Short Story
Katy Nixon

Tiger Tiger, Burning Bright

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The last straw was the sound of the two pence as it rattled in the deserted tip jar. Coppers have a certain sound, wide as you like. Honestly, I had just had it. To me it was like saying fuck you not thank you. 2p ya cunt. Had the guy not heard? Shrapnel kills.

Then, to cement my rage, a woman clicked her fingers at me - it’s weird how sounds become amplified in that moment. Says she wants a quick skinnyvanillatripleshotdecaficed-oatmilklatte.

I paused as I balanced the messy plates of some other ungrateful fuck who had managed to squash baked beans into the table and litter it with empty sugar packets.

I looked her right in the eye and said deadpan, “just a quick skinnyvanilla-tripleshotdecafficedoatmilklatte, yeah?” She nodded in that patronising way they all do. Which meant I couldn’t tell whether she was smiling at me or baring her teeth.

So I walked round to the kitchen, putting all the plates near the dishwasher, and I had one of those moments. You know, when you have a sort of out of body experience and you’re sure you are about to do something mental. I was bursting with frustration that this was my life - that thing we only get one of... Flashing before my eyes.

What happened next is a bit of a blur, but let’s say I grabbed a tin opener with purpose and walked round to where they were all sitting.

I gave them one of those power stances I always see on Ted Talks. Which is supposed to channel all this mad energy around your body and leave you feeling proper invincible.

Slowly everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at me. I took the tin opener and put it to my head and slowly began to open up my skull. A woman began to scream. One guy’s mouth just dropped open and never closed. An old lady fainted, knocking plates of food up in the air.

Honestly, I didn’t feel a thing. It was like turning a key. I felt so light headed but in a good way like the buzz from skipping school.

Then the tiger began to prise my head open further, squeezing herself through the gap in my mind.

I knew the tiger very well.

It was my ambition – rendered huge and sinewy.

Its muscles flexed, as it stood by my side growling.

It was hungry and pounced on one of the old ladies ripping at her cardigan with matching skirt.

Soon nothing was left of her.

That’ll teach Mrs “the tea’s too hot”, I thought.

I walked towards the door, calm as you like, shaking off all the hands trying to grab me.

All the cries for help.

One customer was still trying to order a full breakfast but before he could tell me how he wanted his bacon cooked the tiger ripped at his mouth. He was silenced in a matter of seconds.

As the tiger set about devouring everyone the door clicked shut behind me.

I know it’s fucked up but the sound of them screaming made me feel good, maybe even made me smile a little.

Later I stood outside under the cold, crystal blue sky, suddenly becalmed.

And pushed my skull back together, as easy as tipping a hat. ■

Illustration: Elise Boath

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What happened next is a blur, but let’s say I grabbed a tin opener and walked round to where they were sitting

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