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Pagina: 2/2
Raymond ROCA: "THE FAT BLACK CAT"
A TALE OF THE SEA (ENGLISH)


Many years ago, in a Romanian town called Br„ila, lying on the shores of the Danube, there lived a kind little granny, whose name was Cornelia. Although she was a mignon lady, she had a large soul, and was always willing to help. Everyday she was prepared to lend a helping hand. But, she suffered from loneliness, because her only son, Leonard, was a sailor, and was always away from home. He was on the sea for months, sometimes even years, without coming home to his lonesome mother.

One evening, when Cornelia was heading for home, she heard a soft meow from a lane full of garbage and waste. She couldnít bear listening to the poor little soul that was meowing forlornly in the filthy lane. She wanted to see who it was, and if the thing needed help. When she reached the rubbish dump, she saw a moving dirty Hessian bag. She was terrified at first, but she realised that there must be a living creature inside. She grabbed the bag out of the dump, and when she untied it, a skinny little black figure, looking like a cat, stared back. Cornelia was horrified, but she knew that she had to help the needy soul. She backed out of the lane and took the cat home. It smelled foul and was extremely gaunt and emaciated. It was barely alive. Cornelia, who had a wide knowledge about cats, realised that it was a tomcat. She fed him good food, and washed him thoroughly. She tried to give him a bit of sausage, but he couldnít get up of the floor. Instead, she got a straw and some milk, and nursed the kitten like he was her own baby. After the feeding session, the minute kitten curled up and went to sleep. Cornelia wrapped him in a wooly jumper, so he was warm and cosy.

The next morning, Cornelia was waked up by something tugging at the end of her blanket. She was so scared that she quickly sprang out of bed. Her heart lightened when she realised that it was only the little furry creature playing with the corner of the blanket. The kitten was playing and purring happily, as if he was never thrown into a rubbish dump. Cornelia fed him some more milk. This time, he wasnít half-dead anymore. He lapped up the milk quickly.

Everyday, the kitten became stronger and stronger, until he was a beautiful tomcat. He had a fine-looking black coat, and was always jumping and playing around the place. The old lady named him Timothy, a name which reminded her of the dear little cat she had in her childhood years.

Timothy was a superb tomcat. He wasnít wild and Cornelia trained him to be well behaved. The neighbours all loved him, because all the mice in the vicinity had disappeared since his coming. Because Cornelia was a generous woman, she fed him much Ė actually too much. In a couple of months he had ballooned tremendously, so no one called him Timothy anymore. The Fat Black Cat was now his usual nickname. Timothy didnít care if the others teased him about his weight. All he cared about was having his fair share of food, and sitting lazily on the mat all day long. Cornelia also wasnít as active as before. She used to stay at home for most of the day, because she didnít have the strength to go out every day.

One day, Cornelia finally passed away and her son Leonard came back to Br„ila. After giving all the belongings to charity, he sold the house, but couldnít get rid of the cat. No one wanted a lazy creature like Timothy. So, in respect for his mother, he had to take the fatty on the sea with him. Once on the ship, the sleepy boy could kiss delicacies goodbye, because Leonard only fed him fresh fish. Of course, Timothy hated fish, but it was his only lifeline, and he had to cope with it. He soon got used to it, and after a while he started to enjoy eating it. He was also forced out of his eat-sleep routine. The sailor didnít let him daydream. Soon, Timothy was more active and his weight had dropped to a healthy level.

His new owner was making trade on the sea with several types of goods. Firstly, the couple made short voyages on the Black Sea, from their hometown Br„ila to another Romanian port, Constanta, or sometimes even to Odessa. Then, they started sailing through the Bosporus Strait. They went into the Mediterranean Sea, because Leonard knew that Greek olive oil was very sought after in England. He had heard that this was a very good trade, and that the people involved in it made lots of money. The cat and the sailor started making frequent voyages from Greece to Southampton, London or Liverpool. After each voyage, they returned full of money. When Leonard was busy, he employed some other seamen in his crew, but usually the ship was only managed by Timothy and his captain.

Leonard, who was a sulky and solitary man, was not always happy and kind to Timothy. The tomcat was also afraid of the immensity of the sea, so he spent most of his time on the sailorís bed inside the cabin. But, they finally both came to their senses, and started being friendly to each other. They knew that they needed each other, because otherwise they would both be lonely and miserable. First, this so-called friendship was more like an agreement between the two, but after a while together, they became quite good friends.

One afternoon, when they were returning from Liverpool, crossing the St Georgeís Channel from the Irish Sea, a horrific storm struck them. Timothy, who wasnít used to this type of weather, hid under the Leonardís bed and dug his claws deeply into it to keep his balance. Leonard, who was in duty at the steering wheel, was struggling to keep the boat as steady as possible. In a split second, the mast broke in half and fell down and trapped Leonardís leg under it. Leonard, who was nearly dead, was immobilised under the weight of the mast. The storm continued to rage, and the boat was plunged into blackness. Timothy was scared to come out of his cosy hideout and see what his owner was doing outside. He stayed there for the whole night, and in the morning gained some courage and came out. He very quietly climbed the stairs to the deck. When he stepped on deck, he saw all the debris in front of him Ė knotted ropes, broken masts and torn sails.

Leonard was nowhere to be seen. Timothy only managed to produce a soft meow. He knew that something bad had happened. When he reached the stern of the boat, he saw the broken mast and under it the still Leonard. He went over and tried to wake him up, but nothing happened. Timothy then sat on his ownerís chest and began to meow desperately. He began to meow louder and louder, until he heard a groan. He saw his masterís eyelids move slowly. He opened his eyes, and then closed them again. After a few moments, the sailor opened his eyes again. He tried to escape from under the mast, but his body failed him. He tried several times, and the last time, the heavy mast released its pressure. The shocked tomcat sprang up into the air, nearly falling overboard! Leonard realised that his leg was broken and crawled to the cabin stairs. He slid down them and with a tremendous effort managed to get into the room. His first desire was to reach the water barrel. Being very thirsty, he drank some water and then fainted again. Timothy went back on the sailorís chest and started to purr in his ear. After a while, Leonard woke up again, but he couldnít do anything besides screaming with pain. The ship, which now resembled a ghost, was floating wildly in unknown waters.

Another day passed by and Timothy knew that his friend was suffering harshly because of his broken leg. The leg was now very swollen and Leonard was between life and death. The only thing that kept him going was the water barrel, which was slowly running out. And, Timothy wasnít exactly happy either. He was starving, because Leonard didnít have the ability to catch fresh fish anymore. He examined every single nook and cranny of the ship, but found no food.

Because of his hunger, Timothy was forced out of the cabin and onto the deck. He was spying on some food to catch. He hoped some seagulls would come by. Too bad for Timothy! They were too far away from the shore to see any seagulls. Catching and eating the birds was out of the question.

Timothy was getting hungrier and hungrier every day. One day, when he couldnít bear it any longer, he went over to the fishing net and examined it carefully. There was nothing in the net except some algae. The smell of fish from the net was making Timothy crazy with hunger. Because of the storm, the net was halfway overboard. He had a plan going in his mind, and quickly climbed down the net, until he was at on the outside part of the ship. He frantically searched the net for even the tiniest remnant of fish, but found nothing. Now he wasnít angry anymore Ė he was desperate. He then saw a fish coming out of the water and then diving back in. He was so scared by this sudden appearance that he fell in the water. Luckily, the seas were calm, and he had no trouble whatsoever reaching the hanging net and getting back aboard. But, the fish gave him an idea that would soon save both his and his captainís life.

Although terrified, Timothy went back down the net to the water. He poked the end of his tail into the water and twitched it a little. Immediately, tens of little silver fish appeared. With a sudden movement, Timothy dug his claws into a fish and pulled it out of the water. He immobilised it and slowly-slowly climbed the net and came back up to the deck. He then started to gobble very quickly, and in a few seconds the fish was gone.

He had never eaten something more delicious. He thought back to the time when he had hated fish, and now he was thinking how scrumptious, magnificent and beautiful they are. But, one little fish didnít satisfy his huge appetite. That was no problem anymore. He went back down again, and this time caught a bigger and healthier looking fish. He bought it back to the deck, and devoured this too. Now, a sudden laziness came upon him, and he felt like doing nothing and going off to sleep. He went down into the cabin to have a nap. There, Leonard was raging with pain. Timothy didnít think of sleeping anymore, but of helping his disadvantaged friend. He thought of the times when Leonard shared his daily catch with him. Now it was his turn. He ran up the stairs to the deck and over the side of the ship. This time, Timothy found it much easier to catch fish. He put his tail into the water courageously and when he took it out again, he had a beautiful big fish, much larger that the other two. He climbed back up the net and then down to the cabin and put the fish near Leonardís mouth. Leonard opened his eyes and saw the fish in front of him. He took a great big bite. Realising what he had done, he took a knife out of his pocket and cut the fish into small pieces. Even though it was uncooked, Leonard enjoyed it tremendously. Seeing that his friend has already gulped down the fish, Timothy ran out of the cabin and was back with another fish in a second. Leonard also ate this, and then went to sleep.

A few hours later, he woke up. His leg was still hurting badly, but he was feeling a bit better. Next to him were three dead fish, guarded by Timothy. The sailor ate them quickly, and made a supernatural effort to get to his bed. Because of this, he fell unconscious again.

A few endless days and nights passed, and Leonard was still eating the fish offered by the fisherman on four legs. His leg had developed an earthy sort of colour. There were also some purple parts, and the sailor realised that it was gangrene. He felt that in a few days he would be dead. So, he reached for a bottle of rum, drank half of it, and then fell asleep. He dreamt of walking on the clouds without falling, and then reaching the end of the cloud, when he fell off into empty space. Then, with great effort, he would manage to climb back onto the cloud and keep on walking. Once, he fell towards Earth, and saw rivers, waterfalls, mountains, houses and even people. He felt as if they were all trying to say something.

Scared, he woke up. He saw two people standing in front of him. One of them was holding Timothy in his arms. He thought he was dreaming again, but he felt the pain in his leg and realised that this was real. One of the people asked him in English what happened with him and his ship. Although he could barely be understood, he told the couple about the storm and the accident. One of the two people stepped forward, examined his leg, and nodded in a bad way.

Again, Leonard lost his conscience, going back to the world of dreams. He thought he heard some voices, then a noise made by saw, a rustling of leaves, chopped-down trees, a sharp and agonising pain, and then blackness. He stayed like that for quite a while, until he woke up a couple of days later. He realised that he was lying on a hospital bed. He looked more carefully and saw a young woman dressed in a sky-blue uniform. The woman greeted him and asked him his name.

Leonard now came back to his senses. He remembered what had happened to his leg. He was still feeling that sharp pain. He tried to move his leg but realised that there was nothing to move. His leg had disappeared from the knee downwards. Now he understood why he was in hospital, and began to cry. The lady came up to him and put her hand on his forehead. She told him to have optimism, and that he would soon be getting better. She also told him that he wasnít the only person in the world to have his leg amputated. He closed his eyes and many images of the disaster flashed back into his mind. The storm, the broken mast, the cabin, the water barrel, the uncooked fish, TimothyÖ Timothy! Where was Timothy? He screamed out loud:

- Where am I? Where is Timothy, The Fat Black Cat? Where is my dear Timothy that saved my life?
- I donít understand you sir. What cat? the nurse replied, wiping his perspired forehead. All I know is that you are in the orthopedic section of the Royal Hospital of Plymouth.
- Did you say Plymouth? How did I get here? Where is my dear tomcat?
- A coach bought you here, belonging to the Port Authority. I donít know anything about the tomcat.
- I want Timothy! I want Timothy! Where is my beloved Timothy?

The young nurse looked up at the ceiling, thinking that the sailor had lost his minds. She walked towards the door to tell the doctor about this

- Donít go, madam, said Leonard, Iíll explain all about this. Please stay.
- OK. Fine. My name is Samantha. I will only stay if you call me by my first name and tell me the whole story.

So, Leonard told Samantha the story about the storm, the accident, about the fish caught by the tomcat, and how he saved his life. She understood everything, and promised the patient that she will go and enquire about Timothy. A few days later, Samantha returned, and told him that he was rescued by an Australian trading vessel, which bought him here to Plymouth. Unfortunately, no one knew anything about his boat or the Fat Black Cat.

A month passed, and Leonard was feeling better each day. He was starting to get out of his bed, going around the hospital garden in his wheelchair. He was still discontented about not being able to walk. The doctor, however, gave him hope, saying that he could order a brace that would make him be able to walk again. Leonard very excitedly ordered one. The doctor also told him that the best leg brace specialists were in London. He immediately left for London, staying there in a sanatorium. In a short time, he got fitted with the brace. His first steps with it were accompanied by hardship, lots of tripping and falling, but also buckets of hope.

Two months later, he was walking quite fine. Meanwhile, he had contacted Lloyd Maritime Insurance, who compensated him with a hefty amount of money. He was lucky; because he was trading with the English he was obliged to have insurance, so the famous company gave him compensation in no time. Overnight, he became a man with wealth, but without too much hope and happiness. He was lonely, and had no friends. He was sad because of the wrecked boat, as it was his fatherís. But his greatest worry was that he couldnít find Timothy anywhere. No one knew anything about him. He was homesick, but he couldnít return home to Br„ila, because Romaniaís new king Carol I was preparing the Romanian Independence War against the Ottoman Empire. The Russian-Romanian-Turkish war had started.

In the meantime, Leonard had hired a detective, and made him find his rescuers. He wanted to thank them and ask them if they knew anything about his much-loved Timothy. Not even two weeks had passed, and the detective gave him both good and bad news. The good news was that the rescue boat had been found. It was called the Billabong. The bad news was that the boat had returned to Australia, so he couldnít talk to them about Timothy. But, the sailor still had hope that Timothy didnít go down with the stricken vessel. The detective also told Leonard about the captain of the Billabong. His name was Tom Buddle and he was from Sydney. Leonard instantaneously went to the Port Authority and sent mail to Buddle in Australia.

Time passed slowly, and Leonard was getting sick of the rainy, windy and generally dull weather of London. But, one day, he received a personal letter from Tom Buddle. In the letter, Tom told him that he had retired, and lived in a lighthouse, in South Head, close to Sydney. But, there was better news to come. The captain said that the black cat was with him at the lighthouse. He had been rescued from the boat and taken to Australia. Tom had given him the name of Nelson, because he didnít know that the tomcat was actually called Timothy. Leonard was crazy with happiness. Because he missed the sea and longed for some adventure, Leonard boarded the first boat that was bound for Sydney.

After a few months on the sea, where he made stops at Cape Town, Zanzibar, Bombay and Jakarta, Leonard had finally arrived on Australian soil. He thought that Sydney Port looked very small compared to the sprawling metropolis London. It resembled his hometown Br„ila. The only difference was that Romanian was spoken in Br„ila, and the Sydney people spoke a hard-to-understand English, very close to the Cockney slang that the London East-Enders spoke. He stopped at a hotel in the stylish Rocks quarter, where most of the rich people went out. He didnít even rest at the hotel, but hired a coach immediately to go to South Head. He couldnít wait to see Timothy. Finally, after travelling a couple of hours on dusty tracks, he reached the lighthouse. The sun was already beginning to set. He told the coachman to wait for him, and approached the massive wooden door of the lighthouse. He knocked three times.

- Who is bothering me at this hour? said a hoarse voice coming from inside.
- It is me sir, the one whoís life you saved in the Irish Sea.
- Iím too tired now to have any visitors.
- But I beg you, please Captain Buddle, please open the door. Iíve bought you a lovely present. Please, I want to see Timothy, or, as you call him, Nelson.
- I donít want any present! said the captain in an angry voice, and I donít want to give you back the tomcat. It is the only friend I have and I do not want to part with him. Please leave!
- Please understand me sir! I have come all the way from London to have my cat back. He was the one that saved me from death. He was the one that caught food for me when I couldnít get up. I will give you moneyÖ as much as you want, just please give me back my tomcat.
- Iím not giving you any cat! Nelson is mine and I donít want any reward for him. Your reward was that I saved you from death. You should be satisfied with that. Now go back home!

Leonard didnít want to upset Mr Buddle, because it was he who rescued him from the ship and took him to the hospital at Plymouth. But, he felt like crying. He had come all this way for nothing. At least Buddle shouldíve let him see Timothy. He sat wearily on the bench in front of the lighthouse. He was so angry that he didnít even want to go back to the hotel. Now it was totally dark outside. The coachman signalled him that it was time to go. Leonard stood up and desperately shouted, ďTimothy, TimothyÖ". He didnít hear any response. He thought that maybe the bad captain had tricked him. Maybe he was making fun of him. Maybe his dear Timothy was dead. Maybe this was the price he had to pay for being saved from death. He had bought with him a small barrel of rum as a present to the captain. He got this, and put it in front of the lighthouse door. He still wanted Buddle to know how respectful he was because he had rescued him. He then went inside the coach, and back to the hotel in The Rocks. He didnít sleep all night. He was thinking that he had had no tactic when approaching the captain. He shouldíve insisted. He had to see Timothy.

The next day, Leonard woke up in a bad mood and wandered aimlessly around town. In the evening, he got very drunk with some Malaysian sailors. He then returned to the hotel and slept very badly. He had nightmares about Tom Buddle and Timothy. He dreamt of Buddle climbing with Timothy to the top of the lighthouse and then throwing Timothy down from there. He dreamt that he was there also, and tried to catch the falling tomcat. But, as it was night, and the catís fur was black, he couldnít. Then he looked up again and saw Buddle doing this again.

He woke up in an extremely horrid mood the next morning. He had to do something. He had to make a decision. He had to go back to Tom Buddleís lighthouse. He had to plead with him again. He had to convince Tom to give him his four-legged friend back, even if he had to pay dearly for this. So, he boarded a ferry that took him to Watsonís Bay. From here, he hired a coach, stuffed it with goodies, and set off for the lighthouse. He arrived at Tomís house at noon, when the Australian sun made you feel like you were in an oven. He knocked hopefully at the door, but there was no answer this time. He tried to open the door, and, unexpectedly, it opened. Leonard entered the house, which smelt strongly of rum. He shouted out the captainís name, but there was still no response. He searched through all the other rooms, but still no sign of the captain or Timothy. He went back outside and looked at the lighthouse. He saw that the door was open. He entered and bellowed the captainís name at the top of his voice. He knew something bad had happened.

There was no answer, but he heard the echo of a meow. Leonard quickly shouted, ďTimothy, Timothy" and started to climb the stairs, with a great deal of effort because of his leg brace. He climbed the stairs, one at a time, until he got to the third landing, where he saw the captain unconscious. He smelt very strongly of rum, and looked like he had an accident. Leonard momentarily forgot about Timothy and tried to make Tom get up. He called for the coachman to come up and help him. The coachman heard and ran up the stairwell. The captain opened his eyes a little and started to make choking sounds.

- My heart, my heart, whispered Buddle.
- What happened, sir? said Leonard.
- My heart, heat, stairs, rumÖ
- Can I help you with something?
- Leave now! Have you come back for the cat?
- I was just trying to help.
- Iím not giving you anything! Nelson is mine!

The captain lost his consciousness. The coachman, who was quite strong, picked up Buddle like a sack of potatoes and descended down the flight of stairs. But, Leonard climbed up the stairs until he got to the top of the lighthouse. When he opened the door, Timothy jumped into his arms. A tremendous happiness swept over him and he started to cry. Timothy started to purr. Remembering Buddle, he climbed back down the stairs as q




precedent precedent (1/2)

Raymond ROCA
publicat la 28.12.2003 (19339 citiri)