Foretopsail

It was a pain but sometimes necessary to take the Grey Menace with me when I went to work on Psyche. If the ketch was on the mooring, it was a bizarre trip in the dinghy. A large cat caterwauling loudly in the stern of a dinghy is bound to be watched by people onshore.
Actually, after a moment, he settled into watching the water and the occasional fish he’d see in the water.

He was banned from the cabin while my wife cleaned. The Menace hated brooms and despised vacuum cleaners. One he’d attack, the other he’d get subtle with and try to bite through the electrical cord. So off he’d go with me to the shop or the boat. He was barred from Spinney’s boatyard because the cat queen of the yard, Bubastis, despised the Menace. When I was off to work at Spinney’s, he’d always act as though his integrity was being besmirched, ” it’s not my fault that Boo is such a harridan. I’m easy to get along with!”

The only trouble at the boat was when she had to be alongside the float. Then the Menace insisted on jumping to the float and playing with Raygun. Raygun was Lyman’s large labrador mongrel. Raygun had an “arrangement” with the Menace. He didn’t mainly get along with the other cats at his home, but the Menace was a kindred soul with a similar orientation towards creating trouble. So off they’d go up the little ravine that sheltered a tidal creek. Near the head of the stream was the Shephard place. At Shephard’s was a sizeable disagreeable dog that loved no one but harbored great hate for Raygun and the Menace. a fun afternoon could be had by the troublemakers running about yowling and barking while taunting the beast across the safety of the ravine.

Like most unfair arrangements, this one lasted until it didn’t. Some kids in the cove had bridged the ravine with planks to reach their fort easily. But Shepherd’s dog had been in on the deal because as soon as the Menace and Raygun started up their yowling and barking, they were met by the large hound who was no longer conveniently penned on the opposing side of the ravine. A moment of silence ended with the sound of animals tearing through the woods. First came the Menace, then Raygun, and at last the Shephard’s great beast.

The cat lost no time leaping aboard the ketch and climbed the foremast. Raygun lept into the water and started circling the ketch. Lyman, his brother the Cap’n, and I came tearing out of the shop to witness the mess.

Eventually, Tom Shepard came down to collect his dog, Raygun was lured home with a fresh can of food, and the Menace was retrieved from near the top of the foremast.

The cove was a tranquil place. Not much happens. That day, the telephone lines and the post office lobby were buzzing with the big fight on Lyman’s float. Inquiries were made “over Town” at the emergency ward. Had there been any admissions? Closer to home Tom Shepard and the Cap’n got busy tearing up the plank bridge across the ravine. Raygun retired to his bed in the shop. And the Menace was restricted to quarters pending a Courts Martial for dereliction of duty.

It was the studied opinion of the Court that he be reduced in rank, restricted to quarters for a month, and get a new title: Foretop’sail cat.
He didn’t like the way we said the new title much. His ears went back every time we said it, and we did that often. Somehow it lacked the sheer threat of Grey Menace.

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