When the Tiger Roared | Sojourners

When the Tiger Roared


I heard the Tigerman open the front door and enter the foyer of the church. He comes around a couple of times each week, usually looking for money or for work to get money. Sometimes to talk. In fact, most times, underneath it all, to talk.

The Tigerman is fierce in appearance and presence. His long, black hair hangs bedraggled over his shoulders. His thick mustache is trimmed, to the extent that it is trimmed at all, at a peculiar angle, so that one side is a good inch further down his chin than the other. A Fu Manchu askew.

You don't have to know the Tigerman long or well for him to offer to take off his shirt for you. He is proud of his tigers—21 of them tattooed on his stomach, chest, back, and arms. Tigers in every conceivable pose, but always with an evil look in their eyes or blood dripping from their teeth.

When he smiles, which he does broadly on good days, the gaps and broken teeth show. And when he growls ...

The Tigerman growls. A heavy, gravelly growl, more like a roar, that begins in his massive chest, rumbles over his broad vocal chords, and builds in a rising crescendo like the cry of a wounded, death-bound animal damning its fate.

The growl comes from deep inside, down in a pit of hatred and bitterness as dark as hell itself. Bitterness about the way things are for him. Hatred for those he feels are responsible for the way things are—mostly his parents, who abandoned him, a grown man but clearly unable to make it on his own. To be fair, they sold the house and left for parts unknown, leaving him to walk the streets—four years now—out of fear for their own safety. Still, a man-child experiencing every child's fear of being left alone in an unknown and frightening world, he responds with incredible hatred.

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