After the Warehouse

“From what I hear, it wasn’t a successful mission in the warehouse. Fat fail.”

My friend has long since departed after bringing her back home and I’m making dinner. Fat sulked in, crawled on top of the desk and has been quietly facing the corner since her less-than-triumphant return to the apartment.

“That wasn’t a mouse.” Fat shudders, still facing the camel-coat colour of the wall. “Mouse is a colossal understatement. That fucker was big enough to hold me like a teddy bear and spoon me all night long.” Her head turns to look at me in the kitchen, I strain noodles over the sink and then return them to the pot on the stove. “I’m not going back there, Boss. Ever.”

“I’d be embarrassed to let you.” There are no words as I mix butter, milk and powdered cheese into the noodles. I heap some of it into a bowl and sit on the computer chair near the feline. The smell of food prompts Fat to spin around and finally face me.

She attempts to change the conversation. “Anything interesting happen here while I was out?”

I hold up my finger, buying myself a moment to swallow the food in my mouth. “I took a Zumba class.”

“I bet you were awful.” Fat leans on her elbows as her paws cup her face, feigning interest – anything to distract from the search for her missing dignity.

“That’s the obvious conclusion. It was fun though. I also went to Bard on the Beach. I love theatre.”

Fat pouts, “It sounds like I really missed out. I suppose it’s nice that you had fun.”

I ignore her statement and frown into my bowl of bright orange. “This does not hit the spot at all.”

I scoop a bunch of the neon noodles onto a fork, lift them out of the bowl and then watch I tilt the utensil and the noodles slide off and land back amongst their clones.

“What do you expect from hallway Kraft Dinner?”

“I was too lazy to go grocery shopping, okay?” I put the bowl on the desk and push it as far away from me as possible. What I need to do is order some Chinese food.

Fat’s face disappears in the bowl and she helps herself to a taste of white-trash cuisine. “Oh, yeah. Not good.” There’s some fake cheese sauce stuck to the fur around her mouth.

I laugh.

“What?”

“Nothing at all, Fat.”

Fat tips her head in the direction of the bowl beside her. “What are we going to do about this?”

“I was thinking about getting some Chinese food deliv–“

“That’s not what I meant, idiot.” What I assume is annoyance gurgles at the back of the feline’s throat. “I meant the source of tonight’s terrible dinner. What are you going to do about the friendly neighbour?”

I reach to the iPad, which is beside the printer, and start looking up online menus. “There’s nothing to do about Jesse. He’s gone into a ghost state. I haven’t seen him in,” I think on it and can’t come up with a definite date, “a long time.”

Fat jumps beside me on the couch. “I’m not convinced. Trust me, I’m a therapist. I know these things. He’s going to knock on that door one day soon and make you an offer you won’t refuse.”

“The only thing he’ll be looking for when he finally does come a-callin’ is his extra set of keys. I still have them. That’s weird, isn’t it? If it were me, I’d be getting my keys back as soon as possible. Seriously, how long has it been since we saw that guy?” It bothers me that I can’t even ballpark his strange visit to my apartment that morning. It was a weekend. This much I know.

Fat answers without a second of contemplation. “It’s been two weeks since we locked up after the dearly departed harlot. I say hold on to the keys as long as possible.”

I look up from the iPad; the tone of her voice lets me know that Fat’s moxie has come back in full force. “What makes you say that?”

“You managed to get Kraft Dinner from him, let’s see what other presents we can extort. Next time you hear footsteps in the hall, say, ‘I want a floor-to-ceiling scratching post.’”

“Something for you?” The feline is regarding Jesse’s original sweet action as a shopping spree of sorts.

“Play fair, Boss. You got what you wanted last time.”

Important Questions of Inquiring Minds

“Seriously, what is this shit?”

I hold the Ziploc baggie up to the light in the kitchen and squeeze the brown guck sandwiched between the plastic. The box of my favourite granola bars and baggie of gummy worms were easy to deduce. This random treasure… I can’t make heads or tail of it.

“I told you that you needed to come home from vacation quickly.” Fat tut-tuts under her breath. “Your unconscious took over within two minutes of getting home yesterday. I tried to wake you…”

The slop lazily sloshes around as I shake it and observe its movement like a science experiment. In a moment of bravery, I open the clear bag and smell the contents. I jolt with pleasant surprise.

“Liquid chocolate?”

“It wasn’t liquid when he left it here. I watched those little chocolate drops you love melt in the humidity. It was surprisingly entertaining.”

Well, damn.

I opened the freezer and threw the bag in, oblivious to where it was laid to rest. After shutting the compartment I turned around to see Fat sitting on the counter, head tilted at an almost ninety-degree angle.

“Don’t look at me like that; I’ll use it for something.” Pour it into chocolate molds or something, I don’t know.

Fat sighs, and offers a smirk of a smile. “I bet you fifty bucks there will be a PMS moment that overtakes your sanity and you will dive headfirst into that plastic baggie of chocolaty goodness.”

I lean against a counter in desperate need of disinfectant, “You don’t believe I can act like a civilized member of society, do you?”

Fat lifts a skeptical eyebrow and holds out her paw, “fifty bucks?”

Without thinking, I reach out and shake her extended limb with vigorous agreement. I’ll show you, you fat feline.

Fat ignores a quick look I shoot over my shoulder and the x-ray vision I employ to make sure my melted mess is still safe.

“In other news…” Fat’s sentence regains my attention and she gives me a noticeable once-over. “Where are you off to this evening, Boss? You’re looking less a mess than usual.” Her voice drips with entendre.

I hate those dangerous compliments; if you say ‘thank you’ you might as well wear a bag over your head that says, Beware of Ugly – the other side of that is if you ignore the compliment Fat will bitch about the lack of recognition for what she construes as ‘making nice’.

As with any other instance where one isn’t entirely certain how to proceed, I half-shrug. This, followed by an instant conversational response, eliminates any need to backtrack to argue compliment semantics.

“Off to dinner with Erica tonight,” I twirl in my maxi skirt and the inertia pulls my sunglasses from the top of my head down my face where the perch crookedly over the tip of my nose. I straighten them up as quickly as possible. “She always looks amazing so I thought I’d try to pull myself together as much as I can on short notice. Kind of wish I had time to shower…”

“I’m sure Erica will think the same thing. You girls have fun tonight.” She jumps off the counter with a gentle thud and tracks my movements like a hunter.

As I go into the hall, I pluck one of Fat’s grey hairs from my black skirt and release it mid-air. “I’m sure we will. Much to catch up on, Fat.” I start to fasten the buckles on my sandals.

“Oh hey, Boss,” Fat watches me hunch over and struggle with four different fasteners on what look like a simple pair of shoes.

“Yeah?” I have to lift a section of my untamed locks so I can see her little face.

“With the gifts that are being left and him having access to the spare keys to the apartment I have to ask,” she fixes her face with a scandalous expression, “is there something I should know about vis-à-vis a second time around with the chef?”

“Fat the fact that you have to ask…” I grab my keys and clutch from the hall table. Instead of finishing the sentence, I scowl and shake my head and make a quick exit.

I can hear her yell from the building’s stairwell.

“That’s not a definitive answer. Inquiring minds want to know!”

Because I Love You…

“How’s the V.D. going?” Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and stares at the open window on my laptop. The pictures of shrimp and noodles momentarily capture her attention.

I glare at her. “Can you let that go already? It’s not my fault syllabus and syphilis sound similar. It was 2008; get over it.”

“Let’s reminisce once more for old time’s sake.” Fat snickers as she repeats a quote that has haunted me for the last six years, “I checked out the syphilis from my Marketing professor. That shit sucks.” The feline’s head dips down as she laughs, her forehead rests on the edge of the computer screen. “That poor woman. If only she knew the accidental lies you told about her.”

“You done?” I watch Fat’s belly jiggle as the laugh gradually works its way out of her system. Thankfully, this was a sentence shared with a feline and not another human.

A grey paw dabs the moisture from her left eye. “You are too precious, boss. I meant, how’s the Valentine’s Day going?”

“Huh?” My brain takes a moment to process the fact that her previous question was not, in fact, about venereal disease.

“Today. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uh huh.” My finger uses the touchpad on the laptop to scroll through the page one more time. I’m not sure why, I called twenty minutes ago to order the food. Now I’m wishing I added the spring rolls. Damn it.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

I stop scrolling and my head tilts to look at Fat. “Did you finally give up on the phony therapist thing and decide to become the world’s most annoying calendar instead? I’m aware that it’s Valentine’s Day.” I stress the word for her benefit.

“And you’re here with me waiting for Chinese food to arrive. You must be what they call an old school romantic.” Fat silently moves to sit behind the computer screen.

Fuck it; I’m starving. I get up and open the door to the snack cupboard. Puffy Cheetos. Yes. The bag crinkles as I pinch the sides and pull the plastic open. I don’t respond to Fat. Instead she watches me snack on the toxic orange puffs. After only a couple Cheetos, the fingers of my right hand become coated in a fine simulated-cheese dust.

“Why are you staring at me like that, Fat?”

Her head has lopped to the side, and her mouth hangs slightly open in a disgusted kind of way. “I was so surprised when you landed yourself a man but it would appear that you have no desire in keeping him. And he loves you in spite of the V.D.”

“I don’t have V.D.”

“That’s not the rumour around your old campus.” Fat smiles with that all too familiar evil glint in her eye.

“You’re an asshole.”

Fat shakes her head insistently. “No, you’re the asshole. Today of all days you need to give Boyfriend attention and show some kind of emotion of the loving variety. He puts up with all of your stupid shit and your one redeeming quality is that you call to order Chinese food? Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.” The bitch feline seems genuinely disappointed in my lack of Valentine effort. I close the laptop leaving orange smudges from my fingertips.

“Christ.” I sit and think for a moment. “I have to do something, don’t I?”

Fat quickly nods, “I would.”

“Well fuck me,” As the words come out of my mouth I glare at the cat, “Swallow those words in your mouth right now. The V.D. train has left the station. No more comments. You’re done.”

Fat steps back with fake surprise mimicking a young  ingénue, “I would never…”

“Shut up, Fat.” I wipe my Cheeto fingers on my jeans and grab my purse. I holler in the most romantic tone I’m capable of – something that makes me sound like a bona fide woodsman, “Boyfriend, grab your coat, we’re going out.”

Boyfriend comes out of the bedroom, delightfully surprised that the plan is no longer to stay in tonight doing nothing.

God damn it, Cupid. You win this round.

An afterthought: I forgot about the Chinese food. Probably won’t be allowed to order from there anymore…

All Kinds of Fancy and Two Kinds of Assholes

“No. No-no-no-no. Nuh uh. This isn’t happening.” Fat’s eyes grow huge staring at the bejewelled collar in my hands. “Just because you’re decked out like Liberace doesn’t mean I have to be.”

My advance slows. “Decked out like… what do you mean?” I’m not wearing any more jewellery than usual: necklace, a few rings, earrings. Nothing ostentatious. Not like I’ve all of a sudden decided I adore sequined rose-coloured glasses or a tiara made of the feathers from hundred-year-old Great Horned Owls.

“You’re not fancy enough for diamonds.” Fat’s eyes stare from the purple feline jewels I hold to my second set of earrings. She dons a fake English accent, “Off for high tea at the Denny’s? Just remember: cross your legs at the ankles – you’re not a common whore, and bring me home what’s left of your Grand Slam. Pinkies up, dear.”

Defensively, my right hand reaches up to touch the diamond studs. “The mocking is a bit much.”

Fat’s shoulders hunch when I take another step closer to where she sits on the desk. Her eyes dart from the collar in my hand to my face, and back to the collar. She fishes quickly for something to say to prevent my drawing any nearer. “So you decided you like the earrings he gave you after all. What changed your mind?” The mocking in her tone evaporates as she fishes for what sounds like sincerity.

I remember opening the gift from Boyfriend and how feelings of adoration and overwhelm formed the strangest hybrid of internal conflict. Fat’s right. I’m not fancy enough for diamonds. That was my worry when I let my mouth control the situation instead of my logic asking, “Would you be offended if I returned these?” The answer is yes. Yes he would. Boyfriend didn’t have to say it, the look of disappointed shock talked as much as a drunk bitch at a house party.

Rather than verbally call myself an idiot, my hand slaps my forehead when I remember deflating his excitement with my lack of tact. This seems to please Fat, as she smiles when my self-slap leaves behind tingling pink skin. It’s not enough that I hate myself, but my fingers hate me too. Not cool, digits.

I perch on the edge of the desk beside Fat. She sits rigidly, though the reason for her hyper-awareness to my proximity is lost on me. “It wasn’t my best moment, was it?” My face scrunches as I brace myself for confirmation.

“Doesn’t even make the top thousand, boss. You are your own special kind of disillusioned idiot.” Fat chuckles, “I know you’re not good at relationships, but rule number one if you’re ever given anything made out of diamonds: be gracious. Not like he bought you a diamond chuck wagon.”

“A diamond chuck wagon is at least six different kinds of awesome. No word of a lie, I would use that every single day.”

Fat says nothing, just shoots me a your-mother-clearly-threw-you-out-of-a-second-floor-window-as-an-infant look.

I take my phone out of my pocket and take a quick selfie. Fat peers over my shoulder as if she expects the photo to be of somebody else. I zoom in and see how I look with diamonds in my ears. “I look…” I know exactly what would make me enjoy this picture more, “like I need bigger diamonds. At least a few carats. Maybe a necklace and some glittery goodness for my fingers.” I feel my eyes grow wide with greed and notice at the same time that there’s still a bejewelled collar still tucked in the palm of my hand.

With as much speed as I can muster, I grab Fat and belt the collar around her neck. Her ears point backward and she glares at me with the look of a serial killer.

“Fat, you look so pretty!”

“Get this shit off of me. Get this shit off of me right now.”

I open the camera app on my phone again and start taking some pictures. “Hey, what happened to rule number one? Be gracious, Fat.”

Her green eyes glare directly at the camera. “That rule only applies to real diamonds, you disgusting wench.”