THE TIGER TRAP
BY LEE KLEIN*
*
You donít remember, but you liked to barrelhouse all night long. You slid headfirst into first base when intentionally walked. You made the one-handed grab when it counted. You never backed down from a challenge. You lent a hand to those with priapism. Your ass was too hairy to wear a thong on the beach, but you were satisfied with your position and your fate. Now you ask questions about how things have changed. The obvious answer is that, once we fell into the Tiger Trap, you produced ice.

You donít remember, but Iíve already told you so many things about how I used to be. I played guitar like Joe Satriani would if he only had one finger -- if that finger was on his foot. I was the man whoíd bring you flowers when you ainít got none. I was the one resembling a duck in the rain. Who believed disturbed mumblers on the streets should receive hands-free cellphone devices so they could talk without anyone doubting their sanity. If I were drinking red wine, the wineís color would go directly to my ears, while all its other properties huddled beneath my tongue. I was the one who crossed a leg high and tight above the other knee to hide the torn crotch of his jeans. I was the one who saluted the white flag, then ravaged the $4.95 buffet at the Indian place. 

I canít believe I did all these things. 

The way I see it, before we got trapped between the tigers and the villagers, I was a coward. And because I was a coward, I made sure we ran away as fast as we could. Running away led us to the Tiger Trap. Down here thereís no possibility for escape, so, in a way, itís no longer possible to be a coward. I have changed my ways in other ways as well. I no longer wear the crotchless jeans. I no longer look like a duck since it doesnít rain here. If there were a guitar I could play it (in my inimitable one-finger-on-foot style) but the closest thing to a stringed instrument down here is the hair hanging from your head. I canít help with the blushing though; there are some things you canít change, no matter where you are, no matter what happens. 

You ask if Iím blushing now. I tell you that weíre drinking wine and youíre pretty. I can't help it.
You tell me you understand very little of what I say. Enunciating best I can, I tell you, very openly, itís all disturbed mumbling since we fell into the Tiger Trap.
You ask who these people sitting with us are. I tell you that theyíre villagers. Theyíve given us an ashtray. Theyíve been arranging our cigarette butts into odd letters, acronyms we donít understand.

You ask if weíll ever get out of here. I tell you that, at the rate the Tiger Trapís expanding, in a few months, it probably wonít seem much different than anywhere weíve ever been before. Thereís always something we havenít seen, always a few more steps to the far wall. We noticed there was more space down in the Tiger Trap than we originally thought, once our eyes adjusted. There was more going on. There was the jukebox. The big screen. There were many more people down here than just us. And we had so much time. I could have knitted a sweater we had so much time, that is, if your ice hadnít run out. But now itís hotter than hot. Human flesh burns at about 150 degrees above freezing. Itís almost that hot. But not.

Itís not as hot in the village as it is in the Tiger Trap. But when the big screen shows villagers drinking huge jugs of iced tea, we all think itís because the villagers are hot. Apparently, most of those remaining in the village no longer believe in tigers, mainly because theyíve been gulping down iced tea by the gallons. The rumor is, once you piss pure white, whateverís in the brain that lets you believe in tigers is so soggy that tigers scare you no more than dragons do. So all the villagers interested in not believing in tigers have been drinking tons of this tea. 

Not everyoneís interested in not believing, however, of course. Some tried to catch the tigers, but not by their toes. (That was a joke.) Since you probably thought the joke wasnít funny, what they did was just about as funny as the tiger-toe thing two sentences back, although what they did wasnít intended as a joke. Iím not making much sense, I know.  Please be patient. Let me tell you what they did. 

What they did was this. They set out cages, at first, with baby antelopes as bait. Then they camouflaged the cages with thick palm fronds, as though tigers know what a cage is. When this didnít work, the villagers did what they did with the mannequins and blood. The villagers have always believed tigers are attracted to blood. When I ask about this now, even the villagers admit it doesnít make sense. They say it all goes back to a legend about a villager who gave birth (simultaneously) to a tiger and a shark. Itís possible that the villagers have been losing their shit for quite awhile. For years the villagers and the tigers lived together, well aware of the otherís existence, staying as far away from one another as they possibly could. But once the tigers started at it, the villagers started back. Itís also very possible, and from one perspective equally true, that the villagers started it and the tigers retaliated. Regardless, after the first tiger attacks, the leaders recommended that all villagers remain in their huts, which theyíve always built on tall stilts to survive the annual floods. Word spread that all those who leave their huts should grease their stilts while theyíre down there. Calling into question the efficacy of the tea that makes you not believe in tigers is the fact that villagers who drank rivers of tea were often seen greasing their stilts. The grease was thought to dissuade tigers from climbing.  Nevertheless, the last attack involved a tiger surprising a sleeping family: it jumped from the limb of an overhanging tree, crashing through their thatched roof. And further tainting the truth to the rumor about the tea was the fact that those in the family attacked by the tiger were huge proponents of the teaís no-fear effect; they would water outdoor plants by emptying their piss buckets, flaunting their disbelief, which, of course, proved their fear. Now the big screenís showing a loaf of white bread run over on a highway, while the villagers arrange cigarette butts in an ashtray to resemble either a multicar pileup or a yawn with incredibly crooked teeth. 

You ask what else I can tell you. I tell you that, one thingís for sure, the sweater I planned to knit would have been gorgeous. I would have made mittens too. But then your ice ran out. It couldnít have been an unlimited supply. All things end, alas. But for awhile it seemed thereíd be so much time, and during that time, thereíd be a lot of ice. 

The ice you rubbed along my forearm was so cold. The ice was more potent than the heat. Iím not sure if potent is the right word. The ice was colder than the heat was hot. I was shivering. But instead of getting rid of the ice, you made more ice, pouring it on my arms, making wreaths of thin rags filled with ice, draping them around my neck, making me wear wreaths around my thighs too. I guess you thought my limbs were like a deerís antlers or a salamanderís gills and the ice would keep me from shedding them. I guess you were trying to preserve me, as though I were perishable. It worked. For awhile. It kept me cool. But then my arms started to steam. It looked like my skin was evaporating. I thought I might burst into flames at any minute. You were there for me, but I did nothing for you. All I did was hold out my arms for more ice. 

You ask about the ice. I tell you that the fact you donít remember the ice is exactly why Iím doing this. Iím writing this down so you wonít ask about the ice again. The thing about the ice is this. When we fell into the Tiger Trap we couldnít see anything at first. And once our eyes adjusted, we only saw each other and the ice. I kept saying I canít believe we fell into this Tiger Trap. I was whining. You consoled me. You rubbed ice along my forearm. I was dazed. I was frightened. You could produce ice at will. I liked your wet fingers. The cold trail along my arm. You were more human than I was, since I was someone who remembered and you were someone who forgot. But when it happened, when you were producing all this ice, I remember thinking you were 50% freezer, 100% demon.
I apologize.

The heat there. It was unbearable. At the bottom of the Tiger Trap, all we could see was the ice and each other, just barely. If you were 100% freezer, I would have opened your doors. It would have cooled things down. It would have brightened things up. But you were only an ice provider. Once we ran out of ice, a jukebox began playing. This was a welcome surprise. 

You ask what the jukebox played. The one about the jukebox hero with stars in his eyes. The one about an ashen lady told to give up her vows and save our city, right now. 

You ask what was on TV. The big screen let everyone know that no one was buying the play-action fake. Then it interrupted to show the remains of a villagerís torso after a tiger had mauled her. Another villager dropped into the Tiger Trap. The sound we hear when someone hits the bottom of the Tiger Trap, the thud, the confusion, the obvious disorientation of unadjusted sight: why does it sound like someone dissolving an ice cube beneath a hot-running faucet? 

You ask why you canít make sense of any of this. I tell you not to worry. Ice prevents swelling. I tell you it might have something to do with the fact that ice is more coherent than steam. You can cook with steam. But ice preserves. It might have something to do with water caught between two extremes. Ice, the extreme of steam. Something like that. Maybe ice appears when youíre caught between villagers and tigers. 

You ask how we got here. We got here like this. When they started hacking, it scared us off. We ran into the forest. There was scampering among palm trees and bamboo groves as the villagers scoured the ground for pug marks, for our remains. By then, we were in the Tiger Trap. You were rubbing ice on my arms. We sat at the bottom, wondering who, or what, would find us. Now that things have settled, now that our eyes have adjusted, in no way do I question our reaction at the time. After we witnessed what the villagers did, the revelry with which they hacked, in no way should we regret running away as fast as we could. 

When they arranged the mannequins around the plaza, then covered them in blood, there was a rationality to it: the methodical loading of a trap. This didnít scare us. We were excited, anticipating what would come next. But the machetes came out and flashed and smacked through the thick plastic bodies. The sound of the blows undercut their snarling hoots, their warpath raving. Even their trademark shrieking-- zya-zya-zya -- had something new and unstable about it. It was like the disturbed cousin of what they chanted before soccer games, but there was something there that tore through skulls, singed eyelashes of all those in earshot. It was unlike anything Iíve ever heard before, almost impossible to imagine coming from the same people who greeted each other with caresses, who spoke a language of gentle shoosh-shooshing sounds. 

It was the hacking that did it, that scared us, ultimately, into the Tiger Trap. It was the fury with which they staged the mutilation, all in an attempt to take out the tigers that, over the last few months, had taken out so many villagers. We werenít really scared of the mannequins. We werenít even scared of the blood. We didnít even consider that they were doing it to lure tigers to the villageís center, so we werenít scared of the tigers. It was more the hacking, the frenzy, the mad release of the villagersí fear. It was something theyíd stockpiled to let loose on the tigers. The villagers probably thought something along the following lines: ďThe tigers will approach the lure cautiously, and if they do not see blatant wounds, they will realize the mannequins are just mannequins splattered with human-smelling blood, and if they realize this, we will not have enough time, and if we do not have enough time, we will be in greater danger.Ē 

You ask about the blood. The blood was real-life blood an international effort donated after the first few tiger attacks. Villagers action-painted the scene with it. Ceramic urns were used to projectile-pour the stuff all over the mannequins. There was whooping and splashing and gesturing. It was a well-coordinated blood-toss. When the mannequins were as bloody as they could be, the villagers slashed the mannequinsí necks with machetes. It was frenzied. The slashing couldnít have been for the tigersí sake, not really. No way the tigers could care. It was for the villagers. If they were to attract the tigers, whatever remained in the plaza had to scare the living shit out of everyone. But remember, whenever a village starts slaughtering mannequins it indicates thereís no shit left to lose; itís already been lost, totally, entirely, without a doubt.

You ask what happened before they tossed the blood everywhere. Before the hacking and the blood splattering started, the leaders borrowed mannequins from storefront windows, then carried them to the plaza. Other villagers propped them in casual positions, with care, following directions relayed from sharpshooters in the trees. After a time, mannequins leaned on fences, talked in pairs, sat on benches, played in the fountain, chatted around a table at an outdoor café. If their legs could be crossed, their legs were crossed. Standing mannequins gestured with long bare arms. Most mannequins were nude, naked, without a stitch. Some modeled hats. None of the mannequins seemed concerned about their lack of genitalia. None blushed, although the nipples on one were so seemingly excited that a villager, in the name of modesty, wrapped a long silky scarf around the mannequinís chest, then brought his lips to its cheek.
And when you say, ďSo thatís how we got here,Ē Iíll say, ďSomething like that.Ē 

And then Iíll bring my lips to your cheek, and weíll stand still together, ready for whatever happens next.

*
This originally appeared in Pindeldyboz #2.

*

We posted The Tiger Trap today because it was written in a bar on 14th and 1st Ave while watching the Philadelphia Eagles play football on a Sunday night a few weeks after 9/11/01. The story makes little sense, right? You couldn't even read it all the way through, yeah? It's just a confused attempt at abstractedly relating feelings of agitation and anxiety at being caught between two warring parties. It's an obtuse allegory about taking refuge in bars as so many did in NYC post-9/11 for news, escape, and company, for the palliative effects of all of the above, especially when mixed with beer, not to mention the spooky way jukeboxes seemed to project songs that suddenly seemed so timely and significant (Radiohead's Kid A; The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin). At the time, and maybe it was all the beer talking, but I thought it made sense not to make sense: the incomprehensibility of the events was scrawled across my thinking in such a that it made sense to produce incomprehensible work, if just to purge psychic pollutants from my head. This worked, I think, for a bit, but as you've just learned, if you tried looking at the text above, it's not so fun to read incomprehensible stuff, whether it's intended as an allegory or not. Making sense is much better. Pleasureably filling time for readers with stuff that makes sense and amuses is much better than abusing them with confusing, ultra-boring abstractions, no matter how whirling, violent, agitated, and timely. Anyway. Our 9-11-01 postings are compiled here. The Tiger Trap would have been part of this series of postings last year on Eyeshot but the Pindeldyboz people were nice enough to print it in their second issue - you should buy their third.
*

 B R A V E   S O U L S   R E C E I V E
Eyeshot's Friendly & Infrequent Update
simply type your e-mail address below, or
learn more about eyeshot-brand spam


Archive of Recent Activities

Submission Recommendations

Area For Textual Encounter

The Open Hand of Eyeshot's Humility

Last Year Today