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?”

 

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.”

The Simplistic Nature of the Fred Flintstone Personality

“Ow! Christ!”

I reposition the dish towel and pull the tray from the oven; it clangs on the stove top with haste. I do an instant one-eighty and turn the faucet of the kitchen sink so the cold water blasts my stupidity-inflicted wound.

“Christ… there’s a guy that’s terrible at hide and seek.” Fat saunters into the kitchen and frowns upon her entrance. She opens her mouth with a question on her face. She looks at my hand under the water stream, the feline inhales the scent of baked-goods which leads her gaze to the tray of muffins. She closes her mouth; there’s no need for her to ask, she’s pieced together the storyline of my misfortune.

I try to speak over the sound of rushing water. “What makes you think Christ would be bad at hide and seek?”

“People find that guy everywhere.” Fat gives me an isn’t-it-obvious face. “If he were better at hiding, our world would have no use for Christian Mingle.”

“The dating site?” I twist the tap so the water just trickles over my thumb.

Fat smiles, “Very good, Boss. Sometimes I question your comprehension level, but not today.” Fat balances on her hind legs while her front paws lift up and brace just above my knee. “What’s with the muffins, Betty Crocker?”

In spite of the fact she can’t see the countertop, I point at the motif of spilled ingredients. Apparently I am capable of creating a great mess in a spur-of-the-moment decision to try this domestic thing.

“I had this great desire for a fresh-baked muffin and a latte.” I nod at the countertop espresso machine. “And I got a new book from the library, I was going to sit on the patio and just enjoy quiet indulgence this afternoon.” I don’t get annoyed with Fat leaning against my leg until her claws gently try to pierce my skin. My leg retreats immediately, but it’s not fast enough to make her fall with disgrace. Damn cats and their ability to land on their feet.

“Offence intended, but that’s a lame way to spend a free afternoon.”

“The saying is ‘No offense’–“

Fat cuts me off, “Don’t correct me. I meant it the way it sounded.”

“…And quiet time is highly necessary. I’ve had some massive mad monkeys the last while and I just want chill out.”

“Yeah. Your life is so hard.” It’s a shame Fat’s icy sarcasm can’t be used to soothe my burning thumb.

I lift my hand and inspect the minor burn.

Fat continues in a whiny voice, “I went to a Caribbean Festival and the beach this weekend. Then I took in a night of theatre. Children in third world countries have no idea what rough is. Vancouver life is hard.” Her mock misery face only lasts a few seconds before her fangs make an appearance with her smile. “Somebody save me from my misery.”

“I’m not miserable. Life is lovely right now. That’s what you think my inner monologue sounds like?”

“No. I was merely breathing vocabulary into the Neanderthal grunts you consider intellectual thought.”

The water turns off and I carefully pry one of the muffins out of the baking tray.

“Thanks, Fat.”

Fat swipes a paw across her brow with phony relief. “Phew, I was worried you weren’t going to get the compliment there.”

I say nothing, just eye her with contempt.

“You’re a simple creature, Boss. It doesn’t take much to make you happy. Or as your people would say,” Fat finishes the sentence with screeching monkey sounds.

Bestie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

“Do you look sad because it’s raining? On tv, people are always sad when it’s raining.”

I stop staring at the summer thunderstorm and look at Fat. She’s chewing on the ear of a toy mouse with frenzy but she still manages to read my face. The bell inside the stuffed rodent jingles as she thrashes around with it.

“No, Fat. If rain made people sad, Vancouverites would be the most miserable people in the world.” I stare back at the mesmerizing litres of water falling from the sky. Maybe it will turn everything green again. “Not to say that some of them aren’t.”

Fat rolls backward almost losing grip of her mouse, but manages to snag it by the tail with her claws. “Maybe all those miserable people are just on their periods all the time – both women and men. You know, I bet it’s a side effect of the red tide.” Fat freezes dramatically as if struck by an epiphany. “Is that where the phrase ‘surfing the crimson wave’ comes from?”

I almost smile. “That’s from Clueless, Fat.” I watch the puddles forming on the balcony. “And I’m not sad, I was just reminiscing.”

“Oh yeah? About what?” Fat abandons her toy to jump up beside me on the couch. When she purrs, I’m inclined to pet her.

The rain sounds like the rat-a-tat sound of children pretending to shoot guns. “Bestie used to live a five minute walk away. I’m still getting used to her not being right there.”

“I thought you said she moved to East Van.” Fat’s head tilts with misplaced comprehension.

I nod. “Yeah. She did.”

“So she’s like a fifteen minute drive away. Not something to be mopey about.”

“That’s dependent on traffic,” I announce with the dramatic flair usually reserved for teenage angst. “Fifteen minutes when there are no other cars on the road maybe.”

The feline’s jaw falls open and just hangs there for a moment as she assesses my sincerity. “This is a problem for you?” Her eyes light up, “oh my God. You care.” Fat bursts out laughing.

I turn away from her and stare out the window again, “Shut up, Fat.” It’s hard to hide emotion for something so close to my heart.

The good doctor laughs so hard the sound disappears and all I can see are the shudders of her shoulders as she shakes with giddiness.

My phone beeps and I check it as Fat heaves with a massive case of the giggles.

“I completely forgot it was gym day today.” I groan and reply to the message that I can be ready in five minutes.

“Who are you going to the gym with?”

“Bestie.” I almost add ‘duh’ after the mention of her name. I don’t go to the gym with anybody else; you only let true friends see your disgusting, sweaty gym self.

“Problem solved I guess.”

“What problem?” I frown when I realize that I still haven’t washed my gym clothes from last week.

“You said you missed Bestie.”

My nose wrinkles when Fat misunderstands my wistfulness. “I didn’t say that. Don’t misquote me. I miss living near her. It’s raining and I want homemade mac and cheese. That woman makes the best comfort food ever.”

A Day at the Races

“It’s official, I’m poor.”

Not only sun-kissed, but sun-ravaged, I skip into the apartment and drop my bag in the computer chair. I show no signs of distress over the sing-song statement I just announced about my financial well-being.

“Are we going to be evicted? Shall I pack my things?” Fat pouts from atop the high computer desk cabinets. “I knew I shouldn’t have fallen for the first pretty young thing that wanted to take me home from the SPCA. I could have done so much better…” Fat stares off into nothingness, wistfully.

“Fat, we are po’ fo’ sho’.”

The feline blinks hard to come back to reality. “I knew I shouldn’t have let you go to the race track.”

I sway haphazardly from side-to-side instead of shaking my head in response to her statement. “Clearly you do not understand the pull of going to watch the Weinerdogs race on the track.” I speak behind my hand and whisper upward to the feline’s pert ears, “The dogs weren’t very good.”

Fat crouches low and leans downward, extending as close to my face as possible without compromising her footing. “Why are you whispering?” She whispers back. “Don’t tell me you lost our money betting on dachshunds.”

“I did not.” I smile proudly for not doing something so humiliating as losing a fortune gambling on short-limbed dogs. “I was betting on the ponies. As it turns out, Fat, you shouldn’t bet on a nag just because it’s from your hometown. Or has the same name as your dad. Or has the best-coloured horse jersey.”

Fat purses her lips and shakes her head incredulously.

“But,” I open my purse and empty it of the horse race schedule and tiny pieces of paper – evidence of all my bad choices from the duration of the afternoon, “We’ve learned something. I’m not good at gambling.”

Fat’s eyes lock on the slips I keep pulling out of my purse.

“Boss, I’m not really sure what to say. How much money did it cost you for them to print ink on those worthless pieces of paper?” High above the living room floor, Fat cringes, bracing herself for terrible news.

I quickly count the slips in my hand. “Twelve.”

“Twelve what? Hundred? Thousand?”

I squint at the feline and my head lops to the side as if it toppled over from the weight of the messy hair bun. “Yes, Fat. I lost twelve thousand dollars over the course of four hours.”

“So it was less than that?” Fat seems to be less stressed, but still on edge.

“I lost twelve dollars.”

There is a flash of grey as the feline jumps from the cabinet down to the desktop. “For Christ’s sake, Boss. You scared the shit out of me. I thought you owed money to the mob or something. I hope you’ve learned something from this experience. You won’t miss twelve dollars, we’re not broke yet.” Fat notices my grinding teeth. “What are you upset about? Twelve dollars is nothing.”

“I could have bought two more beer with that money.”

Fat’s face turns deadpan. “Chin up. I’m sure you’ll be fine with the amount you have in the fridge. It sounds like you had a rough day.”

Vacation: The Compression of 30 Hours

Hey Wilbur,
Thank you for your last Facebook message, but no, I will not stop calling you Wilbur, and no, that man’s voice in the hallway is not mine. I’m still at the airport; my flight was delayed. Just a heads up, Fat, I’m exhausted and I just want to have a chill night after I get home, okay? Anything you want to get unreasonably dramatic about can wait.
Yesterday and today are a blur and my mind and muscles are suffering from fatigue. The last moment that felt real-time was yesterday morning when I was lying in the sunshine of my parent’s backyard. The doorbell rang and it may as well have been the sound of the starting pistol at a foot race.
My bro arrived, he rolled his eyes as I put on my prom dress again to show off, we did some shooters of coffee in the kitchen and then we were off. I proved my multitasking ability by simultaneously driving my dad’s mountain of a truck and yelling at Google maps for guiding us the wrong way to the Godfather’s house. The argument may give the illusion that I knew where we were going – I hadn’t been to the Godfather’s new palace, but I can ballpark. Somewhat. You know me; I hate being told what to do, so I took it out on the digital woman’s voice who was directing us along.
If this was a movie you could fast forward and watch my bro, the Godfather and myself laughing in his backyard tipping back bottle after bottle of beer as the blue sky turns to a slate of grey. Enter dad, who pedaled up the mountain on his bicycle. If you keep fast forwarding you’ll see another round of beers, a trip to the liquor store to stock up for the night, we stopped somewhere else – but as I don’t remember where it was, it probably wasn’t important. We ended up at the parent’s house at the top of another mountain, did a little urban exploration going into houses currently under construction and guessing what each room would be when the construction was complete. After sunset we stumbled back to the house, tipped back a few more and engaged in a marathon of Speed Scrabble.
It should be noted that my bro is a damn poet with Speed Scrabble. He sewed together words that became slam pieces of sad fellows drinking gin and different kinds of lies. Granted, in hindsight, we had all been drinking most of the day so his eloquence is lost in history and botched Mead memory. Such a pity that one of the most soulful minds I’ve come across only becomes genius under the influence of booze. That’s the artist’s life, I suppose. Ask Hemmingway.
You can fast forward some more, we tipped back a collection of bottles and made word after word for many hours. Afterward, there was an early morning hot tub and collapse of the entire collective.
After K.O.ing for too few hours, we rose early to get on the lake for some kayaking. Note: one can paddle faster when their bladder is full and a public washroom is in sight. Maybe that’s where the blisters on my thumbs came from. The morning was amazing. I mean, yes, we lost one of the kayaks off the roof rack on the truck on the way to the water, but it was a great time. After trading the kayaks at the house for the power boat the adventure continued.
Since there was a wakeboard and since I haven’t done been on one in years, it had to be done. They mocked me for wussing out and wearing a wetsuit, but nobody else went in the water at all. I’m just saying…
So here I am, shorts still damp, sitting at the airport and noticing from the screen on the wall is showing that my flight is delayed another half hour. I’m going to hunt out a sandwich or something. I’m starving.
See you in a few hours,
Boss 

 


 

Boss,
The chef dropped off Mutt. I don’t what the man fed the beast, but he smells really bad. If the chef was a gracious man, he would have at least cracked a window to let the Mutt’s toxins escape. Also, he left you something on the counter in the kitchen. Hopefully you get home fast before something bad happens to it.
You’ll be happy to know I took your advice and looked up some “wannabe shrink” stuff online. You’re going to love it – I’ve scheduled you a session next week. Be excited. Welcome back to real life, sucker.
Love,
Fat

From One Starving Artist to Another

“Whoa, wait up there, woman.”

I look over my shoulder from the top of the stairs to see one of the down-the-hall neighbours whose company I actually enjoy. Jesse’s around my age and we know a few of the same people; he’s one of the rare breed of easily likeable people. He jogs effortlessly up the stairs as though he weighs nothing. Like a gentleman, I hold the door open for him so we can exit on our floor. He offers a hillbilly curtsy in exchange. Fuck you, gender stereotypes.

“Hey, pal. Haven’t seen you since spring thaw.” I take a quick surveillance of the hallway to make sure that the crazy dog lady and the awkwardly loud octogenarian humpers aren’t around to see my nice side. That would only invite conversation and that’s a bad idea – I’d be stopped for small chats all the time. No, no. Better they think I’m a bitch.

Jesse smiles; he has one of those genuine smiles that triggers an automatic grin on my face. He just exudes niceness. “Yeah, I’ve been busy. What’s going on with you? Haven’t seen your boyfriend in a long time too, is he…” Jesse watches my eyes widen and emphatic shake of the head, “Oh. Well, I’m sure it was for the best.”

This is one of the reasons I enjoy Jesse as a neighbour. He doesn’t pry; he just accepts things as they are.

We wander down the hall to my door. I’ve been here so long, the crooked apartment number doesn’t even register as annoying anymore. I start digging for my keys.

“How’s your game coming along?” I look at him through wisps of my hair as I rummage around the bottom of my bag. Several months back he showed me a phone app game he was building. It was pretty impressive then, and that was just a prototype.

“Stalled project, we’re waiting to get some more funding before we can push forward.”

I shake my purse and hear my keys jingle at the same time as a familiar voice demands attention.

“Boss, I’m so hungry, get in here.” Fat moans from the other side of the door.

I ignore the voice of the feline. “That’s too bad about your funding. I’m sure something will come along for you.” Finally, my hand fishes out my keychain. I clench it in my fist as if to say: success.

“Yeah, there are a few lines in the water right now. I’m not worried.” Jesse shrugs and casually puts his hands on his hips. “Hey, speaking of projects, how’s that book of yours coming along?”

“Progress is slow to non-existent at the moment. That’s because I’m getting in my own way and isn’t a result of lack of funding – unfortunately as a writer, I can’t use that as an excuse.”

An easy laugh falls out of his mouth and runs down the hallway.

“Who is that?” Fat’s voice draws out the words, filling them with innuendo. “Should I light some candles to set the mood?”

“Fat, shut up.” I gently kick the bottom of the door in hopes to scare her away.

“I didn’t know you had a cat.”

I exhale audibly. “I try not to talk about her. She’s…” I pause to come up with an appropriate word to describe my self-appointed therapist, “a character.”

“If you’re not going to bang him, come inside and feed me. Boss, do you hear me?” Her words are pointed. We hear a scratching sound as Fat claws the paint on the back of the door.

“Kind of a loudmouth, isn’t she?”

“Boss.”

“You were wondering why I don’t mention her…” I point my thumb at the door in the direction of the pathetic scratching and mewing.

“Booooooooooss.” She knows whining drives me insane.

Christ. I quickly unlock the door and open it. Fat peers up at both of us. She glazes over me and looks directly at Jesse.

“Hi Kitty.” He bends and reaches a hand out toward her.

Fat stares at the palm in front of her and follows the arm to Jesse’s unshaven face. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are, sir, but I don’t respond to empty offerings. Once you’ve gotten your freak on, we’ll need you to leave immediately.”

I stare up to the ceiling, hoping to whatever is up there to strike me down. I really hope he doesn’t understand what Fat is saying.

“She doesn’t seem to like me much, does she?” His fingers fold back and he points at Fat’s face, “Looks like a sneer, doesn’t it?”

I try to contain a laugh because Fat is clearly not impressed by this neighbourly imposition. “Sure does.”

“Well,” Jesse stands, “I should get going. I have a ton of work to do at home before I leave for my other job. Ladies, it’s been a pleasure.” He pretends to tip an imaginary cap at Fat and then at myself before sauntering down the hall. “Oh hey, Kat?” He swivels on his feet like a dancer.

“What’s up?”

Fat pokes her head out the doorway to listen in.

Jesse points at me as if to hold me accountable, “Make time for that book. It’s important.”

“You’re not my mom. You don’t get to tell me what to do.” Again, I smile but get serious when I realize that he wasn’t searching for a flippant answer. “I’ll try.”

I scoot Fat back inside and shut the door behind us.

“I really needed to hear that.” I press my spine against the back of the door and feel my eyes dart back and forth with realization. So simple, but incredibly helpful.

Fat rolls her eyes dramatically. “Writing is important if you’re a writer? If you couldn’t come to that conclusion on your own, you’re a bigger idiot than I thought.”

Office Hours: The Trojan Horse

“Is that your interpretation of a Trojan horse?”

My back curves as I peer over Fat’s shoulder; she’s very involved in something open in the Paper app on the iPad. It looks like a kindergarten drawing of a horse-like animal on wheels.

The grey feline scrambles to smother the digital sketch with her gelatinous obesity. The hair down her spine stands rigid.

“Don’t look at this. My eyes only, thank you!” There’s an edge to her voice when she shouts.

I go into defense mode and lift my hands to shield my face in case an angry kitty claw swipe comes my way. Knowing that she doesn’t want me to pry only feeds my curiosity. Now I have to know what she’s hiding.

“So, it’s not a Trojan horse?” I speak slowly and lean backward, still wary. Rightfully so.

Fat’s tiny scowling face twists around as though The Exorcist was a movie based on her unbalanced nature. My muscles tense, not sure what’s going to happen next. I think to cover my eyes, but I’m captivated by her frenzy.

“For your information, boss, this is going to make us a fortune. That’s why it’s so hush hush.” If her boiling blood were a city, what happens next is the equivalent of an ice age in the Sahara. “Okay, I’ll tell you.” It’s a good thing she can’t keep a secret or I’d be going crazy. It’ s like gossip is stress relief for the feline; the more she divulges, the more she calms down. Her fur reveals the horribly drawn picture on the tablet. “It’s a Zampony.”

I play along as though fully informed on the subject at hand. “Yes.” I nod. “A Zampony, of course. I was just looking at it from the wrong angle.”

Fat’s face contorts with disgust. “Don’t do that. Don’t pretend you know what I’m talking about in order to spare yourself from stupidity.”

One sentence and I’ve turned from the boss into an idiot sidekick. Fat can really make me feel insignificant if she tries.

The cat sighs, patience deflates from her chest like a balloon pierced by a bullet. “It’s a Zamboni with a horse head. This is Canada. Every arena will want one. Just you wait.”

“I don’t…” my face scrunches and I squint at the iPad as if distorting it with my vision will help me see how amazing Fat’s idea is. I lose my train of thought and my sentence runs itself off a metaphorical cliff. When Fat stares at me, waiting for me to finish the thought, all I can do is shrug… and then yawn.

“I’m sorry, boss. Do my dreams bore you?” Fat turns in a semicircle and places her paws on top of the iPad. “What are you doing here anyways?”

“Didn’t we,” I shoot a quick glance to the time on the PVR, “have a session today?”

“Oh damn. We did – we do.” The good doctor quickly corrects herself. “I’ve made an observation as of recent, boss: you critique my dreams when you keep yours neatly written and folded up in a small square in your wallet. Tell me which is better, which garners results.”

“You snooped through my wallet?”

Her little grey head bobs up and down with confirmation.“Every Tuesday since you brought me home from the SPCA. Helps you discover a lot about a person. Why do you keep them itemized on a list?”

It never occurred to me that it was strange. “Just as a reminder, I guess. I don’t want to forget what’s on my bucket list.” My memory is akin to a sieve.

“And yet, you hide your dreams away and judge me for what I would like to achieve in this lifetime.” The kitty is ruffled. “I just don’t get how leaping out of a plane doesn’t phase you, but actually trying to accomplish something petrifies you.” Fat sneers, “Pathetic.”

“Are you saying that I should have my ambition on display?”

“Breakthrough.” Her tone is curt and Fat turns her attention back to the iPad. She doesn’t look up with her dismissal, “We’re done for today. Please see yourself out.”

Welcome to Exile

“Oh good, you’re home. I need the biggest favour.”

Fat, sitting on top of the hall table, bats her eyes in a sickly sweet way as I drop my bag on my floor. The feline would look even more foolish if I got her those fake eyelashes she wants so badly.

“Not how I’d like to be met at the door on a Friday, but I’ve had a flattering afternoon and it’s affecting my mood. What’s the favour?”

“Please go to the apartment at the end of the hall and introduce them to the other twenty-five letters of the alphabet.”

My hand rests on the doorknob. My brain offers an instant replay of her request inside my head – it doesn’t help me understand.

“Huh?”

“The only letter they seem to know is ‘O’ and they’ve both been screaming it all afternoon.”

Of this, I am entirely aware. I just walked past their door.

Fat looks momentarily sheepish, letting her neck get engulfed by a shy shrug. “I thought they were enthusiastic Wheel of Fortune fans at first. But obviously, ‘E’ and ‘A’ are the money vowels,” she cements this fact with an assuring look and minute nod, “Just ask Vanna White. It didn’t make sense why they persisted with screaming ‘O’.”

I move away from the door, kicking off my shoes. “Oh good. You understand what’s going on over there then.”

Fat stares at my terrible-smelling ballet flats. “Of course I do. What kind of an idiot do you take me for?” The bridge of her nose pinches. Green eyes drift from the shoes to me, and back to the shoes. “You’re going over there barefoot then?”

I drift into the kitchen, grab a rice cake and come back to face her in the hallway. “If you know what’s going on over there, I’m sure you can piece together why I won’t be knocking on their door.” There’s a loud crunch as I bite down. If I were to estimate, this rice cake went stale when Eisenhower was president.

“They’re some kind of foreign and that’s why you’re not going over there. You’re being a bad Canadian as well as a bad neighbour.” Her ears twitch as she hears the muffled love cries of the down-the-hall neighbours. “What language is that? Hawaiian?”

As Fat talks, I casually lean over the kitchen garbage can and spit out my mouthful of inedible brick.

“You’re right. Better to wait to go over there until later. We’re not familiar with their customs and don’t want to interrupt. This might be some kind of prayer ritual we’re hearing.”

I can’t tell if she’s messing with me or not, so I focus my attention on the hall mirror. My mirror twin offers a wide smile so I can check to see if she chipped any of her crooked English teeth on an antiquated rice cake.

“I forget that if the conversation isn’t about you, you check out entirely.” Fat pushes one of my candle holders off the table so I turn to look at her. “You say it was a flattering Friday for you, boss? Please share.”

“I got asked out by a guy that hangs out at the coffee shop a few blocks away.”

She stares at me as if I’m mental-hospital-grade crazy. “And this stranger’s validation provides you with more self-worth? So textbook. Let me guess: you said yes and now you’re in love and feel whole again.” Fat rolls her eyes.

My mouth turns into a smile and I hold up my index finger to silence her. “Oh, no, Fat.” The cat becomes briefly hypnotized as I tut-tut the idea by shaking my finger from side-to-side. “Charming guy. Not bad looking. But no. You see, doc, I’ve decided to put myself in self-imposed relationship exile.”

The feline’s face gets that pinched look of misunderstanding again.

I point at the list I’ve written on my dry erase board in the kitchen. “I have things I want to do. Time alone is healthy. You can’t argue that.”

Fat’s mouth hangs open for a few seconds of silence, as though she’s trying to come up with something to say.

“…So what happens when somebody you actually like, that isn’t some random in a coffee shop, asks you out?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but as you so graciously pointed out a few days ago, it’s not possible to have it all. Maybe giving up relationships will be my sacrifice for all those other things in life.”

“You’re actually doing this? A ban on boyfriends?”

I nod, feeling better now that what I’ve been thinking about the last few days has found a voice.

“Yep. Boyfriends are officially banned.”

Fat nods toward my art supplies cupboard. “Maybe you should make a ‘No Boys Allowed’ sign so everyone else can be aware of this decision. I would help, but not having thumbs makes writing impossible.”

The April Showers/May Flowers Phenomenon

“I’m going to hazard a couple guesses.” The yellow flecks in Fat’s eyes become more noticeable when she happily drinks in my disheveled appearance.

“Digging for buried treasure.”

I shake my head.

“Hmm. Should have gone with my original instinct: grave robbing.”

I shake my head again, groan as I bend over and undo the clasp on Mutt’s leash.

“I fear I just gave you an idea for a future hobby. That’s the price you pay with guessing games, I suppose. Alright, one more and I’ll give up,” Fat’s paw taps thoughtfully against her chin. “The roadrunner outsmarted you again? Tell me you held up a hilarious sign before falling down that cliff.”

I shake my heads and kick off my puddle-soaked runners. My jeans cling to my skin from being so wet; I wrestle myself out of my pants and stand in the hallway in my boy shorts and coat. The hood still covers my hair, though it didn’t save me from the harrowing journey I just faced. I stand there for a few minutes, feeling Fat stare, knowing she’s still waiting to hear what happened.

“That was a debacle.” I finally speak and toss the leash I’m still holding on top of my sopping pants that are now curled in a heap on the carpet.

Fat leans her neck out from the kitchen counter, giving me a face that prompts me to explain.

“It seemed like an easy enough favour: go down to the marina and take some pictures.” My friend, who does the social media for the marina, was out of town. I stare inwardly, oblivious to Fat leaning even closer and almost falling off the counter. “The sun was shining when I left.” I pull out of my abyss and my pupils dilate to see Fat come into focus, “Right?”

Fat slowly comes to realize that what I’m looking for is confirmation. She nods. Yes, the sun was indeed shining.

“I made my tea, leashed Mutt and went for a wander down by the water.” In the ten minutes it took for me to get to the marina, an evil wizard cast a spell to overtake the blue sky with black cloud. Once I got there, things just didn’t fall into place.

“The marina office was closed.”

I close my eyes again feel the frustration of when I found out that I’d missed their hours of being open for business. I had a great plan to sweet talk somebody into letting me inside the locked gates to get some decent pictures. Since the weather had turned, the other sea dogs had hunkered down indoors somewhere. The marina was a ghost town. I had to get creative if I was going to get some shots of the boats, float homes and ship yard.

“Then the rain started.”

It was a light patter for about a minute or two before it really came down. Puddles from the night previous still littered the parking lot and areas between the paved walkways. Unfortunately, the only vantage points for pictures from the marina’s perimeter were off the walkways – lacking forethought and graceful movement, I sloshed my way through a baker’s dozen of those miniature lakes. As I balanced to take pictures with one hand, my other hand held Mutt’s leash and my tea tucked neatly into the crook of my elbow.

“I had to climb a fence.”

I peel off my jacket and roll up my shirt sleeve. Across my forearm are several purple marks that will inevitably turn into bruises. When I arrived at the shipyards, I had to pull myself above the chain-link fence to snap a couple pictures. It’s a good thing there wasn’t anybody at the marina – I’m sure it didn’t look like my actions were on the up-and-up.

“Mutt went crazy.”

The dog, tired of this horrid adventure tried to escape his leash. In doing so, he got it tangled around three of his legs and one of mine. I bent down to unknot the mess, leading to the next incident.

“I spilled tea all over my pants.”

I forgot that my tea was tucked in my arm and as I bent down, the scalding, honey-sweetened liquid gushed out at my mid-thigh and ran all the way down to my ankle. I hadn’t had a sip of it as it was too hot to drink, so my pants became delicious and left me burning in a non-STI kind of way. The grotesque weather changed the temperature of my wet leg instantly. It went from bloody hot to freaking cold. With the cold came misery. But misery didn’t come alone, it came with a handful of random curse words that flew screaming from my mouth; misery loves company, after all.

“It started to hail.”

I was getting a few pictures of float homes before Mutt and I departed. The rain had stopped, Mutt and I were both more wet than dry and then we were getting pelted by Mother Nature’s icy spitballs. I took that as the last sign that it was time to come home.

“Then the rain really started.”

Walking uphill in torrents of rain after such a terrible time seems like the kind of tale a grandparent would tell of when they were a kid. But it’s true; it was awful.

“The pictures I got aren’t very good.”

Fat, surprisingly, has not abandoned her interest in my simplistic recounting. It’s one of those moments that I don’t hate her. She’s still sitting on the kitchen counter, tail curled tight around her body, head cocked slightly to the side. It makes me uncomfortable when she actually listens. I was expecting jack-ass style laughter to burst out of her.

“You should make yourself a fresh cup of tea and have a bath, boss. Today isn’t your day.”

“It hasn’t been my month, Fat.”

Fat ponders this and nods in agreement. “Yeah, April really blew chunks for you, didn’t it? No worries. A new month starts in a matter of hours. Chin up. Also, it’s about time to get an umbrella. This is Vancouver, fool.”