I struggled something bad with this one. But, it wasn't an easy collection of pictures to work on. Especially seeing as I don't know the first thing about tigers, really. And, did I have time to do any research? Nope - not any at all, so bear with me if this story comes off a little unrealistic. Heck, we're just doing this for fun, right?
Anyway. Hope you enjoy reading it. I'm off to read yours, and I think that part is going to be a lot of fun indeed.
Lets get on with the story.
”You been out here all night?”
Clara Taylor was sitting on a rock overlooking the ocean, her knees brought up under her chin as she had her arms wrapped around them. She looked like she was freezing despite the warm, breezy air – but it got cold at night. Really cold. Next to her, on the ground, was her camera on top of its case, ready to go at any time.
“Yes”. She didn’t have to turn around to know who was standing behind her. She was too tired to turn. Doug Feinstein was a well renowned wild life photographer, just like Clara. They had always worked close together. Doug was getting ready to retire, having celebrated his 60th birthday just two weeks earlier.
Doug had pretty much lost the passion, while Clara had lost the respect she once had. It was a long time since she brought in any “A” class photos.
He took off his jacket and wrapped it around Clara before he sat down next to her. Her gaze remained fixed out over the ocean, as if she was paralyzed. She had large bags under her eyes, a clear sign of her lack of sleep.
“Yeah, I’m ok”, she says as she reaches for a Starbucks coffee cup standing next to the camera.
“So you’ve been keeping awake drinking coffee all night…”
She shakes the coffee cup which has a plastic lid on. It makes a sound like that of a home made rhumba shaker. She pops the lid open, and reveals a half full cup of green candies.
“M&M’s. Can’t live without my sugar high you know.” She holds out the cup toward him and gives him a tired look for the first time since he arrived. “Want one?”
“I think it’s better you keep those for yourself.” He looks at her, concerned at what he sees. “Maybe you should get back to the hotel tonight. Get a good night’s sleep.”
“I need these pictures, Doug.” She pops a green candy into her mouth and puts the lid back on.
“It might just be hear say, Clara. You don’t know for sure they even exist. And, even if they do… maybe they’ve moved on. Maybe they’re not around here any more.”
“They’re here”, she looks back out to the ocean.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Clara! You’ve been out here for four days straight. There hasn’t been a sign of them this whole time”.
A little startled by his sudden outburst, Clara wearily looks back at Doug.
“Tiger cubs, Doug”, she looks him over. “You, of all people, should know what it means to capture tiger cubs out here by the ocean side. Look around.” She motions with her hand to shed light on the scenery. “Right here, how beautiful it is. Those pictures could be the best I ever took… probably the best pictures I’ll ever take. Every wild life magazine in the world would want these pictures, Doug. This is a money shot if ever there was one.”
She falls quiet. Her tired eyes remain fixed on the vast ocean in front of them.
“I’m just worried about you, is all. You don’t look well.”
“They’re here”, she states absently.
“I hope, for your sake, that they are.”
Doug gets up. He takes a look around, and deep inside him, where that part of him that once shared the passion for wild life photography that Clara still possesses, told him that this was a money shot indeed. Maybe years ago, he too would sit here day and night waiting for those tiger cubs to show up, just so he could get that one shot. That one shot that everyone would envy.
“I guess you wouldn’t accept my offer of driving you into town.” He says to her. She doesn’t reply. Just keeps staring out to the horizon. He turns and starts walking back to the car.
“Doug…”, she turns around to look after him. He stops. “Your jacket.”
“Keep it. You’ll need it when the sun goes down.”
“Thank you”, she says. Her fingers play with the collar, as her tired eyes fall to her feet. “I mean, for everything… for caring.”
“I’ll be back to check on you in the morning”.
And, just like that, Doug hopped into the car and drove off. She watched as the trail of dust settled behind the vehicle, and then reached into her backpack bringing out a wrapped up half of a sandwich.
“And food… bring me some food, Doug”, she mumbles to herself as she takes a large bite out of the ham and cheese sandwich. She swallowed it down with some bottled water she kept in that backpack, and realized she was running low on water as well. After eating, she took another green M&M from her Starbucks cup and was thankful she was well stocked on those at least.
She wondered when was the last time she got up to move around a little. She had been sitting on that rock much too long, and her butt cheeks were numb. Deciding that she needs to get her blood circulation going she stood up and began walking down to the beach. Her legs barely held her as she staggered the forty feet or so down to the small stretch of sand. She almost felt like stripping down and go for a swim in that blue water. She hadn’t had a shower for four days.
Right, I should be in the water if the tiger cubs show up. That’s gonna make it real easy to get the pictures. No, I have to be ready every second. No time for swimming… or sleeping.
And, could she use some sleep? Yes, indeed. She had averaged at most one hour each night out here. She was so tired right now she could feel her pulse in her temples. And, if she closed her eyes and laid down, she was certain she would fall asleep in two seconds flat. She began to realize that she was barely thinking at all any more.
What if I’m too tired to react when they show up?, she wondered to herself. I can’t take quality pictures if I’m totally exhausted.
She walked back up to her hiding place and that rock, which over the past couple of days had started to feel quite comfortable. To her, right now, it was as good as any recliner, and the view of the ocean was as good as any television program. The excitement of the show was to see when the tiger cubs would come strolling out of that small grove of woods to the right. Maybe if they didn’t come out soon, she would go in there and look for them. It wouldn’t make for the same quality shots, but at least it might give her some pictures, right?
I’m waiting for them right here. This is the money shot.
She sat down in her rock recliner again, leaned over sideways so that she was almost laid down on there. She was barely aware that she closed her eyes.
I just have to rest my eyes a little while…
And then she was asleep. The sound of the waves breaking onto the beach, the distant rustling of leaves in the breeze, and the soothing warm wind in her hair, made her feel more comfortable than ever in her life. Sleep was as welcome as anything. She drifted off into dreamland, and there wasn’t a worry in the world.
She didn’t even worry about missing out on the tigers. In her dreams she was back in her comfy, albeit small, New York apartment. Malaysia was millions of miles away, and she was developing photos she’d taken of beautiful birds. She was holding them up in the dim red light, in awe of her own beautiful pictures. Behind her, she heard footsteps. She turned around.
Twiggy was the name of her dog, a rottweiler she kept for protection. She bent down and patted the dog on its head.
“Hey… what’s wrong?”
Her stomach protested… something was wrong with Twiggy. The dog sniffed at her, and its eyes seemed wild and distant somehow. Clara started to feel very afraid indeed, but she continued to pet the dog. It’s nose brushed up against her cheeks, cold and a little moist. It pushed at her face a little harder… too hard. It was hurting her.
“Cut it out, Twiggy”, she waved the dog away from her face… and it began to snarl. A deep growl that didn’t sound doglike at all. It took its paw and jabbed it against her shoulder – much too powerful it seemed. It hurt like hell.
“What’s the matter with you?”, she blurts out half asleep, half awake. She puts her hands out to push the… the dog?... away, as her eyes slowly open.
The orange and black stripes of a giant tiger standing right there, only inches from her face, looking at her. Head lowered, bent down, the muscular shoulders pointing upward.
Clara stifled a scream of terror in her throat. Screaming now would certainly aggravate the large cat, and it would attack her – tearing her apart like an old Raggedy Ann doll.
She quickly came to understand that it was the mother of the two cubs who was sniffing at her, poking at her… assessing the possible danger to the cubs she may propose. Moving slowly, breathing slowly… that was her only way of getting out of here alive.
Where’s my camera?, she wondered. Very slowly, she reached behind her and traced her fingers along the rock, looking for the camera case. The large cat moved, threw a glance at her arm and took a step forward, making a grunting sound. Clara stopped dead, just as her index finger reached the strap of the case. She tried to look to the side, down towards the beach, to see if the cubs were there.
They were. Engaged in a playful fight they hissed and clawed at each other. The sun was coming down, creating a magnificent red sky backdrop over the blue sea and the two cubs. Oh, my god, this is a one in a million photo opportunity, her brain was screaming at her.
But, there was a problem. A very large problem! And it had an attitude.
Its large front paw came toward her again, hitting her shoulder and pinned her down with her back on the rock. The tiger moved in closer, the large head – a beautiful, yet ultimately horrifying, head – almost touched hers. It had a foul breath, and a slobber of saliva dangled from one side.
Quietly. Slowly, she began moving her hand again – fighting against the pain inflicted by the giant paw on her shoulder. Her fingers grabbed something… it wasn’t her camera, she could tell.
The cats eyes seemed to focus on her neck, and her terror escalated. She came to realize that the feline beast in front of her was very likely to strike out at her any second now, and sink those large fangs into her neck like a four legged monster of a vampire… only it wouldn’t suck her blood – it would tear her neck wide open and start chewing, feasting on her long before her brain would have time to shut down, and save her from the horrors of being eaten alive.
Her fingers were wrapped around her Starbucks coffee cup. The one filled with green M&M’s.
Oh, how I wish I could have my sugar high right now, her mind said incoherently. Another part of her brain was telling her, urgently, that she must do something. Really quick, because she was going to die very, very soon if she didn’t.
That subconscious part of her brain made her flick the lid off with her thumb. There was no rational thought going on – it was the only thing she could do… and if you have to do something, and there’s only one thing to do… what do you do? Yes, you do what you can in order to survive.
She tipped the cup over once the lid was off, and M&M’s spilled out on the rock. It made a rattling, scattering sound as green M&M’s rolled and bounced down the short slant of the rock.
Unbelievably, it seemed to work. The tiger’s eyes moved from her neck and to the side – watching the green little candies scattering down the rock. The large paw that held her pinned to her back eased, and the cat went around her and started sniffing at the candies.
Still dazed and confused, and scared out of her mind, Clara operated on instinct. She quickly seized her camera, and slowly slid herself away from the predator. The tiger seemed very puzzled and watched the green M&M’s with great interest, sniffing them, putting its large tongue out licking at them. Clara was no longer of any interest to it… as long as she moved very slowly, she thought.
She looked back down toward the stretch of beach, and saw the two cubs still playing with each other, uninterested in Clara and their mother. The view was simply perfect right where she was… of course – that’s why she’d chosen to sit by this rock those four nights that she’d been out here hoping to see them. She unscrewed the cap in front of the lens, and slowly raised the camera to her eyes. What she saw through the viewfinder was simply astounding.
This is not just “a” money shot… this is “the” money shot, she thought to herself, as she snapped a number of shots in rapid succession. The sound of the shutter opening and closing momentarily drew the attention of the large cat to her again, and her heart was racing. She was almost immediately, somewhat, relieved as the tiger resumed his interest in eating the candies.
Oh, my god. It’s eating the M&M’s, she thought. I need pictures of that as well – no one’s going to believe me if I tell them.
She turns the camera towards the mother of the cubs, and starts snapping pictures. The sun had quickly fallen behind the horizon, and there was little light… so she snapped the flash on. Even with her super sensitive camera, these shots would come out too dark. She waited for the little red indicator lamp to tell her that the flash was ready, and when it came on she turned it towards the large cat. She scooted back a little, slowly – what if the flash would startle it?
She needed the picture.
The flash went off. Looking through the viewfinder she immediately knew she nailed the shot perfectly. Green M&M’s, and a tiger licking them up off the ground. Perfect shot.
The sudden flash of light did startle the cat. It must’ve scared it really bad, as it suddenly turned and darted into the woods again. The two cubs were quick to run after their mother, as if they sensed the fear of their protector.
Clara just sat there, paralyzed with fear, with the camera held in a firm grip in her hands.
It’s gonna come back. It’s gonna come back for me and kill me, she thought. She had no place to go – the nearest village was over 50 miles away. And, to even attempt walking through the dense jungle between her and the nearest town would surely be even more dangerous than staying put. Doug was going to be here in the morning to check up on her.
“I got my money shot”, she said it out loud – just to hear the sound of it. Even if I don’t live through the night, Doug will find the camera and know I got my shot.
She remained sitting right where she was, holding on to her camera for dear life. It was going to be a very long night, and sleep would not have the mercy to guide her through it.
It’s gonna come back. It got scared of the flash, but it might just be hiding there in the bushes looking at me… waiting for the right time to attack.
She holds on to her camera a little tighter.
When it attacks, I’ll flash it again, she told herself. Hoping that would be enough.
Hoping the batteries on the flash would last her through the night.
Anyway. As is my intention - I will offer you the little notes I make about each picture before I start writing, which may or may not explain how the story I wrote came to life, looking at the pictures we had to work with. Here goes:
**********Tigers. Are they cubs? Anyway... it should work well with the adventurous woman's nature. Her objective is to encounter these tigers in some way.
**********Thanks a lot. A beach setting. Ok, did minimalistic research... there's a Malaysian tiger - it could possibly be found in the coastal areas right? Possibly down by the beach? Let's work on that... we'll be in Malaysia for this one.
**********A Starbucks coffee cup filled with green M&M's. Okay! Can they be some other kind of pills? Green ones? Does she have a condition which requires her to eat medication... why? Or, maybe she simply has a sweet tooth and carries the M&M's in a Starbucks cup because she can fit more in there than the one pack?
**********A camera... this is easy. She's looking for the tigers to take pictures of them.
So there you have it. Keep checking the sidebar here where I'll add links to the other contributions to the PFC, so you can read up on them all. It's fun to see how people interpret the pictures we got to work with.
And, check back next Friday - the 28th - when I will present the pictures for next months PFC.