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December 9, 2018

46. Table for One

The sun had set days ago. A storm rages outside. Endless rain, perpetual thunder, and sporadic flashes and crashes of lightning. The moon is entirely blocked by the blackest of clouds. But what can be seen against the blackest of nights. Raindrops the size of a man’s fist pound the seaside as waves crash against a steep rock cliff.

A building sits on the side of this cliff as the water tries and retries to climb the steep side of the rock wall. The building is modest in size but designed with such care. Its chimney, its roof, its siding—all built with attention to utmost detail. Door frames and hardwood flooring further let he house speak of its makers.

Inside the building—lets call it a home—a man eats a polite and comfortable dinner. His etiquette is astounding and he eats with prestige. No one accompanies him at the table-clothed meal. That does not prevent him from acting jovial and host-like with his manners. He wipes his mouth neatly after bites and nods to no one as he helps himself to more portions and new dishes. The food is just as warm and savory as the home.

Against one wall is a fireplace with a beautiful mantle and wooden frame, gilded with a dark varnish and honor. The fire is weak and mostly ash and ember. Nonetheless it warms the room against the strength of the storm. Against another wall is a tall and wide portrait of a man of prestige and esteem, though his face is obscure and generic and resembles no one in particular. If he was worth remembering, he has now been forgotten, save for the drying oil on the painted canvas. And opposite the wall of the portrait is a window. (The man sits with his back against the window.) Here is seen the storm through the multi-paned glass with its curtains drawn back.

In the corner there is an immaculate orange and black-striped tiger. Its head is enormous and its whiskers are little daggers. Its head rests between is crossed paws. The feet and pads of its paws are stunning and gigantic. It rests listlessly on an Persian rug.

The man continues to eat his courses as they are generously laid on the table. He uses his utensils in perfect and respectful order. His eating is neat and orderly yet he eats unending—a banquet for a dinner party is all laid out before him. The table is prepared with turkey legs, vegetables of all sorts, corn, beans, butter, various cuts of beef, and spreads of unique flavors, all of it presented in a thoughtfully crafted fashion.

The tiger raises is heavy head looks up from its laze at the man consumed by his consuming. The tiger puts its head right back where it was as if it had not moved at all. The man takes no notice.

After hushed clanking and forks and knives being used and placed and replaced in their proper position and after each plate has been formally stacked after its course has been finished there is no food left. The table is congested with plates, bowls, cups, dishes, spoons of differing sizes and only crumbs of evidence that a full banquet had once populated the table at all.

The tiger now raises its head again ears back. It picks its vast weight off the patterned rug but keeps is spine down and belly just off the ground. Its eyes are absolutely locked on the full-bellied man. The storm had ceased and only a hush of wind and rain made any noise at all.

The man wipes the corner of his lip one last time before placing the napkin on the table.

The tiger leaps—extends itself in full length as it flies through the air from the Persian rug to the white-as-snow tablecloth.

The sun rose and let its rays of light penetrate the home and window. And then red.