FICTION: The Tiger Girl Blues – Gary Every

The Tiger Girl Blues

She moves like a tiger, all hips and tail, beautiful elusive eyes and hair that alternates between bright colors and stripes of shadow. I believe that in the years I have known her I have seen her hair all the colors of the rainbow. She is often excited, sometimes irritated but always quick to laugh. She has a loud and lusty laugh and the lust is contagious. The tiger girl has flesh that rolls sensuously across her bones and the most amazing breasts for a middle aged woman. These breasts are so round, full and firm that if you sprayed them with sperm it would ricochet back.

She claims she is the daughter of Marie Laveau, the original voodoo queen of New Orleans, a direct descendant. Or at least she lived in the voodoo queen’s apartment once. That is what she told me while she was reading my Tarot cards. Then she told me of this one wonderful, magical Big Easy evening when she had been driving a minivan all around the countryside, stocked up with thousands of hits of LSD, wailing that “She was on a mission from God.” On a full moon midnight, when everything was exactly right, street lights flickering, magic lingering, music spilling up and down the sidewalk she rode a throne of hands atop the cobblestone, passed from hand to hand, till at last, eyes full of liquid ecstasy, she was crowned queen of New Orleans. It was a perfect moment with no forward or past, a moment so perfect it could never last.

She used to fish the docks at all hours of the night or day, throwing line, bait and hooks into the Gulf of Mexico. She loved to fish. It was a way of connecting to her lost father, a career navy man – standing by the sea and talking to her father when no one was looking. When someone was looking she would sing to the pelicans. If that someone lingered very long, she would sing loudly to the pelicans. Usually people leave pretty quickly when you sing loudly to the pelicans. When she was alone on the dock of the bay, tide rolling away, she would think to herself. Between the blue of the ocean and the blue of the sky there was a lot of space to think about a lot of things. She had a lot of time while she waited for a fish to arrive. Sometimes she would think about forgiveness she had never received and other times she thought about forgiveness she had never offered. Mostly, she stood there on the edge of the water, talking to her long lost father and asked him for advice. The Tiger Girl needed lots of advice, widowed early and trying to raise two young daughters as a single mother. Sometimes the fish she caught was all they had for dinner that night and other times the bounty of the sea god’s harvest was so plentiful that she would give her catch away – often feeding the local police officers.

Perhaps it was the sea god Poseidon who decided to reward this daughter of a seafaring man or perhaps it was the voodoo queen who decided to bless this New Orleans native with what looked like a curse but was really a blessing. Whatever the reason, one day Hurricane Katrina arrived.

The fishing docks are no longer there, ripped asunder by the obliterating powers of ocean, wind, and the fearsome wrath of God. Marie Laveau’s apartment was flooded and ruined, torn down in what was optimistically called a reconstruction. The cemetery had been ravaged with wave after wave until all the crypts were flooded and her sweet dead husband’s coffin floated away to sea.

The tiger girl held her ATM card out before her as if it was a sacred magic talisman that would somehow protect her from this natural disaster. Eventually she realized how useless a bank card was without electricity. What good was money without a store to sell anything? She loaded both her daughters into the car and drove as far as one tank of gas would take her. Tiger girl camped beside a river and dropped a hook and line. Sometimes they would get a nibble here or a bite there but at least they had dinner. They were surviving, just barely, but getting a little thinner.

One night she climbed a tree, as high as she could be. The tiger girl decided that it was Katrina which had freed her and so she spread her wings and let the winds of the earth take her wherever they wanted her to be.

She toured the beaches of the world and lost one daughter who dropped off to attend college. When Tiger Girl got bored of the most beautiful beaches in the world she ended up in India. Most people come to India in a quest for spirituality but she had arrived seeking frivolity. She remembered the time she met the holy man, head guru of a large and beautiful holy temple, filled with faithful followers, and army of priests. With a long flowing white beard and a booming voice he looked just like an Old Testament god. He was revered as a living saint. Wherever he walked, devoted pilgrims followed, in the way that only India can be crowded. When he approached the tiger girl they locked eyes for just a moment and she worked up the nerve to blurt out a question.

“What does it feel like to be divine?”

The Old Testament God stopped suddenly, all the people behind him forced to halt for just a moment, the entire herd stuck on pause, and he sighed.

“I am a collared dog,” he replied.

She left the ashram that very moment and chose to wander the countryside. She walked past waterfalls and boulders, strolling through forests and more forests. At every junction she followed the Robert Frost rule and turned upon the road less traveled. She entered deeper and deeper into the forest, where the shadows grew darker and darker. She walked and walked, gradually becoming aware she was being stalked.

There were eyes which followed her. There were stripes and shadows which lingered, just off the edge of the trail, never anything she could be certain about but something which seemed to move only when she moved. Something that stopped when she stopped. It was something, big, graceful and silent that could melt into the shadows of the forest whenever she tried to turn her head to look at it. She was certain that it was a tiger following her. She walked steadily, without pausing for fear the tiger would pounce. She walked for miles. The tiger followed her the whole time but never let her get a glimpse. She could hear it breathe and sometimes the tiger would grumble under his breath with a sort of coughing rumble that felt like it could turn into a roar at any moment. Every time she came to another fork in the road, this time she took the path more traveled until the forest lessened and eventually she returned to the ashram. The pilgrims who welcomed her return could see the tiger and were amazed as it followed her closely. They were afraid for her life. The tiger stopped sniffed the air and returned into the wilderness.

Eventually the wind blew her all the way to the red rock desert where I reside. One daughter followed the tiger girl, trailing every footstep like a shadow, a succession of small animals following the daughter, creating a small line of vagabond souls echoing the tiger girl’s path. The tiger girl joined a community of post-apocalyptic hippies. Except they were all making plans and anticipating the apocalypse but for tiger girl the apocalypse had already come and gone. It was hurricane Katrina which had set her free.

Sometimes I invite her hiking so we might enjoy the beautiful scenery together. Sometimes she invites me to step outside during the night so she can map stars. When we hike together, I find I must take her farther and farther from the beaten path to keep her content. She is only happy when we wander lost in the wilderness. She walks off to the side, strolling through the tall grasses. Her hair blows in the breeze disappearing in tides of stripe and shadow. We are engaged in an ancient courtship ritual of predator and prey, lover and warrior, swirling together in a circle, alternating roles. I make a lame joke and she sneers, muscles tensing almost as if she is preparing to leap, unleashing a feline missile. I open my arms wide and close my eyes, anticipating the embrace of fur and fang. The wind blows through my hair while I stand in the wilderness and wait with my eyes closed, wondering if the tiger girl is fleeing or pouncing.

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