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Funny Sad

The jungle is an amazing place. A humid, damp environment home to hundreds of animal species, ninety percent of which I knew nothing about. Thick, rough vines weaved together by Mother nature draped across towering trees. The ground was wet and crumbly, riddled with pawprints.


“Dad,” my daughter, Layla, spoke to me. “Can you sing me a song?”


“I don’t think your father likes singing,” my wife Kamilah tells her. “He’s not very good at it. Why don’t you ask me?”


“That isn’t true,” I laugh, “I can do anything. Isn’t that right Layla?”


The three of us roamed near the jungle’s sparkling, shallow river. I liked the river. Every time I looked in it I would see my reflection. A beautiful orange-black striped coat stretched over my muscular body. Citrine gems for eyes jeweled onto a broad face, one with a mixture of black and white fur that made you wonder if you were looking at Michael Jackson. What could be better than looking at me?


“Yeah Mommy,” Layla agrees, “Daddy is the king of the jungle.”


“Is that what he tells you?” Kamilah turns to me. “Don’t let Mufasa catch you saying that.”


“It’s all good fun,” I assure her. “You know Layla, us tigers are known for our great voices. I come from a family of talented singers.”


I am the king of the jungle, They call me Tiger Man. I am the king of the jungle, They call me Tiger Man. If you cross my path, You take your own life in your hands ♫


“Wow Dad!” Layla squeals, “That was great! Where is that song from?”


“Ah…It’s an original song from our ancestors. For tigers, from tigers.”


Little did we know that behind us, hidden in the bushes, were two hunters. One was a burly White man who, if I saw correctly, looked like Nick Offerman. The second was a thinner Brown man reminiscent of Danny Pudi. With them, they carried a long, narrow gun.


“Aren’t you hungry Malik?” Kamilah turns to me. “I saw some antelopes down that way.”


That was my name. Malik.


“I am hungry,” I admit. “Speaking of antelope, I had this strange dream last night-”


THUD! Something shot into my abdomen, causing me to stumble back. My flesh and bones have been pierced. A quiet, untraceable attack. If I hadn't felt it, I wouldn't have known it was there.


“RRRRAAAOOHHHHH!” I roar in pain.


“Malik! What’s wrong?” Kamilah ran to my side. I swat her away.


“RUN!” I shout, “Take Layla and RUN!”


She doesn’t hesitate, rushing Layla away and into the foliage. I fall to the floor. The pain was agonizing, though it was quickly swept away and in its place came numbness. My roars were seemingly inaudible. In the corner of my eye, I spotted the two hunters as they paced towards me. With them, they carried a wiry fishnet.


This was the inciting incident that propelled my life into a dark, twisted spiral.


My vision went black.


***


“W-Where am I?”


I was alive. A pleasant surprise. What could I say? Tiger Man cannot die! (Truth of the matter was, I’d been shot with a tranquilizer dart. Nothing lethal.)


As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I observed that I was no longer in the jungle. Towering trees were replaced with dusty brick walls. My humid habitat was replaced with a cool, air-conditioned establishment. Bright neon signs read ‘BABY DOLLS. MUST BE 18+’. The dirty ground had been swapped with…huh, still a dirty ground.


“Shit!” I banged my head on the ceiling of a remarkably small cage. I was trapped. Looking around, I noticed that there were other animals locked in cages. Some of which I’d never even heard of. A roly-poly cow, a slimy snake, and across from me, a colorful bird. In his feathers was an oak-brown banjo. He was singing.


Boy on the beach is crying, Boy on the beach cries a river of tears. Woman by the river, can you taste my love? …


“Hey! Colorful bird guy!” I called out to him, “Where is this place?”


“...O-Oh! You mean me?” he asked, bewildered. “I come from a long line of colorful birds. We’re called Toucans. Not that it matters, of course. What matters is here. And that I’m here. And that here's great! My name’s Sam by the way.”


“Sam, uh, nice to know you, and then meet you, in that order. About that question I had.”


“Oh! Silly me. Where is here you ask? This place is where most creatures would kill to be. Where your Animalian dream can come true. This, my friend, is Monkeywood.”


“...Animalian dreams? The only dreams I have are ones where I’m chased by one-hundred antelopes and am forced to beg Mufasa for help. Unfortunately, Mufasa is dead and now Scar is in charge and he has an army of hyenas-”


“That’s oddly specific,” Sam interrupts.


“...Also, Monkeywood? Frankly, that sounds a little bit dirty.”


“Whatever do you mean?” Sam was flabbergasted. “Everyone dreams of coming to Monkeywood. Oh. Oh dear. Coming to Monkeywood. I see how that could be misinterpreted…”


I banged my paw against the cage bars. The collision of my Tiger Man strength and the solid iron gave birth to an echoing ring that filled the room. All of a sudden I, the newcomer, was the center of attention.


“Keep it down over there you fucking feline!” The portly cow yelled at me.


“Put an udder in it, Jared!” Sam defended me. “Sorry about him. He’s always starting beef with everyone. He’s under heavy stress. He has an audition for Crazy Cow, a new cereal. If he butchers his lines…well, I’d prefer to not think about that. Let’s just say the steaks- I mean stakes, are high.”


“Auditions?” I asked, confused.


“Yes, Tony. Auditions. I’ve got one too. Something about Fruit Loops…”


“Wait a minute. The name’s Malik. Malik N’Golo Kante III. Son of Malik N’Golo Kante II. Grandson of- bah, you get the idea. I sure as hell am not Tony.”


Sam pointed above me. “That’s what the sign says.”


Bolted on the outside of my cage was a plastic plate with a thin sheet slapped onto it. It read ‘Tony the Tiger’.


“W-What? That’s not my name. That’s NOT my name,” I seethe. “What the HELL is going on?”


“Calm down my friend,” Sam reassured me. “This is who you are now. This is where you live. I once hated it here too. But that was the old me. I’ve reinvented myself. I am Sam. A work-loving toucan who wants to support the economy. I’ve been given a second chance at a better life. If you think about it, I’ve been lucky.”


“Lucky?”


“Yes. I'm lucky I wasn't sent to the God-awful zoo. I heard that once you get too old, they sell you to the black market. What if I was a product tester? Imagine burning your eyeballs sampling mascara for some snot-nosed teen who thinks they can look like Jerry Hall. Don’t they realize it’s all genetics? Or worse…what if I lived in some uncivilized country like Africa?”


“First of all, Africa is a continent. Second of all, I didn’t ask to be saved. Who the Hell decided that I needed saving? I was living just fine. I had a wife and a child…damn it! I need to get out of here!”


“What for? Think about the one hundred dalmatians…excuse me, one hundred and one dalmatians. Don’t you want that kind of success?”


“NO! I had everything I needed. Now it’s been taken away. God…I want to see Layla…”


At that moment, the Nick Offerman-looking fellow walked into the room. I was immediately on high alert, and it grew higher as he walked in my direction. Beneath the handsome blue eyes was a cold, ghastly soul.


“Hey buddy,” he crouched down and inched towards my cage. “You’ll be up soon. All you need to know how to say is, “They’re great!”. Maybe roll your Rs a little. You got that?”


“Let me out of here you bastard,” I growled, pounding my claws against the cage’s bars. “LET ME OUT!”


“Woah. Chill out pal,” he jeered. “I’ll be expecting good things from you. If you do well, then you’ll be alright.” With that, he strolled out of the room.


“See Tony,” Sam breaks our silence, “If you do well you’ll be- wait, are you crying?”


I was. Tears dripped down my face and onto the floor like rainwater to a sewer. An immense sadness tugged at my soul. My heart felt heavy.


“I don’t know why,” I confessed, “I’m sad.”


“I think you might be going through some bad depression,” Sam diagnosed me. “Don’t worry, America is well known for its great depression. They teach about it in schools. Everything is better around here huh…”


I don’t respond.


“You know, when I’m sad, which is seldom, I like to play my banjo. I don’t have a fond connection to any particular song, but music cheers me up. I think it might help you.”


Sam slid his banjo through the thin gap between the iron rods. I found myself drawn to it, accepting his offer. I wasn’t sure why.


I am the king of the jungle, They call me Tiger Man. I am the king of the jungle, They call me Tiger Man. If you cross my path, You take your own life in your hands ♫


“Haven’t heard that one before,” Sam claimed, “But that’s good. Reaaaal good.”


“Sam…you said you were from a long line of colorful birds. What did you mean by that?”


I’ll never forget what happened next. Sam stopped his frivolous behavior and assumed cold, hard eye contact. He had become, what I could only describe as, robotic. A mixture of fear and nervousness inked his beady toucan eyes. It was as if he’d been…brainwashed.


“I don’t know,” he muttered. “I don’t know.”


***


Time has passed. Years. Decades. I’ve lived an entirely new life. Things have changed. Frosted Flakes (or Frosties, whatever you call it) has pounced to incredible heights. I stand on two feet and play street hockey with nine-year-olds. My diet is strictly sugar and cocaine frosted cereal. (Does that make me a cereal killer?) I’ve done advertisements for the Super Bowl, among other things. No big deal.


Sam is also a cereal superstar. Not Super Bowl-level fame, but not too bad for a bird whose life is a constant musical.


On the topic of the Super Bowl, did you see the Rams pummel the Bengals? What a spectacle. I met a ton of celebrities, all of whom flew back to their homes via private jets. (One small step for entertainment, three large steps back for the environment.)


Sam and I agreed to meet up at the beach. We’d be fools to not enjoy the California weather. I see Sam sitting cross-legged near the ocean. In one wing is a small leather travel bag. In the other is his signature banjo. 


“What’s up Sam?” I asked. 


“Hey Tony,” he responded solemnly, “Look at this.”


From the travel bag, he produces a thin, smoky gray tablet. The webpage is 23andMe. I read what I saw aloud.


“It says here that you’re related to Samuel Bala Ahmad. Who was…a king of the rainforest!?”


“Confusing right? Who would’ve thought little old me would be related to a king?”


“Sam,” I smiled toothily, “This is amazing!”


“Is it?” He doesn’t look happy. “All these years I’ve been fooling myself into believing I was someone that I’m not. And now, to find out that I’m related to someone of important lineage? I’m ashamed of myself.”


“Don’t beat yourself up about it-”


“How? How can I not beat myself up? I was a coward. I convinced myself that I was given a better chance at life, but the truth is, I was too weak to fight back. I’m so pathetic. Unlike you.”


“Sam. Listen to me. You are a musical, colorful genius. You’re not related to someone of important lineage. You are the important lineage. Instead of moping around like a cub, you made the most of our shitty situation. And me…I don’t remember who I am. I’ve let myself become swept over by cancerous culture…I mean, is Olivia Rodrigo that big a deal? I don’t even remember my real name.”


“Your name?”


“All I know is Tony,” I pressed my paw to my chest. “There’s no one else in here.”


“No, but there’s someone in there,” Sam pointed to my throat.


“…Is that a Monkeywood joke?”


“What? No! I’m talking about Tiger Man. That song you sang the first time we met.”


I looked out to the ocean and its glittering waves. Something warm streaks down my face. Tears. Vague memories and images of the jungle become crisp and focused. A river. Two tigers. Did I know them?


“Oh. Oh jeez, are you crying Tony?” Sam sighed. “Here. Take this.” He hands me his banjo. I pluck it from him and begin to sing.


I am the king of the jungle, They call me Tiger Man. I am the king of the jungle, They call me Tiger Man. If you cross my path, You take your own life in your hands ♫


“Now that you sing it again, I feel like I've heard this before. Hmm...I just can't put my pompadour on it..."




March 19, 2022 00:31

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7 comments

Alex Sultan
03:05 Mar 29, 2022

Fun to read. I did like the cereal jokes - it's unique and unlike anything I've read on here. Your humour definitely comes across in dialogue here. If you did want feedback, and I hope this is not taken negatively, I'd say try to avoid too many unique dialogue tags. They can be a bit tedious compared to said/asked since, as readers, we usually read past dialogue tags without a second thought. But I did enjoy this. Thanks for writing 🙂

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Okashi Kashi
19:56 Mar 29, 2022

Thanks Alex. You are one of Reedsy’s biggest writers (and for good reason), so ‘unique’ is a big compliment. The critique is valid, I do try to avoid repetition of the word said/says, but I think it makes sense to tone it down and find the right balance. Thanks for the read!

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Sharon Hancock
01:41 Mar 29, 2022

I love this! It gave me mixed feelings but I can’t really explain what made me feel happy because it’s all very sad for the animal-people. I guess maybe my own memories of the cereal characters? This made me snort laugh: Also, Monkeywood? Frankly, that sounds a little bit dirty.”😂 I enjoyed it! Very unique! We need to get a furry category on here. Thanks for sharing!

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Daniel Roueche
00:37 Mar 20, 2022

Cool concept. And great descriptions. One thing I notice is that you switch between present and past tense a few times. Either works. It would just be a good idea to make sure it’s consistent.

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Okashi Kashi
02:51 Mar 20, 2022

Thanks Daniel. I’ll fix it up. Originally it was supposed to be a memoir of sorts, but I changed it up a little. Thanks for the read.

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Story Time
19:36 Mar 19, 2022

I love the idea for a Tony backstory. I almost think the first segment is--although really funny--almost like a mini-prologue that we may not need. It might be more fun getting us further into the story before we realize which tiger we're reading about. I love pairing him up with Sam and the "cereal killer" line is great.

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Okashi Kashi
20:35 Mar 19, 2022

Thank you Kevin. Great suggestion. Adding a little bit of intrigue as to who this tiger is, and why he matters, would be a fun twist. I'll definitely rework the beginning bit. Thank you for reading!

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