“Maybe the darkness will cue them to sleep?”
“I was hoping it would, but it doesn't seem to be working so far. They must have been sedated but woke up sooner than expected. I could slip them some Tylenol PM in a White Castle burger, but I don't like the idea of drugging them.” I had no idea how much sedative it would take for them to sleep or how much would be unsafe for them, and I didn't want to be responsible.
“Neither do I,” said Jack. “Maybe you should sing to them.”
“I've been singing to them. I don't think they're impressed.”
“Or maybe they'll be like human babies. The motion of the car will put them to sleep. Maybe you should sing them to sleep while you're driving.”
“I'm not sure I can sing and drive at the same time,” I said. Maybe that was just an excuse. I'd already serenaded the tigers … twice. Now I was racking my brain, trying to think up soothing-tiger-cubs-to-sleep songs, and was coming up with zilch. Maybe I was also getting nervous about my wild predicament. What was I going to do if I showed up at the theater with two wakened, active, noisy little tigers … act like Zarelda's willing accomplice?
“I have an idea,” said Jack. “I'll serenade the tigers while you drive.”
“You'll serenade them while I drive? How are you going to do that?”
“We'll use the FaceTime app. You can stick your phone in the box with the tigers. It will serve a dual purpose. It will act as a night light. Maybe, they'll be more content.”
It was a weird plan, one in a string of weird plans that Jack came up with and I went along with, but there was a little bit of sense to it. “Put the phone in the box with the tigers, huh? On one condition ...”
“On one condition? What's that?”
“That you'll replace my phone if the tigers decide to use it as a chew toy.”
There was a pause. “I guess that's a risk I'm willing to take. For the sake of the business, you need a phone upgrade anyway. Andy, somewhere in the back of a vehicle, is a box of our Buddy Bears. Take one out and toss one in with the tigers. I also have a polar fleece jacket in the back. Toss that in with the tigers to get them ready for nap time.”
I went hunting in the back of the vehicle and found the box of bears. Using a Swiss Army knife in my pocket to cut through the packing tape, I opened it up and pulled out a bear. These weren't just ordinary stuffed bears. They said friendly phrases like “Let's be friends,” “Do you need a hug?” and thirteen other sayings when squeezed in the middle. I was really hoping the tigers wouldn't be rough with it and pounce on its tummy. That really wouldn't help our case. I tossed the bear into the box, feeling just a little bit like I was tossing a gladiator to the lions.
I found a navy blue polar fleece jacket folded up in the back. “I found a polar fleece,” I said to Jack on the phone. “It's hard to believe it's yours. It looks so ordinary. Where are the cartoon ...” I unfolded it. “Oh, there they are.” The whole troop of seven dwarfs sprawled out over the back. “Are you sure you want to toss this in with the cubs? What if they go number two on it? Or number one, for that matter. Either way, they'll do a number on it.”
“It's old,” said Jack. “I guess that's also a risk I'm willing to take.”
I tossed in the polar fleece. Suddenly, I remembered a roll of duct tape we kept in the rear of the vehicle. Jack wasn't the only one with a little bit of brain. I pulled off a piece of tape, rolled it, and stuck it to the back of the phone. I then taped the phone high up on the wall of the box interior. It didn't precisely tiger-proof the phone, but maybe it, at least, made it slightly less vulnerable.
As I drove off en route to Zarelda's theater, I could hear Jack's glee club voice singing “Danny Boy.” “Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen and down the mountainside...” I suppose as a freckled reddish-head with Irish heritage, I should have as much Irish pride as anyone, but leave it to Jack to know old Irish folk songs from memory. I had to admit it was slow and soothing and, after a while, I felt like I needed an espresso to keep myself awake. Somewhere between White Castle and Zarelda's theater, I heard silence in the back, hearing neither tigers or Jack's voice. Singing lullabies to tiger cubs via the FaceTime app might be one of the zanier things Jack had done in his life, but it seemed to be successful.
When I delivered the box to Zarelda, she acted very grateful. “Thank you very much, darling.” She tucked a couple of folded bills into my hand. I didn't even unfold them in her presence to see which president was on them. Now that I knew the secret of the box, I didn't really want to accept them either, except that I was playing Colonel Klink – “I know nothing!” – so I tucked them away, acting like it was a generous tip for going the extra mile. As I expected, Zarelda didn't fuss with the box or open its compartments while I was in the room with her.
I headed then to my dressing room to transform myself into Andy the magician's assistant or Andy the glitterized '70s variety show wannabe, however you wanted to look at it. As I was fastening on my cummerbund, a sickening realization came to me. My iPhone was still in the box. If Zarelda found it, she'd realize I was in the know, and she might be able to access some other information as well. The bear and the coat were in the box still too, and any of those things could be traced to me, but I was especially worried by the phone.
We had a half hour still to show time, so I headed down to the prop room. Maybe I could retrieve it before the show without disturbing the tigers and without Zarelda knowing anything of it. When I came across the box, Zarelda was right there by it and so, interestingly enough, was Kumar from the Houdini's Magic Shop.
“Hi, yeah, I sometimes come and help out with the lighting and special effects during the shows. She didn't tell you?”
We had special lighting and effects? We hadn't rehearsed any while I was involved. I shook my head and then just stood there stupidly, not knowing what my next step should be.
“What are you doing down here, darling?”
“Oh,” I said, “Just some pre-show nerves. I just thought I'd walk around and, you know, get into character.”
Kumar's eyebrows raised up. “You have to get into character?”
I looked down at my pearlized and glitterized costume. I certainly didn't feel like myself. “I have a character. Yeah, I have a character.” Unsure what more to say, I just walked away and began pacing, wandering around the room, not sure how it helped me “get into character.” Zarelda and Kumar remained at their station and yet didn't seem to be doing anything more productive than I was doing. I had a feeling we were all three watching one another on the sly.
To be continued ...