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Chapter 72
In my case, to protect myself from Richard Parker while Itrained him, I made a shield with a turtle shell. I cut a notchon each side of the shell and connected them with a length ofrope. The shield was heavier than I would have liked, but dosoldiers ever get to choose their ordnance?
The first time I tried, Richard Parker bared his teeth, rotatedhis ears full round, vomited a short guttural roar and charged.
A great, full-clawed paw rose in the air and cuffed my shield.
The blow sent me flying off the boat. I hit the water andinstantly let go of the shield. It sank without a trace afterhitting me in the shin. I was beside myself with terror – ofRichard Parker, but also of being in the water. In my mind ashark was at that very second shooting up for me. I swam forthe raft in frantic strokes, precisely the sort of wild thrashingthat sharks find so deliciously inviting. Luckily there were nosharks. I reached the raft, let out all the rope and sat with myarms wrapped around my knees and my head down, trying toput out the fire of fear that was blazing within me. It was along time before the trembling of my body stopped completely.
I stayed on the raft for the rest of that day and the wholenight. I did not eat or drink.
I was at it again next time I caught a turtle. Its shell wassmaller, lighter, and made for a better shield. Once more Iadvanced and started stamping on the middle bench with myfoot.
I wonder if those who hear this story will understand thatmy behaviour was not an act of insanity or a covert suicideattempt, but a simple necessity. Either I tamed him, made himsee who was Number One and who was Number Two – or Idied the day I wanted t............
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