Tiger, Tiger

27th October 2008

Antique shopping, I round a corner and nearly trip over a boy in a paper tiger-mask. He starts, scrambles backward, then pauses in my path. His hands are on the floorboards, and he rocks forward and back, eyes fixed on mine. I smile for a moment, and then realize he is gangly, tall, perhaps too old to be crawling around.

We pause for a moment, at impasse. A giant warehouse fan whirs beside him. He turns his head, bares his teeth one at a time, and growls softly into the fan blades.

15 thoughts on “Tiger, Tiger

  1. Pork with Bones

    I love this, especially since I first read it as a paper-tiger mask rather than a paper tiger-mask. I’m still finding joy visualizing the former.

    (May I suggest, though, that he most likely “bared” his teeth?)

  2. Brittles

    This reminded me immediately of a William Blake poem I memorized in 8th grade for extra credit. Mrs. Chesbro rocked! It was a great way to get me to at least attempt to wrap my head around some great stuff.

    Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
    In the forest of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
    In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare seize the fire?
    And what shoulder and what art
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And, when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand and what dread feet?
    What the hammer? What the chain?
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? What dread grasp
    Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And water’d heaven with their tears,
    Did He smile His work to see?
    Did He who made the lamb make thee?
    Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

    – William Blake (1757-1827)

  3. Charlie Hills

    While I enjoy this little anecdote, it begs to be continued. Does anyone else sense it?

    I stand motionless, not knowing whether to lie down and play dead or to kick it and run quickly in the opposite direction. The rotating blades rhythmically punctuate the sound of his snarls. He slowly returns my stare once again.

    I glance to the side and notice two or three other customers, equally entranced. We exchange meaningful glances. I slowly mouth the words, “Three… Two…” but before I reach “one” the boy in the paper tiger-mask is joined by a girl in a paper lion-mask and a third, unidentified child in a paper bear-mask.

    Lions, tigers, and bears! This is too much for us; oh my, it is. We call off the attack and head to Starbucks to soothe our frazzled paper nerves.

  4. april

    actually, since you were writing in the present voice in that last paragraph, “bares” is correct. Such an odd scene but so well written!

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