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At Lunchtime, In the Wilderness

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I’m not crazy.

Really.

I’ve been examined by every psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, and counselor on the Eastern Seaboard since my parents split up – or at least it feels that way – and every single one of them has declared me sane.  Usually I got diagnosed with ADD, occasionally depression; generally it was just an unusually vivid imagination. 

So I know I’m totally sane.

Which means that the guy at the corner table sculpting a cannon in his mashed potatoes actually has a tiger sitting across from him, leaning over to add details with a careful claw.

And if the guy at the corner table actually does have a tiger sitting across from him, there’s only one thing to do.

I go over.

Of course I do, because what else could I possibly do?

If he has a tiger, then it might not just be my unusually vivid imagination.  If he has a tiger, maybe he can show me how to get back.

He looks up at me, eyes narrowing slightly in suspicion.  “Hi,” I say.  “Can I sit here?”

“Who sent you?”

I look around at the crowded cafeteria.  No one’s paying the slightest bit of attention to us.  Not that I expected them to; one of the things I really like about college is the ability to disappear.  After spending most of my school career being scrutinized by everyone, all the time, I was perfectly happy to fade into the woodwork.  Most of the time.  “I just saw you and –“ the tiger, say it, say ‘the tiger’ – “you had an empty seat.  So I thought….” I trail off, spreading my hands.

He shrugs.  “Free country, I guess.”

Finally I ask, “What’s your tiger’s name?”

The tiger looks surprised.  The boy looks even more surprised.  “Wait, you – can see him?”

“He’s a tiger.  Carving shapes in your mashed potatoes.  Of course I can see him.”

They give me genuine grins, similarly toothy.  “I’m Calvin, and this is Hobbes.”

“Hi.  I’m Max.”