August 2013


My responsibility to take care of the tiger

I can't go back to sleep because of that sound: pee running into a tin bowl under my bed. Now and then it stops, then starts again. Worry keeps me awake, the floor might get wet if the pee misses the bowl. Finally I get up to look under the bed. Where I see a tiger lying on his side peeing. The stream emerges from between his hind legs, arching and landing smack in the bowl. So far so good but the floor is wet. Ragged ancient patches of linoleum, edges bulging upwards, are growing white crystals. A corruption from urine, I suppose. It could happen again any time, so wiping the floor would be pointless, I feel exhausted.

One level down, randomly walking through hospital hallways I suddenly encounter a creature I knew; naked, flat, the colour of skin, a child animal that I used to take care of. I try taking it up, it fitted my palm. Now it scurries away, through doorways and around corners. I try picking it up again. It evades me, I weary, I'm telling myself that my responsibility for the creature has ended. I catch up in front of an open door, I assume it's been staying in that room. The door is ajar, a narrow gap. I'm still unsure. It squeezes through. So that's decided. Then it comes out again. - No, not it. That is something else. A grisly bug with a black carapace. I would never touch that.

My animal is still in the room. What if I never see it again? Overcoming a  resistance I detach myself. Still unbelieving, feeling free. It isn't mine to take care of any more. 

Walking away I remember the tiger. He would have attacked the naked one if I had brought it with me, I would have had to teach him not to. I worry about him, a tiger in my bedroom, such a magnificent animal rotting there. I've no idea when he last got outside. Obviously I can't let him run free in the pedestrian zone. But I must take him for a walk, tomorrow at the latest, on a leash in the fields. Though to walk him like a dog seems like such a pity. He'll never get enough exercise if he cannot run fast. I could go on horseback with the tiger on a leash. On a  large brown horse on the path beside the train tracks beyond the little bridge that the road snakes under. But horses are tiger food, I'm thinking. He hasn't been fed since the day before yesterday at least. The loss of control of the urine flow could be a sign of great hunger. Even a tame tiger, unfed, will soon do some damage. I must feed him, and walk him. At once. Today. Only I would sleep first. But I should go shopping first: buy a big can of dogfood, though that may not be right for a tiger. I'm too tired to think of anything else.



© Anthony Thwaites