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by Ran Walker
“Hotpaws was smartest at school,” Hotpaws said, as he and GloKat sat around the campfire one evening.
Gloria started to comment, but changed her mind. StarKat, however, felt compelled to say it anyway. “What does that mean?”
It wasn’t a particularly nice remark, but Gloria hoped it would fall more gently upon Hotpaws’s ears than it would have upon her own.
Hotpaws, unfazed, simply responded, “Hotpaws smart smart.”
GloKat was content to let it rest there. It was not far-fetched to believe Hotpaws was smart in his own mind. After all, he had the knowledge to climb out of a volcano prior to coming to Sparkadia.
“Can Hotpaws share secret with GloKat?”
“Promise not to tell anyone.”
Hotpaws leaned in closer to GloKat. “Sometimes I find myself quite nostalgic for my home. Unlike you, there are no other members of my race here. It can be a little disconcerting at times.”
GloKat stared at Hotpaws, completely gobsmacked. “You speak English so well!”
“I speak numerous languages, all of them fairly well. As the smartest person among my peers, I was expected to be proficiently multilingual. You’re probably wondering why I choose to speak the way I do.”
GloKat nodded vigorously, still in shock.
“It’s one of a plethora of our English patois. The one I employ the most reminds me of my home. When I think of the other Rock Fables that I left behind, I feel it necessary to speak in a pattern that preserves my memories, my culture, to remind me whence I came.”
GloKat nodded. Gloria understood that all too well, having experienced some versions of stereotyping on her version of Earth. Before she arrived in Sparkadia, it had been fairly common for people to assume things about other people simply by how they spoke or presented themselves. It reminded her of how the wealthy people in Denver viewed the people in New Detroit who had fewer resources and were hit the hardest by the climate changes in the mid 2400s.
“That’s a beautiful sentiment, Hotpaws,” Gloria said.
“Indeed,” added StarKat. “You could quite possibly be the smartest being I know.”
“Quite possible,” Hotpaws responded, returning to his dialect.
“Not too humble, though,” StarKat said, while Gloria cringed.
Hotpaws laughed. “It a sorry dog that not wag own tail.”
They laughed together knowingly, as the moon tripped the light fantastic above their heads.