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.”

Free Falling

“I knew you couldn’t stay away for long, you’re too yella.”

Fat lies amongst shredded cardboard – it looks like confetti thanks to somebody’s idle talons. Her grey tail lifts and cracks down like a whip.

“Yella? You watch some cowboy movies while I was away?”

One of the bags in my grasp has an open zipper and vomits dirty clothes onto the floor beside the feline with the soft tumbling sound of fabric on fabric. My head hangs while I watch the purging of jeans and shirts, shorts and everything else that would last me a few weeks instead of two and a half days.

“Is that a trick your bag learned from watching you during the weekend?”

I look down at the mountain of laundry, drop everything else in my hands on top of the pile, and step over it. If I don’t acknowledge the mess, I can’t be held accountable for it. I add my flip flops to the chaos and proceed to the living room where I collapse on the couch. I think I slept a total of seven hours over the last two nights. I need to catch up.

Fat scuttles after me and jumps up on the coffee table. She’s still waiting for an answer.

“That wasn’t rhetorical? For your information, the overnight bag wasn’t in the room when my dinner decided to reintroduce itself.” I pause, but then tack on a last comment, “The way I puke isn’t so dainty.”

My eyelids fall to half-mast as I watch the cat. Fat’s paws reach out in front of her like she’s about to stretch, but instead she just sits like the Sphinx. Her head tilts to the side, inquisitively.

“There’s something different about you, boss. Get past all the exhaustion and you seem more settled than you have been in the last few months.” Green eyes glow with salacious delight, “You took my advice and got some strange, didn’t you? Boss, you wild thing.” She takes a cue from me and briefly pauses before adding another remark, “You make my heart sing.”

I wave my hand in front of my face to dispel her accusation and stop the song from continuing. “Still chaste over here.”

Fat doesn’t hide her disappointment. “Oh. So,” now disinterested, Fat’s gaze sweeps over her shoulder to see if the television is on, “what am I picking up on then?”

“I fell through the sky this morning.”

Her grey head slowly swivels back around. “Ah. Drugs. Did you bring any to share?”

A puff of air comes out of my nose, but doesn’t materialize into a full-on laugh. I offer a dry-lipped smile. “Skydiving, Fat.”

The small jaw of the feline hangs open for a moment. Brief silence fills the apartment as her face freezes. It’s quiet for a change.

Just as soon as the pocket of stillness arrives, it’s thrust back into the apartment’s cracks and crevices when the feline’s verbose voice comes a-callin’. “Bitch, you cray.”

My feet kick up and onto the backrest of the sofa as my head rests on a cushion. “It was sensational. Euphoric, even.” I don’t even feel my eyelids close, I remember sailing through the air and feeling so calm about the whole thing. No hesitation.

The soft pad of Fat’s paw touches my nose. I open my eyes, surprised I didn’t hear her jump off the coffee table. She sits so close to my face I can see her tiny cat nipples across her stomach. I shove her arm’s length away, I don’t need cat nipples in my line of vision.

“I’m proud of you, boss. I like that you don’t bore me. There’s always something with you, isn’t there?” Fat purrs, settling onto the couch to nap beside me. “Know what else?”

“Hmm?” I’m already slipping into sleep.

“Wild thing, I think I love you.”

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