.”

“Don’t use that haughty tone with me. Sometimes I just need a little alone time to recharge my batteries. I deal with people every day – there’s nothing wrong with taking a time out.” The metaphorical light bulb flashes above my head – my hairbrush is in my gym bag. I’m almost too distracted with self-congratulations that it takes me a moment to notice Fat’s whiskers twitching.

The feline’s face puckers slightly as she consorts with her inner dialogue.

“What’s with the face, Fat?”

“Time to yourself. It’s so simple it’s genius. I’m going to have to use that prescription on my other patients.”

My hands push of the ground so I tower over the cat. “You mean Mutt?”

Fat makes a point to turn away from me and direct her gaze to the opposite wall. “As a professional, I can’t discuss my other cases.” She watches me move toward the hallway. “Oh, hey, boss?”

I pause, “yeah?”

“Please send Mutt in to see me. He’s about to have a breakthrough.”

What Happens at 6:00 a.m…

“Six a.m., time for drugs!”

My daily outburst overshadows the urgent sound of the blaring alarm. Sane people would head to the nearest bomb shelter at the deafening siren. I, on the other hand, heartily announce that prescription medication is to be served in the dining hall.

Fat waits until I turn of the ubiquitous clanging of the alarm on my phone. She rolls over and looks at me with one slightly open, squinty eye. “Junkies of the world unite; happy hour is upon us.”

I throw back the blankets and grab Mutt off the bed – I tuck him under my arm like a football. The morning exclamation stirs him from sleep and he rouses jubilant and happy. This is the perfect condition for shoving a pill and medicated liquid down his throat in the morning. It’s definitely preferable to the morning chase around the apartment to catch the little bastard. Although, I would rather have to deal with catching the wild beast than watch him twitch with an epileptic seizure. Fat would disagree; at one point during a particularly bad episode, she complimented Mutt’s twerking – then asked if I had dollar bills so she could ‘make it rain’. She’s sensitive like that.

“Strange Pavlovian response,” Fat has closed her scornful eye and would appear to be asleep if her mouth weren’t moving with yet another unnecessary feline opinion. “Pavlov’s dog produced saliva at the sound of a bell, you hear a bell and your first response is to happily give out drugs. I guess in this house, that’s just how we do.”

I blink the sleep from my eyes. Every morning there is a split second where I dream of hitting the snooze button, but that button is like self-administered morphine – hitting it once will never be enough. Look alive, self. I lightly slap my cheek to keep with the energy of the wakeup call. “Need to do it at the same time every day, Fat. Consistency is important for the meds to work properly.”

“Where was this mentality when you were taking birth control pills?” Fat’s cynical tone is undercut as she attempts to fight off a yawn; it takes away from the kitty’s verbal left hook. A lazy smile crosses her face as a sliver of sunlight casts itself between the curtains, “I wish I was alive to see how you were raised. I have so many questions on how you came to be this way.”

I flip Mutt over and hold him like a baby so I can rub his belly. His tongue hangs out of his mouth; it doesn’t take much to make the little monster happy.

“Who wants drugs? Mutt wants drugs.” My fingers tap rhythmically on his pink belly like he’s a bongo drum. He loves it; frankly I’m too tired to even notice that I’m acting like a moron.

“I don’t even want to know what the neighbours think about you yelling ‘time for drugs!’ twice a day. Maybe you’re not the only one avoiding the weird neighbours – maybe we are the weird neighbours. Did you ever think of that?” Fat shuffles over to occupy my spot on the bed and enjoy the warmth of my residual body heat.

Mutt’s wagging tail whips my back every couple seconds; it amazes me that an excitable tone will trick him day after day into taking his medication. Oh to be a lovable, hideous idiot.

I bite the inside of my cheek in contemplation, keeping a firm grip around Mutt’s ribcage as I flip him over and put him on the ground. “I’m okay with being the weird neighbours. I’m cool with whatever keeps things as they are with the other tenants.”

Fat curls into a ball while lying on her side; it’s how she always falls asleep.

“Go forth, weird neighbour. Drug thine mongrel. If you change your mind and want to be neighbourly this morning, go check with the chick in apartment 14B – she might be interested to hear that it’s time for drugs.”

Undiagnosed Condition gets Diagnosed

“You are so entirely busted, young lady.”

The popcorn in my hand doesn’t make it to my mouth. Eyes wide, my focus pans left, away from the television, and zooms in on the feline. Fat smirks from where she sits on the floor.

Love Actually? You’re watching a movie about feelings.” She trots diagonally through the living room and gains enough momentum to easily leap onto the couch beside me.

“Don’t ever tell anyone.” I wipe butter-glazed fingers on my jeans and pause the live TV. “I keep getting hell from my best gals because I haven’t seen it.” I notice Fat eying my bowl of popcorn; I move it to my other side so I don’t have to contend with her trying to take some by force.

“You’re loving this film.”

“You can’t prove that.”

Her head nods in the direction of my remote-clutching hand. “You cared enough to pause it.”

“Pardon me for being polite enough to give you all of my attention.” Who am I kidding? I want to watch Colin Firth fall in love with a girl who doesn’t understand him.

“Are we going to tread down this road? I saw you watching Serendipity a couple nights ago after you got in from a late night with one of your gal pals.” A paw reaches out to nudge me playfully in the ribs, “You love romantic movies.”

It is only after I shamefully bury my face in my hands that I fret about a pimply outbreak from contact with my popcorn fingers. I’ll have to exude my apparent shame another way; like a frightened turtle, my head pops inside my t-shirt and I hide out.

“I don’t. My body must be generating excess estrogen this month.” I observe the sleek butter stains on my shirt. I can’t figure out my own weird behaviour. I’m almost surprised I haven’t stooped to the level of wistfully watching Titanic or The Notebook.

“What’s next? The Notebook? Titanic?

It’s not her judgemental tone that draws me out of the t-shirt, so much as my worry that she’s using some kind of x-ray device that interprets thought patterns. She squints when my eyes peer out of the neck hole. With the movie still paused, the living room almost echos with quiet.

“You’re acting like an idiot.”

“I’m sorry?” I yank the bottom of my entire head and neck come out of hiding.

“No need to apologize for something you’re good at.” Fat crosses my lap to sniff at the ikea bowl half-full of popcorn.

I flick her ear and she stops her advance on my movie snack. Instead, she settles herself on my thighs and stares at my face.

“I’m pretty certain I know why you’re acting like this.”

“Please. Share with the class.” My arms open widely as though I was displaying an entire audience sitting amongst the furniture in my living room. I pick up the popcorn bowl; I’m the kind of full where I’m aware that I’m not hungry anymore, but if the popcorn is beside me, I’m going to keep inhaling it until every kernel is gone.

“Boss, you need to get laid. This behaviour of yours is driving both of us crazy.”

I accidentally drop the bowl on the coffee table, sending some bits flying. Mutt scuttles over and starts gobbling up the little treats as fast as his greedy mouth can manage.

“Fat, we’ve talked about this plenty of times. I’m not dating right now…”

“Ban on Boyfriends, yes, I know.” Fat interrupts and rolls her eyes. “I’m not talking about dating, fool. This whole scene,” Fat points at Colin Firth’s frozen face on the screen, “is not what you’re about. This sappy shit has to end.”

I grab the remote and press play. I don’t even know what to say to Fat right now. I’m aware this isn’t what I would generally watch. Though I suppose I have actually been watching Cosmo TV lately. A Walk to Remember should be on right after this movie. The idea of an afternoon double-feature makes me giddy. And then I realize… I turn to Fat, horrified. She’s right.

“You look like you’re going to throw up. Too much butter on your popcorn or is the therapist’s analysis on the money again?”

I don’t answer. Instead, I greasily slide off the couch, race to the bedroom to change my shirt, slide on some shoes and grab my bag.

“I have to get out of here.”

Fat shouts after my frantic exit, “Don’t come back until you get your freak on.”

A New Kind Of Alimony

“You know I’m not fond of you waking me through the night.”

I frown at Fat while grabbing a handful of Cap’n Crunch from the box. Fat delicately laps from her water dish, oblivious to my sour puss. I change the song playing on my iPhone then continue packing a lunch for work.

Once Fat’s thirst is quenched, she looks up at me. She licks the residual water from the corners of her mouth and blinks more times than needed.

“I told you I’d let you know when I came up with something. Excuse me for not leaving you hanging.”

“That was two days ago. There’s a statute of limitations on how long you have to deliver on a joke. Waking me up after 1:00 a.m. this morning was beyond unnecessary.” I drop the cereal into a plastic container. Fat’s ears lift at the sound, acutely attuned to the noise similar to her food dish being filled. When she realizes that it’s not the tinny sound of her bowl, Fat’s ears revert with disappointment to their previous state.

“It was a compliment. I like the smell of canned tuna.” Fat smiles genuinely. It hurts me that this is considered a compliment in the feline world. When she hears the second handful of dry cereal hit the Tupperware her face briefly lights with hope before she comes to the same realization as before and her anticipation deflates.

I crouch down in front of a lower cupboard to grab a granola bar and cup of ramen noodles. Fat comes and sits beside me while I contemplate grabbing some corn chips as well.

“So…” She draws out the word and looks at the food in my hands. Fat waits for me to read her mind, but after several seconds of silence, she realizes that’s not going to happen. “You ever going to learn how to feed yourself or is this the kind of nutrition,” she nods obviously at my lunch, “you’ll be enjoying for the rest of your cat-lady days?”

“What are you talking about?” She’s staring right at my work lunch. I don’t understand this feline. I remember there are some baby carrots in the fridge. I’ll grab some of those too.

Fat’s eyes follow me as I stand, toss the noodles and granola bar in my lunch bag and root through the fridge until I find the bag of carrots. I grab one and take a bite.

Maybe she didn’t hear my question. “What’s up, doc?”

Fat shakes her head. “What are you doing? An homage to your childhood?” She waits for me to swallow my food before she continues. “We haven’t really discussed much of what happens now that you’re all alone again.” Fat interrupts when I open my mouth to protest. She holds her paw up to force silence upon my vocal cords. Her voice comes out tired, “Yes, girl power. You don’t need a man. You’re a self-sufficient, independent woman, new age hunter/gatherer and whatever other crock pot clichés you’re packing. I mean no offense, but you don’t know how to cook, boss. I don’t desire to perish in a kitchen fire while watching another attempt.”

The feline looks genuinely concerned, though I’m quite certain it’s more for the threat on her life instead of my abysmal domestic skills.

“Fat, have some faith in me. I’ve got it all figured out.”

I swear I see Fat wince at the thought of me in an apron. I do my best to ignore it. I can’t be offended by the truth.

“As you may recall, the less-recent Ex-Boyfriend, with whom I share Mutt, is a red seal chef.” I grab my phone off the kitchen counter and check the time. Four minutes before I have to leave for work or I’ll miss my bus.

Fat shoots me a look of bitch-please-don’t-travel-down-that-road.

“Hear me out. I pay for all of Mutt’s food, vet bills, prescriptions, what have you. I’ve never asked for any sort of compensation for covering all of that. Therefore, I think that if he wants to continue to share Mutt with me, he should provide me with some sort of…” My still-tired brain reaches for some kind of term that will work, “edible alimony if you will.”

“Bitch, you crazy. Nobody would agree to that.”

I look down at the iPhone still in my grasp and go into my messages. There in plain text, is a response to a text I sent in the not-so-distant past.

“A pan of lasagna will be here on Thursday.” I throw my hands in the air like I’m in a nineties rap video and give Fat the you-can-suck-it face before turning the screen in her direction.

Fat’s eyes widen with surprise as she reads the text. “Not sure that I entirely agree with your methods, but if you can get fed properly through use of extortion I suppose I can’t fault you.” Her eyes squint as she reads something else on the screen. “You sent this at 1:13 a.m.?

“For some reason I was awake at that time.” I glare again at Fat, who, out of habit of my morning routine is planted in front of her food bowl. First I make lunch, then feed the good doctor. “It seemed like it was worth a try. Better to ask for something like this when he’s had time to tip back a few bottles, am I right? Alexander Keith’s got my back.”

A Feline’s Idea of Playtime

“Can’t help but notice that you don’t play like that with me.”

The back of my neck prickles with familiarity when Fat’s resentful voice echoes a similar point of contention Boyfriend recently brought up. I look over, and she smiles at me innocently, seemingly unaware of my mental association to her complaint. Coincidence, I suppose.

Fat sits directly in front of the television; her grey head obstructs the rerun of RuPaul’s Drag race that plays on a low volume. The sound of queens throwing some shade should be in the background of everyone’s houses all the time. It’s that entertaining. I live to watch Snatch Game.

Fat leers while I play tug-of-war with Mutt on the living room floor. I offer cruel taunts while his white tail flicks from side-to-side like Dr. Seuss’ metronome.  He smiles his doofus canine grin as he grips the end of the rope between his teeth. My hold on the frayed ends loosens enough to let him think he’s actually going to pull it out of my hands.

“Fat, I play with you all the time.” Just when Mutt thinks he’s about to take the rope from me, I yank it quickly out of his mouth. “Getting slow in your old age, Mutt.”

“I suppose mind games count as playing. Although, you’re more of an unwilling participant than anything else.” The bright colours of the television show behind Fat do nothing to distract her. She squints at the dog as if to gesture with her gaze. “You don’t do any of this stuff with me.”

“Okay, fine.” I look around and see a pink tennis ball tucked into the corner where the bookshelf intersects with the wall. After a backward summersault to get within reaching distance, I have the neon ball in my grasp. “Here, Fat. Go get it.” A flash of pink sails across the living room, down the hallway and hits the apartment’s front door with a rubbery thwack sound. Fat watches until it’s out of her line of sight. I hold tight to Mutt’s collar so he won’t race after it like he wants to.

She sighs, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Go. Fetch.” I point as the ball stops bouncing and slows to a lazy roll. “Bring it back and I’ll throw it for you again.”

“No. That seems stupid.”

Mutt starts whining and I let him go so he can chase the ball. He trips over his clumsy feet because of his excitement and once the sphere has been retrieved, Mutt victoriously trots under the desk with the pink tennis ball in his mouth. I love that it doesn’t take much to make him happy, not like the feline.

I try to contain my exasperation. “Of course it’s stupid. Have you met Mutt? You were the one that said you wanted me to play with you. That’s how Mutt and I play. Pardon me, your highness. What did you have in mind?”

“Actually, nothing. I’m probably just going to nap.” Fat stares in the direction of the kitchen and the room goes quiet with the exception of RuPaul’s girls sassing each other. “Maybe you should make a cup of tea for yourself and Boyfriend. It might be a nice peace offering.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, trying to figure out where she’s going with this. The idea seemed to come out of nowhere. Tea is always a good idea though.

I push off the ground and Fat follows me into the kitchen. I turn the kettle on and grab two mugs from the cupboard. I set the plain red one to the left of my fancy teal mug. As I flip through the containers of David’s tea, Fat stares at the mugs.

I follow the line from her focused eyes to my mug; she doesn’t even glance at Boyfriend’s. “What, Fat?”

“Just interesting.”

“Sure.” I flip through until I find the chocolate tea and nearly slam the container on the counter. I drum my fingers on the tea container until the question bursts out of me like projectile vomit. “What is interesting?”

Her head tilts in the direction of my mug, “As with everything else, you always have to be right.”

Spitefully, I move my mug to the other side of the red one.

Fat smiles, but it’s a definite evil grin this time. She plays with her whiskers in the manner a cartoon villain would twirl his moustache. This move of mine clearly entertains her.

“Thanks for the playtime, boss. Enjoy your tea.”