Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chuck Hears the Lion's Roar

And now for the rest of the story . . .

Unfortunately, the Chuckster’s encounter with the sleeping lions during our “picnic” did not satisfy my cat. He wanted more.

And wasn’t that just like my rascal Chuck?

First, he wanted to meet a lion face to face. Then he wanted to see a lion in action and hear the fellow “roar.”

I reminded him we were on safari and not part of some Disney movie. These were wild animals. We were traveling on the Serengeti Plain, the best game viewing spot in all of Africa. It cuts through Kenya and Tanzania. This is where the famous migration occurs every year. We were sure to see plenty of lions, but could I guarantee that we would hear a lion roar?

“Chuck, get serious, lions don’t just roar for the hell of it. They roar for a reason. And not a good reason.” The implication was clear. “Life as a lion is tough, Chuck. They don’t get their food from a cat can, like you do. What do you want to see? A life and death struggle for survival?”

Chuck blinked.

That’s exactly what he wanted to see.

And, of course, what Chuck wanted, he often got. Especially after he had spotted the leopard up the tree and practically saved Steven’s life. Steven now became committed to finding Chuck a roaring lion.

Steven had friends who roamed the plains, like he did. He communicated with other drivers using a high-tech walkie-talkie system. When the call came that a pride of lions had been spotted with a kill, Steven anticipated that Chuck was going to get what he asked for, so we raced across the plains to the spot.

“Just keep a hold of that cat,” Steven warned.

The picture in front of us was not a pretty one.

Five lions surrounded their kill, but they were being taunted by a family of hyenas, the scavengers of the plains, who were hungry and wanted a piece of the kill. The hyenas were faster than the lions and were attempting to lure the lions away from their prize.

Steven parked the safari vehicle as close as he could to the action. We watched as the lions paced back and forth, protecting their bounty. The hyenas darted in and out, making sneak attacks, trying to unnerve the lions. This went on for awhile.

I held Chuck tightly in my arms. He watched in fascination.

“It’s only a matter of time before something gives. Someone is going to make a more daring move.”

You could almost see the hyenas salivating. Life on the plains at this time of year was tough. There had been little rain. This kill was precious. The lions were not willing to share.

Finally, it happened. One of the hyenas, the one I would call the sacrificial hyena, ran straight into the kill and ripped a piece of meat off in his jaws.

The lion closest, the one standing guard, let our a terrific ROAR.
The air shook around us.

The hyena with the meat secured in his jaw stepped back.

The lion ROARED again.

The hyena began to run for his life. Literally.

The lion took off after him.

The meat fell from his jaws, and the hyena managed to escape.

I suspect the other hyenas were supposed to go for the meat in those precious seconds when the kill was left unattended, but they didn’t. Perhaps, the ROAR sounded so fierce, they lost their nerve. Instead all the hyenas slinked off, and the lions were finally left in peace.

“Well, what did you think, Chuck?”

He was purring softly. With Chuck, that is always a good sign.

He was happy.

A lion’s roar on the Serengeti Plain sounds magnificent.

I would have purred, too, if I were a cat.


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