Recommended by one of our wonderful Pupil Librarians, 'I. Cosmo' is the story of one dog's attempt to save his family, become a star, and eat a lot of bacon.
Why do you think the author chose Cosmo to narrate this story?
This year I am a turtle. I do not want to be a turtle.
“His tail’s between his legs,” Max notices, cocking his head. Worry spreads across his wonderful face. “You think the hat’s too tight?”
We are on the porch, and the strange pumpkin is smiling at us – the one Max carved last week, scooping out its guts. I ate the seeds, even though he told me, No, Cosmo, no. I find it difficult to stop myself when something smells so interesting and so new.
Max’s father, whose name is Dad, readjusts the turtle vest on my back. “Nah,
he’s fine. He loves it! Look at him!”
This is one of those times – those infinite times – when I wish my tongue did not loll in my mouth. Because I would say, in perfect human language, that turtles are inferior creatures who cannot manage to cross roads, and I have crossed many roads, off-leash, by myself. This costume is an embarrassment.
At a loss, I roll gently on to my back, kicking my legs in the air. An ache creaks down my spine; I am not young like I used to be. But hopefully Max will understand the subtle meaning in my gesture.
“Dad, I really think he doesn’t like it.”
Yes, Max! Yes!
Scratching the fur on his chin, Dad says to me, “OK, OK, no hat, but you’ve gotta keep the shell.”
And just like that, a small victory.
Emmaline bursts on to the porch then. She is all energy. She glows. “Cosmooooo.” Her little hands ruffle my ears, and it reminds me why I am a turtle in the first place – because Emmaline picked it out. Because it made her happy. I’ve long accepted that this is one of my roles.
Max grabs Emmaline’s hand and spins her around, like they’re dancing. Her purple superhero cape twirls with the movement. Last week, I helped Mom make the costume: guarding the fabric, keeping watch by her feet, and every once in a while, she held up her progress and asked me, “Whaddya think, Cosmo?”
A wonder, I told her with my eyes. It is a wonder.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Mom?” Max asks. He is dressed in dark colours, patches on his shirt, and I suppose he is a cow or a giraffe, although I do not like thinking of him as either. Giraffes are remarkably stupid creatures, and Max is very, very smart. He can speak three languages, build model rockets, and fold his tongue into a four-leaf clover. He can even unscrew the lids off peanut butter jars. I’d like to see a giraffe do that.
Dad replies, “She’s late. Don’t want to miss all the good candy.”
Max says, “I just think—”
But Dad cuts him off with “Ready, Freddy,” which he is fond of saying, despite the fact that Max is called Max. After a pause, the four of us set off into the bluish night.
Back at our house, Emmaline and Max divide up their candy on the living-room floor: piles for lollipops, piles for chocolate, piles for the candy no one likes. “Yuck,” Emmaline says, tossing a box of raisins to the side. Her black curls whip back and forth as she shakes her head. “Yuck, yuck, yuck.”
I observe from my position on the couch, which is difficult to climb on to nowadays. Sometimes it takes several tries, several embarrassing topples. A long time ago, I was not allowed on furniture, which made little sense. Wasn’t my dog bed constructed of similar materials? Why was I allowed on one, but forbidden to lie on the other? Eventually, Dad gave up his couch crusade, and the cushions began to form around the shape of my body. I’ve learned that perseverance is a powerful thing.
The TV is on in the background. A talking black cat parades across the screen. Why do cats always get to speak on TV? Where are all the talking dogs? The dog in the movie Up speaks, but only with a translation collar. Lassie, the most famous TV dog of all time, just barks. I’m puzzling over the inequity when the back door slams. It is incredibly loud, purposeful. And then the voices begin.
Mom growls in the kitchen, “David, did you really?”
“What?” Dad says.
“You were supposed to wait for me! I told you I’d be working late! I didn’t even get to see the kids in their costumes…”
“They’re still in their costumes.”
“I mean out in the neighbourhood, trick-or-treating. I was supposed to go with you, remember? Or did you conveniently just forget?”
“That’s unfair. You were late.”
Mom throws up her hands. “I told you I was going to be late. That’s why I asked
you to wait for me!”
I don’t like the way they’re speaking to each other. From the couch I give them a disapproving look. Can’t they see Max and Emmaline are happy, that their voices are ruining it? Emmaline slowly crumples to the side, laying her head on the carpet next to the raisins, while Max tugs his knees to his chest.
“Let’s just…” Dad says. “Let’s just get a picture, OK? That’s what you want, right?”
“What I want? You don’t care about what I want.”
But we take the picture anyway, the five of us crowded by the fireplace, smiling at a small camera. After a few moments, a flash fills the room, and Max says quickly, “OK, I guess I’m going to bed.”
Mom glances at him hopefully. “You don’t want to stay up a little bit? Watch Halloweentown with me?”
“I’m … I’m kinda tired.”
“Oh,” Mom says. “Sure, OK. Goodnight, sweetie.”
“Night.” He kisses Emmaline on the forehead. “Night, Em.”
As I do every evening, I follow Max into his bedroom. Posters of the night sky stare down at us from the walls. There’s also a large picture of Guy Bluford, the first African American in space. He flew four shuttle missions beginning in the early 1980s. I know this because Max shares things with me; being an astronaut is his dream.
Curling at the edge of his bed, I rest my head on my paws. Uneasiness crawls through me. Something is wrong. I’ve heard that dogs can sense hurricanes and tsunamis when they’re still miles offshore. This is similar.
Max closes the door – and immediately bursts into tears.
Max rarely cries. Only when he’s fallen off his bike, or slipped on a patch of ice, or—
I don’t have time to think about it. I just react, standing as quickly as I can, rushing towards him as his back slides against the wall, as he folds to the floor. I lick his face. His ears. His fingers. I wedge my head between his hands and rest my muzzle on his shoulder. Shaking, his arms wrap round me, and he whispers directly into my ear, “Never leave me, Cosmo. Never leave me, OK?”
Why would I leave? Why would I ever leave Max?
I nuzzle him deeper in response.
And we stay like that for a long, long time.
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