“Ladies and Gentlemen, the rare animals exhibit will be closing shortly. Please proceed to the nearest exit.”
Marvin and Arnold sat smoking their cigarettes, watching the final trickles of humanity depart the exhibit.
“Glad it’s finally closin’ time.” Marvin heaved his bulk off the stone wall and gestured to his co-worker. “Come on, let’s get her done.”
They did a quick round of rock, paper, scissors that left Arnold exclaiming over his long run of bad luck.
Marvin moved to the meat locker where they kept the food for the Tasmanian Tiger, the last of its kind. “Hey, Arnold! Did you put Taz’s dinner in the refrigerator to thaw like I asked you last night?”
Arnold skulked over, a sheepish look on his face. “Uh, I musta forgot. Sorry.”
“Well what are you going to feed ol’ Taz then?” He thumbed over his shoulder to the door that led to Taz’s cage.
“I suppose I could just give it to him frozen. He could gnaw on it, probably have it all eaten by morning and no one would know.
“Geesh, you’re are one dumb son-of-a-bitch, Arnold, you know that?” No wild animal’s gonna gnaw on a hunk of frozen meat.
“I’ll bet the Siberian Tiger would,” Arnold said, his brow furrowed in concentration.
“Yeah well this is a Tasmanian Tiger, moron, from way far south, below Australia even, where it’s really, really hot.” Marvin waddled to the freezer and pulled out a rump roast. “A roast like this would feed a whole family for a coupla days, you know that?”
Arnold took the roast from Marvin’s hands. “Let’s just see if he eats it.” He moved to the door then turned back to Marvin. “You got my back?”
Marvin felt for the pistol he kept in the waistband of his pants. They weren’t allowed tranq guns because they weren’t vets but if they followed the tedious protocol of luring the animals to their special feeding cages first, they’d miss the basketball game. “Yeah, yeah, right behind you. Let’s get her done.” They’d never even had a close call in three years, but that didn’t mean Marvin was stupid enough to leave Black Bessie behind.
The two men unlatched the door and peeked inside but Taz was no where to be seen.
“Guess Taz is lazin’ over by the pond, eh?” Arnold said, his voice shaking.
“Probably. Go on then. I’ll be right behind you.
They walked in, Arnold holding the roast. “Where’s the dish, Marvin?”
“Hang on, I see it over there.” Marvin walked ten feet to the right to retrieve the dish and Arnold followed.
They both heard the door that separated the zoo keepers area from the tiger’s area close with a loud bang. Taz rested against the door, trapping them inside with him.
Between clenched teeth, Marvin muttered, “Give him the roast now only throw it over to the side.”
Arnold nodded and hurled the roast behind Taz about five feet from the door.
“You moron. Is that as far as you could throw it?” Marvin pulled out his pistol. The men watched as Taz rose from his resting position then trotted over to check out the roast. He sniffed it a few times then grabbed it in his mighty jaws and slung it back at the men. Marvin and Arnold had almost reached the door when Taz let out a mighty roar, his yellow eyes narrowed and drool beginning to drip from the sides of his muzzle.
“What do we do now,” Arnold whispered.
Marvin brandished the pistol.
“No! You can’t. It’s the last of it’s kind. Tell you what though. You give me the gun and I’ll lure him away so you can slip out.” Arnold beckoned for the pistol with his hand.
“Uh sure thing, Arnold, if you’re sure you know what you’re doing.” Marvin handed the gun to Arnold and tried not to smile.
Arnold moved two steps toward the door, but Taz moved also. Arnold took three more steps, nearly even with the door, placing himself between Marvin and Taz, but again Taz matched his movements. He turned his body to gauge Marvin’s progress then back to Taz to gauge his.
Hand shaking he raised the pistol and shot Marvin then darted through the door. Taz ran over to Marvin’s body and delivered a death bite to the neck then dragged the portly body away.
Shaking his head, Arnold uttered, “Last of his kind or last of my kind. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
Once the coast was clear he unlatched the door, snuck back in Taz’s cage and retrieved the roast. He and Nelly would have their own feast…after the roast thawed, of course.
When I wrote the piece, I did not know there already was such a thing as a Tasmanian Tiger. (I knew there really was a Tasmanian Devil, however.) I intended it to be a very large tiger, like the Siberian tiger pictured, very deadly but very fictional. Clicking on the link that WordPress so helpfully provided, I do see that the more delicately proportioned Tasmanian Tiger is, sadly, now extinct. It was also not a cat but a marsupial. I encourage you to read the Wiki info on this interesting animal and to click on the film clips embedded within the Wiki article to see some of the last live footage of this animal. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.
I do and did know, however, that it’s colder in Tasmania, not hotter, by the way.