Little Cat of Sao Jorge: a travel note from the Azores





There was no traditional horn-blowing as the boat slipped away from the harbor at day's break; but right then, just a few seconds after its detachment from the quay, and while it was still difficult to tell the anchoring's swinging from the departure's shaking ... an unlikely announcement of the sailing came from, let's call it, the lower deck: a half-choked, agonizing, youthful mewing, dictated by feline intuition and traditional adversity to water!

The heart-rending mewing did not of course cease as the boat sailed away from the shore, but continued to torment the souls of all those who have learned to "listen" to such voices. A quick search located the source: a tiny, oval-shaped basket that kept "ringing" and vibrating desperately, placed right next to the entrance point of the passengers ... The basket's dimensions stood as an additional testimony to the very young age of the unusual passenger, who, enclosed in his "fortress", remained invisible; moreover, the basket's small size not only allowed him to rock it, but also offered hope for a total overthrow, which would amount to a fleeting justification of his struggling resistance and, perhaps, a way to touch some fellow passengers' hearts. Alas, nothing happened! The geometry of the basket and the laws of Physics did not allow this small miracle, and the clearly unaccompanied basket went on with its mewing palpitations ...

With the first impressions of rain, some affectionate hand moved the basket to the interior of the boat. The peculiar traveler--lone foreigner amidst all that crowd that was going from Terceira to the "neighboring" Central Azorean islands, together with onion sacks, barrels of unknown content, boxes of all kinds, pig cases, three small cars and much more-- decided to look for the ringing basket, and, without much effort, found it right next to a pile of mail bags. His effort to stop the ringing by "petting" the basket did not succeed. It did bring on the spot, however, a crew member, possibly experienced in such cat transports; with ample confidence, he removed the latch and unveiled that fragile beauty, bathed in various hues of green and grey! That moment of liberty did not last long, and, before any thought of escaping was born, the basket was locked again, ringing now even more intensely. Perhaps it was better this way: had that freedom been prolonged, the furry prisoner would probably have to glare at that wide blue hell lurking all around ...

At some point, the boat arrived at its first stop, the island of Sao Jorge; the feast of the passengers' disembarking and the cargo's unloading seemed endless. Eventually, that mysterious, umbrella-holding fat lady who kept waiting patiently on the quay was rewarded: somebody from the crew was notified on the crying luggage's destination, and, at last, the unusual trophy reached her hands and then a car waiting nearby. For months and years to come, the tiny greyish immigrant will keep narrating to the local cats his historic voyage and all that he saw and heard through his not that strategically placed "fortress" ...

[Horta, Portugal--January 5, 1995]




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