The Nature of the Beast

Since I am a 1973 grad of Louisiana State University, which has a football team presently destined to, once again, soon earn the title of National Champion, I’m thinking about the LSU Tigers.

That legendary squad of coonass athletes, for as long as my sixty years will allow me to remember, has been a hallowed institution in my original hometown, Baton Rouge. The great gridiron squad, and the venerable institution of higher learning from which it had sprung, represented for my daddy, my mama, me, my brother, neices, nephews and sisters (all alumni), and every other crawfish-chompin citoyen  in the bayou state, the paragon of football excellence. And the team carried that elevated status even before the rest of football nation ever acknowledged our unique mastery of the game by bowing to  tigerly domination that had manifested in ages past, such as  in 1958, along with contemporary victories as exhibited in this  present season and, and no doubt, the striped future.

And since I was thinking about them thar tigers (as we say in the Appalachian mountains where I now live), I decided to open up your awareness to  a plotly development  from my second novel, Glass Chimera, because the scene involves a Tiger, which is the mascot at LSU.

Remembering that I spent freshman year in North Stadium dormitory, right there in the Death Valley stadium of old, and across an oak-lined street from Mike the Tiger’s cage, I post herewith this uncommon incident from chapter 6 of Glass Chimera. It depicts, long story short, a tiger who is hanging out in the untigerly environment of a New Orleans boulevard (don’t ask), and feeling a little bit out of place:…

“Ha.  She’s having second thoughts about the escape, wondering if it was the right decision.” They chuckled.

“She’s definitely out of her comfort zone,” said Nao.

“And yet she seems so utterly comfortable,” Robby observed. “What’s  strange is. . .she could make one hell of a ruckus if she wanted to.  She could turn this place upside down with confusion if she chose to.” He thought for a moment.  “I wonder what her genetic inclinations are. I wonder if the years of captivity have conditioned her beyond her wild, natural response to what could be a dangerous setting.”

“The human world, a dangerous setting,” said Rosa, with a hint of irony.

“Definitely dangerous for her, if she’s not in a cage.”

Case in point.

The sedated, somewhat surreal stillness of Napolean Avenue at that moment was  interrupted by the sudden, though stealthy, approach of a  stalker, skilled in this sort of thing.  Gray/white/black camouflage occluded his  purposed arrival upon the scene.  He had a rifle in his arms, and it was poised in the ready position.  Not yet aiming, but ready.  The hunter, whoever he was, was looking steadily at the cat.  He was speaking to her in his mind.  He knew her mind.  He had hunted her in the far reaches of the savannah, in Africa. Not her, however. But one like her.  He knew about wild animals. He knew what they were capable of.

He knew about wild animals.

Calcutta took notice of her stalker’s arrival by rising from the position of rest that she had assumed,  rousing from her uninvited survey of the boulevard below, with its manufactured menagerie of  streetlight-streaked mechanical beasts having paws of rubber and snouts of chrome.

She growled. She is, after all, a tiger. And she didn’t like this one bit. Her instinct was demanding a response. She howled.  She’s  savage, not tech-savvy, not aware of the power of projectiles and triggers.

She leaped.

If this encounter bites into your curiosity at all, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens before and after it.  Otherwise, I’ll leave you with this declaration:

Go Tigers!

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