By John Thomas Tuft

It was a dark and stormy night, as the erstwhile writer/theologian Snoopy would say. The old ship plunged up one wave and down another, rocking and listing, the forecastle constantly swept by the cold water of the tumbling sea, casually tossing sailors from their racks onto the deck below. On the quarterdeck the captain studied the motion of the waves and the leanings of the sails overhead, straining in their rigging as they close hauled,  pulling the jib sheets tight. The lookout in the crow’s nest high on the main mast lashed himself in, straining to see any dangers and threats that lay ahead in the impenetrable darkness.

Below decks, in the passenger cabin of the freighter loaded with spices and precious gems, Thomas the Stargazer Alpaca and Petey Pete, the Jack Russell bounty hunter, huddled in the dingy, dank air. “Are they watching for pirates?” asked Thomas nervously. Petey chewed on one end of the mustache he was growing. “I don’t think pirates come west of Portland and north of Nowhere,” he mused. “Don’t believe everything you hear,” said a voice from the farthest corner. “Or everything you think.” Petey spun around, poised for battle. “Who goes there?” he challenged. “Where are you boys headed?” said the voice. Two eyes appeared and drew closer, making no sound of footsteps. “I’m Clarissa. Clarissa the Persian.” In the dim light of the single lantern swinging wildly from a chain, a white cat appeared and nimbly hopped onto Thomas’ back.

“Hey!” complained the startled alpaca. The deck pitched wildly in the stormy seas and Clarissa dug in her claws to steady herself. “Stop it!” shouted Thomas. “Don’t hurt him,” said Petey, standing on his hind legs, looking fierce. “Sorry, but the thought of all that water…” Clarissa shuddered and flicked one paw out at the very thought. Just then a mighty gust of wind snuffed out the lantern, plunging them into darkness. “Ouch!” yelped Thomas in an alpaca way. “Sorry,” said Clarissa, “instincts.” “Who are you?” demanded Petey.  Clarissa sighed, as only a Persian can, and replied, “Well, I suppose I’m the girl from the north country, east of Cleveland and beyond the great rivers.” Thomas pranced a bit in the dark. “Have you ever been west of Portland and north of Nowhere?” “Silly boy,” said Clarissa with a yawn and, unbidden, dispensed some cat logic, as cats are wont to do. “North of nowhere would be the bottom of the world and circles don’t have a bottom.”

The darkness seemed to grow heavier with that announcement. Finally, Thomas’ voice came meekly, “Petey?” “She’s a cat. You can’t trust cats. The stories say it’s there, so it’s there.” The sound of the sailors shouting on the deck above reached them, then running footsteps, and cries of alarm. The door to their cabin flew open. The captain, to all appearances a human, yelled, “Rocks. We’re heading toward the rocks!” His words were met with blank stares. “You animals might have to save yourselves,” he shouted. Then he turned and ran back, leaving them in the dark again. “The nerve!” proclaimed Clarissa. “Why do they think they own us? We allow them to care for us.” Petey piped up. “But the treats. Don’t forget about treats.” “Dogs are so easy,” sighed Clarissa.

“I’m scared,” said Thomas. “I don’t like being in the dark, Petey. We can’t see where to go.” “Those rocks could certainly put a dent in our adventure,” mused Petey, with a bit of a whine. An obviously exasperated Clarissa let out a derisive spitting sound. “What is it with you two? The night is dark, so it tries to tell you that it’s scary. The storm is fierce, so it tells you to be afraid. I say, no! Don’t be blinded by the night. If you’re going west of Portland and north of Nowhere, you cannot be blinded by the night. Light comes from within.” She hopped down and strutted toward the door. “Geez, do I have to do all the thinking on this adventure?” Petey yipped, “Well, you certainly do most of the talking.” Which earned him a hiss and stare. In the dark, so nobody saw it.

As they stumbled through the spooky gangway, they heard more shouting. They made it up the ladder and onto the top deck. The sailors were gathered at the rail, shouting and pointing. Thomas, Petey and Clarissa made their way over. “Look,” said the captain, pointing toward the rocks. “Did the stars fall into the sea?” asked Thomas, with the logic of an alpaca. “No,” replied the captain. “The storm washed them up from the deep, dark depths. Those are sea stars. They make their own light from within.”

And so, the ship sailed past the rocks, on into the night. And the adventure continued. Because, as we all know, all stories that are truly about us are always true.

Words are magic and writers are wizards.