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Life of Pi (part 1 chapter 82)

2006-08-22 21:28

  CHAPTER   82

  I kept rainwater and the water I collected from the solar stills in the locker, out of Richard Parker's sight, in the three 50-litre plastic bags. I sealed them with string. Those plastic bags wouldn't have been more precious to me had they contained gold, sapphires, rubies and diamonds. I worried incessantly about them. My worst nightmare was that I would open the locker one morning and find that all three had spilled or, worse still, had split. To forestall such a tragedy, I wrapped them in blankets to keep them from rubbing against the metal hull of the lifeboat, and I moved them as little as possible to reduce wear and tear. But I fretted over the necks of the bags. Would the string not wear them thin? How would I seal the bags if their necks were torn?

  When the going was good, when the rain was torrential, when the bags had as much water as I thought they could take, I filled the baiiling cups, the two plastic buckets, the two multi-purpose plastic containers, the three beakers and the empty cans of water (which I now preciously kept)。 Next I filled all the plastic vomit bags, sealing them by twisting them shut and making a knot. After that, if the rain was still coming down, I used myself as a container. I stuck the end of the rain-catcher tube in my mouth and I drank and I drank and I drank.

  I always added a little sea water to Richard Parker's fresh water, in a greater proportion in the days following a rainfall, in a lesser during periods of drought. On occasion, in the early days, he dipped his head overboard, sniffed the sea and took a few sips, but quickly he stopped doing it.

  Still, we barely got by. The scarcity of fresh water was the single most constant source of anxiety and suffering throughout our journey.

  Of whatever food I caught, Richard Parker took the lion's share, so to speak. I had little choice in the matter. He was immediately aware when I landed a turtle or a dorado or a shark, and I had to give quickly and generously. I think I set world records for sawing open the belly shells of turtles. As for fish, they were hewn to pieces practically while they were still flopping about. If I got to be so indiscriminate about what I ate, it was not simply because of appalling hunger; it was also plain rush. Sometimes I just didn't have the time to consider what was before me. It either went into my mouth that instant or was lost to Richard Parker, who was pawing and stamping the ground and huffing impatiently on the edge of his territory. It came as an unmistakable indication to me of how low I had sunk the day I noticed, with a pinching of the heart, that I ate like an animal, that this noisy, frantic, unchewing wolfing-down of mine was exactly the way Richard Parker ate.

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