Recent hurricanes have reminded me of a particularly tenacious rainy season I experienced in my distant youth. I was employed as a hod carrier at the time, hauling bricks, stones, cement and other supplies for masons. We stopped work as the deluge started flooding everything. I didn't keep track of time, and it was difficult to tell night from day, but it rained nonstop for about a month and a half.
As the waters quickly rose and people fled, I found an abandoned boat and took refuge. It was only 15 cubits long, so there wasn't much room, but it had a small enclosure and was better than treading water.
I don't mind doing without food, mental diversion, comfort or companionship, but there are rare deprivations no human should endure — among them, unsmokable tobacco. I tried building a fire on board, but the waves and wind and blinding torrent of rain conspired against me. There was no way to dry my soaked tobacco.
After a few days of boisterous muttering and complaining, I thought I heard waves crashing. Paddling blindly for most of the night, I eventually bumped into a solid wall of gopher wood rising into the dark clouds. Maybe it was the perimeter of a mountaintop city that hadn't flooded. I searched until I found a rope dangling from above and began climbing.
Reaching the top, I discovered it was some kind of boat, about 150 cubits long and filled with supplies, including every kind of animal I could imagine. Whoever was running this thing must have some exotic tastes in meat.
More important, I found barrels of dry tobacco. There was plenty, and I admit I helped myself to a handful. Desperate times.
I tied my little boat to the ship so I wouldn't float far from it, and revisited several times for tobacco resupply — until I was discovered. I had decided to reduce the number of trips by securing an entire barrel of tobacco. I had rolled it across the deck and hoisted it up onto the railing when an occupant of the boat discovered me. He appeared to be about 600 years old, but he was a tough old guy and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. "You aren't on the passenger manifest," he said.
I don't mind doing without food, mental diversion, comfort or companionship, but there are rare deprivations no human should endure — among them, unsmokable tobacco.
"Under the unusual circumstances, maybe it could be amended?"
"Oh no," he said, "it comes from the highest authority. And what is this? You're stealing my tobacco?"
I took that opportunity to give the barrel a push and it dropped from the rail into the sea. The old guy blinked, and then he pitched me overboard.
I found my boat and tobacco barrel and paddled away from the inhospitable menagerie. I now had enough tobacco to last, so it didn't matter. Besides, a couple of weeks later, the sun came out and the waters receded.
The occupants of the mysterious boat were also there, and I spied on them because they had tobacco and I meant to get more. Over several months, they built a compound and planted crops. All the animals had been released, so I had to dodge tigers and wildebeests and the like (kangaroos, for some reason, loathed me) but I maintained the surveillance until I struck upon a plan.
When the strangers' grapes ripened, I stole enough to apply some of my own skills to make wine, which I left for the strangers as a diversion or token of friendship, whichever worked best. But the old guy found it and drank it all himself, eventually passing out, so while he slept I grabbed a year's supply of tobacco and some tobacco seeds.
There was some kind of ruckus as I was departing. Something about the old guy's son walking in on him sleeping. I didn't want to get involved and bolted.
I planted my tobacco seeds and raised a fine crop. It took a few years, but things returned to normal, and my tobacco supply never again disappeared.
When I saw the recent hurricane-generated rainfall, I was afraid I might have to do it all again, so I had a 15-cubit boat ready, with plenty of tobacco on board, but this time the precaution was unnecessary.