My First published story. 25 years ago
The Tiger Gun
When we were children, Carl and I used to roam the wilds of Cazenovia Park, on the south side of Buffalo, New York. We walked the creek banks there, exploring the fauna and flora with all the animation and wide -eyed wonder of Henry Stanley searching for Lake Victoria in Africa.
The cat-o-nine tails, along the banks there, are tall and willowy. They sway and rustle in the wind. Like most children, my imagination was continually in overdrive. I would see the reeds move and imagined that a tiger was lurking there, stalking us.
It was silly of course. Part of me knew that there were no tigers in Cazenovia Park. But, somewhere in my imagination and just beyond the first row of reeds, I sensed a presence. It lay there quietly, waiting for me to get too close. If I were careless enough to do so, I was sure that it would pounce.
I avoided the area as much as I could. I never let anybody know what I thought was lurking there, in the bushes. I didn't think they would believe me. Also, aspiring little men couldn't run away from things, no matter how scary they were. It bothered me a lot.
Other kids would run through the area and I would stop to watch them. I half expected to see an enormous striped monster rise up, with a carnivorous roar, and tear them in half. It didn't get them though. It was waiting for me. I couldn't stop thinking about the lurking beast.
One day, when we were playing in the area, I stopped dead in my tracks. I could sense it near me in the reeds. I thought I could hear its heavy breathing and a quiet throaty purring. The willows were parting in a line that led right to me. I couldn't move. I knew it would soon strike and I was scared to death.
The sudden hand on my shoulder startled me like a loud clap of thunder. It wasn't the beast, but Carl. He could see that I was frightened and asked me what I was afraid of.
I knew that if I said its name, it would jump out of the reeds and eat both of us. Carl wasn't too much older than I was, but I knew that he wasn't afraid of anything. If it was a tiger, I knew he would walk into the reeds and smack it right on the snout. Then, maybe it would go away. I decided to tell him the secret and hoped that he wouldn't laugh at me. That would have been more painful to me than a tiger bite.
He didn't laugh though. He looked at me in that older and wiser way of his and said calmly, “why don't you pull out your tiger gun and shoot it.” At first, I couldn't quite believe what he had said. What tiger gun? Where am I going to get a tiger gun? I hope he wasn't laughing at me.
Hesitantly, I stammered the question to him. “Where would I get a tiger gun?” He took a while before he answered, to make sure that I would hear him and understand. “The same place you found the tiger” was his answer.
It was a revelation! In the span of micro-seconds, the tiger lay dead of leaden shot from the most enormous tiger gun that I could imagine. It would never rise again.
After that, there were many times in life when I felt a tiger lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce. Whenever that happened, I took a deep breath and fired the most powerful tiger gun that I could conjure. The “Tiger” would always vanish in a cloud of imaginary powder and shot.
Much later, when I read and admired fables like “Rumplestiltskin,” I understood the beauty and simplicity of Carl's tiger gun. I think everybody should have one. I know that I keep mine always at the ready, waiting for any tiger dumb enough to bother me.