Cinderella Would Understand

“Fat, what are you doing in here?”

The gentle snoring ceases. Her grey head shifts a half-inch to the right when my words rouse her from what is likely hour six of an afternoon nap. One of the feline’s eyes opens a tiny fraction and sees me kneeling above her.

“What are you doing here? This is my fortress.” After a couple blinks, both her eyes find their way to half-open. Her neck rolls backward so she can look up to the rest of the contents of the overstuffed closet. “It’s impossible to find anything in here; the perfect place to hide out.”

She’s managed to flip the lid off one of the shoe boxes in the closet and wedged her rotund body into the box amongst the summer heels. A lion’s yawn escapes her gigantic mouth.

“You’re sleeping with my brunch shoes. What’s the matter with you?”

“I think the better question is: what kind of person has brunch shoes? I’ve never even seen you wear these.” She redistributes her weight around the champagne heels, settling back into slumber with both eyes once again closed.

I hold up an index finger pointedly. “Okay, first of all, those are summer brunch shoes. Second, you have enough places to flop around here, get out.” I shake the blue shoebox until the displeased feline jumps out.

“Hey!” The word is blanketed by a hiss. “I don’t force you out of hiding when you’re avoiding somebody. That’s just rude, is what that is.”

“Who are you avoiding?”

“Mind your business, Boss.”

“Fine.” I kneel and continue my rummaging through the mountain of boxes, opening each one to see if they hold the footwear I’m looking for. Eventually, box eight or nine has them. I pull out boots that match the feline in colour, with a black wedge heel.

“You haven’t worn those either, it looks like. S’funny.” Fat squeezes her way back into the small space that has exceeded capacity. She nudges close to her recently vacated nap space.

“What’s funny?”

Fat plays with the string handle of another shoebox, batting it with a Serena William’s style swing. “The fact that you identify yourself as a minimalist.”

“It doesn’t make it untrue. I don’t need much to live.”

“The fluffy ones are always the most adorable.” Her forehead elongates as if lifting her eyebrows and Fat gives me the gift of her signature you-are-some-kind-of-stupid look. She mutters under her breath, “It’s like that time you thought you were a feminist because you bought tools.”

“What?” I’m holding the boot in my hand like an oversize pistol.

With a matter-of-fact tone, Fat’s words are clipped and succinct. “You have summertime brunch shoes.”

Mutt saunters into the bedroom in a cavalier manner. He does a double-take when he sees the good doctor out of hiding. His mouth opens wide in a dog smile and his tail becomes a frantic metronome.

“Oh crap.” Fat looks left to right, searching for her best possible exit. She leaps up onto the dresser, and Mutt gives chase. The feline bounds to the bed then races out the door. I hear both of them sprint down the hall as Fat cusses at the simple-minded dog.

I daintily place the boot down on the floor amongst the boxes, now littered across the carpet, and quietly contemplate Fat’s insight.

That bitch is crazy. Even a minimalist needs summertime brunch shoes.

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.”

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

Vacation: Hour One

Dear Fat,
I took a guess and figured you’d be nosing through my emails while I’m away. I trust you found this letter in the draft folder and just couldn’t help yourself to a peek. Chelsea won’t be by to feed you until she’s off work – can you do me a favour and make sure that I didn’t leave the hair straightener turned on? I know you probably read that and thought something like, “Nothing doing, wench,” but you really should make sure it’s not plugged in; it’s not me that will die if the apartment catches fire. I’m just saying… you’re going to want to take clean up after my carelessness. My apologies, that could have been more sensitive. For the record, I don’t want you to die in a fire. I’m sure your fur is much too flammable.
Listen, I’m sorry that you’re mad that I left without giving you any warning. It’s only a week – enjoy the solitude. Mutt is over at the chef’s house. You can spend the quiet week pouring through the internet reading articles for unlicensed wannabe shrinks. Sorry, that could have come out a little nicer. You’ve been a great help at times. We probably shouldn’t discuss the times you have been less than helpful and I’ve wanted to search Craigslist for a kitty guillotine.
As I’m sure you can guess from the correspondence, I’ve arrived at Mead Manor and I’m in good company. My stepsister and I have both been busted on the cooking front and the parents have decreed that the two of us will be throwing together tonight’s dinner. The fact that she and I both gravitate toward men that know their way around a kitchen isn’t an accident; it’s a sign of intelligent upbringing. But with beer in hand, we’ve got great plans for protein skewers, roasted peppers and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. We’re working the ol’ Mead standby – keep everyone’s drinks full and cook slowly so the alcohol has time to warp judgement. You know, just in case.
Believe it or not, I will actually miss your company this week, Fat. Tell Chelsea I say hi.
Love,
Boss

 


 

Dear idiot Boss,
I expect you’ll find your straightener inside your suitcase. You packed it last night, remember? Obviously not, your ability to be a complete buffoon seldom surprises me anymore. That hair iron is an extra limb to a vain person like yourself; at least the hazard is out of the apartment for the time being – the hazard being you, of course. If I may also go on record, I don’t want you to perish in a fire either – I’d much prefer to get the satisfaction of suffocating you myself.
No, I’m not upset that you abandoned me to go wakeboard or whatever it is you do in Kelowna. One quick thing to note: if you find a hairball in your underwear drawer, it was an accident. Sincerely.
Oh, Boss. This almost seems like a letter to grandma. It’s cute that you think I care about you cooking dinner. I don’t. You left me and my ability to care about your life has also abandoned the apartment. Funny how that works.
I’ll be scooting my ass over as many surfaces as I can in your absence; I know how you love that. Please let that image gnaw at your brain for the duration of your time away.
Regards,
Fat

 

The Punishment For a Day at the Beach

“Scarlett O’Hara, you’re home earlier than expected.”

Fat jumps down from the bed when she sees me in the hallway. She shoots a quick look to the window; the tail end of daylight occupies the frame. The grey cat settles herself in front of the bedroom door, watching as I kick off my flip flops and pull my hair from a ponytail.

Fat sniggers loudly from the doorway when I walk past her and into the kitchen.

Sometimes I really don’t get Fat’s humour, but I play along anyway. Playing Frisbee all afternoon at the beach has boosted my mood. My voice elevates to that of a southern ingénue from a decades-old classic film.

“Fat, you are no gentleman.” I open the fridge and talk at the same time. I’m so parched, I just drink the water straight from the pitcher. As is to be expected, it dribbles down my front and gives me the appearance of  a leaky nursemaid.

“And you, Miss, are no lady.” Fat times her Rhett Butler response perfectly. Her voice dips to a lower octave and she fiddles with her whiskers as though they are a glossy moustache.

“In hindsight, a glass might have been a good idea.” The pitcher finds a home on the countertop as the back of my hand brushes across my wet chin and throat.

“In hindsight, something else might have been a good idea today too. Methinks you went a little too heavy on the rouge, Boss.”

My nose crinkles, a sign of incomprehension. “I’m not wearing any makeup, Fat.”

Fat’s index digit shakes at me in a scolding manner, “No sunscreen either, I suppose.”

I most certainly did put on sunscreen, my lily-white albino skin needs it. I made sure to put it on this morning. Right?

There is a moment of doubt when it comes to my memory and I dash to the full-length mirror in the hall. I gaze into the worried ashen face of my mirror twin. I stare at her from head to toe, she pulls off her nursemaid t-shirt and stands in a bikini top and shorts – appearing in front of me with the healthy complexion of an apparition.

Fat has leisurely sauntered over and sits directly at the base of the mirror with a cruel-but-delighted smile on her face.

“Fuck off, Fat.” With the open-handed gesture of a magician’s assistant, I motion to the reflection in the mirror.

The feline licks her lips, as though trying to suffocate her laughter. She looks down to the floor and her shoulders shrug up and down with a silent chuckle. After a moment, she composes herself, meets my angry stare and calmly utters the words, “Turn around.”

The lowered eyebrows of my mirror twin transition and now arch in worried surprise. The thought didn’t occur to either of us to twirl and check out the body’s other hemisphere.

Slowly, my mirror twin and I do a synchronized routine of rotating our bodies as our faces peer over our shoulders with concern. Looks of worried surprise turn to a hybrid of utter self-contempt and sorrow. Stinging pain sets in the moment I acknowledge the damage done. The section from the middle of my back down to my knees looks to have survived nuclear war. The burn has the disposition and hue of Satan’s office. I grab the base of my shorts and pull up to reveal one of my ass cheeks. There is a definitive line of where the bathing suit stopped.

Her laughter can’t contain itself anymore; Fat gives it voice and sets it free. “Stay right there, I need to get a picture of your face for Instagram.”

“Don’t be a jerk, can’t you see that I’m hurting?” How did I successfully lather everything else with sunscreen, but miss so much?

“Frankly, Boss, I don’t give a damn.”