The Dangers of Pumpkin Carving

“Art is not your strong suit, Boss.”

“What are you talking about?” I’m kneeling on the living room floor in front of the coffee table that is covered in a layer of newspaper now slimy with pumpkin innards. My bicep pops out slightly as I finish sawing into another section of the pumpkin. “You are going to effing love this jack o’ lantern.” The primal part of my being totally loves this stuff. I’ve got orange grit under my nails, my hands are slightly sticky and I’ve gutted this pumpkin like a damn trout.

Fat’s balances on her hind legs as her front ones brace the table’s edge. Her grey head tilts slightly to the side like a pompous critic at an art gallery. “Is this a self portrait or what?”

“Fat, it’s pumpkin carving. Be serious.” My thumbs press hard into the pumpkin flesh to dislodge the last piece of the mouth. Some people chisel the statue of David; I dissect pumpkins until they are four kinds of majestic.

“In all seriousness, it looks like a drag queen.” Fat’s paw notes the arched eyebrows and puffy lips. “I thought Halloween stuff was supposed to be scary.”

“First of all, it’s an homage to Tim Curry from Rocky Horror Picture Show. And second, it didn’t turn out as I pictured, but it is scary. What’s more frightening than painfully obvious Botox injections?”

Fat meets my gaze as she throws a dry look over her left shoulder. “Cute, Boss.” She jumps on the table amongst the pumpkin debris to suss out the work of the second pumpkin, now abandoned, on the table. “Your orange friend there must have startled your boyfriend. He hightailed it out of here a half hour ago. Didn’t even finish his bat thing.”

I set the knife down; I need it out of my hand if I’m going to attempt a conversation with the feline. “He’s not my boyfriend, Fat.” One would think she would tire from hearing this, but no.

“Yeah, okay.” She’s quick to interrupt even in the midst of leaning down to sniff a stringy, seed-filled, sloppy pile of pumpkin guts.

“And he’s been gone for like two, maybe three, minutes.” I was too absorbed to register the reason he said he needed to go back to his place. No matter.

“Just another one that couldn’t get away fast enough, lady.” Fat leans in and takes a delicate bite of pumpkin. “Oh god.” Fat spits it out instantly. “Oh no. No. Never again. What kind of devil food is this?” Her tongue darts in and out of her mouth as though licking the surrounding air will dissolve the taste across her palate. “I’m going to throw up. Seriously, right here on this table. Give me some room.”

I lift my pumpkin, saving it from potential cat vomit just as we hear the front door open and close; the sound brings Jesse back into the apartment. His head and arms poke through torn holes in a green garbage bag – his precautionary measure against the anticipated pumpkin mess. Jesse’s come back holding a six-pack of pale ale in one hand and plastic container of cookies in the other.

“Who do you think you are with that stuff, my father?” I’m half-kidding, but my pops would never turn down beer and cookies.

“Possible Daddy issues. Interesting.” Fat notes as her gaze follows the arc of a beer can lobbed through the air and into my awaiting hands. She seems to have forgotten about wanting to throw up. The feline’s neck snaps back to Jesse, doing a delayed double-take. “You’re still wearing your shoes. This is the living room.” She scowls at his lack of manners and her voice becomes a razor’s edge, “We do not wear footwear in the living room.”

“Chill, Miss Fat. I thought we were friends.” Jesse pulls the tab on his beer and the sound sings an anthem of refreshment. As a good woman, I’m already well into mine.

I grab the knife and attempt to cut more details into my wannabe Dr. Frank N. Furter one-handed while maintaining a hold on my beer with my left hand. I do not have the skill set to do this and decide that my pumpkin is finished.

Looking up, Fat stares at Jesse like she’s holding him at gunpoint. “Back up, sir. Remove your shoes, sir.” Her eyes drift to the container of cookies and her demeanor instantly changes. “Whatcha got there, buddy?”

“Woman, your cat is bipolar or something.” Jesse, still in his shoes, pulls the lid off the cookies. “Fat, you like cookies?”

“Don’t feed her cookies.” Curious, I reach over to see what kind of face Jesse’s pumpkin has. We were waiting to unveil our creations when we were both finished, but I’m done, and he’s been working on something. If you round up, we’ve both completed the job.

Fat’s neck cranes, trying to extend to the length of a giraffe’s just to see what kind of treats he’s brought over. “What kind of cookies?”

The pumpkin rotates in my hand as he announces, “Pumpkin cookies with cream cheese icing. I made them myself.”

Fat’s interest dissolves into utter disgust. Her taste only a moment ago was clearly enough of a trial. “Pumpkin?”

“Oh God.” My reaction mirrors that of my cat. “You have to go.”

“You don’t want cookies?” Jesse’s lower lip juts out in an overemphasized pout.

“Yes. What idiot doesn’t want cookies? But this,” I spin the pumpkin around so he can observe his crudely-cut Batman symbol, “is entirely unacceptable. We can’t hang out anymore.”

Jesse looks from Fat to me and back to Fat; by now he knows he’s pleased neither of us with his actions. He wears uncertainty the same way he wears his ghetto hazard suit.

His thumb points in the direction of the door and his slow backward steps masquerade as casual backpedaling, “Maybe I should go…”

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.”