A Woman Needs Girlfriends

“For a stick and bones frame, you sure jiggle a lot, Boss. Hold still. Stop fidgeting.”

I feel a brush sweep gently across my eyelid. If I was better at being girly I wouldn’t need to enlist the help of the hefty feline. Speaking of whom, my legs are going numb from her weight. Our tiny apartment doesn’t have room for a vanity, so I’m perched on the ledge of the bathtub with Fat balancing precariously on my lap so she can apply layers of makeup to my face. Unfortunately for me, I’m nervous about tonight and that feeling made me jump at the chance for any help. Fat, of course, came to the rescue.

The bathroom is ridiculously bright today. I’m pretty certain she switched out the regular lightbulbs for ones with greater watts. God forbid the feline misses a chance to check out my wrinkles under harsh lighting. Beside the tub, a multitude of products is displayed on the closed toilet lid; I have no idea what most of it is. Where is a good drag queen tutorial when you need one?

“Are you going to miss the spinster life? You were just starting to get good at it. That Chinese restaurant will miss delivering food to this particular shut-in. Their business is going to suffer, you know that right?” She leans over to her make-shift counter to get some more colour on the end of the brush. “Boss, close your eyes. I’m working here.”

The brush goes over the crease of my eyelid. Seems unnecessary; I was more or less hoping for some help with making my skin look better. The situation snowballed pretty fast – Fat’s even wearing one of those makeup tool belts to hold her brushes like the gorgeous people who work at MAC. “What kind of eyeshadow is this? It smells terrible.”

“It’s cigarette ash. I was going for that smoky eye look all the harlots are after. Do I have to tell you to close your eyes again? Honestly, I swear you like being difficult.” Fat cups my face in both paws to assess her work. In the moment I’m entirely dumbfounded, Fat licks the pad of her paw and wipes something away from the corner of my eye with her saliva.

“Could you please stop doing disgusting things to my face?”

Fat doesn’t respond to my, what I consider entirely reasonable, plea. “So tell me about the guy. Where did you meet him?” She grabs one of the bigger brushes out of her waist belt and grabs a small container of blush. God I hope it’s blush. She applies whatever it is to my cheeks.

“He’s a friend of a friend. Funny. Tall.” Remember, self, minimal details are your friend here. You don’t want the cat to get the idea you want to talk. Before you know it you’ll be hugging a pillow while lying on the couch and discussing your mommy issues.

“Gangly doofus. Sounds like a winner.” She goes for my face with something that looks like a hot pink Sharpie.

“Whoa, whoa. What the hell is that?” In an effort to dodge out of her way, I come dangerously close to falling ass backward into the bathtub. I regain balance and hold tight to the off-white edge of the tub.

Her green eyes travel to regard the pen then back to meet my gaze, “Lip liner.”

“Nope. No lip liner. My people don’t do most of this stuff that you’ve attacked me with. I’m taking a stand. This much makeup is unnecessary; I’m neither a pageant queen nor auditioning for a circus. I’m going to dinner and a show tonight. We’re done here.”  I pick her up and drop her on the floor and get on my feet before she can jump back up.

“If you just give me three more minutes…”

When I look in the mirror, I’m entirely horrified. “Fat, I look like the asylum gave me a day pass.”

Only panda bears and Avril Lavigne should have eyes that look like this. The blush is so orange against my pale skin it makes me feel like my face is attempting to outdo a sunset. No is the only word that comes to mind. No. No. No. No. No. No.

“I was trying to give you a look that says, ‘No need to buy the cow’. You don’t think it’s a success?”

I grab the makeup remover wipes. Multiple wipes. A handful. Less than three will not erase the catastrophe that used to be my money maker. I bury my face in the damp cloths and rub vigorously. Paint remover may be necessary. Oh Christ, the audacity.

“Who says concubines get to have all the fun? Excuse me for giving you the Pretty Woman treatment so you can go out and bag us a rich guy.”

When my face emerges from the collection of towelettes, the formerly white cloth is now an absurd rainbow. “I’d rather have a nice guy.”

“Money talks, Boss, and it says, ‘Buy your cat some decent food so she can stop eating the drivel you consider quality.’” Fat grabs a tube of mascara and jumps beside the bathroom sink so she can see herself in the mirror. Her mouth forms an ‘O’ shape as she applies the makeup to her whiskers to make them longer and more voluminous.

I reach for my phone when it beeps. “My cat deserves to starve for what she did to my face.” I read the text, “We can continue this later. He’s parked out front, I’ve got to go.”

“You’re going out like that?” The feline meets my eye in the mirror’s reflection. “No makeup?”

“Au natural.” I nod. “At least I feel like myself.”

“I’m sure it’ll go great and he’ll want to spend all the time in the world with a looker like you. So…see you in about ten minutes?”

 

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.”

Sadism and Hygiene

“Sadist! You’re a sadist!”

Fat kangaroo-kicks me with her back legs as she tries to yank her left paw from my grip. We wrestle on the living room floor shouting expletives at each other. I feel at least a couple fresh scratches across my clavicle – they’ll match the ones that were delivered to my bicep when I was trimming the nails on her other paw. I get close to clipping another one of her talons when the grey feline sources Hulk-like strength to rip her paw from my grasp and scrambles out of my grip for the fourth time this morning. Her low-hanging belly sways side-to-side as she runs. I would rather spend eighteen hours doing intensive Crossfit in a down-filled parka than try to trim Fat’s claws. Current conditions are frustrating; we’ve seen moments of hatred throughout the day.

In a flash, the good doctor is down the hall shooting me a look of slight panic before turning into the bedroom. I trail behind and I lunge at her as I approach the bed where she’s stopped to catch her breath.

Fat scampers out of the way and across the mattress fast enough that I only graze her tail with my outstretched fingers.

“Christ, Fat. Get back here.”

“Willingly submit to torture? You must be insane if you think I’d get on board with that.” She stays low to the ground and slips past my ankles and into the hallway.

The routine is all-too familiar, a scene we’ve already played out a few times today. Fat’s ears fold backward in displeasure, and she darts through the kitchen. If feline parkour were a thing, what Fat does next would foot the bill. She runs, bounds from the leather chair to the desk and instantly leaps from the desk edge to the height of the bookshelf. She grabs hold of the high edge and kicks off the side of the shelf to boost her up to the very top. If I wasn’t so exhausted and annoyed I would have filled the apartment with applause.

Instead my reaction is: “Get back down here so I can kill you, Fat.”

“Yeah, okay, Boss. I’m all over that idea.” At least from her lazy sarcasm I can feel okay knowing that I’m not the only exhausted one here. I wheel the chair over to the shelf, bracing the glossy wood as I step onto the seat with the finesse of a senior citizen with a walker. Fat gets another wind as I reach for her and she does a Mission Impossible-style jump onto the couch, landing with momentum that propels her forward.

I groan as I step back down and violently shove the office chair aside. If Fat didn’t scratch me so much, I would have less desire to cut her nails.

As she sprints from the living room down the hall to the bedroom, Fat screams over her shoulder, “Your parents didn’t raise you right!”

Giving chase, I bellow, “I’ve been telling you that for years!”

“Clearly they saved the good parenting for the kids that showed promise. We can stop this chaotic nonsense and have a session about it.” Her words come out between huff-and-puff breaths.

“If I may quote you, Fat,” I gasp for air; my lung supply seems to be failing with all this cardio, “Willingly submit to torture? You must be insane.”

Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

The Other Side of the Door

“It’s about damn time you let me in. I’ve been waiting out there for the last forty minutes.”

“I’m aware; you haven’t shut up about it for the last forty minutes. I’m at the point where I want to kill you just to be free of your incessant requests for entry.” I clear my throat. It feels like I’ve been doing shots of glass fragments.

Fat squeezes through the few inches of open doorway before I shut the door behind her. I push the knob in and turn it to the right as the feline turns in a slow circle, taking a survey of the bathroom. Her penetrating gaze settles on my face and her eyes grow large.

“Whoa, boss. You look like shit.”

“Thanks.” I don’t want to look in the mirror. I can say with upmost certainty that I’m red-faced and puffy with mascara in all of the wrong places. I touch a spot on my jaw line. When I pull my fingertips away, they’re painted with black.

“I gotta ask, why here of all places? If I were in the middle of a breakdown, I’d rather have it in the comfort of my bedroom. At least then you can make a blanket fort.”

I resume my post: legs extended across the laminate, spine pressed against the bathroom door, ass uncomfortably numb but manageable if the alternative is leaving my fortress of solitude. Though, I suppose now it’s more the fortress of busybody feline.

“Two reasons, Fat. One,” I hold up an index finger, “It’s the only room in the apartment that I can lock to keep others out. And two,” my middle finger raises, “people seldom follow distraught others into a bathroom; nobody wants to gamble on walking in on another person dropping a deuce.”

Fat’s grey head bobs up and down with comprehension. “Sound logic, boss. Want to tell me why you’re throwing this fit of rage? What happened with Ex-Boyfriend out there?” She tosses her head in the direction of the living room beyond her shoulder.

I can feel the unsettled bile churning in my stomach. When I realize I’m still holding my hand up in the shape of an ironic peace sign, I fume. I clench it into a white-knuckled fist instead.

“He was watching my iPad last night when I was texting with a friend of mine.”

Fat settles her hindquarters on the bath mat and stares at me with inquisition.

I offer the explanation without further prompt. “My iPad is synched to my phone – texts appear on both.”

“I knew that.” Fat touts the obvious signs of pretending to be aware.

“The iCloud afforded Ex-Boyfriend a certain opportunity. I’m pretty sure you can piece together what happened.”

Fat nods, “Sure, yeah. Tale as old as time. Girl gets metaphorically sodomized by technology and in turn, girl’s trust gets metaphorically sodomized by the person who answered the door when opportunity knocked.”

“More or less, yes. Ass-raping all around.” I finally open my clenched fist to see deeply-imbedded nail prints across my palm.

“I get why you’re so hurt by that. You’re a private person…” Her words drift and Fat’s tail flips side-to-side, thudding against the bath mat in thought. “You’re like the Wizard of Oz.”

“That simile requires a little more explanation.” I really hope this isn’t going to be one of her set-ups where I end up getting insulted. Since she didn’t go for the brainless jab of comparing me to the Scarecrow, I’m definitely curious.

Fat rolls her eyes and jumps up onto the lid of the toilet. She stares at me from her perch.

“You only show people what you want them to see. It’s nobody’s business what’s behind the curtain.”

I tap my nose. I hate when she gets it because it makes me all the more frustrated those times when she doesn’t seem to.

“Sometimes you surprise me, Fat. I never think you get it, but you do.”

Fat jumps down from her porcelain podium and crawls onto my lap. My fingers get covered in her shedding coat in seconds, but I don’t care. Surprisingly, she’s giving me exactly what I need right now.

“Of course I get it. You’re my human. I’m here for you, boss.” She purrs and her eyes close as her head lolls to the side. “Just say the word. I’ll scratch the hell out of him for you.”

My Life in Limbo: A “Documentary”

“Post break-up, day seventeen. The air remains thick with frustration as well as the rotten scent of old garbage that needs to be taken out. Both camps seem to promote an ever-increasing distance while portraying to the outside world that the situation remains okay. The indigenous peoples of the fuck-my-life tribe remain unaware that we’ve managed to interpret their muted language.”

I explode into the apartment, catching only Fat’s last two sentences as her voice travels from somewhere beyond my line of vision. This phony documentary crap needs to stop immediately. My keys scratch the hall table with a forced landing and with the bowling skill of John Goodman, my gym bag travels recklessly down the hallway. It lands at the base of the scratching post and there it shall remain until I kick it nearer the laundry pile.

Fat’s glowing green eyes stare as I make my entrance into the kitchen, but the obese cat persists with her natter. She sits on the counter eyeing Ex-Boyfriend who’s watching a movie on his computer – oblivious to her monotonous droning. It is unclear as to the length of time her voice has granted sound to her observation. If I were to venture a guess, I would suppose she’s been going on for about seventeen days.

“Houseflies become abundant as both camps neglect showering and housework. They’ve silently entered a competition to establish their alpha standing through stench and decay. The local housecat grows increasingly despondent, and considers stooping to the level of using the bathtub as a litter box.”

“Fat, if you so much as joke about pissing in the tub again…”

“Calm down, boss. You know I avoid places where your gross naked body has been.”

This is true. The places she knows about anyhow. I pat her tiny head and then scratch behind her ears. My stomach rumbles, offering a silent threat that it will make my life absolutely miserable unless I fill it with some kind of carbohydrate.

A thunderous purr comes out of the feline, and her eyes close for the next few seconds until I stop petting her. “I’m just tired of all this transition business, boss. I know you are too. Normal life is impossible until he moves into his new place. This isn’t breaking news to you though.” She eyes me knowingly.

Despite my best efforts to withhold my emotions, a heavy sigh propels out of my lungs. I shoot a tired look over to my – for lack of a better word – roommate.

“You guys walk around each other like you’re both wearing inner tubes around your waists. Tell me how you seem to think this is okay.”

The plastic bag of bread crinkles as I take out two pieces and pop them in the toaster.

“We’re not walking around each other, Fat. It’s the situation we’re trying not to disturb. He’s here for another three weeks and we’ve agreed that we’re going to handle this like grownups.”

“And freezing each other out is the way to do that? We’re all living in limbo here. On a side note, I’m going to take it as a compliment that you didn’t wash your hands between petting me and handling food. Thanks.” Fat’s face leans in when I take out the butter dish. Delight warms her eyes. I flick her wet nose and a paw goes protectively to where she got hit.

“Uh… you’re welcome?” It is gross that I hadn’t considered that. No wonder her hair ends up in my food. That’s my epiphany for the day. There’s always at least one.

I peer into the toaster and see the bright orange lines turning my bread light golden brown. The decade-old appliance buzzes with age. “Breakups are weird, Fat. There’s no definitive how-to manual to deal with things. There should be though. I could write it…” My focus briefly turns inward while I consider the idea.

“Sure. Yeah. It could serve a dual purpose: how to survive a break up while simultaneously decorating your house as a pig sty.” Fat’s tone changes from a winning sales pitch to a balking jerk. “Penning a stupid advice book that won’t sell is one way to go.” Fat’s gaze slips back to the butter with longing.

“And the other way to go would be…?” The toast pops and my skeleton almost bounds out of my flesh. Even though it was expected, I’m still surprised.

“Get a limbo stick and make the best of the situation, of course. It would be great footage for my documentary.”

The Ol’ Fishin’ Hole

“You seem lighter.”

I lower my book, revealing Fat’s face. It’s difficult resisting the urge to jump with surprise at her unannounced presence. Fat’s front paws hug the edge of the couch as she stands with her back legs on the carpet. She’s close enough that I almost hit her face with the hardcover when I moved. Pity I didn’t; it would have served as a lesson to not sneak up on an old lady. And for a woman at such an advanced age, I don’t know how many beats my heart has left.

I have no idea how long she’s been beside me – my nose has been pressed inside The Night Circus for the first time in a fortnight so I’m taking full advantage of this rare quiet moment. I rest the open book across my stomach and acquiesce to the interruption.

“Thanks. I’ve been going to the gym.” I feel my non-chest puff out with pride and flex my arm muscles just because I can.

With finesse, Fat jumps up beside me.  Somehow, even though she’s much smaller than I am, she hip-checks me until I offer up a half-foot of the couch. The grey beast sprawls across the camel-coloured cushion. The Night Circus takes a tumble when she pushes me aside; I pout not only because I’ve lost my place but because I sense impending conversation with the feline. I knew I couldn’t dodge Fat forever.

“Not what I meant, boss.” She stares at my taut bicep, “You can stop that now.”

My arms deflate, once again, to jelly.

“What did you mean then?” My only compliment of the day and it was worth less than nothing. No matter. When you have a memory that reinvents itself every twelve hours, hurt feelings are generally a non-issue.

Fat shuffles over a bit more to pin my arm down with her body. I would almost swear she knew my next move was to retrieve the novel from the floor.

“It was an observation on how laid back you seem today in comparison to say, any other day as of late.” She stares deeply into my eyes as though she’s trying some form of hypnosis.

With my free hand, I grab another couch pillow and stuff it behind my shoulders so I don’t have to crane my neck so much to see her. “You know what happened, Fat.”

“I am well aware of what happened, yes. You threw away another chance at the house with the white picket fence. I’m sure there’s room for discussion there.”

My arm awkwardly pulls out from beneath her hefty frame and my hands rest behind my head. “What is so desirable about this fucking house with the white picket fence? Maybe what I want is an open-concept loft in a cool neighbourhood. Or a passport and devil-may-care relationship with Visa. Or both.”

“And Boyfriend – I suppose Ex-Boyfriend – was more into the metaphoric real estate in the suburbs. I wondered how that would all play out. If I may pull from the advice of somebody very clever, you two were operating on two very separate energy levels. Frankly, I’m surprised it lasted so long.”

“Ah Fat, the eternal optimist.” My tension may have subsided, but the pain in the ass is ever-present.

“You know I’m joking,” she turns her head to the side and stage whispers to Mutt, asleep in his dog bed, “half joking anyways.”

Her head turns back to me with a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth smile. “What happens now? He clearly hasn’t moved out yet.” Her voice returns to a loud whisper, though I can’t figure out why she’s whispering, “Unless you’re keeping those guitars.”

“I’m not an asshole, Fat.” I eye her with apprehension, “There are logistics to figure out still. He’ll move out when he finds a place. We’re keeping it amicable. I just don’t want the kind of relationship he wants. If I may be cliché, I’m a lone wolf.”

“More of a sport fisherman.” Fat’s hind legs kick me until I roll on my side and relinquish more space for her fat self on the couch.

“Fisherwoman.” There’s a moment of silence where I realize that I don’t actually understand what she means; I’m just inclined to be contrary in spite of comprehension. “Wait, what?”

“Fish in a bowl lead boring lives. You’re all about catch and release and the stories that accompany each one you reel in. You need the fight.” Her paws stretch out a great distance from one another. “Remember the time you caught one that was this big? He was almost too big for the ol’ fishin’ hole.”

I laugh because I’m immature and find dick jokes hilarious and then stop abruptly because my slow brain belatedly realizes what she called my vagina. “Too far, Fat. Too far.”

“I’m just here to let you know I’m here for you.”

“You’re always here for me. You never go away.” I reach over the feline’s body to grab my book off the floor. “Thanks for checking in, Fat. I’m fine.” I start flipping through the pages to find where it was that I left off.

“Yes. Good. You read. I’m just going to sit here and think of other relevant fishing-related anecdotes. Stay tuned for something about a snapper, fishing pole and chum.”

Oh goody for me.

A Feline’s Idea of Playtime

“Can’t help but notice that you don’t play like that with me.”

The back of my neck prickles with familiarity when Fat’s resentful voice echoes a similar point of contention Boyfriend recently brought up. I look over, and she smiles at me innocently, seemingly unaware of my mental association to her complaint. Coincidence, I suppose.

Fat sits directly in front of the television; her grey head obstructs the rerun of RuPaul’s Drag race that plays on a low volume. The sound of queens throwing some shade should be in the background of everyone’s houses all the time. It’s that entertaining. I live to watch Snatch Game.

Fat leers while I play tug-of-war with Mutt on the living room floor. I offer cruel taunts while his white tail flicks from side-to-side like Dr. Seuss’ metronome.  He smiles his doofus canine grin as he grips the end of the rope between his teeth. My hold on the frayed ends loosens enough to let him think he’s actually going to pull it out of my hands.

“Fat, I play with you all the time.” Just when Mutt thinks he’s about to take the rope from me, I yank it quickly out of his mouth. “Getting slow in your old age, Mutt.”

“I suppose mind games count as playing. Although, you’re more of an unwilling participant than anything else.” The bright colours of the television show behind Fat do nothing to distract her. She squints at the dog as if to gesture with her gaze. “You don’t do any of this stuff with me.”

“Okay, fine.” I look around and see a pink tennis ball tucked into the corner where the bookshelf intersects with the wall. After a backward summersault to get within reaching distance, I have the neon ball in my grasp. “Here, Fat. Go get it.” A flash of pink sails across the living room, down the hallway and hits the apartment’s front door with a rubbery thwack sound. Fat watches until it’s out of her line of sight. I hold tight to Mutt’s collar so he won’t race after it like he wants to.

She sighs, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Go. Fetch.” I point as the ball stops bouncing and slows to a lazy roll. “Bring it back and I’ll throw it for you again.”

“No. That seems stupid.”

Mutt starts whining and I let him go so he can chase the ball. He trips over his clumsy feet because of his excitement and once the sphere has been retrieved, Mutt victoriously trots under the desk with the pink tennis ball in his mouth. I love that it doesn’t take much to make him happy, not like the feline.

I try to contain my exasperation. “Of course it’s stupid. Have you met Mutt? You were the one that said you wanted me to play with you. That’s how Mutt and I play. Pardon me, your highness. What did you have in mind?”

“Actually, nothing. I’m probably just going to nap.” Fat stares in the direction of the kitchen and the room goes quiet with the exception of RuPaul’s girls sassing each other. “Maybe you should make a cup of tea for yourself and Boyfriend. It might be a nice peace offering.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, trying to figure out where she’s going with this. The idea seemed to come out of nowhere. Tea is always a good idea though.

I push off the ground and Fat follows me into the kitchen. I turn the kettle on and grab two mugs from the cupboard. I set the plain red one to the left of my fancy teal mug. As I flip through the containers of David’s tea, Fat stares at the mugs.

I follow the line from her focused eyes to my mug; she doesn’t even glance at Boyfriend’s. “What, Fat?”

“Just interesting.”

“Sure.” I flip through until I find the chocolate tea and nearly slam the container on the counter. I drum my fingers on the tea container until the question bursts out of me like projectile vomit. “What is interesting?”

Her head tilts in the direction of my mug, “As with everything else, you always have to be right.”

Spitefully, I move my mug to the other side of the red one.

Fat smiles, but it’s a definite evil grin this time. She plays with her whiskers in the manner a cartoon villain would twirl his moustache. This move of mine clearly entertains her.

“Thanks for the playtime, boss. Enjoy your tea.”

Different Kinds of Liars

Since I’m a skeptical person I would call your cat out as
the cappuccino 
wasn’t really that common until the 1950’s.
And in fact didn’t even exist until the 1930’s…

I look up from the Facebook message on my phone and scan the room until I see the fat feline curled into a ball as sleeping on top of her scratch post. This message contradicts what she told me just the other day.

“Hey. Wake up, liar.” I grab Mutt’s green stuffed dog off the floor and whip it with the force of a MLB pitcher in her direction. It hits the wall behind her and the wall-mounted candle holders shift from the impact. The fact that they don’t fall off the wall makes me feel proud of my DIY skills. The alien dog ricochets, landing cozily on Fat’s hip.

She stirs and opens one eye to look in my direction.

“See this?” I hold up my phone from my nook in the couch, flashing the screen at her.

Fat speaks through a yawn. “You’ve had that phone for two years. Cavemen have better technology. Time to stop being proud of that thing.”

I keep the phone extended, “Read the message, dumb ass.”

“Boss, a couple things,” Fat rolls onto her stomach and her second eye opens, “One, that screen that’s causing you to act a fool is blank.”

I flip the iPhone over in my hand; the screen is black. I punch in my passcode and the words light up again. I turn the message back in Fat’s direction. She doesn’t even pretend to look at it.

“And two, I know I’m so awesome you think I’m bionic, but nobody can read those piddily words from fifteen feet away. For all I can tell, you’re showing me some kind of internet porn.”

I read aloud the message from Aaron and try not to lose my patience when she interrupts by ripping her claws into the scratching post.

“You seem remarkably cavalier for a liar.”

Fat’s claws dig deep into the post as she stretches out, ass pointed into the air. “Quite the majestic high horse you ride on, boss. Clydesdale, is it?”

I toss the iPhone onto the wood coffee table. “What are you getting at, Fat?”

“I just find it interesting that you’re quick to call me a liar when you’ve done some damn fine work to decorate this apartment with lies.” She finally sits, regally atop her worn post. She looks at the Remington typewriter that sits on the cupboard above my desk and the framed tin ceiling tiles on the walls. “Well, lies and old lady shit. Boyfriend really buys this charade, huh?”

“I like my old lady shit, thank you.” My arms cross over my chest. I don’t lie. Can’t, actually. Too many tells. It would have been a waste of my time to learn to play poker.

Fat clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “I know what you’re doing.” She shakes her head. “You always do this, anytime somebody steers the conversation somewhere you don’t want to go you subtly relocate the conversation to different ground. You, boss,” the feline smiles, “are like a magnet on a compass.”

“What does that even mean?”

Fat’s green eyes brighten as if I’d proven something, “See? Doing it again. Tricky, tricky.” Fat’s fangs show just slightly. She jumps down, races across the floor and Fat hops up gracefully onto the coffee table.

“What’s this, then?” Her eyes skim over the black and white news print.

“The paper.” I try to sound as obvious as possible.

“Something seems odd about it though… this is the paper you brought into the apartment today?”

She knows.

“It’s funny, some of the words that are in here – t hey don’t even seem like words at all.”

She’s just dragging this out to hurt me.

“I have to hand it to you, boss. I never thought you could finish a crossword puzzle all on your own.”

I can’t. I’ve come close and failed time and time again.

“If somebody, say, Boyfriend, were to come into the room and see all the squares filled in with letters, that somebody might think that you managed to figure out all the answers. One generally doesn’t look too closely.” Her eyes skim over a clue and she reads the word that I’ve written vertically. “OZYMET. Where in the world did you hear of that? College?”

“It’s a…” I lean in an attempt to read the clue and come up with something that sounds both feasible and works with the written hint, “type of Polynesian…suit…for…tib-en-dor…fff…” I can’t lean any further without falling over.

“One more time with feeling. Maybe skip the random syllables you added at the end.”

“I’m feeling hungry. Fat, are you hungry?” Damn it. I am a magnet on a compass.

Fat brightens, and the metaphorical interrogation light dims. “Starving.”

We both rise and she trails behind as I walk into the kitchen.

The kibble fills her bowl with tinny sounds. She speaks between enormous bites.

“Lying by omission is still lying. Love the placement of Faulkner and Burroughs on your bookshelf, by the way. Evidence of intelligence. Brilliant, boss. Just brilliant.”

Muted Logic and Amplified Stupidity

“You think this shit is the Lion King? Stop this nonsense and put me down.” Fat’s ears flatten with displeasure as I hold her up by the armpits so she can look out the glass door of the patio.

Instead of acquiescing to the feline’s request, I sling one arm around her and press Fat next to my armpit like a football. The talons of her back feet dig into my hip as I point out the window. Through the torrent of rain and just beyond the sidewalk on the other side of the street is a portly man scrambling after a French bulldog puppy. The little white dog’s tail wags as the man tries his best to catch him. A leash trails from the dog’s collar as he bounds across the soggy grass obviously delighted with the game he thinks they’re playing.

“You asked what made me laugh. Well, there you go.” My nail taps against the glass.

Fat’s back legs relax and she lets me hold her without a fuss. She stares, perplexed as the puppy outmanoeuvres the middle-aged man.

“Would you look at that little fucker bob and weave. You’d think he was part boxer.” Fat turns to flash me a satisfied smile, “See what I did there?”

“Dog joke. Clever.” I don’t smile back. She doesn’t need the encouragement. I have no connection to this man, yet I’m really rooting for him to snare that dog and get out of the rain.

Fat’s eyes are still on my face, “I’m not certain I understand or particularly enjoy the look on your face right now.”

“It’s called hope, Fat. I would really like to see him catch his dog. He seems nice.”

“Do you say that on account of the jolly Kris Kringle physique?” Fat’s grey head slowly turns to look out the window just in time to see the fellow’s foot stomp on the end of the leash.

You go, fifty-or-so-year-old-man. I’m proud of you. He bends and gets a good grip on the end of the leash and takes off, having to pull the pup along a few paces until the dog is made aware that playtime is over and it’s time to go.

“No. Because he’s a dog owner. That’s how you can tell.”

“…tell that he’s a nice person you mean?” Fat squints and watches the man and his pet briskly walk down the street, rushing to get somewhere dry. “Do you have any evidence to support this claim?”

“I have a dog. I’m a nice person.” Fat squirms until I release her from my grip.

She jumps up on the piano bench. “That solves the mystery,” She amplifies her sarcasm as though I’m slow and wouldn’t understand otherwise. “If anything it just proves that any idiot can own a dog.”

I suppose that’s… true? Though, in my own defense, I’m not an idiot I just make bad decisions sometimes. I draw the curtains and turn on the living room lamp. A warm glow takes over the room.

“Any other unfounded wisdom you’d like me to dispel for you? I have no plans tonight. Come on, boss. Tell me another.” The way she sits on the bench I expect her to lift her paws to the ivory keys and lay down some Chopin.

She has this weird power over me that I can’t help but do as she says. “Gangsters don’t drink cappuccinos.” It lacks a certain level of danger and undermines a tough exterior. Let’s see you prove that one wrong, kitty.

She turns to look at me over her shoulder, eyebrows arched in a way that makes me feel stupid. “Really? Who do you think invented them? Italian mobsters brought them to this country in 1868 because they needed a beverage that wouldn’t impair their judgement when it came to conducting business and,” her voice gets hoarse as she mimics the Godfather, “lookin’ out for the family.”

She came up with that far too quickly for it to be a lie – didn’t lose eye contact with me either. Fat does read a lot. It must be true. The look she offers invites me to challenge her history lesson or come up with another fact to convince her of any sound logic in my possession.

“The tell-tale sign of a pirate isn’t a Jolly Roger tattoo, a peg leg, or saying ‘Arr’; it’s a captain hook hand. The only people in history known to have hooks for hands are pirates.” My arms cross over my chest, challenging her to unravel that pearl of wisdom.

“Or serial killers.”

Damn it. I must be more stupid than I thought. I feel my mouth open with the intention to say something, but all my words have disbanded and I’m left in the living room looking like a guppy.

“I bet you thought of the two of us you were the creature of higher intelligence.” Fat turns back to the piano and her paws lift and fall on the keys, playing the familiar three-note tune of the plot thickening. “Dun Dun Duhhhhhh”

“Hearing you play the music was enough, Fat. I don’t need you to say it too.”

“Can’t blame me for thinking I have to spell it out for you.”