The Tiger’s Wife – Favourite parts

‘The tiger spent the rest of the night in the graveyard and left the city at dawn. He did not go by unobserved. He was seen first by the grave digger, a man who was almost blind and who did not trust his eyes to tell him that a tiger, braced on its hind legs was rummaging through the churchyard garbage heap, mouthing thistles in the early morning sunlight. He was seen next by a small girl, riding in the back of her family’s wagon, who noticed him between the trees and thought he was a dream. He was noticed, too, by the city’s tank commander, who would go on to shoot himself three days later, and who mentioned the tiger in his last letter to his betrothed – I have never seen so strange a thing as a tiger in a wheat field, he wrote, even though, today i pulled a woman’s black breasts and stomach out of the pond at the Convent of Sveta Maria. The last person to see the tiger was a farmer of on a small plot of land two miles south of the city, who was burying his son in the garden, and who threw rocks when the tiger got too close.’

***

‘The tiger was almost over the pond, bounding on muscles like springs. He heard Jovo muttering, ‘Fuck me,’ helplessly, and the sound of Jovo’s footsteps moving away. The blacksmith had the ramrod out and he was shoving it into the muzzle, pumping and pumping and pumping furiously, his hand already on the trigger, and he was ready to fire, strangely calm with the tiger there, almost on him, its whiskers so close and surprisingly bright and rigid. At last,  it was done, and he tossed the ramrod aside, peered into the barrel, just to be sure, and blew his own head off with a thunderclap.

No one would ever guess that the gun had misfired. No one would ever guess that Luka and Jovo, from the branches of the tree they had scrambled up, had watched the tiger reel back in surprise, look around, puzzled. No one would ever guess, not even after the blacksmith’s clothed bones were found in disarray, many years later, that the two of them waited in that tree until the tiger pulled the blacksmith’s legs off and dragged them away, waiting until nightfall to climb down and retrieve the gun from what was left of the blacksmith. No one would guess that they did not left even bury the unlucky blacksmith, whose brain was eventually picked over by crows, and to whose carcass the tiger would return again and again, until he had learned something about the taste of man, about the freshness of human meat, which was different now, in snow, than it had been in the heat of summer.’

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