Friday, 10 March 2000

the cat and the sailor

Once upon a time a sailor came home from many long years at sea. he had a knarled beard and wore the scars of many close encounters. when he took up again in his old home, strange yet quietly comfortable, nestled in a sheltered cove by the sea, he discovered that a cat lived there with it's three kittens and there was an old tom too to be seen on days when he was not cataworling with the neighbouring toms, sleeping in the sun on the roof of the laundry.

The sailor was familiar with cats for there had always been one or two aboard ship. There had been a cat on his last ship who would not be tamed though he had spent many contemplative moments stroking her in the sun at the tiller.

But this cat was different for the sailor felt immediate affinity for her though she was shy to the touch and would always bound away at the moment he tried to stroke her. Nor would she let herself be caught in a room alone with him.

So they lived on for some years, the Sailor working at sails and tackle and the cat moving in and out of his life. And they learned to talk to each other. Sometimes across the old rock wall at the back of the house, sometimes in the little flower garden in the courtyard. He would talk as he'd always talked, from the heart as innocent as he was when he was a child. And she would talk to him.

Once when the sailor was deep in thought he saw the cat before him and she was waving her paw in the air. It caught his attention and for a moment he was sure the cat was actually waving to him. He saw as he cleared his thoughts that a small  butterfly was dancing tentatively before her and she was playfully pawing at it. He had not seen the butterfly at first.

Still from that day to this he called her his little wave.

A wild wind was blowing from the south one day when the sailor realised he had not seen the cat for some time. It was cold and though he left the door invitingly open to a room with a hot fire and the smell of cooking food, the cat did not venture to the door. He and the cat had in two years not shared a room but this was the wildest night he had ever known in this part of the world.

He refrained from calling to her for he felt a bit silly sometimes to think that he had become so attached to the cat. It was after all just a cat and had obviously lived here quite succesfully without him. Why need he worry?

But he did. It grew on his mind for hours and into a day and the weather grew more rough. He started looking about the house but though it be rock strong, there were not many places even for a cat to hide. He searched the roof and the old fireplace in the laundry. He looked in the small boat shed and under his upturned boat.

He looked everywhere. And then he called. At first it was quiet and self conscious "kitty" "kitty" but the was no answering wew. He became desperate for the weather was now so rough that he feared for her life.

He went back to his warm fireplace to recover from the cold numbness that he felt, and as he warmed his hands standing before the fire, contemplating where else he could look, he saw her calm and safe, snuggled in one of his old sea jackets and his heart leapt.

She was home.

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