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November 17, 2015 | Fiction

Tiger Blood

Bud Smith

Tiger Blood photo

I meet a girl on OK Cupid and the first date goes well enough. We sit in a red booth with folds like a heart sliced open and stare at each other, sipping icy beverages, smiling the way you should at these things.

She says, “I’ve got tiger blood.”

“Oh? Like what do you mean? In a jar or something?”

“No, in my body.”

“I’m crazy too,” I say. “I once swallowed a handful of gravel. Helps me digest.”

“Like a pelican.”

Jackie. Her name is Jackie. Jackie with her hair gelled back. Jackie understands.

I grin and have spinach in between most teeth (I see it in a mirror later) but she doesn’t say anything. Now, she’s chill. I stir my iced tea. I wish we were plastered. I wish we were plastered and having sex, no condom, in the back of my pickup truck parked in the shade behind the plaza.

We’re in recovery. That happened by accident.

“What kind of gravel was it? Sharp red rocks? Blue like jetty stone? River pebbles?”

“Ah come on, I was just screwing around. I don’t swallow any gravel.”

She sits up straight.

“Well why would you say something that wasn’t true?"

“You started it.”

“I really do have tiger blood though.”

“Uh huh.”

“I’ll show you.”

We’re sober and I have car insurance right now and a current registration and even have a driver’s license and this is America and I really like this girl and want to impress her so we leave the restaurant without paying and break into the science lab at the community college.

We are working in the dark as not to alert the watchman.

Just light of cellphone.

Until she plugs the microscope into the wall and it beings to glow.

“I don’t usually do things like this on the first date.”

“It’s cool.”

“Slice me open,” she says, “but be gentle.”

I drag a scalpel across her forearm and she catches a droplet of red on a perfect little glass slide and pushes it underneath the microscope, into the electric shine.

“Okay, take a look.”

I lean down and look.

Well look at that. She doesn’t have happy little red inner tube ringlets or plasma lifesavers or even globs of shivering crimson.

She really does have tigers.

Bengal tigers I think and they are running around on the slide in slow motion. The tigers chase each other. And play. And some lay down and sleep. And others are already sleeping. There are countless tigers in her blood. A sea of them, bounding and rolling and attacking and screwing and fighting and jumping over each other and licking their own tails and paws.

It was incredible. She was incredible.

At least in this one way.

But as it goes, we didn’t last very long.

Just another date after that.

Roller skating.

I took her roller skating.

I must not have impressed her much with my roller skating and I would not pull magic out of the unknown and I could not cause any dark room to glow the way that room did with the night watchman lost roaming other halls and I would not vomit gravel like a bird does before sailing over endless canyon.

image: Julian Vargas


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