THE LAST TIGER - GRAJAGAN STILL HOLDS MYSTERIES









Part One

Moving from the dry jungle, she padded to her place on a small rise that looks out over the Ocean. She had time yet. The late day sun was cooling and she was waiting for the scent. The scent that came when the Ocean would withdraw and the land beneath would become exposed to the sky. Then she could saunter down among the shallow green pools of water and slap fish and crabs and eels from the shallow pools with her great paws. The monkeys would follow her. And they would dart in for a steal as her pile of fish and crabs and eels grew behind her. She would roar and swipe at the monkeys and, like a flock of birds, the monkeys would scatter and reform and try again and again. When it came time to feed, she would carry her squirming pile of food in her great jaws and go back to her spot overlooking the reef. There, she would hang her head and eat slowly. And she would listen for signs of danger in the silence that came between the great waves that would roll in hissing unison across the edge of the reef in the distance. Later, the sun would set and she would return to her mate and cubs and they would hunt the wild boar together until dawn. A noise. Her head shoots up, ears pricked, eyes searching. Men. Two men. Pale men. Approaching on foot on the beach. Always a danger, men. Though she sensed these two were weak and tired. And they carried things that did not look like danger. Unlike the steel poles the poachers used. And the two men on the beach were not interested in the jungle. They were always looking out to sea, shading their eyes with their hands again and again. Still, she decided, she would have to keep her distance until she knew more about them. How to avoid them. Or how to eat them. She left her scraps for the monkeys and silent as smoke, vanished into the jungle.

Part Two:

She limped on three of her four powerful legs. The three bullets had entered her right hip and two of them had split her intestines in two. She limped on, ahead of the poachers, her bottom jaw slack, her breathing rattling with the blood in her throat. Her cubs were gone, having eaten the poisoned garbage left out for the wild pigs by the humans. Her mate had died a while back, trapped in a net by poachers so as not to harm the precious fur for the taxidermist. Now it was she that was their prey, being driven toward the sea. She would have to turn and fight soon. But she limped on, weakening. She tried to stay concealed, but reaching the edge of the jungle, she crossed a clearing, palm-sized blood drops marking her trail. She made the rise and could go no further. She lay to rest but kept her head up, waiting for the end. The familiar scent of the low-tide sea overwhelmed her. She watched the waves march down the reef and heard their familiar hissing. She roared in outrage once. It took all her strength. The monkeys, smelling the blood and fearing the roar, gazed with their blinking, thieving eyes from the canopy above. She could see the lights of the surf camps. So bright these days. So many humans. She could also see the flashlights of the approaching poachers and hear their clumsy snapping of twigs as they crept closer through the trees. A monkey screeched warning and the canopy hissed and moved and rained leaves. She could not keep her head up any longer and she rested her bottom jaw on her great paws. The moonlight cast a silvery stripe on the face of each wave that broke on the reef. Like a flashing fish making good an escape from the following whitewater. The flashlights had found her. A poacher drew a bead on her left eye with his rifle in order to protect her valuable fur. And in one last great effort, she lifted her head and roared at the sea. The report of the rifle cut off her roar and, like smoke, both sounds echoed out over the reef and dissipated into the moonlit sky.

(In Deep is available at finer surf shops and online at Amazon,com).

(An excerpt from the new book IN DEEP: The collected surf writings of Matt George, Di Angelo Publications, 2023).

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