CHARLOTTE BRISLAND

★ ★ ★ ★

FICTION

‘Paper House’ by Charlotte Brisland

The Tiger Who Visited

Sophia and her mummy were in the dining room having tea when there was a knock on the door. Sophia’s mummy said, “I wonder who that can be?” It can’t be the milkman because he came this morning. And it can’t be the boy from the grocer because this isn’t the day he comes. And it can’t be daddy because he’s got his key. Sophia’s mummy began to worry it was the awful neighbours next door who’d voted leave in the Brexit campaign. She also worried it might be members of the new far right socialist party who yelled persistently that immigration was dragging this country into the mud. Could it be the bailiffs finally catching up with her about that outstanding parking fine? Sophia’s mummy decided she did not want to answer the door at all but Sophia felt differently. Sophia loved it when new people came to visit, it could be anyone and that was exciting, just like receiving a neatly wrapped present. Sophia jumped up and answered the door before her mummy could say anything.

“Hello little girl, is your mummy at home?”

Sophia was too shocked to say anything. Right in front of her was a large and stripy tiger. The tiger stepped into the hallway. Sophia’s mummy, seeing a police badge on his upper left lapel, smiled nervously and let him into the dining room. Upon seeing the spread of cream cakes, pies and tea Sophia’s mummy had prepared for a charity fundraise, the tiger sat down and began to eat. He ate all the cakes on the plate and drank all the tea in the pot. Sophia thought the tiger was a lovely benign creature and began stroking his fur.

“Do you like my fur little girl?” enquired the tiger, who had no place talking at all, let alone inviting himself into their dining room and eating all their food. Sophia snuggled into his soft furry stomach while Sophia’s mummy did her upmost not to scream out in horror.

Next, the tiger leapt down from his chair and padded on all fours into the kitchen. Sophia followed him like the little lamb she was, holding onto his tail while he drank all the water in the tap and made a start on all the food in the cupboards.

Once there was absolutely nothing left in the whole house the tiger returned to the dining room and sat quietly at the table directly in front of Sophia’s mummy. Exhausted from watching the tiger drain them of all their resources, Sophia curled up with the tiger’s tail wrapped around her and fell asleep.

“She’s growing up,” the tiger said.

“Yes,” replied Sophia’s mummy to Sophia’s daddy. And then, “What exactly is it you want?”

“I don’t want anything at all, except to see my daughter again.”

“Well, you’ve seen her now. Perhaps you could leave.”

“And why would I want to do that? I have a few things I need to ask you about.”

Sophia’s mummy glanced again at the police badge; the thick black lines formed a clear message.

“I’d say I was far from being done here, don’t you? It’s a nice tidy place you’ve got, done it up all pretty.” The tiger wriggled his shoulders and creased his nose, “Cosy”.

Sophia’s mummy, finding herself in an awkward position, thought quickly. The tiger, wild and rapacious, sat eyeing the curves and contours of his old conquest. She looked very lick-able indeed, plump and ripe for the picking. The child was exactly where he wanted her, entangled in his warm furry tail; he only needed to squeeze a little for her mummy to squeal like a plump, pink piggy. And this time he had a few more cards to play. They both knew she had nowhere to run. What could she do and where would she go? He’d already eaten half of her family and corrupted the other half. Was she going to run to the police? What a joke, he was the police! This time she was his for as long as he chose. The tiger grinned broadly and Sophia’s mummy smiled back.

“Thank you, that means a lot coming from you. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I’ve missed you.”

The tiger’s whiskers twitched. This was not what he’d been expecting. Complaints, a chase perhaps, he wished it, it would add flavour to his supper. What was she up to?

“I’ve missed you too, I’ve missed Sophia.” The tiger watched Sophia’s mummy carefully for a flicker of emotion, but saw none.

“I could show you around if you’d like? I know you’ve seen the kitchen already, so how about I show you upstairs?”

So, she’s finally come to her senses, thought the tiger as he sank comfortably among the quilts of her big brass bed. As she stroked his soft brightly coloured fur his ego mounted and she stroked that too. But the tiger failed to notice the very large and freshly sharpened kitchen knife she had hidden in her knickers. Swipe swipe went the blade. The tiger gasped as his giant member flew in an unnatural direction and gargled as his throat was swiftly cut from ear to ear. Sophia’s mummy wrapped the tiger in the bed sheets and rolled him along the corridor and down the stairs to the dicing machine where she threw him in. While he was turning into dog food, Sophia’s mummy used some Vanish powder on the blood stains and then put the sheets into a high wash.

Later on, Sophia’s daddy (or so Sophia thought) came home. As it was clear that Sophia’s mummy still hadn’t gotten round to the shopping, he suggested they all go out for dinner at the local café. Their very fat dog came along for his daily walk and they all had a lovely time.

When Sophia mentioned the tiger to her daddy later that evening, Sophia’s mummy stroked her little head and winked.

“You also had a very long sleep in the afternoon didn’t you darling?”

Sophia’s daddy laughed heartily and gave her a big hug.

Charlotte Brisland graduated in 2004 from the Royal College of Art. Brisland has exhibited internationally including Japan, Berlin, London and New York. Her work exists in private and public collections. She currently lives and works in her hometown of Portsmouth in the UK.

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