Silas liked living by the sea. He liked the smell of salt water and the feeling of the burning sun on his black and white coat. Even though he did not have a mother, father, sisters, or brothers, Silas was rarely sad and he always tried to be brave.
He spent his time stalking birds and fish by the wharf. Sometimes, he would climb up a tall tree to watch the planes in the sky and the giant boats sailing into the sunrise.
It was a fine summer day. Silas was stalking mice by the old pier. He made a quick turn into a back alley and that’s when he saw the other cat. The other cat was large with long orange fur. The hairs on his back lifted when he saw Silas and his mouth released a loud hiss. Before Silas could back away, the cat yowled and began a furious chase.
Silas ran. He ran out of the alley, up a fence, and onto the rooftops. Over and over, house after house, Simon ran until his legs ached with effort. He ran down to the shoreline and finally was able to draw a breath after hiding in an abandoned fishing boat. He’d lost the other cat. Even though Silas was trying to be brave, he notices that his fur was bristled and he was shaking.
Silas was so scared that he did not notice the sailor walking up to him. The sailor bent down, picked him up, and gently held him to his chest.
“Would you like to come on my ship with me?”
Simon gave a purr of approval and he felt brave again. The ship was big. Silas saw a giant tongue sticking out of the side of the ship and he wondered what it could possibly be used for.
The sailor took Silas to his bunk and the two quickly fell asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, Silas was awoken by a wet nose in his face. It was a dog. She had long silky ears, an excitable tail, and a long drippy tongue. Silas thought that this tongue looked like the ship’s tongue, but he was too polite to say anything.
“My name is Peg Leg,” the dog explains, “would you like me to show you the ship?”
Silas nodded his head, “Yes, please.”
Peg Leg showed him everything, and even let him climb the topmast. Peg Leg and Silas snuck down to the captain’s quarters. They walked as quietly as they could, but the captain was a shrewd old man and he knew when someone was near his quartes. The captain stepped out of his cabin, crossed his arms, and frowned at Silas.
“What ‘er you doin’ on my ship?”
Silas felt himself shaking.
The captain continued, “If ‘yer going to be staying on my boat, you’ve got to have a job. I’ll make you chief rat catcher because those rats keep eating my men’s food. Do that, and you can stay.”
Silas was glad he was allowed to stay, but he did not like the idea of killing the rats. Rats were scary. Simon expressed his fears to Peg Leg.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “we will find a way.”
Silas tried to work up the courage to kill the rats, but he just couldn’t do it. Still, the captain did not throw Silas off of the boat, and everything was fine until one night Silas was awoken by a loud, booming sound.
Peg Leg came rushing over to him, “It’s pirates! They’re firing at the ship.” It was all noise and confusion; sailors were running everywhere.
Suddenly, the boat lurched to a halt. They had run aground. When Silas looked around, he saw men bleeding and coughing and some men not moving at all. The worst part was the rats. The food cellar had broken open during the fighting, giving the rats full access to the pantry and its contents. The largest rat of all was called Blacktail. He had a mangled blackened tail and red beady eyes. The very thought of him made Silas nervous.
“They’re eating all of the food,” Peg Leg explained, “soon there will be nothing left for the sailors.” Simon bowed his head, “It’s my job to take care of the rats. We need to make a plan.”Peggy nodded, “I think we need to trap the rats somehow. Trick them into going where we want them to go.”
“We will use the biscuits! We can lure the rats from the kitchen into a box near a corner of the ship. When I lived on land, I used to watch the children do this to stray dogs. I know this can work.”
Peg Leg agreed that this was an excellent plan, but Silas was still scared. Would he really be able to kill Blacktail?
Silas laid the trap carefully. He arched his back, sharpened his claws, and waited. He was ready.
The first rat came into the trap. Silas pounced on him and bit his neck. It tasted awful, but Silas knew he had to continue. Another rat came out of the shadows and Simon bit again. He did this over and over, more times than he could count. The sailors gave a great big cheer, “Hurrah for Silas! The bravest cat of all!”
Silas was happy to have helped the sailors, but Blacktail had not fallen into his trap yet. He was also sore from his wounds, but he didn’t want the sailors to see this. He was just thinking about how nice a long nap would be when he saw the largest rat of all stalk out of the shadows.
It was Blacktail. He had beady red eyes and fur as dark as midnight. Silas stared straight into his eyes, jumped, and latched onto his neck. He bit as hard as he could. No matter how much Blacktail fought back, Silas did not let go. Finally, Blacktail stopped moving and Silas released his clench.
The sailors picked up Silas and paraded him around the deck singing, “Our hero, the rat king killer!”
The storms came in, and the ship was able to leave. When they came to port, the friendly sailor who had comforted Silas so long ago picked him up and showed him the countryside.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” he whispered, “I always forget how much I love the land until I see it from a ship deck. The only problem is, when I’m on land I only remember how much I love the sea. Yeah, sailing’s the life for me, but what about you, Silas? Will you return to land?”
Silas nestled his head in the sailor’s hand. He would rather be on the ship than anywhere in the whole world.