1 Prudence There are two ways humans have of not telling the truth. The first used to be hard for me to understand because it doesn’t come with any of the usual signs of not-truth-telling. Like the time Sarah called my white paws “socks.” Look at your adorable littlesocks, she said. Socks are what humans wear on their feet to make them more like cats’ paws. But my paws are already padded and soft, and I can’t imagine any self-respecting cat tolerating something as silly as socks for very long. So at first I thought Sarah was trying to trick me by saying something that wasn’t true. Like the time she took me to the Bad Place and said, Don’t worry, they’re going to make you healthy and strong. I knew from the tightness in her voice when she putme into my carrier that some betrayal was coming. And it turned out I was right. They stabbed me with sharp things there and forced me to hold still while human fingers poked into every part of my body, even my mouth. When it was all over, the lady who did it put me back into my carrier and told Sarah, Prudence has such cute white socks! She was smiling and calm when she said it, so I knew she wasn’t trying to trick Sarah like Sarah had tried to trick me about goingthere in the first place. I thought maybe I should lick my paws or do something to show them that these were my real feet, not the fake feet humans put on before they go outside. I thought that maybe humans weren’t as smart as cats and wouldn’t understand suchsubtle distinctions unless they were pointed out. That was when I was very young, just a kitten, really--back when I first came to live with Sarah. Now I know that humans sometimes best understand the truth of things if they come at it indirectly. Like how sometimes the best way to catch a mouse that’sright in front of you is to back up a bit before you pounce. And later at home, looking at my reflection in Sarah’s mirror (once I realized it was my reflection and not some other cat who was trying to take my home away from me), I saw how the bottoms of my legs did look a bit like the socks Sarah sometimes wears. Still, to say that they were socks and not that they looked like socks was clearly untrue. The other way humans have of not telling the truth is when they’re trying to trick one another outright. Like when Laura visits and says, I’m sorry I haven’t been here in such a long time, Mom, I really wanted to come sooner . . . and it’s obvious, bythe way her face turns light pink and her shoulders tense, that what she really means is she never wants to come here. And Sarah says, Oh, of course, I understand, when you can tell by the way her voice gets higher and her eyebrows scrunch up that she doesn’tunderstand at all. I used to wonder where the rest of Laura’s littermates were and how come they never came over to see us. But I don’t think Laura has any littermates. Maybe humans have smaller litters than cats, or maybe something happened to the others. After all, I usedto have littermates, too. But that was a long time ago. Before I found Sarah. The Bad Place is a short walk from where we live in a place called Lower East Side. (Technically, it was Sarah who walked there, because I was in my carrier. Still, it didn’t take her very long, and cats can walk faster than humans. That’s a fact.) Thelady there told Sarah that I’m a polydactyl brown tabby. Sarah asked if that meant I was some kind of flying dinosaur? The lady laughed and said, no, it just means I have extra toes. I’m not sure which of my toes are supposed to be the “extra” ones though,because I’m positive I need them all. And it’s not really true to say I’m brown because parts of me are white--like my chest and my chin and the bottoms of my legs. Also, my eyes are green. And even the parts of me that are brown have darker stripes that arealmost black. But I’ve noticed that humans aren’t as precise as cats are. It’s hard to believe they feel safe enough to sleep at night. The stabbing lady also told Sarah that I was too skinny, which was to be expected because I’d been living by myself on the street. She said I’d probably fatten up quickly. I’ve gotten much taller and longer since then, but I’m still pretty skinny. Sarahsays I’m lucky to stay that way without having to try. But the truth is I’m skinny because I never eat all the food Sarah gives me. That’s because even though she feeds me every day, she never feeds me at exactly the same time. Sometimes she feeds me firstthing in the morning, sometimes she feeds me when it’s closer to midday. There have even been times when she hasn’t fed me until after it’s dark. That’s why I always make sure to keep some food left over, in case one day Sarah forgets to feed me altogether. And it turns out I was right to worry. Sarah hasn’t been home to feed me--hasn’t been home at all--in five days. The first two days I had to get by on what was left over in my food bowl. I even jumped onto the counter where my bag of dry food is kept andused my teeth and claws to make a small hole in it so I could get some food out myself. (I would normally never do that because it’s bad manners. But sometimes there are things more important than manners.) Finally, on the third day, a woman I recognized as one of our neighbors came over and opened a can of food for me. Prudence! she called. Come and eat, poor kitty, you must be so hungry. I had been waiting under the couch for her to leave, but I came out when I heard the can open. The woman tried to stroke my head, though, so I had to go back under the couch again and twitch the muscles on my back very fast until I felt calm. I don’t liketo be touched by humans I don’t know well. So I waited until she left before I came out to eat, even though I was starving after two days with hardly any food. The woman has been back to feed me every day since then, although I still won’t come out from under-the-couch until she’s gone. Maybe she’s trying to trap me with the food. Maybe she’s already trapped Sarah somewhere, and that’s why Sarah hasn’t been homefor so long. To pass the time while I wait for Sarah to come back, I sit on the windowsill--the one that overlooks the fire escape Sarah says I’m never, ever supposed to go onto--and watch what’s happening on the street. This also gives me a clear view of the entranceto our building, which means I’ll see Sarah as soon as she comes back. To get to the windowsill, I jump from the floor to the coffee table, and then from the coffee table to the couch. Then I climb to the back of the couch and step right onto the windowsill. I can jump directly from the floor to the windowsill, of course(I could jump much higher than that if I had to), but this way I can check to make sure everything is safe and exactly the way I left it. If the little, everyday things don’t change, it makes sense that the bigger and more important things won’t change, either.If I keep doing things the way I always do, Sarah will have to come back the way she always does. Probably I made a mistake of some kind a few days ago--did something in a different order than I’m supposed to--and that’s what made her go away. Sarah and I have been roommates for three years, one month, and sixteen days. I would tell you how many hours and seconds we’ve been together, but cats don’t use hours and seconds. We know that’s something humans made up. Cats have an instinct that tellsus exactly when the right time for everything is. Humans never know when they’re supposed to do anything, so they need things like clocks and timers to tell them. Twice a year, Sarah sets all the clocks in our apartment forward one hour or back one hour, andthat just proves how made-up hours are. Because it’s not like you can tell everybody to move the world one whole day back or one whole year ahead and have it be true. You might think Sarah and I are a family because we live together, but not everybody who lives together is a family. Sometimes they’re roommates. The difference is that, in a family, everybody does things together, and they do those things at the sametime every day. They all eat breakfast with each other, and breakfast is always at the same time in the morning. Then they have dinner together, and that always happens at the same time, too. They take each other to school or work and then pick each other upfrom those places a few hours later, and both the picking-up and the dropping-off happen on a schedule. I learned all about it from the TV shows Sarah and I watch together. Even the TV shows about families always come on at the same time, every day. (I used to think that the things on TV were really happening, right here in our apartment. Once I tried to catch a mouse that was on the TV screen. I clawed and clawed at the glass and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get the mouse. And Sarah laughedand explained that TV is like a window, except it shows you things that are happening far away.) With roommates, it’s more like you have separate lives even though you live in the same place. Things happen when they happen and not at any specific time. Also, families live in houses with an upstairs and a downstairs. Roommates live in apartments. Sarahand I live in an apartment, and our schedule is always different. Sarah says this is because they always change the times she’s supposed to work. She types things for a big office in a place called Midtown, and she’s so good at typing that sometimes they needher to type early in the morning, and sometimes they need her to type later in the day. Sometimes they pay her a lot of extra money to type all night and not come home until after the sun comes up, which is when most other humans are first starting to work. Money is what Sarah uses to get food for me and to keep our apartment. She always says you have to get it when you can get it, even if you wish you didn’t have to. I know just what she means, because sometimes a cat has to chase her food when it runs by,even if she’s in the middle of a really great nap. Who knows when the next time food runs by will be? That’s why smart cats spend most of their time napping--to save their energy for when they suddenly need it. But even on the days she doesn’t work, Sarah doesn’t do things on anything like a regular schedule. Sometimes I have to meow in my saddest voice and paw at her leg to remind her it’s time to feed me. I feel bad when I have to do that, because I can tellfrom her face how unhappy it makes her when she forgets to do things for me. But she usually laughs a little in the way that humans do when they’re trying to make something sad into something funny, and says she supposes the reason she’s so forgetful is becauseshe has an artistic temperament, even though it’s been years since she’s done anything creative. I’m not sure what a “temperament” is. Maybe it’s something an artist makes. Or maybe it’s something an artist uses to make something else. Whatever it is, though, I’ve never seen anything like that around here. You might think from all this that I’m complaining about living with Sarah, but that’s not true. Living with Sarah is actually pretty great. For one thing, she’s always willing to share her food with me. When she sits down to eat, she usually puts someof her food on a little plate off to the side, and I sit on the table and eat with her. Although sometimes Sarah eats things that are just plain gross. There’s one kind of food, called “cookies,” that Sarah especially loves even though they don’t have any meator grass or anything in them. Sarah laughs when I turn up my nose in disgust and says I don’t know what I’m missing. I think Sarah’s the one who doesn’t know what’s supposed to be eaten and what isn’t. There are two rooms in our apartment. In the room with our kitchen is also our couch and television and coffee table. This is the room people are allowed into when they come to visit us, although people hardly ever come to visit us except for Laura and,sometimes, Sarah’s best friend, Anise. Anise only comes over two or three times a year because her job is going on tours in a place called Asia. Laura won’t come over if she knows Anise will be here, but Sarah and I are always happy to see Anise because whenAnise smiles she smiles with her whole face, and she never says anything even a little untrue. Also, as Sarah likes to say, Anise is a person who understands cats. (As much as a human can, anyway.) When I first came to live with Sarah, she brought home a “self-cleaning”litterbox that would make a terrifying whirrrrrrr noise whenever I tried to use it. (I think it planned to keep itself clean by never letting me use it.) It scared me so much that I started going on the living room rug just to avoid it, which made Sarah veryunhappy with me even though it clearly wasn’t my fault. This went on for weeks until finally Anise came over and wrinkled her nose at the smell from the rug that now filled our whole apartment. Ugh, she said, doesn’t Prudence have a litterbox? Then she sawthe “self-cleaning” monster Sarah had brought home and said, Sarah, you’re scaring the piss out of her with that thing. (Although really the piss was getting scared into me until I couldn’t hold it anymore.) She took Sarah right out to buy me a regular litterbox,and we didn’t have any problems after that.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper. Copyright © 2013 by Gwen Cooper. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.