Fiction: Gathering Tigers

April 26, 2018 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

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Jerry Vilhotti



They were going to get “the tiger” who was stalking East Bronx mountains. Nine year old Johnny had often escaped her claws when he was visiting his closest friend, brother-cousin Elvio, in Brokenland Country. He dreaded this one hundred mile trip to Gun-hill Road but he had no choice since his parents insisted he go with them to have a friendly atmosphere of fluffy clouds to prevail making the capture occur with less ugliness – hoping the scowling tiger would be lulled into a false sense of seeing a family come together to lovingly bring her to the zoo called Burywater.


Johnny sat in the back of the car totally engulfed by cigar smoke which was coming from his father’s nervous puffing which grew more frantic the closer they were approaching the foothills; the Father swore he could smell her pee that delineated her area.


Johnny increased the sounds of his gagging to make it fully known he was suffocating and in the ugly sound was the real threat he was about to vomit. He reached for the handle to open the window. The move was seen by his father who was peering into the rear view mirror as if looking for enemy white hunters driving bigger cars.


“No! Don’t! For the love of God. Don’t!” his father shouted into the flesh of the back of his hand; leaving bite-sized track marks all over it resembling spike marks on a once virgin fields of Gaea.


“Why not? I’m suffocating to fuking death!” the boy said in his tongue. When two languages were being used the harshness of curse words were lost in not understanding the full meaning in shape and form of one’s own language.


“Because the facking wind might tilt the car over!” the Father shouted nearly losing control of his steering.


If there had been six people on the “safari”, the father would have spent a long time arranging everyone by weight and height to maintain a proper balance preventing the car from overturning.


“How?” Johnny asked being the only one among his siblings to dare challenge the great white hunter; being his favorite.


“The air becomes another damn person – that’s how!”


“OK, so I’ll throw up on the seat!”


“Wait! For the love of all the facking Saints! Let me pull over!” the father said while hitting himself in the head with a closed fist; forcing his wife to grab the wheel preventing them from falling headlong into deep black waters.


They began to go through the land that was once a county seat with its streets pockmarked by huge holes the shape of giant deformed paws. Its gnarled dwarfed trees added to the mood of foreboding. Cars abandoned on the side were totally stripped as if eaten by hoards of starving jackals, lions and tigers.


They finally reached the oasis with lush plants surrounded by a tall fence. The Father whispered Johnny and his mother from the vehicle and then he tentatively led them up a stair path and nervously unchained the gate.


“The evil one has escaped! She is hiding among the bushes!” Uncle, three finger, Sensio shouted. He was Johnny’s mother’s older brother sort of another kind of white hunter but could never fully eat a whole supper since he would be asked by his three children and wife to go to the cellar for more wine and upon his return would find his plate empty. His wife made meals for three mouths.


Johnny shuddered. He attempted an escape for his life. He complained about the hunger attacking him; projecting his fear of being eaten. He warned his mother if he did not eat that very minute – inside the safety of the large three family building – he would starve to death before her very eyes.


The growl that began to blanket his whine made him begin a run for anywhere but he was tied up by his mother’s arms that kept his neck, if not his legs, in place.


“Mamasu! Come out Mamasu!” Johnny’s father pleaded. The word Mamasu meant “her mother”


The growl deepened making the boy wrestle out of his mother’s stranglehold – to be caught by Uncle Sensio!


They walked slowly through the thick vegetation. Johnny’s heart began to beat faster as he spotted bitten cabbages strewn about looking like so many severed heads among crushed tomatoes with their red juices flowing.


“We have food for you! Come out and eat!” Johnny’s mother and her sister-in-law Easter took turns shouting.


“For the love of God, Mamasu, it’s only for four months. Burywater has more trees and grass and it is our turn to care for you like we promised,” Johnny’s father pleaded with his long time nemesis; yet, remaining true to his obligation of what a husband owed a wife if not a mother-in-law for if he didn’t there would be no comfort zone for him to rest deep inside at night.


“We have those things here too my dear brother-in-law!” Uncle Sensio yelled as he and Johnny waded through a section where tall corn plants had had their necks broken.


Johnny heard a soft sobbing. It was his grandmother.


“Nonna, come home with us and tell me stories!” he said feeling compassion and not pity for her.


She appeared from behind some plants nodding.


“So you’re still alive, Mamasu?” Johnny’s father said; attempting a greeting. The word he had invented telling Johnny it meant “my dear grandmother” actually really meant “her mother”.


The eighty-one year old replied: “And you still eat?” Hidden among her words was the threat of how easily she could kill appetites with her little nasty doings at an eating – like playing with her coughed up phlegm to make it become alive like strings of spaghetti to shocked staring eyes beginning the first saliva to begin the first gouging out from stomachs of recently semi-digested food


The whole trip home – no one spoke. The silence permeating the car was like a bunch of sharp needles attempting to stitch a past of shattered fabric full of conflicts and after four summers of his grandmother’s stays Johnny would learn all about them: how since before Roman times his father’s people and his grandmother’s people had moved mountains to get at each other’s throats and he would pay for all the sins of the past as if he had sculpted them from inside a nasty thought.







Jerry Vilhotti

Jerry had a publisher The Wolfian Press and its sister press Purple Unicorn Media accept two collections of his called “Gods Depicting Pastime” which has the Greek gods discovering a game once played by people – who plastered their bodies with empire blue to be one with sky and tried to figure out what the tic infested thing was all about (tone poems) and “Specs in the Eyes of Seeing” that follows a boy’s journey, with short literary sketches, into manhood which he donated to the town library to honor his beautiful wife who helped him become the writer he has. He thanks you for your time and dedication…

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