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Leonard (My Life as a Cat) - Carlie Sorosiak

Leonard (My Life as a Cat)
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Название: Leonard (My Life as a Cat)
Автор: Carlie Sorosiak
Добавлено: 23 июнь 2022
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Acknowledgments

About the Author

Humans have it all wrong about aliens. Sometimes I see images of us on television—with enormous eyes, with skin the color of spring leaves—and I wonder: Who thought of this? What reason could they have? Olive always tells me not to watch those shows. “You’ll just give yourself bad dreams,” she says. So we switch off the TV and curl up by the window, listening to the gentle hush of waves.

But the truth is, I really don’t belong here—not permanently, not forever. That’s why we’re traveling in this Winnebago, zooming down dark roads at midnight. Olive is wearing her frayed overalls, and she’s cradling me in her arms.

I don’t squirm. I don’t scratch. I am not that type of cat.

“You won’t forget me,” she says, pressing her forehead to mine. “Please promise you won’t.”

She smells of cinnamon toast and raspberry shampoo. There are daisy barrettes in her hair. And for a second, I consider lying to her—out of love. The words are right there: I will always remember. I could never forget. But I’ve been honest with her this whole time, and the rules of intergalactic travel are clear.

Tomorrow, I will forget everything I’ve ever felt.

In my mind, Olive will exist only as data, as pure information. I’ll remember her daisy barrettes, our Saturday afternoons by Wrigley Pier—but not how it felt to share a beach towel, or read books together, or fall asleep under the late June sun. And Olive doesn’t deserve that. She is so much more than a collection of facts.

Halfheartedly, I summon a purr. It rattles weakly in my chest.

“You get to go home,” Olive says, the ghost of a smile on her face. “Home.”

The Winnebago speeds faster, then faster still. Outside, the sky is full of stars. And I want to communicate that I will miss this—feeling so small, so earthly. Am I ready to go back? Half of me is. And yet, when I close my eyes, I picture myself clinging to the walls of this motor home.

Olive sets me down on the countertop, the plastic cool under my paws. Opening her laptop, she angles the keyboard toward me, a gesture that says, Type, will you? But I shake my head, fur shivering.

“You don’t want to talk?” she asks.

What can I say? I owe it to Olive not to make this any harder. So I won’t use the computer. I won’t tell her what I’ve been hoping—to maybe carry one thing back. Maybe if I concentrate hard enough, a part of Olive will imprint on a part of me, and I will remember how it felt. How it felt to know a girl once.

“Okay,” she says, shutting her laptop with a sigh. “At least eat your crunchies.”

So I eat my crunchies. They’re trout-flavored and tangy on my tongue. I chew slowly, savoring the morsels. This is one of my last meals as a cat.

I haven’t always lived in this body. Leonard wasn’t always my name.

Olive pats my head as I lick the bowl clean. “I know you didn’t want to be a cat,” she says, so softly that my ears prick to hear her, “but you are a very, very good cat.”

I want the computer now. My paws are itching to type: You are a very, very good human. Because she is. And she will be, long after I’m gone.

If you allow yourself, you might like our story. It’s about cheese sandwiches and an aquarium and a family. It has laughter and sadness and me, learning what it means to be human.

On my journey to Earth, I was supposed to become human.

That is where I’ll begin.

For almost three hundred years, I had wished for hands. Every once in a while, I pictured myself holding an object in my own palm, with my own fingers. An apple, a book, an umbrella. I’d heard the most wonderful rumors about umbrellas—and rain, how it dotted your skin. Humans might take these things for granted (standing in the street, half shielded by an umbrella in a summer rainstorm), but I promised myself, centuries ago, that I would not.

It was all just so tremendously exciting, as I hitched a ride on that beam of light.

This trip to Earth was about discovery, about glimpsing another way of life.

And I was ready.

On the eve of our three hundredth birthdays, all members of our species have the opportunity to spend a month as an Earth creature—to expand our minds, gather data, and keep an eye on the neighbors. I could’ve been a penguin in Antarctica or a wild beast roaming the plains of the Serengeti; I could’ve been a beluga whale or a wolf or a goose. Instead, I chose the most magnificent creature on Earth: the common human.

Perhaps you find my decision laughable. I feel the need to defend it. So please think about penguins, who refuse to play the violin. About wolves, who have no use for umbrellas. Even geese take little joy in the arts. But humans? Humans write books, and share thoughts over coffee, and make things for absolutely zero reason. Swimming pools, doorbells, elevators—I was dying to discover the delight of them all.

Still, it was a terrifically difficult choice, narrowing it down. Because there are so many different types of humans. Did I want to wear shorts and deliver mail? Would a hairnet look flattering on me? Could I convincingly become a television star? After nearly fifty years of thought, I decided on something humbler. More suited to my interests.

A national park ranger. A Yellowstone ranger. Wasn’t it perfect? I’d give myself a mustache and boots and have a dazzling twinkle in my left eye. In my mind, I’d practiced the way I’d flick my wrists—I’d have wrists, you see—toward the natural exhibits. In front of a crowd of human tourists, I’d walk with an exaggerated swing of my hips and carry many useful things in

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