“Here kitty, kitty, kitty,” Carl shouted from the front door of his house, a white plastic bag hanging from his closed hand. He’d made another impulse purchase, this time at the RadioShack they’d just built by the train station. He hadn’t gone in there with the intention of buying anything; rather, he’d gone with the intention of asking the staff how it was possible that RadioShack was not only still in business, but actively opening up new stores in what was essentially a low-population, hick town. Yet as he was wandering over to the counter, mind racing with an arsenal of admittedly inappropriate questions, it appeared in the corner of his eye: “Speak to your Pet! Only Available at RadioShack.”
Carl purchased the device on the spot. It was clearly some sort of “please, dear God, keep us from going out of business” gimmick RadioShack had made, but it piqued his interest nonetheless. The salesman standing next to the boxes explained that it was all over the news, that RadioShack technicians had invented a way to convert the thoughts of animals into a language humans could understand. He also mentioned that Carl was likely living under a rock considering he hadn’t read about the breakthrough, which was simply not true. Carl lived in a house, just like any other normal human with enough money to afford such a living condition. Still, he’d spent years wondering what kind of complex thoughts were going through his cat’s head and would gladly pay $89.99 for the opportunity to hear them. If not that, then perhaps he’d at least figure out why his cat was such a bad listener.
“Kitty,” Carl shouted, “come here.” He lowered the bag onto the kitchen table and plunged his hand inside, grabbing the plastic package and tearing it open. The device fell out onto the kitchen table, rolling slightly before toppling over flat. He picked it up and stared it. The device looked almost exactly like a traditional cat collar, black with the exception of several small, silver pads on its interior. A small, gold latch held it closed, forming a nearly rigid circle. It certainly didn’t look comfortable. He flicked open the latch and slipped it onto his wrist, immediately noticing absolutely no difference. He was fairly confident he’d been scammed. He slid the collar back off his wrist.
“Corporal Cuddles!” Carl screamed, his voice cracking as he turned back toward the entry to his kitchen. His cat lay in a small bundle of fur atop the heating vent in the corner. “There you are, kitty,” he said, wandering over.
Corporal Cuddles lifted his head up and glanced over at Carl, then returned back down to his paws.
“I bought you a present,” Carl said, kneeling down beside the cat and softly running his hand down his back. “Who’s my wittle guy?” he said
Corporal Cuddles again lifted his head before dropping it back down against the softly blowing heating vent and closing his eyes.
“Dat’s wite,” Carl said. “You are!” He gently picked up Corporal Cuddles’ head and closed the device around his neck with a soft snap. It didn’t look comfortable at all, the black band causing the hair around Cuddle’s neck to lift upwards. Still, the cat seemed not to care, immediately lowering his head back down to the vent as soon as Carl let go.
Carl stood up and took a step backward, staring down at the white and orange cat laying on the vent ahead of him. He wasn’t exactly sure what the next step was, he had neglected to read the manual. To be fair, he never read manuals. It wasn’t in his nature as a man. Sure, occasionally he constructed things entirely wrong—such as the Ikea cabinet with doors that opened inwards, or the chair he’d built that only remained sturdy if it was placed on an incredibly steep angle—but instructions were so pointless. Clearly a technology that allowed humans to hear the thoughts of animals wouldn’t be so complex that it needed to be outlined on paper.
“How’s it going?” Carl said, staring at Corporal Cuddles. It seemed like the right way to begin their new conversational relationship. The cat remained silent, his head pressed against the vent. To be fair, though, he never had been too talkative. Carl bent down and softly nudged the cat with his pointer finger.
“Mugghh,” Corporal Cuddles moaned, a sound Carl had not yet heard him make. Generally, Cuddles tended to keep his noises to a few “meows” here and there, or the rare “yrrawwwoo” when carl accidentally stepped on his tail. From what he read on the Internet, that was really about the limit in terms of cat sounds, although he did see a video once of a cat that sounded strangely like a goat.
“Hey,” Carl said, again nudging the cat with his finger. “What’s up?”
“Basta ya,” Corporal Cuddles said, his eyes remaining shut and mouth not moving. That was absolutely not a sound on the approved “cat noises” list he’d found online. It didn’t even sound anything like a goat, which he felt was truly on the outer limits of acceptable cat sounds.
“What?” Carl said, standing back up. “Did you call me a bastard?”
“Basta ya, por favor,” Corporal Cuddles said in a high-pitched, clearly irritated. “Por favor, por favor.”
Carl stared down at the small, orange cat sleeping a few inches from his feet. He had no idea why he was being called a bastard, he’d done nothing but care for the creature since buying him six years before. However, he was pretty confident the latter words were Spanish, although he had no idea what they meant. Something about a favor being done, he assumed.
“Excuse me?” Carl said.
“Dios mío,” Corporal Cuddles whined, lifting itself up and arching its back in an extended stretch. “¿Qué quieres?”
Carl took a step back and stared down at the cat. He was definitely speaking Spanish, or Mexican, or some sort of Latino language. Carl hadn’t exactly dedicated much time to learning the difference between them, although he did once spend an entire afternoon watching Telemundo. He hadn’t intended on doing so, but he accidentally clicked the remote onto the channel and, for whatever reason, found himself drawn into the over-dramatic soap opera they were playing. He had no idea what was going on, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
Corporal Cuddles stared up at Carl, his eyes wide and clearly disinterested.
“Do you understand me?”
“¿Que?” Corporal Cuddles said. “No hablo Inglés.”
Carl let out a long, slow sigh. For years he’d thought his cat was retarded, that he suffered some kind of mental block that made him unable to come when his name was called; suffered some sort of developmental disorder that resulted in him being unable to do anything other than sleep, eat, and occasionally nip at Carl’s heels when he was hungry. Yet now, thanks to the engineers at RadioShack, he realized there was nothing mentally wrong with his cat, he was simply Mexican. Or Spanish. Or Dominican. Some sort of Latino, that much he was sure of. Whatever the case, he had a foreigner cat, and that posed an issue.
Carl bent down and gently removed the collar from around Corporal Cuddles’ neck. As much as he wanted to continue talking to the cat, to try his best to gain some sort of insight into the life of a feline, he realized he couldn’t. If anyone heard his accent, heard his inability to speak English, they’d begin asking questions. Carl knew he had no documentation for the cat, nothing proving his U.S. citizenship. The last thing he needed was to get in trouble with the law for abetting an illegal immigrant and lose his pet. It would simply be easier to act as though Corporal Cuddles was just retarded. He would return the collar in the morning and pretend nothing ever happened.