Stories

Tiger’s Sad Excuse for a Life – Maté Jarai

Tiger smokes a cigarette on a pedestrian bridge. The bridge leads to the supermarket. He holds out an old cap hoping the shoppers will give him their change. Most seem unnerved by him. It’s darkening. The night makes him seem even scarier than they normally think he is. He’s ignored in sunlight too. The cigarette doesn’t help. But it’s his only friend. Feels good. Hot and good.

Tiger leaves his post on the pedestrian bridge at 10PM when the supermarket is long past closing. His old cap has less than a euro in it. He grins sarcastically as he slumps away towards the city centre. 

In his apartment, Tiger cooks some rice. He doesn’t even have salt. He also manages to burn the rice. At least this gives it a flavour. It’s not a good flavour but it’s something. He masturbates just to forget for a while. When he comes, he feels worthless and cries before falling asleep on his single mattress on the floor. He wakes in the night and can’t sleep. He’s shaking from the cold. He has a shot from the half bottle of grappa he found discarded in an alley a few nights ago. He masturbates again for warmth and also because directly afterwards he always feels tired. He manages to cut his dick a little with his claws. He needs to file them down. He’ll do it tomorrow. His dick only bleeds a little. “My blood must be frozen”, he thinks, before finally falling asleep again, that post-sex-chemical, but nobody to share the bliss with. 

In the morning Tiger tries to get a job. He goes to the employment office. The woman behind the desk seems afraid and uncertain as usual. This is Tiger’s third visit. She shakes her head, nothing for him again today. He’s about to leave but she stops him. It’s going to be difficult for you, she says, You aren’t exactly what most employers are looking for. He stares at her dead eyed. She looks sorry and shrugs. I’d work hard and I wouldn’t complain, he says. I’ll keep looking, she says, Come back in a few days. If I’m still alive, he mutters, walking out into the cold.

There’s a lot of fog. It reminds him of the mountains, his home. He left because he didn’t believe in what he thought of as ‘magic.’ I believe in science, he’d told his father, who barely looked at him as he chowed down on his meat, raw, just the way he liked it, with blood all over his face. It was the next day that his father told him to leave and never come back, or they’d kill him. You are a disgrace, he screamed, There are barely any of us left, we cannot abandon our ways. Tiger shrugged and told his father that abandoning their ways was the only way to survive. He took a bus. It was a long ride. Then he took two trains. The second, a night train, because they’d thrown him off the first. He started smoking. He travelled across Europe and came here. He had no money and couldn’t get further. Maybe his father was right. But no, fuck his damn father. 

Tiger spends the afternoon singing in the square beneath the church. It’s the oldest part of town. The fog thins out around midday. The sky remains blue until night sets in. He sings about his home and collects some change, but it’s not enough to move on, just enough for some salt and some bread, enough to make it to the next day, when he’ll try again. He has a good voice. When he was a kid he dreamed of being a rockstar but he knows some dreams are too big. He just wants to live another way, that’s all. He’s seen it on TV, on the internet, the life on the ‘other side.’ Thought he’d give it a try. 

Changing his diet wasn’t easy. He’s vegan because he has to be. Rice is all he can afford. He craves the meat daily. Feels like a vampire thirsting for the blood of all that meat around him. But Tiger knows he can’t. And one day, when he has enough money to buy those supermarket steaks he’ll be OK. He just has to hold on. But the weaker he gets the harder it gets. His own biology is taking over his rational thoughts. Tiger stares hungrily at the group of high school kids, then a young couple, even the fat old man pushing the bicycle. He runs from the square roaring into his throat, hoping the people around him can’t hear.

Tiger goes home and cries and masturbates then cries again. He curls up on his mattress and roars into his pillow then eats his pillow. The night goes on and he can no longer stay there. He can smell things, hear other things. Amongst the sounds his father’s condescending cackle. You’re like a damn witch, Dad, he says out loud, You’re a damn witch!

Tiger stands on the bridge staring down into the water. The water is far. It might even be shallow. It will be the end, he hopes. His witch father was right. He was wrong. The blood of that young man is still fresh on his lips. Distant sirens, an otherworldly hum caught in the night’s wind. He roars at the sky and wolves howl back as he takes a step forward into thin air. Tiger is no longer hungry as he falls.