Short Stories

A Tiger Heart

[A short story, based on the prompt: “Write a story featuring an animal who subverts expectations”]

«Kenzo! Grab it now!» The mother tiger yelled.

The pack of tigers had circled around on a young deer, leaving no chance of escape. The scene was covered in a veil of silence as the suspense of the attack was rising.

«Kenzo wake up! You need to move fast or its gonna run away!»

Kenzo looked over at the voice.

«Just snatch the damn thing!» called his bigger brother Edan.

Little Kenzo looked at the deer without making a move. A few steps further and it could have it in a sheer moment. The little deer looked petrified. The law of the jungle was harsh as it was ruthless.

«Mother I’m stepping in to help» Said Zale the oldest female from the young.

«No, leave him to it.» She responded decisively, cutting his excitement into pieces.

Kenzo glanced back at his family before focusing on the deer again. He lowered his head to the ground and started crawling towards the deer.

«It’s a reckless attack. Mother, he is gonna make us miss our lunch again» said Amber.

Mother: «I said stay put. Let him do it.» She kept a steady posture, looking straight ahead.

Kenzo gradually started moving his body closer and closer. His careful steps would minimize all noise as his feet would touch gently on the green grass as if caressing it.

The deer was still motionless, though in an alert state. Stumbled behind by a lake that the monsters inside would never allow going anywhere near it. Its body was stamped with circular pink rings like being handcrafted by an artist painter. Its legs were lengthy and elegant, maybe a bit too fragile, ready to crack under the slightest pressure. And his round and big eyes were extruding out of its little face as its most prominent feature.

Kenzo kept moving in the same gradual pace. «Ok here it goes» he whispered and with a jump, he threw himself towards the deer. Alas, the deer swiftly spotted the attack and avoided him finding a way to leave from the sides.

Kenzo and the pack made a sluggish attempt to follow along, but they all realized it would be in vain. The little deer passed over a little cliff, making it much harder to find a way near it.

The mother tiger stood for a few seconds looking at Kenzo, who glanced quickly on her before darting his eyes to the ground.

«It’s not the first time he is failing us.» Said Zale.

Mother: «That’s enough.» She cut her off from continuing. «It’s time to get back home.»

They turned around and took the road of return.


«I don’t understand why mother keeps helping him so much. He is clearly a mistake. More of a burden we have to carry with us rather than anything else. Plus, we have to share our food with him..». Zale was the oldest female and the one with the biggest ambition in the group. She was always the first one to jump in into any territorial fights with neighbor packs that were becoming more and more often.

Amber: «Apparently, she is very fond of him».

Zale: «Fond of him? He is dragging us down. This is not the time for fondness or feelings. Jiba and his pack are surrounding us day by day. Humans are cutting down the forest. Our area of action is shrunken by the day. And so is our chance for survival.»

Amber: «Mother is never gonna give up on him. She cares equally for everyone.»

Zale: «I’m not talking about mother.» Amber stopped as Zale got an aggressive look. Amber’s eyes got wide open.

Zale: «We need to take action on this ourselves. We need to do something or the whole pack is gonna be at risk.»

Amber: «What are you talking about, you are not serious, are you?»

Zale: «Am I serious?» 

Zale pushed Amber on the tree, grilling its teeth to him.

Zale: «Well, you tell me. What do you think?»

«You guys hurry up. It’s getting darker already, we need to catch up with the rest.» yelled Edan from far ahead.

Zale glanced at Amber once more before he turned around. Amber remained in his position for a few seconds motionless.


The night came and the entire pack was taking its nap under their little cave nest. The snoring was loud enough to wake up a hippopotamus if it wasn’t for the general fatigue to set them up for sleep. But little Kenzo had found a way out this night. He was sitting alone over the lake trying to find a way to pass his sleepless night.

«It’s beautiful how the moon reflects over the lake, don’t you think?»

«Mother?» said Kenzo with a minor worry in his face…

«I should know better..I spent more nights in this spot that I can bear to remember. And this view never failed to amaze me every single time.» She said smiling.

Kenzo: «Mother..emmmm..»

Mother: «You don’t have to worry, darling. And you certainly don’t have to apologize for anything.»

Kenzo: «Mother, I really tried my best today. It was just for a bit that..»

Mother: « you. What did I just said?»

She looked over to him, warm and accepting.

«The day will come that you’ll find the power within you. You just don’t know it yet, but it’s right there. Right in your heart.» She pointed to his heart playfully. «And I know you have the biggest one of all.»

Kenzo: «You think so?»

The mother laughed. «I don’t think so, I know so.» She nodded emphatically. «Now come, let’s get back for sleep. Tomorrow is gonna be a long day. We better be prepared..»


«Time to wake up, little buddy. It’s hunting time!» Edan tapped on Kenzo’s arm, making him snuggle out of his dream.

Kenzo: «Woooaaaaa! It’s so early..»

Edan: «It is early, but you know the saying..the..»

Kenzo: «..The early bird gets the worm, yes I have heard of it only a gazillion times so far..» he responded teasingly.

Edan: «So you got your lesson already» he said smiling with an upward tone in his voice. «We are gonna wait for you outside…»

The little pack marched over the main forest. Mother and Edan were leading on the front with the 3 younger ones following along. The trees were rising a long height above them, hiding the biggest part of the sky, and the sun could barely make it through them to the ground.

«Everybody stop right there.» whispered the mother.

Right in front of them in the far distance, a group of zebras was cropping the grass casually.

Amber: «We need to act very organized this time if we are to get anything.»

Edan: «It is Zebras in the menu!!» he said excitedly.

Mother: «We are going to break up in teams, and surround them from all sides. Amber and Zale, you are gonna move from the left. Edan with Kenzo, keep any escape areas out of their options on the right. Make sure they have no spot to snoop out from. I’m gonna attack them in the front.»

Zale: «Mother, I think it would be better if I go with Kenzo this time. It’s always a good opportunity to get everybody up to speed».

Mother: «That’s fine. You go both in the right then and Edan matches with Amber. You all make sure you keep the border tight.»

«We’ll do» said Edan.

Mother nodded and turned towards the Zebras.

«On my sign. Go!»

The two groups moved along the two directions in equal speed, while the mother stood a bit waiting for them to get to the right distance. A few seconds in and she started moving slowly and carefully straight ahead towards the pack but without giving away her position. The Zebras were still casual without having noticed any signs of the attack, changing the colorful landscape to a dualistic black and white.

The mother reached the particular perimeter at which any move further would be risky of being revealed. Now the plan was clear. Once everybody was in the right position, they would wait for the right opportunity to attack. The two groups reached their target location on the sides and were waiting for any sign from mother to move in and follow along. It was always about following the main hunter’s move and supporting his attack for it to be a success.

Little Kenzo protruded a bit forwards to get a better view.

«Nothing yet, Mother is still waiting for the right opportunity. It could take a while as I don’t see many..»

«Ouch!» Kenzo yelled as he felled thick nails wrenching on his back.

Kenzo: «Zale, what are you doing?» He turned around and start moving cautiously back, trying to protect himself.

Zale: «I’m sorry little brother, but I’m afraid I have no choice here.» She said as she moved threateningly towards him.

Kenzo: «No choice? What do you mean?» His expression took a worrisome look as he backtracked even further.

Zale: «I think you know what I mean. The Jungle is a tough place to survive. It leaves no room for mistakes.» She said as she raised her right hand.

Kenzo: «Zale, no!» he screamed as he closed his eyes in fear when suddenly a big Tigger thrust upon her and cut her in her back.

«Jiba and her pack» whispered Kenzo.

Jibba was much bigger and stronger than both of them. Behind her, there was another one of her pack following along.

Jiba: «Long time no see, Pal»

Zale: «Jiba…I guess you never give up.»

Jiba: «Give up? No, I don’t think that would suit me at all..»

They were swirling circularly in close proximity, looking at each other. Nearby, the second intruder approached Kenzo, who took an active defensive position. Although smaller than Jiba, he was still much bigger than Kenzo who seemed to be in a tough spot. The situation was tense and could burst up any second now.

Jiba attacked Zale with some head-to-head battle on getting the upper hand. In these fights, it’s always about who gets the right position first. And Zale seemed to be totally outclassed by Jiba, who was nearly double its size. With a series of strikes and bites, Jiba managed to have Zale already tired and wounded, with very little possibility to counter-attack.

Kenzo was in an equally tough spot trying to frighten his opponent with jabs keeping him at a distance. In both cases the match seemed to be uneven and disproportionate. The Tigger jumped over at Kenzo, throwing him on the ground. He started piercing all over him, managing a series of wounds all over his body. Kenzo looked over at Edan as he lied down. Jiba was about to deliver the final blow.

«I can’t let it finish. Not like this!» he whispered. 

With a quick thrust, he subverted his opponent and threw him on the ground, giving him a series of blows. He then rushed over to Jiba who was about to deliver the hit and just before the sheer moment he scratched him deeply in the back of the head.

Jiba raised over and looked at him. He touched the back of his head and brought his hand in front of him, noticing the blood.

«Quite courageous, I must admit.. for a young man like you.» He took an attacking position. 

«Only a bit foolish as well.» And jumped after him.

Kenzo started running away as fast as he could.

«If only I could reach mother first he would have no chance.» He whispered.

Although much faster Jiba was much heavier as well. So by shifting away at the last moment, Kenzo was able to avoid his grab every time. They got out in the glade where the field was open, where the eye could see. If there was a chance to be seen by the rest, that was the best route to take.

Jiba was right behind him ready to put his claws on him when suddenly mother fell over Jiba with her whole weight. He swirled over the ground a number of times before he finally stopped.

Kenzo: «Finally!»

Mother: «Maybe you should pick tigers your size, Jiba»

Jiba raised up, looking at her. «’s you again. How can somebody get rid of you?»

Mother: «Why get rid of me? I thought we were having fun here.»

Jiba: «Funny..»

Mother: «Why don’t you beat it out of here. This is our area. You have no right to be here.»

Jiba: «Your area? Since when?» he laughed. «I think you are fighting for thin air, my dear. Humans are planning to invade this place anyway.»

Mother: «Yeah, sure they are.»

Jiba: «They seized a big portion of the forest already. They forced us to move inwards into it, away from our homes. Which got us in our current situation here today.»

Mother: «They forced you..Yeah, right…»

Jiba: «It’s only a matter of time before they got into your area as well, knocking your houses into pieces. Soon there will be no place for any of us.»

Mother: «Why don’t you save it, Jiba. I think it’s time to..»

A sudden noise struck loud, interrupting them on what sounded like gunshots. The usual sound of human intervention in the forest. Kenzo looked on his left over the hill to see a hunter holding a gun rifle pointing at them.

Kenzo: «He is over there. Look!». He turned over only to notice Mother and Jiba on the ground by the gun-shots.

Kenzo: «Mother?» he leaned over her.

Mother: «Kenzo get out of here, while you have the chance. Run away now.»

Kenzo looked at the hunter again.

«There are the 2 big ones». Yelled the human. While keep shooting at them. Kenzo knew he had to act fast or he would move on to kill his whole family. He grilled furiously as he thrust over the hunter.

«What is this little tiger doing there? Want to meet its maker or something?».

Kenzo started approaching him faster and faster. He was next to his jeep continuing shooting bullets at him but he couldn’t hit him.

«God damn you, he is too small to find a target.»

He tried again, in which case he failed again and again. Kenzo was already in close proximity.

«Ok, better get out of here». The hunter got into his Jeep and left fast, which allowed Kenzo to get back to his mother. She was still lying down on the ground heavy breathing from the wounds.

Kenzo: «Mother, don’t worry you are going to be fine.»

He started licking on the wound in her belly. A bullet had managed to penetrate her skin. With careful moves, he jabbed his nails in the wound, trying to find the bullet. The mother grilled in pain.

«Sorry, mother, I need to get this out. It’s juuuust a little bit further in»

The mother screamed even louder.

«There it is! I got it! It should get better in no time.»

He looked over at Jiba. He hesitated for a bit but approached him and helped him with his wounds as well. After a while, the rest of the pack came and helped carrying the mother back home and taking care of her. It took only a few days before everything came back to normal. In the night, as everybody was sleeping, Kenzo was spending his time in the lake again.

«I think I found out your favorite spot, young man.»

Kenzo: «Mother!» he said excitedly.

Mother: «At least now I know where to look for you when you are missing.»

Jiba: «I think we should let the young man have his moment there. He surely deserves it.»

Mother: «Ok but you don’t get very late there, ok? Promise?»

Kenzo: «I promise mother.» he said, smiling as she marched into the cave with Jiba…