Fathers and First Dates

“Help. It’s an emergency!” Fat’s voice shouts on the other end of the line.

My back hunches over as I hold the cell phone up to my ear and turn to look out the passenger side window at the storefronts we drive past. There really is no way to get privacy in a car other than turn your back to the other person and pretend to be alone. Gentle thuds from the rainy and grey day patter against the roof of the Mazda – way to be cliché, Vancouver. I’m delighted that we’re planning on going to dinner and a movie tonight; a stroll by the ocean is less romantic during a monsoon.

“Calm down. What’s wrong?” The silver lining to an emergency: James only picked me up from my place ten minutes ago – it won’t take long to get back home to fix whatever catastrophe has befallen the apartment. I go through the rolodex in my head of all the possibilities of things that could go awry leaving Fat at home without supervision. Any number of disasters could have occurred in my absence. For some reason, I’m quick to assume arson – and if that’s my first assumption, why on earth would I ever trust the feline home alone? She’s called me an idiot before. I’m sad to report that it could be true; maybe I am an idiot.

It’s our first time hanging out and here I am taking a personal call from my housecat. Awesome. Depending on how this goes could really affect how things move forward with this fella. I’m not really sure how I’m feeling about him yet. Better keep the ol’ pro/con list on standby.

“Is everything okay?” James turns down the car stereo and the Foo Fighters are forced into near-silence. In a normal circumstance, this would never happen. Foo Fighters are meant to be loud; if this guy is willing to mute a great band for my benefit – that’s a tally in the pro column.

I glance over my left shoulder and shrug. James alternates between navigating the busy street and throwing quick looks of concern my way before his attention returns to the road. His blue eyes widen with questions. He cares – another pro for the gent.

“I don’t know.” I turn back to my phone, “Faaa…” I can’t say her name, this date will be over instantly if he finds out who’s ringing me at this moment, “…ather, what’s going on?”

“Father? Is that what you call me behind my back? It’s my wisdom, isn’t it?” I hear the smile in her voice. “You didn’t have a fancy English childhood, just call me dad like a normal Canadian.”

My concern evaporates instantly. If something was actually wrong, she wouldn’t be dicking me around like this. “What’s the emergency, Fat?”

“Should I find a place to pull over?” James shoulder checks in preparation to get to the next side street. He makes no mention of me calling my pretend father Fat. That speaks to his overabundance of politeness – con. I need a dude that shoots from the hip.

I pull away from my phone, albeit briefly, and minutely shake my head, “You can just keep heading to the restaurant.” Good driver – pro.

“So how’s the date going?” Fat’s words are weighted with intrigue and gossip.

“Tell me why that’s not the reason you’re calling.” I wave my hand forward, reassuring James that he’s good to keep driving. The windshield wipers move in their rhythmic pattern. “I’m kind of busy at the moment.”

“Boss. I’m giving you an out here if it’s not going well. I noticed he was blond. If you need this phone call to be an emergency to get away from the man bimbo, take it.” The feline makes a point: blonde – con.

“It’s only been a few minutes,” my words hiss into the phone, and I adjust course when I catch the look on James’ face at my sudden change of tone. “It’s hard to tell so soon…father. Stay positive. I’m sure your team will win.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Fat’s words are clipped and she clearly does not understand what I’m trying to do. “You hate sports. There isn’t even a game on right now, dumb ass.”

I roll my eyes and try to spell it out for her. “The game (massive emphasis to let her know we’re not discussing something on TSN) just started. Anything can happen. I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Have I told you recently that you’re an idiot?” The sound of buttons accidently being pushed on her end rings in my ears.

“I love you too. Bye.” I end the call, turn the ringer off and drop the phone in my lap. “I’m really sorry about that. I shouldn’t have answered.”

James searches for a tactful thing to say, “Your dad sounds like an… interesting guy.” There’s that politeness again – con.

Another call from Fat lights up my phone. I hit ignore.

“Huh? Oh yeah. My dad is a real cupcake.”

Skype Calls and Fat

“We are so far beyond not interested, pal. Bye-bye now.”

Fat’s paws press the back of the laptop. She uses her girth to close the old computer while I’m mid-Skype conversation. The feline’s abrupt dismissal of our video chat interrupts my story about finally exploring McLeod’s bookstore downtown. I suppose I didn’t need to mention that after an arduous hunt, I finally found a copy of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. My cat is such a bitch cat; there will be no fairy tale endings on her watch – not even in bookstores.

Hinging from the hip, I try to stay in front of the camera and quickly sign off prior to hitting my chin on the desk and before Fat ends the call by clamping the computer shut. The grizzly-faced dude and I talk over each other in the few seconds we have left.

“I’m going to have to call you back.”

“Kat, what’s happening with your computer?” He’s unconcerned. The way he asks makes me feel that when stupidity happens in my presence, it’s not altogether unexpected. That is off-the-charts rude and presumptuous; perhaps I shan’t call him back. It seems jackassery is running rampant today.

The feline lets out a satisfied smirk and sits on the closed VAIO like it’s a throne. “Dodged a bullet there, eh? You’re welcome. I never thought I’d say this, Boss, but you can do better.” Fat’s tail hugs the perimeter of her meaty haunches.

My forehead wrinkles to accommodate the surprised lift of my eyebrows. “What’s that, now?” If she’s saying what I think she’s saying…

“Hate to see my prize pig settle for somebody like that blond schmuck.” Indicatively, a grey paw taps gently on the computer case.

Beyond any measure of comprehension, the term ‘prize pig’ doesn’t register as an insult; instead my thoughts briefly drift to the fridge contents and the possibility of bacon. In my humble opinion, a pre-dinner warmup is never a poor idea.

“There’s no accounting for taste, is there? It’s like he was oblivious to your terrible personality.” Fat’s musings coax my attention back from hunger.

“I’m going to stop you there, Fat.” My traffic cop hand rests inches from her wet nose. “What you’re thinking is eighty-thousand different kinds of disgusting.” I point to the corner of the desk at a framed picture that was taken a couple years ago at my mom’s house.

The feline sidles up beside it, almost pressing her face against the photo. “He’s already met your family?” The tone in her voice registers as revulsion.

“He’s my brother, you moron.”

Fat’s pupils expand and she stares, unblinking in my direction. Her cheeks puff out as her mouth stays shut, feigning a puke-like reaction. Gag sounds come from her throat as the feline oversells the dramatics. “V.C. Andrews really did a number on you, huh? I knew I shouldn’t have let you watch Flowers in the Attic.”

I stare at the ceiling. C’mon, brain, make this a Namaste situation… breathe in, breathe out. Do no harm to the furry idiot on the desk.

“So what’s up with your brother? Did you give him my regards?”

I shrug. “He somehow got the idea that I was plotting to murder my cat. For some reason he was trying to talk me out of it.”

“You know, I always liked that guy.”

A Good, Ol’ Fashioned Phone Call

“Your telepathy’s broken.”

Fat almost shouts from where she’s curled up behind my head on the armrest of the couch. Not expecting a break from the silence I was enjoying, I jump with surprise and swear simultaneously. The iPhone gets lost in the nonsense and falls to the floor with the dull thud of landing with gusto on the carpet.

“Christ, Fat. What is your problem?” I turn around to glare at her. When I glare, it feels like my face gets upstaged by my gigantic forehead. Now I’m pretending to be upset but genuinely self-conscious. I purse my lips instead. Within seconds, I’m bored of feigning annoyance. In spite of Fat testing how unanticipated shouting affects my heart, it’s a good day.

Fat looks fiercely at me like I’ve done something to piss her off. Her eyes become small slits. “You signed off from that conversation almost ten minutes ago and have been staring at your phone ever since. Time that would have been better spent petting me and telling me how pretty I am.” Fat shoots a quick glance down to the floor as if anticipating my rescue mission for my iPhone. Her luminous eyes regain full roundness with her surprise. “Aren’t you going to get that?”

“No.” Content, I turn away from her and tuck my arms behind my head. Truth be told, I wasn’t staring at my phone; I was lost between my ears enjoying the random thoughts of a lunatic.

The feline wanders up the armrest and down the back of the couch until she’s in my line of vision again.

“Who was that you were talking to for so long?” She reads the upward lift at the corners of my mouth. “Tell me you haven’t started dating again. Was that a new beau on the horn?” Fat’s head tilts south toward my abandoned phone as though she doesn’t expect me to understand her question without the physical prompt.

I say nothing – not because I don’t have anything to say, but because silence is one of the feline’s most hated forms of torture.

“Oh God, boss. How serious is it?” When I don’t answer, her eyes grow wider like we’re gossiping at the beauty parlour. “Really serious.”

I nod. It’s not a lie.

“Can’t be that serious. It’s not like they asked you to marry you or anything.” Fat starts to laugh, then realizes I’m not laughing alongside her. She ceases immediately.

Fat’s eyes penetrate mine. She’s curled up like a runner at the beginning of a race, if I leave her hanging too much longer, she’ll fall off of her little perch. Her tail taps the tan cushion with impatience.

“She proposed to me at a farmer’s market amongst a throng of grey-haired onlookers. Her MMA training had taken a toll on her ability to properly get down on bended knee that day, but she managed to do it. We exchanged hand-made beaded flower rings and toasted the advent of forever with hot dogs…”

As I nattered on, Fat’s mask of great expectation deflated.

“Your fake lesbian fiancé? That’s who you’re talking to?” The feline became instantly bored. “I heard this story years ago when you two went to that farmer’s market together. You can spare me the details.”

“Not fake.” My spine stiffens when she dismisses the relationship as phony. “Emotional lesbians. Dudes never treated us as well as we treated each other. Wined and dined the hell out of each other those years ago.” I snort with a short laugh. “Kind of a pity that both of us are into the males. It’s a match made in heaven, otherwise.”

I catch Fat rolling her eyes, but say nothing to encourage or reinforce the behaviour. I feel my guard come down. “I miss her, Fat.”

Fat nods thoughtfully and her words are soft spoken. “That’s understandable.”

“One in seven billion, that girl.”

“Huh?” Fat’s gentle voice becomes brassy again. “Time to be a grown up, boss. People move, get married, have careers, some of them have babies – things change for everyone.” Her tone turns to icy sarcasm. “It’s a shame we don’t live in a time where airplanes exist. Or video chat. Or texting. Or Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Snapchat. There are no excuses to be out of touch.”

I hug the teal couch pillow to my chest. “But you said you understood that I missed her…”

“I meant, it’s understandable because there are few people on this earth foolhardy enough to enjoy your company. And it’s no wonder. I’m still waiting for you to pet me and tell me I’m pretty.”