“Travis sighed, and the words spilled out of his mouth like water from a broken jar. He told them about the sow, about landing onto the middle of the circus arena by chance, and then how he pretended to be the circus tiger he was not.”
Travis stood at the edge of the bushes. His orange and white fur glistened in the afternoon sun, and his black stripes shone. Travis was a Siberian tiger, and he was doing the one thing all tigers have on their minds: hunting.
Travis was not very good at hunting. He was peeking through the bushes, spotting a boar. Travis never hunted a boar before, but he was curious. The boar looked good, fat in flesh, with babies in her belly — it was a sow. The winter was coming, and it was harder for any tiger now to get the more frequent meals needed to cope with the cold.
Travis knew he could not step any closer, otherwise the sow would hear him. So he waited in ambush for her to come closer. The sow was grazing, and she found some grass near the bushes where Travis was hiding. As she shuffled over, Travis thought, it was now or never.
Before Travis could think any further, his hungry paws and claws opened wide and he sprang out onto the sow. She yelped, and then turned into a furious beast. Travis wanted to kick himself for not being able to pounce farther.
Travis then looked at the sow, and wondered why she was not running away. But then he realized he should be the one running away. The sow stamped her foot, and grunted, a cold smoke like puff coming out of her nostrils. She acted and looked like a mini-bull. I-I’ll go now, Travis thought meekly, backing away. But the boar did not answer his thought, nor did she turn her back. She furiously opened her mouth, revealing her ugly and crooked yellow teeth. Travis slowly stepped back, but the sow lost it and charged straight at Travis.
Travis sprinted away from the sow chasing after him. She was slower, given that she was pregnant. As he was fleeing away from her, Travis then saw something ahead of him. A building! Travis thought, Awesome! He dashed toward the building, which was actually a circus tent, smack-dab in the middle of the forest. Travis rushed and leaped. He lost his balance, and plunged right into the tent, landing on the middle of the arena all hurt. The audience went wild, while Travis had red and yellow stars circling around his head.
Who Is Jay?
At first, Travis did not know what happened. His pain and confusion went away, but before he could stand up, a giraffe’s brown eyes met his green eyes. Travis almost jumped back in fear.
“Who is this?!” The giraffe asked, as she bent her slinky neck towards Travis.
“Austin, listen to this,” the giraffe started, but a green anaconda, Austin, crept up to Travis.
“Well, what isss it that we have here?” Austin made the letter S sound like a hissing sound, “Isss it … Jay! No way! It’sss Jay!” The giraffe looked at Travis.
“Welcome back, Jay!” The giraffe hollered. The audience clapped. Travis was very confused. Who was Jay? It was certainly a mistake on their part, but Travis decided to play along.
“Gissselle!” Austin exclaimed, “he’sss returned!”
“Yep, on one of my adventures!”
“We know you got kidnapped, Jay,” Giselle said, slightly suspicious, “And we heard that you had escaped.”
“Yes, I did,” Travis said. He was an excellent liar and seized the opportunity, “I escaped and ran into the Siberian wilderness. It’s hard living out there, I’m so glad I finally found you guys again.”
Suddenly, a man stepped into the arena. He looked like a circus magician, with his suit, magic wand, and red striped black top old fashioned cylinder hat.
“Ah, Jay,” he said, stepping up to Travis.
Awkward, Travis thought, but stood still.
“Jay,” Austin said, “Remember Brandon, the Magician?”
“Y-yeah,” Travis answered. Brandon turned his hat over, and a macaw popped out of it. Travis wondered how come Magician Brandon had a macaw and not a white rabbit or a dove like all magicians do.
“You remember Randy, right?” Brandon asked, “Oh, I remember when you were just a cub, you used to play with Randy all the time.”
“You almost bit off my tail once,” the old macaw grumbled.
Then Brandon looked at the audience.
“Show’s over,” Brandon said, “We found Jay!”
Travis stayed on with the circus train. He accompanied Giselle and Austin, while Brandon was informing all the possible newspaper, writers, and editors about the return of Jay, the Siberian tiger.
“So,” Travis said, “Giselle the giraffe and Austin the snake,”
“Anaconda,” Austin corrected, somewhat insulted.
“Yep,” Giselle said, “And Jay the tiger.”
“Y-yeah,” Travis said. He hated the name, but kept on playing the game.
They were all silent for a moment, and then Austin spoke up.
“Ssso, Jay?” He asked, “Can you tell usss about your adventuresss?” Travis was sitting on the other side of the train, and looked at the giraffe and the anaconda waiting for his answer.
“S-sure,” Travis said thinking what story to invent for them. “Well, I went on many adventures before coming back home!” Travis scratched his chin, pretending to try to remember the details of his story, “I ran into a white tiger in the wild, it was big, and it was hungry,” Travis said, putting a spooky tone in his voice. “It lunged itself at me, and I ducked,” Travis said, starting to like his own invented story, “So, the tiger jumped right into the air, and hit a tree.”
“Do you know what I would have done?” Austin said, “I would have opened my mouth, and bit the tiger, right on the face. I have poissson, you know.”
“Really?” Travis replied, “I mean, oh yeah, now I remember.” Giselle and Austin looked at each other, asking a silent question: “What happened to Jay?”
“I know I may act weird,” Travis explained, “I-I just haven’t been myself since I got kidnapped.” The three animals were silent for a minute.
“We have a long ride,” Giselle explained, “We’re taking the train to St. Petersburg in Russia, about 19 hours away from here, so we should get some sleep.”
“I’m ssso glad we found you, Jay,” Austin said. Travis curled up and sighed with relief.
Giselle was the first to fall asleep, but Austin was scanning the train for rodents, a “perfect” treat for an evening snack. Travis thought that he should leave Austin alone in his rodent hunt and go to sleep. As Travis was drifting off, right before he fell asleep, he heard Austin swallow some food.
Travis woke up suddenly. The train rattled on its tracks. Travis sat up. Giselle and Austin were both looking out of the window, bored. Giselle sighed.
“Hey,” Travis exclaimed, sitting between them, “So … what’s going on?”
“Nothing much,” Giselle grumbled. Shortly after, Travis started to feel bored as well.
“You know what,” Travis said, “I’m going back to sleep!”
“Good idea,” Austin said, “We ssstill have a long way.” The three fell asleep in no time.
At night, the train finally arrived in St. Petersburg. Travis, Giselle, and Austin had been awake for a while, and talked about the circus. Travis was getting used to his new role of being Jay the tiger.
“YES!” Giselle shouted answering some question Austin asked her. She stretched her neck. “YE…” she started saying again, but her head hit the train’s roof.
“Ouch!” She yelled and sat back down.
“Maybe you were a little too excited, huh?” Travis asked. Giselle just shook her head, smiling. “It’s not easy being so tall, you know?” she said.
The next day, Austin started explaining, “Ssso, thisss isss backssstage.”
“Backstage?” Travis asked.
“Yeah,” Giselle said, “props, acts. Jay, remember your act?” Travis swallowed.
“The tightrope walker,” Giselle answered.
“Yeah,” Travis said, getting goosebumps. He didn’t know what a tightrope was, but either way it did not sound very good.
“Ssso, we’re gonna practiccce,” Austin said. Austin, Giselle, and Travis pulled back the curtains and stepped into the arena.
“Here’s the tightrope,” Giselle said.
“Where is it?” Travis asked, looking around.
“Uh, up there,” Giselle said, pointing her long snout to the sky above. Travis looked up and saw a stretched rope, high above the ground. He swallowed again.
Maybe I could just run off, Travis thought to himself. But no, a tiger in the city, I’ll get in trouble, probably even killed.
“My act is the Teleporter,” Giselle said. “Watch!” She grabbed some dust, and threw it all around her. When the dust settled onto the ground, Giselle was gone.
“Ta-da!” She exclaimed, and peeked out of the curtains on the other side of the arena.
“That’s not teleporting,” Travis said.
“Well,” Giselle said, “I guess not. Disappearing act is probably a better word, anyway. Austin, please perform your act for Jay!” Austin slithered up a ladder and pounced onto a trapeze. He coiled his tail and he swung. Then he jumped onto another trapeze and coiled his tail again. He went back and forth, and then suddenly let go of the trapeze, and started falling toward the ground. Travis gasped.
“He’s gonna…” he yelled, but Giselle quickly pulled out a mini-trampoline, and Austin bounced right off and back into the air.
“For the show,” explained Giselle. “We have a trampoline ready for Austin.”
“Oh,” Travis said. “Oops. I overreacted.”
Austin jumped around, and soon enough, he was back, head high, coiling next to them.
“Your turn, Jay,” Austin declared. Travis wanted to tell them the truth, but his body was urging him not to, at least not until they’d be back in Siberia, where he could run off into the woods and disappear.
Randy To The Rescue
Travis climbed the ladder. He was nervous he had to swallow the lump that wsforming in his throat. He then reached the top. It was so high, Giselle and Austin looked like toys to him. Travis swallowed again, and then began to pant. He saw the thin rope ahead of him, and shuddered. He slowly put his front paw on the rope, and the whole rope wiggled.
How was this ‘Jay’ even supposed to walk on this thing? Travis thought sourly. He carefully put his other front paw on the rope, and almost fell. Travis sighed and moved forward. He was wiggling. Suddenly, Randy flew towards Travis. Travis stared at the macaw with confusion and excitement.
“Randy,” Travis whispered, “What are you doing here?”
“Shhh!” The macaw whispered mysteriously, “I know your secret… You are NOT Jay!” Travis was puzzled and did not know what to say, but he listened anyway.
“I’ll help you cross.” Randy sat on Travis’s head, and from thereon, Travis kept his balance. Austin and Giselle could not see the tiny macaw from far below.
“GO JAY!” Austin cheered. Giselle whistled. Travis smiled. He got out of trouble this time. He walked the rope, with Randy on top of him. He even performed a bonus act: he was able to stand on his two hind legs and hold the front one in the air. He walked faster, even ran, and reached the end.
“Bye!” said Randy and flew away just as Travis climbed down the ladder. The others did not see Randy at all.
As Travis was climbing down the ladder, Giselle dashed to him, Austin behind her. “OH MY GOD JAY!!!” She yelled and licked him in a friendly way, “YOU ROCK!!! You really are the old Jay! And you were awesome up there!” Travis blushed as Austin slinked over.
“That wasss excellent!” Austin complimented, coiling around Travis, which was his way of giving him a hug.
“Too … tight … ” Travis squealed.
Austin uncurled and smiled warmly. He held the top of his tail and Travis high-tailed-pawed Austin.
“Now” said Austin, “you are ready for the ssshow tonight!” Travis wasn’t worried; he counted on Randy to come to his rescue again.
“Yeah,” Travis said proudly, “Tightrope act, here I come!”
“I’ll do my disappearing act,” Giselle said, “Austin will do his trapeze act, Jay will do the tightrope act, and Randy will do the juggling act!”
“Wait,” Travis exclaimed, “Randy has an act?”
“Yeah,” said Austin. “What do you think he doesss? Sssit on Brandon’sss ssshoulder all day?”
Oh no! Travis thought, Randy won’t be with me during the show! What do I do now?!
Later that afternoon, Travis decided it was time. He had to tell Giselle and Austin the truth.
He crept towards them while they were buzzing excitedly about the show. When Travis entered, they gave him a warm hello. Travis sighed and sat between them.
“Why the long face?” Austin asked. Travis sighed, and the words spilled out of his mouth like water from a broken jar. He told them about the sow, about landing onto the middle of the circus arena by chance, and then how he pretended to be the circus tiger he was not.
By the time he was done, Giselle and Austin were stumped and silent. He could not look at them in the eyes.
“But,” Austin said, “We sssaw you walk the tightrope!”
“No, Austin,” Travis said, “That was Randy sitting on my head. He helped me keep my balance.”
“Isss your name even Jay?” Austin asked.
“No,” Travis shook his head sadly, “My name is Travis.”
“Get out of here!” said Giselle coldly, breaking her silence. “Yet your tightrope act is already on today’s show. You’ll flunk your act, and once the show is over, we’ll drop you off at the next stop!”
“You pretended to be my friend,” Austin said sadly. “You made usss think you were our friend.” Travis just looked down at the ground, ashamed.
Travis’ act was the show’s opener, and was called the Night Flower. It had been performed by Jay the tiger before he got kidnapped. Travis stepped into the same arena where he had earlier ‘performed’ the tightrope act. Now, I am really going to fall, he thought. Even if Randy came to his rescue, 430 pairs of eyes would be watching him and would know he was cheating … He could not do it. Travis was scared of falling, scared of going back alone to the Siberian wilderness…
When Travis made his entrance, the audience clapped and shouted “JAY! JAY! JAY!” Travis frowned sadly and shook his head. Brandon sat in the front row, watching the show, feeling a little nervous, wondering if Jay would be able to perform his entire act. Travis looked up and saw the tightrope smirking at him. He trotted toward the ladder, and started climbing up towards the tightrope. Giselle, Austin, and Randy were staring at him. Travis got to the top of the ladder, and looked at the thin rope ahead. He sighed deeply, and slowly put his front paw on the rope. The rope jolted. Travis felt his heart beating so loud that he was wondering if everyone could hear. The audience was silent even the drummer stopped his exited beat. Travis carefully put his other front paw on the rope, and almost lost his balance. The audience sighed.
Thank god I have a tail, Travis thought as his tail helped him keep balance. Some young children started shouting “GO JAY! GO JAY!”
Travis stepped forward, putting his third paw on the rope.
Three paws, Travis thought, next one, I’m falling. He carefully put his fourth paw on the rope and closed his eyes for a moment. He opened his eyes and started wondering how come he had not fallen already. Travis looked around. Giselle’s and Austin’s eyes were wide open, but Randy was smiling mysteriously. Travis went on carefully on the rope and then sped up without much effort. It felt as if he had been doing this his whole life.
This is easy, Travis thought. The audience cheered.
“GO JAY! GO JAY!!!”
Wait, Travis thought as he kept on stepping forward, Randy was right. I must be Jay. I am Jay! And…Randy never sat on my head, I just imagined it. I did it all by myself! But Randy, he knew all along!
Confidently, Travis performed his bonus act, standing on two legs and holding the other legs high in the air. The audience clapped and cheered. Travis ran and jumped on the tightrope, his paws scurrying along the rope.
The other animals joined in. Giselle started performing her disappearing act, while Austin performed his trapeze act, and Randy his juggling act. Brandon was clapping excitedly. The audience was euphoric.
Travis smiled. He was happy. He grew more confident, and was now able to perform his Night Flower act with assurance. Travis knew that he was now with his old friends and that he had gotten his old life back. And then, Travis-Jay remembered how he was kidnapped, how he escaped, and how he found himself in the Siberian wilderness. But now, he was back home, and that was all that mattered.