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THE CAT

    Once a cat read the obituary for its eighth life.
    The cat was not pleased. Not pleased at all. It couldn’t complain that anything in the obituary was definitely wrong. The dates were accurate, and the facts were all true. On the face of it, the piece might seem a very complete summary of a very long life. Nevertheless, the cat was deeply dissatisfied.
    “Was that me?” it asked aloud.
    A life should be more than a list of data, surely, a bland chronicle of accomplishments patched together from newspaper files, with a few quotes either mangled or misinterpreted and a couple of formula sentences added at the last moment listing time and place and cause of death. Where was the life it had really lived, the cat wanted to know as it scanned the page again?
    Not here, that was certain. What the cat would have observed about itself wasn’t even hinted at. Who could guess from this neat tallying up of triumphs that other aspirations but worldly attainment and the attention it brings had ever moved the cat? Or that at each stop along the road to success, it had regretted so many detours not taken instead? Who could guess what forfeits and forsakings veiled themselves behind the celebrated stare in the archive photograph? 
    It would be the newspaper’s version of a life meriting remark that readers took from the cat’s passing, not its own. For an individual’s chaotic ups and downs, each one its own testament to the uncharted possibilities of life, they would be given an agreed-upon guide to what every dead notable should have been and should have done. The official story of “the cat’s eighth life,” but according to whom?
    And what of all that the cat had experienced before the first dates listed here? It was as if this accounting of its most recent life had cancelled out every one of the previous seven. They might as well never have happened. Their only virtue seemed to lie in the supposed evidence they provided that one could “start over again” as often as necessary. The cat saw itself turned into a crude, hallow metaphor of self-reinvention: a message to those who’d made good that nothing else in this world mattered and to those who’d fallen short at life that, sorry, but they just didn’t have what it took apparently or else hadn’t tried hard enough.  
    At this rate, it might have been better for the cat to be a failure. At least then one’s life didn’t have to add up to some pattern that the morning coffee-and-obit crowd accepted as the measure of consequence. There was room as well for what didn’t add up, what would never add up, and wouldn’t impress anyone even if it did.
    And finally, what was this concluding paragraph about “survived by” meant to say? In what really counted, the cat was survived only by itself. This couldn’t be the last thing to set down about it, this presumption that it was merely a link in some chain of inheriting and passing on whatever the editors felt was important to inherit or pass on.
    When it reached the end of the obituary, the cat didn’t even bother to clip it out. Instead, it folded the page with a dismissive “I was more alive than that.”