Dear Ship’s Log:
Since no one else was assigned to fill you with accurate information on the treacherous journey between Corsica and Catalonia for the purposes of my person to bond with her presumptive future conjoint before her soul is inscribed to his spidery fingers forever; and since Annemarjorie won’t pick up pen nor quill without the forceful glare of her lettering tutor, who has mysteriously come down with a case of cat scratch fever; and since I feel that all the sins scintillating on the wave-tips that peek up at us as they bear us on our journey need to be officially documented somewhere, it is for all the aforementioned reasons that I, Lucien, Court Feline of Corsica, will take up the slack left by those less responsible.
Nothing much of consequence happened today, aside from sailing off into the lavender morning as the humans sat rigid-spined at a table encumbered by scones and tea. The ship’s cook, as well as the throngs of parents and other interfering relatives, stood “unobtrusively” off to the side and giggled and whispered and shouted advice to their respective dogs in the fight, namely Annemarjorie and Prince Majesto.
Jorjie appeared to be nauseated by the bloodshot wandering of her betrothed’s eyes as he lectured the whole breakfast ensemble on the principles of Aristotelian tragedy. But, seeing she was in no immediate danger, I decided to spare myself the above-decks illness and went below in search of my miniature box-castle for some much-needed slumber.
As soon as I entered the princess’s bedroom, however, I found myself wading shoulder-deep in an unwelcome, unfamiliar smell. It was another cat: a female, just barely past kittenhood, and drenched inside and out with the unholy stench of salted fish and other shore-scuttling creatures.
I inspected the entire room, sniffing after the fastidious paw-steps left by this strange intruder, but my eyes couldn’t see anything out of place. Unsatisfied, I crept through the barred door of my box-castle and closed it behind me with a practiced sleight of the tail.
Now nothing could get to me. But suddenly I heard the pillow on the lounge chair tittering.
Eyes narrowed, I focused on the spot. I saw, or possibly sensed, something breathing behind it, a flighty breath laced with salted raw jackfish. The invader!
“I know you’re here,” I grunted boldly. “Show yourself!”
To harmonize with my impassioned hiss, a full-fledged giggle jingled out from behind the pillow, which now trembled like the jellied stomach of a laughing peasant. A furry shadow leapt onto the ceiling of my box-castle in one spring, causing the walls around me to curve outward and rattle disconcertingly.
“Hey!” I yelled.
“Hay is for landlubbers,” cackled a voice like pearls clattering in a velvet bag. “Besides, I thought you was a prince. Princes never work in the stables, does they, Lucie?”
My ears were flat against the nape of my neck, and I could feel the hair on my back pointing like impaling spears toward the convecting ceiling, but no intelligent retort was forthcoming, so I resorted to another hiss.
In answer, a face popped into upside-down view just outside the bars. A tortoiseshell face, clouded in a hurricane of orange and ebony and marble-gray and white, with a smattering of brown freckles on the light pink nose. Gold-flecked amber eyes peered at me roundly.
“You’re beautiful,” I spat. “I hate you,” I added quickly, in case the commoner wasn’t familiar with haute jealousy etiquette. After all, I was only trying to insult her. “If you would be so kind as to move out of the way, lowly subject, I’ll ram my head against these bars and be free. Don’t think you have me trapped.”
“Aww, poor kitty wants his freedom,” she cooed. With her quick flick of one long silvery claw, the door swung open. She stepped to the side and gestured with her head for me to approach.
As I did, I let her know, “I was perfectly capable of getting out of there without your help.” Which I was; my method would simply have left some sore spots on my head.
“I’m sure you be’s mighty capable, my brave, strong Lucie.”
“Why do you keep calling me that? It’s Lucien. With an en, like Ben, like genital…”
“They call you genital?”
As the definition of the word I’d just recently happened upon in my midnight dictionary-browsing came back to me, I was seized by the urge to turn and lick my tail. Gritting my teeth, I resisted the impulse and roared, “No!!!! My name is Lucien! It’s a sophisticated French name for boy-cats! Lucien, Lucien, Lucien.”
“Okay, Lucie-Anne, if you insist,” the tortoiseshell replied with a purr. “But tell that to whoever affixed those letters to your cage.”
“It’s not a cage,” I protested with what remained of my voice. But when I turned to glance at the label above the doorway, my world jolted. Indeed, the gold-plaqued n at the end of Lucie- seemed to have been lifted, so only a faint gluey outline remained. “Who would have done that?” I gasped. “Not only has that vagabond insulted me, he has stolen from my person, and that will not be tolerated in this kingdom.”
“In what kingdom now?” The tortoiseshell cocked her head curiously. “We be on open sea, methinks, no? Only the winds and the monsters of the deep enforce the rules here, and that in a spotty and inconstant rhythm.”
I sighed, partly in relishing the unconscious poetry of her words, and partly in appreciating the headache their truth would surely cause me throughout this dreadful voyage. To calm my delicate nerves, I allowed myself a quick lick to the right wrist.
The floor jerked into an awkward tilt, sending me sliding nearly all the way under Jorjie’s quilted bed.
The female cat whinnied a rough laugh as I scrambled to hold onto the bed’s foot – she had braced herself into the firm carpet with nothing but her own twenty claws. “Get yourself topside, mate,” she suggested with a cock of the cheek towards the door. “It’s gonna be a red-sky storm, your first, I reckon. No better time to learn the ropes.”
“I’d prefer to stay ignorant to ‘the ropes’ and study my Shakespeare,” I retorted, scanning the pile that was my newly toppled library in the corner of the floor. The wind outside roared, and the ship tilted again.
With a low leap, the taunting intruder was at my side. “You’ll accompany me topside, or you’ll feel the rancid pain of my keratinous rapiers in your tender flesh,” she intoned severely. “Gotta keep the crew in working shape, you know. That take discipline, Lucie.”
“All right, fine-”
“Splendid!” Soon she was rocketing up the stairs just outside the doorway. I felt I had no choice but to drag my fatigued body up right behind her. “By the way,” she leered over me near the top of the stairs, nearly causing me to fall backwards, “I don’t believe I’ve introduced meself. Name’s Tortuga.”
“Nice to meet you, Tortuga,” I replied automatically while struggling to keep my balance on the penultimate wooden stair. Above our heads, the hatch burst open to reveal a blood-red sky swirling with what looked to be necrotic mashed potatoes.
Tortuga yawned. “Pleasure’s be all mine, mate. And does you prefer Lucie, or Lucie-Anne?”
“Call me Lucky,” I sighed on a whim. But I doubt she heard me, what with the pistol shot that knocked the stairway out from under each of our paws just as the ship tumbled upside-down in a wave that invaded my nostrils with its wrath and brightened my eyes with the sting of grainy salt as I became lost in the sprawling, anonymous fight through sea and rubble.
Image credits in order of appearance:
By Andry Lange (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
By Extracted by: diego_pmc (talk) – Cinderella (1865).djvu, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4673601
By Tewy – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1382465
By Office of NOAA Corps Operations. (NOAA Photo Library: wea00820) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Robert Salmon (1775-circa 1851) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons