Short Fiction · 28 February 2020

When The Tigers Broke Free


L A R S  J A N S E N


The New Modern Northern Zoological park, or New Northern Zoo is where I took my kids on Saturdays. There were two of them, kids and parks. One had the cheesy, but  attractively juvenile name, Polar EX. My eldest seemed to love it; the northern division of the Northern Zoo. I couldn’t get my head around the EX when he asked me why they called it Polar Ex. It vaguely reminded me of an animated Tom Hanks blowing a whistle while on a train headed north. While we entered through the gates, the smell of stale fries and spilled Coca-Cola, mixed with the coldness of an early March morning inspired a nostalgic fit of involuntary memory. A bittersweet memory of an early spring morning three years earlier. I took them there every Saturday to watch the penguins’ feeding time. The eyes of my kids widened in excitement and fascination as they watched the funny, wobbly, and fatty birds catch the fish the zookeeper would throw at them. Even the birds seemed aware of their own publicity, for they would not take their gaze off of the hordes of screaming children and parents in their late twenties. While my offspring enjoyed the cold theatre, I took out the book I brought.

The New Modern Northern Zoological park, or New Northern Zoo is where I took her one Saturday. The park had just been opened. The tigers flew between the sixteenth century buildings in anticipation of their own captive arrival. A new northern home. I took her to see the tigers. Listening to Pink Floyd on the way there, my black sedan was cooking in the summer sun. Midsummer had come and gone, light descended to come back again before going on a yearlong hiatus. The tigers broke free as the spirits cut the barbed wire. As the bonfires burned in Finland, as little girls in Sweden laid flowers underneath their pillows in the hope for sweet dreams about a future husband, the tigers broke free.

The New Modern Northern Zoological park, or New Northern Zoo is where I went every Saturday by myself to read. The zoo had been abandoned for three years since the accident, but the eastern gate stood invitingly cracked open. I came to the zoo to read, in the silence of birds.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an iceberg covered with wildflowers, but it was a darkly comical sight. I sat on the familiar bench opening a book of Latin American Poetry. After a while I heard something on top of the deteriorated fake Polar décor. The sun had just begun setting when I felt watched. Erected on top of the concrete plane between two wooden icebergs, surrounded by laughing birds that chose to stay there stood two tigers, holding up the sky, or lifting the earth from the infinite plain.

I heard them growl at me, after their mighty paws hit the concrete again, speaking to me in a foreign language. The laughing birds sat on their backs as if in a familial mocking manner. With their leaving, the sun set behind the concrete wall, rendering the abandoned park in a melancholic, but trusted shadow. I closed my book and walked away, as if nothing magical had occurred.

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

When the tigers broke free,
My mirror broke.
The sky filled up with water.

The Island will be sinking.
I will not turn to the sky.

Whether you were there or not,
Step into the pumpkin,
And get out
At the market square.







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