The Prince on the Median
The stuffed tiger lay in the middle of the road, on the flat median, just short of the left-turn lane. It was dirty and faded. Its orange back was bleached yellow from the sun, and the black stripes were a dull gray, and the gray spread into the white fur hugging the tiger’s jawline. It lay there so helplessly, so quietly. It paid no attention to the cars, refusing to rock gently as the vehicles breezed by, the artificial wind barely ruffling the tiger’s faux whiskers.
It lay there in the aftermath of father’s rage, or mother’s, or brother, or even grandma. He was stressed, on edge. She was nervous, waiting on the results for something important, something that daughter and her tiger couldn’t understand. So the girl sang to her tiger, called him her prince, brushed his matted, dull fur. Father or mother, hands shaking, asking daughter to be a little more quiet, asking again and again, took her prince and flung him out the window, and daughter’s tears only made it worse.
There was the possibility that there was no rage, or stress. There were no results and there wasn’t anything important for daughter to not understand. She had rolled the window down; let tiger’s snout pick up the scents of the suburbs, substituting for the puppy she asked for every Christmas. He was enjoying it all, the scents, the sounds, the sun, when suddenly the car jerked. It had hit a pothole, swerved to avoid another car, slammed on the breaks to avoid a squirrel—it had been something, anything, but daughter never knew, her eyes widening and jaw dropping as tiger slipped from her hands.
There, on the median, tiger watched his damsel’s tiny face grow smaller and smaller, until it was only a dot on the horizon, pink and blurry. Then cars began to gather in the left-turn lane, and his fur darkened more with the debris from exhaust pipes as the light turned green and cars revved their engines.