Diving into Traces edition 13, here is a sneak peek into Red Lead: The naval cat with nine lives, written by Roland Perry.
The new recruit
Hector Waller, the newly appointed captain of the cruiser HMAS Perth, could hardly believe his eyes. It was October 1941 and he was about to dine in a restaurant on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales when a small dark cat splashed by.
‘Did you see that?’ Waller, 41, said to his companion, Petty Officer Dan Bolt. ‘I thought I saw something that looked like a cat bobbing about in the water. I’ve never seen a swimming cat before.’
‘Nor have I,’ Bolt said. ‘But I read once that the pharaohs had them, if they could swim. Noah had one on his ark, as a ratter.’
‘There’d have to be two, wouldn’t there?’ Waller said with a grin.
‘Good point, Captain.’
The 35-year-old Bolt excused himself, stripped to his swimming trunks, climbed down the steps from the outside dining deck area and jumped into the river. He came up next to the cat, who dived under when Bolt hovered near it. Bolt swam on for about 100 yards and returned, his perfect over-arm style evident, with elbows high and fingers skimming the water. He stroked his way back with barely a ripple, except for his pounding feet.
The cat reached the steps before him and climbed up onto the restaurant deck, shook itself off and waddled over to Waller.
The young waitress, Anna, hurried over with a towel, and rubbed the cat.
‘Sorry about this,’ she said.
‘Don’t be sorry,’ Waller said, ‘I like cats. What’s his name?’
‘She has no name. Just Puss Three. She has three siblings. They’re nearly two months old.’
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