“Breaking news, Boss. May I have your attention please.”
Fat sits in the apartment entryway like she’s been waiting quite a while for me to arrive home. She doesn’t twitch when my purse flings dangerously close to her face before it rolls to an ungraceful stop in the middle of the hallway.
“Today I have decided that I love Elvis Presley.” She waits for my acknowledgement of her less-than-grand declaration, when none comes, she assumes ignorance on my part. “You know, the King of Rock n’ Roll.”
A groan squeezes its way out of my lungs as I try to both manipulate an object bigger than a door through the doorway and force the uncooperative angle from the hallway to be my friend. I’m sweating; it’s not that glistening, dainty sweat that as a child I believed was the only kind of sweating a lady was capable of. I’m sweating like a lumberjack on an August day. My back cries like it’s thrice its age and my current desire is gaining access to a sledgehammer in order to turn this bulky beast of a thing into a manageable pile of shrapnel.
“It’s like you don’t even hear me. Hello, I’d like a response. Big day over here.” Fat’s paw taps with impatience on the carpet.
Frustrated, I set the giant board down and brush loose strands of hair out of my dewy face. “You’re going to have to move, Fat.” Hands find their way to my hips as I stare down at the unmoving feline.
“And if I refuse?” Green eyes glower in my direction and then quickly flip to a more curious state. “What do you have there?”
“This,” I grab an edge of the imitation antique frame and try again to coax the monstrous and unforgiving board around the corner and through the apartment doorway, “is a ginormous chalk board.” I push, pull, pivot and perspire without progress. Piss. My arms and sanity, demanding a break, refuse another attempt. “And of course I couldn’t fit it in the elevator so I wrestled this beauty up the stairs.” I force a smile and there are a couple hearty thuds as I bang my hand against the frame. “I kind of want to die right now.”
“You look like you could use some help, kid.”
Fat’s voice turns sing-song as she peers at the new arrival. “Awk-ward.”
I turn to address the owner of the voice. Jesse stands with a grocery bag, staring at the hallway obstruction. “So, am I supposed to hurdle over this thing or…”
“I’m trying to move it. Trying being the operative word. Just uh…yeah. Jump it.”
Fat interrupts, her head jutting toward the chalkboard. “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”
“Don’t.” I swivel and hold up a warning finger to the feline. I feel very like my mother right now.
“If I try to jump it, I might wreck my junk. Can I help you maneuver this mother of all chalkboards inside?”
“Boss, he still wants a piece,” the feline winks grossly. “Don’t mess it up,” she pauses, “again.”
“Stop. Stop it now. This is a no-interest situation.” Unless less than no-interest is a thing. I sigh, reminiscing about former decisions. Bad call, former self.
While I talk, Fat starts to hum and eventually the tune carries lyrics.
“Wise men say only fools rush in
but I can’t help falling in love with you.”
“Seriously, Fat. I’m going to kill you.”
Jesse sets his grocery bag on the floor. “Miss Fat, always with something to meow about. You know, sometimes I swear you two understand what the other is saying.” He points back and forth between me and Fat as though we can’t figure out who he is talking about. “Match made in heaven, I think.”
“What?” Fat’s head snaps upward to eye the neighbour with contempt. “How dare you, sir?”
I must shoot Jesse some kind of awful scowl too because he holds his hands up defensively. “Easy. Legitly, though. You two are some kind of pair.”
“Legitly isn’t a real word, fool.” Fat and I speak in unison and then regard at each other uncomfortably. It’s always uneasy when she and I are on the same page; we seldom get each other.
“Just trying to help here, girls.”
“Uh, thanks for the offer, Jesse, but I really don’t think the board is going to fit without breaking it. Damn. Guess it’s going back to the store.” I start unwedging the board from the doorway. Pity.
“You sure?” Jesse sees the confirmation on my face and takes it as a cue to grab his groceries and dig keys out of his coat pocket. “Alright, well, it was good running into you. See ya.”
I offer him a lazy wave as I wipe forehead sweat on the sleeve of my sweater.
Fat and I both watch as he saunters the ten feet to his door and disappears inside.
I carefully lean the chalkboard against the wall.
And then it starts.
“Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It’s down at the end of lonely street
at Heartbreak Hotel.”
“Shut up, Fat.”