Sunday, May 24, 2009


Tigers’ Revenge

“I hate this God forsaken place,” Robert Fisher grumbled under his breath, as he made his way on the wet streets of Lower Manhattan.

The smell of Chinese food, wafting from every corner of Chinatown, repulsed him. He drew out his clean monogrammed handkerchief and covered his mouth and nose, as he headed down Canal Street toward his destination.

He walked along the narrow street with his head down, avoiding eye contact with anyone. It startled him when an old woman, pushing her cart through a puddle, splashed water on his ostrich leg shoes.

“Watch out, you stupid Chink! Are you blind, as well as stupid?” He screamed at her as he pushed her cart over, and then bent down to wipe his shoes with the handkerchief. He didn’t notice the group of young Chinese men standing within earshot of his comment, but they noticed him.

Robert turned in an alley and hurried to a dingy building with a smiling Panda painted on the door. Inside, the small room overflowed with cheap souvenirs.

“You want Tiger bone?” A middle-aged Chinese woman asked, stepping out from a back room.

“What’s wrong with you? I’ve been coming here every month for two years and you ask me this every freakin’ time. Of course I want the bones!”

“They gone up, now. You pay more,” she said, paying no attention to his rude behavior.

“What! What do you mean? Oh, shit! How much more?”

“Three hundred dollar more,” the woman said.

“Are you crazy? I’m paying fifteen hundred now. It can’t have increased that much in a month. Let me talk to Lin!” He yelled, as he looked past her to the entrance of the backroom.

The woman retreated behind a doorway of red hanging beads.

Keeping her voice low, she said in her real American accent, “Woo, that rich, rotten bastard who comes in for the tiger bones is pissed because the price has gone up. He wants to talk to you.”

“Oh, crap! I’m in no mood for “Mr. Warmth” today.” He took a drag from his cigarette and handed it off to his sister, as he rolled his eyes, then took a second to get into character.

Woo Lin hunched his shoulders, ducked through the beads, bowed and said, “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, what the hell’s going on, China-man? My medicine has increased three hundred freakin’ dollars! Why?” He demanded.

“Many people in market for tiger bone. Very potent medicine. Make you live long and youthful life. It illegal trade. Crack down on poachers and smugglers. Less tigers now. All these things make bone scarce. More valuable. More expensive. Eighteen hundred dollar now for month supply. But, every month you take ground up tiger bone pill, you live six month longer. It Fountain of Youth.

“Well, this sucks!” Robert slammed the money down on the counter. “You slant eyes are crooks. Everybody knows that! Come on, give me the goddamn pills!” he screamed.

Woo Lin reached under the counter and brought up the vial of pills and held them out to his irate customer.

Without saying a word, Robert Fisher grabbed the vial and spun around. He didn’t hear the Chinaman curse him under his breath, as he slammed the Panda door behind him.

The rain had stopped. Heavy fog filled every recess of Chinatown. Robert could not have seen the group of men who had positioned themselves surreptitiously in the alley. These were the same men who had seen him push over the old woman’s flower cart. They were members of the Silver Dragons, a self-appointed group of protectors of the Chinese community.

This wasn’t the first time they had witnessed Robert Fisher’s irreverent conduct. In fact, they had been monitoring him ever since he grabbed an immigrant by the neck. The newly arrived Chinese man had given him the wrong change after Robert had bought a men’s magazine at his newsstand.

“You short changed me you sneaky, yellow thief! That was a twenty I gave you, not a ten!” Robert had said.

“So sorry, so sorry,” the immigrant had been truly sorry for his mistake.

Robert had disappeared into the crowd that evening, but not before one of the members of the Silver Dragons got a good look at him. That was the first of many offenses deemed inexcusable by the Chinese men who watched over things here.

The next morning the rain had moved up the coast and the fog had lifted. Pale sunlight slanted in, as merchants and tourists started to mill around the streets of Chinatown. At the end of Canal Street, several detectives were busy questioning bystanders.

“Ah, come on people! A man just doesn’t get dead and nobody sees nothin,’” a detective was saying. “Somebody’s gotta know somethin’! It happened last night – probably sometime after 7:00 p.m,” he pleaded with a few merchants standing in the crowd that had gathered.

A forensics officer took something out of the dead man’s pocket and studied it for a few seconds. “Hey, look at this,” he said, as he held it up to the detective who was questioning people.

“Yeah, what is it?” the detective asked.

“Tiger bone pills. That’s what it says on the label. And get this. It says to take one pill daily to promote longevity.”

The detective looked down at Robert Fisher’s dead body. “Yeah? Well, maybe he forgot to take one yesterday.”


Linda S. Socha said...

I like this one. There is definitely a meaning in the message...on many levels K

nollyposh said...

... Ironic karmic justice me thinks!

Catvibe said...

Oh K! Awesome, this is the second fiction I've seen of yours, the first being Jason's contest. This is fantastic, and I hated your protagonist. So happy to see him die. As a mother of two children who are half Chinese, I cringe at his bigotry while I scoff at his vanity. You wrote this really well, I was completely there.

Aniket said...

Ditto to Cat!

This is the first time I'm reading fiction on your blog. I double checked the blog name before reading. :D :D

This is awesome. Simple. Straight. And with so many lessons on life.

Great work! (Everyone knows my love for fiction :D)

Karen said...

Robert Fisher is the guy you love to hate, and there's a great satisfaction in the irony of the tiger bone pills. Your characters are totally believable - all of them, and that's not easy to do in such a short piece.

Loved, it, Kaye!

RachelW said...

I love the ending! It's rare that I'd feel pleased that anyone got offed, but wow, you sure created a character who had it coming. Forgot to take his pills, hehe.

the walking man said...

Mr. Fisher should have spent his money in the opium palace. At least that addiction may have lengthened his life.

Very well paced.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sorry to see him go.

Great to see you adding fiction to your repertoire!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Thanks so much to all - this was an assigned exercise, actually. In writers group, we were to write a short fiction with the words "bone" and "tiger," 900 words or less. These little exercises keep one's writing tight - and help to hone skills. It is unbelievable all the different stories that ensue. It's fun to hear them all.

Well, anyway, thanks for all the generous comments. I write short stories sometimes, but haven't published many. Of course, I think of poetry as my forte, but I might mix it up now and then.

AND - I am such a pacifist - I can't even believe I wrote a story where someone gets murdered. But, it is just fiction and ... yeah, Robert Fisher really was a rotten bastard!

Karen said...

I wondered what inspired this -- it seemed so out of character for you!

trooping with crows said...

Oh gosh, Mom! I wanted it to go on and on. LOVE the title. Also like the "open" ending.
If I were stranded on a desert island, with only one book to read for the rest of my earthly exsistence, I would want it to be your collected works!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Oh Riss, that is so sweet - and it really touches me because I know you are sincere. Well, now I really have to get my ----s in action and get that chapbook published this summer, even though you probably have them all on single sheets of copy paper.

Thanks for always encouraging me in my literary life and for really caring about what I write. love

Mairi said...

What a sad waste of a tiger. I hope they were selling him ground chicken bones for 1,800 dollars before they did him in.

Vesper said...

Kaye, it is so extremely enjoyable to read your prose too. I remember well last October's Halloween story of the bride who fell off the bridge...

"Tiger's Revenge" is well-written, with a great pacing, and interesting, very believable characters. Although I couldn't wish for anybody's death, Fisher's fate seems well-deserved (I noticed the ostrich, too...), a tiny part of a universal justice. Very well done!

Margaret said...

Very well written K. You're not only a magnificent poet, you know how to write fiction too!

I'm playing with the idea of writing a short story. I've no idea if it'll be any good but I'll never know if I don't give it a go!

Julie said...

WOO HOO!! Oh...sorry. That wasn't very professional of me...ha! ha! I mean I LOVE your story, K! It flows so easily, and the dialogue is awesome. You've done a fantastic job with the setting, too. It is so real. Either you've been there or you've done your research very well. I love your details and how they reflect the personality of the character.

Of course, he's a hateful man. But I also felt a touch of pity for him. I applaud you for making me feel that!! I didn't want to feel that for him, and that is the sign of good writing. You take me where you want me to go. Your story makes me think of Flannery O'Connor's short story, "The Geranium." The old father in that was a redneck, hateful bastard...but also pathetic.

Someone with as much hate as Robert Fisher has must lead a horrible life. Just the fact that he thinks the longevity pills will keep him alive makes me think about how bad his existence must be. He creates his own misery through hate, though, and that makes it even sadder.

Excellent work, K! Big applause! Keep those stories coming.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Mairi - Thank goodness more is being done now to protect them in the wild. Isn't it sad that animals are used and wasted, usually for the vanity of humans. It is a changing world, though - so there is even more reason to hope that things for animals and people will get better. Thanks so much.

Vesper - how complimentary your comments. I thank you most sincerely. I appreciate your remembering past work. That makes me feel really good!

Margaret - definitely give it a go! With your attention to detail and your wonderful sensitivity, I know any story you write will be interesting - to say the least. Thank you kindly, Margaret.

Hey Jules - you make me laugh right out are a wild woman!!! :D

I agree with everything you have said about pitying a person who has no idea what life is about. So therefore, I suppose one should feel sorry for a person like that.

Any comparison to Flannery O'Connor, however remote, is very welcomed!! Thanks, as always, for your enthusiastic support! ;p

Ghost Dansing said...


K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hey Ghost - a picture worth a thousand words! Thanks, my friend.

laughingwolf said...

klg, this wee tale works so very well, thank you :)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

LW - Glad you liked it. Thanks bunches!

Selchie said...

ha always love a bit of irony and the insults were to a tee. I see you are a lady of many talents. Good one!

happy weekend,


K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Sarah, Thanks so much for the nice comments. ;) You have a great weekend!

Sarah Hina said...

I, too, am thrilled to see you take up fiction so unexpectedly and deliciously, K!!

Although the subject matter surprised me (in a good way), there was the same sense of visual clarity and beautiful details that I love so well in your poetry. Plus, the dialogue really painted a vivid portrait of this horrid man, as well as the Chinese couple forced to suffer through his arrogance and hate.

I'll admit to smiling at the last line--just a wonderful, full circle closure that I relished. And I don't feel too guilty about it, either. :P

More, please (in addition to the poems, of course)...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Sarah, I appreciate your remarks on this flash piece. I am going to try and mix it up a bit here with more short stories. Thanks for the kind and encouraging words. I always look forward to your visits. :)

Anorak said...

i just breezed through this one....really great with multiple was really awesome......keep walking!!!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Anorak - I appreciate your stopping by and leaving a comment. Thanks!!