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.”

Still Waters and Mud Puddles

“I peed on that pillow that’s been under your head for the better part of an hour.”

As if spring-loaded, I bound off the couch; my state of relaxation brutally murdered by the foul words from the feline. Now on the offense, my slapping hand is at the ready, twitching in anticipation of striking the obtuse cat. At this moment I’m certain I’m about to make Zsa Zsa Gabor proud.

“Put those arthritic digits away. I’m fibbing.” Fat jumps onto the coffee table and sticks her head into the empty potato chip bag. Her words mesh with the rustling of the foil, “You were playing possum long enough, I needed to get a show of life out of you.” She backs her face out of the empty snack bag, “What’s rattling around that old bean bag of yours that keeps you so statuesque?”

Slowly and cautiously, my slapping hand lowers. It’s a good automatic reaction to have, but I worry that one day it won’t be so easily controlled. The slapping hand has calmed to an inquisitive state and it grabs the teal couch pillow tentatively. In an uncharacteristic show of bravery, I bring the pillow to my nose and take a quick whiff. No signs of ammonia must mean the grey bitch wasn’t lying about fibbing. This pillow is sans cat pee — she’ll live to annoy me another day. Still, I toss the pillow to the far side of the couch for comfort’s sake. My knees buckle and I flop on the sofa. I recline, not finding zen comfort now that I’m aware my movements are being tracked by unblinking green eyes.

“Just thinking, Fat.” I stare up at the ceiling. What was I thinking about? Everything and nothing all at the same time. Unimportant things that carry the weight of the world and important things that are easily dismissed. I was thinking about moving and staying and/or becoming a roaming gypsy. I think about transporting anchors in wheelbarrows. I start thinking about tea on Sunday mornings. Spending hours telling stories out of my fingers; inventing people and places that don’t exist outside of my head. I think about owning a charmingly strange bookstore with my best friend that isn’t lucrative by any stretch of the imagination, but is one damn good time. I think myself into a strange silence and I don’t even realize until–

“You’re doing it again. If you’re not going to share, just stop. You’re acting freaky.”

I roll onto my side and see Fat sitting on the table licking sour cream and dill crumbs off her paw. “What kinds of things do you think about, Fat?”

She finishes licking the remaining salt off her foot and sets it on the table. “Important things, obviously.”

“Like what?” I know this is a loaded question, but the one thing about not sharing a brain with anyone else is you have no idea what messages their synapses are firing. “What kind of evolved thoughts go through your little cat brain?”

“You know how I love visualization; I think about taking classic saying and breathing life into them. For instance, I literally desire to give somebody butterflies; they’d be dead of course – the butterflies I mean – you know I love to pounce on those things. Not that you let me outside anymore.”

“Not that I ever did. You must be thinking of a former life.” For all I know she was found pouncing on moths in a field before she was brought to the S.P.C.A.

She ignores me to continue. “I’ve also been thinking lately about the great gas mileage you’d get on the highway to hell.”

Laughter takes me by surprise and I start to cough. Once I can breathe comfortably I have to ask, “How do you figure?”

She shrugs as though the answer is obvious, “It’s all downhill.”

I reach over, lifting Fat under the ribcage and put her down beside me. “I’m going to tell you something I don’t say too often; I fucking love you, Fat.”