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.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Something Fishy in Catania, Sicily OR Chuck Goes Too Far for Heart Healthy Fish Snack

When I travel in Europe, I live for the open air markets, which are different than the flea markets that we flock to in America, which mainly sell antiques.  The open air markets of Italy and France and most other European countries offer the fresh produce of the city--the meats, the cheeses, the fish, the vegetables, the fruits. 

That day--in Catania, the second largest city in Sicily and which happens to lie at the foot of Mt. Etna (a still very active volcano)--we arrived early in the morning at the open air market, eager to browse the stalls and mingle among the locals and the tourists.

Catania has an interesting history.  Situated between Messina and Syracuse it was destroyed by earthquakes twice--once in 1169 and then again in 1692.  The city also had to contend with volcanic eruptions from Mt. Etna--the most notable occurring in 1669.  The city is mostly paved in a black pavement, made from the lava, so it is difficult to forget the history as you walk around. 

The energy was intoxicating.  

And all would have gone well . . . but because we were rushing to get to the market, we neglected to give Chuck his usual snack, and in retrospect, that small event sparked a embarrassing incident.

For the Chuckster arrived hungry, his big stomach growling, and it is never a smart idea to bring a hungry cat to a place that has food--delicious food--around every corner.

Even so, who could have anticipated that a cat, even a rascal cat like Chuck, would take matters into his own hands and want to leap from the safety of my smart bag into a display of fish?

But let me begin at the beginning.

We arrived at an already crowded market. The stalls were open, their umbrellas a colorful sight.  Vendors had their wares on display.  People were milling about, making purchases. 

We minded our own business, as usual.  We wanted to browse only.  We decided to buy some bread and cheese and prosciutto for later on.  A small picnic for lunch.  So we wandered over and made our purchases, and Chuck barely whimpered. 

Our purchases did not include fish.  After all, we were tourists staying at a hotel.  We had no means of frying fish.

But still, as we passed the fish stalls, we saw octopus, snails, tiny clams, eels and rays, tuna, and were intrigued by what seemed to be thousands of sardines laying about, their silver skins gleaming--fresh.

     And we expected to smell fish.  Nothing.  That’s how fresh they were--brought in that morning from Mazara del Vallo, Italy’s largest fishing port or one of the smaller ports in Sciacca or Favignara and hauled in by the local fishermen.  

But the Chuckster, well, any cat has super sensory smell capability and from his perch, he caught a whiff of the sardines.  

Not that I blamed him, but I felt him stir.  For the first time.  Which should have been a warning sign.

It wasn’t because when you are in the open market, it is so easy to become distracted by the stirring of life there.  

So he jumped, out of my bag toward the open display case--landing on the small wooden table just to the left of the basket that held the sardines.  A very strategic jump which he must have calculated would put him near enough to begin his own private feasting on the fish.


Luckily, the owner, the proprietor, was on the other side of the stall, dealing with a customer who had placed a rather large order so he was up to this point oblivious to the jump.

I scooped up the rascal, who now smelled like sardines because his paws had landed in some kind of goop that the table was drenched in.

“You are in the biggest trouble.”

But he didn’t act like he was in trouble.  Nor did he act contrite.  He only meowed, disappointed that he’d lost the opportunity to snack down on a sardine. 

I swiveled away from the fish stall and began hurrying away from the market.  I didn’t want a Sicilian fish monger mad at me and my cat. 

“Yuck, Chuck.  You smell like fish.”

He looked insulted, but he had the good sense to say nothing.  He didn’t even meow.  


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