Chapter no 67

Life of Pi

The underside of the raft became host to a multitude of sea life, like the net but smaller in form. It started with a soft green algae that clung to the life jackets. Stiffer algae of a darker kind joined it. They did well and became thick. Animal life appeared. The first that I saw were tiny, translucent shrimp, hardly half an inch long. They were followed by fish no bigger that looked like they were permanently under X-ray; their internal organs showed through their transparent skins. After that I noticed the black worms with the white spines, the green gelatinous slugs with the primitive limbs, the inch-long, motley-coloured fish with the potbellies, and lastly the crabs, half to three-quarters of an inch across and brown in colour. I tried everything but the worms, including the algae. Only the crabs didn’t have an unpalatably bitter or salty taste. Every time they appeared, I popped them one after another into my mouth like candy until there were none left. I couldn’t control myself. It was always a long wait between fresh crops of crabs.

The hull of the lifeboat invited life too, in the form of small gooseneck barnacles. I sucked their fluid. Their flesh made for good fishing bait.

I became attached to these oceanic hitchhikers, though they weighed the raft down a little. They provided distraction, like Richard Parker. I spent many hours doing nothing but lying on my side, a life jacket pushed out of place a few inches, like a curtain from a window, so that I might have a clear view.

What I saw was an upside-down town, small, quiet and peaceable, whose citizens went about with the sweet civility of angels. The sight was a welcome relief for my frayed nerves.

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