A Good Side Effect

I spent last week felled by a vicious head cold. It took a great deal of effort to produce a creative thought. I hope you were spared.

But there was one plus to being sick. I had time to read because I really couldn’t do anything else, including write. So, I checked my book shelves, where I found Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Cradle.

My friend, Fred, recommended it months ago. Then, days later, I found it in the book section of a nonprofit’s thrift store. First edition. The clerk shrugged when I said there wasn’t a price. Fifty cents? he said. I gave him a buck. Then, it sat on a shelf. 

Here are the basics: An 11-year-old boy from Colombo boards a ship for a 26-day voyage to be with his mother in England. He and two young companions are among the diners at the “cat’s table,” a name coined by one of the misfit adults because it was the lowliest table in the ship’s dining room. Ondaatje took a similar trip, but says this is a work of fiction.

So for hours, I traveled with Mynah and his companions across the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea. Through the boy, we discover the ship’s precious cargo: secrets and mysteries. A hidden garden. The midnight strolls of a shackled prisoner. A robber’s loot. A foolhardy way to spend a typhoon. A rich man’s curse. That’s a start.

The Cat’s Table helped to make this sickness a manageable inconvenience.


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