Tiger’s Guests by John R. Canter

“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” Rabbit cursed aloud. Panting, he had quit pulling on his leg, realizing the hunter’s trap would rip into his flesh the more he tried to struggle free. It had already torn up his trousers, his nice party trousers, which he had prepared for tonight’s Full Moon Festival. He could see the blood soaking into the cloth, oozing ominously from the wound. The pain was unbearable.

A rustling in the bushes. Rabbit froze.

From the woods emerged into the clearing Tiger, a massive man with stripped fur and a tail. He was dressed in a handsome suit and standing with a gentleman’s posture. Rabbit, still as a stone, noticed Tiger’s fangs as he spoke.

“Oh, hello there traveler … oh, dear,” he added with sincere but unnoticed concern, “Are you caught? Do you need help?”

Now trembling, Rabbit said nothing, cowered before the giant hunter. He approached, kneeling down to open the trap with his mighty yet careful strength around the trap’s sharp edges.

Rabbit’s teeth came down hard on his arm. Tiger’s hand was instantly upon Rabbit’s head, covering it completely, with only his long ears, squashed, sticking out. Both were still, grappled, bleeding.

Tiger leaned forward slowly, and with a suave tone attempting reassurance said, “if I wanted you as prey, I would have snapped your neck five seconds ago. I’m going to let go of you; I ask you do the same.”

Gentle paws and wicked incisors retracted. Rabbit had mostly bitten Tiger’s bracer. With deft care, Tiger pulled the trap open slowly, and at the first sign of release, Rabbit, limping, bolted free.

After some more conversation, Tiger bandaged Rabbit’s leg. “That should help you heal, but you’re going to have to rest it for a while,” Tiger instructed. He looked at the broken trap. “Hunters really should be careful where they put these things, and you should be more careful about traps.”

Rabbit said little. He was still waiting to be grabbed, throttled and devoured, ripped limb from injured, limping limb. The shock of meeting one like Tiger that was so polite was very unexpected.

Rabbit thought not to stick around. “I really must be going, I’ve somewhere I need to be.”

Tiger looked at Rabbit’s bandaged leg. “So soon? Why not rest for a bit? I’ll tell you what – we’ve only just met, but how would you like it if I invited you to dinner?” Tiger asked, bowing graciously.

For dinner, or as dinner? Rabbit thought. “I’m afraid I have prior arrangements, what with the Full Moon Festival and all.”

“My point exactly! I was throwing a small party myself. I invited everyone, why not join me?”

“I’m afraid I can’t, I really must be going!” Rabbit insisted, already hobbling towards the underbrush, wondrous concealing underbrush just a few steps away.

Tiger’s inviting smile lessened into a polite facade. “Well, if you really cannot join me,” he said, letting the offer hang in the air, “then I cannot keep you from your prior engagement. I fare thee well. And give by regards to the Rabbit Queen,” he added with another gracious bow.

Parting, Rabbit left and scurried off, and was gone. Tiger heard the familiar sound of prey doubling back to evade being tracked, and honored his acquaintance’s wishes not to be followed after.

Tiger returned to his own clearing. A large table of a tree stump sat adorned with shining silverware and fine china, a splendid vegetarian meal prepared waiting for his guests, which he presumed were merely a little late.

“They’ll be here any minute,” he said to himself, hopeful, confident, but with a hint of worry. He continued thus for minutes, his spirits fading as the minutes drifted into hours, and deeper night hours brought the sunrise.

Dawn’s light awoke him. Lonely, he had cried himself to sleep in his dinning chair. No one came.

I would like to hear from you! Do you like flash fiction? Do you have critiques or suggestions for future stories? I would love to read your feedback and criticisms – just enter your comment in the Leave a Reply section, and I’ll gladly consider them for future posts.
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