Some Tigers—A Story in Two Parts
By Linda Ferguson
Larry dresses his tiger in handmade shirts from Bali.
When Michael got drafted, he tried to take his tiger with him, but the army said the tiger might scare the enemy.
Roberto, a magician, taught his tiger how to disappear.
Harriet, a social worker, trained her tiger to take foster kids for rides on its velvet back.
Jean-Claude and his tiger like to ski.
Angelina’s tiger pours real maple syrup on its buttermilk pancakes.
Marguerite’s tiger mows and waters the lawn for her while she flips through a magazine.
Frank’s tiger has excellent taste in furniture.
Honoré’s tiger smokes dope and dozes on the couch all afternoon.
Rodrigo sent his tiger to seminary, but his tiger knows it was born to be an accountant.
Lucy’s tiger generously shares its freshly-caught prey with her.
My tiger is a competitive chess player who recently sold its stamp collection on eBay.
Here’s a riddle: What’s five years older than me after February 4th and six years older than me after September 15th? Answer: My tiger!
My tiger and I are on speaking terms, but just barely. Sometimes we sit together, by all appearances enjoying one another’s company, but I’m always prepared, ears pricked and muscles tensed, ready to leap up and run if my tiger should get a hankering to lunge.
One time I decided to be brave. It was October, and we were sitting on the lawn. My tiger had just gotten some very bad news and was quiet. The pink and purple asters were in full bloom, and the autumn sun was shining on my tiger’s radiant fur. Compelled by the beauty of the day and a fragrance of lingering tenderness, I reached out to touch my tiger. In response, it whipped its head around and tore off my index finger.
That was a long time ago, but I find such things hard to forgive. Confession: The other day my tiger, who lost its last three chess tournaments, came by and asked me for money. In response, I waved my hand—the one with the missing digit—as if to bat away a mosquito. Also, when my tiger’s mate asked me to bring the appetizers for Thanksgiving, I snapped, “Sorry, my manual dexterity isn’t what it used to be.”
Too harsh? Well, I have other stories—a bloody lip, a surprise lurking inside my closet, and an incident involving my tiger’s tail and a particularly vicious round of crack the whip. Here’s my favorite story: On my 35th birthday, my tiger called me out of the blue. I hadn’t heard from it in some time, so I was touched. But instead of singing to me, my tiger roared so fiercely my next-door neighbor ran over to see if he should call the police. “Oh,” I laughed, “that was just my tiger.” Afterwards, though, I felt like crying, and my hand trembled that night when I tried to brush my teeth.
Only my friends with tigers would understand, which is why I tell this story to them at every opportunity. I tell Marguerite and Larry, Rodrigo and Michael. I tell Jean-Claude and Harriet and Honoré.
Roberto says his tiger can be inconsiderate too: “One time I make him disappear, and he did not come back for a week.” In a lowered voice, Frank reveals he’s found fur on his blue silk Louis Quinze loveseat. Apparently that no-good tiger of Angelina’s threw a tantrum one morning when she was running late and tried to serve it instant coffee.
“But your tiger is the worst,” my friends agree. “That’s one ferocious beast.”
Only Lucy tells me differently. She’s never met my tiger, but every time I tell my story she shakes her head sadly and says, “But you don’t see.”
“I see this!” I cry, waggling my four-fingered hand in her face, but she shakes her head again. “No, you don’t see.” Then I lean forward in my seat, hoping she’ll say something new, that she’ll finally explain the mystery. But every time she says the same thing:
“In its heart, your tiger harbors great affection for you.”
Linda Ferguson is an award-winning writer of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Her poetry chapbook, Baila Conmigo, was published by Dancing Girl Press. She teaches creative writing for adults and children.
“Some Tigers” was originally published by Gold Man Review in 2014.