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.”

Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

Office Hours: Inappropriate Show and Tell

“Are those your sodomy pants?” Fat’s smile widens as my attention suffers a minor breakup from the full-length hall mirror in order to throw a disgusted look at her over my shoulder.

“I really don’t understand your sense of humour, Fat.” I turn back to my mirror twin. She’s looking decent for a change; her hair is down and out of the frizzy I-don’t-give-a-fuck bun, makeup is given a little effort today — not just a hit of mascara and some concealer to disguise the war zone breaking out on the forehead, and the icing on the cake is that my mirror twin is wearing a cute outfit. I give the mirror-twin an overenthusiastic up-and-down, the knit scarf with the cardigan, antique necklace and the jeans. This chick has my approval. I spin slowly, like a vertical rotisserie, to check out the backside in the mirror. In the background, Fat muffles a laugh that is truly difficult to ignore. My mirror twin looks shocked and appalled; it appears I’m a lot more classy coming than going. Right in the seam of my beloved jeans is a hole, and not just a little hole; it’s big enough to serve as invitational porn-star pants.

Fuming, I look over to the couch, where the hearty chuckle of a certain feline booms from watching me discover the wardrobe malfunction. “How long were you going to wait before you told me?” I unzip my fly and wrestle the jeans off my thighs. Hunched with my pants around my knees, I look up again, “You were going to tell me, right?”

“Hey, I called them sodomy pants. What more could I have done? Boss, with the movies you’ve watched lately, I wasn’t about to judge.” Her tail curls around her body when the laughter finally subsides.

“Not sure what that has to do with anything,” I mutter and kick the deceased boot cuts into the middle of the living room.

Her voice follows me to the bedroom closet where I flip through hanger after hanger until I come across another pair of dark wash jeans. “The Hangover II? This is the end? Tell me what else those two movies have in common other than backyard playmates.”

Once again in pants, I re-enter the living room. “Backyard playmates? That’s the euphemism you go with?”

She smiles, “I was going to get into a metaphor about swing sets, but thought backyard playmates was strong enough to stand on its own. If you want I can keep going.”

“We’re good. I’m picking up what you’re throwing down.”

Fat taps the couch cushion with her paw. “Come, sit. Let’s have a chat.”

I can spare a couple minutes. I acquiesce and flop onto the couch beside her.

“Why are you being a nude prude?”

I cross my legs, “Fat, I’m not being a…” In the moment I fail to come up with a better way to phrase it, so I parrot her vernacular with an alarming amount of self-hatred, “nude prude. Pardon me for lacking the desire to share my ass with the world.”

“What ass?” She catches my stare, “Don’t give me that look, I’m kidding. Sort of.” Fat shakes her head in a taunting way, “You’ve changed; a couple years ago you would have laughed about showing off your brown eye by accident. Now, look at you. Running to the bedroom to cover up in something appropriate.”

“Please. I’m still inappropriate. In a classy kind of way.”

Fat rolls onto her side, hinting that she wants her belly rubbed. “How’s that, now?”

“I don’t do nudity. Not unless I’m accidentally showing off to the neighbours when I’m wandering around naked after a shower when the curtains are open.”

“Ah yes, Taco Tuesday. Always hilarious, never a crowd pleaser, but hilarious.”

I can’t help myself, I smile at the embarrassing memory. “We almost moved when that happened. If it wasn’t summertime I doubt there would have been such an audience on that balcony.”

“Cue breakthrough.” Fat moves to sit on my lap.

“Huh?”

Fat looks at me, slightly annoyed that she needs to explain. “You need to spend more time naked.”

“Not with you on my lap, I don’t. There are few things more unsettling than a cat lady that pets her feline whilst donning her birthday suit. It’s weird.”

“I meant metaphorically, ass face. I’m trying to inspire some growth from you.”

The conversation replays in my head. Fat watches as I play back the tapes, think on it, and consult the memory bank again.

After a couple minutes of waiting on a reply, Fat jumps down and wanders over to her cat bed. “It’s not really the think piece you’re making it out to be. Just let the message sink in and you’ll be fine.”