I met the tiger beside the merry-go-round. He vowed that a ride on his back would be better than a plastic horse, sticky with candy-floss fingerprints. I rode under the yolky streetlights, my fingers entwined in his pelt. I lapped up his promises, convinced they tasted of love. I was a girl raised on stories of women who had tamed lions.
One morning, I sat in my empty house, my hourglass heartbeat trickling down the minutes. I heard him scratching, so I unlocked the door and let the tiger in. I sipped at my coffee. It was bitter and smelt like my teacher’s breath. The tiger had brought devilled kidneys, which he devoured, licking the plate clean of every last smear. When he looked at me, expectations swirled between us. He had come for more than just breakfast.
I led him upstairs, feeling his whiskers tickle the skin between my socks and hem. He sprawled out on my Buffy bedspread and beckoned me with a claw. His sandpaper tongue explored the crease of my knees. He kneaded me with his paws as he purred, and I thought: this is how it feels to be loved by a tiger.
After he left, I plucked every orange hair from my clothes, hiding them in my jewellery box. For months I stroked that bundle of hairs each night to prove it had been real.
A year passed before I saw the tiger again, but he wasn’t what I remembered. He lolloped past me with a pale girl on his back, leaving the lights of the funfair behind. A scent hung in the air as he passed. It wasn’t the old musk, which had stirred heat in my belly, but something new, barely disguising the sweet stench of flesh on his breath.
Iona Rule has a cat called Louis who thinks he’s a tiger. She has recently won the Retreat West themed competition, and came 2nd in Bath Flash Fiction competition. She has work published or forthcoming in Janus Literary, Fractured Lit, Perhappened and The Phare, among others.
“on the prowl” by kenrem is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
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