The Dangers of Pumpkin Carving

“Art is not your strong suit, Boss.”

“What are you talking about?” I’m kneeling on the living room floor in front of the coffee table that is covered in a layer of newspaper now slimy with pumpkin innards. My bicep pops out slightly as I finish sawing into another section of the pumpkin. “You are going to effing love this jack o’ lantern.” The primal part of my being totally loves this stuff. I’ve got orange grit under my nails, my hands are slightly sticky and I’ve gutted this pumpkin like a damn trout.

Fat’s balances on her hind legs as her front ones brace the table’s edge. Her grey head tilts slightly to the side like a pompous critic at an art gallery. “Is this a self portrait or what?”

“Fat, it’s pumpkin carving. Be serious.” My thumbs press hard into the pumpkin flesh to dislodge the last piece of the mouth. Some people chisel the statue of David; I dissect pumpkins until they are four kinds of majestic.

“In all seriousness, it looks like a drag queen.” Fat’s paw notes the arched eyebrows and puffy lips. “I thought Halloween stuff was supposed to be scary.”

“First of all, it’s an homage to Tim Curry from Rocky Horror Picture Show. And second, it didn’t turn out as I pictured, but it is scary. What’s more frightening than painfully obvious Botox injections?”

Fat meets my gaze as she throws a dry look over her left shoulder. “Cute, Boss.” She jumps on the table amongst the pumpkin debris to suss out the work of the second pumpkin, now abandoned, on the table. “Your orange friend there must have startled your boyfriend. He hightailed it out of here a half hour ago. Didn’t even finish his bat thing.”

I set the knife down; I need it out of my hand if I’m going to attempt a conversation with the feline. “He’s not my boyfriend, Fat.” One would think she would tire from hearing this, but no.

“Yeah, okay.” She’s quick to interrupt even in the midst of leaning down to sniff a stringy, seed-filled, sloppy pile of pumpkin guts.

“And he’s been gone for like two, maybe three, minutes.” I was too absorbed to register the reason he said he needed to go back to his place. No matter.

“Just another one that couldn’t get away fast enough, lady.” Fat leans in and takes a delicate bite of pumpkin. “Oh god.” Fat spits it out instantly. “Oh no. No. Never again. What kind of devil food is this?” Her tongue darts in and out of her mouth as though licking the surrounding air will dissolve the taste across her palate. “I’m going to throw up. Seriously, right here on this table. Give me some room.”

I lift my pumpkin, saving it from potential cat vomit just as we hear the front door open and close; the sound brings Jesse back into the apartment. His head and arms poke through torn holes in a green garbage bag – his precautionary measure against the anticipated pumpkin mess. Jesse’s come back holding a six-pack of pale ale in one hand and plastic container of cookies in the other.

“Who do you think you are with that stuff, my father?” I’m half-kidding, but my pops would never turn down beer and cookies.

“Possible Daddy issues. Interesting.” Fat notes as her gaze follows the arc of a beer can lobbed through the air and into my awaiting hands. She seems to have forgotten about wanting to throw up. The feline’s neck snaps back to Jesse, doing a delayed double-take. “You’re still wearing your shoes. This is the living room.” She scowls at his lack of manners and her voice becomes a razor’s edge, “We do not wear footwear in the living room.”

“Chill, Miss Fat. I thought we were friends.” Jesse pulls the tab on his beer and the sound sings an anthem of refreshment. As a good woman, I’m already well into mine.

I grab the knife and attempt to cut more details into my wannabe Dr. Frank N. Furter one-handed while maintaining a hold on my beer with my left hand. I do not have the skill set to do this and decide that my pumpkin is finished.

Looking up, Fat stares at Jesse like she’s holding him at gunpoint. “Back up, sir. Remove your shoes, sir.” Her eyes drift to the container of cookies and her demeanor instantly changes. “Whatcha got there, buddy?”

“Woman, your cat is bipolar or something.” Jesse, still in his shoes, pulls the lid off the cookies. “Fat, you like cookies?”

“Don’t feed her cookies.” Curious, I reach over to see what kind of face Jesse’s pumpkin has. We were waiting to unveil our creations when we were both finished, but I’m done, and he’s been working on something. If you round up, we’ve both completed the job.

Fat’s neck cranes, trying to extend to the length of a giraffe’s just to see what kind of treats he’s brought over. “What kind of cookies?”

The pumpkin rotates in my hand as he announces, “Pumpkin cookies with cream cheese icing. I made them myself.”

Fat’s interest dissolves into utter disgust. Her taste only a moment ago was clearly enough of a trial. “Pumpkin?”

“Oh God.” My reaction mirrors that of my cat. “You have to go.”

“You don’t want cookies?” Jesse’s lower lip juts out in an overemphasized pout.

“Yes. What idiot doesn’t want cookies? But this,” I spin the pumpkin around so he can observe his crudely-cut Batman symbol, “is entirely unacceptable. We can’t hang out anymore.”

Jesse looks from Fat to me and back to Fat; by now he knows he’s pleased neither of us with his actions. He wears uncertainty the same way he wears his ghetto hazard suit.

His thumb points in the direction of the door and his slow backward steps masquerade as casual backpedaling, “Maybe I should go…”

Both Personalities and a Mountain of Drugs

“Whatcha got there? Groceries for the week?”

Pinched in between my thumb and index finger is a white paper bag with a pharmacy sticker sealing it shut. “You can’t be serious. How does this read as anything but clinical?” I tear into the bag with vigor that drops a small box of maropitant citrate tablets and a bottle of sulcrate suspension on the ground. Another pill bottle, small box and liquid administrators land on the counter.

Fat hustles over to sniff the box of tablets. “This is like the best piñata I’ve ever seen.”

“Don’t. Those aren’t for you, Fat.” I swipe both fallen meds off the floor.

She frowns. “I just want to bat them around a little. I like that the pill bottles sound like maracas.”

Out of habit, I look at the wall where a calendar used to hang. “What’s with the references? Is it Cinco de Mayo?”

“What’s the deal? Finally go see a shrink that is able to prescribe medication to you over the table?” Fat’s tone is a hybrid of judgemental and hurt.

Frustrated, I puff out the air in my lungs to quietly vent my annoyance. “You never listen to me, do you? Mutt has pancreatitis and this cocktail,” I display the drugs like an old school Barker Beauty, “is his new best friend.”

“I thought I was his best friend,” Fat mumbles to herself as she leaves the kitchen to jump onto the office chair.

“Huh?”

Fat scowls. “Was I talking to you? No. I was talking to myself.” Her eyes narrow into an angry squint, “Mind your business, bitch.”

“Christ, Fat.” My hands lift up as I resign from the conversation, “Calm down.”

I grab Mutt’s epilepsy medications and add them to the new arsenal. This dog’s collection rivals any pharmacy. I read the labels and arrange them into an order that will help me administer them properly.

It’s a damn math problem: Two medications have to be taken every eight hours but one on a full stomach and one on an empty one. Two meds every twelve hours on a full stomach, another one first thing in the morning also on a full stomach and the last one every nine hours. In making sure Mutt gets all the required medication, solve the rate of next-morning pleasantness. If this were actually a math problem, there would be grey eraser streaks all over the place. Thankfully it’s a take-home test and I have time to figure it out.

“You look like your mother when you make your thinking face.”

The air in my mouth pushes from my left cheek to the right as I concentrate; I turn to the side and see that Fat once again has an approachable demeanor.

“Henry Jekyll, you old sod. How are you?”

“That’s Doctor to you.” Fat actually breaks out a smile as we fall into the familiar routine.

“My mistake.” I run my fingers through my hair, and though I wrestle with knowing how this will turn out, I can’t help the words that come out of my mouth. “Can I ask you something?”

Fat’s forehead rises with intrigue. “Are we turning this into a session?”

“No.” My right hand shoots up like I’m a traffic cop forcing cars to slam on their brakes. “I’m just spitballing here, but,” just thinking about it makes my chest tighten, “where does one draw the line when it comes to Mutt’s health?” My throat becomes a desert that words have to cross; they barely make it. “This isn’t exactly a lifestyle choice.” I nod with my head to the collection of medications sitting on the counter.

“Maybe not for you.”

“Fat.” The heaviness of her name brings her around to answering my question.

“Angel of Death is the role of a lifetime for you,” Fat sees that I want to interject. “Let me finish. Providing you don’t have to pull the cord, as it were, on one of the few people or animals you’re emotionally tied to. Anybody else, fuck, they’re dead the moment they have the sniffles.”

I look at the backwards clock, time to go grab Mutt from the vet. “So what do you suggest I do?”

“Easy,” Fat’s smile changes from sweet to sociopathic, “Let me be the Angel of Death.”

“Edward Hyde. Welcome back.”