“Top that!” annus horribilis 2020 said, confident it had turned in a performance for the ages. 2021’s churlish response? “Hold my beer.”
The current year, in truth, does feel mercifully better than the prior one. But news that since last Sunday, a 9-month-old Bengal tiger named India has roamed the streets of Houston like a sailor on shore leave dispels any doubt: It‘s still a jungle out there.
I called a friend who lives in Space City, asking him how things were going under the circumstances. “They’re grrreat!” he answered gamely, summoning his best Tony the Tiger. Full marks to him for keeping a gallows sense of humor.
Substance of the story aside, the reportage has been strange. Much has been made over how the maneater was last seen in a residential neighborhood. Would India’s final curtain call in a mixed-use development spin class give anyone less . . . ahem . . . pause? A tiger cavorting anywhere but a zoo or in its natural habitat counts as news to me.
There also is apparent confusion over who owns the fanged feline, whether it’s the man last seen in India’s proximity before her disappearance or somebody else. It’s a question worth answering fully, right between how did this happen and how do we keep it from happening again. But for now, let’s just catch the bloody beast.
After all, it doesn’t take a cat scan to see India’s true owner is unlikely to come forward and claim the carnivore anytime soon. People who keep tigers as house pets generally are not widely known around the water cooler for keeping tigers as house pets.
When the furry fiend is found, all someone will have to do is get close enough to check for a collar with personalized information around its neck. I don’t know who that someone might be. I only know it will not be a good week to be Houston animal control’s newest hire.
Alas, where reportage fails to help make sense of the senseless, poetry has succeeded. While India the hungry tiger remains at large, I find particular solace in the timeless, adjacent advice of Ogden Nash: if called by a panther, don’t anther.