Tigers in the Tank
A young Palestinian grocer friend of mine has a 50-gallon fish tank in his store on Douglas Street which is his pride and joy and the subject of many of our excited conversations, since I too am a “fish-fancier” (what a poetic expression!). Last night he told me that his oscars, potentially ferocious fish, had lived peacefully enough with gentle tank-mates, until his naughty cousins, keepers of the store while he vacationed, introduced live goldfish into the tank just to watch them be pursued and devoured by the oscars. Now, he says, they are are satisfied with nothing but live flesh, though for two years he had fed them “sliced turkey meat and they smiled.” The result is that every other fish in the tank, hitherto unmolested, has been devoured by the three devils.
Which reminds me of the tales of man-eating tigers I used to read as a boy. A wound, slowing them down, would force the cats into preying on humans. But once they had tasted the flesh of the two-leggeds, they would never return to deer and so on although their debilitating wound had healed. Why? Because humans had sophisticated language and fire? Were the tigers taking gods into themselves as we do at the communion rail? Or do we just taste good? The Nazis canned people, according to my first girl-friend at ten years old (we never even kissed), a German girl who who born in Dusseldorf in 1939 around the same day and year I was born in the Bronx. Near Der Ende, when every cow, sheep, horse, cat and dog in The Reich had been eaten, according to her, “they” canned human flesh and passed it out to everybody. “It tasted sweet,” she said, nodding her blond, adorable head, to show me she wasn’t kidding. Who was I to doubt her, I, a little Italian-American kid in the Bronx who had barely travelled beyond its borders? Who had hardly done much else than dawdle in school, read boys’ adventure books, and draw pictures in his Grandma’s food-perfumed kitchen? My girl-friend had had bombs dropped on her and had lost her father on the Russian Front.