16 August 2013

"My Least Favorite Martian"

By Curtis C. Chen

The trouble starts before I can say hello.

"You again, human oppressor?" John says by way of greeting. He opened the door a split second before I could knock. Stupid Martian senses. "What vile directive must you impose now?"

I hold up a copy of his lease. "You signed this lease. It is a binding legal contract." I point to the circled paragraphs. "And you agreed to this condition, right here: no pets."

"This one is ignorant of the subject of your tirade," John says, wiggling his antennae.

"I'm talking about the six different cats your neighbors have seen through your back window."

"What is a... 'cat'?" John enunciates the last word theatrically.

Before I can ask just how stupid he thinks I am, a large orange tabby leaps onto John's shoulder. He attempts to shoo it away with his upper arm cilia while it scrabbles for purchase on his deltoid ridges. I fold my arms and watch the cat decide that the flat part of John's skull is a better resting place. The cat settles in between John's antennae.

"You've got thirty days," I say, shoving the lease into his hands.

"Human definitions are primitive and flawed!" John calls as I walk away down the hall. "A sentient being cannot be considered a mere domestic animal!"

I stop and turn around. "Oh, you want to call them roommates, then? You're only allowed up to three of those! Get rid of the cats."

"Cruel, unfeeling human!" John raises both arms to point at the cat now sleeping on his head. "You would ask this one to render an innocent companion creature homeless and destitute?"

"Hey, no one forced you to live here. You can find a new apartment. I don't care!" I realize I'm shouting, and lower my voice. John has followed me all the way down the hall. "But you can't stay here and keep the cats." I push the elevator call button.

John lowers his arms, but his cilia continue vibrating, like Davy Crockett in a wind tunnel. "Your respect for the law is admirable, enforcer human. But perhaps we may yet reach a compromise?"

"This is not a negotiation. Like I said—"

"If you were to consider the cats my roommates, I could retain three of them?"

I shake my head. "Look, you want to be a test case for personhood, that's your problem. Go talk to the ACLU. You've still got thirty days to comply or vacate." The elevator arrives, and I step inside. "These are the building's rules. I don't make 'em up. I'm just the messenger."

John stops vibrating and seems to slouch a little. "You are firm but fair, child-bearing human."

"Word of advice," I say, pushing the button for the ground floor. "It's 'woman,' or 'female,' or 'lady.' Not all of us want babies."

"I was not referring to your gender," John says. "Are you not aware of your medical condition?"

I'm unable to speak for a moment. "What?"

The elevator doors close before John can explain.


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