Tiger And I

He was just about the smartest, best-est cat
that ever did live, and fortunately, he was mine!
A large, male cat, black with orangish stripes that
ran vertically down his sides - the name Tiger fit fine.

While young children, my father reluctantly had agreed
to letting my older sister and me each get a kitten.
Hers was washed-out gray, wimpy - a girl’s cat. Indeed,
she named him Timothy. I had Tiger! With Dad we’d plead,
but out each night they’d go, as though it was by law written.

Soon, my Tiger started hiding before bedtime came around.
Out went Timothy like clockwork. Dad would hunt and call,
but Tiger couldn’t be found. Then, when all had settled down
to sleep, Tiger would head for my bed, sneaking down the hall.

We played together rough and tumble; yet his claws and teeth
never drew my blood, even though Tiger was an accomplished
hunter who killed for Mom many a trophy mouse from beneath
our house. For five years Tiger was all that I could have wished.

Then, one night Dad got lucky...or maybe Tiger got careless.
Outside with Timothy he went. Early the next morning, Dad
woke me up wearing a face so grim seeing it left me breathless.
“Tiger has gotten run over and killed. Sorry! I know it’s sad.”

I placed Tiger’s body, all bloody and broken, in a small wooden
box that once had held fruit of some kind. Then I buried him
in the back yard. I lay beside his grave until I simply couldn’t
cry any more tears. It would be years before I quit missing him.

The unexpected death of Tiger was my first experience with that
cruelty, that unfairness inherent in life, my first experience of pain
that comes with loving truly and losing. My heart, led by my brain,
accepted Tiger’s fate as part of life, that part that no one can explain.
Since, I’ve loved other pets, wives, children...but never any other cat.

Harry Edward Gilleland      04.30.03