Chapter 3: Weevils Wobble but They Don’t Fall Down
Salt spied the rat sitting up pretty as you please with one of the passengers’ hard biscuits between his paws. Salt hunched down as low as he could and slunk slowly, ears flat, paw-over-paw toward the rat. Without making a sound, he pounced on the unsuspecting rodent. Grasping it firmly by the back of the neck, he gave it a violent shake and broke its neck before it had time to let out one squeal.
Salt had already had his dinner. In fact food was so plentiful on this ship that Salt was afraid of becoming as fat as Toady. The place was crawling with rats, mice, and insects of all kinds. Yum!
Now who should he give this juicy rat too? He tried to give Mr. Gates a fresh mouse once. But the man who was to be the next Governor of Jamestown had promptly thrown the mouse overboard, and then proceeded to throw up all of his dinner. He’d tried to bring a tasty lizard to Mr. and Mrs. Rolfe, but the pregnant woman had screamed and run up on deck where she too threw up. In fact, it seemed to Salt like most of the passengers threw up all of the time. There were always rows of people leaning over the railings throwing up. They had even taken over the beakhead.
The beakhead used to be Salt’s favorite part of the ship even after his close call with Twenty-seven. Being on the beakhead was the closest thing to flying a cat could ever get. He liked to go so far forward that only open ocean was in front of him. When the ship was moving under sail, Salt imagined that he was like the birds that he loved to chase. The clean air ruffled through his white fur, and the spray left tiny flecks of salt all over him that he could lick off later. Sometimes he would look down and see dolphins racing ahead of the ship. They would leap into the air and crisscross in front of the bow.
Unfortunately, the many passengers using the beak head as their toilet spoiled it. The only choice the passengers had was to squat over the holes in the beakhead, or use buckets placed in the ‘tween decks for that purpose. Salt could never understand the way other animals, including humans discarded their waste. Lucky for Salt, there were plenty of piles of sand lying about on deck for him to bury his waste in. That was the only civilized way to handle things in Salt’s opinion.
This was just one of the things on this trip that was making the humans miserable. Salt would have liked to find a way to help them, because one of the primary functions of a cat is to provide comfort to humans in times of distress. Salt had always taken pride in his ability to relax people in his territory. Sometimes it was just a simple rub against the leg of a weary sailor. Other times he would curl up against a person’s back and spread the warmth from his little body through their aching muscles. But this journey had gotten the better of Salt.
No matter what he did, the people still suffered. Their chief complaints were the food, the smells, the motion, and the boredom. None of these things made any sense at all to Salt.
It was no wonder to Salt that the passengers complained about the food. The stuff they ate was terrible. For instance, there were these hard biscuits, crate after crate of them stored in the hold. Mr. Strachey let Salt try one. The weevils were tasty, but the biscuits were like bricks. If you could bite into them, they tasted like sawdust. Salt couldn’t understand why they didn’t just pick out the weevils and eat those. Weevil larvae were his favorite. Salt loved those juicy little worms. They had just the right amount of wiggle, but no scrawny legs? He never passed up an adult weevil either. Sometimes that satisfying crunch hit the spot.
Mr. Strachey also let Salt try some meat. It was so salty it made his mouth feel like a used sandbox. Drinking the water on board didn’t help. Salt water had seeped into the water barrels, and the water was briny. Salt could still remember the open sewer smell of the river Thames where the water had started out. Now it was even filthier. Whenever there was a rain shower, Salt would find places where the fresh water collected and drink all he could.
Cockroaches were another food source humans couldn’t seem to appreciate. More than once, Salt had led a sailor or one of the gentlemen to a tasty nest of cockroaches. If you threw a light on them just right, they started to skitter around in confusion. Then you could just snap them up right and left, crunch crunch crunch. What better snack could you ask for? When Salt tried to lead one of the sailors to a heavily infested nest, the man started stamping on them. Soon the nest was just a mash of roach guts and ground up shells, mixed with the filth from the nest. What a waste.
Salt soon gave up trying to help the humans find food. He was able to find a convert to his style of cuisine though. The Angora cat, Suleyman, who was the mate of Constantinople. Unlike the females, Suleyman could roam the ship freely.
Salt had just chased a plump lizard up the mizenmast. He swiped it with his claws and tossed it into the air. Then he caught it in his teeth on the way down. From the mizenmast, Salt jumped onto the aft-deck where he came face to face with Suleyman for the first time.
Salt dropped the nearly dead lizard at Suleyman’s feet and nudged it forward in offering. The large Angora sat back on his haunches looking down on Salt and the struggling lizard with contempt.
“What do you intend for me to do with that?” Suleyman said .
“Eat it of course. Lizards are quite tasty once you get past the scales. Here, I’ll finish it off for you,” said Salt, placing a paw over the lizard’s nose and mouth to stop its breathing.
“I’m sure that’s fine for cats of your sort, but you won’t find me dining on lizards,” Suleyman said. He stalked past Salt with his tail high in the air.
“Fine, more for me!” Salt said to the retreating figure.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish