The Making of a Tiger

This is a short story revealing a little background on the characters of the WWII novel I’m writing. The main character here (John) is the father of the main character in the book (Kailyn). It’s set in the Himalayan mountains of Burma. Hope you enjoy it . . .

Making of Tiger

He didn’t have much use for his small knife any longer. It had been so long since he’d carved blocks of wood into jungle animals, that the monsoon rains had left rust and mold on the blade.

But tonight. Tonight his hands needed the feel of wood. The surety behind it’s hardness. The knife peeling away bits and flakes to reveal what had always lurked beneath the bark.

John rubbed a calloused thumb across the edges. His white skin stark against the ridged grain.

A scream ripped through the jungle and John jumped from the fallen log. His daughter, Kailyn, sat quiet. Amber eyes wide, staring through the fire at her Papa, shifting between the door of their thatch-roofed home and the jungle. He knew she wanted to run, but her mother’s pain contained her here. Captured in the flickering light of the fire.

John sank, blinking at the blood bubbling small in his palm, soaking into the block. He hadn’t even realized that the blade had bit him. Settling the block back in his hands, he cut away a chunk of wood. Shavings gathered on his lap, dripping onto the dirt, piling up like the screams.

Under his patient tutelage, a head emerged. Then a long, lanky body. Dark. Graceful. Powerful. Silent. A tiger. So much like his wife and daughter.

The silence registered. John looked up, hands cradling a miniature tiger in his long fingers and watched as the midwife carried a tiny bundle to him.

Absently, John dropped the tiger near the flames, scorching it black before Kai could rescue it.

The midwife refused to look at him and tears slipped down her dark cheeks. Kai slipped up the bamboo ladder as the Kachin midwife handed John his son. Perfectly formed cheeks, grey with death, were smeared with his mother’s blood. His son. John’s knees gave way sinking to the ground.

Another cry, weaker still than the last dribbled into the darkness. John forced himself to stand, trying to go to his wife. But the death of this celebrated child sent the first roots of a strangler fig deep into his heart. His faith stuttered under the crush. How would he survive this alone?

Kai’s murmurs slipped through the woven bamboo walls. “Please mama. Mama?” Such a smart little girl, his little tiger. Her voice rose in fear.

John could tell by the fidgeting midwife that his wife was not long for this world either. There were no prayers left that could save her . . . not even from this missionary. God’s angels would slip over the Himalayan mountains and steal her away. John sat hard, humming, rocking his child into the sleep that would last forever.

John looked down at the dark lashes of his son, felt his soul yearning to fly away. Kai’s voice lifted in an ancient cry. The cry of the abandoned, lost. And the tether on John’s soul snapped tight, yanking him back to the brown crust of earth. Trapping him. Kailyn. Encased inside, hollow. He must stay for Kailyn.

10 thoughts on “The Making of a Tiger

    1. Thanks Sue. It was a fun exercise for me to see the story that was really pivotal to Kai’s character. She lost both her parents on that day and it affects her for the rest of her life.

    1. Thanks Bob. The tiger becomes a critical theme of the book so it was interesting to see the birth of the theme.

    1. Ah thanks, Natasha. The mountains of Burma have kind of become a second home to me…at least in my mind. I’ve never been in actuality, but I’ve been on the other side of the mountains in India.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Creative writing is where I’m most comfortable, and my background is marketing copy, which means I’m still trying to figure out the blog thing…I’d love to do more poems and short stories, but they drain the same parts of me that my book does. It’s a total writer dilemma that I’m still trying to figure out 🙂

  1. Wow! I was drawn into your earlier version but eith this snippet, I was present. I could hear the screams and the sound of John whittling. I watched as the tiger emerged from the block of wood. A lump rose in my thoat as I observed John with his son and his daughter calling out to her mama.

    I know that you will personally feel all the emotions of each one of the characters you will reveal and weave into your story.

    1. Thanks. I think entering into a character’s emotion is one of the hardest things about writing. I enter into the emotions enough that I have to be careful what scenes I write when my kids are around. Seeing mommy sob over the keyboard is probably not a healthy sight for them to see on a regular basis 🙂

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