Refunds at the Freak Show

“What do you reckon that ugly stick looks like? You know, the one from the phrase, ‘so-and-so looks like they’ve been hit with an ugly stick’. It must have a distinctive shape to be a definitive ugly stick. Right?”

Of course this is the useless drivel I wake up to. Why wouldn’t it be? Fat and nonsense might just be synonymous. I love being gifted many words from the idiot cat and no context to align them. I have no idea what time it is, I just know that this is more of a conversation for after the wake-up period. I adjust the blankets to cover the limbs exposed from the restless kicking and acrobatics that occurred in last night’s fight to find comfort.

The light from the bedroom window blinds me and, I say this in a hyperbolic hand-to-God kind of way, my retinas are definitely affected. I squint at the uncharacteristic November sunshine gracing this early Vancouver morning before I roll away from it and toward the absolute opposite: I come face-to-face with the she-devil feline who is deep in speculation mode. Our noses rest a fraction of an inch away from each other. Fat strokes her whiskers with a paw as she contemplates.

Her plastic shrink glasses are on. She’s been waiting for me. Ambush therapy, Fat’s specialty.

“If I were to suppose, I would say that ugly stick is shaped like a hand. Makes for a really great mark when you get hit across the face with it.” Her warm, sour breath accosts my face. This really isn’t a great start to the morning.

“Been awake for a while hey, Fat?” I mumble and try to push her a good arm’s length away. I don’t know what she’s been eating that makes her mouth smell like decay, but my face needs to be given some literal breathing room.

“Long enough to make you coffee, you ungrateful and wretched woman.” The grey feline sashays to the side to gesture with both paws, in a ta-da fashion, at the steaming mug on the bedside table.

Amazing. Good kitty. I reach with utter delight, so tickled at how the morning has turned around in mere seconds. Goodbye to the grumbling I-don’t-do-mornings version of myself, hello to the caffeinated little-miss-sunshine side of my personality. Before my fingers grasp the handle of the porcelain mug I stop. My arm remains suspended in midair as a panicked alarm echoes through my head. Fat did a deed that was both nice and unsolicited. Something isn’t right here; something is terribly, terribly wrong.

I brace for incurable news when I ask, “Why?”

“Wow, trust issues.” Fat’s paw clutches her chest as though I’ve violated the sanctity of her character. “Can’t a feline just do something nice for her caretaker?”

“Seriously, Fat, why?” My body remains rigid like a cartoon character frozen in place. I’m not about to grab that coffee mug just yet.

She reaches to grab her pen, almost like she’s expecting something noteworthy to occur. “Because at some point last night you were struck with the ugly stick, Boss. You deserve to be coddled a little bit. Life gets pretty hard when you’re the owner of a messed up face.”

I can’t sit up fast enough. I wrestle with the duvet that’s trying to keep me away from a mirror. What does she mean messed up face? My face doesn’t feel any different. What happened last night? The faint click of Fat’s pen punctuates this moment where I’m scrambling out of bed. I run over to the dresser mirror to see the damage.

A perfect scarlet image of my own hand rests across my cheek – it looks like I recently crossed Zsa Zsa Gabor. Because the moment calls for it, I lift my hand and press it against the mark on my face. Yup, story checks out. Looks like I was just sleeping with my face against my palm. Nothing to see here, folks, the freak show is a hoax; go see the world’s fattest twins for your refund.

“It’s just a sleep mark, you idiot.” I turn back to the bed, graced by the view of my shrink scribbling excitedly in one of my old college notebooks. “What’s so interesting?”

“We just had a eureka moment. Your reaction just confirmed something I’ve long since suspected, Boss. You’re a Narcissist, whom I also speculate suffers from Grandiosity.” She points to the coffee mug, still untouched, on the night stand. “Drink up. I’m going to need you to be fully alert. Prepare yourself for a long session.”

I can’t prove it, but I assume she learned these words from daytime television between her soap operas. Narcissist? How can she say that about somebody as humble as I am? I am the most humble, charming, sweet, thoughtful person you’ll ever meet. I dare say I might just be the best human alive.

I’m going to drink that coffee. Then I’m going to kill her. And then I’m going to go back to bed. Later I’ll find a nice taxidermist and have her stuffed. And we will finally live happily ever after.

The expression on my face prompts another tidbit from the feline. “Don’t worry, I brewed a whole pot. We’re set for a while.”

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: Memory Lane

Hey Fat,
I’m not being a bitch and ignoring your Face Time request. I’ll call you back later – if you’re calling because Chelsea isn’t giving you enough treats in my absence, you don’t have my sympathy.
Inclement weather means it’s family night and we’re watching a video of a man-wolf thrust provocatively while singing that Gloria Estefan song, ‘Bad Boy’. Hilarious comments of his prowess have long since been made and his dry-humping teeters on ubiquitous so we’ve wandered into an awkward family silence. We’re sitting here eating our pizza and looking from one another wondering who will reach for the remote and fast-forward to anything other than this sad man who probably anticipated this role would be his ticket to stardom. It seems like a good time to casually take out my phone and email you in order to distract myself from this prolonged moment from a strange 1994 home movie.
I suppose this email has thus far offered more questions than answers – Dad had our old camcorder footage transferred to DVD and we’re taking a trip down memory lane. Believe it or not, this wolf-man who ripped off the moves of a Chippendale’s dancer is actually performing in a Beetlejuice show we saw at Universal Studios back in the mid-nineties. I can only imagine what Yo Gabba Gabba and the Doodlebops allow at their children’s shows… complimentary LSD with admission, perhaps. Kids today are much more advanced.
Also in watching movies of us in Disneyland, I can’t help but notice the bright orange hat I wore in the California sunshine. Across the front it reads, Sweet Thing. It’s almost a beacon to a pedophile, isn’t it? Dodged a bullet on that one. Ah, the nineties.
Speaking of old times – I found my prom dress tucked away in one of the closets when I was looking for a sunhat. You know me; I love to play dress up. Get this, the dress still fits.

IMG_2303[1]Putting it on, I feel exactly like I did at seventeen when I tried the dress on for the first time. The saleslady must have watched too many bride shows because when I came out of the dressing room, she handed me a tissue and said I was having my ‘perfect dress’ moment. Unfamiliar with how the process normally occurs, I dabbed my armpits with the Kleenex and handed it back to her – it was sweltering out after all. I later realized she anticipated a single dramatic tear when I saw my reflection in the wall of mirrors; I’d be too choked up to make a sound and I’d just nod emphatically as if to say, “This is it. It’s perfect.” Nobody teaches you how to deal with situations like this, what was I supposed to do?
I’m so delighted to be able to wear my princess gown again, I made an afternoon of sashaying around and pretending to be somebody majestic (I’ll pause to let you make some kind of sarcastic comment, Fat). Of course, when meandering down memory lane and wearing a prom dress, my aunt asked me about my prom date. I could maybe pick him out of a crowd, but his name eludes me. I want to say it was something ordinary like Paul or Josh or something. Clearly, he was special.
It’s funny; I never really spend time thinking about the faraway past. It’s kind of fun, like witnessing somebody else’s life because I’m so far removed from it.
Update: The man-wolf has disappeared and we’ve cut to some footage of cannonball contests at the hotel pool. And – oh crap. I just got hit in the face by an overenthusiastic stepsister. This film just turned around, I’ve got to watch this. Hope everything is well at home, Fat. See you soon.
Love,
Boss

 


  

 Boss,
We’ve got a code red situation. Chelsea brought her boyfriend over to feed me tonight and he called me Wilbur (which, by the way, is the name of a gelatinous pig in case you were wondering). Things are falling apart here. Take leave of your home movies and old-ass prom dress from a graduation dance that occurred before the birth of Christ. I’m serious. Get out of the past and come home NOW.
Fat

Conversations That Ease Abandonment

“I thought you said you were going to putter around the house today? What’s this nonsense you’ve got going on?”

Fat sits right in front of the plastic cup I’ve placed on its side on the carpet. She looks to where I’ve repositioned the coffee table — out of the way, beside the cloudy window of the patio door so I have more room.

I briefly take my eye off the brilliant pink of the Volvik ball in front of my feet. Instead of answering, I let my arms swing back and there’s the nice sound of the golf club connecting to the ball. Our heads move in unison as Fat and I both watch the pink sphere roll across the carpet. If my aim were better, I wouldn’t have missed her by a foot. However, this ball lands closer to the cup than my first one; the latter found a new home under the couch.

“So again I ask, what on earth are you doing?”

“Putting.” I give the feline an exasperated look with my answer, “Obviously.”

“And the outfit?”

“Pretty, yes?” The putter becomes a fancy cane that I lean on and strike a pose. I’m wearing my white golf skirt, teal shirt, matching shoes and glove that ties the ensemble together in a neat little bow. I figure if I’m going to play terribly and get drunk off beer at the golf course, I might as well look good doing it. I use the putter to manoeuver another ball from the remaining three into position.

“Sure, Boss.” Fat doesn’t move. She’s seen my skills and she’s clearly not worried about me hitting my target. Fat is smart like that sometimes.

Concentration and intention pour from my brain into my hands. My head tilts to Fat, then to the ball, then to Fat, then back to the ball. The golf club lifts gently off the ground, the hips swivel slightly, eye on the ball and…

“The dress-up thing doesn’t surprise me.”

I sigh and lower the putter to the ground. The sun comes out and light drifts into our dismal living room. I offer her my silence in exchange for an explanation.

The good doctor smiles as though she’s won something, and maybe she has. “You like to dress for occasions, don’t you? There’s this golfer outfit you’ve got here, when you fixed the closet door handles you gussied yourself up in coveralls, the rare times you bake there’s always an apron and the matching oven mitts, you even have a bandana for changing oil in a car. It kind of gives a clue as to why you’re old and alone.” Fat pauses, giving me time to make some sort of realization.

I twirl the putter around since I have nothing I should contribute to the conversation. I want to make a comment about being self-sufficient, but I’ve fallen into her traps before. It keeps my rage in check if I don’t give her a reason to make me feel like an idiot.

“There’s no kind of costume or Personal Protective Equipment for being in a relationship with you. It’s a wonder anyone has ever signed up to be your boyfriend.”

“PPE? Like goggles and safety vests?” I hesitate to ask, because I worry Fat will take the conversation to a XXX kind of place. Those S&M folk play dress-up too.

“More like a metaphoric jock strap. It’s almost like you truly don’t want to find somebody. Ever.”

I revoke my full attention and line up once again with the golf ball. “You think I’m a lot more harsh than I actually am.” I hit the ball without forethought, and it ricochets off the wall with much too much force. “Why don’t you think I’m fine without a man, Fat? This isn’t a hundred years ago. I’m not even close to old maid status.”

“But you would be such a beautiful bride. And, if you don’t mind my saying so, a great mother too.”

I frown and my mouth puckers like I’m tasting pink grapefruit. “You’ve supported my single life in the past. Whose agenda are you pushing?”

The feline scratches her temple and she bears a confession face. “I was maybe corresponding via text with your parents under the guise of your identity.” Her sheepish face switches to scorn, “When were you going to announce that you’re leaving me for a week?”

“My parents, of course. They can see my older brother about more grandkids, he’d love to add to his brood.” He’s planning a wedding next year too; that should take the heat off of me for a couple more years at least. “And stop playing on my phone.” I’m going to need to change my passcode.

In all honesty, I had no intention of telling Fat I was leaving, she would figure it out once Chelsea showed up to fill her food dish. I think euphorically of my plane ticket and lazy Okanagan plans. A week of freedom starting tomorrow. G’bye, Fat.

The feline squints at me. “What is that ridiculous smile for?”

Lowering the Bar

“You’ve got a little something there.”

Fat’s paw gesticulates in a circular motion in front of her furry chest.

Compared to the glorious weather outside, the apartment is immersed in darkness. I peel off my sunglasses and look down at what was, when I left for work fourteen hours ago, a flawless cream tank top. The shirt has since been violated and scandalized by a crusty smattering of brown something. From its location, the mysterious substance looks like alien areola on my shirt.

“Damn. Can’t keep it classy, can I?” I mumble and pull my top taut with one hand while the thumbnail of the opposite one picks at the dried-on smudge. I’m looking down at such an intense angle my neck folds like an accordion and becomes a double chin. At least that’s what it feels like.

“What is it?” Fat moves to sit at my heels. Her double chin flattens as she lengthens her neck to stare upward. Such juxtaposition.

I don’t think, I just act. Pinching the cotton fabric from either side of the mess, I lift the stain to my mouth.

“Boss, no!” Fat shields her eyes as though there will be some terrible backlash from my actions.

My tongue presses against the stain. It is just as I thought.

“Barbeque sauce.”

Fat carefully lowers her paw and peeks out. When she realizes that neither of us are going to die, her paw touches down to the floor and the feline sits straighter as her spine becomes rigid.

“You’re an idiot. Barbeque sauce? A brown smudge could have been any number of gross things.”

“I was at a barbeque after work, Fat. There is nothing else it could have been. Besides, if you look at the trajectory,” I mime eating and draw an invisible line from my imaginary burger to the stain on my right boob, “the angle checks out.” This is where high school math class pays off; I was wondering when this crap would come in handy.

Fat doesn’t think I notice her claws slowly digging into the carpet. “You’re so frivolous with stupid things. Nothing on your face showed sign of second thought to sticking unknown dried sludge in your mouth.” Her voice screeches with frustration.

“What’s your problem, Fat?”

“This devil-may-care attitude of yours. I just don’t understand why that’s not a blanket mentality. The therapist in me is curious, but the roommate in me is beyond tired of your moronic nature.”

“What do you mean?” I stick the soiled section of shirt in my mouth and suck the mesquite flavour.

The feline snaps, “Get that out of your mouth; you’re not a child.” She waits for me to obey before she continues. “You’re so carefree with all the stupid stuff in your life, but when it comes down to things that are important, you hesitate and drag your heels until the decisions are made for you. You lack instinct. I can’t think of a time when you’ve been attuned to your visceral gut.”

“That time in Mexico when everybody else ate at that gnarly dive bar and I had a bad feeling about it. They all ended up sick in the ‘it’s coming out of both ends’ kind of way.” I pair the anecdote with a cheeky smile. I’m pretty proud of that decision two years ago. Though, it may have been the voice in my head screaming about how it seemed like a bad idea; if I recall correctly, my gut was hungry at the time.

“Boss,” Fat draws out the word so she sounds like a serpent, “That’s not what I meant. But clearly your brain got busy rubbing elbows with the beer at the barbeque, so it’s kind of a lost cause talking to you right now. I get it. You don’t think things through. But for the sake of my sanity, can you be that way with everything in your life so I know not to have any hope?”

“I can’t promise that, Fat.” My eyes drift back down to the stain. I don’t know how I’m still hungry.

“It’s just not fair to me to know that you have the capacity to make informed decisions. If I always expect you to be a buffoon I can’t ever be disappointed.”