Office Hours: The Good Doctor’s Bedside Manner

“Boss, I don’t want to make this sound like a rapist situation, but please stop touching me. How many times do I have to say no?”

In the darkness of the bedroom, small sparks of static shoot between grey fur and my fingertips as I pet the feline. It’s really quite something when one is overt-tired and in need of a distraction.

“Fat, you’re like a miniature fireworks display. It’s interesting. And since I can’t sleep, neither will you.”

Fat’s patience finally reaches its limit; she stands up and walks to the far end of the bed and out of the extended reach of my gorilla arms. The feline flops down, annoyed. The fireworks show is over.

“This upsets you? Now you know how it feels to be kept awake when you’d rather be sleeping. Welcome to my life every morning, Fat.”

I hear a snort of derision in the almost-darkness. “It actually hurts. I shouldn’t have to tell you – I’ve heard you swear loud enough from static shock that churches have moved neighbourhoods.”

“I’d put up with the zaps if mine got all electric in the night like yours do. It’s like an unharnessed super power.” I reach out to Fat pathetically as if the pitiful effort will convince Fat to return to my clutches.

I hear the kitty inhale and exhale as if to gather patience. “What’s keeping you awake anyways? Let me in on the Mad Monkey situation.”

“I’m not writing. Why aren’t I writing?” I think on the love/mostly hate relationship with the YA novel I’ve been writing for what feels like longer than my lifetime. It’s turned to ash and resurrected more times than a phoenix.

There is a pause and in the darkness, I hear what I assume is the good doctor licking a paw; squinting doesn’t offer any clarification.

“Oh poor you.” Fat’s sarcastic voice finds me. “You and your complaining. Life must be pretty good if this is what keeps you up at night.” The cat mumbles to herself, “Don’t have my patient notes or glasses and this idiot wants an after-hours session.”

I kick the sheet off my legs, exposing my lower limbs to the night air filtering in through the open window. “That’s not advice.”

“Astute observation, Boss. Go to bed. Write in the morning. Simple.”

“As my fake shrink, shouldn’t you be concerned with why I do or do not do something? All you do is attempt to make me feel stupid.” My spine lifts up off the mattress as I balance on my elbows and stare in Fat’s approximate direction.

“You want to do something, you’ll do it. No need to make the situation any more or less than it is. You’re just looking for me to give you a hall pass on making writing a priority. As for why you’re not writing,” Fat clears her throat, “you’re lazy, and uncertain with how to proceed. Since you don’t have anything especially noteworthy going on in your pathetic little life you’re letting this teeny tiny issue cast a long shadow. Get a life, Boss.”

“Wow, Fat. That’s surprisingly helpful.”

“Good. Now roll over, close your eyes, shut your face and go to sleep.”

What Happens at 6:00 a.m…

“Six a.m., time for drugs!”

My daily outburst overshadows the urgent sound of the blaring alarm. Sane people would head to the nearest bomb shelter at the deafening siren. I, on the other hand, heartily announce that prescription medication is to be served in the dining hall.

Fat waits until I turn of the ubiquitous clanging of the alarm on my phone. She rolls over and looks at me with one slightly open, squinty eye. “Junkies of the world unite; happy hour is upon us.”

I throw back the blankets and grab Mutt off the bed – I tuck him under my arm like a football. The morning exclamation stirs him from sleep and he rouses jubilant and happy. This is the perfect condition for shoving a pill and medicated liquid down his throat in the morning. It’s definitely preferable to the morning chase around the apartment to catch the little bastard. Although, I would rather have to deal with catching the wild beast than watch him twitch with an epileptic seizure. Fat would disagree; at one point during a particularly bad episode, she complimented Mutt’s twerking – then asked if I had dollar bills so she could ‘make it rain’. She’s sensitive like that.

“Strange Pavlovian response,” Fat has closed her scornful eye and would appear to be asleep if her mouth weren’t moving with yet another unnecessary feline opinion. “Pavlov’s dog produced saliva at the sound of a bell, you hear a bell and your first response is to happily give out drugs. I guess in this house, that’s just how we do.”

I blink the sleep from my eyes. Every morning there is a split second where I dream of hitting the snooze button, but that button is like self-administered morphine – hitting it once will never be enough. Look alive, self. I lightly slap my cheek to keep with the energy of the wakeup call. “Need to do it at the same time every day, Fat. Consistency is important for the meds to work properly.”

“Where was this mentality when you were taking birth control pills?” Fat’s cynical tone is undercut as she attempts to fight off a yawn; it takes away from the kitty’s verbal left hook. A lazy smile crosses her face as a sliver of sunlight casts itself between the curtains, “I wish I was alive to see how you were raised. I have so many questions on how you came to be this way.”

I flip Mutt over and hold him like a baby so I can rub his belly. His tongue hangs out of his mouth; it doesn’t take much to make the little monster happy.

“Who wants drugs? Mutt wants drugs.” My fingers tap rhythmically on his pink belly like he’s a bongo drum. He loves it; frankly I’m too tired to even notice that I’m acting like a moron.

“I don’t even want to know what the neighbours think about you yelling ‘time for drugs!’ twice a day. Maybe you’re not the only one avoiding the weird neighbours – maybe we are the weird neighbours. Did you ever think of that?” Fat shuffles over to occupy my spot on the bed and enjoy the warmth of my residual body heat.

Mutt’s wagging tail whips my back every couple seconds; it amazes me that an excitable tone will trick him day after day into taking his medication. Oh to be a lovable, hideous idiot.

I bite the inside of my cheek in contemplation, keeping a firm grip around Mutt’s ribcage as I flip him over and put him on the ground. “I’m okay with being the weird neighbours. I’m cool with whatever keeps things as they are with the other tenants.”

Fat curls into a ball while lying on her side; it’s how she always falls asleep.

“Go forth, weird neighbour. Drug thine mongrel. If you change your mind and want to be neighbourly this morning, go check with the chick in apartment 14B – she might be interested to hear that it’s time for drugs.”

Breakthroughs in the Wee Hours of Morning

“If Boyfriend wakes up to cat anus in his face, he’s going to be pissed.” My index finger digs at the corners of my eyes to remove the sleep and residual mascara clumps. Fat remains precariously poised on Boyfriend’s shoulder as he remains dead to the world, asleep on his side.

Driven by thirst and now sixteen percent awake, my torso rolls off the bed so I can reach down to grab my water bottle from the floor. Must tread carefully before I reach fifty percent wakefulness — there’s no return to the land from nod after that level of alertness is obtained. In order to operate on lower wakeful percentage, my eyes close as I drain the bottle and rehydrate. I hear the empty polyethylene bottle hit the ground. Satiated, I once again collapse backward onto my flattened pillow.

Silence. Eerie silence.

Robotically, my eyes open and I stare at the ceiling. Slowly, my neck rotates and I turn to the right. Fat is exactly where she was when my mumbled warning intercepted the nighttime serenity several seconds ago.

Twenty-two percent awake, and more comprehensive than my last statement, I try again. “Fat. Ass out of his face. Now.” She’s a country away on the other side of the king size bed. The feline merely stares, a muted taunt to prompt some kind of action on my part.

“No.”

“Fat.” Somehow my vocal cords are overtaken by what sounds like my ma does when I tell stories and forget to filter for parental ears. Twenty-nine percent awake.

“I’m not done yet. I’m going to make it all the way to the top.”

I follow her line of vision through the darkness and see her intended goal. “He’s not Mount Everest, Fat. Shoo. Go on.” Still in the stages of sleepiness, the last two words mesh together and come out sounding like “Gwon.” Warning sirens go off in my head, we’re at thirty-eight percent wakefulness. Gear down now or wake up at — I roll to the left and lift my iPhone off the bed to check — 3:58 am. “Ugh.” A beat of silence before the sound of the iPhone case connects with the water bottle.

“Typical.”

I turn back over to the right and trade in my desire to yell for a stage whisper. “What’s typical?” Forty-five percent wakefulness. Stop now. Just stop. Red lights are flashing in my brain and imaginary screams of exhausted brain cells scream in agony. I sit up, losing another three percent to the side of the living. “You got something to say, fluffy?”

Fat’s paw tentatively reaches over and seeks support from Boyfriend’s cheekbone. He stirs. She pauses, waiting for him to settle. “It’s typical; when you see something you don’t like, is too inconvenient, or seems difficult you push it away. Just interesting when it happens literally.” Fat’s body drapes around Boyfriend’s neck like a hideous scarf, “You shouldn’t be so careless with your phone, by the by.”

I skip beyond fifty percent wakefulness and right to eighty-one percent awake. Hot damn. The dream of a full eight hours is over; frankly, it never had a chance. “This is about more than just the iPhone.” I kick the blankets off and crawl over to Boyfriend’s side of the bed. Picking up Fat by the scruff of her neck, I keep her hostage in midair. “Explain yourself.”

Fat’s front legs extend like Frankenstein’s monster and her back legs kick, searching for something sturdy to stand on. “Your book, dummy. Where’s the effort? You were so gung-ho to prove me wrong with that one. I have seen no progress on that front. Boss, your goals won’t realize themselves.” Fat turns to look over at the crown of Boyfriend’s head and I already see her eager to have another try at resting on his head like Davy Crockett’s hat. “Having dreams is free, but realizing them requires an output of energy from you, remember? You lazy son-of-a-bitch.”

“That’s uncalled for.”

“Daughter-of-a-bitch. My apologies.”

I toss her into the pile of my iPhone and water bottle. “That’s not what I meant, clown. For your information, I’m taking a workshop with a book agent. So you can suck it.”

Fat shoots me a say-whaaaaaat expression. She nods. “That was a motivational technique, doofus. Don’t act like I should be proud of you; you want to get published for your sake, not mine.”

This is not a good time for a breakthrough. I hate her so much right now.

What Feels Like Starvation on a Wonderful Day

“Good Morning, isn’t it a wonderful day?”

Sunlight filters in through the window; I’m never up early enough to see bright rays in my bedroom. The sun is usually much higher in the sky when I fall out of bed. I pull the sheet up over my head and camp out. Fat walks across the mattress and her paw touches my exposed foot.

The whole limb recoils at her touch and I pull the edge of the sheet under my body so she can’t burrow under and find me in my sleep fort. “No. Bedtime.” Surprisingly, my own shouting does not wake me up further.

“Wakey, wakey.” There is a two-second reprieve from her talking. “What kind of death whiskey were you drinking last night? I can smell your breath from here.”

Fat heaves herself up onto my hip and walks down onto my ribs. Her weight crushes my bones; I throw the sheet off my body and she gets lost underneath it. “You know I’m recovering from a late night. What is your deal, Fat?”

I watch the mound of her body move under the sheet in a half circle before doubling back around. “It’s time to greet the day and fill my bowl.” Her head becomes exposed when she finds the edge of the sheet, she shimmies the rest of her big self out. “Don’t you think you’re a little old for these kind of nights?”

Before I can enter outrage mode, iPhone beeps with a text message. I reach to grab it off the nightstand and read a message from my friend in Ontario. The suspicion is at home on my face when I eye Fat. “Are you in cahoots with our future roommate already? Both of you are asses for waking me up. I don’t think I like the idea of you two united under the same roof.” I look at the message still displayed on the phone screen and growl at the phone as though it’s connected to his ear. “You know how early it is here, jerk.” There is a loud clunking noise when iPhone hits the nightstand.

Fat waits a moment as if giving me the opportunity to come to a realization. “You know he can’t hear you, right?”

I lie back down and intelligible words disintegrate into a sleepy mumble. “I know.” Easily, my eyelids shut and I’m back on the cusp of falling back to sleep. The blackness behind my eyelids encompasses me and I drift…

A familiar paw touches my cheek and pulls me back to the land of the conscious. “Still neglected over here. Stomach’s grumbling.”

“No, Fat.” I yell again and hide my face in my arms.

Fat’s claws tap on my elbow. “We both know how this ends. Save yourself the trouble.”

“Fine.” Exasperation is ever-present in the single-syllable. My feet hit the ground and Fat leaps off the bed as like a tennis champion hurdles over the net. “After you,” I gesture with my hand at the doorway.

Fat prances through. “Thank you.”

After many attempt to make this happen in the past, I shut the door tight behind her and flop back into bed.

“Hey.” I hear the pathetic scrape of her nails on the wall outside my bedroom.

“You said we both knew how this would end. I know it ends with starvation. Enjoy your fabulous morning, wretched beast.”