Office Hours: Say What Now?

“What, uh,” Fat’s gaze sweeps from the dessert box in my hand to my waterlogged shorts, “what’s going on, Boss?”

My sandals squeak from the moisture as I wander past the good doctor and put the cake in the fridge. “Co-worker’s birthday tomorrow,” I tap on the appliance door in the direction of the cake on the other side.

“And the drippy nether region?”

“Your words paint an unappetizing picture, you know that?”

Tiny fangs show with Fat’s prideful smile, “It’s a gift.” Her shoulders lift in an innocent shrug.

“The wet shorts are from an unintentional enema at the water park while chasing around Bestie’s kid.”

Fat’s lungs release boisterous laughter. “Classic.”

“The only purpose I serve is to be your jester, Fat.”

My dry compliment has the effect of a triple highball on a cheap drunk.

“Time for a quick session?”

I waddle into the living room and flop on the couch, sandals on. “Sure, what the hell?”

Her green eyes bulge with astonishment. She scuttles after me and jumps on the coffee table. Her phony spectacles are conveniently on the table beside her and she fumbles in her race to log more time in her fake shrink book. “Wet shorts and shoes on the couch?”

I lift my index finger high into the air as though making a grand declaration. “My house, my rules.”

“Very well.” Fat adjusts her glasses so they perch just perfectly across her tiny nose. “It would seem you had a lovely afternoon outside.”

“Absolutely.” I take a quick assessment of my freckled skin. “Not a burn or anything.”

Fat stares at my face, which now also blossoms with tiny freckles across the nose and forehead. “You might want to think about a sunhat if aging gracefully is still your plan. A forty-year-old woman like you needs to take all the precautions she can.”

My face contorts into its best impression of a question mark. “I’m not even thirty…”

“That’s what I said, Boss. Do try to keep up.” Fat clips her words; the sharpness makes me doubt if I heard her correctly. She wastes no time on what may or may not have been said and sets right in on her imaginary work. “Now then, you were at the park with Bestie and her offspring.”

I smile and remember the almost-two-year-old saying ‘sexy’ over and over again because it made me laugh. Kids, they’ll repeat everything.

“Jonah, yeah. I love that kid.”

There is an almost unnoticeable twitch of Fat’s ears as they pick up on something.

“This is your godson, right?”

My declaration finger points again, this time at the porky cat, an inch and a half from her spectacled face. “That is correct, Doc.”

“You given any more thought to having your own wee ones?”

“Sure. I’d love to have a kid or two.”

“Liar!” She shouts over my answer and surprise registers as her expectation shatters. Frankly, I don’t blame her; I usually pretend that kids aren’t something I ever want just to avoid conversations about the path to parenthood. Actually, I’m a little surprised at my own honesty. I scratch my forehead. Fake therapy sessions really aren’t the place to talk about deep-seeded truths. I don’t really know what happened. I look at Fat, hoping she’ll bust out with one of her character-building quips, but clearly I’ve just made both of us uncomfortable.

Fat’s jaw drops and she stares, dumbfounded, while she keeps trying to process what she suspected all along. “Boss,” her green eyes hold disbelief, “did you just open up to me? Was that a moment?”

Both of my hands press hard over my heart as though my sincerity was the equivalent of pulling a pin and I’m bracing myself for an explosion of feelings.

Silence surrounds us. My aorta doesn’t become shrapnel. My cardiovascular system remains intact. I think we’re both astounded. With caution, I lower my hands down to the comforting cushion of the couch.

“Yes, Fat. I think maybe we did.”

“Think it’s time to call this one?”

I nod with exuberance. “I don’t think either of us know how to proceed from what just happened.” This honesty country, it’s a strange place.

Fat bats the plastic glasses off her face. “That was a solid three-minute session. I’m okay with that. Keep your uterus in check until we’re both equipped to have a sincere discussion. Okay, Boss? There are some dust motes I was planning to watch in the bedroom, so…I’m going to…do…that.”

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.”