Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two Tiger Flash Fictions by Ben Raker

50 Word A Boy, A Cat, A Lifeboat Saga (Joseph Campbell Style)

The wave knocked the boy from the raft sometime during the storm. He was glad then to have taught his pet tiger both to swim and retrieve. Returning exhausted, they flopped awkwardly up onto the loose boards—safe. The raft was a flimsy thing, but for now it was home.

A Boy, A Cat, A Lifeboat Saga (freestyle)

The tiger was used to tight spaces and knew how to pace to stay fit. The boy, who hadn’t grown up in a zoo, was less fortunate; their time adrift hadn’t been good for his figure. The tiger thought of telling the boy to go easier on the sea-turtle soup.


Note on the text: While at Seattle Book Fest, Ben Raker was in an audience challenged to submit a tiger and life boat story to help with the ongoing effort to make this an open-source narrative form, the "Hansel and Gretel" of our age. That same day, for business school, he received the assignment to write a 50-word (exactly) saga using Joseph Campbell's famous hero's journey which features, departure, trials, return.

Ben Raker is a writer, editor, and MBA student in Seattle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

a boy a cat by Justin Dobbs

But he's just a boy, thought the mayor as he pushed through the door of his house, and indeed, when he opened the closet the boy flew suddenly into his arms.

A young, winning boy, he liked to curl up in front of the mayor's fireplace with the black tiger who had wandered into the house after a tea party. The tiger had nestled around the legs of a very nice lady named Ms. Machete, who was the town baker, and who had been sitting on the couch before the fire, and when she first saw that it was not actually a cat she didn't become as frightened as she did on the day that she first attracted a tiger.

And when the mayor would go to bed at night when the winds were just as fierce as the lagging tiger, when he hit the sack, when the mayor slept in bed with the woman who hogged the creamer, when he did so everynight he prayed that the tiger would not follow him, because that's just what had happened the other night when the glow of the tiger's yellowish eyes were the clock's accomplices in an early morning's fright whose flight was as sadsongy and slowavistic as the bloodied backyard's sundials movement around the raspy husks of leaves and which were accompanied by the jazzy movements of the monstrous boy's hands.

* * *
Near daylight the next week the boy left with the tiger on a lifeboat on the lake near the mayor's and to mark the triumph of their leaving, a woodpecker knocked fifty times consecutively into the wood of the mayor's head.

Justin Dobbs lives in Seattle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tony by Matt Briggs

Ocean. Not a little ocean, but a vast ocean. The shot can be done with a camera with a weight hung from the helicopter. Is this really how it might be done?

I'm concerned here about the camera disturbing the waves. I want it to be clear that the boat and the boy, have lost their ship because it has sunk without a trace. It is as good as if they had been dropped there in the middle of the ocean from somewhere else completely.

There is the boat, a white speck, a tiny thing, a toy boat, a boat with two shapes in it.

There is a boat with a boy with a peach fuzz mustache, and a tan drinking water out of a gasoline can, and Tony the Tiger of Kellogg fame.

We build brands and make the world a little happier by bringing our best to you each morning.

He is somewhat translucent and pixilated. It becomes clear, quickly, that this is not a commercial because this Tony the Tiger isn't smiling, but has lost some weight, and that you can see his bones through his carefully cheerful and colorful skin.

How do you achieve this translucent effect? It needs to be true translucency rather than a suggested translucency --that is there needs to be the effect that this tiger is made out of Mylar or some kind of see through material rather than merely superimpose the background image over the top of him. The background image needs to pass through the medium that is Tony the Tiger and into the viewer's eye.

This is suggested by the distortion of the light passing through the translucent tiger. The boy and the tiger are getting along as they always do. They are eating seaweed.

How does it taste?

They're Gr-r-Great! But, it is clear as they are eating, from their slowing down, from Tony's prolonged glances at the boy--he would rather be eating something else. The boy, too, can tell, because he would rather be eating something else. "It surely would be good to get my hands on a nice steak right about now, wouldn't it," he says. "A nice juicy piece of meat." The tiger laughs. He can only say one thing (you know--They're Gr-r-great--or laugh, and so he doesn't say his one thing because he would rather keep eating the seaweed than lose the conversation of his friend. They float on the water for a long time. The passage of time is indicated by a time-lapse shot of the boat in the water. The waves speed up and jostle around the boat. The thin clouds sweep overhead, and stars swirl up as the darkness pours over the sky and then it is very dark.

They will not eat each other?

They will not eat each other, but will perish like a civilized tiger and boy. The tiger's will begins to break down. In one instance, he sees the boy shaped like a turkey, dripping baked oils, bread and clove stuffing coming out of his butt. When he leans in to eat the boy, the boy begins to shriek. "What are you doing? I am a boy, not a piece of meat!" And the tiger comes to and sees the boy.

It is a dark moment

Now he is going to eat the boy in any case. Saliva drips on the boards of the boat. The translucent tiger is quite hungry. "A boat," the boy says. "A boat." And they see another boat on the horizon. They jump around on the boat. "We are saved," the boy says. He flashes a bit of metal in the sun. They wait. The boat disappears over the horizon, and Tony looks at the boy again. The boy looks at Tony again. Tony has a bib, and a knife and a fork. Just then another boat appears on the same horizon.

It must be a shipping lane or something.

Tony is undeterred this time. He chases the boy around the boat. The boat jostles in the water, one side dipping down very close to letting water into the boat and then the other side dipping up almost to the top. And then finally, this boat has seen them. Tony is about to eat the boy, and the boat is on top of them, a gigantic freighter, and pulls them to safety.

A close call.

A close call, to be sure.

Matt Briggs lives and works in a basement near Seattle. His work can be found or is forthcoming at Proximity Magazine, Necessary Fiction, The Golden Handcuff Review, and Birkensnake. His most recent book of stories is The End is the Beginning. A new novel will be published early next year. He blogs here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Boy, A Cat, A Lifeboat by Claudia Smith

That day, she picked him up in front of the red-and-orange house and he ran to tell her about the submarine he'd built, with a periscope. Later, he'd told her about the cat. "It was a tiger," he said. "A real one." His sleeping bag was soggy, soaked with something. The teacher said she didn't think it was urine. They weren't sure how it had gotten wet.

That night, she slept on the sofa. Her boy lay on the floor beneath her, zipped up in the tiger, smelling of dryer sheets and baby shampoo. This is another part she will not forget. They were in the ocean, a long a rippling ocean, and she was the tiger and she was also a boat, cradling him. When she looked up at him from her tiger-head prow, he had grown taller, taller than his father. He stroked her fine white nose, and she felt her belly rumble. It was a pleasant dream, the kind of dream you try to remember after waking, but can't keep with you.

Fourteen years later, the boy swam in the ocean. He was a strong swimmer, but something happened, and he drowned. She did not know this, no one but the boy knew this, and the girl who died with him, but he was caught in a giant plastic cover that had fallen from a freighter. This plastic tarp was the size of a sea monster. As the boy was carried out to sea, he began to feel calm. He looked over and saw the girl. She was named Abra, and he had met her two days before, at a bar. She was a camp counselor. He knew three absolute truths about her; her favorite drink was a White Russian. She had one blue eye and one brown eye. She'd proven this to him by taking out one of her colored contacts the night they'd met. And she was a runner. She had a runner's body, the kind that always seems dressed, even when naked.

Abra didn't quit. She gasped and struggled, a tiger, a tiger, he thought, even as he was sinking. She reminded him of someone. He thought of his mother, and of another girl, Tammy. He was certain Abra would live, sure of it, and then he died. And Abra died, also, not long after.

For years, after, his mother recalled the dream she'd had when he was in preschool. She took a pill advertised by moonlit butterflies, to try to sleep, to dream it again. She dreamed about the girl, Abra. She and the girl's mother, Anissa, emailed one another often, but had never met in person.

Anissa and the boy's mother corresponded for three years. Anissa recalled her daughter's love for Scrabble, and her pretty ways. Her daughter had been a champion of chess. Her daughter was unpopular in high school. Her daughter had backpacked across Ireland.

Anissa took pills, too, and she dreamed the tiger dream.

Did you see him? The boy's mother asked. They were chatting in Gmail.

I saw him,

Don't lie to me, did you see him?

I saw him. He was tall, and his eyes were gray, and I was holding him; I was the tiger. I was longer than a football field, I was a tiger, and then I was a blanket and then I was a cocoon, all around him. And I was sinking, and I saw Abra and I loved her and wanted her, the way a man wants a woman, not the way a mother wants a child.

I will try; his mother typed to her. I will try to dream of her.


The mothers took all their pills, and went to bed. The one in Omaha, and then the one in New Jersey.

Claudia Smith has had over a hundred stories published in several journals and anthologies, including Sou'wester, Failbetter, Norton's The New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories From America and Beyond, Juked, Elimae, Night Train, and Wigleaf. Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her chapbook, The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts, won the New England Bookbuilder's Award. The collection was reprinted as part of Rose Metal Press's anthology A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short-Short Fiction By Four Women. More about Claudia and her work can be found at her site, claudiaweb.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Adrift! by Jay Chilcote



"You're awake."

"Of course, you oaf. How could I be talking if I was asleep?"

"You could be sleep talking."

"You're not supposed to interrupt sleep walkers. Or sleep talkers."

"I see. Are you hungry?"

"No. Sort of."

"Do you regret our playing stowaways? Now that we've been cast adrift in this featureless ocean, I mean?"

"I was tired of that tramp freighter, anyway. It was no fun with all the sailors being tigers."


"Do you think your Mom is worried?"


"What about your Dad?"

"No. Yes."


"I keep dreaming of a big, sunny field, my tail swishing through the tall grass."

"Stop that."


"Strange, I haven't seen any birds."

"Me neither."

"It's so funny, you being afraid of birds."

"I've told you before, only the big ones scare me."

"For my part, I like to stalk them and leap into the air to knock them to the ground with a paw when they try to fly off and then I like to eat them."

"Good for you."

"Birds are good eating. So are squirrels. So are hedgehogs, although tigers only eat those on certain national religious holidays."

"National religious holidays? Snort. Tigers don't have national religious holidays!"

"I beg to differ. And in fact, there happens to be one we tigers celebrate called Differential Day, in honor of St. Leibniz, when all tigers beg to differ."

"Sounds like opposite day at my school where some of the boys wear their pants backwards until the teachers yell at them."

"Do some of the girls wear their pants backwards?"


"Are you sure?"


"Even on accident?"

"Why would they do that?"

"Why wouldn't they?"

"I don't know, and I don't care."

"Is there one girl in particular you wish would wear her pants on backwards?"

"Of course not!"

"I see. Are you thirsty?"

"Yes. But I'm trying to conserve what's left in the canteen. You practically drank the whole thing the last time I gave it to you."

"I beg to differ."

"It's not St. Leibniz or whatever Day, dufus."

"You mean Differential Day."


"Wait. You can't contradict me if it's not Differential Day."

"I can if Differential Day is actually Differential Week, and it started, oh, five days ago."

"Why don't you just jump out of this boat and see if the sharks think you're so funny."

"Do you think there are sharks out there?"

"Every lifeboat is eventually surrounded by sharks. They call that a framing device. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the sharks hadn't swallowed a tick-tock clock to add tension.Then on top of that it would probably have a personal vendetta against you for harpooning its best friend or something."

"Sailor tigers must have their hobbies."


"Calvin, I mean Kelvin?"

"Very funny."

"Are you hungry?"

"Somewhat peckish. Why?"

"If it comes down to it, do you think I should be able to eat you, since I'm a big, fit, productive member of the maritime trade, or should you eat me in order to continue being a little boy who refuses to clean behind his ears?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"It's just... you know those cartoons we watch?"

"Warner Brothers?"

"Yes. In some of them, when there's a situation similar to the one we find ourselves in, one of the characters gets really hungry and then looks at the other and sees a juicy baked ham, or a brown, steaming turkey, something like that. Are you listening?"

"I'm trying not to. You're making me hungry."

"It seems to me... what was that noise?"

"Kelvin, honey, bath time is over!"

"Aw, Mom! We're just now having fun!"

"You heard me. It's already getting past your bed time."

Jay Chilcote is the author of the novel Ratcheting Down The Melancholic Afterbeat (a very enjoyable love story) and a musician who has been in (or been) the bands Revolutionary Hydra and Slomo Rabbit Kick.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Voyage of the Peapod by Steve Himmer

Ever since reading that novel the whole city read at the same time, the boy had imagined what he might do, how he himself might behave if trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger. "I'd tame the tiger," the boy told his friend. "I'd fashion a whip from fishing nets and detach the whistle from my life preserver and for my tiger tamer's chair I'd use a..."

"That sounds like a lion tamer," said his friend. "And what if there wasn't a fishing net or life preserver or chair in the boat? There weren't any of those in the novel."

The boy's friend had read the novel, too, during those summer months when its blue cover peeked from each commuter's bag. Giant flags of the book flew from lampposts along the city's best streets, and each Sunday the newspaper's magazine section profiled someone in the city who was reading it, telling their fellow citizens who they were, where they read, what remarkable life had delivered them to those weeks of shared reading and how reading the book was changing that life.

The boy told another friend, later, "I'll be naked, without any water or food. I'm going to have a vision quest."

"I didn't know you were Native," that friend replied.

"I'm not," the boy said, "but I saw a show on TV so I pretty much know how they work. I think a vision quest is just what I need."

The boy found it harder than expected to rent a lifeboat. Most of the city's waterborne rescues were made by the harbormaster in his motorboat. The few lifeboats remaining in town were on display at the maritime museum or else in the lobbies of nautically-themed office buildings downtown, and none of those could be rented or borrowed or easily stolen.

At last, he found a boat called a "peapod" for hire. It was long enough to hold a boy and a tiger, and more or less the shape he imagined a lifeboat should have, despite the lack of gravitas in its name. The peapod's owner, a lobster boat captain who was hardly grizzled or growling or barnacle-crusted, asked whether the boy wanted the mast and the sail and how many oars and what were his plans for the boat, anyway.

"No oars and no sail," the boy answered, to which the captain raised one of his eyebrows. And when the boy said he'd be sharing the boat with a tiger, that it was to be his vision quest, the captain reminded the boy his security deposit would not be returned if the tiger's claws scratched up the hull. The boy asked whether the captain had read the book, too, but the mariner only whistled while counting the boy's crisp, bank-fresh notes.

The tiger was even harder to come by. There were only two in the city, and both of those were in zoos. The boy checked the schedules for all the traveling circuses he could think of, but none were coming to town. Circuses hardly ever came to the city because each time they did they drew more protesters than enthusiasts of lion-taming and monkeys riding bicycles on elephants' backs. The boy, who had been to his share of circus protests, almost regretted his passion for animal rights now that he needed a tiger so he could commune with the natural world.

In the end, he paid a hunter to cage a cougar, and even that wasn't cheap -- he'd budgeted what he thought was a big chunk of money for tiger expenses, and spent most of it on the inferior cat. The rest went to an artist hired to paint tiger stripes, and to a veterinary student whose tranquilizers let the artist work safely and let the boy drive the cat across town and kept it asleep until the boat was offshore.

The boy's destination wasn't specific, just far enough out to sea that land fell from sight. The captain threw in haulage for free with the hired peapod, and once the horizon was the same slate expanse in all directions he detached the tow rope and received a bundle of clothes the boy had stripped off. Then he swung his bow toward the first string of lobster pots he'd pull that morning and in a few minutes was beyond the boy's view.

And all that remained was the tiger that wasn't a tiger, and the lifeboat not quite a lifeboat, and the boy.

The tiger still slept, curled in the bow like a house cat on a couch, and the boy waited for something important to happen. To pass the time he imagined the dreams of the tiger: virulent, vivid dreams of dashing and darting and pouncing from branches above. Dreams of ravishing tigresses and lionesses alike and perhaps even human women who wandered too far off the trail. Of cross-species connection with a boy like himself, a boy the tiger had been waiting to share his tigerness with, with the vision to understand what it is to be Tiger.

Dreams of dreaming tigers so enraptured the boy that he fell asleep on a bulkhead, and while he slept the tide washed his boat back to shore. The tiger awoke and sprang over the gunwale, a bit seasick but no worse for wear, and wandered away on the sand leaving deep tracks that lasted just minutes. And when the boy emerged from his visions he was alone in the boat though surrounded by seagulls, and a cold breeze off the water brushed his body the same shade of blue as the cover of a novel the whole city had read.

Steve Himmer blogs as Tawny Grammer. His works has appeared in various places including Pindeldyboz, MonkeyBicycle, and more. Read it, concerned reader. Read it all.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Grandmother by Justin Dobbs

It wasn't long ago. My sleep had been fine (almost telephone free) when, after a silver dawn had painted a pale light into my bedroom, I discovered the wild, crazy tiger. He was knawing on my socks!

It is enough to wake one up. Here I am now, in the lifeboat, on a fairly oily and cremulous sea, and mulling over my chances to arrive at a distant church although I can see its ancient spire above a hill. I have also placed my wild tiger into the lifeboat. The cat's tail seems to read my thoughts about the church and to navigate all at once.

My investigations of the island have been fruitful. My grandmother was a baker in town, and bakers, in this town, are very important. So much so that she had been given the only key to the town's only library. And so one night, when everyone was asleep or watching grandfather on television, my grandmother stole me past the bakery, past a yard for chickens, to a small, silver door on a blank, purple wall. Inside, it was madly dark, but she had brought matches, and a candle. My grandmother was pretty as a young woman, and dressed racily then as she does now. And so, as I crept forward in the dark, her hand pressed firmly to my lower back, I could smell the lavender in her clothes, in her skin, in my dreams of the tall, fabled church.

Justin Dobbs has work in elimae, 3:AM Magazine, and Billy Sauce's Fortune-Telling Blog. He lives in Seattle and New York.