Friday, 29 January 2010

The Tiger (#fridayflash)

The workers at his factory call him the Tiger.  He is proud they have chosen this name.  It shows they fear him.  It shows his methods work.

He prowls the factory floor with silent stealth, always taking his prey by surprise.  Workers trapped in the vicious claws of his gaze know it is finished for them.  He stands erect before his prey as they thrust themselves at his feet.  "I have a family, another child on the way." The most desperate always say this - a new baby - as if mention of a child should arouse pity in him.

He laughs, a wicked rumble of a laugh that he knows is the reason for his nickname.

"I sleep only four hours a night so I can keep this factory running," he says.  "And you have the audacity to feign tiredness in my presence."

He lets security do the real Tiger's work, to drag the workers away.  Some are limp and resigned, some scream and kick. All are defeated.  He serenades their exit with his savage laughter, making sure he is the one to bolt the factory door behind them.

These women and men whose livelihoods are destroyed - who, because they needed a moment's rest, must face the wrath of a jilted landlord, must hear their sleeping children moan in hunger - are left only with impotent power to curse the factory owner, invoking the demons and the saints to bring upon him misery and despair.

Unknown to them, their curses are fulfilled.  The Tiger, divorced and childless, lives alone.  His parents are dead.  He is despised by his peers.  His vices, prostitutes and whisky, augment his emptiness.

Most of all he hates the night-time. 

In his dreams he is a boy.  His friends have caught a kitten.  With them, he ties a tin can to the kitten's tail.  In the tin can, they secure a firecracker, then light it as they place the kitten on the ground.

The kitten looks at the tin can, fascinated by the hissing noise it makes.  Then booming white light blinds the boy.  When the light fades he is no longer a boy, but the kitten, fleeing.  Terror pulses through his body. His friends are chasing him.  "Run 'til you die, pussy!" they shout, then stop at the side of the road, laughing and whooping.   He wants to stop too, to rest, but a dreadful noise chases him, the rattling that exploded earlier. He must run.

He spasms, collapsing in the road.  The tarmac is cold against his body.  He cannot sleep and he cannot move.  The ground rumbles, bringing with it a roaring, monstrous white light. He knows it is a car. He knows he must get off the road.  His body clenches.

In that moment he wakes.  When the terror subsides enough for him to move, he sits up and checks the clock. It's quarter to two.  Four hours he must lie awake now. Four hours until morning.


  1. A sharp look at a man who is running from demons and does not really care that during his awake time, he is the demon doing all the chasing.

    In his dreams he is a kitten. In life he is a Tiger.


  2. I like this bit: "When the light fades he is no longer a boy . . . "

  3. This is very well paced. Nice turning point in the middle when he is transformed from the vicious bully to suffering victim. Even felt a bit sorry for him...

  4. I kept seeing Ebeneezer Scrooge. Such a sad story of a man who really knows no love. Very well-told.

  5. David,

    I must say I'm a little sad after reading this, not to mention the poor kitten!

    This excerpt makes me value the wonderful family I have. Really well done. I like your writing style and your opening, describing him as "The Tiger" is fantastic.

    Glad I read this!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  6. You have said much in this short piece, and said it well. I like this phrase: "He lets security do the real Tiger's work" - this alone says a lot.

  7. Sharp character portrait, David! Any chance you'll take the Tiger out of his cage and into some other fiction? It would be interesting to watch life in the factory, even if only from the perspective of workers with fireworks in their pockets.

  8. Great tale delivered well. Agree with John, very sharp character. I grew curious from the start how a cat would fit in, and found a nice ride.
    -David G Shrock

  9. Maybe he just needs a hug? But I'm not gonna give it to him....

    Seriously, I wonder if he gave himself the moniker of "Tiger" to battle his nightmares?

  10. I think I used to work for this guy! What a great way to capture how the worst leaders use a tough exterior to cover inner vulnerabilities. Nice metaphor, terrific depth of character.

  11. And thus why he only sleeps four hours at night. Great details of a tormented man.

  12. sharp writing. great characters/interesting piece.

  13. Loved your characters and the pacing overall. But I feel so sorry for the kitten :(

  14. I don't know how to feel about the main character, which is great. Such a disturbing life. Nicely done.

  15. That is a well-paced story fully of good imagery. The tiger has kitten dreams - the tormentor is tormented - very interesting!

    I can see why he doesn't sleep more than 4 hours.

    He is a classic case of the snake eating his tail!

  16. There's always another side to demons, though most of them are responsible for their own fate. Good, powerful story.

  17. From tiger to kitten, what an excellent route you have taken us along - karma does come back to bite you, certainly