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?”

 

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.”

Office Hours: The Groom of Childhood Past

“You couldn’t seem more unenthused to be here.”

“That’s because I was getting all set up for an afternoon nap when you rolled in wearing those on your face.” I point to the unprescribed wire glasses across the bridge of the feline’s nose; the plastic Santa in the hall closet looks unfinished without them.

I pout, “Fat, conditions are perfect. The television is at that prime lullaby level.” We both strain to hear the familiar sounds of an ancient Friends episode on the Slice network. “There’s a gentle breeze coming in through the patio door. I’m entirely comfortable.” I’m in the fetal position tucked in my couch nook with a pillow between my knees to properly align my spine. “And then you show up.” One of my hands forms an unamused-but-nonviolent fist.

“I had a thought.” Four words from the cat’s mouth and my brain already hurts.

I don’t cover my mouth when I yawn. “Oh yeah? It must have been important for you to scuttle all the way in here from the bedroom. I’m surprised you’re not wheezing from that cardio.”

The good doctor feigns amusement at my comment before unveiling her tremendous realization: “I never knew you as a child.”

“That’s hardly a revelation, Fat. I didn’t get you from the SPCA until I was in my twenties.” The couch pillow between my hand and my head has flattened and I can almost make out the feeling of each individual finger against my cheek. If I don’t pass out soon, I’m going to need to fluff up the pillow – it’ll become a whole thing; I’ll have to sit up and from there I’ll probably just give up on catching some afternoon winks.

“Were you a happy kid?”

I fight the urge to break out into another yawn. “Happy enough. Sure.”

Fat looks at me sideways as though she’s not satisfied with my effort to answer the questions. “Was your imagination as rampant as it is now, or did it grow as your chemical balance shifted?”

It takes a few seconds for my eyes to open from a blink. I answer with a rhetorical, “What do you think?”

She already has another question in the holster and it fires out. “Did you ever have a fake wedding with a boy on the playground when you were in elementary school?”

My lips purse in genuine thought, “Hmmm. No, I actually didn’t. I played house with a boy who lived on my street. That’s pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?” I think back to my seven-year-old self and the Christian lad from across the way.

“Played house? Like make-believe common-law?” Fat’s eyes narrow as though missing a key part of understanding what I mean.

I shake my head. “No. We were married. Surprisingly, I remember Jacob referring to me as his wife. He’d always be in our pretend house, but I would never make it home because I was much happier and far too busy with my imaginary job. My absence didn’t make him a particularly happy childhood husband. We didn’t last long as a fake married couple.” The moment I say the words, my half-closed eyes open wide and I stare at the feline as she rests her mouth against a paw. “Fat, don’t read into that. Please.”

“I haven’t said anything.”

“I just wanted to nap…”

The whispered voices of Ross and Monica blur the sound of silence that follows. I should have just pretended to be sleeping when the cat gallivanted into the room. My perfect nap conditions are officially ruined.

Fat lays her spectacles on the coffee table beside her tail. “Boss, is it fair to suppose that you are incapable of change? It may have something to do with the fact that you’re alone–”

I interrupt to spare us both a subject that I’m getting tired of defending. “Fat, change is something one gives to the homeless.”

“Deflecting won’t help you here. Your childhood pretend-husband abandoned you because you were unavailable to him. That’s got to hurt.”

“Aren’t hurt feelings supposed to be soothed with a gift of casserole or dessert or something? I wasn’t devastated then, and I maintain that position.” It’s a good thing that childhood divorces were literally as simple as, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’; there was no shame if you couldn’t make it work. I’d forgotten all about Jacob – there were never any genuine feelings there; playing house was just a way to pass the time. He got legitimately married a few years ago to a girl who – I assume – is a great housewife and mother.

As I lie on the couch, still in my nap-stance, I feel her intense stare on the side of my face as I make comparisons to myself as a pretend bride. My independence was only an issue back then because Jacob wasn’t the right pretend husband, right?

After a few seconds of the television bringing the only conversation into the room, Fat speaks. “I love when you do all the work inside your head and I still get to call these billable hours.”

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.”

Surviving the Flood

“Coffee incident!” I scream like I’m in a bad teen horror movie and it’s my turn to die. The hot liquid races across the desk, attempting to consume everything in its path. My oafish hands do what they can to stave off the coffee and save the insightful anecdotes I’d scribbled throughout the workday on random post-its. The one that reads, ‘You are what you eat: ginger eats ginger” is lost to the caffeinated monster. I’d obviously written that little gem before consciousness kicked in around lunch; it seemed clever at the time, but now reads like a porn title. The small square of pale yellow transforms into brown mess. Better to sacrifice the idiot thoughts and save the intelligent ones.

“I ate too much. My hearteries hurt.” Fat’s whiny voice sounds like it’s coming from the couch, but I can’t waste precious seconds to see if that’s true.

“Arteries, dumb ass. Not hearteries.” The annoyance contributes to the line that’s been slowly etching its permanence into my forehead. “Coffee incident!” I repeat the words with more volume and urgency as I do my damnedest to keep a hold on the books, computer and notes from the desktop. I panic and start saving random things that don’t require rescue: the now-empty coffee cup, an unopened bag of corn chips, thumb tacks. I’m not good in stressful situations. I just hope that prohibition never gets reinstated; I don’t know how I’d fare without my coping mechanism.

Boyfriend runs into the room, as a hero should, grabs a dish towel and tends to my mess. Tense seconds go by and I wonder if there will be any post-it note survivors. Boyfriend hides the remains. I’ve had enough trauma, it’s better to let the thoughts be free than mourn their demise. After close inspection of the surface, I tentatively set my pile of paper and electronics back down. Boyfriend dutifully disappears back into the bedroom to let me continue with my fictional nonsense.

“You know,” Fat kneads the arm of the couch as she buts in, “Yelling ‘Coffee incident’ until the calvary arrives to tend to your spillage issues doesn’t constitute cleaning up after yourself. You need to altar your behaviour.”

“Alter. Altar is a religious thing.” I correct without thinking. “My hands were clearly full. You saw. What else was I supposed to do?”

“Act like a grownup and figure it out for yourself. Use those brains you’re always trying to convince me you have.”

I begin to unstack my notebooks and paper from the unstable tower on the desk. I’m at a loss for rebuttal so I pretend I didn’t hear her.

“He says you’re difficult, you know.” Fat stops pawing the cushion and settles in, resting her head on her front arm. I don’t need to ask who she’s talking about. He just left the room.

“That’s not breaking news, he’s said that to my face.”

“Forgive me for being a bit of a septic, but I’m not certain I believe that. Did he call you anal retentive to your face too?” Fat’s eyes close, as though the conversation is over and it is time for a nap to commence. That’s a good move. I’ll have to steal that the next time I need an out. It’s the perfect balance of bitchy and cute; it’s a difficult hybrid to get away with.

“Skeptic.” I pause, finally realizing what she’s been doing. “You ass hat.”

 

Parenting Tactics of a Non-Mom

“This is going to do terrible things to Boyfriend’s uterus.” Fat sits on my lap as we stare at him playing with my eighteen-month-old godson, Jonah. “If his biological clock wasn’t ticking before…”

My nostrils flare out. I wish I had more control over my external responses. “This is terrible.” I shake my head. This is exactly how people get ideas about procreation. Introduce the perfect child to a want-to-be parent and thoughts begin to grow. Jonah is such a cute, well-behaved, clumsily hilarious baby – this stupid kid is going to ruin my life.

Fat and I watch, both appalled at the sheer enjoyment on Boyfriend’s face as he throws Jonah up into the air. Both the child and the man squeal like they’re estrogen-enriched. In unison, Fat and I shake our heads. I feign a dry-heave and Fat offers a judgemental, “Tsk tsk.” I scratch behind her ears. Good kitty.

“Get ready to have the talk with him after the parents come to retrieve their litter.”

“That’s not what it’s called for humans, Fat. We don’t birth in bulk nearly as often as your species.” I pet the length of her spine and she does that weird ass-in-the-air thing that cats do when you pet them just right. “Bet you fifty bucks his first sentence after the kid is gone has to do with us having children.”

His phone rings in the bedroom and Boyfriend leaves to go answer it.

“You’re on, boss. Except that will be his second sentence. His first will be some kind of comment about this specific child. You shouldn’t bet on human behaviour against a therapist.”

“Tanta, Tanta!” Jonah’s exuberance shows in his happy feet as he runs across the room with the tap-dancing finesse of Fred Astaire. That might be an oversell, but he moves quick, Fat jumps out of the way before the toddler collides into my knees. He laughs, and a gross line of drool flows out of his mouth and pools onto my jeans.

“As cute as you are disgusting.” I grab him under my arm like a football and grab a wet wipe from the diaper bag.

“I know what you’re thinking, Fat. I didn’t want to be called Auntie, so I opted for Tanta.” Fat follows behind us at a leisurely feline pace.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Kitty.” Jonah points as Fat jumps up on the desk beside the neon green bag that is so bright I try not to look at it directly; I don’t want to risk damaging my retinas. The kid he hangs like a stuntman under my arm and flops around, arching his back at impossible angles to avoid the wet wipe to the face.

“Stay still. Stop. Stop this.” I end up dropping to my knees and putting Jonah in a baby headlock. “They should come out with a line of chloroform wipes for children. They’ll be clean and well-behaved. After all, they are even cuter when they’re unconscious. I’m sure any parent would agree.”

“You’re really good at this.” Fat cringes when I haphazardly throw the wipe and it lands beside her. “Maybe you should consider growing your own.”

“I’m not really into science projects, Fat.” I set the kid down and he tap-dances over to a plastic track with a ball fixed to a track and a scratch pad in the middle. Jonah reaches out and even with a gentle touch, gives the ball enough force to go around the track a couple times.

“That’s mine! Don’t let that slobbery miniature human touch my things!” Fat’s hair stands on end and her claws dig into the carpet with her displeasure. Her eyes fixate on the small white ball; it’s hard to take her outburst seriously when her head follows the circular motion of the toy’s movement.

Boyfriend comes back in the room and sees a familiar car out the window. “Mom and Dad are back. I’ll run him out to them.” Boyfriend scoops the tyke up into his arms and grabs the diaper bag and Jonah’s coat. Fat scuttles over and sits on the cardboard scratch pad on the cat toy as if to assert her ownership.

“Later, M.B.” I get up to give him a quick hug and the little bastard plants a wet kiss on the side of my face.

After they leave, Fat looks up at me as I wipe the slobber from my face. “M.B. as in…?”

“Mini Bestie, of course.”

Fat nods. “Right. Right. For future reference, he is never to touch my things.”

“Sure, Fat. Sure.”

We turn when we hear the door open and shut. Boyfriend smiles contentedly as he kicks off his shoes. “Isn’t he the best? I can’t wait until we have kids of our own.”

Fat’s displeasure instantly morphs into a winner’s smile. Looks like I’m out fifty bucks.

Pet Names For Humans

“Don’t call me that again.” A sugary sweet smile forces itself across my face. I wave at Boyfriend as a means to excuse him and sent him off to work. The door shuts behind him and I press my spine to the back of it. My head eases backward and clunks against the peephole instead of gently resting against the wood like I was anticipating.

“I’m so happy that I was here to witness that. That’s a much better goodbye than the warm ‘love you’ that most couples half-assedly throw out as they venture off to work. You sure started Boyfriend’s birthday off right.” Fat sits on the green hall table as though it’s a throne. The delight is painted across her face like clown makeup. Bright light from the hallway skews the feline demon’s shadow on the wall. Her tail flicks with evil contentment as she observes my expression. I know my forehead is wrinkled and I am colossally aware that my mouth has formed the classic pursed lips which signal girlfriend discontent.

“Did I say something you didn’t care for,” I know the dramatic pause she takes is just to punctuate the next word, “Honeybear?”

The automatic reaction is for my arms to cross over my chest and deepen my stink face. I look over my shoulder as though the door isn’t there and I’m staring at the foul moment from fifteen seconds previous when Boyfriend called me that wretched name. I don’t, nor have I ever, dabbled in cutesy.

My thumb points in the direction where Boyfriend of fifteen seconds prior almost spoke his last words meant for this earth. “So that actually happened and I didn’t imagine it? Such a shame.” I shake my head. “Pet names? That’s not a prerequisite of a long-term relationship, is it? Because I don’t have enough bile in me to spew all over that situation.”

“I would think that you would be a lot more grateful that somebody out there tolerates you, let alone loves you. I, for one, am tremendously surprised. You were well on your way to becoming a crazy cat lady and he came along and ruined it for me.” She stops, fumbling to rephrase when she realizes she used the wrong word, “ruined it for you.” He grey paw jabs outward to punctuate who she means.

The lock clicks loudly when I turn the bolt in the door. The bad girlfriend ghost can stay in the apartment hallway.

“Why does it bother you so much, anyways?” Fat cocks her head to the side. Were I not accustomed to her, I might have found this cute, however, I’m all too aware that she’s fishing for me to discuss my feelings. That’s generally my no-no zone.

“Clearly, you have never had a pet name you hated.” I scoff as I dig my umbrella out of the closet. It’s typical Vancouver outside, and I’m not willing to forget my bumbershoot two days in a row.

“Really?” Her voice is suddenly sharp and there’s an edge to her voice that’s punctuated by a gentle sarcastic hiss. “You call me Fat and I have no idea what a terrible pet name is like? You’re absolutely right. I don’t understand at all.”

“You’re not my audience. You don’t get it. That’s something else entirely.” Frankly, I forgot that I gave her a real name when I brought her home from the shelter. One botched ovariohysterectomy can change a name in an instant.

“C’mon, boss. You’ve liked pet names in the past, haven’t you?” Fat, displeased with lack of space on her perch, shoves a candle off the side of the table and onto the carpet. Neither of us acknowledge the candle in its new habitat.

I dust off the memory bank and search the archives from a decade prior. I stifle a laugh. I’d long since forgotten one particular pet name I had from a past life. “Hot Pocket. But to my credit, that was an era where I was stoned all the time and hot pockets were the munchie of choice.” Ah, youth. To my cardiovascular system, I do apologize but at I did not and do not regret it.

“Do you think maybe Boyfriend called you Honeybear because you add honey to your tea from that bear-shaped bottle? I noticed something that came up a few times when I was reviewing your case file. I dare suggest, but you might have issues with affection and intimacy, boss.”

My eyes lock in the space directly in front of them. I try to rationalize like Fat tells me. I do like honey in my tea. I’m not a fan of that juvenile bottle though; it’s slightly preposterous. Bears enjoy eating elk too, doesn’t mean there are bottles of elk innards in a bear-shaped bottle out there. At least, God I hope not. I’m getting a little off the tracks, affection issues? Perhaps. I don’t know. I wasn’t aware my dislike of a stupid name could be translated as such. I prop the umbrella against the door as a reminder as I don my thinking face.

I dissect the idea as much as I can on my own, getting frustrated that she made me take a step back and acknowledge my behaviour. Ignorance is my favourite state after California. Was the proper human response to just accept the pet name with reluctant grace and live with it indefinitely? “Nope. Cant’ do it. ‘Honeybear’ lives and dies today, Fat.”

“How nice that you get to veto a pet name. Apparently ‘Fat’ will continue to stick around…”

This is as Tall as I Get, I can’t Grow Up Anymore

“Did I just watch you have a legitimate four-minute conversation wherein you played both the part of yourself as well as that of the comically large mug in your hands?”

I follow the sound of Fat’s voice and see the cat smirking beside the box of cereal on top of the fridge.

My mouth recreates the letter ‘O’ as my body turns to statue. Why do I never think to sweep the area for a mocking cat before I allow the stupid part of my personality to man the helm? This is officially the moment I vow to never again consider it a good idea to put the dishes away; henceforth I shall let them stay in the dish rack for an indefinite number of tomorrows. I grip the handle of the mug tightly. As stupid is already in charge of my actions, stupid continues to make me look like an idiot. Maybe it’s because I saw Tommy Boy a few too many times growing up that acting like a buffoon is ingrained in my head as acceptable and sane behaviour. The mug raises to my mouth and I speak into it as though it’s a megaphone. Just to punctuate the echo, I force my voice into a deeper octave. “You can’t prove anything, unevolved feline.”

“So you are not, in fact, willing to come clean about using the phrase, ‘le hoot. I ‘ave to get zis baret ‘ome to my leetle owling. He love eet.’?” Fat mimics my poor, phony accent rather well. The look she gives me takes the place of two words: Gotcha, Sucka.

Instantly, I lower the giant mug and point at the cartoon birds in a tree. Fat doesn’t seem to get it. “No, see the picture. They’re owls that live in France. Note the Eiffel Tower and cafe in the background. And see this one, he’s looking quite sharp; his neck scarf actually matches his baret–”

“I don’t think you ever left pre-kindergarten. Does the game of pretend ever end with you?” The question isn’t rude – the interruption is – the question, however,  stems from a genuinely curious place.

I return the mug back to the dish rack, needing to adjust it on top of the other dishes so it doesn’t succumb to gravity and kill the French owls. After I’m satisfied the mug will remain in place, I face Fat with my hands on my hips. “Oh please, Fat. You can’t possibly be calling me immature.”

Her head tilts to the side in an I’m-not-sure-you-want-to-play-this-game kind of way.

“Out with it, doc. You seem to have the opinion that I lack the capacity to behave like an adult.”

Fat licks the sides of her mouth as if weighing the merits of saying something or keeping it to herself. “Very well,” she jumps down from the fridge onto the kitchen counter and stares at me with scrutiny. “Are you aware that every morning when you cover up your hideous face with one that looks human, the compact powder brush inevitably ends up becoming a momentary moustache in your hands?” At first I thought it was some kind of freaky below-the-surface Hitler fascination, but the more I observe, it would seem as more of a Charlie Chaplin homage.”

This revelation rings no bells; she’s clearly fucking with me. It seems like it should be a compliment of sorts as Charlie Chaplin was one delicious silent man, but is she accusing me of wanting to be a delicious silent man? I’m rather fond of the fact that my ovaries are on the inside. Crap, I’m letting her get into my head and make me overthink everything. “Fat, I know it’s killing you to have a normal person as your owner, but you need to stop trying to make me think I act like a lunatic just so you can practice your self-appointed shrink business on me. Get a hobby.”

Fat wets a paw with her saliva and rubs it behind one of her ears. “If that is how you choose to see it…” She lets the sentence drift into space.

I lean my back against the counter and the action somehow jostles the mug free of the dish rack and the French owls fly the coop.  The loud sound of the mug hitting the counter makes the small hairs on my arms stand at attention. “God damn birds with your freaky, flappy wings!” I yell as I pick up the now-chipped mug. In spite of this new imperfection, the mug is unharmed and still functional. As I don’t want to take another gamble with gravity and putting the cup in the cupboard is a whole ordeal, I put the mug in the sink.

“Maybe the writer aspiration makes sense after all.” Fat muses as she watches my physical exasperation with the coffee cup. “Fiction, obviously. You, boss, are not meant for the real world – you signed off on practicality long ago.”

As I’m not certain how to take this, I just assume she means it as a compliment.

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An Untranslatable Love Language of Jackass Proportions

“Seriously, what is this thing? Be you bovine, sir?”

I swivel in my chair to see Fat near the living room window almost nose-to-nose with the snoozing Mutt.

“He’s a dog, Fat. Hardly bovine.”

Her nose creeps closer to his face and Fat’s eyes squint at Mutt’s floppy ears. “How can you be sure he’s a dog? He certainly is ugly. You’re right though, he’s not bovine – he’s missing horns and/or an udder to be considered part of that herd.” Her tone turns playful, “Aren’t you? Who’s a gross dog?”

Mutt doesn’t open his eyes, but his tail wags in response to Fat’s teasing. I hope his display of happiness is a reaction to a delightful dream and not a response to Fat. She can’t exert mind games on two of us. That would be six different kinds of cruel and unfair.

“Mutt, you idiot.” My feet propel me with just enough force to spin the chair around and face the computer.

“You’re going to need to explain his species a bit further.”

I jump. Damn her padded paw prints. I can never hear her coming and it’s too late to escape. Now she’s here sitting next to me on the desk, appearing out of nowhere like a cartoon villain.

“He’s one part chihuahua–”

“Ay, chihuahua.”

I wave my hand in her face hoping it will serve as an informal cease and desist order. “That’s not necessary. As I was saying, he’s one part chihuaha–”

“And three parts hideous monster.”

I sigh and try to refocus on a revision I’ve been working on for many moons. My left hand rests on the side of my face in a polite effort to ignore the meowing creature tucked neatly into my peripheral who does not take kindly to being ignored.

“Hey, dummy. Pay attention to me when I’m talking to you.”

I click save and forcefully lean backward on my chair, folding my hands in my lap before she sees it as space that needs to be occupied. “Do you know what today is Fat?”

“Wedne–”

“Anti-Bullying Day.” It feels pretty good to interrupt her for a change. Take that, feline menace.

“Auntie Bullying Day? You going to call up your auntie and say hateful things over the phone? Are you trying to seduce me with a house cat/owner bonding experience? Sold. Get her on the horn. Being that I’m so good at it, you want I should feed you some lines like an asshole Cyrano?”

My fingers rub my temples. She’s just being the feline she was when you chose to bring her home from the SPCA. You can’t be upset with her lack of understanding anything to do with tolerance. I visualize an intense tennis match at Wimbledon where Fat replaces the tennis ball. She’s spherical enough. My imagination makes me feel instantly better.

“No, moron. Today is about rallying against bullying.”

Fat nods. “I see you take the message to heart. Kind of a practice what you preach kind of thing you’re serving me here.”

“What?” I’ve misunderstood her dry tone completely. “People wear pink shirts as a symbol of standing up to bullies.”

“So where’s yours?” Fat gives me the once over. “All I see is a black shirt covering albino skin.”

“I only have one pink shirt, Fat, and it’s not exactly appropriate. It’s got my catch phrase from when I was in my early twenties. Actually I think you would really appreciate it.” I push with my feet again and the chair rolls away from the desk.  Fat jumps down but doesn’t follow when I go to the bedroom and fetch the hoodie from the back of my closet.

“When you leave a room, bitch, the polite thing to do is excuse yourself.”

Gone for literally fourteen seconds and this is the response I get upon my return. I bend down to give her my most hateful I-will-bury-you-alive glare. Fat doesn’t wince. I hate not being taken seriously.

I snap, “Hey. You are in a bully free zone.” My hands wave wildly in all directions as if to illustrate the boundaries.

Fat stays quiet for a few long seconds to let my anger diffuse. She steps two and a half feet closer to the hallway. “How about here? Can I call you a bitch here?”

“Bully. Free. Zone.” I feel the erosion of my molars as I clench my teeth.

“How far away to I have to go for that not to be in effect? Maybe we should rope off the areas of the apartment that are bully zones. If we could make them by the food dish and over by my cat post those would be the most convenient for me. Where do you want yours? Then we would both know the zones where we can…” Her sentence loses its end as her gaze shifts to the pale pink bundle in my hands. “Let me see it.”

I hold it up and watch her eyes skim over the words. I watch her melt to the floor and roll on her back; her tiny claws extend in the air with the passion of a mime reciting a love poem. These are the moments that are worth the back and forth struggle between us; her capacity to be cute has saved her life on a multitude of occasions.

“I must have it.”

“I’m not giving this to you because you demand it,” I smile and toss the sweater over to Fat. “Here you are, half-wit. It’s all yours.”

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Curse Words in the Kitchen

“Your mother clearly didn’t raise you right. I should film this.” Fat perches on the edge of the computer desk and watches me while I turn the kitchen into what looks like a Tasmanian devil mating ground. The feline brushes her paw against her jaw line, “Hey dumb ass, you’ve got a little something there.”

“Huh?” I crouch in front of a lower cupboard shoving pots back inside haphazardly. It’s so hot in here; it’s menopausal woman spending a summer’s day at the equator kind of hot. I can’t guarantee that the cookware is free of perspiration – the magical combination of my busted-ass oven and inept culinary skills have created a portal to the surface of the sun. I have no desire to open that oven door again. I’m not so much worried about the sweat on the pots so much as I am about whatever dirt coats my Fred Flintstone feet, but I’m at that fuck-it stage of the whole process. If I’m being completely honest with myself, the next time these pots are used for cooking and not accidental indoor soccer, forty thousand other domestic debacles will have erased this particular incident from memory. With violent and brute force, the cupboard door slams shut. The back of my wrist wipes the side of my face, and this is how I discover the flour that Fat was trying so graciously to point out.

I hear the gentle thud of Fat jumping off the desk. Oh hooray, the lumpy feline with the loud opinion is coming to get a closer look.

“Let me see if I understand,” Fat attempts to stifle a laugh by playing it off as a cough, “You offered to make breakfast.”

I nod.

“And somehow you thought that cookies were the way to go.”

I nod again. A few seconds tick by until I come to the realization that I’m supposed to say something. With the multitude of words accessible in the English language, I offer a response in as much as one syllable, “Uh…”

“Surely you could have gotten away with toast and tea or even soggy cereal? You seldom shine, but when it comes to adding milk to cereal, you almost always get it right. Please,” another phony cough escapes her mouth, “please help me understand your thought process here.” Fat sits upright and clears her throat to bury more laughter from joining us in the kitchen. She acknowledges my you’re-not-fooling-anyone glare. “Dry cough. I must have caught it from that commercial for Tylenol Cold and Flu with that wheezy kid in the loser glasses.”

“You can’t catch–” Is this really something I want to debate with my cat? “Never mind, Fat.” An incessant beep blasts from the stove top. After strangling the sound into silence, I grab a dish towel and open the oven.

Fat’s tiny nose sniffs the air, “So, why the cookies for breakfast?”

“I panicked after I offered to–oh fucking balls!” I drop the pan on the stove top and it makes a clanging sound so loud I hear Boyfriend, still in bed, ask if I’m inflicting any self-harm. “Mostly psychological,” I shout over my shoulder as I run cold tap water over the burn on my hand. Maybe oven mitts really aren’t some crazy fad the hipsters made up.

“Psychological harm is my specialty.” Fat jumps up beside the dish rack and looks from my hand to my face. I feel the burning intensity of her eyes. “It’s okay to quit. You’re really not good at this. Failure on all fronts. I hope I’m not being intrusive when I say that you’re better off just making the man some toast.”

My brain clumsily gallops like a lame horse from one idea to the next. There has to be some way to salvage this fiasco. “Mimosas.” I finally look Fat in the face, “I’ll get him so hammered off mimosas he won’t know the difference between a cookie and a pancake.”

Fat’s forehead lowers, “It scares me to think you actually consider this a constructive and viable idea. It’s hilarious that you think this plan will make yourself feel like less of a failure.” She leans forward and focuses on my third eye, “What in the hell goes on in there? Don’t get me wrong, you are one of my more interesting cases to observe. I’m quite interested to watch how this plays out.”

I shake the water from my hand and dash to the fridge. Fat follows at my heels and we both are hugely disappointed to discover–

“You’re a couple ingredients shy of mimosas.” Fat pokes her head further into the fridge, “You’ve got some vine tomatoes here. There’s still that vodka. A little can-do attitude and Martha Stewart do-it-yourself incentive and you’ve got yourself… well, something to get Boyfriend drunk. Sunday, Bloody Sunday, right?”

“Not the time for this attitude of yours, Bono.” I slam the fridge door shut and drum my fingers on the outside of the freezer compartment. “Help me think.”

Fat watches my nails clack-clack-clack on the appliance. Her gaze hardens and becomes serious. When I feel that she’s onto something, my fingers stop to feed the silence.

Immense quiet.

She’s bound to have some sage advice that will help me. A paw touches lightly to her mouth and Fat clears her throat. I stand at attention waiting for the feline to come forth with anything.

Her jaw opens.

Cruel laughter plays the part of empathy this morning as the worst understudy in the history of the world. Her boisterous chuckle races through the kitchen like a streaker – I can’t not pay attention to it. “Your face,” the laughter does a duet with her words, “you look like you’re trying to disarm a bomb and don’t know which wire to cut.”

We both look over to my sad cookies, still on the pan, embarrassed of themselves.

“Boyfriend,” I call and grab my keys off the wall hook. In unison, Fat’s voice joins mine as I finish my thought, “We’re going out for breakfast.” I scowl at her, and again she speaks my words at the same time I do, “Stop that. You don’t know me.”

“Boss, Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.”